Social Media for Cruisers

Since we've been in South Africa, several folks have sent us e-mails or stopped by to say hello. They all seem to know quite a bit about us and we don't always know them. That's how social media works for us on Nine of Cups. We sail from country to country and port to port. We write blogs about our experiences and observations and people actually read them. When they see that we're in their neck of the woods, they get in touch and it's always a pleasure. Melvin from Cape Town stopped by the other day to say hi and, of course, we spent the day in the Winelands with our new local friends, Belinda and Benjamin. social media icons

We've maintained a website for years. In the early days with minimal internet access and a cheap digital camera, updating the website was difficult. We sat in internet kiosks in third world countries for hours, trying to upload a couple of pictures and some text. Now we can update offline and upload to the website. The fact that we're so far behind is a matter of laziness rather than accessibility plus one other  issue. We've used Yahoo Sitebuilder to build and maintain the website over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, Sitebuilder hasn't had any upgrades to optimize for mobile device displays. We've found alternative software, but none allow an easy migration from one format to the other. With hundreds of pages to convert, we're dragging our feet. We like the website approach because it's static and  provides an historical picture of where we've been and what we've done versus a blogsite which is a daily snapshot. The “history” seems to get lost in the shuffle of daily posts.

nine of cups website

Our Just A Little Further (JALF) blogsite is our niece, Gentry's, innovation and it's in its third year. We write and send pix, but she does all the work of maintaining it and posting blogs. She posts the blog every day without fail and then posts on Facebook (FB) and Twitter and StumbleUpon and YouTube and Pinterest and others with which we're not even familiar. If you're reading this post, it's because of Gentry. We love the immediacy of daily blogs. Our audience is quite diverse. There are sailors who are interested in the liveaboard life and folks who just enjoy our nomadic lifestyle regardless of how we travel. Local people seem to enjoy our observations of their cities and towns … a fresh look at sights they see everyday. We always wonder if anyone reads the blogs and then, out of the blue, we get a comment or an invitation to meet up with someone who's been following for years.

We also post daily on SailBlogs which is more specific to cruisers, but accessible by anyone. While we're in port, the posts are the same as the JALF blog. When we're at sea, we post our position and at-sea blogs daily. We stockpile relevant blogs for JALF and Gentry posts them along with 2-3 day summaries of our life underway. The positive aspect of SailBlogs is that we can post from the middle of the ocean via SailMail using our single sideband radio. SailBlogs will also post directly to FaceBook as an option.

sail blogs

So why bother with social media while you're sailing? It's our link to the world. It allows us to stay in touch with relatives and friends and meet new people. It's a good way for us to share our experiences and adventures… good and bad … with other cruisers and prospective cruisers and folks who just  wonder what it's like living on a sailboat, sailing around from place to place. We try to appeal to travelers as well as sailors … a little something for everyone. It's also an excellent way to document our travels and trips with text and photos ... and at our age, we need all the help we can get!

Creating Your Own Boat Identity

Nine of Cups nameboard  

Boat people are a unique breed. They're fiercely proud of their boats and their ability to sail them. The same people do not usually name their cars or their motorcycles or their homes. They do not exchange “car cards” or wear their unique car name on their caps. Their boats acquire a personality of their own, it seems, and require not only catchy names, but new ways of expressing their owners' personality as well.

“Nine of Cups” was named for a tarot card meaning “dreams realized”. It's a unique name and we've never seen another boat with the same name. I received a beautiful tarot deck from my sister for my fiftieth birthday along with a dummy's guide for reading tarot cards. I had never done tarot before, but it seemed interesting and David was the obvious choice as my guinea pig. In a classic tarot Celtic spread, David would choose 10 of 78 cards at random and make a wish. If the Nine of Cups (akin to the nine of hearts in a regular deck of cards) was chosen, his wish would come true. Time and time again, that Nine of Cups appeared. Since we're living our dream, I'd say the cards did well.


seahorse logo


Once aboard, we found that people on boats exchange boat cards. I found inexpensive stationery software with a business card format, bought blank cards and made boat cards. I downloaded nautical clipart including a compass rose and used it. It seemed generic, but I couldn't think of anything better. That is until we were walking along a street in Halifax, Nova Scotia about a year later and we saw a marvelous gate with seahorses and tridents. It was beautiful and seemed to reflect Nine of Cups' personality. We photographed it and massaged the photo with a Paint program and voilá, it became Cups' logo.

Beyond adding this logo to our boat card, we began expanding our horizons. With a unique logo to go with our unique name, we were able to create all sorts of things that reflected our pride in ownership. Not only did we use the logo on boat cards, but we found a company that would add our embroidered logo for free to shirts and caps and didn't require large quantity orders.


valentines day card


Using the seahorse motif from the logo, David carved beautiful name boards in mahogany and gilded them for Cup's bow. Greeting cards from Valentines to Christmas wishes incorporated our logo. Nine of Cups thank you cards were a big hit with many people who really appreciated that personalized touch which became a memento of a visit or special time. It also alleviated the need to shop for cards, allowed us to use our imaginations and insured we always had the right card on hand.

Documenting our travels with journals and photographs has been a priority since we first left the dock at Kemah, Texas back in 2000. I had a cheap digital camera for photos and used a college-lined subject notebook for journal entries. Our family and friends were interested in our travels, so I created a photo-journal simply named “Passages” that I updated regularly and sent home on CD's to share.

Having a website seemed the next logical step and it wasn't long until we registered our domain name and created a rudimentary website. I upgraded my camera for better photos and continued the handwritten journal. The offline tools for the website were poor and internet access in the Caribbean and South America was slow and expensive early on. Then a free download of Yahoo Sitebuilder became available for off-line website work, wifi and broadband on the boat became available and now maintaining the website was fun, easy and inexpensive.

Though I no longer maintain an offline photojournal, we do a holiday newsletter annually which we post to the website. We also print and mail copies for those relatives and friends who prefer a hard copy in hand to read, share and save.

Because we can't upload website updates when we are at sea or in internet-inaccessible areas (and there are still some), we began blogging via SailBlogs which allowed a daily update of our travels, adventures and more mundane day-to-day activities. Last year, our niece Gentry convinced us to do a more elaborate blogsite, Just a Little Further, which reflects not only life and travels aboard Nine of Cups, but our life in general. Now no matter where we are on land or sea, I can post to the blog and folks know where we are and what we're doing. Amazingly, we've heard from folks around the globe including more remote places like Newfoundland, the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic.

From an initial desire to develop a unique identity for Nine of Cups and her crew, we've managed to document our travels, “meet” a myriad of people from around the world who share our love of sailing and travel and also create a personality for Nine of Cups. Because after all, she's an important part of our family.

RAQ - Why do you blog?

marcie at computer  

RAQ? That's a “rarely” asked question versus frequently asked, but one that caught my attention.

In these days of “everyone has a blogsite”, I was kind of dumbfounded by the question until I realized that it wasn't meant to be critical, it was really a legitimate inquiry. It takes up a lot of time, requires a daily commitment and it puts your whole life out there for everyone to see. Why would you do it?

I'm a writer. I always have been a writer in one way or another. I've always kept journals. I've always written letters. To misquote Descartes: I think, therefore, I write. Most everything that you read in my blog posts evolves from thoughts that just fall out of my head and onto the page. Part of the pleasure I derive from living on a boat and traveling around the world comes from documenting and sharing the adventure. Granted, I'm just as apt to write about bugs, Vegemite and vinegar as I am to extol the splendors of Tahiti or Machu Picchu, but still, irrespective of the subject, I seem to be driven to get it down on “paper” and share it.

So, why do I do a blog … mostly because I can. David comes along for the ride … sometime reluctantly, but of late, more willingly.

Do you have a blog? Why?

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