For many of us the change of the seasons means pulling out winter coats or putting them away, but for Cindy Wallach and her family, the change of the seasons has a much more profound impact on their daily life. That's because they live on a boat. Yes, a boat. A sailboat. It sounds like the start of thrilling adventure tale doesn't it? A family living on a sailboat... luckily for us, their story is a delightfully real one. If you aren't already familiar with Cindy and her wonderful blog, Zach Aboard, you are in for a treat. It's hard not to get sucked into the brightly colored photographs, the lively tales of life afloat, the adventures of homeschooling, the bursts of creative inspiration, and most of all Cindy's warmth and sincerity. Please join me in welcoming Cindy to The Magnifying Glass!
We are a family of 4 living aboard a 44 foot catamaran sailboat. My husband and I have been living aboard full time since 1998 (we had a smaller boat pre-kids). We headed out cruising full time in 2001-2002 before kids and plan to cast off again in fall 2012. My husband Doug and I met on the sailboat racing scene here in Annapolis and we shared the dream of living aboard and traveling. So we combined our energies and resources and made it happen. I was 25 years old when we bought our first boat together and moved aboard.
I imagine that by living on the water you are even more closely attuned to weather and natural occurrences than the rest of us. Can you talk a bit about that?Do you have any special training or weather devices for anticipating sudden changes in weather or tides?
We don't just see nature or read about it, we FEEL it. We know when the wind changes direction and can tell lying in bed what direction it's coming from. When it rains, it can be so loud we don't hear much else. The tides directly impact our day to day life, sometimes preventing us from safely being able to get on or off the boat (we have fixed docks, not floating ones) and forcing us to make a last minute change in plans for the day.
We have a standard barometer and we use online weather sources for now. When we head out, we will switch to single sideband radio weather access. We have some basic marine weather training, but nothing fancy. Our life is so outdoor oriented, we're all just tuned in to it. I love it when Zach notices a squall line or reads the clouds. He's very aware of the natural world, it's very second nature to him having been born and raised aboard. One of his first phrases as a tot was "Low Tide!" and "High Tide!"
Did you grow up on/around boats and water? Did you always dream of raising your kids on a boat?
Nobody in our families sail and they all think we're a little nuts. I was taught how to sail as a girl on Lake Michigan by some fabulous neighbors who trusted me with their little Sunfish sailboat when I was about 11. I remember growing up in Chicago my parents LOVED to garden, They would take us to this large garden center on spring weekends and my dad would say we could each pick out whatever seeds and bulbs we wanted. But they had these sailboats in the garden center, and I preferred to climb aboard those and play while they shopped for plants. I remember saying, "Daddy look, this boat has a bed and a stove and a potty! It's got everything you need to live on it." I guess I had the bug early. Then I read a book in high school called Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi and that was IT. I knew I had to sail away.
How do you incorporate the study of nature (both formally and informally) into your homeschooling activities?
I think studying nature is best done in an informal manner until kids are much, much older. The most important thing at this age is to instill a love and passion for the natural world. If you are in it all the time playing and exploring and tasting and building and traveling and drawing and noticing and touching then you will want to know more. Just holding hands, going for a walk, and talking is our favorite nature study. Zach loves to collect bits and pieces of dead things and living things. I encourage him to collect (respectfully) anything he's curious about. And being a very artistically oriented kid, he loves to head out with his pencils and draw what he sees. We also love casting critter tracks in plaster when we find them on the beach or in the fresh mud. Our only formal nature study is a natural sciences class we take at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
Do you celebrate or mark the spring equinox in any special ways as a family? Does the change in tides related to the equinoxes have any impact on your water-based home?
Spring Equinox is our big spring time holiday. We talk about mythical things like the Root Children preparing underground for the arrival of spring. And we talk about our trip around the sun and how day and night are equal and weather is pleasant untlike the extremes of the Solstices. We usually deocorate the boat with flowers and rainbows and start our dockside container garden. Our routine is evolving year to year, and when we cast off again and sail off to the lands of eternal summer in the tropics we'll have to seek out a new natural rhythm and new traditions to mark the calendar.
Our tides here on the Chesapeake are more wind driven than anything else. Our lumar tides are very small. But warm, strong southerly breezes will push the open ocean water up into the Bay and surge the water high around and sometimes over the docks.
Please share some of your favorite places for outdoor adventures. Any tips on getting out and about with kids in nature?
We equally adore the beach and the woods. And we feel so lucky to have had many wonderful National Park experiences from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Assateague Island on the Atlantic Ocean. Truly, our own "backyard" is where we have most of our natural adventures. Great Blue Herons land on our foredeck and peak in our windows. We've watched the osprey build their nests on pilings and we've seen a sea snake try to eat an eel. We've rescued an injured duck from just outside our boat and we've also served as a baby duck nursery when many nesting mamas decided to live in our tomato plants. We see the muscrats scurry around the marsh grasses and Zach has become an expert at catch & release with the blue crabs. Where the water meets the land there is always something to discover.