A Family Affair

27 May 2019

Spending 15 months sailing around the world with your children - The ultimate experience to share with your nearest and dearest, or a prospect too daunting to contemplate? Five months after World ARC began in Saint Lucia, we catch up with the parents and children who took a leap of faith and did just that.

As the ARC rallies continue to expand so do the reasons for deciding to setting sail into the sunset. It’s often said that one of the major benefits to sailing with an organised rally is the certainty of a schedule and committing to a start date. This means skippers and crews can plan their lives, taking time out from usual commitments such as the ‘day job’, and have a timetable that allows for visits home and keeping in touch with loved ones. Many may not be fully able to ‘sell up and sail away’ completely, so the rally schedule helps with logistics such as renting out a home that will be there on return, or being able to keep a career on tick-over whilst underway.

World Cruising Club see a diverse range of crews come together from the very best of the professional sailing fraternity to those on personal endeavours and long life dreams to conquer the various oceans around the world. Each will have had to organise their life on land before casting off the lines and one group of rally sailors have probably overcome more hurdles and logistic challenges than most are parents and kids taking the time to sail the adventure together as a family.

This year the World ARC is made up of 27 boats from 17 different nationalities. Over 30% of this fleet is made up of family boats. The age range of the 15 children at the start of this rally is from 2 to 18 years old however there are a number of children within the same age group of around 10.

Leaving familiar surroundings, beloved homes, school and best friends the start of the rally can be a little daunting for the children but this year any apprehensions were quickly extinguished once families met and friendships began on the pontoons in Saint Lucia.

Since then the bonds between the children have become so strong they even have a big influence on everyone’s sail plans. Wherever possible the World ARC Team recognise this and try to keep the family boats together so that they travel in convoy or are located near to each other in marinas.

It has been fabulous for the twins who have made a really strong group of friends and it’s been a lot of fun especially when we arrive to a new place and they all get together and have a great time.” Says Chris Cope sailing with wife Sophie, their 12 year old twins, and older sons aged 17 and 19. “For Patrick and Alec it has been different as there hasn’t been so many others in their age group, but they have got along really well with slightly older crew members.

I feel incredibly lucky to be spending time with all the family especially as we have 2 teenagers and 2 younger twins.” Says Sophie, “I would not have wanted to have done it leaving any of the older children behind. To do this as a family and visit all these unbelievable places by boat has just been amazing.

World Cruising Club also arrange visits to local schools wherever possible to experience and learn about local education systems first hand. So far visits have taken place in Santa Marta, Columbia and Nuka Hiva, French Polynesia and during the remainder of the first half of the Rally visits have been arranged in Niue and Vanuatu.


Being surrounded by so much beauty and discovering something interesting and new in every day school works has been challenging for both parents and children. Most family boats have adopted the rule to spend time every day to concentrate on the core subjects, maths, spelling, geography and reading. However, with so many sites to take in and with the aid of the boats themselves it is relatively easy to adapt those lessons into everyday life. Maths can be achieved through route planning, wind speeds and simple things like working out how many litres of water and fuel are on board.

Home schooling is a challenge.” admits Sarah Dyack on Rubicon IV. “When the children were younger 6 and 8 that was no problem but now they are 10 and 12 it’s more of a challenge because the work is more difficult and it’s sometime hard to make them do it. It has been a little harder than I expected. We are following a school curriculum and sending the work back to be checked. Because of the pressure to get this done I would probably not do this again but take the main subjects and created my own teaching techniques.

Also during the longer passages many parents have indicated that their children are reading far more than they would have if they had had access to the internet all the time. “We discovered kindles work really well because you can get a lot of books on there and they don’t take much energy to charge.” continues Sarah.

The World ARC 2019 Event Team, Andrew and SWade Pickersgill, have really enjoyed the vibrancy of having the juniors on the rally, “In the last 5 months it has been clear to see that the children have adapted well to their environment at sea and have become more confident as the months went by. A couple of examples include their VHF and dingy driving skills. The VHF being the easiest way for everyone to communicate particularly when at anchor, we can quite often hear them calling each other with perfect radio technique, sometimes better than the adults.

In the last few months and especially during the visit through the Tuamotu Islands where dinghies were essential, even the very smaller children have quickly developed excellent driving skills and somehow they find the strength to pull the starter engine cord.

Above all the social interaction is key to their development. The younger generation of the Rally family came together very quickly and to see them grow, develop and have so much fun together, it is very clear to see, it has brought a huge amount of joy to all of the fleet.

And a few words from the children themselves:

Ivy on RAID

I love living on the boat because I can see different people and I can see how they live.
I’m thankful that you organised all the prize givings and kids parties. I’m glad that we saw so many different people and that we got to see the Indian Villa with the Embera people and that we saw how different they are.
Every day we see different islands and different animals like moray eels, marine iguanas, sharks and rays and all the other sea creatures. It’s paradise to be here and if not I would not have all these great friends.

Lucia on Niobe

One night my Dad had a dream he woke up and told us the dream; the dream was that he went around the world in a sail boat. Then he really wanted to do this so he looked it up on the internet and the World ARC and decided to do it. Then in St Lucia I met Daisy, Catherine, Sasha, Ivy and Eva. Then later on in Santa Marta I met Marrin, Cobin and Tally. Its been the best time ever.

Henry on Aurora B

One of my favourite experiences was the Panama Canal and I liked the night one better because of all the lights.
Next my favourite was probably San Blas where we snorkelled to the island and walked around it. Then all the kid’s boats came and had a BBQ on the beach. It was really fun.
My favourite was definitely Galapagos. I loved the penguins most and the Blue Footed Boobies, turtles reptiles and crabs. I loved the hike, camping and food but the main thing was the wildlife. It was just a lifetime memory.

Eva on Aurora B

I wrote a poem to remind myself of all the places that we have been. 

Delightful places I have been
So many of them none of my family have been
I enjoyed Santa Marta the most
Though I don’t want to boast
However the canal was cool
Even though there was one to may rule
How will I see them all
Before they crawl
Out of my mind
If they do leave I hope it is I they find
I want to see all the places again!

Eva's top places and what she she has liked best (so far!):

Santa Marta
EVERYTHING! From going to the school to meeting Charm for the first time to seeing the red moon to looking for Victor’s drone lost in the sky.

Shelter Bay
It has to be the lost village. I learnt so much about the ways they lived and how they build their homes and cooked food. However the best was when we had lunch out of bowls made of leaves!

San Cristobal
The giant tortoise visit. They were hilariously slow! So the girls and I named the first one ‘Speedy’. 

Santa Cruz
Diving and seeing hammerhead sharks – I mean does life get any better than that?!

Further Reading:

Yachting World Family Sailing series: How this family made their two-year round the world sailing dream happen
From Sailing Totem: https://www.sailingtotem.com/blogging-families-afloat

Yachting World Family Sailing Series: https://youtu.be/8Vgpty6hO9Q


Where the Magic Happens by Caspar Craven
How a young family changed their lives and sailed around the world
Caspar & Nicola Craven settled on a plan to change their lifestyle completely - they would give up work and take their two (soon to be three!) young children off sailing around the world. There were a few hurdles to climb - they had no boat; they needed the money to fund the trip and Nicola got sea-sick on boats!
"Where the Magic Happens" is the Craven family's story of their life changing decision to quit work and sail away. 

Voyaging With Kids - A Guide to Family Life Afloat by Behan Gifford
Choosing a boat that is right for your family; handling the naysayers; keeping your children safe, healthy and entertained afloat—this inspirational and comprehensive guide may be just what you need to turn your dream into a reality. The three authors, who have each voyaged thousands of miles with children on board, provide a factual and balanced look at the realities of family life on the sea.