School for thought – ARC children (and their parents) have their say

14 November 2018

When walking around the docks in Las Palmas it’s great to see children of all ages and nationalities (16 this year) playing together and making friends. There are over 50 children sailing with their parents across the Atlantic on the various ARC routes this year, with the youngest crew member being 18 month old Kimberley van Soest on the Dutch Lagoon 450S Chubby Bunny.

Nick Martin, ARC 2018 Event Manager, believes that it much easier now to make that decision to take your children longterm cruising and to live the dream of traveling the world on the water, rather than on land: “I think we are attracting more family boats each year because the word is getting around. The more boats that do the ARC with children, the more they go home and tell their friends about it, and then more families take part.

Generally the world is becoming more open to the idea of working remotely, not necessarily having to be in one place all the time. That lends itself to being away more and to doing something like the ARC and to cruise with your family. Schools are also much more supportive these days,” continues Nick.

Here’s what a few of this year’s ARC children have to say about their sailing adventures, life on board, home schooling, the crossing, and what they are looking forward to once they reach the Caribbean:

Eleven year old Milly McGowan is from Auckland, New Zealand and sailing with parents Ian and Kate on their brand new Hanse 505 Alesea who have already been cruising for 18 months since picking up their boat in Sardinia.

I’ve met quite a lot of children this year whilst sailing and the best part is exploring new places and meeting new people. It’s also more fun doing school work on the boat and home schooling is better because we get more time to do other cool stuff. We were doing online classes, but we’ve changed back to using books now and do maths and English. The ARC will be the longest trip I’ve ever done and I’m a bit nervous and hope it’s not too rocky on board for the crossing. I would say to other children who have the chance to sail with their family, you should do it, it’s fun.

As with many of the parents of children in the ARC, they have found it quite hard having to also take on a teaching role as well as being a parent, sailor and everything else that comes with planning, preparing and sailing a boat that is also their home:

Milly’s Mum, Kate says: “This is the second season we’ve been away and we started off with the New Zealand correspondence school last year and it was a hard transition with Milly coming out of being in a school and going into a role which I thought would be a supervisory one, but it’s not; it’s more of a teaching role. As far as the ARC organisation is concerned, it has been fantastic and it has really helped us get the boat on track for the crossing, the safety and all the great advice in the ARC Rally Handbook has been great.

Ten year old Eva Simmonds on Aurora B is sailing with her 7 year old brother Henry and parents Ed and Gemma who are taking part in the ARC and the first half of the World ARC to Australia:

We’ve made friends with lots of ARC+ children on our pontoon and are looking forward to making more in the ARC too. It’s fun doing schooling on the boat and I am going through comprehension papers, geography and maths, verbal reading, non-verbal reading and English. I find the boat very cosy and comfy and it is very different to being in a house. I enjoy the sailing and the rocking feeling as it makes me go to sleep a bit quicker. I love seeing dolphins and whales when we are at sea and one of the best things is being able to stay up later with Mum and Dad and doing some night watches. The longest passage I’ve done so far has been five days, so the ARC will be a really long one and I get seasick, so hope it’s not too bad.

Brother Henry who is seven years old and keeps in touch with his friends by email also likes being on the night watches. “Because I can stay up a little bit later and I like being together with the family.” He also enjoys his times tables in maths: “I know all of them by heart and I can go up to 12 x 12,” he says enthusiastically. “I have quite a few jobs on the boat. My main one is cabin boy and the person who snoozes most of the time! I also put the covers on the instruments.” His Mum Gemma says: "He comes up on deck during our night watch and he’s excellent for a good hour of entertainment, before all of a sudden he falls asleep!

Speaking about educating their children during their crossing, Gemma Simmonds, Aurora B says: “Some of the other family boats, such as Gertha 4 in the ARC+ were given the school curriculum so they had a real direction and it was easy to say, ‘today we have got to do this amount of work to cover it before the end of the year.’ For us, it’s been a little less structured, but once we got the list of what was on the curriculum, we are now just taking bits from it and using different resources.”

Lia Paterson is eight years old and sailing with her ten year old brother Kai and parents Yen Yen and Jeremy on Banyu Aman, a Moody 471 whose aim is to sail to the Pacific after the ARC:

It’s kind of good the sailing. It’s nice to see all the places, but I miss all my friends at school and I FaceTime them,” says Lia. “We help on board the boat with the lines and sometimes we steer and we do chores like charging torches. It’s wobbly when we are sailing but I like arriving in new places. My school work is not that good. It’s better being at school on land because I have friends to do it with, not just my brother. The best bit is I like to see different things, not just where I live, like at home. I really want to go snorkelling in the Caribbean, but I want to go on a plane really, not sail across! The worst thing is sometimes having so little space to run around and no back garden to play football or something. Also, as I share a cabin with my brother Kai; when he is angry he locks himself in and I can’t get in!…

The ARC is great for the children to give them contact with other children and also to give them a break from home schooling. It’s a challenge the home schooling. It’s tough as we are not teachers so we are learning to do the teaching at the same time as they are learning that it’s different; so that is one of the bigger challenges; making that adjustment to being a teacher and a parent, and sailing the boat,” says Lia’s parents.

Eleven year old Linn Farstad is from Molde in Norway and is sailing on Queen, a Fountaine Pajot Saona 47 with her parents Jana and Elvind and her brothers Lukas (5) and Leon (9). They will be away for two years and have been on the boat for a few months already: “I have met friends from Norway but they left in the ARC+ and I have new friends now. I do my schooling each morning and we have books and iPad with many books on it. It is a little bit weird because when you are living on a boat you are just with your family. Living at home you have friends and can do things with them. The best bit about sailing is watching the dolphins, life at sea and visiting new countries. I am little bit nervous about the long crossing, but I think it’s going to be fun. I look forward to the Caribbean and to being on the blue water and to swimming, diving and snorkelling.

The ARC does its best to make sure that boats with children are put onto the same dock and has a whole host of family activities planned at both ends of the rally. In Las Palmas a comprehensive programme includes beach games, family barbecues, costume parties with prizes for children, wall painting, as well as a chance to take Ed the Iguana or Sailor Ted ARC mascots across with them by writing a story about their adventure. There’s also a programme designed specifically for the ARC – the ARC Children’s Club, run by Federacion Insular de Vela (Island Sailing Federation of Gran Canaria) which has always been a great way for ARC kids to get entertainment, education and have fun in the week before they set off across the Atlantic. It also gives parents some time to prepare the boat for the crossing!