My whole life has been spent in different and unique places, but this trip has been the most memorable of all of my experiences. It will be something that I can share with my friends, family, children and… dogs.
When my parents first proposed this sailing trip I thought they were joking. As Scout Finch would say, “Why in Sam’s Hill would they make us move again?” It is probably because they’re my parents and they like adventures. I pretty much wanted to curl up in a ball and teleport myself to Raven’s house… I didn’t want to leave the friends I had made in Yellowknife nor my old friends back in Ottawa. I expected the boat to be really confining and homeschooling to be boring, but mostly I thought that it would be lonely because really, how many other kids live on a boat?
Our trip down to Florida was awesome since I had never travelled in the States. My favourite part was obviously Nashville, Tennessee because as my Dad would say, I’m obsessed with everything Taylor Swift.
I like to consider myself a very passionate, long-term, super fan. We saw her house and met her high school principal as well as took some photos of her year books. It’s not called stalking anymore… I also loved NYC because it had an energy and vibe to it that made me want to explore more. We did get to see Wicked, and of course The Phantom, which was awesome. The only downside was all the driving because it was boring and got annoying after a while.
When we saw Rafiki for the first time, she was a lot bigger than I expected. Considering that I had only sailed on monohulls my whole life, a catamaran was a bit different. It took a while to get used to the motion of the boat but after a month she started to feel like home. People always ask how I got the bigger room? When we bought the boat, Kathryn got to choose the room first (because I got to choose first in Yellowknife) so obviously she chose the big room with a big hatch and lots of shelves. Unfortunately I had about 20 stuffed animals in my collection and had no where to put them, so my sister gave me the forward cabin.
A lot of people ask what I think about the living space on the boat. I really like my bed because it feels like I’m sleeping on a cloud and I lie on my back and fall asleep looking at the stars as the sea breeze keeps me cool. One thing I don’t like about my room is that my super-awesome-secret-hideout-for-small-children is used for storage like food and paper towels. Also my parents stole one of my closets for life jackets and tools so that’s a bummer.
Some people might say living so close to my sister would help our relationship and it has, but when you’re mad at each other it’s not much of a threat to say, “Im leaving!” and they respond with, “Yeah your room is 5 feet away!”.
During the pre-Grenada stage, we were each others only friends because there was no other kids around. We did everything together and even when we didn’t, we were only a few feet away. Sometimes we get upset with each other but we forgive and forget really quickly. I can’t even remember when I didn’t see her at least once a day.
My parents and I have become a lot closer on this trip too. I see them all the time… before school, during school, after school, most evenings…you get the picture, but it has strengthened our relationship. A lot of their personal traits have rubbed off on me and my mom constantly thinks my dad and I are conspiring against her (even though we aren’t…really…no really…we aren’t). Since we started our adventure on the good ship Rafiki, I have also noticed I have developed my own unique sense of humour.
The one thing my whole family loves is how much time we get to spend together. Family time on the boat is a constant and will be harder at home because of school, work and friends. We play cards and ‘sthcategorieths’ and meet new friends every day, leading to cocktails, dinner and lots of laughs.
Isolation is definitely a problem for us because after a few days without leaving the boat we tend to go a little nuts. Mommy will start calling us things like, ‘Pupcup’,’Bugaloo’, or ‘Muffinella’ and threatening me like she did when I threw a cork at her and she said, ‘wait till you’re sleeping, then I’ll throw more at you.’ It can get pretty weird.
My favourite country/island was definitely Cartagena, Colombia. We were there during Carnival and we got to spray random people on the streets with foam which was pretty awesome. I also turned 12 there and spent the afternoon in a mud pit the size of a pig sty with a bunch of strangers. I loved Colombia because of the architecture and the vibrant colours of the city. They used bright oranges, shocking reds and had flowers all over the street. The town square was always so lively with people, food and music. Also they had ‘Jesus Smoothies’ (there was a poster of Jesus on his cart) which was cool.
My least favourite place was Rum Cay. We lost our dinghy there so that put a downer on things but also I hadn’t gotten used to the islands and it didn’t feel very safe. The day we left on Easter Morning, Mommy and I sat on the bow as we crashed through the reefs into huge waves, which was awesome, but the island was my least favourite of the trip.
One of the biggest problems we faced during this journey was definitely weather and there have been several times when we thought we might have to abandon ship. On the crossing from Cartagena to Cuba we got caught in a five day storm, lost one engine, broke a window, tore jib sheets, ripped both reef lines and were quickly running out of Red Bulls. The waves were so high you could mistake them for mountains and they were a harsh dark blue and threatened to tear the boat apart.
The other scary time was in George Town, Bahamas when a sub-tropical storm hit the anchorage without any warning and got up to 90kts. There was chaos everywhere and we kept thinking, ‘He really needs to control his boat’ or ‘why are all the boats moving?’. Then we realized WAIT? WHAT? WE’RE DRAGGING? Mom went up front to get the anchor untangled in her nightgown but afterwards when everything was calm and we had repositioned, the big lesson learned…always wear underwear!
We’ve made so many friends during our travels it’s impossible to remember them all but there are just some people you never forget. For me this includes Tony Peacock. He’s a big, loud, white guy! With his tall frame, long white ponytail and wizard-like beard, he reminds me of a viking.
He is a funny go-lucky hippie and I am glad we met him. My best memory is when he got Kathryn, Meghan and me to braid his beard for carnival. Another funny time was when my Dad and I were walking the streets of Panama and saw him and we yelled “Tony?” and he turned, saw us and yelled loud enough for the entire town (country?) to hear, “What the F@#k, Robin?!” Daddy was not impressed…
Another person we can’t forget is our BBFF (best boat friend forever), Meghan Oliver. We met her and instantly connected. She is hysterical and always makes us laugh. In Grenada during a downpour, we went out on deck and sang, “Dumb ways to die”, while Kathryn looked at us like we were freaks.
She also has a maturity and understanding when dealing with her autistic brother, Matthew, including him in everything, never losing her temper and never focusing on his handicap. Even though we only knew each other for 6 months, it felt like a lifetime and I hope it lasts for one too.
In the last year of our trip we spent a lot of time with the Marsden family on 4 Coconuts. I’ve become very close with Maya and her mom Tou-Tou who is originally from Laos, but has grown up in the States. She is a “clazy lady” and taught my Dad how to make “chiken flied lice”. Her nickname for me is Xandra and mine for her is Tou Square.
I like homeschooling because it’s only four hours each day… and I get to wear my pyjamas to class. I do not like health class. We always start at 8:30 am and end around noon so we have about four subjects in a day. It’s easier to learn things faster because if you need help, your teacher/parent is always right there. And after school….they’re still right there. And in the evening…you get the picture. The only thing that I don’t like is that there are not enough other kids to play with. I think I am pretty prepared to go back to land school and I’m not really nervous either. I am looking forward to having more friends to play with.
The biggest challenge about coming back to ‘normal’ school will be French but I hope it won’t take long to get back up to speed. Another issue will be developing patience and getting used to waiting for other people to finish, waiting for lunch, waiting for the bell, raising your hand, etc., because I never to do that on the boat.
I think that this trip will stay with us forever and when we are back in Canada we will always be saying, “Remember when we were on Rafiki…?”
There are so many things I’m going to miss about this trip but one thing in particular is being able to meet new people all the time. Every day we drop anchor, we meet new and interesting cruisers. If you do get bored, we simply leave and sail away. Or motor in most cases. Something I won’t miss is continually saying goodbye to the friends we make. Just when you become really close, one boat leaves. Although it is sad, we often get to reunite down the road.
Even though it has been a great trip I am looking forward to being in one place for more than a month. I am excited about returning to Ottawa and want to stay in the same place, with my same friends and same school for a while. If we had the chance to do another adventure, I would want to go but not for a long period. If we did a cruise throughout the States or a biking trip for the summer then I would love to, but not for a of couple years.
If I could start from the beginning again, knowing what I know now, I would definitely have reached out and socialized more. When we thought that there weren’t a lot of kid boats around us, it was probably just that we didn’t go looking for them like we do now. I also would have stalked up on enough apples to last a decade!
When I have my own family I think it would be fun to do a trip like this, but I’m not sure I would have the courage like my parents did with Kathryn and me. Plus, where would I put my 12 dogs?
The best thing about this trip was the variety. It’s a nice change from living in a small town like Yellowknife where everyone knows each other and you run into five of your friends at the grocery store. When you get bored of an island, you just move to another. Things are always new and exciting… and I’ve become a beach snob…
I honestly can’t think of the worst part of the trip because there really wasn’t one. Most of the time we have fun and only occasionally get bored, usually on passages or when we are sailing alone. We have had our ups and downs (losing the dinghy, getting robbed) but we always make it through, so I have nothing to complain about. Well, except for no dogs.
If someone was thinking about doing a trip like this, and asked me what I thought, I would tell them to plan a lot before starting. When I first boarded Rafiki I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen and didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it turned out to be. The weather is always a challenge, but home schooling was a lot easier than we thought. Also I would advise them to just keep an open mind so that when the first signs of trouble appear on the horizon, they don’t say, “Okay folks, shows over.” It has truly been an amazing experience and If someone asked me if they should do it, I would give them 20 thumbs up.
– Alexandra Morrin, Grade 7, April 5th 2016