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:
Updated:
Original:

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-Vento-Solare-action-(1mb)_Stephen-Cloutier

Ida Lewis Distance Race 2021

This year’s annual Ida Lewis Distance Race on Narragansett Bay will offer something for everyone. In addition to ORC and PHRF, there will be sections for doublehanded, youth and collegiate racing. Racers will also have a choice between the event’s traditional offshore distance ...read more

01-LEAD-Lag01-oon-620---Raiatea---French-Polynesia-(12)

Internships: Run Away to Sea

Not the office type? College isn’t an option, or your degree in philosophy isn’t panning out? If a job in the marine trades sounds like your dream career but you don’t know where to start, here are three places to both get some good training and a foot in the door. Dream Yacht ...read more

Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 9.58.55 AM

Summer Sailstice Turns 21

Summer Sailstice’s will celebrate its 21st birthday this year. This annual worldwide celebration of sailing occurs on the weekend closest to the solstice, landing on June 19th this year. Over the past two decades, the event has grown to include nearly 5,000 boats and 19,000 ...read more

e60aa842-1c3c-41da-b0ba-dfd7678479e4

The New York Yacht Club Submits a Protocol Alteration with its America’s Cup Challenge

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) has submitted a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup to the current Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in Auckland, New Zealand. The challenge was accompanied by a draft protocol for the regatta, which would see the Cup take ...read more

01-LEAD-CCA-Antarctica2-01

Cruising: Honoring Remarkable Ocean Voyages and Seamanship

The Cruising Club of America, an organization of about 1,300 offshore sailors, has been honoring remarkable ocean voyages and seamanship with an array of prestigious awards for nearly 100 years. The club’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal, has recognized renowned and ...read more

2.4mR's racing at the 2018 Clagett Regatta-US Para Sailing Championships credit Clagett Regatta-Andes Visual

Host for 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships Announced

The 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships will be hosted by The Clagett Regatta at Sail Newport, in Newport, R.I. on August, 24-29, 2021, according to a joint announcement from the host and US Sailing. "We have had a very long working relationship with US Sailing and look forward ...read more

Reflections-photo-CMerwarth

Cruising: Reflections of an Old Salt

I am 90 years old, dwindling in mind and body and fear living too long. Twenty years have passed since I last weighed anchor. Still, when a Carolina blue sky is polka-dotted with billowing cumulus clouds and the wind blows fair, I sorely miss raising sail and setting forth. I ...read more

DSC_0145

Waterlines: Solo Sailing

In spite of the fact I came to the sport of sailing alone and untutored, in a boat I acquired on my own, I never really aspired to become a solo sailor. It just sort of happened. All these years later, I still never explicitly plan to sail anywhere alone. I’m always happy to ...read more