Grape-Nuts cut to the heart of the cruising life. Photo by Christopher Birch

“How’s it going out there on your summer cruise?” texted my friend Joel.

“Going great,” I thumbed back. “Today, we got Grape-Nuts!”

It was true. It also represented the sum total of everything we accomplished that idyllic day last summer in Rockland, Maine. Over morning coffee, my wife, Alex, and I decided to address our desire for a specific box of cereal. So, we rowed ashore, walked a good long way over to the Hannaford Market, and purchased a box of Grape-Nuts. On the way back, we enjoyed a beery lunch in town. We spent the rest of the day reading books in the cockpit and watching the boats go by. We went to bed early that night, eagerly anticipating the delicacy that awaited us in the morning breakfast bowl. Sometimes a simple day like this can rank among the best of the whole cruise.

We could have gone to a museum that day, or toured a lighthouse, or done our laundry, or tackled a boat project. Or, we could have gone sailing. But instead, we just got Grape-Nuts. And that was good.

Three elements made this a perfect day, and they epitomize why I like to spend time cruising on a boat:

1. Speed: Or, more specifically, the lack thereof. Boats are slow. Even a high-powered speedboat would struggle to keep up with an inexpensive car. On a light wind day, my sailboat would struggle to keep up with a donkey. Our slow boats have a way of slowing us down with them in a good way. That’s how the tranquil pace at sea replaces the frantic pace on shore. I can assure you; we broke zero speed limits rowing to the town dock in Rockland and strolling to the grocery store on Grape-Nuts day.

2. Necessity: At home in our land-based life, we spend our waking hours fussing over all manner of things – some more essential than others. The car’s inspection sticker needs renewing; a birthday gift needs purchasing; the grass needs cutting; the TV needs watching. And a job needs to be commuted to in order to pay for it all.

On the boat, a shorter list of essential tasks demands our full attention: a secure anchorage for a safe sleep; precise navigation to avoid shipwreck; simple shelter from well-maintained canvas dodgers and cozy cabins. And food. Whether it be by fishing, foraging, or trekking and hauling, feeding yourself on a boat always requires plenty of work. It’s satisfying to spend a day attending to things that are vital and no more.

3. Simplicity: When reduced to the vital tasks and no more, life gets simple. And it turns out we like simple. It’s that simple.

Alex and I recently embarked on a longer cruise on our boat. In an act of extreme generosity, Joel and his wife, Cybill, gave us a folding bicycle as a bon voyage gift. It’s a joy to ride, and exploring by bike has added a whole new layer to our cruising life. We sleep amidships, so the V-berth on Sundance is primarily used for storage. When folded, the bike takes on a triangular shape and fits perfectly in the forepeak. The storage bag that came with the bike keeps the boat clean from bike grease and grime. Utility, portability, stow-ability and delightability all atop two wheels. It’s a winner.

It seems the stark and beautiful simplicity of our Grape-Nuts day last year in Maine stuck with my friend. The bike came with a vanity license plate that will always remind us to enjoy the simple tasks in the cruising life. It reads: GRAPENUTS. Thank you, Joel and Cybill.

Christopher Birch is the founder of Birch Marine Inc. on Long Wharf in Boston. He is now out cruising full-time with his wife, Alex, aboard their 36-foot Morris Justine. Follow their voyage at