Sundowners And Such

Sunset as enjoyed hundreds of miles away from shore.

Watching the sun setting over the horizon is popular among more thoughtful men and women of any age and place. Ubiquitous among cruisers, having sundowners is the generic term for the pastime of enjoying a favorite beverage, whilst watching the big orange orb drop, along with its lingering range of beautiful reds, purples, pinks and grays, especially with others. We ponder the day’s events with the fading colors, as twinkling stars and often brighter planets slowly begin to appear. We cruisers discuss past, present and future adventures aboard: reflections of another day lost in paradise; where’d you come from? where you going?

Mildly obscured, sunset from inside Simpson Bay, Dutch Sint Maarten.

Let’s dig into this sundowner phenomenon a bit more. With a bit of googling I didn’t expect several references to the term, but also many having nothing to do with a setting sun nor consumption of alcohol.


[ suhn-dou-ner ]


1. Chiefly British. an alcoholic drink taken after completing the day’s work, usually at sundown.

2. Australian. a tramp or hobo, especially one who arrives at a homestead near sundown in order to avoid having to work in exchange for shelter.
For clarity of my intentions in this post, I’m referring to the ritual of consuming a beverage, often (but not necessarily) alcoholic (or being in company of those consuming) at day’s end, in celebration of successfully living through another day. 

While landlubbers readily participate, there seems something more intrinsic about participating on a boat or at a beach. Maybe it’s because we’re living literally on water, with a clearer view of the western horizon, we can extend the solar descendent event as long as possible? You land-based critics surely will say baaah, as I’m sure you’ve seen some timeless sunsets ashore while holding a sweating glass in your hand.

So assuming the view from land or sea is reasonably equivalent, then why is it with religious fervor we cruisers always participate? Do landlocked friends watch the sunset with such regularity as we floating brethren?

Fayaway’s anchorage at Oranjestad, Sint Eustatius.

Of course, some folks just want an excuse to drink. Others focus on the setting Sun, and associated camaraderie. Some folks want more… happily converse, laugh and stay longer, drink more… as long as you keep serving. But it’s a tricky balance between enjoying company, being a gracious host (or visitor) and depleting essential (often limited) supplies of rum, beer and mixers. If invited to a fellow cruiser’s yacht, how long do you stay? If food beyond snacks isn’t clearly indicated, do you overstay, hoping for more? Assuming you at least bring some of your own to drink, and to share, right? When that runs out do you accept an invitation to drink theirs too? And how many after that? If the opposite happens on your yacht? Cruiser’s dilemma? Not really.

Perhaps we tend to invite familiar cruisers whom we’ve met before, and can predict their willingness to overstay? If we’re the visitors, we aren’t night owls and don’t drink heavily anyway. But more often than not we have the magic combination of meeting, inviting and enjoying the company with new and old friends. We’ve never been disappointed!

Oddly colored cockpit lighting helps us identify our vessel among others when returning from having sundowners elsewhere.
Rum Punch Old Fashioned Recipe: 

1 lime juice
1 or 2 cane syrup (we like less)
3 rum
4 ice
dash bitters
Ice? Ice is nice, but no matter for this group. Ice is a luxury, perhaps becoming more mainstream as folks acquire bigger boats, more electric power from solar panels and such. At least try to chill the ingredients! But power to make ice is another story altogether, for another day. (And you can count on another post about it!)

Anecdote: I never met a sunset I didn’t like. An example of the magic of sundowners: Kelly and I first tried a Rum Punch Old Fashioned a few weeks ago. We had been invited to a musical jam session by Bill and Maureen aboard Kaloonamoo, their lovingly owned Vagabond 47. A bit reluctant and anxious at first to participate, given my rudimentary ukulele skill, we went anyway. We sipped the magic concoction while crammed into the cockpit, with the warm glow of sunset, before settling below with our instruments. My takeaway is one of the happiest times yet being aboard a boat. New friends, music, sunset, beverages to share and an overall wonderful experience!

To long ago chances,
To all the long stances,
To strange circumstances,
An Island review.

Green flash at sunset,
Young love recaptured,
Just an illusion,
Would it were true.

Jimmy Buffet, Green Flash At Sunset
One of several enjoyable jam sessions with friends aboard Kaloonamoo. Thanks so much to Bill and Maureen!

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