Kid Wisdom On Preparing to Cruise

A reader sent me a lovely note the other day, talking about the cruise he and his wife are preparing to take with their 2 boys, ages 8 and 10. They’ve got a Cape Dory 33, a capable and beautiful cruiser that is a little larger than Calypso, but far smaller than many of the boats they read about that are out cruising. He’s fairly certain they will be fine in their boat but is worried about any longed-for extras that might be missing.

He asked me what we wished we’d had aboard. More specifically, he asked if the kids had things they missed terribly when we were on our Bahamas jaunt, if there were things they would have brought had there been space for them.

I wrote back to him after some thought and conversation with Jeremy. For me, a freezer* would be tops on the list, though it’s not a deal breaker in the slightest. We’ve cruised extensively without one and would do so again. I mentioned that I thought Bee would have happily stashed away a friend, and that Julian might have wanted to bring his electric trains, but that overall there was nothing really we’d felt a lack of.

Julian’s last night at home, our last night eating dinner just the 4 of us as a family until December, was on August 23. We set the table, cooked pasta with pesto, and sat around talking about Vermont, college, sibling rivalry, and cruising. There are framed photos of our Bahamas trip all over our house, vivid reminders that we actually did escape this suburban life for a while.

I brought up my reader’s question.

Julian (almost 20) piped up. “It’s not that anything was missing. I think the question he really wants to ask is how to make the transition to cruising life easier for his kids. Because that was the biggest thing for me. I was so incredibly mad at you for taking us sailing. I think the best thing we had on board were those little MP3 players you’d put all the music and stories on. When I needed to be alone, I could put on my headphones and listen to music and books that I’d heard when I was home. It helped me feel like there was a connection.”

Bee (18) chimed in. “Yeah, I’d have wanted a friend to come with me, but I was fine once we got going. I think having some space you can call your own, even if it’s only temporary, is important. When I was mad, you guys let me go into your berth and make a fort. Julian wasn’t allowed to go in there with me. Except he used to take all the blankets and sheets to make his own fort. That was a pain.”

Our kids were 8 and 10 when we took them for 9 months to the Bahamas, on a sailboat whose entire interior space might fit into the master bathroom of a modern home. They were handed a Rubbermaid container each, about the size of an extra large shoebox, and told to put what they wanted to take on board in it. This didn’t include books and clothes and art supplies, but still.

There’s nothing they think they didn’t have.

Thanksgiving 2009!.JPG

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