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Raft-UP: UN-moving afloat

Off to school

“Back when I was a kid I had to walk three kilometers down the dock to school…”

The Raft-UP topic for March is “Moving Aboard” – making the transition from land to sea, from deciding to go cruising to moving aboard the boat to dealing with slack-jawed family and friends and finally cutting the lines to head to sea. But this topic is well covered on just about every sailing blog out there (including ours: see this and this and this); it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling to think and write about and share.

What you don’t read much about however is what happens when it is all over, or at least when a long hiatus from long-distance sailing looms. This is not a fun topic to think about, write, or share but it’s probably more important than the beginning simply because nothing can quite prepare you for what happens after the dream has been achieved. With our South Pacific adventure on Wondertime coming to a close for now, this is the third time we’ve made the transition from sea to land and I can say that for us, this is much much more difficult than leaving.

At first, life on land seems thrilling and novel. Well stocked grocery stores are right down the street and I can fill up the back of the car with our weekly stores and drive the whole lot practically to our boat without breaking a hint of a sweat. I’m still getting used to the fact that I don’t need to stock up on everything; if I run out one of us can pop over to the nearby dairy to grab a dozen eggs. Internet is fast and I’m learning where all the free spots are. I’ve got a cell phone again and can get mail anytime right at our post office box up the street. Our library card gets weekly use and our sheets are always clean thanks to the abundance of laundries around town. Even “cask” [so much nicer than “boxed”] wine is plentiful and cheap here.

For the first time in over seven years the Wondertime family is spread across the city, off on their very own separate adventures. Michael has been busy collecting paychecks through his IT consulting gig. Leah started Year 3 at a local primary school a few weeks ago, a wonderful happy place with students from all over the world. (She has three best friends already.) This week, Holly started preschool (or “kindy” as they call it here) and is over the moon to get to paint each and every day. She attends for a few hours in the mornings which gives me some time to myself each day, the delights of which I haven’t experienced since 2005.

As usual, Holly is the one that vocalizes what the rest of us are unable to put into words. “How many more days does Dad have to go to work for? How much longer does Leah have to go to school?” She sees this as something temporary, a break from our real life up in the islands where we were together each and every day. Where we slept until we weren’t tired any more, read books together and alone, explored the infinite beaches, swam, watched fish, had dinners with friends most nights. We heard new languages, tried new fruits, listened to new music and danced together. We always knew what phase of the moon it was.

Now we have alarms, schedules, traffic, and only a few hours in which to gather together each night to share how we spent our days. I tackle my daily list of to-dos, rush around from one activity to the next. To cope, we tell ourselves that Holly must be right, maybe this is temporary. But maybe it’s not. We like New Zealand, quite a lot, and we might have the opportunity to live here for a very long time. Leah loves her school and her teacher, loves seeing  friends her age every day and having a routine to count on – things she needed but that we couldn’t give her while sailing from place to place.

We all miss what we had though, as I knew we would. Many times a day memories will come flashing over me and I am transported for a few seconds with visions so real and vivid I am almost back to the islands, to the white sand beaches, the hot green mountains, my hands sticky with sweet pamplemousse. There is a frangipani tree next to our marina office and each time I pass I am walking down a road wet from rain in the Marquesas, island music pouring from every home. Some days it’s impossible to tell what is temporary and what is real.



  1. behan says:

    Sara, cruisers have been reported to succumb to the charms of NZ! Sounds pretty good to me. 🙂 Have to say that I can really identify with your point of view here. Moving aboard feels terribly distant right now, but un-moving-afloat (or just “parking” as we called it) in Australia was a different kind of adjustment and a bit fresher. Different challenges / different benefits. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Victoria says:

    As you know we’re in the same mode too. Tucker is just days away from getting a job offer (we really think one is coming on Monday), and then we deal with Visas and figuring out school and “real life” in the city…..well while still being the sort of bohemian family that lives on their boat in the river. Just yesterday Ruby wrote her life plan which alternated times for school and work with sailing around the world, first on Convivia, and then on her own boat. There’s still so much more of this life stuff to figure out. I always wish I could keep the best of each phase and place with me all the time!

    1. Sara says:

      Ruby’s pretty much got it spot on! Good luck on the job offer, hope to hear the good news soon. Miss you all and hope you have to come to NZ to get your work visas. 🙂

  3. Lovely. I’ll add that the Kiwis are lucky to have you. Hello to everyone.

  4. YES! I loved this spin on the topic! Just posted it on our FB page. Your kids are adorable and yes the whole, alarm clocks, schedule and paychecks thing can be a bummer. We are doing it right now, we are thankful to have our memories and our dreams for the future to give us the strength for the present;)