Cruising Life, Cruising with Kids

Elli shares her thanks and logbook from her family's year of cruising (Part1)

Our nine months at sea proved to be both challenging and rewarding in ways none of us could have imagined.
(Straus Family Aboard WIND OF PEACE – Baltimore, Maryland)

My name is Elli Straus.  My husband and I pulled our two daughters out of school three years ago this October and sailed for the better part of a year on our 42ft. Beneteau, Wind of Peace.

Our adventure began in Baltimore, continued down the East Coast, through the Bahamas chain, the Turks and Caicos islands and on to Luperon in the Dominican Republic where we spent five weeks before turning the bow back towards home.

Much like the twelve featured families on your website, we left wondering if this was something we could actually do, and returned thankful for an experience that will remain in our hearts forever.  I kept a daily log of our journey and took hundreds of pictures for good measure.

Since returning, I have faithfully followed Wendy Mitman Clarke’s adventures on Osprey, often weeping with the strength of the memories they conjure.

I am writing to you this evening to offer long overdue but heartfelt thanks for your wonderful website.

I have turned to it often, first looking for advice and resources when we were in the planning phase of our trip (found plenty of both) and now for inspiration about the next boat, the next adventure, when life’s –and two teenage girls’ educational demands no longer keep us tethered to land.

It was Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes that inspired our itinerary, and I remember touching the couples’ boat card in awe when I saw it tacked onto the wall at the Chat ‘n Chill in Georgetown.

Today, when Wendy Whitman Clarke speaks of Handy Andy, Papo and John Wayne in Luperon, I’m glad to say I know exactly what these mens’ kind faces look like.  When she speaks of the warmth and generosity of the Dominican people, and particularly the people of Luperon, I know precisely what she is talking about.

I am honored to share with you a part of our unforgettable experience : Here are my favorite cruising photos + some excerpts of my log.

1. A Favorite (Shakedown) Anchorage
– Dobbins Island, Maryland

‘At approximately 4:00pm we drop anchor off tiny but idyllic Dobbins Island… despite my worries of drifting, our anchor holds beautifully and we wake up the next morning at precisely the same spot we dropped anchor the night before… raising anchor after breakfast goes as smoothly…What we don’t know yet is that we have already decided that David at the bow with me behind the wheel is how we will execute this important maneuver for months to come. In complete silence, David signals directions that I immediately translate into action. Wind of Peace moves forward, backs up, swivels and ultimately stops on command to the captain’s orders.

We have already perfected the “anchoring dance” and we don’t even know it yet.’

2. ICW Treasures
– near Charleston, South Carolina

‘… I suggest that David takes the girls for a dinghy ride and walk on the marshy patches of barrier islands that line this stretch of the ICW. By now, more sailboats have approached, all stopped dead in their tracks by the unexpected bridge closure, and have also dropped anchor to wait out the lengthy delay. David and the girls set off a little after 2:00pm, promising to be back on board no later than 3:15pm – plenty of time to make the (newly) scheduled 4:00pm bridge opening.No sooner have I settled down in the cockpit with my book when I hear the bridge operator break in with news that due to the heavy volume of vessels waiting to cross, he will “attempt” a bridge opening at 3:00pm.

I scramble down below and see it is now 2:45pm. I need to get David and the girls back – now!I run up on deck and can see them exploring the marshes, stopping every now and then to pick something up I call out to them and realize almost immediately the futility of my action. I run back down below, unhook the ship’s chrome bell from the galley and back up on deck start ringing it like a woman possessed. No response. I can see David very clearly and he hasn’t once turned to look at me. I’m thinking… I’m thinking… I run back down below and grab the emergency signaling horn. Back on deck I sound the horn 4, maybe 5 times before David turns to look at me. Immediately, David and the girls are back in the dinghy and heading towards Wind of Peace.’

3. A Lesson in Social Studies
– Blackpoint Settlement, Exumas

‘Upon entering the oldest combined class (Grades 7 and 8), the students, immaculately outfitted in clean, crisply pressed uniforms all rise to greet me in unison. I chat with their teacher (also the school’s principal), a young beautiful woman – with equally impeccable manners, who tells me she “would be delighted” to have us visit and observe a class.We chat for a few more minutes before I notice that the students, so silent I have almost forgotten they are in the classroom, have remained standing in honor of their visitor – me!

I am embarrassed by this unfamiliar show of respect, thank them for their hospitality and apologize for interrupting class before leaving… I think of all the faces that have smiled and greeted us since our arrival at Blackpoint Settlement and decide that it’s entirely possible that we have stumbled upon the friendliest, kindest populations in the entire Bahamian chain.’

4. Resting the Horses (John Wayne waving)
– Luperon, Dominican Republic

‘Before too long, we began our ascent on narrow, steep trails, climbing higher and higher into the surrounding mountainside. We continued up trails that seemed impossibly steep, leading us into Jurassic Park-like vistas. At times the forest was so overgrown, Osiris (aka John Wayne) used his machete to clear our trail as we gently coaxed our tired ponies through, ducking under thorn laden branches or dodging exotic palm leaves. We continued through steep fields of grazing cattle and reached a herd of wild horses, grazing and roaming freely amidst soaring palm trees and swaying grasses.We brought our ponies to a complete stop and watch in utter wonder as the wild horses ran free, completely transfixed both by their beauty and the beauty of our surroundings…’

Next post (Part 2): More photos and excerpts from Elli’s log book.

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