Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sailing away for the right reasons

Yesterday's post was a sad story of what happens when the dream of sailing away to a new life in the sun goes wrong. A combination of escapism and lack of skills combined to push a family to the brink of bankruptcy and divorce before they had even left the shores of England.

However the series, called "My Family's Crazy Gap Year" had another episode, and its instructive to look at that to see what went right, for the Lawrence family did manage to sail all the way from Cowes to Sydney.

Maybe that word Cowes gives a clue: this family had done a lot of homework and were very well prepared. It wasn't explained in the program but the web site gave some history, and they had sailed as a family for over a year, starting with the inter-coastal waterways of the American east coast, and then sailing back to Britain.

So when they set out they knew the ropes, knew their boat and knew what to expect. Interestingly they didn't have exactly the same motivation: for Jason the skipper it was about achieving the goal of sailing around the world, while for his wife Amanda it was more about the experience, the cultures they meet and the beauty of the Pacific islands.

Of course even with preparation there were hard times. The first few days crossing Biscay were bumpy and the skipper was worn down by a combination of responsibility, worry and lack of sleep. The latter wasn't helped by having two youngish boys on board, and one of the key skills to learn was how to manage their energy and occupy the time. One mechanism to control bad behaviour was the ability was the good and bad mark board:
What was interesting was the program included clips they took of their journey after the documentary crew stepped off and so you got a chance to see how they evolved.

For me it was striking how Jason was able to relax as his knowledge and experience of the boat deepened, and this changed his motivation. Maybe this was something I could relate to: at the start of a voyage the worry about what can go wrong dominates and it is only later that the tension eases. And as it did his motivation aligned more with those of Amanda and it strengthened the family unit.

It could be argued the boys would have benefited more if they had been a little bit older, but they certainly grew into it:
It does sound like a great experience, warts and all. In journeys like that some of the bad days can lead to good stories, though the one about them misidentifying a fish they'd caught as edible doesn't sound that great even in re-telling.

I wasn't sure about their choice of catamaran as always felt a mono-hull would be more secure in a blow. But then looking at this picture its hard to argue:
That for me captures what sailing away should be about, and its good to hear it can be done.

Just remember to do your homework.


michael b said...

Some old friends of mine left Mexico for the Marquesas in the '80's with a babe in arms. That young fellow (and later another) spent most of his developing years on a sailing cruiser in company of one of the most supportive families I've ever known. At three he could sail their dingy single-handed.
Upstanding men, those boys today.


JP said...

I'm sure it can be fine, but get the feeling that when they're younger there's usually less appreciation of risk or ability to entertain themselves, but increased likelihood to cry at night.

But then I'm just an uncle and godfather so not the best qualified!

Bursledon Blogger said...

Nice posts, which make the point if you want to go cruising, go because you want to, it's certainly not always easy, often uncomfortable and the challenge of being together on a small boat can be a challenge or a blessing depending on your disposition and who you're with!