Normalizing the view of family life afloat

Playing in the cockpit

Most of the time, the general public really has no view, or interest, in our very different way of living. The events on Rebel Heart have changed that temporarily, the center of a swirl of media attention. It’s given the uninformed,  hiding in the anonymity of the internet, the mistaken impression that their opinions are wanted or matter. Seeing the venom spewed at families who choose this life, it’s hard not to feel judged, and feel frustration that there’s so much misinformation!

It’s time to showcase the way cruising family life looks 99.9999999% of the time. Check out the #kidsonboats hashtag on Twitter, where people are sharing images of their kids, on boats, all over the world. Or this collaborative photo album of family cruisers that’s the brainstorm of mom Cindy, raising her kids afloat. There’s the awesome video soon-to-be-cruising mom Cidnie pulled together, families from our connected cruising world sharing more photos from around the globe.

Rallying around Rebel Heart, cruisers like Tamiko are taking the naysayers to task for the gross and inaccurate assumptions made Charlotte and family. After publishing a great article in Slate about their life afloat, cruising mom Diane waded through the comments and found a few good questions tucked among the absurd. So, she answered them.

Want to see super normal happy kids growing up- just, afloat? Look at the gorgeous photo essay Genevieve put together of her girls, who happen to be growing up aboard their boat in the Caribbean. Or, take a stroll through this a slideshow BabyCenter published a little over a week ago of our life, from early days as weekend sailors through the miles we’ve voyaged since. Or visit with Brittany, who is no stranger to dealing with those who question the decision to raise her little girl Isla (and soon, twins Haven and Mira) afloat, and has choice words for those who pass judgement. Or the yacht Momo, where Michelle ponders why people need to judge, and reflects on what she’s learned about risk while raising her daughters cruising.

These are the tribe of cruisers, of families afloat, of people who get it. Not jumping to conclusions. Knowing there’s a story to be told, and it’s for Charlotte and Eric to tell. And meanwhile, as we wait, to offer our support by trying to normalize a public view of family life afloat.

The Kaufmans have expressed profound thanks on their blog, and asked that donations be made to That Others May Live, an organization which provides relief to the families of members of the United States Air Force Rescue community when tragedy strikes.

bobbing off the stern

I’m always grateful when followers read this on the Sailfeed website.

10 Responses

  1. Hi Behan,
    I think it is important to recognize the role of perspective in understanding how people react to the question of whether young children should be taken to sea by their parents. For the average landlubber very few things are as terrifying as the thought of being out of sight of land on a small boat. I’ve seen more than one high-powered New York attorney become absolutely incapacitated with fear the moment they encounter normal Gulf Stream weather. For someone operating from that state of fear, a parent taking a young child offshore is akin to throwing it into a pen containing hungry pit bulls. Even if they look at your photos and description of the real life of a cruising family their opinions will not change because they are based in the subconscious.

    I personally strongly support the right of an individual to choose adventure, no matter how big the wave or impossible the challenge. While I think it is absolutely insane to jump off a cliff wearing a wing suit and then fly along a rock face at 100 mph, the risk is entirely that of the base jumper. Likewise, sailing an Open 40 into the deep Southern Ocean around Cape Horn is nuts, but if you choose to do it alone or with crew who fully understand the risks that is your prerogative. Which of course leads up to the story of the Open 40 “Anasazi Girl”. No matter how experienced the skipper or how well prepared the boat, attempting a Southern Ocean long distance voyage with a newborn baby and two very young children aboard in that boat is the height of irresponsibility. And an entirely different situation than your family’s travels on Totem–that is my personal perspective!

    Which brings up my final point. As communications have advanced by light years since Bernard Moitessier used a slingshot to fire a note in a film canister in the midst of a 10 month voyage, sailors have adopted the mentality that they can be rescued anytime by the push of a button. The dismasted “Anasazi Girl” was even brought on board a freighter while 270 miles south of Cape Horn. (at considerable risk and huge expense)

    At the risk of condemnation by modern sailors everywhere, I think it is time to end this practice and return to a situation where it is your personal responsibility to assess risk and cope with it or accept the consequences. End all rescues at sea beyond the 200 mile territorial limit. If that means fewer people crossing oceans, so be it.

    1. You as a sailor (questionable if you are one by your attitude), hell as a human being should know better than that.

      One day somewhere something will happen to you where you will need someone else’s help for your very survival. I just hope for your sake your potential rescuers don’t a have the same selfish attitude as you.

      In the race you are referring only 1 out of the 9 starters finished, “Sir Robin Knox Johnston” while the vast majority of others needed to be rescued at sea by passing freighters (often signalled by SOS messages sent radio). This practise of sailors looking after their own is an age old tradition. Even your fabled Bernard Moitessier has been ship wreaked many times and needed others to rescue him.

    2. adrain,
      Like I said, my personal perspective is that when one chooses to jump off a cliff wearing a squirrel suit and the chute fails to open you shouldn’t expect that a helicopter will swoop in to save you before you hit the ground. And neither should you expect to be evacuated from your boat in the middle of an ocean when something goes wrong. And I’m perfectly aware this isn’t a view shared by everybody.

      By the vitriolic hatred in your reply, I suspect you are dealing with your own personal demons. Perhaps the same ones that caused the high powered New York lawyer I mentioned to ask me to call a helicopter to take him off a perfectly sound Oyster 55 when we were within 100 miles off Bermuda— after spending five days in the fetal position because he was afraid to face forces of nature he couldn’t manipulate and control like he did with his clients.

      Offshore rescues do save lives, and emergencies at sea do occur. But rescues of convenience have become far too common. Here are but three recent ones:

      55 ft catamaran Kekoa
      Purchased by a group of inexperienced sailors who set off for a winter of rum and sun in the VI. Panicked when they encountered a storm while 300 miles offshore and pushed the escape button to be taken off by helicopter. The boat sailed half way back to its home port of Charleston on its own. The original builder repossessed it and motored it back to port under its own power.

      New 42′ Catamaran on a late November delivery with the owners aboard:
      Disabled by broken rudders, the owner elected to abandon it and collect the insurance. Refused to board a freighter standing by that was bound for Europe, and then asked another to divert from some distance that just happened to be headed to the US. Perhaps there were other factors at work, but it looks suspiciously like they confused rescue at sea with calling a cab in New York.

      Swan 47 “Wolfhound”
      Abandoned off Bermuda while in sound condition, reportedly because the batteries were low, the frozen food was thawing, and the crew didn’t know how to navigate without electricity powering the chart plotter. Sailed around south of Bermuda for months on its own in spite of being left with sails up and the companionway open.

    3. @horizonstar, as you said it is your “personal perspective”. As such I don’t expect to ever see you do that. Just as you feel base jumping is not for you but you don’t stop them; Try not to force your opinions on others actions.

  2. In the news this week were multiple tragedies involving children engaged in very low risk activities, and costly rescues of adults caught up in “normal” events where preparation or avoidance was not even considered. In the 24 hour news cycle the spectacular technology and capability of the rescue of “Rebel Heart” was as much the news as the situation of her crew. If we do not expect to use them from time to time, why do advanced societies even maintain (at great expense) these capabilities? It is also unclear, and can’t be determined, that given no possibility of outside assistance, or a lower level of it, that “Rebel Heart” couldn’t have extricated herself from the situation. At any rate, tragedy avoided, albeit with difficulty and expense.

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