Chartering with Children
Reprinted with permission of Yachting® Magazine.
Copyright © 1997, Times Mirror Magazines, Inc.
During a normal week, my sons go to school and I go to work. Like a lot families run by a single working mother, the boys and I see each other through a haze on most weekday mornings and again in the evening, tired and getting ready for the next day. Weekends are for soccer or other activities, household projects, and if we’re lucky, a movie together. Most often, it’s a video and a pizza on Friday night. Enough of this – we needed a change. I also had to consider that as my boys grow older and become heavily involved with things that boys do – sports, going out with friends, girls – they’ll be less willing to join me for a family vacation.
When school vacation rolled around in March, more than anything I wanted a relaxing time for myself, fun for the boys and a way for us to regroup and renew our familiness. In other words, I wanted this vacation to be about as far removed from a Disney World vacation as we could get, so I chartered a 60′ Gulfstar in the British Virgin Islands. Our lives were about to change – reduced to 60′ LOA in the tropics.
My friend, Laura, and her son, Zack, (Dad stayed home) joined my sons, Josh (11) and Taylor (8) and me for a week aboard Journey. Also on board were a baby sitter, Chris, Capt. Lucien Pickering, and chef/mate Tammy Manning. Journey is a big, comfortable 60-footer, which is exactly what I wanted. As the only sailor in the charter group and the instigator of the whole scheme, I felt obligated to find a stable and comfortable yacht skippered by a flexible easy going person. Laura and Zack took the master cabin, which had its own head aft. Josh and Chris took the cabin with the upper/lower bunks. Taylor and I shared the roomy forward cabin. The four of us shared the forward head.
The first morning I knew I had selected the right boat and crew for this group. Capt. Lucien handed me a cup of coffee and said, “Wi dese kids, we always have a plan.” True to his word, Lucien each day set out a fishing pole for Josh and Zack to troll as we traversed Sir Francis Drake Channel. In the evening, he taught them how to fish with a hand line, using leftovers as bait. His endless commentary on boats, people and places kept us amused. He usually started a dialog with “I give you a joke about dat.” Then he’d go off on a tale of adventure in his lilting West Indian accent. Josh and Zack gained a great deal of respect for Lucien when he was able to get a video store opened after hours in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. We were halfway through our charter and the boys had watched every video on board at least twice. We arrived after the store closed, but Capt. Lucien was not to be denied. He found the owner, and the boys selected a video for the evening.
In addition to his ability to open video stores, Lucien was a willing and able snorkeling teacher, historian and barbecue chef. Zack was a reluctant student, but Lucien knew not to push him and very gently led him through the steps. Lucien’s ability to accommodate each of us at our own level proved to be his most valuable skill. About the third day out the batteries died on the boys’ Game Gear. Laura and I saw this as the opportune time to invite Josh and Zack to participate more in the operating of Journey. While the boys didn’t respond to their moms, they did respond to Lucien. “Take the wheel while I check something,” he’d say, or “Can you take a turn around the winch with that line?” Reverse psychology worked, too. When they weren’t asked to help, Josh and Zack offered quite a lot. Having Lucien take control left Laura and me free to read, chat, swim, sail, and play with our children in a relaxed way that’s nearly impossible at home. We never had to leave our children to do a chore, and we never worried about where the boys were.
We also didn’t have to worry about meals – every mother’s nightmare. Each of us filled out a preference sheet for food and beverages, so Tammy was able to provision well ahead of our boarding. We selected simple food to please the children’s palates. Somehow, Tammy managed to provide “simple food” in an exquisite presentation. Her pork roast in no way resembled mine. Of course, she had the distinctly unfair advantage of starry Caribbean nights and soft breezes to lend atmosphere to her presentation.
Our focal destination for this charter was Anegada – the drowned island. I remember Anegada for three things: 4-lb. lobsters, pink flamingos and Loblolly Beach-the largest deserted beach I’ve ever seen. The lobsters were served for dinner each night at the Anegada Reef Hotel. Pink flamingos were repopulating on Anegada and made startling color statements throughout the island. We walked Loblolly Beach for hours, spreading out for a while as we needed space amongst ourselves. The boys ran in and out of the surf, collected shells, snorkeled and chased hermit crabs – enormous (as large as my fist) hermit crabs!