Chuck, Sue, and Ryan – Sailing Vessel “Northern Cross”

[Why Travel by Boat?] [Family Togetherness] [Home Schooling] [Cultural Exposure]

[Wish You Could?] [Final Word of Advice] [ Back to Meet Four Couples Page]


[singlepic id=4058 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]In the spring of 1989, after more than 15 years working in Idaho as a nuclear engineer, we sold our home and moved to North Carolina. It was here we began the seemingly endless project of rebuilding our 40 foot steel cutter. Ryan was only five at the time and having sailed Northern Cross up from south Florida the previous summer, was excited to be embarking on a new adventure. Our six month project suddenly stretched to a year, then two, then interspersed with periods of temporary employment, grew to six! After numerous threats by friends to cut our dock lines we departed Cape Lookout on the 20th of June 1995. We proceeded to cross the Gulf Stream and after an eight day, light air, passage we made landfall on the beautiful island of Bermuda. Here we found warm friendly people and our first taste of emerald green water. We were sailing at last!

[singlepic id=3684 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]Four days later we were again at sea headed south. The ocean was a beautiful experience. It is hard to describe the feeling of being 500 miles from the nearest land in crystal clear blue water, two miles deep. The sky, clouds, and seas create a fascinating scene that changes constantly. While on night watch, each of us found our own star to steer by. After another eleven days of light sailing conditions we made landfall on St. John, USVI. Sleep never felt so good. The next day we continued to Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas where we were welcomed by friends who had followed our daily progress via amateur radio.

Many times we are asked “Were the years you gave up to take on this crazy lifestyle worth it?” Although we have occasionally asked ourselves the same thing, the pluses still seem to win over the minuses. We would like to share a few thoughts concerning this alternative to the normal nine to five workday existence.

Why Travel by Boat? (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

[singlepic id=861 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]We have always enjoyed traveling as a family, usually by car, airplane, even an occasional train or bus. But we were always glad to get home no matter how much fun we had. We have found that somehow, traveling in your own boat is different. On a previous three month cruise to Alaska we found that we were always home. The fact that you are not living out of a suitcase, are always sleeping in your own bed, and can escape your surroundings into a familiar space, increase your enjoyment of travel immensely. And nothing can compare to the excitement and anticipation of coming into a strange port by water.

Family Togetherness (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

We acknowledge that what I am about to say does not apply to everyone. But what better way to spend every day than with your wife and growing son. Learning, working, exploring, laughing, and crying together are experiences that are beyond value. The years we are given to be with our children go by much too fast. And the cruising experiences as a family have profound effects. Anyone who has met a cruising child cannot help but notice something pleasantly different. There is an air of confidence, reliability, inquisitiveness, and courtesy that begs to be admired.

Home Schooling (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

[singlepic id=1218 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]How does one provide for quality education while cruising? There are a number of approaches to home schooling while living aboard. Many cruisers prefer to use one of the excellent correspondence schools that are available. We have been home schooling Ryan for the past seven years, first using the Calverts Correspondence School and eventually designing our own curriculum based on help from a North Carolina school district. Next year as Ryan enters his first year of high school we will go back to an accredited correspondence school. We make extensive use of a computer and CD-ROM on board. Yearly national testing has shown Ryan to be well ahead of his grade. We also take every opportunity to involve him in local school events. 

The lack of daily interactions with peers is always a drawback to be reckoned with. We make concessions to allow Ryan to be with cruising kids whenever possible. This seems to be a feast or famine situation. However, whenever cruising kids do get together the common bond of the sea seems to make friendships form rapidly.

Cultural Exposure (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

[singlepic id=1933 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]When was the last time you spent an afternoon in a laundromat surrounded by people of a totally different culture? When was the last time you were surrounded by people who didn’t speak your language but communicated with a smile? When was the last time you went more than a few days without hearing a news update on radio or TV? These are normal daily occurrences for cruising couples. For children, they are experiences that open an awareness that American life in the suburbs is not the way most people in the world live their lives. This type of education cannot be duplicated.

Wish We Could! (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

How many times have we heard from friends and acquaintances back home “Sure wish we could afford to do that!” Our reaction to that statement has occasionally hit a raw nerve. Just ask us how many new cars (or even new “old” cars) we drove during the years we were saving for this adventure? Ask us how often we dined in fancy restaurants during those years? Ask us how many large screen TV’s or cable channels or golf memberships we had? Instead we had a dream! The fact is most people cruising are not wealthy.They just live to a different set of priorities.

[singlepic id=3548 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]Advice for Those Trying to Make the Plunge (BACK TO TOP OF PAGE)

Still interested?? Thinking back, here is a list of things we feel were important in helping us prepare for our “break away”.

  • Bareboat charters are an excellent way to gain experience in larger boats and begin to develop a profile of the “proper cruising boat” for you.
  • If you are not a home handyman (or handywomen) start learning now! Self sufficiency is the key to successful cruising. Enroll in an adult education Diesel Engine Repair or Electricity 101 class. Learn to fix everything!!
  • Join a local amateur radio club and get your amateur radio license. We don’t know of a single skill that has benefited us more. From phone patches to our family while in mid Atlantic, to daily contact with fellow cruising friends from Venezuela to Maine, to up-to-date local island and weather information, the list goes on and on.
  • Read all you can on boats, cruising areas, seamanship, anchoring, navigation, weather. Again the list goes on and on.
  • Set a date and go. And find friends who will threaten to cut your lines and GIVE THEM A SHARP KNIFE!

Chuck, Susan-Jo, and Ryan Cargo, 650 Gladstone #7, Idaho Falls, ID 83401