I was stunned I think, when Ruby asked me why the days were so short. We were on our boat, sailing across the Pacific, from Mexico to the Marquesas, a passage that takes around three weeks (24 nights out for us) and my almost eight year old couldn’t find enough time in the day for everything she wanted to do. “The days were so much longer in La Cruz. Why are they going by so fast on passage?”
Our time in La Cruz may have been a little bit vacation like for us, especially as Ruby and Miles filled their days with friends and play and excitement, and Tucker and I did too, all the way through many evenings with cocktails and long into the night conversations. We ate at taquerias and dropped off our laundry. The living was easy. If I look back through my crossed out to do lists and check lists and provisioning lists I know we worked hard too. And here I was on passage finding that I didn’t have enough time either.
I found myself in the galley for many hours a day, cooking and baking and doing the dishes while bracing myself for the 15 degree heel and the rocking swell. I felt like I was always working on a meal or a snack or planning the next one. I swept the sole over and over and wondered why we had so much dirt still even though we were 1500 miles from shore. I plunged laundry in a bucket, mostly rags and towels from cleaning up jobs, and hung it on the windward lifelines and hoped for the salt water spray to not reach that high.
I scribbled positions in the log book, read a few pages of my own book here and there, and chapter after chapter of children’s books until my voice was weak, played games with the kids, helped them find the next pieces for the puzzles they were solving, sewed a flag, turned the eggs, tidied up, and scanned the horizon again and again for ships.
Tucker adjusted the sails, many more times than I did, and spent his days fixing and fixing the little things that broke. We are very fortunate that our big loss was our spinnaker overboard and not our rudder or standing rigging or mast. The sea was gentle to us. However those two happy kids cooped up on our boat may have been responsible for the broken toilet seat, the broken salt water hand pump, and the broken hanging locker door knob. Tucker found solutions for most of that and spent far too much time scraping up his knuckles searching for the never ending fresh pressure water system leaks.
The kids, though they had some jobs like throwing food scraps overboard, sweeping, drying and putting away dishes, chasing down mildew, and checking for ships and squalls, found enough things to do for months, never mind weeks. Ruby insisted on teaching Miles to write all of his letters, which is pretty remarkable, given his history of only wanting to draw bombs and cannons, and draw the letter X (marks the spot). He did it in a day. Miles completed all the mazes in one book and started on a fresh maze book I had stashed away. Ruby read to herself and to her brother. She spent hours of concentration trying to solve a very difficult nine piece puzzle that they got as an equator crossing present from our friends on s/v Windarra. She drew and drew and drew and when she got frustrated I gave her a new drawing book to help her along and she drew some more. They both played Lego and dress up, and endless pretend games. They listened to audiobooks and watched movies, watched sunrises and sunsets, looked for phosphoresce and shooting stars, and counted the seconds after the lightning.
Only when we had been out three weeks did Ruby start mentioning that she really wanted to go for a walk and play with friends. She never once asked, “are we there yet?” or “how much longer?” though she could just check the charts on her own for the answer. At the beginning, Miles asked, “Is today the day we get to our destination?” After a few days he switched to, “Tell me the day that we’re going to be at our destination.” Of course we’ll tell!
So for twenty four nights, the four of us spent every minute on our forty three foot boat (we used the v-berth for storage so even smaller space). We didn’t go to the store to pick up groceries, didn’t get a glimpse of what was happening in the world via the Internet, and didn’t get to run out to tacos for dinner. Instead, we proved our self sufficiency and our cooperation and our harmony.
When our French Polynesian agent (that helps us with our bond exemption, paperwork, and duty free fuel) asked me if it was difficult to travel with children, at first I said yes, but the traveling part is absolutely easy. The preparation was very difficult, and we were lucky in La Cruz to have a whole bunch of wonderful kids and parents that helped take care of Ruby and Miles, especially in the last week, but once we were gone (even with unchecked things on the lists), it was all good. While I’m envious of sailing couples that get to soak in sunsets together and read countless novels, it certainly isn’t worth waiting for the kids to grow up! We don’t have to choose between kids or adventure. Though we wont get a chance to hike the highest hills for the views, and maybe will only get to see as much of the world as a four and a half year old can handle, we are definitely seeing more stunning amazing beauty than most people ever even wish for.
Comment by Amanda as a bee
Amanda as a bee April 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm
This is beautifully written and absolutely wonderful. I hadn’t really considered in close detail what it would be like to have children aboard a boat and how confining that could be. But you make it sound really lovely. I’m glad you had a safe crossing.
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