A day in the life of a young circumnavigator

From Ocean Navigator #128
March/April 2003
My family and I are circumnavigating on Danza, our steel ketch. We are now based in Australia, where we are waiting out the cyclone season before returning to the islands of the South Pacific. We left our home in Edgecomb, Maine, on March 25, 2000. My brothers, David, 15, and Jasper, 12, my sister Charlotte, 7, and I, 13, have a very different lifestyle from most kids all over the world. Of course, we get up and do school everyday just like other kids, but we work right at the saloon table or on our parents’ bunk – or in the cockpit looking out at beautiful turquoise water and stunning islands with long sand beaches. School takes up most of the morning. We eat breakfast whenever we can, between subjects, during subjects, anytime. It basically is a get-it-yourself thing, and the main saloon and galley can get pretty crowded with six people trying to make food, eat and do school all at once. We don’t take weekends off because we take random days for special events, such as climbing volcanoes, unusual village happenings, and sometimes, if the wind is perfect, for kiteboarding.

Sarah Nutt at work in the cockpit of Danza while at anchor in Fiji.

Sophie, our French friend, often comes over from her boat to help David and me with our French vocabulary and accents. For now, math is very simple, and I can do two or three lessons a day. Science consists of reading and experiments. History takes an hour every other day. I read and discuss it with Dad. And of course there are the ever-dreaded tests for all subjects. And I write every day anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more. School only takes a few hours, but it’s no fun, as you can probably imagine, with our parents as our teachers. It’s difficult without classmates or teachers other than your parents, and school is definitely the hardest part about the trip. I don’t have assigned reading, but we have over 500 books aboard, and we all read at least two hours everyday. And on rainy days, I’ll read three or four books. Sometimes there’s just nothing else to do.

My parents brought us out here because they wanted to raise their family in an alternative lifestyle from the one we would have in Maine. I was 11 when I left my home. I loved my home, my school, my friends, everything that I knew. I was happy to be there and be a normal kid, but my parents wanted to be out here, and my brothers were keen as well. Charlotte was young, and she didn’t really have any preference. I still don’t want to be out here – I miss my friends and home – but I try to make the best of it. We are seeing different cultures and different lifestyles, and we’re realizing that you can be happy with the very least of things; you don’t have to have all the newest equipment to have fun. We meet fascinating people, other yachties and local people on the islands.

Danza under sail. The Nutt family has spent two seasons cruising the islands of the South Pacific and spent cyclone seasons in Australia.

We go to villages where the people have only one holey shirt and one pair of shorts, where they live in palm thatch huts. They have cooking fires in the middle of the dirt floor of the huts, and a there is always a haze of smoke inside. They grow their own vegetables in their gardens, and they grow pigs and cows for meat. They have no ovens, no running water, no computers, no TV, no proper showers or toilets. They have the bare minimum, but they love to make feasts for you and trade beautiful carvings for T-shirts and school supplies. They welcome you into their villages, and they are always smiling and waving.

When we go to sea, we all get seasick and throw up and all feel miserable, for the first few days at least. During the day, we don’t have a set watch; we set the timer for 12 minutes and whoever’s closest to the companionway will go up and look around for freighters or other boats. At night, though, David, Mum, Dad and I all have regular watches. David goes from after dinner (usually around 1930) until 2300. He likes long watches. I go from around 2300 until 0200. Mum goes after me until around 0500, and Dad goes from 0500 to whenever someone else wakes up, around 0800. Dad is always up at night and checking the bilge and sails and all the other things daddy/captains check. The most exciting thing that happens every day, the thing we spend our whole day planning around, is when we get to drink our Cokes. One Coke a day. It’s pretty funny how that’s so important to us, but it is. David is the only one who does school on passage. The rest of us just read. We also watch movies and sleep and every once in a while we eat, but Dad is the only one who likes food on passage. As soon as we start feeling sick, he gets us big bowls of potatoes or soup or something with little flavor and tells us to eat it. And he’s all cheery about it, too. He gets this big smile on his face when he hands you your bowl, and you just want to chuck him overboard. But we survive passages. And, after all, we spend most of the time at anchor – and enjoying life in the process.

Sarah Nutt

To read a description of home/boat schooling from Sarah’s father, former boatbuilder David Nutt, visit www.OceanNavigator.com and click the Web Extras button.

By Ocean Navigator