When my kids were small we often used to encounter other liveaboard families. Now, we seldom do. It’s hard to say why this might be, but I think the problem is not so much one of funding as of fear. These days, people are more afraid to turn their backs on free health care, the national curriculum, and state pension schemes – and that’s what you have to do if you want to cruise. Both Nick and I were largely immune to this fear of breaking out of the battery-hen shed and going free-range, both being failures of The System, but I do recall that at times even I wondered whether I was burning my children’s bridges and failing to dutifully make hay while the sun shines.
Looking back, it seems utterly obvious that the liveaboard sailing life is a fabulous one for the whole family – there’s just no question about it, and I’m pleased to say that my kids agree – but when you’re in the thick of things it’s easy to lose sight of the greater picture. We’ll talk more about this another day. For now, I just want to introduce you to three families who haven’t given in to the urge to scurry back to the place where they belong. For the time being, at any rate, they’ve committed themselves to raising their kids in a footloose, unfettered, and beautifully feckless style.
We’ll begin with the crew of Galactic and with Alisa Abookire and Mike Litzow.
Alisa and Mike met while they were at university in Alaska. He hails originally from Australia, although he was brought up in the United States, and she is a born and bred American but with Eastern European ancestry. I don’t know whether this kind of ‘international background’ encourages a broader world-view and a consequent desire to travel – but I suspect that it does.
Mike and Alisa were both studying marine biology, and besides being eager to learn about ocean flora and fauna and to protect it from harm, Mike also nurtured a desire to spend some time making long-distance voyages under sail. He says that when he met Alisa he knew he’d met the shipmate of his dreams. What his dreams hadn’t entailed was crossing an ocean with a toddler aboard – but that’s exactly what the couple ended up doing. In 2007 they bought a little boat called Pelagic, and they set off for Australia.
After spending three years in Australia, and having sold the boat, Mike and Alisa flew back to the States – but not with the idea of settling down and buying a house. When they crossed the Pacific they had viewed it as once-in-a-lifetime experience, but… Well, if you like something, why not do it twice? So they bought another, bigger yacht, which they named Galactic, and then they set out across the ocean again. And this time there were two small children aboard.
Elias and Eric were born in Alaska and Australia respectively, and by the time we met them, in Puerto Williams, they were nine years old and five. They and their parents had just sailed Galactic all the way back across the Pacific from New Zealand and had then brought her down through the Chilean canals. We hung out together for the southern summer, during which they toured the glaciers and took themselves off around Cape Horn.
After we parted ways the family continued east and went out to the Falklands and South Georgia; and then they sailed right the way across the Atlantic to South Africa. They subsequently spent about three months on safari, and their tales of watching lions and zebra at waterholes bring back memories of our own adventures in that part of the world. Then they sailed the length of the Atlantic up to the Caribbean, and the last I heard they were trying to decide whether to go through Panama or to do the North-west Passage…
Elias and Eric are growing up much as our own three scallywags did, with the self-confidence and life-embracing attitude which are the inevitable product of daily hands-on adventure. They also display a deep, or, as one might say, a foundational concern for the environment – a fundamental state of being rather than a mere code of conduct, and one which is borne from immersion in Nature and from frequent encounters with wildlife.
Regular readers might recognise these boys as being two of the youngsters who helped with our beach clean-up operations. Besides being concerned to clean up the planet, they are also very knowledgeable about sealife, and about birdlife in particular – after all, their mum was once a ‘spotter’ on a survey ship – and Elias can already tell the difference between a hobby and a kestrel from a fleeting glimpse, or tell the rest of the family whether the speck circling on high is a condor or a black vulture.
Along with these other wholesome traits, Elias and Eric are imbued with the kind of broad horizons which go beyond mere tolerance for other races and religions and which result from socialising with people from an endless variety of backgrounds and cultures.
I don’t like to bang our own gong – but I can bang Galactic’s: these kids are 100% wonderful!
Of course, it helps that Mike and Alisa are wonderful, too. I honestly can’t recall when I last met such effective parents. Not only do they set a shining example by always getting along perfectly together – (and I should explain that when you’re moored right alongside people, you soon get to know about any matrimonial disputes!) – they are also masters of that difficult task of balancing tolerance and discipline. In conclusion then, these Galactic explorers are just about as nice as it’s possible for human beings to be and they are a superb advert for the cruising lifestyle.
This is the first of a series of three articles. Click here to read the next article.
The family in the header of this post appear in a later article in this series!