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    Once upon a time, there was a family about to move on a sailboat...

Boat-schooling Part 2 – UNSCHOOLING

The school refers to everything that takes place in a more academic form – sitting, pen and papers, teacher and boards. The rest is what we call unschooling. However, it does not mean it is effortless for the parents. Quite the contrary, to include unschooling on a day to day basis requires research and dedication of time. Here is what is part of her unschooling.

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Boat-school on Pablo

I am not a teacher, but I am homeschooling Salty.

Here’s the full school program:

  • 5 minutes drill
  • 20 minutes learning/practicing to read
  • 20 minutes learning to write
  • 20 minutes learning maths

7 days a week, from roughly 7h30 to 8h30 – with my morning coffee.

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Prepare for war!

The Great 11 Years War

“One day Cass, we’ll have a dry boat”, I say when going down inside Sputnik. That was 8 years ago, and I was yet again welcomed by pools of water over the floor. A mix of rain water coming from the mast, condensation from the cold weather in Quebec and millions of undiscovered leaks. I was set to have a dry boat. A boat without water in the bilge. Which isn’t a small feat, given the fact that Sputnik was 27 years old. And that it was, you know, a boat.

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2 years…

I woke up this morning to find an email of domain renewal; it’s been 2 years already that we decided to create saltymatey.com. In a weird way, it is such a milestone! 2 years ago, we were chatting online MDF instrument about stethoscope; how to chose one for our trip. It turned into an hour long chat session in which we explained to the agent our trip; why we felt so compelled to go explore the oceans with our kids. It turned out our story really appealed to her and she asked us if we had a website our something; they wanted to sponsor us…. 😲🤯

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The oh so HOT topic of food!

Nothing is easy on a boat. From washing your clothes in a bucket, just to have them hanging on the lifeline for 4 rainy days before you can finally sleep with some bedsheets! – to simply having to chase down your plate that is sliding down the table while you’re eating at anchor because another boat pass by… Nothing is easy.

I guess more than anything else, food is the recurring topic. To start, finding food can be a challenge in itself, depending of the island you’re on… Or the price you’re willing to pay for it! (I’m still mad at that tiny carrot we paid 2.25$ in the Bahamas. Why? I felt guilty that the kids didn’t eat any fresh veggies in 2 days.. Having a good parent-conscience can be expensive).

To bring that food back to the boat can be laborious as well, walking sometimes more than an hour in the sun with a backpack and 3 tote bags, trying to hurry up as much as you can while feeling the frozen chicken dripping through the backpack and in your pants…

And then there is the small feat of storing everything. That is washing in water and vinegar all the fruits and veggies to make sure no bugs climb aboard, removing all the labels of the cans and washing them with vinegar so no cockroach will feast on the glue of the label. Labelling them (or forgetting to sometime) and stashing everything away; which on Pablo is mostly under the kids’ beds, or behind the settee in the living room, or in the forward bathroom…but mostly never in the actual kitchen for some reason. And finally putting the once-upon-a-time cold products in a top-loading fridge. Something that we refer to as playing 3D Tetris on a speed-time-trial level, since you need to hurry up in the ridiculous hope that said fridge will stay a tad colder than the cabin.

But getting the food is half of the story. Cooking 3 meals, day after day, with a selection of products that is modest to say the least compared to your average North American supermarket is a battle in itself. Inspiration is hard to get by. And it’s SOOOO DAMN HOT in the galley!

But good food can really uplift the mood. So before every passage, we always try to come up with something a bit different and crowd pleasing (believe me; on passage, in rough seas, the last thing you want to do is start a war with your kid about the need for him to eat his brussel sprouts!) . We also tend to have a very lax schedule, allowing everybody to choose what they want to eat and when, therefore reducing by a good amount the tendency to seasickness. But even doing so, Cass still gets easily seasick, leaving to Sam the care of the boat, the kids and the meals. So we often try to prep a bit of food in advance.

We’re about to embark on our longest passage yet, leaving Bonaire tomorrow night for a landfall in Colon, Panama. A passage of roughly 800NM that should let us sleep at sea for 6 nights given the light winds forecasted. Which means that today, Sam spent the whole day in the blistering hot (41°C!) galley cooking us some meals that should create some smiles along the way.

7 hours spent in front of a tiny oven and we’re ready to feed an armada!

Here’s what is plan for our passage to Panama:

Day 1
– Muesli and yogurt with fresh pears
– Baguette, camembert, dry chorizos and green apples
– A good old beef stew

Day 2
– Toats with a choice of peanut butter or ginger jam for the shakiest crew members
– Green lentils, mushroom and sharp cheddar loaf
– Chickpeas & sausages spag

Day 3
– Grilled cheese with zucchini & chocolate muffins
– Sandwiches
– Spinach & lardons pasta with melted feta cheese

Day 4
– Carrots, raisins and chocolate chips bread (I should really call them cakes)
– Croque-monsieur with salami and gouda
– Beef stew

Day 5
– Good morning burritos! with scrambled eggs and ground beef wrap in a tacos bread with cheese
– Rice salad with chicken, green peas, corn, tomatoes and celery with a yogourt & honey dressing
– Pizzas with smoked-steak, bell-peppers, red onions and sharp gouda on a homemade basil, beer and whole wheat thin-crust

Day 6
– Muesli crumble fresh apples and dried apricots
– Curry soup
– Spag

Plans are made to be changed, but the good news is that all of it is already cooked, portioned and wrapped, awaiting for somebody to just grab it and reheat it. And we have a good collection of ziplocks full of pre-cut veggies with hummus, hard-boiled eggs and dry sausages. And tons of snacks, ranging from the quick ramen soups to an extensive range of cookies, crackers, popcorn, chocolates and so on. But for the kids, passage time means that they will get back their Halloween candies, something they’re really looking forward too!

The captain’s celebration beer. Before every passage, Sam buys himself 1 real good beer. We sometime jokes that it’s half of his motivation to bring us back to land…

And not to worry. Sam being Sam, all those meals have been cooked as double recipe, meaning we can easily last 14 days at sea without even having to think about that pack of hotdog sausage waiting to become the celebratory mac&cheese!

Chapter 31. Lost In Dominican Republic.





I grab the VHF at lightning speed. 


-Handy Andy! Handy Andy! This is Pablo. Pablo.


I wait completely distraught.


-Pablo. This is Handy Andy. How can I help you?

-Just dropped my sunglasses in the water. Can you send a diver as soon as you can?

-We’re coming in an hour sharp.

-…Ok thank.


One hour! Are they crazy? This is not some dollar store glasses, they are adapted to my eyes. The water here in Luperon, Dominican Republic, is not so nice. The visibility is maybe 2 feet in front of you. There is no chance I will find my glasses myself with only snorkelling gear in 17 feet even though I dropped them right under my boat. There is no chance they will find my glasses in one hour with all the current in the bay. 


-I told you you needed a something to attach them Cass, said Sam.

-OH! SHUT UP!!! 


I am so upset at myself that Sam doesn’t dare talking anymore. While waiting, I realize it’s about time we leave Dominican Republic.


It started the same way 2 weeks before:



Water is much less pretty than in the Bahamas, although the country is much more lush.

Walking to the companionway to talk to my amazing husband cooking a glorious breakfast for the family after we had pretty rough seas (8ish feet waves) the whole night while making the crossing from Turk and Caicos to Dominican Republic:


-Sam… I just dropped your fishing knife in the water.

-My fishing knife? MY RAPALA? Not the one Vince gave me 3 years ago saying it would be THE knife when catching our fish on the boat? That Rapala?

-Well… yes.


-Hey…well…we don’t need a Rapala now. We haven’t catch a fish. In fact, the lines got all tangled at the back of the boat. Would you go untangle all that before we arrive so at least it doesn’t get stick in another boat line or worst, in our propeller…? 


Trying to change subject didn’t make Sam happier that morning.


Also, the second day after we arrived, we celebrated my birthday with friends of La Metta, also in DR. Salty was so excited to show her unicorn to the other kids. (She got an egg, put in the water, bring it everywhere with you because you need to take care of said baby to come, even in the dinghy rides, grocery, etc, etc and a unicorn grow out the shell, a bit like these small sponge dinosaurs when we were young.)


-Sam did you see Salty’s unicorn after we left the pub?

-No I thought you had it?

-What do you mean I had it! Leeloo was having it I think.

-If she did then why do you ask me?

-Because we don’t have it anymore, and she doesn’t either! We lost THE baby unicorn of Salty… SHIT! SHIT!



I came back to the pub the next morning, made a drawing of the lost unicorn. No unicorn.



-She didn’t notice yet. 

-I know, but she will eventually.

Bring a kid in a pub in DR? No problemas!

A week later, a man crossed the street and came to see me. And to my surprise, he showed me Salty’s unicorn. 



-My rapala? Replied Sam.

-Of course not! I mean the Unicorn.

-Of course a unicorn. Why would we care about my very expensive knife when we can care about a dollar store unicorn. RIGHT? 


I get out of my thoughts as Handy Andy arrives with the diver. 


-You know there is almost no hopes Cass, said Sam.

-OH SHUT UP! (still angry).

-How much did they ask.

-No idea. 

-Well I hope you realize we must pay them even if they don’t find your sunglasses Cass.

-Oh sh… yeah. 


GULP. Didn’t think about that. I did not even bargain a price upfront.


-Do you think there is a chance to find them? I ask naively to Handy Andy.

“We have to pray! he says putting gas into his compressor. A lot” he adds looking seriously at me.

After 5 minutes, I was sore of crossing all my fingers in the hope we’d get lucky. The diver comes out:


-You have a good karma maam! says Handy Andy showing proudly the sunglasses. My sunglasses.



Later that night:


-OUFFF….time to get out of Dominican Republic. First we lose the Rapala, then we lose the unicorn, now we lose the sunglasses! What’s next?!

-Our minds! replies Sam.

-Ha. Ha. Ha. At least we got lucky. 


He turns and looks sadly at the entrance of Luperon where the Rapala fell and sits in the troubled water. And where it will remain probably for ever….


-Pffffff….talk for yourself.


Featured image: Coast of Dominican Republic is not easy to sail to say the least. A man we met told us how much he preferred his motorbike to sailing : “I can go in any wind. No weather window to wait. That’s more like freedom to me!” 🙂 I still love his thinking although pretty unpractical with 2 kids in tow.


Chapter 30. Overtime.

Turk and Caicos is a place we had to wait for a weather window to cross to Dominican Republic. The weather windows are getting scarce and the wind north the coast of D.R. blows strong and steadily. 


-Sam. Remember that weather window that was way to short to cross the 20 hours up to DR?

-Yeah. What about it?

-It got longer. It is stalling.

-Ok. Ok? 

-Sam. What I mean, is maybe this window is what we need to cross. It is tomorrow though.

-Cass, it’s 23:45. Can’t you just come in bed and we look at that tomorrow.


-Not at all! Listen. If we don’t want to be stuck on an island where it costs 11$ to buy some hot dog buns, we have to jump on the first weather window.


-At this time of the year, there is gonna be a few a month Cass.

-Wrong!!! That was true a month and a half ago when we were in the Bahamas, winter. Now it is springs and the winds are getting stronger and steadier. It will be weeks before there is another weather window arrives.

(And that was true, because our friends already in DR waited more than a month to get a window. So much that we caught up on them and waited ourselves with them an extra 2 weeks!)


-Ok. So let’s move tomorrow afternoaaaawwwwww…. Sam yawns. Exhausted and happy to close the conversation and hit the bed.

-Sam…we have to clear the customs tomorrow before leaving around noon. 

-It’s Sunday Cass, there will be no one in line. It will take 1 hour and I’ll be back.

-Ok, I’m reassured then. We will be able to leave before one o’clock, plus 20 hours, that makes for a landfall around, ehhh…

-Before 9am in D.R.

-Yeah, enough light to arrive. And just before the day wind peaks up at 11h00 am. That is perfect Sam.

-Good night Cass.

-Good night Sam.


Snore…. Snore…. O_O



-Eeehhh, what? What, who?  what the heck Cass? He mumbles half awake.

-It’s Sunday tomorrow. Custom will be closed!!! We won’t be able to take the window!

-We can pay overtime Cass. Like, giving an extra 15$ and they are fine wit it. You are negative. What can go wrong?

-Murphy’s law. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.

-Pfff. Let me sleep now. Don’t bring your negativity in my dream. Good night.


The next morning, we try to find the custom’s office to be there sharp at the opening;


-It’s there! Said the kind taxi driver who brought us there for free.

-Thank you sir, say Sam.

-But there won’t be someone. There is a big funeral on the island, pretty much everyone is out there.

-Why didn’t you say that before… Any way of reaching the custom’s office. There must be someone? We are willing to pay overtime, we heard it can be done.

-Let me call my friend Dana;


“Dana? Dana! Do you know someone who works at the customs? Brigitte? You have her number? Ok.”


-She says the owner of the general store have the number of Brigitte.

-Who’s Brigitte?

-I don’t know but she might help you.



Matey, usually the kind of kid very patient. But that day, it was long…


At the general store the owner calls;


“Dany? Dany, Brigitte doesn’t answer. You know someone she is with? Ah. Ah. Ok.”


-We have to text Doug. He might be with her.

-Ok…you have that Doug text number.

-Wait. My uncle knows him, I’ll call him.


It goes like that a while. Until we are told a lady, Brigitte I guess, might be able to show up after the ceremony, before the reception of the funeral.


We wait. I get passive agressive, because of the stress I guess, and because I keep looking at the price in the store. Peanut butter, small pot for 12.45 USD$. Comb from 1978 still in original package, 28 USD$. Pot of strawberry jam, 17 USD$. We gotta get out of T&C before we’re ruined!

-What can go wrong!? Hein Sam!

-Cass. Don’t get upset at me! It’s not my fault the weather window is this afternoon.


The owner interrupts us :


-She waits for you.

-At the custom’s office!? That is great.

-No boy! She’s THERE, in the parking. See the truck. GO SEE HER.


Sam runs and jumps on the passenger seat of the Brigitte’s pick up truck. It is 12h45.


-Mommy, are we going to the custom’s office now? asks Salty.

-No sweety. I mean, yes. I mean, the pick up truck IS the custom’s office for today. I guess that is called overtime.


She looks outside;


-WOOOOOoowww the lady is all pretty in her dress.

-There is a big ceremony this morning. And she might want to go back real quick…

-I’m hungry Mommy, pests Mateo tired of waiting. It’s long.

-Well, as I said to Salty, I cannot imagine that takin very long, when you clear out of a country signing paper on the dash of the lady’s truck.


Sam comes back 4 minutes after.


-Let’s roll guys. We’re out of here… See Cass, nothing went wrong!


We left T&C at 13h30.  And I still believe in Murphy’s law.


Captain Sam, always happy to be right about being optimistic in life.

Featured image: a non-retouched photo of the T&C waters. Yes, it was that blue!