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Old 10-04-2001
Mark Matthews Mark Matthews is offline
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Cruising with Teens

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having my daughter cruise with us full time while obtaining a high-school education underway? Are there many programs available via the internet where a quality education can be obtained?

Also, can you tell me about the ease or difficulty in obtaining employment while cruising full-time. I have office and travel background and my husband has property management and investment background.

Mark Matthews responds:
Thanks for the question. Though we know several families who have successfully cruised with teenage children, they remain in the minority, so we can only offer a few general guidelines when it comes to your first question.

There simply is no guarantee that your daughter will share the same excitement that you will when the time comes to head off to a distant locale. Teens have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to deal with at times, especially when it comes to saying goodbye to all their friends. That's one of the reasons that there aren’t a whole lot of teens out cruising with their parents. The importance of the peer group can’t be underestimated. As a teen, I hated sailing, primarily because it took me away from my skateboarding friends until, that is, I learned how to sail myself.

With that caveat out of the way, keep in mind that your daughter could just as easily love the lifestyle—especially if she has a way to keep in touch with friends at home via letters and e-mail. The best bet is to give her a sense of responsibility—whether that comes with route planning, sail handling, navigation, or what have you. The more you make her feel like she is a contributing member of the team, the less it becomes someone else’s dream imposed upon her. Allowing her to make destination and other ‘adult’ decisions can help take the edge off as can cruising with other boats that have youngsters her age.

It's in their very nature for teens to want to get away from their parents from time to time, and if you build this kind of structure into your cruising itinerary, it may mean easier going for everyone. There's really a lot better chance that your proposed trip could be a positive, eye-opening experience than a negative one.

As far as education goes, there are a number of corresondence courses and homeschooling options that present at least an equal educational experience to that found in conventional schools. (Some are mentioned in the articles below.) And of course that's not saying anything about the real life experiences the cruising life can offers. For more in depth information on this issue, check out the following articles that have been published here at SailNet:

Homeschooling in the Tropics by Doreen Gounard

Cruising with Kids by Liza Copeland

Schooling the Sailing Child by Kevin Jeffrey

Kids on Board by Kevin Jeffrey

As far as employment goes, there’s work—and money—all over the world, provided you have the right skill sets, paperwork, and attitude. A lot about working along the way depends on where you are going and how long you want to stay there. Your husband may be able to work from the boat, while you may be able to make inroads wherever your destinations are. My experience has been that if you stay somewhere long enough and make contacts, some form of employment usually presents itself. It’s better to go out and try it than to stay at home and dream about it.

I’d also refer you to the Cruising and Budgets section of our website, and I’d recommend you join one of our E-mail discussion lists where you can communicate with other sailors.

I hope this information proves useful.