Please visit our home site at

Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gypsy Rules for the Road

Cruising Live-Aboards

 The sky became their canopy
The earth became their throne
And as their raiment ran to rags
They thought it nothing wrong
For earth and sky are robe enough
When you sing the Gypsy Song.

-- From Beggars to God by Bob Franke

Gypsy Rules for the Road

The term Gypsy - our outsider's name for the Romani peoples - stirs in settled folk a feeling of nostalgia and sometimes unease. Nostalgia for their own, lost, nomadic past, whether real or imagined. Unease from xenophobia - fear of the stranger. As a consequence, the Rom have had to navigate many hostile centuries, yet largely kept their identity and cultures intact.

Live-aboards and shanty dwellers have much in common with them, to the point that we often share the Gypsy moniker. We too are mobile among those who would prefer to see us settled down. We too often have more in common among ourselves than with those ashore. We too live along a fringe; in the cracks, as it were.

The following Gypsy tips, or rules for survival/thrival appeared in a post by Ugo Bardi, plus a few gleaned elsewhere. I'll start with the bare list, which I've paraphrased, generalized, rearranged and loosely grouped in triads, then take them one by one. They're presented as 'rules', but consider them advice...

Be yourself.
Cultivate a free spirit.
Family First.

Protect your privacy.
Blow smoke.
Never stand and fight.

Stay mobile.
Live light, travel light.
Seize opportunity.

Cultivate know-how.
Minimize overheads.
Waste not.


Okay... let's unpack 'em a bit:

Be Yourself

BE yourself! Don't yield to conformity. Homogeneity. The pressure to be like everyone else. To blend in. You are unique in all the world. In all the Universe. Don't trade that away for love nor money!

To do so is to impoverish yourself and the world itself.

Cultivate a Free Spirit

Dance, sing, celebrate, make love! Never lose sight of the joy of living.

It's what makes it all worthwhile. What makes living more than mere survival.

Family First

Your family - be it your partner, your children, your kin or your tribe - are your first priority. Your family is your strength and well-being.

Invest yourself in them and theirs.

Protect your Privacy

Lots of folks are curious about how we live. But be cagey about what you tell whom. Not all of those interested are your friends. Detail can be used against you as gossip, rumor or as a pretext for official action.

Loose lips sink ships!

Blow Smoke

Mis-direction and mis-representation have their place, especially when dealing with officialdom. We want to appear as though we fit within the boxes on their forms, whether or not we do. We want to appear more settled and 'legit' than in fact we are.

Smoke and mirrors, my friends.

Never Stand and Fight

When in danger, when in doubt, hoist your sails and bugger out!  - Tristan Jones

Those dedicated to keeping freedom freedom-free tend to have the upper hand. To fight them is at best a full time job. At worst a losing proposition.

This is not to say that one shouldn't give due process a chance. But standing on principle come-what-may is a good way to lose one's home and possibly more.

Consider moving along before push comes to shove.

Stay Mobile

Mobility has us ready to roll on a moment's notice. Extends our range of options and access to resources. Keeps us fresh in outlook. With mobility, we are not bound to the misfortunes of one place. Nor must we suffer a bad neighbor.

If not mobile, we are sitting ducks.

Live Light, Travel Light

Don't you carry nuthin' that might be a load. Ease on down, ease on down the road. - The Wiz

To live and travel lightly keeps one focused on essentials. This good advice has been passed on from the most ancient of Wise Ones to the most successful of present-day sailors.

Take what you need and leave the rest.

Seize Opportunity

Make the most of good fortune. Recognize the Opportune Moment. Act decisively when a windfall comes your way.

Strike while the iron is hot!

Cultivate Know-How

DIY maintains your independence. Knowledge is portable, cannot be taken from you and makes you intrinsically valuable to others. What you can do is stock-in-trade.

Minimize Overheads

Overheads eat away at our substance. While we can never eliminate them entirely, we can keep them low.

The lower our overheads, the greater the return on any investment. The greater our freedom.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Waste Not

We want to make full use of what we've acquired at cost. We often want to make full use of what others have neglected or abandoned.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose.

Thrifty does it...


So there you have 'em. Rules for the Road from those who've been traveling a long time gone.

Like most advice of this nature, they're for your consideration. Take 'em or leave 'em. Adapt them to your unique situation. Add to them from any source you deem fit...

And ease on down the Road.

PS. Here are the original rules from Ugo Bardi's post, Survival Tips from the Gypsies, in order presented:
  1. In battle, the best strategy is flight.
  2. Don't carry and don't use weapons.
  3. Cherish your mobility.
  4. Travel light in life.
  5. Cultivate creative obfuscation.
  6. A man's family is his refuge.
  7. What you learned to do yourself, can never be stolen.
  8. Catch the occasion when you see it 
  9. Be jealous of your identity.
  10. Be a free spirit.
Note:  I skipped number two in the preceding post. Definitely a point to consider seriously. It may be somewhat more context dependent than the others? Certainly, the use of a firearm against a human being is a choice fraught with consequence, however justified one may feel.


  1. Your post warmed my heart this morning. Thank you. Great advice for those of us who slip though society's cracks. Anyone who spends any amount of time travelling knows these things, at least at a gut level, but it's nice to see it spelled out. If nothing else it's confirmation of experience.

    1. Hi Sixbears,

      Always a pleasure to pass on good stuff gleaned from the wisdom of others. I'll add my humble thanks to them!

      Dave Z

  2. Perhaps the hesitation to carry and use weapons ought not be limited to bullets, blades and batons, but rather be inclusive judgement, imposition, and argument.... and confrontation in general. Sleeping dogs, and such.

    I like this piece a lot, Dave. Resonating and reaffirming, for sure.

    1. Hi Mimi,

      My Grandfather often spoke of the problems inherent in the Adversarial Relationship. Later, when I first ran across the title GETTING TO YES, it rang my bell.

      The latter attitude reflects the points you mention... Certainly, it's been a very useful and effective strategy - not to mention pleasant - for dealing with various characters along our way.

      Hmm... I'd group that in the 'outsider interface' cluster (which includes 'never stand and fight' and is rather adversarial, as written)... Probably even lead it off.

      Wonder what Romani would make of that 'rule'?

      Dave Z

    2. I may live a bit of a different life than most, but there are some simple truths I've come to learn:

      So long as I don't easily take offence, then nobody goes out of their way to offend me...

      So long as I don't make someone look foolish, then they won't try to prove to me that they are smart...

      So long as I am okay with them, then they will probably be okay with me, and...

      ... so long as I don't reach for a gun, nobody will shoot me. Ignore me, maybe...

  3. This is so good Dave that I think I am going to have to print and frame it, then give a copy each to my children! I think they would benefit from being prepared from the hard times which I am convinced are not too far down the road. Such are the difficulties of preaching to the unconverted.

  4. As someone who has seen actual gypsies and their campsites in europe, they have a bad reputation for showing up, creating a mess, and then leaving, with the permanent residents responsible to clean up the debris. This is related to boating when the pretence used to get rid of vagrant boaters is the small number of people who inappropriately dump raw sewage in irresponsible ways. If you anchor near those expensive waterfront homes, learn how to make a composting toilet, or expect harassment if the slightest whiff (or sight) of any waste is noticed. This also goes for any other type of waste that can be blamed on the live-aboard community. Not sure what to call this rule, but maybe something along the lines of "don't hand the authorities a good reason to ban your type"

    1. Admittedly, the gypsies of today aren't particularly well evolved from the gypsies of yesterday.... I could make exactly the same argument of how humankind, globally for the most part, has evolved in exactly the same way: generations happy to reap what they can right now and largely ignore the consequences to be faced by others long after they're fat and dead.

      It's not about assigning blame, but about taking responsibility... I think.

    2. @Dennis,

      One thing I notice about communities who "Waste Not", or less, anyway, is that they tend to concentrate debris from their wider environment, rather than create it. It gets hauled into camp, used, repaired or scavenged for parts, then is left to sit.

      Permanent residents notice the concentration when they often more or less overlook more dispersed refuse.

      So often the 'trash' originates with the settled folk themselves. Some number of them are inconvenienced by official disposal rates or times, so dump into some nearby roadside midden. Others are glad to sell their otherwise useless refuse to the 'derelict' economy, then complain when its remains remain.

      This is not to say leaving such behind is responsible behavior (whatever THAT might be, given problems of so-called 'proper' disposal). It's definitely something I don't consider good strategy for slipping by.

      How about "Don't give 'em a pretext" (as if they need one)? "Keep a low profile"? "Keep a trim ship"? Or "Project a 'responsible' image" (a sub-category of "Blow smoke?")?


      I think you're dead on with your global point... from a larger perspective, industrial societies have created a 'trashed camp' whose toxic heaps will be our legacy far into the future.

      Ironically, I tend to think that it's those who participate at a lower level - Gypsies of every stripe - who act more responsibly than their critics... they have at least milked a little more use from a range of post-consumer goods. In so doing, and by living relatively lightly, they reduce demand for fresh-from-the-factory proto-garbage.

      One definition of an economy from the internet:

      A machine for turning resources into garbage.


      Dave Z

  5. Posted on behalf of JOHN:

    Dave said:


    Your family - be it your partner, your children, your kin or your tribe - are your first priority. Your family is your strength and well-being.

    Invest yourself in them and theirs.



    Lots of folks are curious about how we live. But be cagey about what you tell whom. Not all of those interested are your friends. Detail can be used against you as gossip, rumor or as a pretext for official action.

    Loose lips sink ships!

    To the extent that we readers of your blogs are part of your extended family, the publication of your blogs tends to promote your goal of FAMILY FIRST. However, your blogs also revel much about you to the general public, which tends to work against your goal of PROTECTING YOUR PRIVACY.

    Whatever, thanks for sharing your interesting and informative ideas.


    1. Hi John,

      The irony of sharing so much online isn't lost on me. I THINK that few of our local Concerned Citizens have run across the blog. Even so, there's a lot I don't share... my political views, for instance. And could be we now and then blow a little smoke. 8)

      But it's very true that I consider y'all my kinfolk!

      We've had very few bad experiences, actually. We go the extra mile to look ship-shape, and it seems to work. Most seem to look past us when looking for trouble. That and we do a lot of pitch-in volunteer work, most places we go. Sweetens the reception. We've made a lot of shoreside friends and few 'enemies'.

      Just ran across a line from ART OF HOOKIE that makes a good rule for getting along: Make requests, not demands.

      Dave Z

  6. Hi Dave, what a nice article. I had to share it in my facebook timeline. I imagine what kind of stories you will write when your "next boat" starts cruising. (not "the last boat" as I hope). By now you are already a liveabord wizard. Cheers.

    1. Hi Richard,

      If ever oh ever a wiz there wuz...

      Seriously, for all of us living aboard - or living, for that matter - it's a work in progress!

      And I hope this IS the last one (will last us the rest of our long, happy life, that is, in case any Djinn are reading this!). Truth is, I'd rather be sailing!

      Dave Z