Childhood Experiences… Missing

March 7, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the kids’ childhoods will differ from their contemporaries as a result of this wild adventure we’re about to embark upon. Ruby understands that there are many things we will be giving up to go sailing around the world but I don’t think she’s got the context to understand it fully yet. The following are some of the experiences that Ruby and Miles might never share with their peers.


Our plan is to navigate Convivia straight to summer and hold her course there for as long as possible. Sadly, It seems that our little California girl has read too much about the other three seasons and has set some goals of her own. A few weeks ago we had a “snow scare.”  Every time the wind shifted or the rain changed three heads would pop out of the companionway to see if there were any flakes falling. Ruby gathered her snowman making supplies and we searched for and found 3 mittens (no matches) just in case. We did get hail on the boat, frost on the docks, and snow in the hills but no snow on our boat. As a consolation prize, we sometimes defrost the freezer and pull out thee slush for snowballs.  While they have no problem figuring out any other kind of fighting,  their one and only snow ball fight had to be heavily coached—”Okay Ruby, throw that snowball at Miles….”


I promised her that before she grows up she will get so be part of maple sugaring. Tomorrow we’ll load up on books about maple sugaring from the library, and play on “Sugar Shack” by Phish. We know it’s getting to be the time in Maine when there is enough of a thaw for the sap to run, but I refuse to go back until Summer is in full swing. That said, boiling the maple syrup is about as good as it gets for a sweet Spring celebration and I’ll make sure she gets to celebrate that way at least once even if I have to send her by herself.


Our kids carry bones and shells home in their pockets and go to sleep with field guides tucked under their pillows and make so many keen observations about the weather and the birds and the wildlife changing as the year passes.  As we travel, they will learn geography, politics, world history, culture, and multiple languages. They will have friends from all over. They’ll be capable sailors and have strong bodies and good judgement, but they will probably never learn to square dance, won’t ever go sledding, and they’ll never have that eager anticipation of the school bell ringing and the elation of going to recess.

Weighing these missed experiences with the bounty of rare and formative experiences they will have, I feel confident that we are making the best choice for our family but the protective worrisome voice in my head still pipes up from time to time.


  1. Comment by Torre DeRoche

    Torre DeRoche March 7, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Every kid I encountered while sailing (without exception) was mature beyond their years. I didn’t witness one single frustrated tantrum, or even a single kid in tears. The ocean kids were engaged, social, and extremely stimulated. I worry about having children ON LAND. Peer pressure, TV, advertising, judgements on your parenting style, society’s perceptions of danger, creating consumerist game-console addicted zombies … I could go on.

    Have you ever read Into the Light by Dave and Jaja Martin? They also have a fantastic doco about raising kids aboard on DVD via Amazon.

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford March 7, 2011 at 6:56 am

      I haven’t read their book but Ice Blink is one of our favorite movies and we’ve had the pleasure of having dinner with them a few times. Indeed, their kids are our touchstone. Whenever we wonder about how this experience might affect our kids, we think of them and then think “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!”

      • Comment by Torre DeRoche

        Torre DeRoche March 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

        How fantastic to have dinner with such inspiring people! Where did you meet them?

        • Comment by Tucker Bradford

          Tucker Bradford March 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

          They settled down near my birthplace (and childhood stomping ground). I was in the local penny candy store one day and the owner (and longtime family friend) said, “You should really talk to the Martins, they live just down the road and sailed with children for years.” Of course we had already read Dave and Jaja’s articles by then and were thrilled to have the introduction. We had our first dinner with them a few days later. We’ve made it a point to see them whenever we go back!

          • Comment by Torre DeRoche

            Torre DeRoche March 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm

            That’s incredible.

  2. Comment by Gramora

    Gramora March 7, 2011 at 7:22 am

    No matter what course we choose to navigate as parents, “the protective worrisome voice in our heads pipes up from time to time”. But I think I’m right that a course chosen and navigated thoughtfully and with love as yours is, will (to paraphrase Emerson), end in a port well worth the cruise…and may every wave be charmed.

  3. Comment by Charity

    Charity March 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I agree with Gramora.

    In addition, every choice for something is a choice not to do something else. Around here, the kids start skiing at age 3 and are racing by age 7. Our kids won’t experience that. But their kids won’t experience sailing around the world. Many of their kids won’t experience living anywhere but Utah. On the other hand, our kids will not have the experience of having a single “childhood home.” They will grow up to think of home as a feeling and as something to be made rather than as a particular point on the map.

    It’s natural, I think, to mourn the choices we’re missing out on by choosing one path over another. But I believe it will all work out. We will help assemble a childhood for our kids that will be their own unique experience and shape who they will become. If that’s done with love, I don’t think we can go too wrong. (At least I hope we can’t.)

  4. Comment by Serena

    Serena March 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    One thing I will feel sad about boat life is missing our garden. I delight in watching V pick green beans and tomatoes off the vine and eating them fresh. Seeing her rifle through the alpine strawberries for tiny little red fruit. Finding praying mantids nestled in the beds.

    I have no doubt that you will seek out and find all the magical experiences that will fill their childhood cup to the brim.

    • Comment by Victoria Bradford

      Victoria Bradford March 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Serena, we did have little gardens until we moved aboard and Ruby definitely misses it. I try to have one little 3″ pot at a time growing something in the center of the table. For years and years I’ve had rosemary and mint available always and that took a little adjusting to too.

  5. Comment by boatbaby

    boatbaby March 13, 2011 at 5:25 am

    I have been meaning to comment on this but I just now figured out my comment issues. Anyhow – I worry about this too. We all do. I worry about all of the opportunities he’ll be missing here in the DC area where we have such amazing homeschoool resources. I worry he’ll never have a chance to get good at fencing, his passion. But I also know there are kids in suburbia who go to prep school or kids in the city or country who go to public school or even homeschool who have never snorkeled, never seen a wild dolphin, never caught their own dinner, never been to another country where you feel out of place and humbled, never plotted a course, never used the power of the earth to cross its surface and explore its wonders. And I remember it’s all ok.

  6. Comment by dan bernard

    dan bernard March 24, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Just re read this post. Today is maple sugar Sunday here in Maine. Our local snowmobile club is hosting a pancake breakfast with , you gussed it , fresh made maple syrup. This comes five days after we received 13 ” of new snow. There will be snow on Mt.Katahdin well in too June. I’m personally ready to get the bikes out of storage but I’ll just have to dream a little longer. Love you guys !

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