Not may bloggers seem to discuss relationships while cruising, probably as it’s hard to talk about personal relationships in such a public domain, well, I’m going to give it a go..
We have met a wide range of families who cruise and we all agree it’s an awesome experience for all involved, but, its not all plain sailing. Learning to live in a small space is not without its challenges.
We are a family of four, and you would think that our kids, at least, would be similar. Alas, no. We are all quite different, but there are similarities! When we set off sailing from Spain Milly and I settled into the cruising life in a matter of days. Both of us content to bob around meeting new people and seeing new things. I found it funny that by the end of the trip, Milly couldn’t picture our house in Sydney or her bedroom…she settled right in and forgot all about school and her land based life!
It took Heather and Ben longer to settle in. For the first 6 weeks, Ben’s topic of discussion was when would he see his friends? This weekend or next…maybe they could come for a sleep over….and it took him sometime to digest it would be 200 plus days till he saw them again! This was occasionally heart wrenching as he slowly realized that he wouldn’t see his friends or the environment he had grown up for a long time…in his world an unimaginable timeframe.
Heather, likes a comfortable environment that she is familiar with and finds being in new environments difficult, and thats normal, most people do! Heading off on a new boat into new countries was definitely on the edges of her comfort zone, things can change quickly, things don’t go to plan and even simple stuff can become hard. She took a couple of months to get into the groove….and even then, I’m sure she wont mind me saying, she had the occasional meltdown, mainly focused around shopping and home schooling…!
In talking to some friends (Dini and Pablo Martinez from sailing yoga family) we discussed the fact that when you cruise, highs are higher and the lows are lower. The good days are unforgettable and the bad days, well, they can suck. Like the time we sailed for 8 hours in strong wind to arrive at our anchorage right on dusk, our anchor didn’t set and as we hauled the chain back on board using the windless the chain jumped from the wildcat and the whole thing jammed solid. It took us 2 hours to free the ensuing mess, by which time heather and I had ceased communications, it was pitch black, the kids were hungry and irritable, and we had ran out of beer…time for some personal space, only there is none. It was a tough day in the office.
Its kind of funny though, our memory seems to have been designed to quickly forget the bad and hang on to the good, evolution is a wonderful thing!
Relationship with your partner
As a couple, it took quite a bit of adapting to life on a boat. On land, we both work. Me full time and Heather part time. During the day we live our own lives, Heather gets time to do her own thing, see her friends and live her own life. As do I. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve always been a close family, but when you live on a boat things get really close. You rely on each other’s company a lot and living in each others pockets 247 is a different dimension, sometimes with very little external input from others.
When you cruise, its not a holiday, well it is, but really its more a lifestyle or a phase in life and you experience the same ups and downs you would experience in normal life. Only it can be worse…why? Well if you are having a blue day or feel a bit flat or unhappy then the feeling can be more acute. The beautiful places you are in and all the wonderful things you are experiencing make you feel like you’re meant to be having the time of your life and so to be down can be all the more crushing…make sense? I can hear you all now…toughen up, you are living the dream! You are living the dream, but its fair to set realistic expectations, if you cruise or travel for extended periods then these ups and downs are normal, and healthy. We are not robots, yet.
I think you get to know your partner better while you cruise. You learn to communicate better. You learn tolerance and how to resolve differences without just turning your back in a morning and walking out the door to go to work, and this is a good thing. The confinement of a boat forces more openness with respect to true feelings and more immediacy around resolution of issues. Nothing can be left to stew.
Heather and I found it an enriching experience, but conversations were sometimes difficult, especially when, one of us was uncomfortable with a situation and didn’t want to or know how to bring it up or discuss it, these suppressed feelings usually ended up in a disagreement. Keeping communication honest and open and understanding what may be causing anxiety in a situation is important.
We also made sure we all got our alone time, on a regular basis. Both Heather and I like time to sit and ponder the world and it was important that we fitted this into our life aboard. It may have been a walk ashore, or a paddle in the dinghy, even an hour snoozing in our bunk, but it was alone time.
Cruising with children is a special challenge. Our kids have been bought up free through camping, travelling, bush walking and have been dragged all over Australia in a VW Kombi and a variety of 4WD vehicles and they always seem keen to follow on dad’s latest adventure.
At home, as a dad, your time with your kids always seems rushed. When you cruise you get to know your children really well. You come to rely on them as part of the team. Milly and Ben each had their roles on the boat, espically as we approached a dock, Milly on the anchor and Ben dealing with a stern line. When things go wrong you all chip in and it’s a great feeling to really work together, as a family. Being back in Sydney, we have fallen into the parent, child relationship again…but on Vega, it seemed much more equal.
Finding other kids for them to play with is not always easy and put simply, kids need kids. So as a cruising family you are always on the look out for other boats with kids on.
We had met none in our first 6 weeks of cruising and then one night we anchored near another yacht, Calyxa, and Heath suddenly noticed there were kids on board…we all jumped in the dinghy to row across to say hi. We ended up cruising together for the next 5 months. Having other kids about is wonderful, the kids get to roam free on their own and you get to sit back and chill.
People often ask how the kids spent their time….well, they were free and wild. they swam, fished, climbed, sailed, played on beaches, caught and studied jellyfish, scuba dived, bush walked and sampled a host of different cultures, and occasionally did some school work – just what kids need.