As John & I prepare to become full-time sailors, we’ve been reading lots of great books…and now I have another one to add to the list of must-reads. Changing Course: A Woman’s Guide to Choosing the Cruising Life is written by a fellow Canadian and long-time cruiser, Debra Cantrell. Using a great “eyes-wide-open” perspective, she describes the real-life challenges of packing up your life to go live on a boat…and how many, many women have done it and don’t regret it for a moment. To research the book, she interviewed dozens of women and learned about their fears, hesitations, concerns and even misperceptions about preparing for life on the water. She describes many practical factors that can seem daunting initially but once you become comfortable with the boat and your own sailing abilities, the lifestyle is incredibly rewarding.
I found her biggest message was to simply be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling (and try to discover the root of any fears) and be sure to talk to your partner about the concerns. She also provides many helpful and practical suggestions for overcoming some common fears.
Although the book was written as a guide for the partner (generally female) of someone who has decided they want to pursue the cruising lifestyle (usually male), she includes a chapter for the “initiator” as well. Here she explains the importance of respecting their spouse’s concerns and encourages patience and understanding of the huge lifestyle adjustments required to live on a boat. Many of aspects of domestic life are more challenging on a boat such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and will more likely be an inconvenience borne by the female with traditional husband/wife roles. The author addresses these and other concerns in a reassuring manner so you can see that although there may be inconveniences, the rewards make it so very worthwhile.
This book would have had a greater impact if I had read it before some of the other ones on our list as it covers a lot of the same material. However, I wish I had read it before as Debra uses actual stats/data from her interviews as opposed to most authors simply tell you what you should be doing without any real substantiation other than the reputation (some) have earned over the years. While it’s getting a little dated now with the latest edition at 2004, it deals more with the human/mental aspects so the themes remain enduring.