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I am of the opinion that kids and cats are a lot alike in that they tend to be attracted to those people who don’t gush over them and try to coddle them. I would fit into this category, at least where kids are concerned (I actually like cats and seek them out). Although we have come across a few boat cats in our travels, we have come across dozens of boat kids.

I suspect that there are many shore-based parents who would think that live-aboard and home-schooled kids are at somewhat of a disadvantage when compared to boys and girls on land. I couldn’t disagree more. As many readers know, we ran a large martial arts school and I have taught classes of children for 25 years. Our classes were primarily filled with many well-behaved kids but there were also some that were not-so-pleasant to be around. Contrast that to the boat kids we have come across. I can honestly say that we have not met a single ill-behaved child (boat parents all around us are now putting up their hands yelling “you haven’t met ours yet”).

In addition to the above, the kids we have had the good fortune of coming across have been extremely well socialized and able to communicate both with adults and with other children. How is this possible? When kids move from anchorage to anchorage, they just don’t have a lot of time to be shy. If they want to play, they need to make friends NOW so they just do it.

Back in the “real world,” I saw parents of 9 year olds routinely tying their kid’s shoes for them while out here, 9 year olds are running around the anchorage in the family car (dinghy) or helping to steer the big boat. We hear kids on the radio using better VHF procedure than many of the adults. We heard another boat parent comment that their kids are just used to cleaning up after themselves (putting their toys away) because on a boat, things just can’t be left lying around as there’s no room.

No, we don’t have any little ones on board our boat (kids or cats) so I can only offer these observations but if you’re a parent and you have any doubt that a life on the water could be great for your kids, start doing some reading at our friend Cindy’s blog Zack Aboard. Not only is that an excellent resource on the subject (with great photography too), she also lists a bunch of other links to blogs with live-aboard kids.

26 Comments

  1. Great post today! And so very true! We lived two years in Bulgaria and our young daughters made friends with kids that didn’t even speak the same language, they just made up their own. I especially liked your comment about driving the family “car” as a 9 years old. Sorta like driving the farm tractor at that age to bring in harvest. We’ve definitely don’t help our kids mature very quickly do we…..

  2. Awwww thanks Mike! And I couldn’t agree more. It was our experiences cruising before we had kids, and meeting so many kids like the ones you describe that made us come back, get preggers, and start again. Thanks for the boat kid love! <3

  3. Awesome post! We’ve been living aboard with our two (Miles 3, Ruby 7) for just over a year and will be cruising full time starting in October. I’ve noticed many of the same traits in the other cruising/liveaboard kids we’ve met. In fact, one of the reasons we chose this lifestyle for our family was observing and reading about other boat kids. I heartily agree that a boating lifestyle can focus and refine a child’s energy, education, and social skills.

  4. I home schooled my kids for over 10 years and the comment I got the most from people was always about the lack of socialization. It’s such a common misconception. In fact, my kids were better socialized than their formally schooled peers because they interacted with people of all ages. Most kids can’t relate to anyone but their own age group due to being in a formal school situation yet in no other circumstance for the rest of their lives will kids be interacting with only their own age group once they are out of school. We belonged to a large home school group that went on field trips and things like swimming and skiing together and the age spread was babies to adults so the kids got to develop excellent socialization skills they never would get in school. When my son went back to school for grade 12 (his choice) he went to an arts school from K-12. The principal tried to encourage the older kids to interact with the younger but it rarely happened. I recall her telling me one day how delighted she was with Christopher because he seemed to really enjoy the younger boys and they loved him and would follow him around like the pied piper. She wished more of the older kids would follow his example.

    You speak of ill behaved children when you had your gym. The parents of those kids worked full time, I am betting, so the kids are being raised by someone else – essentially. No one cares for your child as you do, no matter how well trained they are as a care-giver. And the consistency of parenting that takes place with cruisers is not present in most kids lives these days. Add to that the tendency for a classroom of kids to degenerate to the lowest form of behaviour in the class – usually the class clown, and the reality of peer pressure and how many otherwise good kids go off the rails because of it – it really it’s all a recipe for disaster in a child’s life.

  5. You know what makes this post so cool is that y’all don’t even have kids and you are still able to see the wonderous spark in traveling kids. Plus, Zach is one of our favorite floating peeps and he is indeed an awesome example of a kind, polite, innovative, super great boat kid. We put the sailing life on hold for a year on the road, and we have found RV kids to be equally engaging and enjoyable. I can only equate it to this… Parents that spend real time with their kids and then step back enough to let them grow and attempt things that society thinks they are too small to handle, will end up with strong, grounded, successful, awesome kids. Thanks for posting this 🙂

  6. Funny topic in timing…..I was talking to someone last week about this very subject. I am not out there full time so my experience is limited, but through Caribbean chartering and my own boating journeys, I could not agree more. Sad to say, my kids who have their own strengths and assets are in no way as friendly, outgoing, mature, independent, disciplined and as wordly as the kids I have come across who travel full time on boats……They have a self confidence about themselves……

  7. Excellent post. Our kids didn’t grow up on a boat but we did move around a lot due to my husband’s job. This meant our kids had to learn to make friends and as adults they are more adventurous and have both traveled all over the world both before they were 25. Our daughter chose to live on the sea at the age of 21. I remember my sister trying to make me feel bad saying “they’ve never had a swing set.” to which I replied “who needs a swing set when you have a new back yard every summer?”

  8. How true. My father was in the Airforce and we moved about every two years. I learned to make friends quickly and I feel that has help me a lot in life. My mother always said dad was a tourist in his own hometown. Every weekend we would visit places around where he was stationed. I have seen a lot of the USA and a good bit of the world. Kids that travel a lot get to meet new people every day and learn a great deal from these meetings.

  9. Mike, nice post and your observations are very true.

    We did meet some boat parents who discussed one of the downsides. In their opinion, they felt that boat kids were “forced by circumstance” to become more mature earlier in life. While much admired by us cruising adults, this can lead to a “loss of childhood”.

    Fair Winds,
    Mike

  10. Not to rain on your parade, I wonder what happens to the kids when they grow up. Before following ZTC I followed the exploits for several years of Northern Magic sailed out of Ottawa by the Stirmers. The family with young boys seemed ideal on board but I heard through the media that the eldest boy ran into serious trouble with the law and his father when he came ashore at the end of several years cruising. Of course this may just be an aberration (exacerbated by the death of the mother Diane) but it would be an interesting study to take up.

  11. Hi Mike & Rebecca,
    I found your blog over the weekend and started reading day 1 written somewhere in 2009 i think:) It’s now thursday and I have already sailed the world with you two, love your blog! … one day we’ll meet you guys somewhere for a drink.
    We live in the city of sails, Auckland, NZ and decided around 2 weeks ago to sail the world when our kids are out of school, our son has 6 years to go and Meg 2. Somehow i wish we did this earlier so we could have taken the kids with us but now they’ll just have to join us on their OE’s.
    In 10 years time we’ll be heading off to the tropics but for now we’ve decided to base every decision from here on on how it fits into our long term plan both financially and practically. In the meantime, we’re getting our courses done, buying a little sailboat so we can learn the ropes and dreaming about a name for our gorgeous catamaran:) I’ve even applies for a few jobs inthe boating industry here in Auckland, hopefully i get a break… lots to learn and heaps of enthusiasm.
    In any case, we”ll continue following your blog and are counting the summers until we leave… 10 and counting
    all the best,
    Pearl

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