Over my family’s sailing years, I have enjoyed hundreds of potlucks, sun-downers, aperitifs, parties, morning coffees and afternoon drinks. Very often, I am pulled aside by one of the adults and vigorously interrogated on my opinions of cruising as a kid. Do you like cruising? How do you do homework? Will you sail again in the future? The questions pelt me like the rains of a screaming squall. I remember how uncomfortable I was while tirelessly answering dozens fired at me from a group of intimidating ladies. After many years of enduring these interrogations, I have finally compiled a list of these sought-after opinions, so here are the 10 questions a 16-year-old boat kid is most frequently asked:
1. How do you meet other kids while living on a boat?
Meeting kids and making friends in the cruising community is as easy as inviting them to something—anything. There are no age barriers, and there is no judging when it comes to kids on boats. I’m not kidding when I say that 18-year-olds make friends exactly the same way as three-year-olds; they walk up to another kid and ask if they want to be friends. Finding kids on boats can be hit or miss. Sometimes there will be as many as a dozen kid-boats all traveling in the same direction. Other times you’re on your own.
2. What are the sleeping arrangements on your boat?
My brother, Joel, and I share a cabin on our boat. Unfortunately, we don’t just share a cabin; we also share a bed. This has led to many frustrating arguments over who is violating the implemented and enforced “bed rules.” Many angry words have been shared after receiving an elbow in the eye or a fart under the covers. Our cabin situation is not improved by the two paddle boards, spinnaker, trysail, plush toys, Legos, clothes, blankets and school books we cram around the bed and into the cabinets.
3. What are your responsibilities on the boat?
While at anchor, Joel’s and my responsibilities are numerous and unpredictable. As we enter a bay, I’m on the bow dropping anchor. After the anchor is set the cockpit is tidied, the dinghy comes down and the deck is rinsed with freshwater. During our stay in the anchorage we do whatever needs to be tended to: polishing, cleaning, fixing and repairing are just some of the tasks that we indulge in. We do many favors for other cruisers as well: language translations, dinghy rides and technological expertise are sought-after qualities of ours. Joel and I have countless responsibilities when preparing for a passage. The hull needs to be cleaned, the dinghy secured, water tanks filled, the cabin cleaned, laundry washed, shopping done and various other small tasks. Once underway, we are included in the watch schedule. I take about six hours a day and my brother takes three. My parents are constantly bragging about their crew and how they practically get to sleep through the night.
4. How do you do your schoolwork?
My brother and I homeschool through a distance school program based on our province’s curriculum. We get a box of assignments at the beginning of the year and are expected to return all of the assignments to be marked before June 30. I have had good as well as bad experiences with this school system. In the school’s defense, all of the bad experiences were my fault! My first year of homeschooling, grade seven, is one of those memories I can only laugh about now. I really like the flexibility homeschooling offers. I can choose to work a 10-hour day as easily as choosing to take the day off. All of the responsibility is on me, and I love it. I do schoolwork on weekends and during the summer, and while this sometimes creates an unrelenting binge of schooling, it also allows me to take days off whenever I want to have fun.
5. What is your favorite place that you have visited?
I actually hate this question because I can’t answer it. Each place we visit has its highpoints; whether it is the snorkeling, hiking, friendships or the food, there isn’t one place I consider the ultimate destination. If I was forced to answer, though, I would say it was French Polynesia. Ranging from the flat atolls of the Tuamotu to the volcanic mountains of the Marquesas, to the city life of Tahiti, there is something for everybody in French Polynesia. The best part is if you get bored with one landscape, a completely different one is only three days away! As a bonus for Joel and me, there was always an abundance of cruising kids there.
6. Do you catch a lot of fish?
You have no idea how many fish we catch. We love to fish; whenever we are underway we have fishing lines in the water, day and night. Once the anchor is down we also quickly take to the water with our spear guns. In fact, my father and I are so enthusiastic about fishing that my mum sometimes implements “fishing bans” in the hopes of regaining some freezer space. Our family hasn’t purchased fish since leaving Canada four years ago, a fact we announce with pride whenever it comes up. Ever since our arrival in Hawaii, we have caught hardly any fish, yet we continue with our pride and refuse to buy fish. We are experiencing fish withdrawals.
7. Do you speak any languages other than English?
I do, to the point where I have actually begun to see myself as a linguist. Learning languages is something I really enjoy. I became fluent in Spanish while in Canada through my school’s immersion program. When we eventually made it to French Polynesia, I quickly learned French with the assistance of a secondhand English-French book so I could make friends with the local cruisers and land-dwellers. While in French Polynesia, I was so immersed in the French culture that I started speaking French in my sleep (as my brother irately noted in the middle of the night). Additionally, I speak nautical, which is useful in the cruising community and for tying knots. I get a lot of strange looks when I start speaking sailor to land-lubbers.
8. Have you been in any storms?
Lucky for us, we haven’t been underway in any storms. The weather forecasts have proven extremely useful in this regard. However, we once bashed hard into 40 knots of wind for three days in the middle of the Pacific. We have also weathered out gale-force winds at anchor (as well as dragged anchor in gale-force winds). We are very careful about weather and do our best to make informed decisions.
9. Do you like cruising?
I love cruising! Aside from a few minor challenges, there is nothing I would change about this amazing lifestyle. I have fun almost every day with all of the activities available to me, such as surfing, hiking, touring, swimming, fishing, sailing, writing, reading, running, playing, diving, and general goofing-off. I learn a lot from my dad about things such as maintenance procedures and am also exposed to a wide variety of professional personalities through the cruising community. I especially love the small-town sense which the cruising community always seems to possess.
10. Do you think you will be around the ocean in the future?
The ocean has been a part of me for so long that I don’t believe I could ever spend much time away from it. I have been informed by my parents that I will be getting a post-secondary education and must go to school. While unlikely, I hope that I can go to school near the ocean. My school courses keep reminding me that I’m close to being done with high school; these reminders are making me simultaneously nervous and excited!
Kyle is currently getting ready to sail to Canada and is excited to see his home after four years of traveling aboard Lady Carolina, his family’s Island Packet 445, with his parents, Steve and Carolina, and his brother, Joel.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Danielewicz