People always ask me “what was your favourite part of the trip” or “what was your favourite island” and in truth I was not expecting this trip to turn out the way it did. When people mentioned the Caribbean before we started, I pictured white sandy beaches, dolphins and clear water all the time. I envisioned the trip to constantly look like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, without the 18th century clothing.
After leaving Yellowknife we drove across Canada and the US. The things I remember most clearly were the hotel water parks, eating sushi in every new town in an effort to try and find the best sushi in North America (still Sushi North), going to Kentucky to get my horse fill, paying respects to the King in Memphis, being picked up in a pink cadillac and eating at an Elvis impersonation restaurant, and volunteering at the SPCA in Florida. All fun and games.
The highlight of the trip for me was Kentucky. The horse park was amazing and we were able to visit Clayborne Farms, the premier racing stable in the US. To add to the already amazing visit, I got to work at a racehorse retirement farm; it was an awesome week.
When we finally got to Florida and started looking for a boat we again spent hours in the car driving this way and that. When we stumbled on Rafiki I was disappointed and could not imagine that that this was going to be our home for the next three years. I originally thought that Rafiki was dirty and small, which is funny because our previous boat was a 21ft monohull, but in the end she happily surprised me.
Acclimatizing to the salt water was also memorable. Our first experience at the beach in Florida was getting stung by jellyfish and swallowing what seemed like gallons of salt water. Lets just say the salty water and I didn’t exactly get along.
Some people ask “what is the most challenging part of our trip?” Its hard to choose one justafter all our “adventures”. One was the Derecho in Georgetown, Bahamas, a named storm with winds in excess of 90 knots where we narrowly escaped colliding with the rest of the fleet when our anchor dragged. Another daily challenge was the tight quarters. Its stressful when things aren’t going well but you can’t really just go somewhere to let off steam. I mean seriously, you share 42ft with 3 other people. Even though at times tensions ran high, we always pulled through and ended up having a good story to tell in the end. As our family motto goes, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Puerto Rico is by far one of my favourite spots. I loved it because while it’s more modern than many of the islands, old San Juan was beautiful and we didn’t have to stray far off the beaten path to find locals salsa dancing on the mountain roads. The people are friendly and it was a nice change from some of the previous countries we visited.
Another one of my favourite areas were the Virgin Islands which were dazzling and had gorgeous national parks. They were also home to my favourite Burritos at Zaco’s Tacos. I will always remember their famous sauces; “Hotta than yo mama”, “Burns at both ends” and “Green Peace.”
My least favourite countries were Panama and the San Blas islands. I didn’t like Panama because I felt that there was not much to do and not many kids. I didn’t enjoy the San Blas because I often felt uncomfortable with the Kuna Yala who are the indigenous indians of Panama. They were very persistent when it came to selling there products and often they would not leave until you bought something. They always wanted money for anchoring or when we went to play frisbee in the beach and I did not feel safe. The language barrier also made it difficult for me to understand and communicate with them.
Looking back on this trip, a few people stand out. Meghan Oliver was my best friend and the only person who could make me feel bad about trumping her at board games. We never ran out of things to say but, when we did, we would trounce each other at Monopoly or push each other off the paddle boards. Tony Peacock, with a larger than life personality, was a great sport and a hilarious, volleyball playing “Viking.” I remember when he drove through the anchorage at 4am screaming at the top of his lungs “CARNIVAL!” with a glowing viking helmet and blonde braids that hung down bellow his shoulders. Last but not least, Gagi was a hilarious Slovakian with a great sense of humour. She will always be remembered for her catch phrase “Vhat vas zat?” My personal favourite, due to the comment being directed at Alex, was “Oh my god. Who’s child is that? She talks, and talks, and talks…she talks like you put a coin in it.” It’s especially ironic because I think Gagi could give Alex a run for her money.
My parents said that their biggest fear before the trip was homeschooling, however they weren’t as brutal teachers as Alex and I had expected and in the end, they joked that homeschooling allowed them to brainwash their own kids. When people ask “what is homeschooling like?” I can’t really complain. I do three to four hours of school a day in my PJ’s. I feel more comfortable on the boat and I hope that, because of this adventure, I’ve changed in a positive way.
Of course I’m afraid to go back to school. I’m nervous about making friends but one thing my parents won’t have to worry about is boys. As dad has said, he is not worried about the boys so much as FOR the boys.
Some people view this adventure as having the biggest and most positive effect on me. What some don’t understand is that up until a little while ago, I didn’t feel like I had anything really special drawing me back to Ontario besides my family and horses. This trip finally helped me realize that there are other people who I am excited to see. I realized that, for what felt like the first time in a while, I had true friends to go back home to.
A whole other issue is my relationship with my sister but I’m pretty lucky with Alex. Of
course we get frustrated with each other and sometimes I think I can see steam coming out her ears as her face flushes in anger but she gets over it…eventually. Literally, we are less that four feet apart most of the time so how can she stay mad at me for long? Thank goodness we get along or life on the boat would have been intolerable.
The one thing that that I am going to really miss about life on the boat is curling up in my cabin and reading 24/7. I love feeling like I actually become a part of the book and I get completely lost in the story.An element of this trip that I think will affect me when I get home is the amount that I consume. After living a simple life on the boat with very few commercial goods I hope that I remain sensitive to the environment. I also hope that when I get home I will pick up a book instead of siting on a couch watching TV for hours on end…but then again we didn’t have Netflix when we left. My biggest hope is that making friends will come more easily to me.
I appreciate the chance to have had this trip but I wouldn’t want to do another three year trip on a boat and would like to stay in one place for a while although I realize that it’s not typical for my family to stop moving. In the future I think I would like to do a trip like this with my own family but not necessarily on a boat. I’d like to travel so that they could see and experience different places in the world and live like a local.
The best part of this trip was the last leg of our adventure. Dolphins swimming beside Rafiki in crystal water is hard to forget. I really love the quality time that we get to spend together although I probably take it for granted, but I feel ready to come home.
For a family thinking about doing a trip like this, I would tell them that the age from 10-13 is perfect. I’d recommend a family experience like this to anyone because I’ve learned more life skills, like how to change the engine oil or navigate the boat, than I would have in a class room. This trip has also brought my family closer and while I know that they are ridiculous and insane, being around them makes me feel happy. An adventure like this is a rare opportunity and it was better than I could have ever imagined. Sadly this trip has come to an end so it is time to set course for our nest adventure.