It's easy to get overwhelmed when you first start cruising. Never mind the boat and sailing, what about figuring out where to go, how to clear in, where to clear in and whether there's any fuel available where you're going? How do you figure out where the marinas are and whether it's a safe place to be? Oh, sure, you can buy or borrow a cruising guide, but they're usually outdated as soon as they're printed. The answer unequivocally is cruiser networking. If you haven't been there, someone usually has or they know someone that has. Cruisers willingly share information with each other. Once you've been there, you'll be expected to share information, too.
There are lots of avenues for cruiser networking. Some just tend to come naturally after you've been out there for any length of time and others may take some effort, but are definitely worth your while. Here's our list of the top ways for new cruisers to network and gather information for destinations they might want to visit, equipment they're considering buying or just some insight on a niggling problem.
1. Join SSCA or a cruising club
I know we've blogged about this before, but there's no better way to network than to meet like-minded people who share the same enthusiasm for cruising, adventure and travel and have information to share. SSCA publishes a 44-page monthly Bulletin which is full of information on just about any sailing destination in the world. The past issues are available on a searchable CD. It's pretty easy to find information on most any place or subject you want to know about. They also provide Port Guides for many places in the world.
2. Join an online group
There's lots of on-line information shared by cruisers that's readily available, especially if you're heading where several other people are heading. If you're crossing the Pacific, for instance, consider the Yahoo Puddle Jumpers group for lots of tips, ideas, and stops along the way or check out Latitude 38's Pacific crossing guide.
3. Participate in a rally or a potluck or a gam
These can be formal, costly and regimented or informal, inexpensive and fun. We tend to prefer the latter. Lots of cruising clubs like SSCA sponsor gams and potlucks throughout the year worldwide. Check them out or organize one yourself. It's a great way to meet other sailors. A “gam”, by the way, is sailor-speak for getting together. Rallies are fun and offer a chance to “sail in company” with other boats and meet at pre-determined locations. In-season, there are loads of them to choose from. Check with your local cruising club, SSCA or look for ads in cruising magazines.
4. Exchange boat cards
Boat cards are like calling cards that most cruisers print up and exchange with each other. We used to keep all the boat cards we received wrapped up with a rubber band like playing cards. It didn't work well. We found that gluing them into a small notebook with a couple of notes as to where we met and what we did together was a great way to find them again, jog our memories and keep in touch. No boat cards? … they're easy enough to make yourself. Check out our website for some ideas.
5. Find other cruiser's websites
Do an on-line search of places you want to visit, then find cruisers who have been there and documented their travel on their websites. There's usually lots of information to be gleaned as well as good photos. Got questions? Contact the folks. They'll share. By the way, if you're just starting out, a website or a daily blog is a fun way to keep in touch and share your experiences and travels with others.
6. Get to know your neighbors
Whether in a marina or in an anchorage, it's always nice to visit other boats, introduce yourself and get to know more about the people you're sharing your dock space or anchorage with. Cruisers are NOT shy. We're a transient population, so we make the most of it and get to know lots of fellow cruisers along the way.
7. Stay in touch
With accessible internet most everywhere, on-board SailMail and nearly disposable mobile phones, it's easier than ever to stay in touch. We're still in touch with folks we met 10 years ago in the Carib and they're not even sailing any more. Visiting Seattle, driving through Arkansas, heading to Sweden, or New Zealand or Oz? Wouldn't it be great to know someone there who'd be happy to show you around?
8. Read cruising magazines and articles.
We write lots of articles and you'd be surprised at the number of e-mails we get from people who have read the articles and have questions. We're always happy to respond and provide information. If you read something of interest and want to know more, contact the author.
9. Pay it forward … give it back
Remember that if you get, you should also be willing to give. Share your information with others. You'll find you meet and stay in touch with people to greater extent if you give as well as receive.