Pegasus Suva Fiji 15th Sept 2009
We've been cruising on board Pegasus for nearly a year now and the Boys love it, although for us it started as a lesson in tolerance…expect the unexpected. In the first few months it was quite normal, and deeply frustrating, to find the boys had been playing with the equipment… settings on the Radar all on max, the knobs from the SSB missing, always at an inconvenient moment. On one early occasion, I remember watching Louis recover from loss of balance on the helm chair by grabbing the VHF mic cable and separating it from the base station. Great, We found that inclusion was the best policy, so by using the radar with Jean-Jaques (4), he became aware of its importance so would only play with it with Daddy. Louis at 2 was still too young to accept any logic so we had to accept that things would happen and just live with it. Over time this has changed and now the boys do not touch the equipment. That said yesterday I found that sometime in the last 10 days they have managed to break the hinge on my parallel rule..ho hum..
Cruising with children is a different and hugely rewarding experience. Gone are the days of quiet contemplation under sail, or sitting in peaceful solitude in some breathtaking anchorage. Life is just non stop, and the only moments of peace are usually late at night on watch. We find that passages over 1000 miles are the easiest. A natural rhythm is established and the boys have some sort of routine. On windy or very rough days they will spend the morning in their play bunk, a double berth amidships starboard side, which has some of their toys and a DVD player. This is definitely their area and therefore the tidy regime is less heavily enforced. It is also close to the galley so they will often help Amanda make bread, biscuits or cakes, which they enjoy. When they need stimulation they usually come up to the pilothouse and will do some craft work or painting with Amanda. This is where I spend most of the time, as it has direct access to the cockpit, winches and mast base, and I can tend Pegasus at a moments notice. It can feel quite surreal surfing down waves at 15 kts while the boys are painting or sticking crepe paper to cut out shapes of elephants. Inevitably its just when you relent and start to cut out the dinosaur that you take a real ride and wonder if your going to make it or pierce the wave infront, the boys oblivious of course. Luckily I can reef Pegasus going downwind in a straightforward procedure taking only a few minutes, but it's the sea that creates the really fast surfs and even after 20,000 miles it is still unnerving for the adults!!! On sunny days the boys will play in the cockpit and we will fill the paddling pool so that they can play in the water, or if its calm they will go forward on the nets, running around as I try and throw buckets of water over them. Each activity tends to end with snacks, drinks or meals, so it makes for a busy routine. We love to fish, and if we feel we can physically land a fish, will always have 2 lines out. It's a great excitement when I call "Fish On" and both boys run to the back windows to watch as we haul the fish in, land and then dispatch it to the freezer. I think on passage we catch 4 or 5 good fish a week, so they certainly understand where their food comes from.
We tend to eat together just before sundown and an hour or so after dinner Amanda will take the boys down to the port side for stories and bed. I stay in the pilot house and settle the boat during the cloudy and often pitch dark hours after sundown. Once settled Pegasus will sail herself, and after a bit of weather analysis or administration, will take some time to enjoy the peace that comes with bedtime. Midnight and I wake Amanda who stands a 4-hour watch while I sleep in the pilothouse on standby. Four o clock and its time to download weather and work out what I think will be in store for the coming day and verify the long term position plan with the new data. Six o clock and there up!
Daddy can I have some porridge…and off it goes again. Eight, Amanda's up and its time for the radio schedule and so it goes on.
At anchor it's a different programme and over the past couple of months have been cruising on and off with two other boats with children. Its great when you find other children and they all get on….its even better if the parents have good social as well. We are lucky in that respect and, although the cruising children are generally older than our boys they are always inclusive and they all play together well. We have all enjoyed many good days on the beach, and had great beach BBQ's with 6 adults and 7 children. always a good party.
In retrospect we really had no idea how it was going to work cruising with children. We were lucky that we had a few key elements in our favour. Firstly Pegasus is a great boat for children. She has a very safe cockpit area so the boys can be in or out side without a worry. She is easy to sail single handed so allows more time to tend the various and constant needs of the crew., and is large enough to allow the boys their own domain other than their bunks. Secondly our cruising itenary was for warm climates so allowing plenty of swimming and beach time. And thirdly, we have met some great families doing the same sort of route so have all had good social interaction. All these factors conspire to make for a successful and sustainable cruising environment with children. Its is a completely different experience and always busy, but I will never forget Louis mastering his mask for the first time and actually seeing fish underwater, or Jean-Jaques swimming through the tunnel into mariners cave in Vava'u Tonga…amazing memories for them, remarkable moments for us….I'm sure there's more to come.
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