As the aforementioned son mentioned in Steve77's post, I can honestly say that the yearlong sailing trip taken during my sophomore year of high school was one of the best experiences I could have embarked upon. I believe I was 12 when we concocted this crazy idea of living on a boat for a year and exploring the Caribbean
islands. My sister would have been 2 years old, so we had to consider that factor in this decision as well.
There were several contributing factors that helped us prepare as a family before this voyage commenced.
First, we were all involved, as a family, in the purchasing
of the boat. This allowed for all of us to have input in which features we liked in the boat (e.g. - mom liked the galley
, I would have my own cabin
, dad liked the engine
access, etc...). Once we all had a say in the boat and were all satisfied with our decision (1980 Moody 40 Center Cockpit), we purchased the boat and the fun stuff began. All of us worked on preparing the boat and had mentally taken ownership
of the boat. If you're planning on taking a teenager on a sailing adventure, I could not stress this part enough. Let the teenagers develop some ownership
of the idea. Let them earn sweat equity in the vessel. This will not only teach them basic boat maintenance
and systems understanding, but it lets them feel that they are a part of this as much as you. Trust me, after grinding away rust from keel bolts
for days in the bilge
, I was ready to get under way and start this adventure as quickly as possible.
Secondly, we pulled into Luperon and stayed for three months. I know that Luperon is not known as a cruiser-friendly place these days, but in 1997 it was quite friendly and there were other cruisers there. Pulling in and staying through the last part of hurricane
season allowed me to actually spend time with other cruisers and their families. I was the only teenager there (I was 14 at this point) for the most part, but there were other cruisers that were in their late 20's and early 30's that I could hang out with. Actually building relationships with other cruisers that were fun allowed me to develop and mature (although I thought I was mature enough...). In retrospect, I grew and matured a lot during this voyage, and I can't thank my parents enough for sharing this experience with me. It also allowed me time to start my first job of waxing boats for $.25 a foot. I know my dad said that it was $1 per foot, but I started at $.25 and after my first boat I decided to raise that rate to $.50 per foot. Remember, my target market audience was a bunch of broke cruisers... While that job was exhausting, it taught me a lot (like I never want to do that again!). But, it did help me develop and gave me something to do to earn money
Third, I was home schooled through Texas
Tech University for my sophomore year, and learned more during this year than any other time at public school. For example, my Physics course required going through the entire book all the way to quantum physics. When I returned, I learned that the Physics curriculum at my school ended at angular momentum, which was Chapter 3 of my book. I was required to learn more about Physics in one month than the students at my school were learning in one year. This is just one example, but every class was like this. I had learned much more than any of my peers that stayed ashore. Plus, I only had to do school for three hours a day (then it was boat work, snorkeling, exploring, etc...). This lifestyle was great. Sitting in a classroom was torture compared to just learning the material and getting on with your day.
Lastly, I was able to still communicate with my friends back home. I would write letters and call when I could. In today's world of social media and constant connectivity, I would recommend having them set up at least an Instagram account to document their travels. A blog would be the best. Give the teenagers some way to document their experiences so that they can still feel connected to their friends. Being able to communicate with my friends back home was paramount for me since I knew I would be going back in one year. With the app WhatsApp, calling or texting old friends is much easier since it's free if you can find WiFi
I know that our cruising lifestyle changed my perspectives about life in general, but it also made me more aware of the world (something most teenagers desperately need). I learned so much more during this one year than could ever be taught in the classroom. I learned boat maintenance, Spanish, self reliance, social etiquette (or as much as a teenager is willing to learn), plus a myriad of other things that are eluding me at this moment...
If you are seriously considering bringing your teenagers along, let them feel involved with the decision and be as social as possible. When they're able to discover new friends that are sharing in their adventures it makes it a lot easier to leave the old ones behind for awhile.
Plus, on a side note, when they get back all the girls will love their tan!