We have now been living on Chip-Chip for a year (well, actually more than a year, as the blog is a bit behind). So maybe it’s time to stop a little bit and think about how different our lives have been for this past year, compared to what we had before.
We have sailed almost 10.000 nautical miles in this past year. We have visited countries in Europe, Africa and South America and have sailed in the North Sea, the inner waterways of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. We have been to so many different places, with different nature, culture, religion, climate etc. Sometimes (actually most of the time) we find it hard to believe that it’s possible to take a little boat, such as ours, and make it ready to sail to all these places in such a relatively short time.
So, are we happy that we left?
We were not at all unhappy before. We had good lives, living in a village with good friends. Esben and I were happy with our jobs and the kids were even happier in school and kindergarten. But yes, we are still happy that we went off in the deep end and left it all behind. The experiences we have had over this past year have given us much more knowledge of our world than we could ever have gained if we had stayed at home. We have all learned a lot, not just about the places we have visited, but also about what we are capable of together, and how taking a chance in life is maybe not such a bad thing. Even if it feels insane when you start. And being able to take this time to be together and spend our days as we choose, is so incredibly valuable. Having an endless summer is not too bad either 😉
And what about the boat, it’s too small, right?
We get a lot of comments regarding the size of the boat – this size boat is normally sailed by young and adventurous men (French or Swedish 😉 ). And yes, it would be nice to have three separate bedrooms, a big living room and cockpit, three toilets etc. But would we be willing to spent the extra money to get these things? No, we wouldn’t. We are happy that Chip-Chip is so easy to sail, that the draft lets us go almost everywhere, that we have a long keel that protects us from the fishing nets. And yes, it’s much smaller than most family boats, but I guess it’s a matter of what you’re used to. We are fine. In the morning, we have to pack Mattis’ bed away before we can eat breakfast, and we can not leave things laying around, there’s simply not enough room for that. But we have learned to live with the space that we have and make room for each other when needed. It probably also helps that we have so far only spent time in warm places.
The cost of both buying and owning a boat this size of course helps our happiness go up 😉 Every time we meet people in big wonderful boats, we just need to think about the price of that boat versus the price of Chip-Chip, and then we’re back in our happy place. We have saved a lot of money by traveling in a small and not-new boat, and it has not meant fewer experiences or fewer places visited.
Another big plus is that we have had very little break on the boat during the first year. The reverse gear needed a replacement during the first month of sailing, but other than that, we have only bought some new rope, extra oil filters, etc., and in Brazil, the autopilot died – only problem was that we couldn’t find a new one anywhere, so we had to do without until we could get a new one sent to French Guiana.
So all in all, we find that we have gotten so incredibly many experiences from this little boat, and we are very happy that we chose to go in Chip-Chip – it would have been much less satisfying to spent all of our money on this trip and have nothing left when we return home.
Other sailing families seem to spend their time in the beautiful and blue Caribbean waters, are you happy with the route you have chosen?
From the start we wanted to take this trip one day at a time, and have time for everybody to enjoy the trip. We weren’t sure if we just wanted to stay in the Mediterranean or if we wanted to move on to the Canaries, let alone cross the Atlantic. And when we arrived in Mindelo, on Cape Verde, we were still not sure if we wanted to go to Brazil or if we should go directly to French Guiana. The lack of pre-made plans has meant that we have never had the pressure to quickly go to the Canaries, in order to cross the Atlantic as early as possible, as some others we have talked to have felt. Most importantly, we have had the chance to visit exotic destinations like West Africa and Brazil, places so far away and different from everything we’re used to from home. These places are not on the standard cruising “highway”, so we have been alone, or almost alone, for long periods of time. And with the exception of Cape Verde, we haven’t met a single boat kid since we left the Canaries. We have found it exciting to go to places less visited, but I guess not everyone would like it. We have of course not randomly chosen where to go as we went, but rather had a number of plans ready at all times, continuously changing them and fit them to the choices that we have made. This is only fun if you like researching the different directions that each choice will take you. But I like that. And all in all, our route has worked well for us.
This is what we planned (You can press the little boats to see when we plan(ned) to be there):
How much time have you spent on passage versus anchored or in marina?
If we plan to do a trip, which we could just manage to do in one day, we usually choose to do it at night. Sailing during the night means that the kids will go to bed when we leave, and will wake up as we approach our destination, which is kinda cool – and it saves a lot of seasickness.
The route we have chosen has allowed us to slowly build up the time we spent at sea, with very short trips in the Mediterranean, which have gradually become longer and more frequent, especially lately, on the Atlantic. This has helped us all to have a better time at sea.
We have in total spent 70 nights on passage this last year, or 20% of the nights. That’s quite a lot if you ask us, and we are now looking forward to some shorter sails once we reach the Caribbean.
Do the kids like it onboard?
Runa and Mattis both miss their friends, especially now, as we haven’t met other kids for a while (though we actually just spotted a girl on the catamaran that arrived last night). But when we ask them if they would rather have stayed at home, they both say “No, definitely not”. They both enjoy the relaxed life style onboard, and especially like exploring new countries. When they don’t do school, they usually play with LEGO’s, their teddies or they read. And they take part in all the chores onboard, like cleaning up, doing the dishes and doing laundry. If somebody wants to drink coke, it has to be carried from the shop to the boat, so you better bring a backpack, for you will have to drink water.
They both do school every day, unless we are doing something else, like going to the market, sailing, visiting a museum or a fort or something else. We do math, German, Danish and English. I guess Runa is behind in Danish and ahead in math, while Mattis, who only does writing/reading and math, is ahead, since he wouldn’t have started school until now if we had stayed at home. But we shall see how it goes when we come home, my guess is that they will be fine.