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Sailing Families revisited

S/V Namani 35' Dufour sloop - Homeport: GELTING, GERMANY

Families Revisited
12 Families

Nadine SLAVINSKI & Markus SCHWEITZER + Nicky (12) - This family of 3 has alternated cruising sabbaticals of 1 to 3 years duration (across the Atlantic and through the Pacific) with life ashore, with reentry to work and schools each time. They are now contemplating their next adventure.

2014 - Australia - Last day aboard NAMANI 2008 - St Lucia

Click on a question or scroll down this page

1. Are you still cruising?   5. What impact has your cruising had on your family?
2. When and why did you stop?   6. What impact has cruising had on your child's education?
3. What are you doing now?   7. Any new advice for families contemplating cruising?
4. Do you plan to cruise again?   8. Anything else you would like to share?

See NAMANI's answers to the original 12 families questions

About Nadine Slavinski Books


1.Are you still cruising?

When we originally participated in the 12 families survey, we had just returned from a one-year cruise that took us from Europe, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and eventually on to Maine. Our son was 3 going on 4 at that time.

We loved the experience so much that the minute we got back to our jobs we started planning the next escape, and three years later we went cruising again. Our son was 6 when we set off from Maine and turned 7 a few weeks later in New York. That trip lasted 3 years (ending in Australia) so he celebrated his 8th birthday in Niue, and his ninth in New Caledonia!

At this point, we have been back on land for one year.

2007 - Mediterranean (3) 2011 - US East Coast (6) 2013 - New Caledonia (9)

2. When and why did you stop?

NAMANI's journey

The original trip was planned for one year (Europe to the Caribbean and on to Maine) and like good little citizens, we stuck to that plan.

Before we left on that trip, it seemed like a year was so much time, and everyone looked at us like we were crazy for leaving our jobs for a whole year.

But once we got sailing, we met plenty of sailors at it for much longer than that, and we even started to think of ourselves as the crazy ones who went for ONLY one year!

The minute we got home, we started planning for another trip. We saved, we downsized, we plotted away. Three years later, we left again!

Markus quit his job, Nadine got a 2 year leave of absence from her job teaching at an international school in Europe, and off we went. We picked up the boat where we left it in Maine, sailed south, transited the Panama canal, and headed west for Australia.

Much like our first time around, we realized that even two years was going to be very rushed, so we decided to extend to three years.

Lucky for us, Nadine's school agreed to an extension, making it an easy, low-risk choice.

When we reached Australia, we felt like we could have cruised on forever, but at the same time, we felt that we had already been granted a bonus, so it was easier to mentally accept the transition back to work and land.

2007 - First passage, from Sardinia to the Aaeolian Islands (north of Sicily)   2014 - Australia

All questions

3. What are you doing now?

Back in our apartment in Bavaria

Nadine is back to work in the same school where Nicky is a student.

Markus had two good job offers within a few weeks of getting back to Europe, so everything went smoothly.

It just goes to show that leaving and quitting a job isn't necessarily a huge risk!

We sub-let our apartment and loaned out our car while we were away, making for a very easy transition home.



4. Do you plan to cruise again?

We sure hope to!

However, Nicky is now 12 and in Middle School. By the time we save enough money for another trip (and we constantly argue about which it might be: a repeat of the same magical route or "just" concentrating on the Southwest Pacific between New Zealand, Fiji, and Vanuatu - all assuming health and finances allow it), Nicky will be in high school and we are unlikely to head off.

So our current mindset has us trying to slowly develop skills that allow us to work independently of location so that when Nicky graduates and goes to college, we can possibly cruise and work at the same time.

A six-year plan!

All questions

5. What impact has your cruising had on your family and on each of you personally?


A huge impact.

  • It has brought us incredibly close together as a team.
  • It has helped us slow down, smell the roses, count our blessings, and concentrate on the things within our control.
  • It has inspired us to continue to think outside the box in terms of career planning.
  • It has given us confidence while keeping us humble, just as a small boat on the open sea must be humble.
  • It makes us feel like we're among the select few who've peeked inside a magic box and glimpsed the secret to a happy life, whether on land or on the sea.
  • It's kept us outside the consumer culture with its fascination with blinking screens and thankfully made our son more resistant to these temptations, too.
It makes us feel like we're among the select few.
Maupiti, Society Islands - 2012

6. What impact has cruising had on your child's education? Has your child enrolled in traditional schools? How has that worked out?

School time
En route to Australia - 2013

During our three year cruise, Nicky covered grades two, three, and four, and seamlessly slipped in to a traditional school setting.

He was very far ahead in math, spot-on in English, and behind in handwriting (but hey, if the latter is my greatest failure as a parent-teacher, I can live with that!).

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.

8. Anything else you would like to share with potential cruising families?

I love to dream big and plan big, but it does make sense to ease the family into sailing, especially if some family members are wary of the idea.

Do a summer cruise locally and treat the kids to lots of ice cream and swim calls to sell them on the idea. It sounds like bribery but what it does is create a positive mindset about the boat, and it works.

Very early on in owning our boat, we gave our son a small lego set for every short trip, so he started looking forward to going to the boat. When we gradually weaned him off the gifts, the positive mindset was still there.

Second, I'd only set off on an ocean crossing on a boat I owed for at least a year and have gotten to know.

Fixing the back stay tensioner at anchor off Oua

Too many greenhorns set off on boats they hardly know and immediately encounter problems.

For example, we were five months into owning our boat when we realized we didn't have the correct wrench size to be able to drain the gearbox sump (the gearbox seemed to be the only thing on the boat requiring that size).

If that had happened on the open sea or a remote location, it could have been a big problem. But we were still sailing locally at that point and were able to easily add the right tool to our massive collection.

Don't kid yourself that a brand new fancy boat is safer or will need fewer repairs than an older one. Our 1981 Dufour 35 needed constant maintenance, as did every other boat out there, including brand-new Beneteaus and Halberg-Rassys that didn't fare any better (and their owners were doubly frustrated).

Nadine Slavinski's books

Nadine has written numerous articles and several books about sailing with children, home schooling, cruising the Pacific --  and cruising in general.

Her cruising books include:


Her articles and links to all her books are available on her website: www.nslavinski.com

Top of page

Sailing Families Revisited (2015-16)

NAMANI's answers to the original 12 families questions

12 questions to 12 sailing Families (2010)

Nadine Slavinski's posts on the Women & Cruising Blog

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