I have always wanted to sail across an ocean. The prospect has long appealed to me. My free spirit loves the idea of sailing off into the blue, being self reliant and trusting what the ocean brings.
In 2009 when we had a year aboard our first boat BattCat, the time drew nigh for our Atlantic Crossing. Our eldest 2 kids were then 3 and 4 and after much discussion we decided that them being largely being confined to the cockpit of the boat for 3 weeks, could be more gruelling than pleasurable. On that trip we went ashore most days, the kids could stretch their legs, run around and let off steam. We swam and snorkelled every day and the sea was like a playground for them. They became adept at diving down for shell treasures and loved their sea adventures. The longest passage we did was a forty eight hours from Croatia to Corfu and the kids had cabin fever enough by then! Also an Ocean Crossing means someone keeping watch 24/7 and we needed more crew than just Jason and I to facilitate that. My Dad and Jason’s brothers were keen to join us, but to accommodate them comfortably we needed an extra bunk. So the decision was made that I would fly home with the kids – spend 3 weeks in the UK catching up with friends and family and Jason would sail across the Atlantic with the boys.
I knew it was the right decision but felt bereft at missing such an opportunity on our lovely boat. Jason and I are equally qualified sailors and he offered up the idea that I could take the helm and he could fly back with the kids. For a millisecond, I entertained the idea – it was an option – how wonderful, I could do it! In the next instant I realised that I simply couldn’t be away from my babies for that length of time. I was suddenly overwhelmed by an animal need to protect them. If something happened and I was mid Atlantic, I wouldn’t be able to get to them for at least a couple of weeks. I simply had to stay with them and would hold onto the dream of us sailing an ocean when the kids were bigger.
Well, life got progressively busier, we moved to Poole after our year of sailing adventures and had two more babies. We held onto the dream of a family ocean crossing but had to find the right window. We agreed that ideally our youngest would be 5 (enter the lovely Liberty age 5 and a half right now!!) and the eldest Rex wouldn’t be ensconced in exams! That time is now – Liberty is old enough to listen to instruction, amuse herself for stretches of time and she has largely grown out of the tantrum phase. Rex is in Year 9 and missing study time won’t affect his GCSE performance.
We agreed that we would make the crossing with the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, where at least 200 boats make the crossing at the same time. It may be that you don’t see another boat after day 2 but you will have boats within at least 20 miles of each other and thus contactable via the VHF. Every day at midday there is a call on the VHF to neighbouring boats to check all is ok and if anyone needs assistance. This incredible support network was vital to me as Mother of 4. The decision was made to sign up for the ARC 2018, leaving November 25th.
Next stop was to convince the schools to agree to the length of absence required for the trip. No mean feat when it comes to State Schools for whom it is particularly important to meet the local education authority requirements for absenteeism. Initially when planning this trip we wondered whether we would be able to take a year out, like we did in 2009 and this was our initial proposal to Rex’s school, for us to home school for the year and hold his place for our return. The feedback was that despite his great progress, the school would have to take him off the school register, this would be enforced by the Local Education Authority as the school is in high demand and there is a long waiting list. The kids would be put to the end of the waiting list. After discussion with our kids and understanding that they love their schools, have worked hard to get there and didn’t want to jeopardise their places, we had to revise our plans. We went back with a 6 month, then a 3 month option and the answer was the same. We researched further and found that 20 consecutive days is the maximum number that a pupil is able to take off without being taken off the register. The ARC leaves on the 25th November which required 19.5 days off before the kids broke up for the Christmas Holidays – surely meant to be!! So the decision was made to pepper our lives with sailing adventures rather than taking a huge chunk of time out. This particular trip will be 6.5 weeks.
The schools are now fully behind our voyage and the kids have work to do enroute to keep them up to speed. The belief that this Eduventure will be massively educational is understood by all. We will be taking our children out of the bubble of western living, out of comfort zones into a highly connected, family bonding experience. One in which we will all reset and be able to draw reference to for the rest of our lives. Into a world where there is no wifi, no modern distractions, where we will need to pull together as team, each of us with vital jobs to do. A world where there is so much space, endless sky and sea, sunrise and sunsets like no other and stars which can be appreciated in all their glory in the absence of any light pollution. The kids will take their part in the 24/7 watches, fishing for their dinner and learning new life-long skills.
For all our mid Atlantic updates please click here: Mid Atlantic Blog Updates and enter choose BattPack from the drop down list of boat names.
If you want to track our boat click here: Live Tracking of BattPack and choose ARC 2018 and enter BattPack as the boat name.
We cannot wait. The dream is here, now it is time to appreciate and savour. And so the 2800 mile voyage begins………..
Our crew – Jason, Dulcie, Rex, Ruby, Jago and Liberty, my Dad Paul and Nephew Alex!!! xxxx