8. How did you handle: EDUCATION and FULFILLMENT?
Friendships and social interactions
| We spent 4 months sailing together with SEA BRIGHT, and Nicky became fast friends with Beth.
Our son was the catalyst for several deep friendships with fellow cruisers.
In Tunisia, only 2 months into our trip, we met an American cruising family on Arearea. Their older son, Dante, was a year younger than Nicky, and the boys hit it off instantly (his little brother Amory was an easy-going baby at the time).
We spent a month together in Tunisia and Spain. Arearea followed the same cruising path we did, from the Mediterranean to the Canaries, the Caribbean, and up the U.S. East Coast, although at a slightly different pace. This meant that we joined up on six different occasions over 7 months, communicating all the time via SSB radio (see August 2010 Blue Water Sailing article “Leapfrog”).
In Gibraltar, we made fast friends with an English family also cruising on a modest budget: Jo, Dave, and 5-year-old Beth aboard Sea Bright. We crossed the Atlantic in tandem, maintaining daily radio contact, and then stuck together for 3 months of carefree Caribbean cruising.
We have maintained contact with both families ever since, although we have all settled on three different continents! (See June 2010 Cruising World article “Kids Across the Sea”).
| For cruising children, learning is everywhere (Fish dissection, Tunisia).
Because Nicky was not yet of school age, we had great leeway in what we undertook in terms of education.
Cruising presents endless teachable moments for the alert parent – from cetacean studies to sea shell classification, lessons on buoyancy and basic physics (kids love hoisting a variety of gear with pulleys), learning about the volcanoes smoking before our very eyes, studying the details of local currency… there is no dearth of learning opportunities at sea or on land!
Because Nicky was in the earliest stages of literacy, we helped him to keep a journal by allowing him to select a postcard as often as possible (for passages, I bought a few ahead of time, featuring sunsets, turtles, and the like). At first, he would dictate his thoughts to us to write on the card and, later, wrote the words himself. We collected the cards in a tin box. This has created a nice visual and written reminder of his many adventures at sea and on land.
A sample entry written en route from Ibiza to mainland Spain reads:
“We are out at sea. There are giant waves and a sunset and on the other side we see a little more orange. I have a dolphin shirt. We are going to the big part of Spain.”
Cruising with older children entails home schooling – something parents should look at as an opportunity rather than a weighty burden.
Yes, it does add an extra task to the cycle of watches, meal preparation, and boat maintenance, but home schooling in such a unique setting can be tremendously rewarding for parents and children alike. Just look at any of the inspiring stories of families interviewed by Women and Cruising!
My family cannot wait to head off on our next cruise when my son can complete grades 2 and 3 with the world as his classroom.
Keeping your child entertained
Keeping a child entertained while at anchor is no issue: there is always a beach, a playground, or an excursion to draw you away from a lazy afternoon on board!
| Nicky loved his Lego
and spent many a happy hour creating in the cabin.
At sea, we quickly found that our son was equally easy-going.
Before longer passages, I made sure to stash a surprise of some kind for my son – glitter glue, a puzzle, or a mini Lego set. This strategy worked so well that he feverishly looked forward to any major passage! Nicky spent hours happily tinkering below and maintained the ability to entertain himself long after we returned to land.
For the Atlantic crossing, Nicky received a large Lego set that kept him happily entertained for hours, days, even weeks!
Our cetacean field guide was an invaluable resource at sea, as Nicky enjoyed identifying species that we saw, including spotted dolphins and Minke whales.
We adults were ready for land after 26 days, but Nicky could have continued sailing for another 26, it seemed!
Yes, I am blessed with a low-maintenance child, but I do believe that the slower pace of life at sea would have the positive effect of calming all children – not to mention their parents!
Personal space aboard
| We felt at home and at ease in NAMANI's comfortable cabin.
Personal space was never an issue even aboard our relatively small 35-footer, which has one forward cabin, pilot berths in the salon, and one quarter berth aft. Nicky was content with his pilot berth while Markus and I took the forward berth, or slept on the settees in the salon during passages.
During our Atlantic crossing with a friend aboard, everyone had his or her own bunk in the salon or quarter berth. Between the movement of the boat and the fact that at least one person was asleep at any one time, space never seemed to be an issue.
In the Caribbean, we had one friend visit for 5 weeks, and we all treasured the experience. One couple stayed for another fun week. It helps to have easy-going, accommodating friends! We would love to own a 40-footer with an extra guest cabin, but our 35-foot Namani is what we can afford, and we make it work. She truly is our home.
Family back home and their concerns
It was hard on both sets of grandparents to see their little grandson off to sea, an apparently dangerous venture as far as they were concerned.
I reminded them that sailing is statistically safer than driving on the highway to visit relatives!
It did reassure them that we chose to approach our first ocean crossing with an organized flotilla (we joined the Blue Water Rally on its first legs from Gibraltar to Lanzarote and Antigua). However, we now feel so confident about finding other sailors, that we plan to do our next crossing in a more ad hoc way, teaming up with cruisers we find along the way.
It was very reassuring for our parents to be able to receive regular email as we crossed the Atlantic – short messages sent via the SSB. Finally, both sides of the family came to visit us aboard the boat and in that way were able to visualize what we were undertaking more clearly.