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The Changing Face(s) of Cruising

by John Curnow, Global Editor, SailWorldCruising.com 8 Jul 12:00 PDT

For quite some time now, we have looked very closely at the changing faces of the boats we take cruising. I suppose we could go back and find the root article, but it is going to be more than a few years, and that monkeypox thing got in the way, too. So let's just leave it as "over five years", and be done with it.

Indeed our very last editorial, The Eco Warrior was all about everything from hybrid drive to hydrogeneration, and the amazing array of different gear now found on board. Funnily enough, our last boat review, the brilliant Excess 11as featured in The feline of sailing cats takes on things like raked sticks, deck sweeper rags, and centre of effort.

Here's the thing, however. Alas in that time, it is not just the boats that have been a changing. Go to shows to observe, talk to builders and dealers whenever you can, and you also become aware of the changing demographic too. Yes, the very faces looking at boats, buying boats and being on said boats are as different now as the appearance and sail plans of the very vessels in question.

Many seem to have found the adage, "If only the young could, and if only the old knew!" So when a conversation eschewed with our friend Erin Carey, who is indeed a liveaboard herself with her family, well the dots were pretty easily to find and join together.

Nowhere near six degrees of separation, probably more like two, and we had some real world material from Tim Geisler, who is the owner and lead instructor of Nautilus Sailing, an international sailing school that is helping usher new clients into sailing, and then help them embark on their sailing journeys.

It seemed very apt to me to feature first hand and real world intel on the subject, rather than the miscellaneous ramblings of one Captain Araldite, as they are often the first point of contact for aspiring sailors.

Highlighting what we have opened with, Geisler commented, "In the last 5-10 years, sailing has evolved tremendously: from high-performance foiling boats in America's Cup races, to a new breed and demographic of cruisers wandering the oceans of the world in floating apartments."

"The global pandemic in many ways served as a catalyst for the sailing industry, showing people that time is short, and to seize the day. The new normalcy of working remotely, and familiarity with online schooling, has led people to explore options that were hitherto unknown. During and emerging from the pandemic, boat sales soared, and the number of people hitting the water continues to grow exponentially around the world."

"One of the biggest trends we have seen in recent years," added Geisler, "is a younger demographic discovering sailing. When Nautilus Sailing first started over a decade ago, 82% of all of the certifications issued through the American Sailing Association, one of the largest sailing accreditation entities in the world, were from folks who were between the ages of 60-75."

"This is changing tremendously, and most of our clients now are between the ages of 35-55. If you have sailed recently internationally or done a charter in a popular cruising ground, you will definitely see this trend in person, as you will be sharing the anchorage with a much more diverse age range of sailors."

Geisler is quick to attribute much of this demographic shift to the popularity of sailing video bloggers that are wandering the oceans of the world and documenting their adventures for hundreds of thousands to follow on a weekly basis. Geisler says, "YouTube channels like Sailing La Vagabonde, SV Delos, Gone with the Wynns and Ryan and Sophie Sailing, among a plethora of others, have shown the world that sailing can be an incredible platform for adventure and discovery."

Sailing is definitely undergoing a very positive identity shift in a more globalised world. Another massive trend in the sailing industry is the explosion in the popularity of catamarans, which has made sailing far more comfortable and appealing for many people. A decade ago, if you were to walk the docks of most charter companies in the world, monohulls reigned and catamarans were few, if present at all. The same was true of most anchorages in the Caribbean and other places.

Today, however, in most charter destinations around the world, global charter companies have fleets that are predominantly comprised of catamarans to meet this growing demand. Catamarans, with their palatial amount of space, stability, multiple cabins and heads, and added systems (generators, air conditioning, multiple fridges and water makers) have elevated sailing from 'roughing it', to something much more akin to 'glamping'.

Geisler also attests to this with the popularity of Nautilus Sailing's live-aboard catamaran sailing courses, where students are learning how to sail on a catamaran and not a monohull. "Five years ago 90% of our courses around the world were conducted on monohulls, and today 90% of all the students who learn to sail with us are interested in catamarans."

Families living and cruising aboard their boats is a final trend that is reshaping anchorages around the world. Drop the hook in many stunning cruising grounds, and you'll be sharing the anchorage with boats that have children leaping happily off them, paddleboarding vigorously to and from their buddy boats, and generally bringing contagious (yes, I think we can use that word again) child-like enthusiasm to those anchored around them.

Geisler commented, "We are loving seeing the number of families that are signing up for our courses to gain the knowledge, skills, experience and formal certifications they will need to set sail on their own sailing journeys. Families seem to be realising that time is short, and so why not take a 1-2 year sabbatical and sail the Caribbean?"

All of these trends are exciting and reflect a massive shift in the sailing world. Sailing is becoming more mainstream and is attracting a new demographic of adventurous travellers that are anxious to explore the world and discover new places in a truly unique way.

Was a time, not that long ago actually, when you might arrive at an anchorage, and ye olde crusty cruising mono would up anchor and move on, with Crusty the Sea Dog probably muttering something intelligible as the ancient oil burner coughed out smoke and sludge from the elongated tailpipe adorning the transom of the pinched stern.

Now, it is more like waves and Insta posts, with probably some early morning yoga, tips on SUP repair, and notes on how to grow herbs on board. How cool is that!

OK. We have stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the homepage if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears on the website as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe.

If you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the SailWorldCruising home page and the drag-down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

Also, we have just had a significant upgrade to our systems, and trainspotters will have seen that the button next door to 'Home' now says 'Editorial' which collects the latest from our team and also lets you see what each member has been up to of late.

Finally, stay safe, and let's see where it all goes now,
John Curnow

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