My husband and I call RVs land yachts. Our friends who roll down the highways have a lot in common with our friends who sail the seas.
But is traveling by RV really like traveling by sailboat?
What Everyone Knows About RVs
You’ve camped next to them. You’ve passed them on the highways. You may have stepped into one at a camper show. You even know that RV is the short version of recreational vehicle.
But what do you know about sailboats?
Many people have never seen one at anchor and some folks living inland may have never seen one at all.
So what’s similar and what’s different about the two vehicles/vessels? And what will it mean for our adjustment to living aboard a sailboat later this year with our dog Honey?
RVs and Sailboats – The Same and Different
Moving And At Rest
Both an RV and a sailboat move. That’s part of the appeal—getting to visit new places while carrying your home with you.
But sailboats don’t stop moving. Ever.
If you pull your RV into a campsite and go to bed, when you wake up you’ll still be facing the same view. Unless, of course, a cyclone touched down in the middle of the night and carried you off to the Land of Oz.
You can’t stop a boat in the water. It has no brakes. And wind, tides, and currents will move it along.
Once anchored, your boat will continually move to face into the wind. Which means that while you’re absorbed reading a book in the cockpit, the island over your right shoulder may disappear.
It’s always unsettling until you find the island off the left side of the boat because the wind has changed direction and turned your boat without you noticing.
Oh, and at dock? Yep, even with lines tying you off to land in four directions, you’ll rock and roll. Even someone stepping on board is enough to move the boat if it’s small enough (and ours will be).
Both RVs and sailboats share small galleys for cooking, compact sleeping quarters, and storage hidden in every cranny that’s never enough.
But a sailboat can’t pull into the nearest Walmart to stock up on supplies.
When we were in Panama, fresh supplies came once every two weeks when the “veggie boat” arrived from the mainland.
In more populated anchorages, you row your dinghy ashore (many folks have outboard engines on their dinghys; we probably won’t), tie up somewhere, and walk off toward the nearest town.
But don’t forget to leave most of the packaging behind.
In an RV, you can gather your trash and leave it at the dumpsters in a campsite or rest area.
In a sailboat, trash makes more work. In a marina, you just dump it. In a remote area, you burn it on an island. Cans and bottles are carefully sunk so reef animals can grow over them. Food scraps feed the fish.
Unless he gets car sick, life in an RV is similar to life in a house. While traveling, he can sleep on a cushion undisturbed, even if strapped in for safety sake.
But a boat that’s underway often tilts or heels. If the wind is high, this angle might go as high as 40°. When you change direction by tacking (moving the front of the boat through the wind), the boat will heel in the opposite direction.
Just ask Honey how surprised she was when we changed directions while sailing in Canada to find herself on the cockpit floor after sliding off her seat.
The dog traveling by RV can let out a woof to tell his people to turn into the next rest area.
We’re hoping we can teach Honey who has been perfectly house trained since she was ten weeks old that it’s okay to do her business on the boat. If not, we’ll have to row her ashore at least twice a day.
Needless to say that means we can’t make any long passages far from land. I’ve heard stories of dogs who never learned to go on the boat who held out for 4 days (?!?) without relief. We couldn’t do that to Honey.
Both RVs and sailboats have a steep learning curve. Low bridges and narrow streets bring new challenges to someone driving an RV.
But most Americans start driving when they’re teenagers. So driving an RV is adding new skills to basic ones you already have.
When I first started sailing four years ago, I discovered everything was different from driving.
You want to turn the boat to the left? Then move the tiller to your right.
You need to stop? Oops, no brakes. Maybe you can take the sails down or turn into the wind.
Ready to go? Not if there’s no wind. You just have to wait.
And how far will you travel in a day? Well, an RV traveling 50 miles per hour will travel about 400 miles in a day.
A typical sailboat speed in good wind is in the neighborhood of 5 miles per hour. So after a day’s sailing, you’ll be 40 miles farther along. Yeah, I know. It’s pitiful.
But you can’t drive an RV to Puerto Rico or Italy.
RVers and Sailors
I only know of two sailors among all the S’Waggers reading Something Wagging This Way Comes.
But I’ve heard from dozens of readers who think that someday they’d love to travel by RV.
Which has me wondering: are RVers and Sailors part of the same tribe?
I think so, even if they’re not the same in every way.
We share a sense of adventure, a wish to see new places, an enjoyment of the outdoors, a willingness to give up some conveniences to create a rich and interesting life.
And hopefully our Honey will discover what our dog friends who live in RVs with their people have found: everywhere is home if it’s with the ones you love.
Your Turn: Do you fantasize about going on a traveling adventure some day? Or do you have all the adventures you want right in your home? How about your dogs? Are they adventurers?