Louis Theroux is a BBC documentary fimmaker who exposes facets of life previously hidden to the average citizen. Most Americans, like us, have probably never heard of him because he typically exposes the absurd realities of fringe groups in the U.S., such as prostitutes, meth addicts, prison inmates, white supremacists, religious extremists, survivalists. And now, liveaboard sailors. He recently visited Wondertime to see what life is like for a family of four living and sailing on a 38-foot yacht. This is the first of three parts.*
Louis (voice over, walking down the dock to Wondertime): After a grueling 35 hour multi-leg flight from London, I’ve just arrived this morning in Auckland, New Zealand, a tiny green speck of land way down at the bottom of the South Pacific ocean. I’m here to visit a young family that has recently arrived from Seattle, Washington in the United States and are living here now. Normal people would simply hop aboard a jet and endure the long flight across the Pacific. But these two parents, along with their two small children, chose to sail their tiny yacht at walking pace across this enormous ocean. I’m curious to find out just why.
Louis (calls out from the dock): Ahoy! Is anybody home? It’s Louis from BBC Two.
Sara (pops her head out of companionway): Hi Louis! You’re here! Welcome aboard. Oops, watch your head there, that’s our rain cover. Careful on the stairs too, they are pretty steep.
Louis (climbs down ladder awkwardly, stands below in galley and looks around): Wow. So this is your home, huh? It’s even smaller than I had imagined.
Sara: Yeah, this is pretty much it. Kitchen, or galley, right there. This is our table where we eat, play games, do art, whatever. And this counter here is our home office. (laughs)
Louis: Interesting. I see you have an oven and everything. Do you have a fridge?
Sara: Yes, that’s it, right there (points at galley counter). If you lift the lid up that’s the fridge right in there.
Louis (continues to look around): Can you pretty much cook anything, or do you eat freeze-dried food. You know, like camping?
Sara: No, no. I’ve never had freeze-dried food. I can pretty much cook anything on the boat. If I have the time and the right ingredients. You should stay for dinner.
Louis: I think I might. Where would I sit though? That table only looks like it seats four people.
Sara: Yeah, that’s about the max. But someone can sit on someone else’s lap.
Louis (looking perplexed): Ok. So where’s the rest of the family?
(At that moment, the two girls come running into the back of the boat from the front, Holly is growling and snarling at Leah and yielding a plastic unicorn. Leah reaches the settee and curls in a ball, covering her head with her hands. Holly starts hitting her sister with the unicorn. Both are screaming.)
Louis: That must be two of them. Do they always beat each other with unicorns?
Sara: Yeah, that’s pretty normal.
Louis: So where’s Michael?
Sara: He’s right over there. (points to Michael’s rear end hanging out into the hallway, his head is in the engine compartment.)
Louis: What’s he doing in there?
Sara: Well, he found some oil in the bilge a few hours ago. He’s been trying to track down the leak all morning.
Louis: Hi Michael! (waves)
Michael (head still obscured in engine room): Hi Louis! I’m almost done here, just a few more things to check.
Louis: No problem! Take your time. (turns to Sara) Where do you all sleep?
Sara: Right up here. Follow me.
(Sara steps over Michael’s aft end in the hallway swiftly. Louis tries to do the same but smacks his head on the overhead beam. He trips on Michael and just catches himself from falling. Camera also shakes and jars as cameraman tries to step over Michael and slams gear on the walls too.)
Sara: Sorry! Watch your head there. It’s kinda low here. We’re sure glad we’re short.
Louis (rubbing forehead): I bet you are.
Sara: This is the rest of our little home. Michael and I sleep in this double bunk here, the head is here and the girls each have a berth in the front cabin.
Sara: Toilet. “Head” is the boatie term for toilet.
Louis: This here? Where’s the door?
Sara: We took it off.
Sara: It just got in the way. There is this curtain to shut for privacy.
Louis: Ah, I see. Can I try it out?
Sara: Um, sure. Here, let me close the curtain for you.
Louis (from atop the head): Wow. This is certainly cozy. (finishes) What do I do now?
Sara: You just need to shut the lid then push that red button right there. That will flush it. We just put in an electric pump instead of the manual one. It was my birthday present.
Louis (over sound of pump running): Your birthday present? Really?
Sara: Yeah, the girls couldn’t handle the manual pump by themselves and I was getting sick of pumping it, like, 30 times a day. Now they can just push the button themselves. It’s very cool.
Louis: It is cool. Hmm. (looks around) So, you were on this boat for how many days sailing to get here?
Sara: Well, it was about 60 altogether. But the longest in a row was 26. Mexico to the Marquesas.
Louis (in disbelief): 26 days! The four of you all cooped up in here!
Sara: No, five.
Sara: Yeah, we had another crewmember, a friend, aboard on the 26-day trip.
Louis: No way!
Sara: Really! It was pretty crowded. And we ran out of peanut butter. But we all got plenty of sleep. That’s the worst part of sailing with kids, not being able to nap during the day as much after only getting five, six hours of sleep at night.
Louis: That sounds pretty miserable.
Sara: Well, yeah, it can be. But we like it anyway for some reason.
Michael (joins Louis and Sara in the front cabin): Phew. I’m finally done. It was just a loose hose. All fixed now.
Louis: That’s good news! How often do you have to work on the boat?
Michael: Um, constantly. Or else it gets out of hand.
Louis: Do you like it? Boat projects?
Michael: I do. It sure beats sitting in front of the computer screen. My day job.
Louis: I can understand that. How’s the project list looking these days?
Michael: It’s pretty much out of hand.
Sara: Want to go in the back and sit down? I can make some coffees with our Aeropress.
Louis: That sounds great. I’ll be sure to watch my head this time. (all laugh)
to be continued…
*Not really. This is a work of fiction. But if Louis did interview us I’m sure it would have gone just like this.