We’ve met a lot of interesting people from many places while cruising, but recently here in Isla Mujeres we met a remarkable family.
I was looking out on the anchorage one morning and noticed a rather handsome looking, center-cockpit, ketch-rigged sailboat that suddenly looked very, very familiar. When I called Carrie up on deck and asked, “Isn’t that a Gulfstar 50 like Firefly?” she confirmed my sighting and when we went ashore that day we swung by to say hello.
Unfortunately no one was there but when we circled around the stern the name “Bojangles” struck a familiar note, and I realized I had seen this Gulfstar 50 on the list of the Gulfstar Owner’s Association, and Carrie said she had traded emails with the owner some months back.
We swung by Bojangles again the following day and when we saw someone was aboard we approached and said hello like we often do. We found, however, that these were not the owners; rather they were a family of 5 chartering the boat for an entire year in the Caribbean. They insisted that we come aboard and sit with them for a while, and we got to know an extremely warm couple who looked to be in their early 30’s, both very fit, highly energetic, and knowledgeable sailors. We also met their 3 lovely children; the oldest boy was 9, their daughter whose age we didn’t get, and the younger boy who was 4. We merrily traded stories about the boat and the challenges of sailing her, the places we’d each been, and asked how the children had enjoyed sailing and their year-long adventure. The oldest son very frankly answered, “Not much!” to which his father knowingly smiled and added, “He’s very honest.”
The children said (not too surprisingly) that they’d rather be “normal” and go to school with their friends, to which we smiled and wondered how they’d feel about it after they returned to a “normal” life for a while. We offered some stories about some of the many impressive Cruising Children we have met who, while just trying to be kids, still soak up some amazing experiences for their young age and how unique they become among other mainstream children.
As we talked more, I assumed they were Canadian since that is where the boat is from, but their accents continued to puzzle me. When I asked where they were from the father smiled and replied, “Israel.”
Our total surprise and heightened interest must have become apparent with the rapid-fire questions we began to ask. How did a young family from Zofar, Israel, a small farming community along the Israeli/Jordanian border come to take a year off to sail the Caribbean with their 3 children? They live in a country on the other side of the world that is in the news almost daily in one of the most volatile areas we know of!! All the while they smiled that wise, confident sort of grin, like it was not that big a deal; just an experience they wanted for their family.
As all Israelis are required to do, both of the adults have served in the military. The wife was in the Navy and grew up in Haifa, the largest seaport in Israel, to which she attributed her knowledge and love of the sea and sailing. But now they live in a small farming community hundreds of miles from the coast with about 100 other families in the desert. They dig down almost 2 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) for their water and they grow Bell Peppers and Dates, among several other things.
When Carrie and I went ashore and plugged in to the Internet I hurriedly published some blogs and checked email because I couldn’t wait to look up the Israeli village of “Zofar” to see where these folks live. Shortly thereafter he appeared at my shoulder on their way into town and proudly showed us his village and the surrounding area on Google Earth satellite imagery. Fascinating!
Their year is almost over and they are preparing to return to their home country, their farm and what they would call a normal life. We truly felt honored to meet and get to know them even for just a short time. They provided us some remarkable perspective on life, cruising and generally getting the most out of the time we all have.
Almost all of the cruising families we have encountered in our travels have impressed us, mostly in positive ways. Carrie and I marvel at how they struggle every day to provide their children with a truly unique experience that has immeasurable impact on their development, while at the same time working hard to also provide them with a stable and safe environment to grow up in.
Without getting into the debate about how safe this environment is for children, just know that our “hat is off” to every parent that raises cruising children. They give up a lot for the privilege of spending lots of time every day in close personal contact with their kids trying to help them be the best they all can be. I believe that is something most parents can only dream of these days.
This family has left a lasting impression on both Carrie and I, just in case I haven’t already made that abundantly clear.