Category Archives: world schooling

How we make it work… as a long term sailing family.

I know its been a while since we’ve put out an actual sailing post. I think I’m almost a year behind!!!  Our last sailing post was  about Suwarrow.  Hopefully soon, a post about  sailing in Tonga (Sept-Oct, 2018) will explode from my brain and onto the blog.  It will come. For now, however, I do want to share a write up that I did for another blog/podcast.  Sometimes having someone give a prompt helps the writers block and motivation.  It is sailing related, but not limited to any particular location within our sailing journey.  Hope you enjoy.

That’s a great question, HOW DO WE WANT TO LIVE EVERY DAY?! And how do we make that possible?!

HOW DO WE STRATEGIZE? This question was brought up by a dear friend, Whitney Archibald, writer and podcast extraordinaire of  How She Moms  regarding how we strategize with parenting on the boat. (Click the link above to see our response and listen to the podcast with a few on my answers along with a few other Mum inputs). But this question wasn’t just about parenting style, when a fellow boat parent on S/V Mahi approached me with the question of how we manage to do this long term cruising thing from a financial standpoint for the Kids4sail June 2019 Newsletter, I realised that this “parenting strategizing”  extended beyond parenting on a day to day basis. The bigger picture was how do we strategize to live the life we want to offer our kids. How do we go cruising in order to raise our kids the way we would like them to be raised?  For most people, including us, the biggest challenge of cruising was figuring out how we would manage it financially.

 

When we first were thinking about sailing the world with our children, not necessarily around, we were faced with a few big questions. The biggest,  “HOW DO WE MAKE CRUISING WORK LONG TERM?” Many factors play into that, but the primary one people get caught up in when thinking about leaving their “current life” is figuring out how they can afford to do it financially.  There are some blogs that write about cruising budgets, but its hard to grasp the idea that cruising really is affordable when not many people are willing to share their financial information and the people that do might not have the same budget you would have.  Their are a few other topics are worthy of their own post, such as questions centred around education/boat-schooling, and how do you cruise and co-parent, with a blended his, hers, and ours like we have on our boat. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll leave those aspects out of this write-up and stick to finances. 

Along our journey, we have met many others who have shared their very different ways of making cruising work from a financial standpoint.  Like myself, there are a few nurses, but only a few.  There are some teachers, computer tech related fields and other various professions.  Most families out there cruising long term are still working in some way or form. Not many have been able to free themselves from the full work load completely. With an open mind to various possibilities, we, A FAMILY AFLOAT, have found ways to make it work up to this point and plan to continuing doing so.  I could not imagine our life any other way than as a cruising family.

Lets first start by defining what a “cruiser” is. Someone who has left their “home” to sail around afar (this could be in the same country or foreign) for an extended period of time. There are all sorts of different sub-species of cruisers. Those who sail seasonally, meaning they do a few months of sailing away from home, and the other months back at home. There are those who just take a year (or just a season) or two off and squeeze in what they can and then go back to “home”. Those who leave for longer periods, and those who leave with an open ended plan. We left with an open ended plan of “we’ll make it work along the way and keep going as long as it’s working”.  We left San Francisco in August, 2015 and slowly  (over 3.5 years) made our way to New Zealand so far.

When Christian and I got married in 2010, we had already agreed that we would one day go cruising with the kids. Originally we were thinking of leaving around 2019, but in 2014, when we  assessed our lives and our finances, we came to the conclusion that the opportunity to leave would open up for us for mid 2015.  I was the primary income source with my nursing career in San Francisco.  We were very fortunate to have a good steady income while Christian prepped the boat, raised the children and helped with schooling.  He is trained and skilled in carpentry (ground to finish work),  but when we blended our family and had another kid, it made the most sense for him to leave that job to take care of the “boatstead”.  I worked three 12 hour shifts a week and focused any extra money toward the cruising kitty.   We had already been living on our current boat  (S/V Shawnigan) since 2012 and paid it off by 2014, so it was just a matter of  putting enough savings into our “cruising kitty” account for at least one year’s worth of sailing.

Our costs were already relatively low, but there were a few changes we new we had to make in order to save enough in that next year. Six months prior to leaving, we pulled the kids out of private school to acclimate them to home-school life and in turn saved $$$. If you have the means to do this before you leave, we highly recommend it.  4 months prior to leaving, we moved Shawnigan out of the harbor we had been living in for the past 4.5 years and “anchored out” in the free anchorage.  This options isn’t for everybody, but worth it if you can.  Not only did we save quite a bit  of $ by being anchored out, it allowed us to get use to what life was like not being able to just step off onto the dock or dry land whenever one wanted to. It was hard work. I would wake up at 4:45 am, kayak to shore in clothes that could get wet, then ride my bike 13 miles to work to do a 12 hour shift at the hospital. I wouldn’t get home until 9:30pm at the earliest on those days.  But the hard work paid off.  Don’t forget, the extra little things add up. We ate out less and started getting rid of our extra stuff, including cars and bikes. By August, 2015 we had $20,000 in our cruising kitty and the same amount in an “emergency found”.  It allowed us to leave to go cruising with our kids and experience the world!

We kept a budget in mind while out cruising. Its easy to get into “vacation mode” and spend spend spend. Based on experience and hearing about it from others, we knew we wouldn’t be going out to dinner much and spending $ on extra sightseeing activities like some cruisers do.  A sacrifice worth making and was a challenge at time. We seemed to start out great, especially in Mexico. But as we met more people with an extended budget and as we sailed through more expensive countries it proved to be more of a challenge.  There were many times where we opted out of the group dinner out or the group sight seeing tour simply because we couldn’t afford to be spending money like that.  Trips like the Galapagos, I intentionally worked a few extra shifts on the previous travel nurse assignment in order for us to go there and enjoy a few dinners out and a tour or two their.

Assessing funds and making them along the way:  As our first year neared its marker, we knew it was time to refill the kitty.  As a nurse, I’ve always kept it a possibility to pick up travel nursing assignments throughout our sailing journey.  These are usually 13 week contracts that you agree upon with a travel nurse company. We figured hurricane season would be a good time for me to hop off the boat and work back in the U.S.. The family stayed on the boat a bit longer, but also took this time to come back to the States. As life tends to always change, just like the wind and the seas, that work stent ended up being 6 months, 4 of which we were all together in the States. Our boat was safe and secure during that time, in San Carlos, Mexico. The next year, was similar. We cruised for 9 months and then I  returned back up to the States for another Travel Nurse assignment. This one lasted 4 months, in which during that time the family stayed on the boat, explored the Sea of Cortez, and visited the States for 1 month. The next year, we made it 10 1/2 months before returning to work. The Shawnigan crew sailed from Mexico to Panama, to the Galapagos, and crossed the Pacific Ocean, explored French Polynesia, a blip in the Cook Islands, and 6 weeks in Tonga. From Tonga I flew out for my last Travel Nurse assignment… for now.

Upon arriving to Tonga, we assessed our kitty and decided that even though the plan was to work in New Zealand, I should fly back to the States for one more assignment. This was by far the hardest choice to make and to actually do. I would be away from the family to work for 13 weeks, but the payoff was great.  Sometime, mid Tonga, I had a phone interview with the hospital in Wellington. I was offered the job, given the info I needed for a work visa, and given permission to delay my start date until mid January while I waited for my work visa to go through and completed my travel assignment in the U.S.  In the meantime Christian and the kids sailed, with the help of our friend Nick, from Tonga down to New Zealand.  He then took the next few months, sailing solo with the kids,  down to Wellington, where we are all at now…on the boat, in a marina…schooling… working… refilling the kitty…. for the next leg of our sailing journey.

At this point we are uncertain how long we will stay in New Zealand… we just want to keep everyone on their toes.

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Group shot (minus Ellamae, who was already back in the US with her biological father) of the family taking me to airport in Tonga to fly out for a travel nursing assignment in California.

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Fun Facebook Video calls with the kids made it tolerable.

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And a few photos revisited from along the journey.

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Bora Bora – Society Group – French Polynesia

Raiatea  was hard to leave. We were not super thrilled about going to Bora Bora. As I write this I realize how funny that sounds. Most people would be extremely excited to visit Bora Bora. For us, however, it was a stop we need to do in order to check out of French Polynesia by the end of our 90 day visa. And we knew it was a stop that was going to be heavier on the pocket book. We arrived August 5th, 2018 just in time to check out.Screenshot (338)

Checking out of Bora Bora has been reported as a easy process. The location of the offices relative to where you moor the boat is fairly close. That being said, there are very limited options to anchor, leaving $$$ mooring only options.  We moored up at the Maikai Marina Yacht Club in Vaitape. It sounds fancier than it is and the included wifi is very slow. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our stay and the kids enjoyed the pool, when they were allowed (not always an occurrence). We ended up paying for 5 days there because it was cheaper than paying for 3 days.  Not all 5 days were spent there though. We were able to sail over to the east side of the island for a few days to check that out. I think our timing must not have been optimal. We heared wonderful things about the eastern side, but for us, it was windy and not the best conditions for exploring. The view, however was spectacular. And to top it off, we were anchored, FOR FREE, right in front of the high paying customers in the Four Seasons and St. Regis Resort.IMG_5099S/V La Cigale anchored near us.IMG_5100Screenshot (352)We had these two men join us for a bit of fun… they were using our wake for a lift. It was great fun, but what we didn’t realise was that they scuffed up our “new” paint job on the hull. Hmmm, a bummer indeed, but left lasting memories of the fun it was and the smiles they gave us.Screenshot (353)Screenshot (350)Screenshot (348)Screenshot (345)Screenshot (344)Screenshot (341)Screenshot (339)

The Bajka Boys, Catherine from La Cigale and Taj enjoying the ambiance at the MaiKai.

Aiden from Sv Tranquilo sharing his toys with Taj .

All over the Society Islands, huge graffiti murals have been placed. Bora Bora hosts many of them.

Fellow sailing family from S/Y C’est Si Bon

From Bora Bora (our last official French Polynesian island) , we sailed off the mooring ball at Maikai Marina, out to Maupiti, through the narrow pass and onto the hook next to our friends on La Cigale and Bajka.

The last picture of our asymmetrical before she completely blew apart (off of Suwarrow, 700 miles later).

 

Raising a Boat Teen

Behan, of S/V Totem is one of the most well know sailing family writers out there today. I few months back, near the end of 2018, she came to me to ask about writing up something on raising a teen on a boat. Yes, she’s already been there and done that, but she was writing and article for Yachting World Magazine and wanted the input of other sailing families with teens.  I was happy to ponder her questions of current “hot topics” for sailing with teens.  Having had writers block for some time, this was a perfect way to prompt me to write something new!  Behan’s article should be coming out in this month’s (March) Yachting World Magazine.  I’m excited to get a copy in my hands and read what different insights she got and how she compiled it into an article.  Thanks again Behan for the inspiration!

While you are now anxiously waiting to pick up a copy of this months Yachting World Magazine, here is what I came up with for raising a teenage on a boat:

“Wow, you are sailing the world with three kids on a 40 foot boat?! And your oldest is 16?! What is it like with a teenager on such a small boat? I can’t imagine being in such a tight place with a teen.  Does she have the normal teenage outbursts? What does she think about it? What does she do for school? What about social life? Does she help out?” Pretty much every conversation I end up having with non-sailing or soon to be sailing families about our life consists of the questions mentioned above plus many more. Raising kids on a boat is one thing, but raising teens, is a whole other ball game.  Our kids are 16, 11 and 5.  We get questioned about all age groups with such age gaps as we have, but the teen questions come up most frequently. Topics most often brought up are regarding what we do for school, whether she feels deprived socially and materialistically, whether or not we see similar situations for other boat teens, and how do we deal with teen “frustration” and moods and what do resolutions look like in these moments.

When we left for our world sailing adventure life, our oldest daughter, Nina, was 12 1/2.  She was in 6th grade and we transitioned her out of private school  halfway through the year into boatschool, 6 months prior to leaving.  We knew that with her very social temperament, she would benefit with a transition that allowed her to continue to be close to her friends, and at the same time warm her up to schooling on the boat. Looking back at it now, this was probably the best thing for us to do.  The transition to a less social life and more parent time over 6 months helped tremendously compared to other stories we’ve overheard from the families that did it “cold turkey”. The academic part of it had its own learning curve. The first year we pulled from various resources attempting to keep the Waldorf/Steiner style education. We ALL struggled with that. Not only did we find areas where Nina’s prior education might have missed her not understanding some subjects, but we also had to discover for ourselves how she best learned and what style of teaching/learning would be best for her. Once we found that, it was so much easier. In fact we have gotten to the place where she primarily teaches herself. We are just there as resources and to correct her math and papers.

“Does Nina ever feel socially deprived?” I think we better let her answer that question. (see her self recorded boat teen speech from December, 2018 here) .  I think she’s had ups and downs with feeling deprived, but when does a teenager feel completely satisfied? One of the goals as parents raising our children in this environment, was to lead them away from FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon.  It seems to be the case with the increased connection through social media that children feel the need to stay connected and fear that if they don’t, they will be missing out on something and possibly missing out on some “better” opportunity.  Nina had an IPOD at the age of 12, for email, skype and google chat. The main goal was to stay present with our own adventure, and allow her to stay connected to family and the friends she “left behind” and the new friends she met along the way.  There were many times she asked for Facebook and Instagram accounts, but we were able to hold off until she was 15. So now, she is on Instagram, but she’s also 16.  When there is wifi available, we allow her limited time slots to do her social media thing and then we get back to being present.  As for in person interactions with other teens, it comes in waves. There will be weeks, sometimes months without having interactions with other boat teens. And other times, it’s non-stop teen extravaganza! When there are not other teens around, she interacts with either adults or the younger kids. She’s very adaptable as far as that’s concerned.  We would like to think that is because of the lifestyle we are raising her in and we have noticed the same characteristics in other boat kids.  When we do meet up with other boat teens, there usually is an immediate connection between them. It doesn’t take to long to realise that once on cruising mode, it is necessary to meet and make friends quickly. There are no clicks, no super judgemental/harsh teen dynamics going on. It’s a breathe of fresh air to know that our children are being exposed to supportive and healthy relationships along our journey.

Other ways we helped Nina’s transitioning to sailing life: she’d already lived on a boat, at least part time, since she was 2.5 years old, so she was already accustomed to limited “stuff” aboard and tight living quarters. She moved aboard full time when she was 11, pre-teen. She had plenty of space. She shared the v-berth (the front of the boat) with her, then 6 year old sister, with two separate bunks, which they each call their own “room”. Their room, called a cabin on a boat, was equipped with a door for privacy and a second head (bathroom) that they are both responsible for upkeep on.  Having her own space and something to be responsible for helped give her “ownership”.  Now the girls are 16 and 11. They still share the v-berth and surprisingly still have enough space. Does Nina wish she she had her own room? Definitely. But didn’t we all when we were growing up, no matter how big the room was.

We all know that the word “teenager” is largely associated with emotional frustrations and irrational outbursts.  Not sure if its our parenting, growing up on the boat, or just plan luck, but we have it pretty easy so far on this topic. Yes, there are moments of complete meltdowns and frustrations and there isn’t anywhere to run to, literally. So… we are forced to work it out quickly. And we learn to be ok with emotions. Sometimes we grow more if we accept them, let it ride, and then reflect. On a boat, we all, not just the ones involved, get to see them, experience them, feel them and then, most importantly, let them go. Usually it plays out as trying to calmly talk about it first, then on occasion the outburst happens, usually  proceeded by a stomp to the v-berth and slam of the door, maybe some shouting, then hours of quietness. Nina journals, ALOT. Usually withing a few hours of in-room time, she returns to wherever we are, usually in the cockpit, to calmly talk out her frustrations. It seems to us, a very healthy means of working things out. We can only hope that we are giving our children quality coping and interpersonal relationship skills.

How much choice do we give our children, especially the teenagers, on what path we take for cruising? This is a tough topic and answers vary widely amongst other cruising families. We understand that our answer to this may not be agreed upon by others. Our way of thinking stems from both past experience and advise from others. Christian grew up sailing with his father.  His journeys, albeit not around the world circumnavigation, covered many miles and covered many of his formative years. After completing the South Pacific loop twice, his father and mother sailed him down through the Panama Canal, at which point they gave Christian the choice to keep sailing, possibly to South Africa to surf or go up to Florida to do high school. He chose high school.  He now says he wished his parents never gave him the option. He states that his high school experience was terrible. That being said, he does realise that he is where he is in life now with that as part of his path. But from having that experience and remembering how emotionally driven his choice was, we don’t feel like it is a good idea to give such a big choice to a teenager.  We will listen to wants and consider them in our decision, but ultimately they can choose their path when they leave the boat. Our good friend aboard S/V Imani, Marc Gournard, once said after doing  a circumnavigation with his wife and two kids, “You are the parents, your children do what you do, not the other way around.”  Ultimately, as parents, we feel that we are responsible for raising our children the way we think is best in order to set them free, so that they can then live the life they want to live in confidence.

Skipping ahead 4 months from when I originally wrote this post….

We have found ourselves in New Zealand primarily to work and experience the country while we are making money before we continue on again.  An added benefit to staying put here for a while is that Nina can go to high school (or what they call college here) and finish up her formal education before she goes off to University on her own. She entered school here as a year 12 student (equivalent to Junior year in the States), so she technically skipped half a year of school by starting the new school year here in January.  Is this what she wants? She says it is. It happens to work for us as well as far as timing.  Her transition into school has been great. She was very nervous to start, but within a few days she’d already established a good group of friends and a good understanding of how the education system worked. Nina found herself ahead in Math(s) and English and about right on par with Science. Yay, we didn’t fail as home-educators! What a relief!

We are always revisiting our choices and what we want next. We listen to our children, we listen to ourselves, we listen to what “feels right”.

Nina with two teens we met off of a charter boat that were out from Germany, cruising the Society Islands for a few weeks.

img_0664img_0710Tahiti: another place where many kid boats meet.

img_4930Hanging with younger kids from other boats… Above (Catherine from La Cigale)32584384_unknown32582640_unknownNina loves free-diving. She’s reached a max of 59 feet.  Above: Diving with Dad. Below: Diving with Mom.img_1085img_1263-1Snorkelling with her sister.

fcd181bf-6867-4035-8568-dae61a25c33bMarine Biology Boat school, tailored for all ages.

img_0315She’s outgrown me!img_0314img_0210Marc and Doreen from S/V Imani. Back at the cruising thing without their kids this time around.

img_9807Nina in the Galapagos with her Marine Iguana friend.

img_006817 boat kids met in the Galapagos for Taj’s birthday party. NO lack of kids here.

IMG_2909Beach play in the Galapagos with fellow boat teen Anastasia off of S/V Lady Mary.

img_9587Equator crossing, 2018.

31789264_unknownArrival to the Galapagos, late March 2018.

img_9305Hanging with the S/V Totem teens in the park in Panama City.

img_9240img_8882-2Skating with boat teen Jack off of S/V Arc En Ciel in Panama

img_8801Braces are taken off in Panama!img_8560-1img_8277January 3, 2018 Costa Rica

ahoy 6Sailing into Banderas Bay, spring, 2016

img_7820-130472256_unknown-1Fall, 2017

img_7454-1December, 2016

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Nina’s triumphant pose as she completes a 40 foot deep fin-less dive.

img_7242Screenshot (53)Nina likes her cliff jumping.

img_5538img_5631S/V Kenta Anae  joined us in the Sea of Cortez with their boat teen.

img_4399 Hanging with other boat teens

img_4424 90% of the time, this is what Nina looks like 🙂 Reading in her corner.

img_4219Getting braces (brackets) put on in Mexico.

img_3475img_2869-1img_1381Hanging with the boys off of S/V Tribe in La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico.image-1img_5259img_1668img_1356Mid passage swim

img_1216School at the beach in Mazatlan

img_1147-1“Boat hair, I don’t care”

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Tenacatita Raft up with TONS of other boat kids (January 2016)

IMG_0207-0IMG_5202IMG_5049IMG_4908Back when we left in 2015, Nina still held our hands…

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3025.Rodeo show off of Morro Bay.

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IMG_4255Heading down the coast of California.

IMG_4321Our first family photo after leaving San Francisco, August 2015.

 

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Raiatea – Society Islands – French Polynesia

 

Just west of Huahine is Ra’iatea. After spending about a week here, we decided that Ra’iatea is one of our favorite places so far. There is just something about the feeling, the vibe of the island that is alluring. We arrived July 30th. While were there we got to paddle up a river in Fa’aroa bay to a plantation, where we were invited to tour and take produce. We ended up with so much fruit and veggies that we did pay for it as well as trade for some said needed items that we had aboard the boat.

James kayaked out to invite us to his family plantation.Taj on paddleboardjosie on paddleboardJosie goofing on PaddleboardJosie and rambutin

From the east pass entrance at Fa’aroa Bay, we anchor hopped southbound until we reached the south pass, until finally exciting to make way to Bora Bora.

Fa’aroa Bay:

Rafted up with S/V La CigaleRafted up, Raiatea

Taj helping clean the dry food storage area.

Raiatea’s famous Marae Taputapuatea:

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another obligatory spiritual grounds handstand

A “map” of how all of the South Pacific islands are connected and meet at Raiatea as the
center for their cultural rituals.

Fetuna:

Boat teens jump off SV Bellini

Daddy DIY school

Typical Boat Storage set up.Next up… Bora Bora

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Huahine-Iti – Society Islands- French Polynesia

July 26th, 2018: After Mo’orea we did an overnight sail to Huahine, in order to arrive there with good lighting to navigate through the pass and shallow areas.  La Cigale joined us for the fun.

Marae Anini - HuahineMarae Anini - Huahine

The Societies offer a combination of “atoll”  and mountainous landscape. They are surrounded by a perimeter of reef, channels that are mostly navigable by boat are access through a pass, and there is where you take your boat to known anchorages off the volcanic islands. Huahine offered great views, clear water, great surf, paddle boarding and culture.

The overnight passage along with S/V La Cigale was great. The pass into the island’s reef was also seamless, as we spectated local surfers doing what they’re natural at. We motored our boats down to the south tip, where it’s less inhabited with ancient sites to see. We spent the next few days, unwinding more from busy Tahiti life, paddle boarding around, swimming and walking to the Marae Anini (cultural site).DCIM100MEDIADJI_0089.JPGDCIM100MEDIADJI_0017.JPGIMG_6550Josie headstand

Adult Sunset paddle with our friends on La Cigale. (Nina and Francis are on kid duty)

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sunset SUP with La Cigale

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Hammock time under La Cigale.

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felt the need for inversions at this Marae.

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Marae Anini : At the southern tip of Huahine is Marae Anini: an ancient meeting ground for worshiping gods and making human sacrifices.  For a brief cultural background click here.

The following drone photos are from S/V La Cigale

Marae Anini

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SeeLa Cigale’s post here