It’s time to go home

american flag sailboat ocean

One of the hardest parts of cruising is being far away from people we love. It’s especially hard to be far away and during their times of need, when we can’t be present with support. But we also miss sharing everyday experiences: the laughs and events, celebratory or ordinary, that build memories with our faraway friend and family.

Going homeDuring our big road trip last month, the focus was on family—namely, spending time with Jamie’s aunt and uncle, who came to South Africa as expatriates in the 1970s. They fell in love with the country, and have made Johannesburg their home. The time with them was a precious, and we sank into the chance to build memories together. It’s priceless to have them pass on stories to the kids, like how Jamie threw up on Clyde some years back (he WAS only nine months old at the time), or tell them about their great grandmother’s paintings, or their childhood memories of the kids’ grandparent’s hometown. Jamie’s dad has opted out of participating in our lives, and we lost his mother to cancer more than a decade ago, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities for our children to hear stories of their grandparent’s generation and build  a sense of belonging with this side of their family history.

family photos

With barely any need for discussion, this prompted a decision to get back to the USA on a fast track. Jamie has another aunt and uncle in Rhode Island; we want to build more memories with them, too, while we can. The last time we visited relatives in New England was in 2009, and the kids were a LOT smaller then! We’d like the kids to spend time with their cousin in Boston as well; she’s grown a lot since they first met her in Thailand two years ago. There are so many faces we’d like to see again.

thai beach xmas
building sandcastles in Thailand with their cousin, December 2013

Of course, “fast track” is a very relative description, because this IS a sailboat and there are seasons to respect! We expected to cross the Atlantic early next year, but our original thinking was to wait below the hurricane belt in South America and spend next winter in the Caribbean before wandering north. But that wouldn’t put us in the USA until 2017, which is suddenly too far away. Now, we expect to be in New England by the 4th of July.

last time they saw their Connecticut cousins… the kids were a LOT smaller!

It will be a lot of miles (a straight line from Cape Town to Boston is over 7,700 miles… we will have to sail quite a few more than that). There are many details to work out. But this feels good. And while we’re going home, I need to be clear: it is for a visit, and not for good. Our cruising days, we hope, are far from over! There are no compromises here, except to skip past places we’d like to spend time in…and Brazil isn’t going anywhere. And meanwhile, it’s time for dose of the home that the kids can barely remember.

It’s kind of wild to think about: six months ago, we were in Chagos…six months from now, for the first time in eight years we’ll be back in the USA. It makes my head spin, but mostly, with excitement about what lies ahead.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.

49 Responses

  1. I can’t imagine all of the thought and preparation that has/will go into this big change for you guys. Good luck on your travels, and I hope you have a wonderful amazing visit with your family!


    1. It’s going to be great to see NYC from a whole new angle (I lived in the east village in 1992-4) and I’m really looking forward to meeting up with you!

      1. What a wonderful 8 years of unforgettable adventures you have shared with your children. Like cruising life gives us signs that new paths need to be considered. Life is short and if kept fluid the adventurous spirit will never die.

        With that said I never made it to SA so keep us in mind when heading to South America.

        Happy New Year,

        Kathleen and George

        1. We feel so fortunate! We’d love to have you on Totem sometime/somewhere. No plans for S America at this point- US northeast and Caribbean instead.

  2. Hah, I will actually have experience cruising around an area you’re going to for a change- I’ve been around Nantuckett/Rhode Island and the Maine coast on our family’s boat before, and frankly that’s the time of year you want to be there anyway. 🙂

    Safe sailing!

    1. Jamie and I met sailing on a J-35 in Long Island Sound! But we’ve never been north of Rhode Island, together, by boat. Whisper your favorite hideaways in Maine to me sometime!

      1. Sure thing! Not sure how far north you were planning to go, but the area around Rockland/Camden is very nice. Both are nice towns, but Camden is where all the rich people live/summer, and Rockland is more “normal harbor with some artists thrown in.” Further out from the mainland, North Haven Island is a beautiful coast but not many people, and Monheagan Island further south is the famous artist’s colony.

        Food-wise you can find your lobster options without my help, but Nebo Lodge on North Haven Island is *the* famous spot for cruisers passing through for a nice dinner, and you will not find better fresh blueberry pancakes than at the general store in Port Clyde. (Sort of a famous provisioning spot for cruisers, part for pancakes and lobster rolls but also because they’re the only liquor store for miles.)

        Happy planning! 🙂

        1. thanks so much Yvette! saved to the planning file! I love the tip to Nebo Lodge. We have a lot to learn about the region from a cruiser’s POV!

  3. Wow! Exciting news! If all goes as planned – for both boats, we’ll see you in New England next fall. FINALLY! It’s just around the corner now.Loved all of your Africa images and stories. Cheers, Ginger

    1. Tell me about it- trying not to think TOO hard about those miles. And yes, if we’re in the same region, let’s make it happen!

  4. Family matters and are one more adventure. My family of four is living aboard in Boston now with a surprising number of other kid boats. It’s been a great area to explore, both in land and water. Safe travels, and thanks for letting all of us travel along through your blog.

    1. Thank you Joy! Will you be in Boston next summer? We’ll be there; I’d love to meet you and other local families afloat in the area, and would love leads on mooring/anchoring!

      1. We are planning to be around through the fall and hopefully head south as the Hurricanes die down. Mooring/anchoring in Boston harbor proper is a challenge but the harbor islands are fantastic. Some free moorings and a great many nice spots to anchor. We’d love the chance to meet up as well. My eight year old son is especially interested in meeting more boat kids.

  5. FNR has been our home since the end of March and while we haven’t (and won’t) travel as extensively as you, I do believe that the spontaneity of the liveaboard lifestyle is what makes it work. No regrets. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

    S/V FNR

  6. IMHO The best part of making plans is changing them anytime you want. Excited for you guys. Have always dreamt of visiting that coast by boat.

    1. It’s true Livia: this is a reminder of the tremendous freedom we are so lucky to have. I’m excited too- a lot to discover! Jamie and I met sailing in Long Island Sound, so there will be stomping grounds to revisit as well.

  7. Yeah! We are celebrating your decision from windy Wellington, New Zealand! After just over two years wandering abroad, we did a 6,000 mile road trip this past summer to visit family and experience the Oregon Trail and Lewis and Clark routes with our three kids. We were excited and anxious about returning to the USA and family after making such a drastic change in our lifestyle (selling everything, traveling with 5 carry-on bags). A few things happened during our time at home that were profound. The first was that we appreciated our time with friends and family and we were very present in ways that were more challenging in our past life. The second was that we appreciated the USA and saw its beauty in new and unparalled ways. Finally, during our time at home, we realized how excited we were to continue our location independent lifestyle and keep exploring. We can’t wait to hear your perceptions and we wish you so much joy and excitment this holiday and always!

  8. FWIW, another boat I know sailed non-stop a few years ago from Cape Town to Newport, Rhode Island. Took 76 days and said it was the best sailing they had ever experienced. Said they actually felt a little sad to make landfall because were enjoying the long passage so much. Good luck! This sounds like a good decision for the whole family.

    1. Holy cow, CT to Newport, whew! I have heard raves about the Atlantic miles–and that’s a good thing, since it seems we have a lot of them ahead. I think we’ll make a few more stops, though. Thanks for the well wishes. I really hope we’ll get to meet you and Bill in the Caribbean next year!

  9. Wow! Such exciting changes and times to come for you guys! It is always good to spend time (when you can) with family and reconnecting and making new memories to carry with you on your journeys. Fair winds to all!

  10. I will pray for some consulting in the NE next year…..because I would love to see you! Maybe I can find my “The Center for Wooden Boats” shirt so you’ll recognize me! 🙂 Travels aboard Totem are SUCH a joy to watch. Thank you SO much!

  11. I think it is an excellent plan and know that the crew of Totem will always be out there exploring – somewhere. Hope our paths cross again one of these days!

      1. Just let us know if you make it this way 🙂 I was reading some of the other comments, and reverse culture shock was definitely something Greg and I experienced. It really surprised us, since we had most recently been in Europe before going back to the US, but just the sheer volume of advertising here blows away any other country we visited….

  12. Wishing you all safe travels back to the states. I remain fascinated by your family adventures. Still my favorite blog to follow.

  13. Wow… I have been following the blog for years now, it is what I read every night before I go to bed. I am sad in a way to know that this will end, I knew it would eventually for your family. I hope you continue to blog on land and surely once you return to the see. Good luck and I look forward to reading the remainder of the posts while at sea. Will miss living vicariously through your family lens dearly.

    1. Oh Todd, it will end someday, but not yet! We will probably be in the USA for about six months (basically, the duration of hurricane season), then we’ll head out again. I’ll definitely be blogging throughout! It’s going to be interesting to transition to being “stateside” for a while.

  14. For us it was harder coming back (or I should say adjusting to being back) to the USA than it was to cast off. Our survival tips include, keeping the TV off, don’t set foot in a mall or Walmart, and live aboard the boat rather than in a house to keep that feeling of being apart from what we call the “chaos ashore”.

    1. Thanks Rich & Lori- it’s been years but you were among the first people I thought of when pondering that transition. I lived overseas as a teen and was not at all ready for that reverse culture shock. At least we can prepare and your guidance is great! I think it also helps that for us it’s pretty temporary, and not fixed in a place… we’re still on the move, on Totem, without those shoreside connections. Yet. 😉

  15. You guys are such a great example of doing what your heart tells you to do! That takes flexibility and the willingness to change or modify plans. It will be fun to continue to follow your adventures on the way “home.” However, I have a sneaking suspicion that you will more strongly realize that “home” is truly wherever Family von Totem drops the hook!

    1. Family von Totem I LOVE THAT KEVIN! and you know, last night- even though it was kind of a crappy night of anchor alarms and all that jazz- it was just so very nice to be free, just anchored out, no real ties or commitments. Here’s to following the heart!

  16. At first, I was bummed to see you were heading home. I love reading this blog (and your book too, by the way!) and it’s been full of excellent advice and suggestions as we get ready for our own journey. I’m glad to see you’re not planning on staying ashore forever. I’m still harboring hopes of meeting you all someday out there! 🙂
    In the meantime, safe travels from Cape Town to Boston.

    1. Hi Kristen, I’m glad you’re enjoying blog + book, thank you! Here’s to sharing an anchorage someday! I’d love to hear about your plans, the contact form lands in my inbox if you want to drop a line. 🙂

    2. Hi Kristen, I’m glad you’re enjoying blog + book, thank you! Here’s to sharing an anchorage someday! I’d love to hear about your plans, the contact form lands in my inbox if you want to drop a line. 🙂

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