Sunday, 21 December 2014

HOMESCHOOLING ON THE WATER

HOMESCHOOLING ON A YACHT IN THE CARIBBEAN

 

We have spent an unforgettable year sailing around the Caribbean on a catamaran with our two children. Our homeschooling on the ocean has been a great experience, not only for our son Tayne, but for the whole family.

 

We chose the Clonard curriculum and only started the programme in March as our daughter Michaela was visiting SA and she had to bring the books to us in the Caribbean. They were not yet available at the time of us leaving SA. She arrived at St Maarten Airport in March with 8kg of books on her aching back!

 

We found the programme self explanatory and very easy to use with great answer books and guidance to help the tutor. Due to the amount of subjects in Gr 9, we found the volume of work that had to be covered quite extensive as we tried to incorporate other educational opportunities as they arose. We seemed to be playing 'catch-up' for much of the year but fortunately Clonard are flexible with their exam times and encourage the pupils only to write when they are ready.

 

But Tayne was able to learn so much more than what was available from school books. We created our own school wherever we were and continually educated him about the history and culture of the countries we visited.

 

While we were in America we visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg and Tayne researched the different artworks we saw there. We spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia which is 'bear country', and we learned all about the local bears, especially what to do if we were approached by one in the woods! We visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral which was an amazing educational experience for the whole family. The visit was particularly informative for Tayne as the solar system is part of his science curriculum this year and we were able to watch a 3D movie about how how stars and planets are formed. We also spent time at the Disney Theme Parks and Seaworld in Orlando which were educational and lots of fun too. Tayne is now passionate about the plight of the Killer Whales that are kept in captivity.


Tayne was given responsible tasks on the boat which gave him confidence and matured him on so many levels. He had to helm the boat on his own and was an integral part of our crew as he manned the sails and the anchor even in the most adverse conditions. He took control of the dinghy and confidently drove us everywhere. He learned about plotting a sailing course, about reading weather, about co-ordinates and wind - living in the elements for a year makes one very in tune with weather and sea conditions. He often cooked food and washed his own clothes and did daily chores, none of which were ever done back home.

 

The Caribbean is full of history and each island has a story to tell. There are fascinating stories about wars and piracy and we were able to visit ruins and forts from bygone days. We found the old sugar mills and rum distilleries most interesting. We saw an active volcano on the island of Monserrat which was quite disturbing. A whole village was in ruins and half covered in debris after the devastation of the eruption and smoke and sulphur hung in the air. We used this as a learning opportunity to research volcanoes. We also did a lot of hiking in the beautiful rainforests, visited waterfalls and swam in hot water springs on the islands.

 

We visited 14 different islands, each with their own culture. Within a few hours sail we would be transported from a quaint French island with cobbled streets, pastries and coffee shops to an impoverished island with Rastafarians selling their wares on the beach and Reggae music blaring from the beach bars.

 

We are all avid divers and we did beautiful diving all around the Caribbean. We had scuba diving tanks on board so we were able to drop anchor and dive wherever we found a good place. Tayne did his Open Water Scuba Diving course before we left SA and his sister is a Dive Master. We had many memorable underwater moments but the highlight was swimming with dolphins. We were lucky enough to have dolphins coming into our anchorage on two occasions, spending the day playing around our boat. They were interacting with us and we spent hours in the water with them. Coincidently, both times the dolphins arrived, Tayne was busy with Afrikaans schoolwork and we stopped school so we could swim with them. Tayne reckons that was a 'sign' as he does not enjoy doing Afrikaans! He was also lucky enough to catch a big Sailfish off the island of Grenada.

 

There were a lot of quiet times on the boat with very few children around and limited internet so Tayne had to find ways to amuse himself. He taught himself to play the guitar, constructed and carved items out of wood, grew plants, devised ingenious fishing methods and did swimming training to keep fit. He spent days constructing a 'sailboat' using his paddle board. He used the paddle as a mast which was held up by various ropes and used a silk hammock as a sail. He was able to sail around the anchorages and even did one long crossing across a bay on his homemade boat, fascinating many of the other sailors around.

 

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Besides all the other educational opportunities we had out there, we did have a schedule to do homeschooling. The whole family got involved as Tayne's sister took on the Maths, his dad did the EMS and mom did the other subjects. It was not always easy in the tropical heat with all the distractions around, but we got into a routine of starting early in the morning and tried to make the learning fun. If there was any resistance he was quickly reminded that he could be sitting in a cold classroom in Cape Town!

 

Tayne is due to go back to mainstream schooling next year but he so enjoyed the homeschooling experience that he wants to carry on with it next year. We are at present exploring the various options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 12 September 2014

LEAVING AND MOVING ON....

LEAVING THE CARIBBEAN AND ARRIVNG IN THE USA

Just where did I think I was going in the Caribbean?? 9 pairs of long pants that I never wore once, 12 long sleeved tops that lived under a bunk for the entire time, 3 jackets, 7 pairs of shoes and all I wore we're slips slops and running shoes, 5 summer dresses that I couldn't wear (getting in and out of a dinghy all day makes dresses very impractical) and a 'little black dress', just in case! Note to self.....do not pack for the Caribbean during a Cape Town winter!

 

Just the 4 of us sharing a bottle of champagne on our last night on Katz.

 

This is what a year at sea does to one!
Making sure all our reservations are in place

 

 

Leaving the boat was a mixture of emotions for all of us. We were packing and cleaning madly during our last few days and did'nt have too much time to think about leaving. We were thinking we would be on the boat for another few months so provisioned accordingly, buying lots of pates and condiments to last us. We had so much food left over and luckily for Rufus and Kate, a young SA sailing couple, we were able to re-stock their pantry.

The last night on the yacht was spent quietly, sharing a bottle of champagne in a very upside down boat, all feeling a bit sad. It was a bit surreal and we were all exhausted. During the past week we had been going through the motions of doing things for the last time....the last dinghy ride, the last time we sleep in our beds, our last swim. We knew that it was a good experience when on the last night Tayne said he really didn't to want to leave......

 

The courier company collecting our larger items

 

Our entire lives packed into suitcases

 

Our Maxi Taxi ride to the airport
On the day we left, the kids packed our mound of luggage into the minibus and Stephen walked down to the dock to take one more look at the boat. I will never forget the moment when he walked towards me with tears in his eyes and the two of us walked away from our Katz, both in tears!
This is a sad picture as Stephen walks away from Katz for the last time

We're back in the USA!!!

Yay!!! Hello America!!!
"Kak and Betaal" for all this luggage! ,

 

Waiting for the shuttle, the shape of things to come....???
We loved the luxury of driving this rental car

 

Welcomed into Tampa with a beautiful sunset.

 

This is the end of our incredible journey but it is only the start of a huge change in our lives. I look back and I know that squeezing our lives into a suitcase and leaving Cape Town for the unknown was the best decision we have ever made.

Lots of people have told us how brave we are, and that they would be too scared to do what we did. We were scared, but have realised that courage is only a small part of it, 90% of it is purely wanting to do it with all our hearts. From the moment we decided to take the plunge, whatever came our way, we just dealt with. As Stephen always said, "We're in the sausage machine, there's no turning back".

It's initially a strange feeling to have so much freedom. Once you've given up all your comforts and made it work thousands of miles from home, it feels pretty liberating. The word "routine" is dismissed from your vocabulary. We were constantly discovering new places, meeting new people and dealing with the unexpected.

We learned stuff about ourselves we never knew existed, we amazed ourselves and were amazed with the world. We grew in humility, we broadened our horizons, we evolved and we got to know ourselves a little better.

We realised that home is not a particular address. Home is your family, the people you travel with and the space where your life takes place. Home is the place where you keep the things that are important to you at the time, but things that that we were able to leave behind in the blink of an eye when the time came to leave.

As we head home we see the world through new eyes, we will live life simply and we know that life won't stop for us. There is an endless, beautiful world out there and we choose to keep traveling and discovering as soon as we can again.

 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

THE END OF THE ROAD IN TRINI

Our dock at Coral Cove
We were reluctant to leave Grenada to come to Trinidad. We came to Trini only to get out of the hurricane zone and to have our upholstery covered and had no great expectations. I'm glad to say we have been pleasantly surprised. We've realised that every place we have visited in the Caribbean has something unique to offer and is special in it's own way.
Beautiful Trini sunsets

It's far from ideal spending time on a dock in a marina where the water is dirty and it's incredibly hot with no breeze. It's very frustrating that we can't jump into the water and swim off the boat, especially in the heat. We've hired an aircon, spend a lot of time indoors and have done a lot of work on the boat.
Filipino spotlights replace the usual sunset on the horizon
Living on the dock
Walking to Power Boats Marina

We're definitely never going to become 'dock rats' but if there is a good dock to be on, this is it. We're at Coral Cove Marina, in the centre of all the activities in Chaguaramas. Getting work done on the boat is easy, everything is within walking distance and the yacht chandleries are close by. Stephen cycles everywhere, our bicycles have been so well used. We have free water and electricity, hot clean showers, a laundry, great Internet, good caf├ęs and coffee shops, a nice swimming pool and even a newspaper delivery every morning. Small luxuries but when you've battled without these amenities for so long, you really appreciate it.

There is a great modern shopping mall a short taxi ride away and a movie complex called Movie Towne in Port 'o Spain that rivals any in America. We catch local 'Maxi Taxi's' wherever we go. These are like our minibus taxi's back home. We stand under a tree opposite the marina and wave one down as they come along. The taxis have different colour stripes along the side, indicating what route they take. They are clean, the people are friendly, greet everyone when they get in and the reggae music blares from the speakers. It costs us 5tt (about R8) per person for us to get anywhere. There are different hand signals that indicate where you want to go, we've even learned these, so we're becoming very local!
Movie Towne for Tayne's birthday
So who's who in the zoo....??
West Mall
Waiting for the bus in Port o' Spain
Taxi times

Power Boats Marina
We've had our 3 Leo birthdays in Trinidad. We went out for meals and went to movies but we spent them quietly compared to our usual celebrations.
Stephen turns 53.....
....Tayne turns 15


.....and Michaela turns 23

We've found the local people with their beautiful Trini accents to be the nicest we've met along the way. Everything is done with a smile, nothing is too much trouble and they're friendly and gentle. There is no racial animosity, this is an ideal example of how diverse cultures can live happily together. There is Caribbean time and then there is Trini time.....so nothing happens in a hurry and everyone accepts that. It's relaxed and laid back. They have their own slang that's sometimes difficult to understand. I had to laugh the other day when someone said they're going 'DDI'. When I asked them what they meant they were going 'Down da Island' :)
For once there have been a lot of children around the anchorages. It was great coming back to boat one night to find a bunch of teenagers sitting around listening to music. The kids reckon some of them are real wierdo's but it is company for them, non the less. Shaun has been staying on our boat and he has been helping out where he can. He has found a good job in construction so is heading back to Grenada to fetch his boat then sailing back to Trinidad to carry on working.
Good times at Sails
The best cocktails in the Caribbean
For once we can afford to eat out and do grocery shopping without watching every cent. The currency is the TT which is 1.7 to our Rand. It's great to be able to have a few cocktails at a restuarant and have a good meal for the equivilent of what it would cost back home. We had some great 'real SA boerewors' at Sails, a restuarant owned by Didier who originally owned Papino's in Hout Bay. We've got to know him and his lovely Trini wife Danille and have spent good times with them on the water and at the restaurant.
With Didier and Danielle watching the Great Race
Half of Trinidad was on the water watching the race
Petrol costs only R2.50 a litre!
Power Boats Marina where we hauled out
Crews Inn Marina
Because of the amount of cruisers sitting out the hurricane season here, there is a lot of activity. There is a BBQ at Coral Cove on a Thursday, a Pot Luck at Power boats on a Friday and hikes and activities planned over the weekends. It's as sociable as you want it to be. There is a local guy, Jesse James who arranges tours to the market and to the shopping mall. A cruisers net is broadcast every morning at 8am where the weather is given and everyone has a chance to communicate with the other cruisers. There are so many South Africans around and it's always good to hear a familiar accent on the net.
On sadder note, this is the place where we sell our Katz and leave the Caribbean. We received an offer from a Belgian, Laurent Claes, who flew here from Belgium last week to view the boat. We did a good clean up before he arrived, the whole family pulled together worked so hard. We scrubbed the decks, detailed the interior thoroughly, to the point of using toothpicks, and she was looking absolutely beautiful when he stepped on board for the first time.
The Katz crew hard at work
Our new upholstery

Tony Brewer, our broker from St Maarten (ex Hout Bay) flew here to assist. They had a survey done, did sea trials and the boat was hauled out of the water to check the underside. Other than a few minor issues, she was declared fit and healthy to carry on sailing and after a family meeting, we accepted his offer.
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Just after the deal was signed - the broker, the new owner and the surveyor
Waking in the Trini forest

Because the boat was already out of the water the new owner wanted the antifouling to be redone. This meant living up in the air, hi and dry for 5 days at Power Boats Marina while the work was done. This was not the most pleasant experience as we couldn't use our toilet and showers, had use the ablutions and had to climb up and down a ladder to get on to the boat. I will always find a positive though........the Roti Shack was right next door serving the most delicious roti's in the Caribbean. I think my skin is turning yellow from all the curry already!!

Sitting Hi 'n Dry
We put Katz on the market, hoping to sell at the end of the year so the sale caught us a bit off guard. I was adamant that we should stay on because Damon was due to join us for the last few months and our plan was for the whole family to end our journey off together. But we weighed up the pro's and cons and there is always the possibility of not selling when we want to, so we decided to let her go now. This was done with a heavy heart and a few silent tears from my side when the deal was signed. To me it's the end of our dream that we've worked towards for such a long time and the end of a magic time in all of our lives.
Katz goes back on the water
A tight squeeze
Eeeekkkkkk.....
Back in the water at last
The captain takes the helm for the last time
Our last time on the water
The final bow for the fender girl

We couldn't wish to hand it over to nicer people who I'm sure will carry on having fun and enjoying Katz as much as we have. Laurent and his wife have 5 children between the ages of 8 and 14 so I'm sure the happy family vibes on Katz will continue.