Cruising with Kids, Life after cruising

Back to land: Choking on the anchor

When all your adult life you have dreamed of and planned for a life aboard and cruising, it is a disorientating stumble to face a turn-around back to land.

It is even more distressing to find that it is not an easy adjustment. For many reasons cruisers find themselves landlocked, whether by choice, or by need, and it can be harder than you imagine.

While slipping away and sloughing the cares of land is an attractive lure, complete independence from terra firma is hard to achieve. Cruising as a family with four children ranging from tot to teens, we frequently faced the need to be near land for both medical and educational reasons.

We and many other cruising families have also found the need to be stationery while the breadwinner flies off from some accessible airport to earn the money needed to maintain a young and growing family and their bobbing home.

Recently, the need for major surgery for one child and the serious pursuit of a musical career of another, combined with the ever increasing toll of long distance commuting to support it all, has meant that we have temporarily become landlubbers, living a long way from our boat.

Hot and cold running showers a few steps from our beds, an upright fridge and freezer that is not accessed from under a bunk, a dishwasher and washing machine, all within centrally heated or cooled comfort are delightful luxuries.

Not having to don a raincoat to walk up to the showers is a novelty I will always appreciate, but there are many aspects of the transition that have been very hard.

We have all suffered mourning and depression. While this has not been a forced situation born of a crisis, such as losing the boat altogether – ours is still safely awaiting our return- we were not prepared for the emotional toll that the change would bring.

It is not surprising that so many metaphors for life apply sailing terminology. ‘Rudderless’ is an entirely apt term to describe the experience of having to make such a significant change to a life plan.

It has also been ironic that the classic perceived negatives of the cruising life have been truer of life on land.

Loneliness has been hard to bear.

While an arrival into a new anchorage or marina is the signal for instant meet-ups and friendships, moving into a house, especially one where there has already been a long stretch of often anti-social prior renters, one is not necessarily met with any sort of welcome.

The children were highly disappointed not to receive the ring of the door-bell and the classic plate of cookies.

Being buried in snow for the next few months meant the entire neighborhood was housebound and isolated.

We had sufficient family heirlooms to make storage of some essential furniture, books, photographs, and sentimental items logical when we sold everything else. We were offered so little for our furniture that it made sense to store rather than sell it, especially as we could face just such circumstances that would require us to stock up all over again.

While the cost of storage has made the saving on repurchasing a bit questionable, it certainly helped our transition to have the familiarity and comfort of our own things in the alien context of a completely new town.

It was like Christmas for our youngest, surrounded by hand-me-down toys and much beloved books, but it was disconcerting for our daughter as a teenager to come face to face with her much younger pink and doll-loving self.

Some aspects of sailing have been hard to shake. My family jokes that you can take the woman off the boat but you cannot take the boat out of the woman, when I provision madly before every snow storm as if preparing for a three-week passage.

We are also hyper-aware of every approaching storm, and anxiously watch the skies and weather reports. Our poor son, studying in New York and hoping to be there to watch the 4th of July fireworks, rushed home early at our request, so nervous were we at the approach of Hurricane Arthur!

Our rental home has skylights so we have kept the sensation of hatches and the sound of rain beating on them, and still can’t quite believe we do not to have to rush around shutting and checking to make sure there are no leaks.

While I do enjoy the convenience of an attached garage, by not having to walk outside, we have not only lost the sea, but the sky as well.

The myriad changes that become the backdrop of your daily existence on the water and on foot are all but lost when surrounded by buildings and the roof of a car.

We keep finding we forget to go out in time to see the blood moon or the super moon or a meteor shower that would have been unavoidable at sea.

While medical and educational needs were part of the anchor chain, and we have been so glad to have been able to achieve those goals, they also come with the stress of ferrying and co-ordinating multiple family schedules.

Ironically, we had a far better and more economical meal schedule while cruising because the whole family was on the same single schedule.

Maintaining a boat and an entirely separate home make it all but impossible to actually save any money for the next cruise, despite attempts to live frugally.

I truly believe that all life is an adventure and an opportunity to learn.

Just as we take our children to sea in order to see the world and learn life skills, there are many things to see and learn in the midst of unexotic, unromantic urban life, not least of which is that sometimes that is how life is.

There were unexpected skills that needed to be learned or relearned, like the handling of glassware in combination with granite counter-tops.

The kids are all acquiring seasonal skills, like the most efficient ways to rake leaves, shovel snow, and mow lawns. For the first time, they are needing to and learning how to iron!

There are driving lessons and money to be earned from gardening and catering ; there is berry picking and there are museums and bus rides to Boston and New York, and there are always the friends you would never have met otherwise.

Moving everything off the boat has given us the opportunity to give the tired and shabby interior of the boat a thorough sprucing of sanding, painting and varnishing that would have been so much harder while also trying to cook, eat, sleep and school. Multiple grades of schooling had led to the accumulation of numerous weighty books and equipment that filled storage space all over the boat.

I am very much looking forward to returning to the boat with a different approach to life aboard. It is as if the first time period served as a shakedown for our return, enabling us to make changes and improvements in every aspect of our lives aboard. We will also have to adjust to the loss of two very able-bodied crew men (now university students in far-off Australia) and the changed roles and competencies of our two youngest.

Keeping in touch with cruising friends has been a vital emotional lifeline for me, and I have enjoyed being able to provide them with land based support by mailing them things they need.

Disentangling ourselves again from the kelp of land life and possessions will be the next challenge as we work out how to get ourselves all the way back across to the other side of the continent to return to the only home we own.

Whatever we do, it will continue to be on the road less travelled.

About Clare Collins

Clare and her family have been choking on the anchor amid leaf piles and snow drifts in New Hampshire USA. 

Her husband, brother, and a crew will be bringing their 72 foot steel ex-BT Challenger, Ironbarque, around the big “U” in the fall, and the family will move back on in the spring of 2016 in Maine. 

In the mean time she is working on provisioning lists and recipes to equip novice galley chefs with basic skills.

More from Clare Collins, on this website

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