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The call of the Ocean has always lured past and present seamen. Nowadays the number of those who decide to embark on this great adventure is highly increasing. Personally, we, as a family, like to sail free, enjoy a break in this timeless dimension far away from anywhere. Once far from the mainland we are carried off by the wind in the wake of our boat, for days on end, surrounded by the sea, by silence and peace. The Atlantic Ocean crossing from Cape Verde or Canary Islands heading to the Caribbean is the classic ocean crossing and the first challenge usually faced sailing off the Mediterranean.

But what about sharing this important experience with your family?

We are a family and after many Atlantic and Pacific crossings we feel like we can answer positively to this question. Today it is more and more common to meet families of all nationalities who have decided to enjoy this experience. A family crossing may become a great growth and sharing opportunity for all family members, provided it is properly and carefully planned and managed. As with any life experience, awareness about possible risks and consequences is necessary. Setting sail is not more risky than driving or flying but surely requires specific preparation as well as careful and precise arrangements. So, here you are some practical tips. Our hope is that sharing our experience may be helpful to other people who, like us, are sea lovers and family navigation enthusiasts.

Some crucial points cannot be overlooked when planning a crossing.

  • Boat setting up

The boat is the true protagonist of the crossing. It is the boat that has to face the sea, the wind and the challenges of navigation and this is why it must be carefully set up. As it is true that a boat should always be ready to set sail, then it is also true that putting out to sea for a long navigation requires a careful inspection of all equipment and rigging to verify perfect working condition. Always check the hull, the rudder, the engine, the rigging, the sails, the batteries, the electronic devices and all equipment. Remember that there must be on board spare devices and parts. We think that simplifying manoeuvres is important during a family crossing in order to have them performed by a skeleton crew in case of need.

  • Safety on board

After casting off the moorings, it’s time to face all and every emergency and this is why nothing should be left to chance. Remember to check the content of the medicine chest on board, safety harnesses and lifejackets for grown-ups and for children, lifelines, fire extinguishers, liferafts as well as all safety equipment.

Don’t forget to include the little ones on board in the scheduled 24h watch system. They can be involved in support activities during calm sea.

  • Weather information and tracking

An efficient and safe weather information service is mandatory when sailing across the ocean. This provides updates on current weather conditions and weather forecasts. In addition, a boat tracking system is necessary to communicate the boat’s position and conditions on board.

  • Food-stocks

Special attention shall be paid when arranging food-stocks. These should include long-lasting fresh food but also fast food to be eaten in emergencies, snacks, dried fruit, chocolate and other comfort food that helps to lift the crew’s spirit. In the past sailors used to stock barrels of rum for this purpose but today we can make our crewmates happy providing chocolate, pizzas and piadinas.   

  • Crew

Choose the members of your crew according to your sailing skills and family requirements. Therefore also consider the possibility to hire extra crew members and, if necessary, to be supported by more experienced sailors to share with them important issues about navigation, weather, safety. We have always preferred to experience long crossings with our family only, with a skeleton crew. This is, however, our personal choice and it doesn’t necessarily meet everybody’s requirements.

  • Free time (especially of youngest boaters)

At this point of the planning, all you have to do is to arrange a number of activities that may be performed when free from navigation tasks. Actually, grown-ups usually prefer having some rest, reading a good book, listening to music, enjoying the beauty of nature and personal hobbies over most other things. Younger boat mates, however, should be encouraged to spend their free time in activities, so, unleash your creativity and choose among comics, drawings, handicraft, homework, observation and study of marine environment, navigation, constellations, as well as tales of great navigators of the past, stories of pirates and corsairs  and treasure islands. And what about fishing, cooking and entrusting them with navigation tasks appropriate to their skills and age? This would mean more than just spending free time as it may become an important growth opportunity for young people. A wide range of activities can be organized as there is plenty of free time. However, always bear in mind your children’s personal inclinations. During our latest Atlantic crossing we plunged ourselves in the magical world of Hogwarts and managed to read all the volumes of Harry Potter…..we can say we weren’t short of time!

  • Attitude

Your attitude and how you emotionally approach this new experience make the difference. No doubt an ocean crossing is highly demanding in terms of focus, concentration end energy. Undeniably, both physical and mental strength are required. But make sure all this does not prevent you from fully enjoying this experience. Enthusiasm is boundless and a positive and curious attitude will be able to excite sailors of all ages.

Once the boat has been properly set up and the crossing carefully planned, it’s time to set sail. Then let yourself be caught by joy and enthusiasm as you have the chance to share a unique experience with the most precious of all the crews: your family.

Fair wind!

Lara, Michele and Reva

Lara Michele e Reva
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