The Women and Cruising’s fun and informative feature about cruising families gives you the sense of close bonds developed among the family members. The shared experiences of tight living spaces and seeing far off lands enhances the family unit and shapes their lives. Parents pass on a sense of exploration and adventure to their children.
The cruising families have one thing in common—the parents are in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s with children from toddlers to teenagers.
But what if you are “empty nesters” over the age of 50, and want to go sailing off into retirement with your spouse. Are you afraid you will seldom see your children? Will you miss spoiling the grandchildren and watching them advance through the stages of childhood?
MY ADVICE: IF YOU WANT TO SEE YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN A LOT, JUST GO CRUISING!
My parents quickly experienced this once they left the United States to cruise the oceans.
They saw their children and grandchildren more often than they ever did on land! Three generations lived in close quarters for weeks and months at a time.
It began soon after my parents’ 36th wedding anniversary when they left Texas on their 60 foot trimaran, S/V Beachouse, to spend twelve years on board, completing a circumnavigation. What they thought was a personal trek quickly turned into a family affair.
|My daughter Molly’s first visit to BEACHOUSE was Bonaire at six months old.|
My parents, Buford and Jerry Beach, had never sailed but visited the Caribbean often on scuba diving trips. (They took up scuba diving on their 25th anniversary.) The cruising lifestyle quickly caught their imagination. They began building dreams, constructing a boat, and setting sail.
When Beachouse left Texas in 1985, my sister and I were married without children. Immediately we began visiting with our spouses for long weekends or weeks at a time.
After my children were born, I began taking them along. My daughter Molly’s first visit to Beachouse was Bonaire at six months old. My son Matthew first saw the Caribbean at age one.
Over the next ten years they visited their grandparents all over the world. They were too young to remember some places but many trips they can recall: elephant rides in Thailand, animal safaris in South Africa, rainforest treks in Tobago, shell hunting on remote Indonesian islands, feasts with Fijian families, snorkeling in Bonaire, and finding WWII relics in the Solomon Islands.
GETTING TO THE BOAT
|Seghe airport (Solomon Islands)|
Part of the adventure of visiting ‘Grandma and Grandpa on the Boat’ was getting there.
Finding the location on a map was challenging much less the tiny airports. I knew we were in trouble when we landed in Biak, Indonesia, and no one else got off the plane. Biak is normally a fuel stop but it was our destination.
To join Beachouse in Thailand, we decided to fly around the world. Upon leaving Texas, we flew east through Amsterdam and Bangkok. On the return trip we continued east, flying over Mt. Fuji to Tokyo then across the Pacific returning to the United States.
Conquering long airplane rides with Molly and Matt (M&M) was by trial and error. Many trips I handled them by myself while my husband remained at home. I learned to appreciate any passenger who took an interest in entertaining M&M for any length of time. God bless them.
I eventually invented ‘airplane surprises.’ Before the trip I bought small toys from local dollar stores, wrapped them in fabric, because fabric wouldn’t tear revealing the contents, then tied with bows. I used a different fabric pattern for each child. M&M were allowed to open one surprise approximately every hour on the plane. That’s about how long each toy kept their interest. The trick was to secure enough surprises for the return trip.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE BOAT
My parents cruised in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s before the Internet, blogs, cell phones, and reliable telephone systems.
Therefore, my children anticipated letters and postcards from faraway places. Many times a rare stamp had already been torn off the envelope when it arrived. I remember receiving a fax from Fiji and we thought it was a miracle! We kept a large wall map marked with Beachouse’s route and current location.
EDUCATION AND LIFE ON BOARD
I prepared Molly and Matt for each trip by teaching them about the country we were to visit then giving an easy quiz. I met with my children’s teachers before we left to receive assignments.
During extended stays on the boat, we had school in the mornings after breakfast for about two hours.
Each kept daily journals consisting of mostly pictures and few words. Also, M&M completed special projects to share with their classes once they returned home—Matt made a poster identifying plants in the rainforests of Tobago; Molly made a ‘safari board game’ using small carved animals she bought in South Africa.
|Molly journal entry|
After school it was time for fun—exploring islands, going to town, collecting shells, swimming, snorkeling.
Matt loved to fish with Grandpa. Molly loved to play board games with Grandma. Lunch was followed with quiet time then more activities. Evenings were usually spent watching one of the 500 movies on board then to bed early.
Holidays on Beachouse were unique.
|Molly and Matt – Fiji Halloween|
We celebrated Halloween boat-style in Fiji for Molly, seven, and Matt, five by making costumes—a South Seas hula princess for Molly and a Tongan warrior knight, made of an egg crate, for Matt. After a party on board, including carving papayas into jack-o-lanterns, Grandpa motored the kids by dinghy to trick-or-treat for candy on nearby yachts.
Santa Claus even called M&M on the boat radio one Christmas!
My son Matt and I are prone to motion sickness so we never took a multi-day sailing excursion. Daily island-hopping was good enough for us.
|King Neptune and my sister Cindy – Pacific|
However, my sister, Cindy, and her husband, Roger, who have no children, took advantage of the opportunity by assisting Mom and Dad on ocean crossings. They sailed on Beachouse the twenty-one days from the Galapagos to the Marquesas then traversed the Pacific on-board for about a year.
Mom and Dad found them to be “delightful companions and a big help.” Cindy and Roger also joined Beachouse in Cape Town, Royal South Africa, and crossed the Atlantic. They were also available to ‘boat sit’ when Mom and Dad wanted a ‘vacation’ to explore lands, like New Zealand.
GO FOR IT!
Experiences on Beachouse provided my family, as well as my sister and her husband, adventures of a lifetime. Molly and Matt grew closer to their grandparents in unique ways due to their shared experiences. Special bonding between generations created togetherness not achieved in normal lives with grandparents. We didn’t have to think hard about where to spend vacation—where ever Grandma and Grandpa were!
So, empty nesters, don’t hesitate to go cruising. Your family will show up quickly and often. As my mother said, “We can’t get far enough away to hide from our kids, but aren’t we lucky that they want to come and see us?”
WHAT WE REMEMBER MOST ABOUT BEING ON THE BOAT
Sitting together in the cockpit every evening talking, watching the stars, and listening to the waves. I think of those times whenever I am on my deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at night, under the stars, hearing the waves.
My most sharp memories are of the night. I would climb down the ladder from my bunk and climb up to the entrance of the sleeping quarters and peek my head out. I remember leaning over the side and listening to the waves splash and gazing at the stars wondering where else in the stars could there be another little girl on a boat.
The smell of diesel will also shoot my mind’s eye right back to the boat.
But usually in those memories it’s sunny and there are lots of people around talking, laughing and enjoying the tropics.
I will always remember sitting on my favorite spot on the boat—the little platform at the very rear of the boat. I loved to sit with my feet dangling in the water and take in the amazing scenery of all the beautiful locations we visited.
HOW THE EXPERIENCES ON THE BOAT INFLUENCED YOUR LIVES
I learned so many places I never heard of and cultures I knew nothing about.
Of course the boat has had a major influence on my socioeconomic and political views of the world.
When I began to understand the issues of race in America, I remember feeling I could understand and empathize (at least as much as a child is able to do those things) better than my other middle class white friends because I was one of the only kids who had been to a place where their whiteness was not considered the normality. I was one of the only of them to have felt like an “other.”
I would hope that the experiences on the boat and all over the world have given me a foundation of knowledge with which to more broadly and thoroughly interpret the world around me. As I continue to learn and develop, we will see if this rings true. It also has made me a good conversationalist. These experiences have given me the tools to reach common ground with people from many places and walks of life.
Being able to visit grandma and grandpa on their boat all over the world has had a giant impact on my life. Seeing the globe, traveling to remote corners of the earth, has given me a different prospective. I am able to understand there is much more than my city, state, and country. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to accompany them on their adventure. I will take the experiences with me for my entire life.
About Coral Beach
My name is Coral Beach. (Yes, that is the name my parents gave me at birth!)
I live in a beach house on Galveston Island, Texas, with Joe Murphy, my husband of thirty-three years, and Penny, our Jack Russell Terrier. Our daughter Molly is now twenty-four years old and lives in New York City; Matthew is twenty-two and a college junior.
We visited my parents, Buford and Jerry Beach, on their boat Beachouse all over the world.
The boat was built here in Galveston and launched in 1985. My parents then spent the next twelve years circumnavigating the globe.
I recently published a book, Happy Hour in Paradise: Twelve Years on Beachouse, which tells their incredible journey from never having sailed, to building their own trimaran, to sailing around the world, all after the age of 50.
It has already won three national book awards. You can read about it at www.happyhourinparadise.com.
Read also on this website
More information (external links)
- More on Coral Beach’s book: Happy Hour in Paradise: Twelve Years on Beachouse: www.happyhourinparadise.com
- Coral Beach’s book is also available at Amazon.com.
Has sailing influenced your lives with family back home? Does your family come to visit you as you cruise?
Let us know.
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