Wondering what it’s like to cast off permanently? These full-time cruisers share a glimpse into life onboard
Audrie & Seathan Smith
Port of Origin: London, ENGLAND
Boat: Rehua, Antares 44
It all started after a sailing holiday in Croatia in late October 2013 and a little taste of what the cruising life could be like. We flew back to Heathrow and as we circled over London, we questioned what we were going back to. We’d enough of the daily grind. The kids, at 4 and 9 years old, were the perfect age to take sailing, so we quit our jobs, sold our house and six months later moved aboard Rehua, a 44ft Antares catamaran. She was based in Marmaris, Turkey, and from there we sailed the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic, had a little rest in the Caribbean, continued to Grenada, Venezuela and the ABC-islands, went through the Panama Canal, stopped briefly in Galapagos, crossed the “Biggest Ocean,” ended up in beautiful French Polynesia, continued all the way to New Zealand (via the Cook Islands, Nuie and Tonga) and from there to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. We are currently cruising the remote Anambas Islands in the South China Sea.
We always envisaged a three-year trip, but four years later we don’t want to stop; there is still so much to explore. Our son summed it up perfectly one day when we were eyeball-navigating out way through a lagoon in the Tuamotus. (He was 10 at the time.) “The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them,” he said, and he was right. To see what we’re up to, visit svrehua.wordpress.com or follow SVRehua on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Pamela & Glenn McGonnigle
Port of Origin: Atlanta, Georgia
Boat: Mira, Antares 44
“Where you gonna keep it?” was the question we were asked after we announced to our non-seafaring family and friends that we’d bought a sailboat and were planning to travel the world. No one from land-locked Atlanta could grasp the concept of living on a boat. Our love for the water and sailing began when we were newly married and living close to the Chesapeake Bay. When life took us to Atlanta 25 years ago, we continued to fuel the sailing fire with yearly charter trips to the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Today on Mira we want to sail and see as much of the world as we can—albeit at 6 knots! That said, slow is good, and we have been able to savor each port’s personality and immerse ourselves in the culture.
Argentina was Mira’s birthplace in October 2017 at the Antares 40 Grados Sur factory. Post-commissioning, we sailed her to Grenada on a “magic carpet ride” offshore that began in Fortaleza, Brazil. With exhilarating following winds and seas for 10 days, Mira raced us to Grenada. Over the past 10 months, we have hopped our way up through most of the islands in the Caribbean (I lost count at 19 countries) to the Bahamas and then north up the U.S. East Coast. Preparation for the ARC Caribbean 1500 rally has landed us in Annapolis for a few months. In November, we will join the rally fleet as we head back offshore to the Caribbean.
Plans are in the works for an Atlantic crossing in 2019 and cruising the Mediterranean for the foreseeable future. Lots of world to see, and we are so very lucky to have Mira to take us on that adventure! To read more about our adventures, follow us at svmira.com or, for more timely updates, follow our Instagram at svmira2017.
Sarah & Mark Silverstein
Boat: Field Trip, Antares 44i
Port of Origin: Castle Rock, Colorado
“I think I’ve figured out a way for us to spend more time together as a family.” Mark had been traveling with his consulting firm nearly every weekday since before we were married. When we were a couple, it worked out OK, but once our two kids were born, we started yearning for more quality family time. Life was busy, distracted and ultimately disconnected. So when Mark came home one day to our land-locked house in suburban Colorado and proposed that we move onto a sailboat and sail around the world, I was just desperate enough to say yes.
My first question, though, was, “How? We don’t even know how to sail!”
“We can learn,” he simply said, and we’ve been learning ever since. Through reading blogs, magazines and books, we gathered as much information and inspiration as we could. We signed up to take ASA courses and traveled to boat shows to find a boat. Mark researched endlessly to understand what components our boat should have for bluewater sailing (like watermakers), and I interjected with my wishlist of what I deemed necessary for living aboard—like a washing machine! Our plan to spend a year or two sailing together was finally becoming reality.
That all happened nearly eight years ago, and we are still living aboard full time. Over the years we have sailed 32,000 miles and visited over 25 countries. Our kids have learned about life beyond our Colorado neighborhood on one continuous field trip. Most importantly, we have become a family. We have made connections with and established an interdependence with each other and this beautiful world we call home.
To follow the adventures of Field Trip, visit svfieldtrip.blogspot.com or follow SVFieldTrip on Instagram.
Lyndy & Nick Atkinson
Port of Origin: Port Douglas, AU
Boat: Katsumi, Lagoon 400
We are the Katsumi crew, a family of four who moved aboard a Lagoon400 cat in 2011 when the girls were just 6 and 4. They’ve lived aboard most of their lives and only vaguely remember living in a house. Setting up “aquariums” on the dock with other boat kids and net fishing for ghost shrimp and little crabs have been some of the girls’ favorite pastimes. We’ve traveled up and down the east coast of Australia from Sydney in the south to Lizard Island in the north over the past few years. The Great Barrier Reef has been their schoolyard and our teacher.
My husband, Nick, has had the sea flowing through his veins from a young age and is well versed in all things nautical. Fortunately, he has passed this on to the children, and they are both fearless and keen as mustard to learn. They’re learning knots and navigation and have recently started standing watches with us during the day on long passages. They are fairly competent lines-women for their age and are now better than most at the terminology.
Nick and I worked together on Superyachts traveling the world for 12 years before we had children. We crossed oceans, including the Atlantic and Pacific, thinking that one day we would move to our own boat and give our own children a lifestyle we knew would be a good one. We enjoy travel too much to stop any time soon, so we both also do casual work to keep the travel kitty full—Nick teaches maritime studies, which comes in really handy for the girls, and I’m a mentor for yachties all over the world wanting to improve their gut health and weight while enjoying all the obstacles living aboard.
We’ve had many adventures, but our favorites include sharing the highway with the humpback whales migrating north or south each year. They travel along beside and behind you, sharing the space and occasionally jumping out to wave hello and show off. I also love those early morning watches when I’m on my own, the skipper is asleep on the couch in the cockpit, and the children warm in their beds. I keep an eye on the horizon and wait till the sun peeks through. One by one they wake and I share it with them. There’s room at the helm to snuggle under a blanket if needed. I’m happiest when the waters are calm and there’s just enough wind to put the spinnaker or screacher up. I’m not in a hurry.
We are currently preparing for our next adventure, a passage from Mooloolaba in Queensland south to Tasmania, expecting to cross the Bass Strait in early December with dear friends that will join us from Montana. We are always on the lookout for more kid boats to hang out with; hopefully, we will find some to travel with along the way!
Cindy & David Balfour
Homeport: Austin, Texas
Boat: Full Circle, 50ft Gary Lidgard design
We are often asked by non-cruisers if we are afraid of pirates or storms, and yes, we do take extensive weather precautions and do not even venture into areas known to have pirates. When we take time to think about it, though, our most common fears and concerns have to do with breakdowns at sea—whether it be our own or the boat. The definition of cruising is often jokingly called “repairing your boat in exotic locations” and our most recent boat breakdown experiences took place cruising Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We had two different instances of hose clamp breaks and one hose failure that caused coolant leaks and left us without the ability to motor any real distance. We were frustrated both at the fact that our “high quality” hoses and hose clamps had failed and the lack of availability of red coolant (in contrast to the more common green coolant). The first failure we repaired, but the second failure resulted in our decision to immediately make sail for Port Vila, about 60 miles away, hoping to beat a night-time arrival and an approaching weather system. While we had to anchor in the dark and go into the marina the following morning, we did make it. The mechanic in Vanuatu found some red coolant from a private owner whose boat he maintains and came up with a hose that would work. Then there was yet another failure as a result of yet another broken hose clamp, which again forced an unplanned emergency sail, this time to Noumea. On any other day, a passage under spinnaker for five hours would have been fun, but the circumstances and uncertainty of the situation took away our chance to enjoy it. The repair was made and changes were put in place to assure it wouldn’t happen again.
A common practice we share with other bluewater cruisers (who are, by definition, far away from help) is to carry loads of extra parts and repair manuals. While it seems excessive, we deem it necessary to alleviate our fears. Most maintenance and repairs on our boat are successfully carried out by us. However, we feel strongly that a good repair and maintenance program also includes knowing when to call in the pros, whether it’s because of the detailed or extensive nature of the repair, or merely because you need someone who speaks the local language and knows where to buy things. Unfortunately, it takes a certain care and finesse when away from your home port to find knowledgeable repair people, let alone those who can speak the same language. However, we have found it helpful to get references from either owners of local fishing or dive charters and/or other cruisers experiences. Bottom line: there will always be boat breakdowns while cruising. We work to be prepared, doing maintenance and always having a Plan B. Having lived through a few breakdowns we know that these steps can go a long way towards easing our fears and making it easier to do what we do—enjoy the cruising lifestyle.
Jen Lee & Matt TenEick
Port of Origin: Chicago, Illinois
Boat: Perry, Privilege 48
We — Matt, Jen and our two sons, Conrad and Mark—live aboard Perry, our 1992 48ft Privilege Catamaran. We left Florida in early 2013 when the boys were 5 and 6 years old and have been slowly making our way west to our current location in Southeast Asia ever since. Nearly six years, 30,000 nautical miles, 30 countries and countless impeller and oil changes later, our kids are now 10 and 12. Almost all their memories are of boat life and cruising. To them, “normal” means the ocean as their backyard, endless beaches and learning new ways to say (at minimum) “thank you” every few months. Living on and exploring from aboard the boat has allowed our love of nature to flourish and has provided many unforgettable memories—snorkeling with whale sharks in Papua, witnessing a mother humpback whale training her baby to fin slap in Niue and having a sea lion in The Galapagos climb on board and decide that the boat was now his. (Side note: sea lion urine should be in the same class of dangerous chemicals as mustard gas.) One of the most common questions we are asked is how we educate the kids. The obvious answer is that we have “boat school.” But what isn’t necessarily obvious are the hundreds of other lessons that cruising provides all the time, without any extra effort. You can read more about our adventures (and misadventures) at svperry.com.
Lane & TJ McKelvey
Port of Origin: Charleston, South Carolina
Boat: Te Whakapono, Fountaine Pajot Tobago 35
We have known since meeting in 2010 we were called to be different. TJ grew up on the ocean at Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina where sailing became his passion early in life, and I was raised in rural La Rue, Ohio, where my family has lived and farmed since 1835. An unlikely pair, we met while I was in Charleston serving full-time in the Army National Guard; from there the dream of living an adventurous lifestyle began to form.
One fall evening in 2015, while sitting on the couch watching Captain Ron, TJ suggested—half-joking—living on a boat and sailing away. A merchant mariner by trade, TJ has traveled all around the world on ships, so this idea was not a novelty to him. For me, though, it was simply the stuff of movies! After a few months of heavy research, though, I agreed this was an awesome plan for our family, and we began preparing to sell their home in order to purchase a liveaboard sailboat.
In 2016, we purchased a Fountaine Pajot Tobago 35, which we named Te Whakapono (meaning “By Faith”) that has become home to our family, including our daughter, Vivienne, and two dogs. After two years of preparing, in Charlestown, we cast off the lines for good in October to sail southbound toward Central America. With a few planned stops in mind along the way, we will be checking into Belize next year. TJ, Vivienne and I are excited to leave behind the “American Dream” for something that allows up to sail, serve others and spend lots of time together as a family. Follow our adventures at caytolife.com, or on social media at Cay to Life (Facebook) and Cay.to.Life (Instagram).
MHS Winter 2018