Please welcome the Koziura family to our Family Profile series – this family has recently returned from their one and a half year trip around the globe in their sailboat, Begonia. To be honest, who doesn’t fantasize about sailing around the world? But this couple did it with two kids in tow! If you would like to read more about their travels and adventures, please check out their blog.
Q: Please introduce your family and your boat.
We are a family of four: Sebastian and Karla, parents, and Sofia (7 when we left) and Benjamin (4 when we left) came from Evanston, IL. We left FL in December of 2010 on our Fountaine Pajot “Athena” 38 foot Catamaran for an adventure that will last a lifetime. The boat was equipped with 4 berths (bedrooms), two heads ( bathrooms) a main salon and galley (kitchen) area. Please refer to blog under “About Us”
Q: How did you decide to take a year off and sail? And more importantly, why?
This was Sebastian’s lifelong dream. He had been sailing all his life… Literally learned to walk on a sailboat with his family down in Argentina where he is from. I refer to myself as a “reluctant sailor” because prior to meeting Sebastian I had no real boating experience and actually had/have a fear of the ocean (almost drowned as a teenager at the beach in CA). I was also reluctant to do so because financially it was uncomfortable to think about taking so much time off. Once you are on that “freeway” of life, it is difficult to get off the at the next off-ramp.
A couple of factors contributed to the final decision:
We had a real estate development and construction business that had been booming before the crisis and suddenly started to become more difficult for us to do our houses. The financing was suddenly non existent, the real estate prices tanked and clients became more demanding. It was not fun, nor as feasible anymore. The market stagnated, so we could either stay home, toughen it out and be really stressed. OR take advantage of this beautiful boat we already had down in FL and take it for a real spin. The passion we had had for our work kind of got the wind sucked out of the sails, so to speak. It wasn’t fun anymore.
Most importantly, I lost my mother in a battle with cancer at the beginning of 2010 and my husband lost his grandfather in May of that year. These were two very influential people in our lives whom we were able to spend such quality time with them at the end of their lives and the resounding message we received from them was to live life to the fullest. This, coupled with our age and an impending midlife crisis, made us ask ourselves what we wanted to say on our own death beds. Do we want to jump and take the chance? or do we want to say we never did it because we were afraid of the financial instability?
So, we took the plunge.
Q: You started off planning a one year trip and then stayed out a little longer…is one year not enough?
Well, in my husband’s head the trip was always going to be a year and a half… But as you get out there you realize that due to weather windows and the like, you really need not to feel pressured for time. There is a time to cross the Atlantic eastbound (the month of May), there is a time to get out of the Mediterranean (October) and there is a time to cross back over (November to January).
As a family we always talked about a year and a half, but just in case, on our blog I put only one year…. I just didn’t know how we would all adjust and preferred to publish that we extended the trip, rather than cut it short, if you see my point.
Q: What were some of the more difficult/easier aspects of sailing with a family in terms of 1) living in a small space, 2) keeping your kids interested and busy, 3) finding time to yourself
In general we adjusted quite well to the small space. I have to say that despite my husband’s warnings, I brought way too much “stuff” on board. In general we normally don’t have tons of clothing or things, so I really thought I was bringing the bare minimum. And when we packed up the boat, we ended up leaving some things behind.
However, not knowing what to expect, I did load up on homeschooling materials and books for the kids. In fact one of the berths was the dedicated “library.”. And while everything is electronic these days, I am so glad I had hard copies of things because internet was intermittent.
During our trip we ended up giving away so much to people in need, or just to friends after we had finished with the books, let’s say. There was not a lot of room on our boat for extras, so while we had various plates and glasses and pots and pans, towards the end, I really only had the bare minimum (4 of each plate or glass) and two pans that I used for various purposes. Once you are underway, you want things to be really easy and accessible, you don’t want to have to rummage through a bunch of dishes, etc.
The kids kept themselves surprisingly busy. I remember during the Atlantic crossing thinking they were angels for putting up with so many days at sea and finding ways to entertain themselves, with putting costumes on, or playing with their dolls/toys or coloring or writing, etc. We had bought an iPad prior to crossing because I knew that I would not feel like homeschooling, so we loaded up some great educational apps (like Presidents vs. Aliens and Stack the States/Countries) that they played over and over. Now Sofia knows all the presidents in order and the kids know geography very well.
We found the trip to be much easier when we were buddy boating with other boats with kids. It would be much easier to do the schooling when the reward was to hang out with their friends lat in the day. Or schedule was usually school in the morning from about 9-12. We would eat lunch and then go off on a field trip and/or hang out with other cruisers.
Finding time for myself? I found it very difficult, personally. In fact, I remember only five times I was actually by myself. And many times Sebastian would work on the boat while I home schooled in the morning. It would have been nice to reverse this role once in a while, but I know nothing about fixing boats, so he would go into town and take the dinghy to buy parts or whatever and the kids and I would literally be stranded anchored out until he got back. This is very different than being back home where everyone has their own car and can take off and do various activities and does not have to wait around for the other. That took some adjustment.
There were a couple of days where Sebastian would take the kids and I would just stay by myself on the boat on purpose and read or watched movies, etc. But most of the time, we wanted to explore together.
Q: How has homeschooling benefited your children?
Oh… Homeschooling was amazing! My kids learned so much with the one on one attention. Coupled with the fact that we were in different cities and countries and visiting historical places that the kids saw for themselves. Our route around the Atlantic was perfect for studying about Columbus and the Discoveries as well as about the slave trade. It is invaluable for them to have seen the actual island where the slaves were gathered in Senegal to be taken to America, and then experience the actual sail across the Atlantic to understand the horrible conditions they faced.
Unfortunately, my husband and I do not have the patience nor the personalities to do homes schooling for the long haul. This was probably our biggest challenge on the trip, more than bad weather or lack of a hot shower, etc. While our intentions were good, it never quite seemed to play out very easily or seamlessly with our kids. There was a lot of push back form the kids… They would say , “my teacher doesn’t do it that way, ” or “you’re not really my teacher.” My hat goes off to parents who have the talent to teach their kids. I have seen some cruiser families where this works well and the results are amazing.
Q: I imagine your children were able to see the workings of a “household” a little easier in such a small space and they were more involved in running it. Do you think they better appreciate energy savings/breaking and fixing things/cleaning up now?
This is an interesting point. We did get the kids involved whenever necessary, but we did not have a chore schedule or anything like that implemented on the boat. Have one now that we are on land and they definitely understand this now.
In terms of fixing things that are broken, this was a good lesson. Resourcefulness. I saw it played out more when they played. For example, there was no corner Target to run to to buy a doll, so Sofia would just make her own. I so admire that in her…. It is not an obstacle.
Q: What was some of the comforts of home that you missed? Some that you thought you’d miss but didn’t?
We really missed a good internet connection and good, healthy, affordable food. I would have never thought of these as “comforts” or luxuries prior to the trip because we take these for granted here in the States, but they certainly were luxuries on the trip. I remember certain times when we had a good internet connection, I would stay up all night surfing the net, just cuz I could!
Things we thought we would miss but didn’t? Can’t really think of anything…