IamA 22 who lived on a sailboat offshore with his parents from ~age 5 to ~age 9, AMA!
Hello all! I got a lot of requests for an AMA in a recent post I made, so here it is! Here's the basic story, when I was about 5 years old my parents, 2 doctors, decided they wanted to sail offshore. So, they took lessons, bought a boat, and we took off! We lived on the boat for several years, sailing along the West Coast, until through some unfortunate events the boat sank out at sea. Feel free to ask any and all questions, and I will do my best to answer! Since a lot of it is from memory, it may be slightly off in timeframe, so forgive me.
https://imgur.com/XkAulos Here's a photo of our second boat, Ra, for proof.
Edit* Ok everyone, thank you so much for the questions! I have to take a break now, my fingers are getting sore! I appreciate all of your questions and comments.
Never stop exploring!
Gold?! Why thank you kind stranger! You made my day :D
Can confirm, this is mom! My favorite part was probably living in Mexico, the people were amazing, surfing each day and all that lobster.. oh man the lobster. Can't think of a better time :)
Dude is that really your mom?
Yep! She saw the ama since it got so big.
Ugh, you (and your mom ) are so frigging cool. Sorry about your dad being a barnacle though. :/
Why thank you! She's pretty damn cool, best mom I could ever ask for.
I thought earlier in a post further up you said she was (deceased)?? Glad she is ok but that did that mean when you wrote it earlier?
Sorry, I probably wrote that wrong, I meant my mother's mom was deceased by that time.
As an adult now, would you do it again? Alone? With your parents? Your own family? What would you different?
Good question, now I probably wouldn't but i'm not really sure. I guess I would have to see what my child would be like and for that matter whoever I marry in the future. Not everyone can do boat life, and I wouldn't want to press that on my family. Alone, no way in hell, too dangerous and lonely. I'm a social guy, I wouldn't be able to handle it I don't think.
now I probably wouldn't
Just wait until you hit adult life and the alternative is sliding papers around your desk for 30 years.
Good point. I'm partial to camping, maybe I'll go off the grid out into the woods with my family or something like that.
What is your favourite memory from your time on the boat?
The time a whale followed us for about 2 days, or the time we found ourselves in a giant pod of dolphins. Both stand out as the best times of my life.
Follow up question, what is the worst thing to happen to you while on the boat? Thank you.
Hmm... two things stick out in my mind. First, we went to this island called Cedros. The thing about cedros, is that going through the passage in the middle of the island seems like it'd be ok, but it's a nightmare. the wind is crazy and it nearly tipped us over, I really thought we were going to die there. Once we got out, it was fine, but damn that place. Second, I had a lot of trouble getting my "sea legs" so I would puke a ton, the first month of each trip out was just un-fun. Couldn't eat, hard to sleep, just uncomfortable and sickly. So yeah, those two are the only ones I can think of.
Well, that and when the boat sank.
Yeah, but I wasn't on it for that event so I don't count it.
When you say giant pod of dolphins... do you mean 20? 100? I honestly just don't know what a giant pod would be, but it sounds fucking dope.
It was so large I couldn't see open water that didn't have a dolphin in it. 2000+ maybe? Hard to tell honestly.
That's amazing. I can't even fathom something like that. I would have been awestruck by 5 dolphins.
I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing, it was so amazing.
a whale followed us for about 2 days
can you speak more on that?
Woke up one morning to a huge spraying sound, looked behind us and there was a whale about 30 ft back. Not sure what type, but it seemed to like us and followed us for the next couple days. Stayed behind in exactly the same spot, I think it thought we were a whale too. It was so cute and amazing, kid me nearly exploded from the awesomeness.
Ive heard that people are always surprised by how much whales stink. Did you get any funk off the fucker?
Also, did you ever hear it sing?
Maybe a little but nothing horrible, and unfortunately no I didn't hear it sing that I remember.
How did you sink it?
Dad tried to solo sail to Hawaii against my mom's wishes, ended up sinking it and having to be rescued. Not sure how it ended up sinking exactly since the story he tells about it doesn't sound right, but I never pushed the subject.
Remember that comment when some guy thought your parents were running from something?
Ha, yeah, it would be hilarious if they were, but I think they were just running from a boring life.
Maybe... Knowing him I wouldn't be surprised.
I have a few questions: What did your parents do for money? And how was it readjusting to land life?
They were doctors, so they traded work for food and money. It wasn't too hard adjusting back, I think being around people was the only tough part, you get used to being fairly isolated out on a boat so dealing with social settings became odd after a while out. It was fine though after a little bit.
How did they earn while living on the boat? Like, stop at a place and exchange their services for goods then move on again? Or was there a regular hospital?
A little of both, in Mexico they would barter work for goods and when we came back to the US they would work locums at the local hospitals. We would usually come back to the same towns, like Newport OR, so they had a kind of standing agreement with the hospitals there and it always worked out ok.
Did the boat sink while you were on it? Did you have to be rescued?
My mom and I were not on the boat, so what happened was that my dad wanted to sail from San Diego to Hawaii. My mom had a bad feeling about it, and wouldn't go, so he decided to solo it. My mom and I flew over while he tried to go solo. Something went wrong and the boat took on water, he had to ditch into a life raft and got rescued 12 hours or so later by a cargo ship. We were stuck in Hawaii for about a year while they worked to make enough to go home.
holy shit that's a story
Oh, I've got so many more too but I don't have photo proof for all of them unfortunately. Ran with the bulls in Spain at 15, climbed a mountain (I do have a pic of that one), got my scuba license as a kid and went scuba diving in Panama, checked out Morocco... So many adventures.
Sounds like you missed out on a lot of childhood things but also lived a fun and adventurous childhood!
Yes and yes, it was a mixed bag but I wouldn't trade it for anything. some of the best years of my life!
Why'd you have to stay in Hawaii - didn't they have insurance on the boat? I mean, I just assumed "whoops, I sunk the boat" was just pops pulling off a classic insurance scam.
No insurance that I know of, pretty much everything we had went down with the boat so it was pretty devastating. We really didn't have any savings so that's why we had to stay there for a while, we were able to move back after about 8 months though.
Was living in hawaii nice?
Unfortunately, not really. The circumstances surrounding being there made it hard, and it was tough to integrate. I got beat up a lot, called "howle" because I was white, and overall I just didn't like it. Beautiful place, but not for me.
What hawaiian island did you live on? I thought this was a funny post to stumble across because I lived on a boat (docked in a harbor) in oahu for about a year. Boat life is definitely not for everyone, but it sure is memorable and fun.
I lived on Oahu! Right in Honolulu :D How funny.
What as the bad feeling? Storms?
My mom describes it like this " I felt like my mom (deceased) was screaming at me not to go, so I listened." There was also an electrical storm as he went out that fried the boats wiring so he actually had to come back and let my mom fix it, as she was the electrics person.
Same thing happened to the Andrea Gale, one of the new crew took one look at it and noped out, said he had a bad feeling. Couple weeks later it sank in the perfect storm. I'm glad your pops made it home.
Me too, sadly right after my dad was rescued we heard about another family that was missing and the "eperb", a locator beacon that sends a distress signal, was set off. We told the coast guard we would shelter them when they were found, but unfortunately the life raft was found with no people in it. It was a heavy blow, since that could have very easily been us.
Didn't you have to go to school?
Homeschooled by my mom mostly, so I did go to school :)
Did you notice a difference on school level when you returned to normal school aged 9? Were you homeschooled all the time?
Actually, I was a bit more advanced when I got back, I eventually was able to finish school a year early. My schooling was very...odd, so it's hard to say exactly. I moved a lot even after I got back and did all types of school, online, normal high school, college classes in the start of my junior year. So it's a little messy to say the least.
What'd you get a degree in? What do you do for a living now?
Have my associates in science, working towards my BS in biochem. Right now I do the "wait for school to accept me" gig, but usually I'm a caretaker for disabled adults.
Are you planning on going to medical school?
Probably not, I work as a disabled adult caretaker but besides that I don't have much medical interest.
You mean BOAT - schooled?
Can u describe a daily routine out at sea? Is it mundane?
Not really, there was a lot of maintenance to do, we had electronics so we could watch movies, play video games and listen to music. There was also fishing, swimming, and other fun stuff. Also, it was before internet was really popular (at least for us) so I had a much easier time relaxing and not being go go go.
A follow-up. Did you really swim in the middle of the ocean with all creatures down below? I'd be terrified if I had to.
Oh yeah, usually nothing is around so it's pretty safe, you stay close to the boat and since everything thinks it's a big animal nothing comes close. I did start to get that "i'm being watched" feeling on occasion and would hop out.
How was the privacy handled? Did you have your own room?
There was a v-birth which is a little cabin up front, it had a curtain but besides that there wasnt much privacy. I was young though so I didn't really mind, you get used to it after a while.
If a V-Birth is the little cabin up front, where is the C-Section on the boat?
More towards the middle ;)
Yeah you're a child but your parents are adults....in a presumably sexually active relationship.....trapped on a boat for months with a small kid and no bedroom...
Loud music and a curtain, I would go to bed... They didn't... Now I need to take a shower, I feel dirty.
how was social life? I imagine you guys made stops at some point. Did you meet new people while living this life?
Totally! Met people everywhere, the best place was Mexico, lived there for a while and I met so many cool people and other kids. It was great, my only regret was having to say goodbye so often.
Communication was probably tough but I'm sure you learned the languages, right?
Yep! Learned Spanish when we lived in Mexico, I got pretty decent at it too, although after we left I didn't really have any way to practice it so I lost it until years later when I took school classes in it. It came back pretty easily though.
might be unrelated, im kind of a fan of learning languages. So did you learn spanish just by listening, and mimicking and picked up eventually? or were you taught by someone who spoke spanish and english?
Listening to other kids, asking my parents who knew both (though they werent the best at it so I had to figure it out on my own sometimes). It was a total immersion, so that really helped.
Did any family come to visit u guys?
Not really, we traveled up and down the west coast and would usually be offshore by about 200 miles (if I'm remembering correctly) so visits were difficult lol. We would visit them when we got back to shore, since we would only spend about 6-8 months at a time out before coming back to restock.
How does crossing the border work doing this? Do you have to go through passport control at each harbor? Are harbors even set up for that? I mean you could have been coming from South America or Asia and smuggling all kinds of stuff.
I don't remember ever having to give passports, but we did get stopped by the Mexican Feds one time. Besides that, I don't really remember, sorry :/
What do you do now in life? Did real friendships derive from the time you lived on the boat?
Now I'm a student, I mess around with crypto curriencies and have made decent money off of that, but my real passion is Biochemistry and i'm applying to the U of Minnesota to study it. Not sure what my career will be, but I know it'll be science-y! I don't have any friends from that time, I met a lot of people but always had to say goodbye and never kept in touch because of my age and the distance between us.
Went to University of Minnesota - started in Biochemistry. Good luck! Let me know if you need help with Gen Chem 1 - it can be brutal
Why thank you, I might just take you up on that :)
Best of luck with getting into the U! Currently studying biochemistry there and love it. Tons of opportunities to get involved in really cool research.
Thanks! I'm super excited to hear back from them, hopefully they aren't full already.
Sorry if it's off-topic, but could you elaborate on the crypto currencies comment?
Did you trade them like other currencies, like Forex? How did you get into that?
So I first heard about Bitcoin years ago, and it interested me. I kept an eye on it but never really explored it fully, until a few months back I really got into it. You trade it on several exchanges, like poloneix, kraken, or bitstamp, and it's sort of like Forex I believe. I'm still in the learning stages of it but with how much crypto currencies have grown recently I've done quite well, I got my mom into it as well and she's done amazingly. I would suggest the bitcoin subreddit for more info if you are interested.
This is such a random question, but what did you guys do with your garbage? I imagine you had packaging from food, etc.
There wasn't a ton, plastic wrap from food and that kind of stuff. There was a little cargo spot towards the back we would keep plastics and stuff not biodegradable, but anything that would break down we would just toss overboard. As long as it wouldn't hurt anything in the water, we chucked it. Good question though!
My dream is to do exactly what your parents did (minus the sinking part). Any advice/warnings?
Take good lessons for a long time before you do it, plan it out well in advance. Find a boat that's stable, not to damaged, and comfortable. Make sure to bring plenty of entertainment. One warning, everyone is sick for a while first going out, keep garbage bags nearby. Keep a life jacket on, always, you never know what might happen. Don't go alone, solo sailing is difficult to say the least and really lonely regardless.
Would I be able to bring a dog?
Actually, we had a german shepard named max that we tried to bring but he hated it so much we had to give him away. It was really sad since I had him since I was little, but the poor guy wouldn't eat or drink. I wouldn't recommend it, but some dogs do ok. Depends on the dog I guess.
Shit sorry to hear that man. We had to give away a dog when I was about 8 too, hard times. Thanks for the info, I'm guna start sailing lessons so early days yet but I've got a boat savings fund and I'm 100% guna do it. Might possibly have to drop you a message further down the line : )
Please do! Good luck on the journey, I'm sure you will love it :)
Honest question - where do you get your mail?
I think we had a family friend hold it for us and then we would get it when we came back after the 6-8 months, but i'll have to get back to you on that one since i'm not sure.
Thanks mate, just general curiosity, that's all.
Of course! It's a good question, I never really thought about it.
Why did y'all stop sailing? What did your parents move on to?
Boat sank when Dad tried to foolishly solo sail from Cali to Hawaii, he was rescued but we were stuck in Hawaii for nearly a year and it wrecked my parents marriage. When we got back to Oregon they split and life got a little shitty for a while.
Oh no :(
It all worked out in the end, it was better they split because my dad was starting to become more mentally ill and was turning into a bitter, nasty person. I actually haven't talked to him for almost 2 years because of his behavior.
Do you think his early mental illness was part of the reason he decided to live on a boat? (Like... was it a therapy for him or was he becoming paranoid and wanted to get away from people? Or something else?)
Yes and no, I don't think he was really paranoid but he was slightly manic depressive and the manic side led to the desire to live such an extreme lifestyle. I think he liked being in charge of things, he is an ER doctor, so being captain was the ultimate thrill. He wanted to sail to some really hardcore spots, but my mom was always the voice of reason, she talked him out of a lot of very dangerous ideas.
How is your relationship with him now? And how is the marriage going, do you think the boat life affected badly their relationship?
I don't speak to him, when I was about 17 I was forced to leave his house under terrible circumstances and he was flat out abusive for years. He cheated on my mom for years during their marriage and after the boat sank it all came out in a bad way, I really don't like him as a person at all unfortunately.
Have you discussed this point of your childhood with your parents as an adult?
Maybe to see what they were thinking when they decided to up and live on a boat, since I'd guess that wasn't a spur of the moment idea. Did they plan it out with a child in mind? Why not let you in on it beforehand?
Yes, I've discussed it, they basically say that they thought it would be an interesting way to raise me and they wanted to live their dreams. With not telling me, I think they figured it would be easier to convince me once it was already in motion. I can't blame them, but sometimes I do feel like I didn't get a chance to really have a solid foundation in my childhood, but I think what I got instead was pretty worth it. I don't really know though, I'll have to talk about it with my mom sometime soon.
Did you know about The Wild Thornberries? Did you ever feel like you were just like them?
I loved that show and totally!
Is your nickname the Nard Dog?
You should write a book. What did you do daily if you were offshore for months on end? I'm guessing there was no internet so what was daily life like?
I'm actually writing one! I have a lot of other stories to tell, some amazing and some terrible, but I've always wanted to write a book so I figured why not? Daily life depended on things like the weather and where we were, if it was calm or stormy. Usually it would just be taking turns steering, setting lines to catch fish, plotting the course for the day. I had school work to do, as I was homeschooled, and then we would make dinner and my dad or mom would read to me before bed. We also had wind generator and electronics, so I could watch movies, listen to music or even play video games! I had a PS1 at the time, it was awesome.
I would totally read that book
Thanks! I'm still coming up with a title, but "Damn you Kafka" is one i'm partial to, so look for that!
Where did you ride your bike?
I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was about 10 or so lol
Do you still like eating fish? I'm assuming you had many during that "trip".
Yes, but you're right that it gets old quick, I can really only eat it for one meal and then I need something to eat something different.
I've had quite a similiar experience: when I was 4, I sailed around the world with my parents and 7-year old sister for 13 months around the Atlantic Ocean. I'm 23 now, and the thing is, for me it was always very 'normal' for us that we've made the trip, but it has formed me into how I am today (I guess).
How do you feel about your years on the water, how thankfull are you towards your parents? Do you feel like you want to do this yourself when you have kids? Do you sail yourself? Sorry for the many questions, I don't come across someone with kinda similar experiences!
Oh wow, that's so cool! I don't meet many people who lived like me either, we're a rare breed it seems :) The years out on the water were some of the best years of my life, I'm super thankful towards my parents, it would have never happened if they weren't so awesome. I don't sail myself now, school and work has gotten in the way, but hopefully I can do it again some day in a more relaxed manner. I like day sailing now, the offshore stuff I pretty much got out of my system lol
Did you guys mainly buy food or fish for food?
A mix of both, we would stock up on non-perishables before heading out and then supplement with tuna that we would catch. You get sick of tuna though pretty fast, so one time we happened to pass another boat out in the middle of nowhere and we radio'd them to see if they wanted to trade anything. They were out of movies, and we wanted meat which they had! So we put the movies in a waterproof bag and tossed it to them as we passed each other, and they threw us the meat. It was an amazing moment and so funny.
This is my favorite part of the whole thread
It's one of my favorite memories, just such a rare and special moment out in the middle of nowhere.
Would you rather have lived on the land during those years?
No, I think I gained a lot more than I lost, I mean how many people get to grow up on a sailboat?
What are some of the most creepiest/chilling experiences you've faced in the open sea?
I would say storms on the open sea are the hands down, most terrifying thing ever. Huge, macker waves, just such raw power it makes you feel tiny.
How often did you go back to land?
Every 6-8 months, then leave again after a month or two.
In those years, were you introduced to the internet and did you have access? If not, how was turning back to shore on a world filled with it?
No internet, didn't really have it until we stopped sailing and even then it was dial up so I never really used it. I got my first real taste of it around age 11 or 12, and by then I had very much readjusted to land life so it wasn't much different then other kids my age.
How did pooping work? I've always wondered.. is there a septic tank that you would have to replace when you docked, kinda like an RV or did it just get released into the ocean?
Usually released into the ocean, or you could also just sit slightly off the deck and go right into the water. "Hang tooky" we called it, nothing better.
Do you sail on your own now? If not, do you think you'll go back to it? I'm curious what changes you might have noticed in the past ten years regarding new systems and technology for sailors. Also, were you part of any communities of sailors on the west coast? My parents live aboard a 42' Tayana and are going through the Bahamas currently, seems like a lot of work but a really nice way to live.
I don't sadly, I did a little bit of day sailing a dew years ago with my mom but it hasn't really been my thing oddly enough. I got my fill those years growing up, plus I get motion sick really bad now and school got in the way. I'd imagine the technology is just incredible now, I would love to see what a modern boat has under the hood so to speak. That's awesome that your parents are living the boat life, it is an amazing way to live and I hope one day i can do more day cruising in nice warm places like that.
Where was your "Time-out"? And was it still awesome?
Well, there wasn't really a time out but one time my dad got a little mad with me and threw me overboard. I had a life jacket on and they got me right away, but I did my homework right then and there. Effective punishment if you ask me.
How many types of knots can you tie?
Like 5 :)
Any experience with rogue waves?
No, nothing like that. Massive storms, but no rogue waves.
Did you ever come across any sharks? They're my favorite animal, but I've only been able to see/swim with them once in the wild. If so, what types?
We accidentally swam near great whites in Guadalupe, didn't see them but the locals we're screaming at us when we swam in. It was terrifying once we realized what they were saying.
Are you me? My parents did the same thing but from age 9 to 12 for me. We have a 49' ketch that we sailed down the west coast to Panama from Seattle. I wonder if we met/crossed paths.. The cruising community is pretty small and it seems like the same time range. 2000-2003.
Quite possibly! That would be amazing if we had, I do remember meeting a lot of boat kids while sailing, but we all went along our ways. Literal passing ships in the night.
With all that time spent at sea, did you or your parents ever experience anything unexplained?
Hmm... Not that I can remember, I guess the one thing that was kind of weird was this one night, we were sleeping when all of a sudden my mom got up because she felt weird. We were anchored off this island, next to another boat, and she said when she got up she decided to go above deck and make sure they were ok. Sure enough, there was smoke coming out of their boat because an electrical fire had started and they didn't notice since they were asleep. She rushed over on our little dingy, and was able to put it out after waking them up. It was amazing, they would have probably died if she hadn't seen it happen. Still can't explain how she knew.
Your mom has a strong intuition!
Very, we would have probably died if we went, or maybe not, who knows.
How loaded is your family?
Now, pretty loaded. Then, not so much. Boats are expensive yo, maintaining them more so. We ate ramen a lot.
A magic boat ride! Were there sea monsters?
We accidentally swam in a Great White Shark feeding ground once, does that count?
please tell me you fished every day you could...?
Pretty much yeah, we would hang a fishing line off the back and troll for tuna. You get sick of tuna pretty fast though, let me tell you.
Did you get watersick when you were on land since you were at sea so much?
Actually no, I was seasick a lot! Didn't have great sea legs the first month or so, so the plastic garbage bag was always around close by.
I can barely remember 5-9, is it vivid for you?
Not exactly vivid, flashes of memorable moments but the day to day stuff I've had to piece together with stories and pictures.
Oh cool! How was I? Can you remember if it was me or Joey who broke the blue vase? It's something we've always argued about but neither of us are sure.
Joey, for sure.
Was there a podcast about your parents recently?
Not that I know of haha
Before you got on the boat did you get to experience the amazingness that is Coca-Cola™?
I'm more of a Pepsi guy ;)
I'm OPs mom and sailing was so awesome and you were so brace. What was your favorite part of sailing and living out at sea?
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