A Year Off the Beaten Path by Christine

The year we decided to stray off the beaten path and sail the Bahamas, as a family, will forever stand out as an incredible year in our memories.

fam done really

When we were mulling over the thought of taking a trip, we had several wise sailors tell us, cruising would teach our kids more than we could imagine and that the boys were at the perfect age to go now.  We were at a point in our lives where we were ready to change careers, so we took the first step by making the commitment, and eight months later we were gone.

There is no way to sum up what spending a year teaching your kids and sharing the experience together as a family was like.  How much we learned throughout the year, and the caliber of people we met, was far beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

We worked hard to make it happen, but we also received a river of support from so many people.  We often said that the planets were aligning for us to go now.  Whenever we needed help or encouragement, someone was there for us.

Now that our year is over, we look back at all the experiences we had and can hardly believe we accomplished so much.  Was it easy?  No.  Was it worth it?  Yes, and we will all be forever changed by the journey.

The opportunity to spend a year with our kids was priceless, and homeschooling is something every parent should be able to experience.  Half the time they were getting an education and didn’t even know it.  There is an opportunity to school your kids at every moment of the day.  It is up to the parent as to how far to take it and how in-depth they want to teach.  Those of you that have been following the blog this past year know how Logan and Cole have learned about engines, weather, charting, knots, navigation, engineering, snorkeling, fishing, nature and history, all in a classroom where every day was a field trip.

“How will the kids adjust to ‘normal life’ and going back into a school again?” is a question many people ask.  They have experienced so many different situations this last year and moved fluidly through it all that returning has been easy.

Even after a night of sleeping in the cockpit on a rough crossing, the kids obviously adjust just fine.

Even after a night of sleeping in the cockpit on a rough crossing, the kids obviously adjusted just fine.

Field trip exploring a plane wreck.

Field trip exploring a sunken plane wreck.

Reef exploration field trip.

Reef exploration.

Learning and they do not even know it.

Learning and they do not even know it.

Cole PE class.

Cole in PE class.

PE class.

Team sports.

The only reason I would not do it again is that there are too many other adventures to be had!  There are places to see and things to do that I am not even aware of yet.  The wider path I travel, the more open my view of the world becomes.

Most kids do not learn about engines until shop class in high school or at a tech college.

Can kids get their schoolwork done while a lizard is crawling across their paper?  Absolutely.

Can kids get their schoolwork done while a lizard is crawling across their paper? Absolutely.

Weather kept us anchored in Black Point for a week so the boys went to the local school.

Weather kept us anchored in Black Point for a week so the boys went to the local school.

Did the kids miss their friends and family?  Sure they did but we did our best to keep in touch with everybody via email and Skype so the boys still felt connected.

Were holidays the same?  Definitely not, but we still had them, we were all together and we will never forget them.

Were holidays the same? No, nor did we expect or want them to be.   We still celebrated the holidays, we were all together and we will never forget them.

Our favorite activities were snorkeling and spending time on the islands and beaches.  As part of my closing, I want to share a few of those photos with you.

One of the many beautiful snorkeling trips.

One of the many beautiful snorkeling trips.

One of the many beautiful beaches we were on.

Beaches abound in the Bahamas.

Cole gathering coconuts for a snack.

Cole gathering coconuts for a snack.

Logan spearing lobster for supper.

Logan spearing lobster for supper.

Another question people ask or comment they make is, “How much did the year cost?  I don’t have enough money to take a year off.  My employer won’t give me the time off”.   How much it costs varies considerably with the level of comfort you want and your expectations.  We adjusted our wants and needs many times until it met our budget.  We decided to do with less and do without.  You have to get creative with money, insurance, etc.  You have to want to make it happen and diligently work towards that goal.  The more you look into finances and the more creative you get, you will find options that you never knew existed.  As for getting a year off from your job, we quit ours knowing we wanted to do something different when we returned.  Opportunities and doors may open to you on a trip like this that you would never have known existed.

The learning curve on this trip was steep but it was doable.  We all put in lots of hard work and planning and things just kept moving along and working out for us.  As you followers know, there were so many instances where things just worked out for us.  ‘Whatever happens was meant to be’ became our motto.  There were several times when what we needed just came our way.  Literally.  Some of these moments gave me goosebumps when I realized what the odds were of the situation working out.

Farewell Truansea!

Farewell Truansea!  Thank you for a year to remember.

Fair winds and farewell everyone!

Fair winds and farewell everyone!

Sailing into the sunset.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Sailing into the sunset. Who knows what the next adventure will be?

What an experience this past year has been…  I have always loved trying new things, traveling to different places and pushing the ‘normal’ envelope.  Even though I spent a good deal of time preparing for this trip, I was pushed to my physical and mental limits a number of times.  Nothing makes you feel more alive than surviving what I call a throw-up scary night in the ocean.  There were a few times when I wished I could push the easy button, but I knew when we set off on this trip that there is no easy button on a sailboat.  I experienced a wide range of emotions throughout the journey from serenity to sadness,  happy to miserable, and from elated to melancholy, sometimes all in the span of one day.  Mother Nature dishes out a lot and garners a whole new level of respect when you are living on a boat!

Thanks to all of you for following along and for your support.  Your comments, emails and messages meant a great deal to me.  The support I received from all of you meant more than you know.  I did not always get the time to reply and sometimes did not have internet access for long periods of time but when I did get the messages, I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Fair winds and farewell,

Christine

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Homeward Bound by Mark

At our last post we were leaving the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada.  Back on the road again, we headed north until we reached the St. Lawrence Seaway.  We camped at Park National Du Bic in Quebec walking trails and exploring the seashore.  Only one lonely sailboat was anchored in the bay, clearly the sailors were thinning out the further north we traveled.

Covered bridge over river between New Brunswick and Quebec.

Covered bridge over river between New Brunswick and Quebec.

One of several freight canoes we saw in Canada.

One of several wooden freight canoes we saw in Canada.

Overlooking the St. Lawrence seaway.  Not a palm tree in sight.

Overlooking the St. Lawrence seaway. Not a palm tree in sight.

We turned east at the St. Lawrence and made it to Ottawa where we visited our friends Laura and Graeme from Sweet Chariot Too.  Coincidently, they were the first cruisers we met when our trip started and they were now our last cruising friends to visit before we headed home.  Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is a beautiful city with bike paths everywhere and many exceptional museums as well.

Rock art on the Ottawa river.

Rock art on the Ottawa river.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier over the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier over the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

We took a tour of parliament and went back one night to watch a phenomenal light show projected onto the parliament building that told the history of Canada.

http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/celebrate/mosaic

Windows at the War Museum in Ottawa are morse code, can you read the message?

Windows at the War Museum in Ottawa are morse code, can you read the message?

Visiting the Canadian War Museum with Laura and Graeme.

Visiting the Canadian War Museum with Laura and Graeme.

Our visit with Graeme and Laura drew to a close, and as much as I begged and pleaded with the family to keep heading north, I was vetoed by the majority.  Everyone was ready to go home.  School had already started in Boise and the boys didn’t want to miss more than the first week of classes.

Years ago I had driven semi along the great lakes and had seen where iron ore was loaded onto ships destined for the steel mills near Chicago.  More recently I gave a speech for toastmasters on the subject while still working at Micron.  So, knowing a little about the process, I took the first opportunity I saw near Duluth, Minnesota to visit one of the piers used to load the ore called taconite into ships.

As we drove down towards the docks we were greeted by a by a strikingly tall man wearing a pair of well worn overhauls.  He listened to our quest, took about five steps to a bucket he had sitting next to the dock and produced a handful of musket ball sized iron marbles.  “Is this what you’re looking for?”  he said.  Years ago taconite, which is once processed iron ore, was loaded on this very dock.  He told us that while the dock was no longer used for that purpose, the area had just set an all time record for production of iron ore.  Not being in too much of a rush, he invited us all to see his tugboat which was built in 1903.  Drawing 9 ft he said he occasionally has run aground with such a deep draft but never lacked for enough thrust to get himself back off again.

Handfull of taconite pellets.

Handfull of taconite pellets.

Lake Superior tugboat.

Lake Superior tugboat.

The wheel took 24 rotations to move the rudder from stop to stop.  The reduction gears in the steering mechanism looked like a bulletproof system of gears connecting to chains that disappeared into the hull, somehow finding their way to the rudder.  In addition to the tour of his tugboat we were also given a short history of shipping on the great lakes and a handful of taconite souvenirs before going on our way.

Back in the car we continued on towards South Dakota, crossing the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, making it all the way to the badlands before calling it a day.  We knew we had arrived back in the west when we were serenaded to sleep by several coyotes that evening.

Sunset over the Missouri river.

Sunset over the Missouri river.

Sunrise in the badlands SD.

Sunrise in the badlands SD.

Badland bighorns.

Badlands bighorns.

At first light we broke camp and enjoyed the sunrise over the badlands and ate our Cheerios out of a bowl on the side of the road.  Next stop Mt. Rushmore.  It was a good experience to see Mt. Rushmore, and an even better one, because we had just visited the homes of Washington and Jefferson.   Lincoln was familiar because of his involvement in the civil war sites we had also driven past.  What we didn’t know was that Roosevelt had declared our next stop the United States first national monument.  Any guesses?  It’s Devil’s Tower, WY.  We circumnavigated the tower on foot before moving on again for what the boys were beginning to call a little night truckin’.

Mt. Rushmore SD.

Mt. Rushmore SD.

Devils Tower WY.

Devils Tower, WY.

Our parting shot.

Our parting shot.

The next day we crossed the Idaho state line with a hip-hip-hurray and by 7pm were pulling into our friends driveway, The Reynolds, back home in Boise.  We had been gone 365 days to the day, and what a year it has been!  Ironically, these friends were the last people we saw when we left Idaho too.

Last stop before we get to Boise!

Last stop before we get to Boise.  Everybody out.

As if a reminder of what we had accomplished, this truck passed us just before we drove into Boise.

As if a reminder of what we had accomplished, this truck passed us just before we drove into Boise.  You may grab life by the horns but grab your sharks by the tail!

Thank you for following our journey and for all of the positive comments and encouragement along the way.  I’m sure Christine will have her own final comments to make about our trip as well, but for this my final post I would like to leave you with a few of my favorite lines from “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Fair Winds,
Mark