We are quickly approaching our one year anniversary of leaving Flagstaff, AZ for something different. On June 4th last year we left our home with what we could fit in our minivan (and on top and behind it!). We were literally homeless as the boat deal we thought we had fell through and our new tenants were moving into our house. We camped our way through National Parks from AZ to WA. We stopped along the way to visit family, and then set up camp at my brother’s farm for a month while we continued our boat search.
If we had stopped there, it would have been an epic summer – Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Idaho, Bend, Oregon coast, farm life in Washington. We saw some amazing things and the kids learned a lot. But we didn’t stop, we kept going on our adventure. We found a boat in, of all places, Nova Scotia. This was not exactly what we had planned, after all we had sold this sailing life to the kids by telling them about the crystal blue waters they would be able to jump into from the boat. We decided to embrace seeing the East coast of the US, as we are West coast people and had not explored much in that area.
We spent a couple of weeks in Bras d’Or Lake in Nova Scotia learning how to sail our new boat. We then set off down the rocky Nova Scotia coastline doing 20 mile hops. We met an amazing boat family in Halifax and were able to spend time with them on our way to Portland, Maine. This was the kid’s first introduction to making new friends instantly – the boat kid way.
They gave us some guidance and encouragement for our first multi-day passage across the Gulf of Maine. We spent a month in Portland – an amazing city where I was able to reconnect with some friends from my PhD program. We worked on the boat living “on the hard” for three weeks – not something I recommend doing with kids! We then worked our way South hitting some amazing spots – Portsmouth, NH, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Annapolis, Martha’s Vineyard, Norfolk, VA, the Carolinas, Cumberland Island, GA, and St. Augustine, FL.
In December, after hurricane season, it was time to leave the comfort of U.S. waters. We spent 2 months in the Bahamas, 1 week in Turks & Caicos, 1 1/2 months in Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands, and 1 1/2 months in the USVI’s. From there we did a brisk sail hopping South via St. Martin, St. Kitts, Dominica, and finally landing in Grenada.
It’s hard to put into words what this time has meant to us. It was very scary to leave everything behind and try something so radically different from what we were used to. We left our dream home, good and stable careers that we had worked so hard for, and the comforts of a predictable and safe land life. It has been incredibly challenging – both mentally and physically. The learning curve was steep, and we are still learning everyday. BUT, it has been so gratifying – every time we pull anchor and head for a new destination we’re excited and ready to explore – places I’m sure we would have never been able to see if not for traveling to them by boat. We have met so many amazing friends – both locals and cruisers – people that we would have never crossed paths with if not for living on our boat. We have shown the kids that they can live a different type of life – not one within the boundaries of what society says we should do.
I was recently being interviewed to join a yoga teacher training program and was asked what I have achieved that I am most proud of. If you had asked me that last year it would have been successfully completing my PhD. I paused when she asked me this and answered, moving onto the boat – sailing and traveling – taking a risk to live life more fully and authentically. I am a planner and am always creating goals and looking to the future. While this might be good in some respects, I have trouble living in the moment and taking time for the joys in life. Taking this plunge has forced me out of that state of being (for the most part). I’m proud of all of us for making it this first year. We not only made it, but we thrived.
Some highlights from our first year (according to the kids):
– dolphins on the bow
– sailing up to the Statue of Liberty
– planing in the dinghy (this means going so fast your barely touching the water – this can only be done in our dinghy with the weight of only one adult and the 3 kids).
– playing on the trampoline
– met new friends
– limited internet for the kids since we save expensive data for my work
– no TV/xbox
– missing friends back home
– missing riding bikes (we have one, but there aren’t many sidewalks/safe areas to ride in the ports we’ve been in)
– very limited access to milkshakes/ice cream/ice
Highlights according to the adults:
– sunsets and sunrises, full moons over the water- absolutely extraordinary and can never be fully captured in pictures
– swimming with turtles, eagle rays, sting rays and beautiful marine life
– fresh fish
– meeting new friends you instantly have so much in common with
– whale sightings in Oregon and the Silver Banks heading to Puerto Rico
– rain forest in Dominica – incredible flora and fauna. So different from AZ.
– the sound of the boat moving through the water with sails up
– no TV/gaming equals 2 great young readers
– the kids have bonded and get along much better than on land
– Bahamas beaches/snorkeling/free diving
– overnight sails – still not a fan after doing several. I am just too dang tired to have any great insight into life during my time in the middle of nowhere at sea.
– manual pump toilets
– finding/transporting groceries with no car (we don’t do taxis because we are on a budget)
– constant boat maintenance
– diminished sleep quality feeling like you’re always “on watch” when anchored out and the waking to close hatches for nightly rains