7. Do you have any advice for families contemplating cruising that you did not cover when you first participated in the Cruising Families project?
Just to go and trust that it will be an amazing family bonding time. And you don't need to cross oceans to make that happen.
I do believe, however, that it helps to be a good distance from home, because that feeling of conquering the foreign part of it all also contributed to the feeling we came away from cruising with. I hear about families staying more or less in their backyard whose kids never really get into it because their old land lives are teasing them from "right over there."
You could fly to Europe, the Caribbean, or New Zealand, buy a boat locally, and cruise there, for example, if crossing oceans is completely out of the question for you. (By the way, 99% of kids we know had no problems whatsoever with cabin fever on long ocean crossings. Between home schooling, free time, and radio calls to other boats, they're usually fine. Our son was in lego heaven and didn't really want any of our ocean crossings to end!)
Also keep in mind that you're hardly trailblazing. There are so many families with children of all ages out there cruising and so much information available. We made many friends crossing the Pacific and kept in radio contact constantly to coordinate location. "You're in Bora Bora? Okay, we're on our way!"
My favorite example was being on the uninhabited Cook Island atoll of Suwarrow with 17 cruising children at the same time. Everyone - kids and parents - had a blast! The bonus was that the kids were of different ages and cultures, making for a much more well-rounded social experience than most kids get in schools where they are herded into strict age cohorts.
The kids of Suwarrow
Our son had several opportunities to experience local culture along the way (other than just kicking balls around beaches with local kids).
In Tonga, he attended a one-room island schoolhouse for a day. (Tongans in general seem to really value bringing the world into their classrooms. Some schools even use the sailor's radio nets to announce open invitations for sailors to drop in on them.)
In New Zealand, Nicky attended local YMCA summer camp while Markus and I put in a period of intense yard work.
During that time, he also befriended two sailing kids and the three of them made a video together about life on a boat (which is still on our cruising blog).
Some landlubbers like to mention the terrible dangers of the sea - but what about the terrible dangers on land? Highway statistics terrify me, for example, yet no one seems overly concerned about loading their kids into a car. We were never so healthy as we were at sea, away from the germ farms of our school and office settings. We suffered fewer mosquito bites in tropical Vanuatu than in Maine, and were ill much less frequently.
The list goes on and on, so don't let unfounded fears get you when the experience of the lifetime is right there for the taking.