The List
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For years the Schulz family used their 40 foot yacht 'Regina' as a second home for several months each year. But in 2005 they decided to move in and make it their main residence and took off for a year at sea. In this piece, written on the last leg of the voyage, Leon Shulz reflects on their year out, the hopes and fears they had and those they realised, the sacrifices made and rewards reaped and the prospect of creating a different life to the one they left behind.



The List
by Leon Schulz, reproduced here with permission. To read more about the Schulz family adventure, visit www.reginasailing.com


Changing ensign after one year's cruising, Hard to believe they once had the same colours. Photo by Jessica

On a night watch somewhere on the North Sea, I found the List. It had been compiled years earlier, long before we left home for our sailing adventure. The List had been part of our decision process and held "Pros" and "Cons" for taking a break in our nine-to-five-lives, giving up our familiar living to go sailing for a year.

I had totally forgotten about the List and I read it with great eagerness. Had our concerns been correct? Had our expectations been met?

This is what our outlook had been, listed as "Pros":
1 Meeting exciting new people
2 Becoming a better seaman
3 Finding time to write
4 Finding time to take photographs
5 Doing exciting hikes
6 Reading many good books
7 Seeing new countries and cultures
8 Swimming and snorkeling
9 Living in a warm and nice climate
10 More stable weather with less gales
11 Chance for a change in life, doing something new
12 Practice and learn new languages
13 Filling life with adventures and something to remember
14 Living in series instead of in parallel (being able to concentrate on one thing at a time)
15 Satisfactory having reached a goal and dream
16 Finding the "meaning of life"
17 Finding time to think
18 Finding quietness
19 Living a more healthy life-style
20 Feeling of being sufficient
21 Welding the family together


Our Auxiliary Crew Nalle Niva on watch, photo by Jessica.

Our fears were summarized in the following "Cons".
1 Often long distance to medical care
2 Living on a tight budget
3 No jobs to return to
4 Uncertainty of "life after the cruise"
5 None of our old friends or family close by
6 Home schooling with no normal teachers
7 No car - having to walk and carry everything
8 Laundry and washing up by hand
9 Sharing room with your sibling
10 Can't bring much stuff
11 Often having to part from friends
12 Difficult with kids' hobbies, such as tennis, dancing, orchestra
13 No high speed internet connection

The list was compiled by all four of us as a family, and in no specific order. I am sure your List would look different, but equally contain a mixture of expectations, dreams, fears and sacrifices.

The important issue is not what stands on the List, but that it is honest. If one part of the crew is looking for the stormy adventure and the other one is expecting a sunny relaxing cruise, possibly there is some room for adjusting the planned project?

By talking to many cruisers, we have understood that it is important to have a personal "meaning" of your cruise, a mission or a reason to go sailing. The worst one being "because my spouse wants me to". Those projects do unfortunately not last long, as many single-hand sailors can testify.

All participants should find his or her individual "meaning". We have met happy cruisers who had taken up art and painting and couldn't wait until they got to a new place with exciting sceneries. Others collected recipes from the world and yet others were bird watchers having collected thousands of species they had seen. We met a French couple on a catamaran, which held small "concerts" in marinas playing chansons for whoever wanted to listen. Others were divers, sailing to exciting new underwater worlds and many kids collected courtesy flags, postcards, stamps or shells.


Jessica's conch. Photo by Jessica.

It was fun to compare our own expectations put in print long before we actually started our cruise and to compare these with the outcome. I am surprised how correct our List actually turned out to be.

Some points, we can just laugh about in hindsight, like the requirement of constant high-speed Internet or the fear for lacking a car. Today, we actually question the importance of owning one and enjoyed the local buses and our hikes to the grocery shops. Our biggest time- and nerve-consumer turned out to be home schooling. It is difficult to be your own kids teacher, at least when it comes to motivating for "dull stuff". In the end, our weekly planning sessions for the school-work almost turned into a session of negotiation. We did our best to stress the basic subjects reading, writing, maths and English and sacrificed some issues that their pals at home might have learnt. Our children can't list all the rivers in Sweden, but know the 9 Azorean and most Caribbean islands from north to south. They haven't played in sport teams, but learnt to agree with children of the world. They don't know the Swedish kings, but know the colonial history of the British and French. They can't name Swedish politicians, but can distinguish between species of dolphins. In other words, they have learnt different things.


Jessica, Emma (from Koshlong) and Jonathan experimenting with electronic components as school-work resulting in various cool applications ranging from morse-communication to telephony. Somtimes, school can be real fun!


Jessica in the engine room, working on a water pump. While not part of school, work like this gives an insight in technical problems.


Boatschooling at its peak: Rachael from Koshlong working with Jonathan's English

It has been difficult to keep up with hobbies, something we will take up again, once at home. For a year new hobbies, such as snorkeling, cooking and hiking, have replaced our old ones, which has been just as appreciated (and much less expensive!).

What our children did miss was Swedish food! You bet we will enjoy Swedish meat balls and lingonberries when we get home!

Surprisingly, Jessica and Jonathan have not complained about sharing a cabin and do not seem to have missed any major items they left behind. They have played a lot with each other and very seldom have they been quarreling. Actually, most boat kids have been very nice to each other, possibly due to a general lack of overflow in friends. It has been a joy to see how caring everyone has been to each other. Our children don't know what mobbing is, or why to exclude someone from a game. Being limited in number, every child was seen as an asset and was directly made into a friend. Lacking trendy rules about what is "cool" and what isn't, all children have been able to play with whatever they liked, unknown of pals judging and looking down at playing "childish-" or "girls'-games". Kids of all ages, boys and girls, shared their games and were allowed to stay children for much longer than they possibly would have at home. Soon enough, they get teenagers and adults.


Jonathan found a new hobby in cooking, here preparing oven cooked salmon in sweet&sour chili sauce. Photo by Jessica


Best cruising friends: Jonathan, Emma, Rachael, Chloe and Jessica

What has then been the best part of the sail? I would say the people you meet, starting with your own family to all the wonderful individuals you come across along the way. We have spent all our time with our own children, something not all other parents can say. We have made wonderful new friends for life and the children have become very familiar with the English language. Parting and meeting again has become a life-style and the invisible bonds that tie us together give a feeling of having friends everywhere, and that we can make new friends wherever we come.

I have personally also enjoyed being able to take one thing after the other, concentrating on the task I am working on, instead of having millions of projects simultaneously. Karolina just laughs when I say so, and believes it is a typical male issue, not being good at multitasking.


How I often was seen: behind the camera. Photo by Dan on Koshlong.

What have we learnt during this year? Well, I believe one experience is that you can do things in very different ways. This refers not only to how people do in other countries, but also how you can carry through a cruising project. There was a wealth of different type of boats and people, who all found their own way to fulfill their dream. Whichever situation we were in, we learnt that the main issue is to stay focused, finding work-arounds if needed, staying innovative, seeing possibilities where others might see problems and constantly work on improving your system or your situation.

We learnt to distinguish between issues we could influence and things we could not. For instance, we didn't get annoyed any longer if the bus was late or if the customs had closed the office for the day. There was nothing we could do about it, so it was better to take it easy!

And, we have experienced that we can achieve much more than we could ever imagine. Even huge obstacles, such as an ocean, can be overcome by taking one step at a time, using common sense. We've become less frightened when it comes to changes and will therefore, after completing this cruise, not hesitate when new exiting challenges come our way, whatever they might be.



Leon enjoying a Caribbean sunset. Photo by Jessica.

Yet, we hear from time to time from people ashore that it must have been easy for us to undertake this one-year adventure, while they, who were restricted, could just dream about it. We, who had the "financial resources" not having to work for a year. We, who had a boat... We, who were experienced seamen. We, who did not care about our children's education. We, who.. The list could become never-ending, why we could and they could not take a sabbatical break in life.

I am sorry to say, they are all wrong! We have met cruisers with the most varying background and all of them have made huge sacrifices to get away. And so have we.

The decision to break up is certainly not easy and there are a million reasons not to interfere with a working routine life-style. I believe most people actually don't wish to make any amendments in their lives, they are just talking.

If you do consider to break up, doing something adventurous like going cruising, you certainly can, but be prepared for taking risks and making sacrifices, financially, carrier-wise and joie de vivre.

Financially, all whom we have met have made great sacrifices. It might take as much as 10 years to re-build the savings that had been spent during this one year. But none of them we spoke to regretted it. Money can be earned again, but making these experiences, especially with your family, is never to return.

We sold our house. We passed on our business. We risked that we would either not like cruising at all or liking it too much, making it difficult to re-enter into normal society. Or even worse: some of us would love cruising, while other parts of the family would not!

Living one's dream is one thing, but having lived it could also become difficult. We risk to return to an everyday-life with no more goals or dreams! Like the Olympic champion, who becomes depressed after his achieved medal. I have heard from other cruisers that it helps having a new project upon arrival; a new house, a new job, moving to a new place or to plan for your next cruise. After all, we can't just sit there thinking back, regretting we returned home!

We have rejected our old lives to build something new. It has taken a year to understand this. Slowly, what we previously considered "important" got a new meaning to us. By taking our sabbatical cruising year, we learnt to open up our senses and are prepared to start a new life with our old one as a valuable luggage.

In very due course, we will make landfall in Norway, our home waters and from there, it is just a short distance to Regina's home in Sweden.

May our adventures continue ashore as well as at sea.

Another Beautiful sunset. Photo by Dan, Koshlong.


Article and Images © 2006 Leon Schulz or images as credited. Our thanks to Leon and his crew for permission to reproduce this feature.


Find out more about the Schulz philosophy and experiences at www.reginasailing.com


 

 

 

 


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