Since we set out on this adventure, I have learned (and observed) that every cruising family is eventually faced with our situation. For some combinations of reasons: money, family, health, job or simply life preferences, a time comes when the family begins to wrap up their aquatic adventure and move back to the more ‘normal’ life on land. For the Millers, that time has come.
Fortunately for us, the reasons come down to life preferences. When we made the decision to move onto Stochastic and head south, we had an open-ended timeline. We knew this trip might be for 5 months or 5 years, and as many of you may have heard us say, we will be taking baby steps. While we fantasized about sailing to the Marquesas and other far off places, we also said that at any point if we were not having the time of our lives, we could move on to the next adventure...
For us there were several things that led up to the decision. I like hot weather, but I also like air conditioning. Being on a boat does not allow you to get away from the sun very often and a cool refreshing shower lasts about as long as it takes to towel off. Oh, and we haven’t been here for the HOT season yet. Really! It get’s hotter….
Sailing is romantic, captivating and peaceful, most of the time. Other times you find yourself in 20’ seas (waves) crashing into the cockpit, rocking back and forth for hours on end, trying to find a safe place to vomit without falling overboard. Sophie became an expert at this; I think she could throw up into a Coke bottle if necessary. Seriously, this is a skill set that can’t be acquired; cruisers are born with it. J Many cruisers get accustomed to being seasick and we were ‘OK’ with it, but it certainly was a bummer.
Owning a boat is a lot of work! There is a saying, “Cruising is fixing you boat in exotic places.” Truer words have never been spoken. I talk with friends and family and often have to reassure them that I don’t get to spend every day sipping Pina Coladas (though we did plenty of that, too). Some folks we have sailed with have older boats- ones that require constant attention. That is not the case for Stochastic. She is in great shape and despite her age, most everything is new. And yet, daily maintenance and new things breaking, compounded by trying to find replacement parts in a foreign country - well, it wears on you. Some cruisers embrace it like a challenge, for me it was just an obligation like mowing the lawn (only it would be like having to walk to the gas station in 95 degrees and 300% humidity before you got to cut the grass).
Probably the biggest factor for us was both a positive and a negative. While cruising you have the wonderful experience of meeting absolutely amazing people. We have made friends that we will stay in touch with for life, based on a bond that could only be created by sharing similar experiences and helping out when help was needed (cruisers bend over backward for one another – it is special). The dark side to all of this is that, well-we cruise, which means that we move on. So, for every friendship that blossoms, an inevitable goodbye is looming over the not-so-distant horizon. For adults this can be difficult. For cruising kids, it's twice as hard. Sophie is remarkably social and makes friends easily, but having Mom and Dad as the "anchor" friends in her life must be a huge challenge.
So, I need to be careful. Reading this, one may come to the conclusion we had an awful trip. That is so far from the truth. If given the choice, each of us would choose to do it all over again, with a few improvements of course.
As I mentioned above, we have made friendships that are immeasurable. We have experienced new cultures and observed families finding happiness regardless of how much money they possess. We have volunteered with a Christian organization whose works are far more meaningful that I can express. I have had the pleasure of homeschooling Sophie, something I had serious reservations about when we set out on this trip, but now feel quite positive about.
Most importantly, I have bonded with my wife and daughter in a way I certainly could not have had I been on land. That alone is something I wish every father could experience. And yes, we had our moments of Pina Coladas in the warm sand, tropical breezes blowing through the palms and any other stereotype of life in paradise. Now, however, it’s time for this cruising family to turn life in paradise into fond memories and begin the next chapter of our adventure.
As I write this, the girls (and Monty) have made their way back to Wisconsin. I will be departing Banderas Bay (with crew) mid May and making my way back north (did I mention it's hot here?) I should be in San Diego by the end of May. I will keep you posted.