Tag Archives: homeschooling

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

Ninadiver

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.

 

To follow Nina’s blog click here or copy and paste this link : https://wordpress.com/view/afamilyafloatnina.wordpress.com

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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

NOVATEK CAMERAGroup shot - sunset paddleboard

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

TAHITI!!! Society Islands – French Polynesia

What a strange feeling…. after so many months of small populated towns, if any at all, small grocery stores that had just enough supplies to restock a few select fresh fruit (mainly grapefruit, imported apples, and bananas), and quiet surroundings with only nature to be heard, we made landfall in the busiest, most populated island in French Polynesia, Tahiti, June 24th, 2018.

Our overnight passage from Toau was pretty much seamless after our exciting 3 am departure was out of the way. 36 hours and a Wahoo later we found ourselves just reaching the north end of the island of Tahiti. We made way for Venus Point, the same anchorage Capt. Cook landed in on the Bounty to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun on June 3, 1769. That was 249 years ago! This very protected, easy navigable, black sand bay, eased our entry into “city life” for just one night.  The black sand was something we, on Shawnigan, had not experienced yet. When we dropped the hook, we assumed the water was dirty and that we would not be able to see the bottom.  As soon as the anchor was down we hopped on paddle boards and toured around.  It didn’t take long to realize that we could actually see the bottom from the surface. At 20 feet down, our silver anchor glistened half dug into the black sand.

We made Shushi with the Wahoo we caught!

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The next morning we made way for the anchorage just north of Marina Taina,  which is just south of Papeete, Tahiti’s largest city and the Capital of French Polynesia. On our way in through he pass, we motored by a popular surf spot, no not Teahupoo, but lovely to see. I think its safe to say that we all felt shell shocked. So much to see, the surfers were beautiful, the landscape was beautiful, the people on outriggers givin’her were beautiful, the water was beautiful, the list could go on.  Shortly after, as we made our way up the channel, our friend named Gilles, whom we met a few years back in Sausalito as he and his family sailed through on SV Coccinelle, came to greet us on his dinghy.  He hopped aboard, tied his dinghy to Shawnigan and lead the way to the anchorage.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0713.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0714.IMG_3069IMG_3071IMG_3075IMG_3086IMG_3105IMG_3101IMG_3107IMG_3108IMG_3110IMG_3098

Gilles and Christian getting caught up on 4 years of not seeing each other.

The anchorage was tight, but we found a spot. It was exciting to see so many boats anchored and moored in a few mile radius.  The kids were especially excited, because big city means more kid boats coming together in one location, therefore new kids to meet and make connections with. A few other things to be excited about: BIG grocery stores and free wifi access from the town hall, family visiting, and a tour of the island via rental car. Yay!

Every morning the outriggers were out practicing.img_0646img_0722img_0834img_0835

Play time with cousin Lola.

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Ellamae and Apolline

Family shot with Lola in front of Tahiti waterfall.

Moon setting

Ages 17 – 5 years old.

Ellamae’s send-off crew (Boat kids from La Cigale, Raftkin, and our Shawnigan crew).

That’s Nina, doing some kind of funky pose.

Taj is in awe with the size of the waterfall.

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Taj, very much his dad’s son…

We finally met S/V Bonaire!

Nina and Taj coming into shore in the dinghy to pick me up.

Taj (at 5 years old) being towed behind a dinghy on a hydrofoil. Thanks Jeremy with starboardSupNZ !

Kid boat meet up at the park near the marina in Pape’ete. Kids from S/V Today, S/V Coastal Drifter, S/V La Cigale,  us (S/V Shawnigan), S/Y Panacea and S/V ManuiaBus ride back from town with S/Y Panacea crew.

S/V Alondra kids, S/V Bajka Kids, and Taj at the office in Marina Taina.

Playing with the “BajkaBoys”Ship Shape time…while the laundry dries. 

 

 

 Taj posing with his signed Frankie Hill skateboard that was given to him.

Our farewell as we departed Tahiti from our Starboard SUP New Zealand friend Victoria.

 

 

 

 

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a French couple that we met in Mexico 2.5 years ago

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Taj picking up trash along the way to see the sunken plane.

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Taj diving down to get a closer look at the plane.

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Nina getting down and close…

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IMG_3101coming up next…. Mo’orea

 

 

 

Toau

Video of us leaving Fakarava out of the North Pass:

Video of SV La Cigale as we’re both heading out of North Fakarava pass.

Toau, Tuamotus, French Polynesia:

June 18-23, 2018

Making our way about the Tuamotus with the prevailing winds, next stop after Fakarava, Toau.

atoll. Wait a minute, prevailing winds?! We left at 7 am in order to arrive at Toau’s east pass around 11am. That way we can see clearly into the water, looking for coral heads and shallow areas as well as timing the tide/current into the pass. All looked good from where we were “sitting”. As we left Fakarava, the winds switched out of the north, exactly where we wanting to sail to. To add more excitement into the mix, the current was heading out at Fakarava North pass. Let’s put two and two together: incoming wind (out of the north) + outgoing current = standing waves . Yay a circus ride!!! Apparently you can skirt the edges of the pass and bypass this “mess” but we decided to go straight on through, along with our friends on La Cigale. Don’t miss the video clip below!

Once out the pass we battled the headwind. We almost gave up entirely and turned back in when we would tack one way to head northwest and get pushed southwest, then tack to head northeast and head due east. It was painful. We decided to keep with our easterly direction and turn on the iron sail (aka engine) to aid us to arrive at the the east pass of Toau by 11am. La Cigale also used this method.

Toau’s pass was cakewalk compared to Fakarava north. Many people speak of horrendous passages through it, but we had it blissful. It is still nerve racking when you can clearly see the bottom 7-8 meters (25 ft) below you, and you can see almost every detail of the coral carpet. Not sure one can ever be at compete ease with that.

Once through Toau’s east pass, we headed south, along the eastern edge. We settled in the Southeast corner (ish), a relatively sandy bottom area. As a general rule of thumb, the southeast anchorages of most of the atolls in the Tuamotus, you’ll find more sandy holdings. This is due to the wind direction, blowing sand over and it settling within the atoll. There were some coral heads, but they were easy to spot and plenty of room to navigate around to find a good anchoring area. Here, with La Cigale, and 2 other boats in the distance, there was plenty of room. And it was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful!

Pizza making over on La Cigale.Spa day on La Cigale Barber Shop Shawnigan , cutting Xavier’s hair off the starboard hull. Coffee time on Shawnigan

After a few days inside the atoll, it was time to make our way back out and north to Toau’s false pass on the north end called Anse Amyot. It’s a false pass due to its pass like appearance, but no complete pass through. You enter as if heading through a pass and grab a mooring or anchor in the middle. Again the east pass was manageable when we heading out, with an incoming current of about 2 kts. We sailed on up to Anse Amyot and motored up to a Mooring, next to our friends on SV Summer. The “lagoon” , as many people call it, was beautiful, but windy. This is normally a very picturesque anchorage with brilliant colors popping out of the water, but the wind waves made the water surface difficult to see much color. That is until you jumped in. Despite the wind, we were determined to snorkel. It was beautiful!!! We’ve heard many stories of the fantastic diving here. The days we were there were not those days, but non-the-less still very amazing. Watch our video here or click it below:

Our 90 day visa in French Polynesia was already halfway through.

We could have spent at least another month in the Tuamotus exploring underwater and on land. But alas, it was time to head to Tahiti. The clock was ticking. Family was coming to visit us in Tahiti, Ellamae (our 10 year old) needed to fly back to the U.S for her time with her biological father, and we still had the Society Island group the explore. We did the math with distance to Tahiti and average boat speed (5kts). Tahiti was a very long overnight sail from Toau.

The benefit to Toau’s false pass is that one can leave “through” it at night. We estimated our passage from Toau to Tahiti to take about 36 hours, which meant a 3 am departure time was needed in order to arrive before dark the next day. We had tracked our way into the mooring the other day and paid close attention to all the details of markers and reef locations so that our departure would be “easy”.

At 3 am our internal alarm went off. Shawnigan, pointing to the southeast, was bobbing up and down on the mooring ball as the wind persistently blew 15 kts. Perfect wind conditions to sail off the mooring, but not the perfect anchorage. We made it out fine, but I wouldn’t say it was without standing on the edge of my seat. It was windy, there was a small current, it was dark. We had tied an extra line to the mooring we were on, not trusting what was there. We knew we would have to leave it when we placed it. It seemed pitch black with our navigation system lit up, hindering my night vision. We had our tracks in through the pass saved and ready to follow out. As the engined warmed up, we reviewed our exit plan.

Timing our boat’s dance with the wind, we motored off the mooring in the correct direction, away from the reef 20 meters to our starboard. Behind the helm, my job was to quickly throttle up our RPMs as soon as we released from the mooring ball. We had our lines set up with two loops to either side of our bow. Christian released the first one, checked to make sure I was ready, and with a torch shining on himself he released Shawnigan from the mooring and hand motioned me to motor out. The wind was strong enough to require 1800 RPMs for ample steerage off the mooring to turn off the wind, past the other boats and out through the pass. At the helm, I focused heavily on our Navionics chart, attempting to follow our track out exactly as we came in. I will say, it’s a lot harder to do when you can’t visually see where you’re heading and only looking at a screen and compass. Christian was on the bow with a bright light shining, keeping an eye out for the surrounding reefs. Heart pumping, I was relieved when we made it out of the pass and clear of any reef danger. As we veered off the wind, toward Tahiti, we unfurled the Jib and turned off the engine. Ah, peace. All that was, was the sound of the wind, the slapping of the water from behind and the stars in the sky. Off the coast a few miles, we were in the clear of any obstacles and could relax.

Toau, thank you for your beauty. We hope to visit again? Maybe in less windy conditions next time.

SV Summer (Shannon 28) with Leo and Laurel aboard.

do you see the fish?

SV Tusi 2

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Christian checking on the mooring ball in Anse Amyot

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