A Year Afloat With The Family Page 2

Living onboard a 50-foot sailboat with six members of your family for a year isn’t always easy—especially in a space the size of your living room. For example, what are you to do when your brother uses up all the hot water—for the rest of the day? Or when, after a bitter spat with your sister, the length of the saloon is the farthest you’re going to get away from each other—for the next two
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

The period leading up to our departure was a whirlwind of manic preparation, and so it came as a shock to suddenly find ourselves cut off from ringing phones and hurried schedules and instead faced with a blue-gray seascape and the monotonous rhythm of deck watches. We sailed up to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and headed east to Ireland, our first landfall.

For two weeks we lived surrounded by nothing but sea and sky, afloat in a tiny husk of life amid the endless ranks of waves, with just the circling gulls and porpoises for company. It’s a way of life that takes some getting used to. The boat is constantly rocking and pitching, and simple actions like eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom become art forms as your arms and legs turn into natural gimbals.

Even in July, the waters between Canada and Ireland are frigid. The weather was chilly and wet, with a clammy humidity in the air that seeped into every nook of the boat, including those storing our socks and sleeping bags. But in the North Atlantic the weather can always get worse, as we soon found out. A passing Italian-registered freighter, the Lady Gloria, informed us of both the World Cup results (“Italia!”) and an upcoming storm.

Sure enough, by noon the following day, a 50-knot westerly wind was whipping up raging waves, some nearly 30 feet from trough to crest. We took down sail after sail, leaving only a tiny reefed staysail for steerage, and still Medley made nearly 7 knots before the wind. Throughout the day we battled the gale, fastening ourselves to the boat with tethers and taking frequent turns at the wheel. Now and then a wave would break over the deck, flooding the cockpit with icy seawater and battering us. The wind howled in the rigging, loud as a jet engine.

As the sun set, the darkness seemed to swell up monstrously around us, dwarfing us with its noise and violence as we struggled blindly with invisible waves in the fury of the night. And when at last morning came, a beautiful sight was revealed to us: miles of majestic, rolling hills, streaked with long lines of ivory foam, glinting beneath the roseate sun.

We weathered the gale and, a few days later, hove into sight of the Irish coast, where my father’s ancestors had set out on a very different journey. The shoreline of County Kerry is a quintessentially Irish landscape, a patchwork quilt of sheep-spangled pastures and ancient, crumbling stone fences draped over rolling verdant hills, trimmed by stunning cliffs—and is also one of the loveliest and most dramatic landscapes we’d see our entire trip, rivaled later only by the mountainous splendor and vegetative cacophony of the volcanic islands of Madeira and Dominica.

We spent the next seven months making our way down the European coastline, visiting Ireland, England, the Channel Islands, Spain, and Portugal. What a delight it was to awake to a new harbor, a new culture, to a day ripe with promise of discovery, in the constant knowledge of our freedom to come and go as we pleased. And it was thrilling to pass through some of the great seaports of Europe—La Rochelle, Lisbon, Cdiz—those gateways to North American destiny. Because we were sailing, we were able to access more-remote areas, particularly small islands like rugged Skellig Michael, once home to an ancient community of Irish monks, or the tiny island of Sark, where, since automobiles are forbidden, the firemen ride about on tractors.

Related

01-Lead-show

France’s Annual Multihull Show

If a boat show could be described as intimate, the annual Salon International du Multicoque in La Grande Motte, on France’s Mediterranean coast, is it. Held in the latter part of April, the multihulls-only in-water show is a boon for builders, because the people who attend come ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Check the waypoint  Most errors with GPS and paper chart navigation are caused by the operator punching in the wrong numbers or plotting the lat/long incorrectly. The surest way to double-check a ...read more

Furlex-Electric

Gear: Seldén’s Furlex Electric

Furl Power Seldén’s Furlex Electric offers an easy path into the world of sweat-free headsail furling. The compact unit can be retrofitted to an existing manual Furlex unit or installed as a replacement for whatever you’ve got now. Its DC-DC converter accepts your boat’s 12V or ...read more

11_DSC8423Tom-Zydler

Cruising: Nova Scotia

There’s a unique cruising ground that combines access to urban locations with easy escapes to wilderness and nature. Its native people may be the friendliest on the east coast of North America. Its coastline runs 250 nautical miles in a straight line, but that should be ...read more

01-LEAD-shutterstock_727849660

Boat Monitoring System

Boat Oversight In a world where you can track your friends’ locations in real time and stream yourself live on the internet, it should come as no surprise that you can also keep a close eye on your boat from the comfort of home. In fact, not only is there a plethora of options ...read more

pilot_saloon_42-_en_navigation_11

Boat Review: Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 42

Old salts grouse about modern aesthetics. It’s just what they do, and the hard lines and spartan interiors of today’s production boats give them many reasons to complain. French builder Wauquiez, however, seems to consistently be able to marry contemporary elements with ...read more