Does Sailing Ever Get Boring? (The Honest Truth)

Your boat heels before the force of the wind, the waves crash over the bow – does this ever get boring?

Yes, sometimes sailing can be boring.

Here’s How Sailing can be Boring:

Long-distance sailing or sitting in doldrums can make sailing a very boring endeavor. If there are no sights to see it can be even worse. Without much to do on a ship, most sailors can lose their excitement pretty quickly. However, books, games, and good company can alleviate boredom.

Does it Ever Become Boring on a Sailboat?

No matter how long you sail, there are instances where sailing can become boring:

A Lack of Wind:

When there is no air, your boat does not move except with the current.

The sun gets hotter without a cooling breeze, and drifting in rising heat is an unpleasant experience.

When you are racing on a sailboat, this is the very worst experience. You do not have the option of starting up the “iron genoa” and heading back to port unless you want to drop out of the race.

In this circumstance, all you can do is wait in the hot sun for the wind to rise again eventually. This is very boring, and in fact, can become miserable.

When the boat is drifting in becalmed waters with no breeze, you may have to wait in these conditions for days if you are on ocean waters.

The breeze will always come again, sometimes with a fury when it finally returns, but until then, all you can do is drift.

Many cruisers start the motor in this situation, either to hasten the process of getting into more wind or to get some breeze flowing over the boat and cool the crew down, but many will wait it out to save their fuel for when needed.

Long Passages:

Similarly, regardless of the breeze, some people get bored over long passages, particularly through the ocean where there is nothing to see.

Conversely, if you are on a long passage and forced into a harbor by sustained storm winds, some people find it boring to ride on the anchor for an extended period of time, waiting for the winds to subside.

In this case, even though plenty is going on outside the boat, the motion of the boat riding swells at anchor while waiting, sometimes for days, can get monotonous.

If you are day sailing and all the breeze dies, and it seems unlikely to come back up, you can motor back to the dock if you have one, bypassing the boredom of drifting.

Some people will get bored by being on long passages. This depends entirely on the sailor.

Most people will get bored at some point, but there are genuine exceptions to this; the love of the sea is so hard-wired into some that they never get bored while on a sailboat.

When in doubt, bring a book.

What Can You Do if you Get Bored at Sea?

Many tasks need to be performed at sea for an extended length of time.

Many of these are mundane, such as cleaning the boat, recharging batteries, fishing and food preparation, and possibly repairing the boat or sails. They are not exciting, but they need to be done and can alleviate any boredom that a crew might start to feel to some extent.

One time-honored way to alleviate the tedium of long passages is to read. Reading a book of nautical adventure while being on your own can be inspiring. Or get caught up on recent novels or read up on boat maintenance and repair.

Engaging your brain in this fashion doesn’t just keep boredom at bay. It can be very productive.

Games can also stave off boredom. Checkers, Chess, Backgammon, and Go are all common side-pursuits of sailors in some parts of the world. Playing cards is another favorite. Crossword puzzles and similar games are popular with distance cruisers.

There are video games and activities, as well, but for many, those are things they want to get away from in bluewater sailing.

You can play an instrument or learn how to play one.

You can also make some more practical diversions, like learning how to splice a line.

What Do People Usually Do on a Sailboat?

Whether casually day sailing or distance racing, everyone will have some degree of tasks to perform.

On a one-person dinghy, the sailor has to do all the tasks. On a two-person dinghy, the skipper takes the helm and usually the mainsail while the crew trims the jib and hikes out in gusts.

On a casual day sail aboard a keelboat, the owner is probably the skipper and may trim all the sails, too, depending on the knowledge of his crew or guests. The crew, in this case, may actively trim the sails or pass up drinks from below.

Everyone will have assigned tasks on a racing boat, from helmsman to mainsail trimmer to genoa trimmer to foredeck to navigator. There will be multiple crew proficient with these tasks on larger boats, particularly in distance racing, where the crew is divided into watches.

There is a less rigid delineation of tasks on passage-making cruises, as each crew must perform almost all of the functions aboard the boat, whether taking the helm or reefing the main or changing headsails.

How Much Time Off do you Have When Onboard a Sailboat?

If you are racing your sailboat in a typical day race around the buoys, there is no time off.

You must be prepared to tack or gybe at any time, depending on the shifting nature of the race or changing wind conditions.

If you are casually day sailing, you do not always have to be aware of these things, and you are more relaxed as you sail. For most, this is their time off – from the normal workday.

On long-distance races or passage-making cruises, most crews will organize themselves into watches or shifts. Most often, there will be two different watches, with half of the crew in each one.

On larger yachts, there may be three watches.

Generally, the watches are kept short to maintain the freshness of the crew, though long enough for the off-duty crew to sleep or otherwise relax. Six- to eight-hour watches are common.

Four hours might be implemented on some distance races to maintain the edge, and on some distance cruises, twelve-hour watches might be agreed upon.

A large crew on a distance voyage may also opt for shorter watches in the four-hour span and have more watches.

Is Sailing Recommended for Families With Kids?

Whether you are casually day sailing with your kids or taking them across an ocean, sailing is an activity that will expand their horizons.

In addition to seeing new places and expanding their education, their skills will teach them self-reliance. Still, boredom for children is a real concern for many parents on long-distance cruises or living aboard.

Many kids respond to the new experience with immersion and easily leave their gadgets behind. Others get bored by the wind and waves, even if they appreciate having the experience.

This also depends on their ages, to an extent. Young children may adapt better to a sailing lifestyle, while those who are a little older have been set in their ways and will struggle to change.

As one responder on a cruising forum put it:

“Keep’em busy, and the kids won’t be bored. I had a nine-year-old that read over 100 books the first year on the boat…and a 5 year old that could and would sail the boat by himself if I would let him. Your kids might be bored at first but give them time, and they will see and feel the joy of sailing and being with their parents.”

[Source: Cruisers’ Forum]

Final Thoughts

Sailing can be boring, whether because there is no wind or being on a long voyage.

Not every sailor experiences it the same way or even feels it. The bottom line is that you can occupy your mind during these long stretches, or in the short term – such as no air in a sailboat race – you have to endure it.

Because the rest of the time, sailing is worth it!


Six Harsh Realities of Crossing an Ocean

The Boredom of Offshore Sailing

Boredom – Cruisers’ Forum

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