We survived cruising with teenagers for four years!
As our son is leaving us in a few days to move back to Vancouver from Tahiti, we feel it is appropriate to let you live vicariously through us over four years of cruising with our two teenagers.
First and foremost let us backtrack a little. Our original plan was to set sail once our last offspring would have graduated from high school, around September 2015. You know, to give them stability, let them create a group of friends for life, get them ready for higher education, blah, blah, blah… Life had a different idea for us! In the winter of 2010, we purchased Letitgo (right after the economic crisis of 2008), three years ahead of our schedule, due to a “once in a life time deal”. Then, in 2011 there was the “leavers’ BBQ” held at Spruce Harbour Marina. As we were socializing, someone tapped on my shoulder and I discovered our son swinging from a mast in a “bosun’s chair” and asking loudly: “When are we leaving again?”, with the help of a returning, underage cruising gang who had happily shared their experience!
The same year we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge on a friend’s sailboat, we kissed (Valerie and I) and the question was asked naively, when is it our turn on Letitgo? Are we going to do this every year on someone else’s sailboat until our turn comes along? And in duo we answered “Next year!”
As you can just imagine, the following 11 months were a flurry of activities. Our family was in a frenzy, especially our daughter, who decided to expedite school: two years in one of pre-university, so she could be part of the “fun”. Here we were, instead of leaving just the two of us in the fall of 2015, we left on August 2012, with our full family unit. Somehow, long term planning never seems to work in our clan.
Everybody was looking at us in disbelief! Two teenagers (19 and 15 years) on a small sail boat with full school requirements for one of them. Some friends doubted our ability to stay alive, and even our family questioned the wisdom of such a choice. Why would we leave with teenagers? Had we really thought all of this through? Especially the impact it would have on the education of our youngest one. So now one may wonder what really happened once Letitgo left its cruising grounds. How did we all fair?
After the spatial adjustments of moving from our 1,100 square foot condo with all the modern necessities (read: unlimited running water, as an example) to roughly 350 square feet of liveable space and 700 liters of fresh water, everybody found their place and rhythm. Fortunately, our Lagoon 380 comes with a private bedroom for each of us; thus allowing us to escape from any madness at any time we wish. Another bonus was a very accessible breaker for the pressure water pump, enabling a quick re-education in quick sailor showers! Indeed, you only get one warning and shampoo really hurts once in your eyes without water coming out of the tap… Mean parents we are, and first hurdle overcome.
Then it was time for serious business: Benjamin started his Grade 10 as soon as we reached San Francisco. And did he need “guidance” and new techniques in order to adjust to the long distance learning. Valerie lost a few nights of sleep at the start, but by year two, he was moving nicely along and starting to study independently. During all this time, Internet connection never proved to be a major problem; we just had to be organized and remember to downloaded ahead of time when we had “all you can eat/use” bandwidth at our disposal.
In the meantime, Emma lived her life of leisure, detaching slowly from the parental authority. She became even more self-reliant by going on vacation in Hawaii for a month with a girlfriend. Unfortunately, no… actually fortunately, she had a sense of her destiny and left us on her 20th birthday to get back to reality, her studies and building a life of her own. She re-integrated easily enough into land life and has been flourishing. She is a doula in Vancouver now.
One left, one to go
And with that said, we had to put in place a strategy for Benjamin. The taxi hadn’t even left the marina’s driveway in La Cruz and he was already bleaching his sister’s bedroom and taking possession of the Queen size bed. Finally a single child, he could be pampered and enjoy all the attention he had always wanted! Not wanting to have a boomerang kid staying with us forever, the seed was planted that the day he turned 19, his parents could, if they wished, live “Au Naturel” on the boat at any time. As you can imagine, this is not something he would want to witness. Period! Bodies older than 25 and more than 15% body fat, are you joking!? We had found his weak spot, the shot gun clause in the contract, and we were set.
The next stage of our travels pushed us further from the compound of North America and life didn’t change that much. By that time, Benjamin was preparing for the Provincial exams, requiring some interesting and ingenious planning to fit the requirements of the BC Ministry of Education. We will not discuss this in detail here; let’s just say we stayed within the guidelines, even if sometimes a bit of imagination was used in their interpretation. Still, with some major push when Internet was available, reading 8-9 hours a day nonstop for 2-3 weeks at a time, he graduated with honors in 2015. By then he realized he had still one year to live in paradise. Not wanting to waste it on frivolous activity, he decided to up his marks and curriculum even further by taking six extra classes, three being the pre-Calculus classes he had previously skipped. After 6 months of hard work he succeed, and finish Grade 12 with a 94% average. He will be enrolling in a Canadian university with a scholarship in the fall of 2016. All this was performed with no pushing, use of cattle electric probe or bribes on our part. He knew what he wanted, having met so many amazing and successful people along the way. We were relieved.
By now, Benjamin was starting to find us cumbersome when on land. As his sister did two years ago, he started to warn us that without him we would be lost and we were at risk of not being able to survive once he left.
Now, how does the fairy tell end? Did we have to use the shot gun clause to get him away from Letitgo? As I write these few words, we will be celebrating his 19th birthday tomorrow, in the Tahiti lagoon. Next day, we are hauling out in downtown Papeete and the plane ticket is booked for seven days later. So, we will never know if the threat worked or not, but in a month we will start our new life, free at last, to live the way we want, once Valerie comes back from settling her little one. A few containers of Nutella will be needed to smooth the heart, like three years ago when she did the same for Emma. Letitgo will be ready, I will be ready; let’s move west for next season.