When I was eight years old I moved to our boat from a farm house in the prairie in rural Montana. We lived just south of the Canadian border. The winters were cold and the view from my window was wheat fields as far as the eye could see. Our boat, Wandering Dolphin was in Florida and when we first set sail we crossed the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
Honestly, I don't remember exactly what I was thinking at the time we moved but I do remember being super excited. I had weirdly not questioned the fact that we were now moving to a very far away place to live on the water, where as previously the only time I saw any sort of body of water was when my Dad took me canoeing on the Missouri River or kayaking on Lake Powel in Arizona. Part of the reason I was so excited was that I remembered the boat from previous visits I had taken with my Dad and my older brother to the boat when it was in the Bahamas. We had had so much fun swimming and playing on the boat that for me it only meant 24-hours of fun!
Living on a boat with so many people and so little space was never hard for me to get used to really, I never found it strange to no longer have my own room, Honestly, The only thing I cared about was if my bed had a “window, and it did. I got the only birth on the boat with a port and it was possibly my favorite place on the boat besides sitting on the bow-pulpit. I could always find a place to be by myself, up on the boom in the sail bag, or in the cubby in the cockpit, I called that spot my "Dodo's Nest" for some reason I have forgotten.
I had never been to a school before so homeschooling was nothing new for me, Most of my “friends” where already a member of my family, or kids from church I saw once a week, and the thought of leaving them never really affected me very much. Our farm was so far out on the Prairie that our nearest neighbor was six miles away and the town we shopped in was over 100 miles from home.
Growing up on the boat I got to travel and experience many things that even adults may never have done, or ever get to do. I grew to love the ocean and the creatures that lived in it. I have tried surfing, wake-boarding, skim-boarding, of course I'm an awesome swimmer and snorkeler, but my favorite thing to do in the ocean is DIVING! I LOVE to dive! Three years ago my Dad and I got open water certified while we were in Grenada and since then I have dived a LOT. I even worked for a GREAT dive shop in St Thomas called "Blue Water Divers." While I was with them I got my Advanced Open Water Certification. My goal is to get my Nitrox, Rescue Diver, Dive Masters and Instructor Certifications when I am 18.
I learned how to become friends with people fast. As a cruiser kid that's the only way you can make friends because in a few days one or the other of you would be leaving so you just learn to make the best of the time you have. For the first few years of living on the boat leaving friends was possibly the hardest part of my life, but my dad had always said the same thing, “If we wouldn’t have left the last friends you made you wouldn’t have made the ones your crying over now.” and I always knew he was right, and eventually leaving friends wasn’t as difficult, also because of Facebook and email it was easy to keep in touch with them. My best friends are currently scattered all around the world. I have friends in the Dominican Republic, Ireland, New Zealand, The Virgin Islands, Florida, Hawaii, France, Turkey, and other places and I love them all very dearly, and even though we can’t see each other everyday at school we are still just as close.
Growing up on a boat also changed how I see many things, and what I consider important. I was once asked by a couple of Puerto Rican girls “How do you do your hair?” to which I answered, “I brush it.“ My dad laughed and the girls looked at me a little shocked then they laughed as well then asked me, “No, I mean where do you keep your hair straightener, and your curling iron and blow dryer and stuff like that?” And as you can guess I told them that I didn't even own any of those things. Those two girls found it utterly impossible that I lived without the many accessories that they would simply “die without” and they were even more amazed that I would live happily my whole life without ever actually owning any of those things! I didn't even start wearing makeup until I was fifteen and that was only because I had started a new job on a charter boat with my dad and had to look “professional." On a scale of 1-10 makeup, hand hair dryers, heels and dresses would probably be a two maybe a three depending on the situation. There are a few things that I do find important. Whenever I am buying something I ask myself these questions; “Will that last?” and “When I go in the water will it be destroyed?” Even though makeup and hair dryers aren't things that I “couldn’t live without” I do have my fair share of things that I believe are important in the same way those two Puerto Rican girls thought a hair curler was. I care about having a pair of the real-deal high top black Chuck Taylor's (Converse T-Shoes) and having good conditioner and shampoo so my hair doesn't feel like straw from the salt water, but thats pretty much it.
Sometimes people ask me “Isn't it a little strange living on a boat, knowing that next year you could be living on the other side of the world?” and in all honesty I've been on the boat so long that thinking of living on land is a little strange to me. Not being able to move whenever you want to or seeing the same thing outside your window every morning, driving your car down the same exact street a million other people have driven on. Those are strange concepts for me. I remember when I was Thirteen or fourteen I was at a friends house and she had a glass figure on the edge of her desk in her room and I remember thinking “Wow, as soon as a wave hits us thats gonna fall and break.” Only then did I realize that I was in a house, and it wasn't going to be moving any time soon. My mind works a little differently about things like that, I also take notice of as many little details in things as I can, because on a boat its very important to look over everything to make sure its in good condition. I look at things in terms of safety and practicality on the boat because its important if your boat will sail, but it's even more important that your boat is kept safe.
Growing up on a boat I also learned how to sail. When I was Fifteen I started doing boat deliveries with my dad. Previously my older brother had been paid crew and I had always been slightly jealous because of all the stories they would come back with and how much fun they had once they got to the destination they were taking the boat too. So when it was finally my turn to be my dads crew I was anything but nervous. I know boats, and I know my dad, and I know to respect the sea. So taking off on unknown boats was more exciting and new then scary and foreign. Over the years I've been on quite a few deliveries and now have my own share of stories. I still get excited when I hear about a new delivery, and I'm always happy to help out the family in any way I can. Sometimes people ask me “but weren't you scared?” or “I bet your not looking forward to that trip.” And I'm always slightly surprised. I have to remind myself that the life I have isn't “normal” and the things I do everyday aren't not the same and most people. I have sailed over 25,000 miles offshore, some on our boat but most on deliveries and in a week or so I will be going on the biggest offshore trip of my life, 4,500 miles from Costa Rica to Hawaii, and my biggest concern is if I'll have enough books to last me the whole trip. Going off shore is nothing new to me, in fact, its normal. I think people often forget that I live on the ocean. And one of The most common questions that I'm asked is “Aren’t you scared of storms?” And my answer is always the same, "No. No, I am not scared of storms because we make sure to look at the weather very thoroughly before leaving, and we also pay a weather guy who gives us daily updates even offshore. Even when we do get into a storm, I know my boat and I know she can handle rough seas. I have been in high seas and I have been in high winds. I was once in a cold front coming off of Mexico on a delivery with My dad and youngest brother, and that was possibly the most uncomfortable trip of my life, but it wasn't all weather either. Even during that trip with the wind and the waves and that particular boat having one malfunction after another, I was never scared. It was my job, and it was nothing I couldn’t handle. The ocean can be a very dangerous place if you don't know what you’re doing, and even if you do know what you’re doing its still dangerous, but you know to respect it and you know to stay calm when things go to hell, so its not so much scary as it is stressful at times. I find it a lot like scuba diving. The first time I went diving I was fairly terrified because all I had ever heard about was the bends, and drowning, and gear failures, because thats what people talk about because its exciting, so people that have never been diving have this vision of a highly difficult and dangerous skill called Scuba Diving but in all honesty its very simple and I think it relates to boats a lot. Know your gear and make sure that its always in good shape. Make sure you know what your doing, and you have the skill level of the dives or offshore passages that you will be doing. Don't rush yourself, ever. Even in a panic situation, it's important to stay calm and think about what's happening, and everything that you have learned will be there and you will be able to defuse the situation easily. The same rules apply to taking a boat off shore. Scuba diving and Sailing can both be dangerous and both have risks, but those risks can be made minimal and the dangers can be avoided if you watch and care and take things seriously. Hmmm, I don't have my drivers License yet but I bet it is the same with driving a car... So when people ask me “But aren’t you scared” I always say, "No, because I trust myself and I trust my other crew members and I've done it many many times. It would be like me asking you if you were scared to drive to work every morning. I could bring up points like car crashes and slick roads and you would probably say something similar to “yes but I make sure to take care of my car and be a safe driver.” And thats what I'm saying to you. No, I don't get scared off shore because I take care of my boat and I am a safe crew member.
Growing up on a boat also limited me and my brothers to certain activities like taking soccer lessons or learning to ride a bike. Two of my younger brothers didn’t learn to ride a bike until they were nine and eleven. Though, they did know how to paddle a kayak and ride a paddle board and they can swim just as efficiently as they walk. When I was younger I would go up the mast in a climbing harness for fun. I would often go up to the first spreader and swing from side to side and spin and push off the rigging to see how far I could go out, sometimes hitting the mast in the process, and I would do this for hours. It was easily one of my favorite things to do, and I did it as often as possible. In fact, I still go up the mast, but more often for work then play. Just a few weeks ago in Panama I took down and put back up our backstay. It was hard, but that the same time rewarding to know I helped do something for the boat. I although I may not have my drivers license, I've been driving the family “car”(aka our dingy) since I was twelve. So although me and my brothers may not get do to certain things like play baseball in our front yard we can swing from the rigging and jump into the water whenever we want. If you ask me, I think its a pretty fair trade.
Moving on a boat was definitely one of the most defining moments of my whole life, and has continued to affect the ways I'll see everything forever. Living on a boat with my family has made us a VERY close family, closer then some families, and has let us become not only a family, but friends, and together a crew. I’m excited to see what my future holds and what other adventures I'll have.
We leave in two days for Hawaii and we will be updating our FaceBook page and blog everyday along the way so I hope you join us for the trip!