The young crew of Moonlighting, our family cruising yacht have all grown up with holidays afloat. They have been sailing on family Westcountry holidays since they were babies and now aged 10,7 and 4 all have many hundreds of miles under their belt having sailed from Cornwall UK to the Canary Islands on our one year sabbatical.
There are a variety of craft aboard in addition to the yacht that we travel on. There is our tender – a rubber dinghy named ‘Dinge’ because she is a bit old and worn, there is a sailing dinghy called ‘Myrtle’ who is much loved and treated as old friend, a kayak and a surfboard. The minute we drop anchor the children are all clamouring to launch the craft and leap gleefully into the sea – this remains constant weather we are sailing off the chilly coast of the U.K, Or here in the Canaries. Thankfully the water temperature is getting warmer and warmer the further south we sail. Now in the temperate Canary Islands, the wetsuits have been shed and it’s rather pleasant jumping in off the deck of the yacht, even for the adults!
Our regular morning routine involves the whole family leaping in shortly after breakfast for a group swim around the boat – sometimes with a bar of soap (there is no shower aboard our yacht) and then the morning swim is a ‘bath’. Wether the family are in swimming costumes or much to the girls delight…naked, for the ‘bath’ largely depends on how busy the anchorage is – we are British and therefore not exhibitionist’s! At least the parents aren’t – the girls would always rather swim naked!
The girls love the water – being on it sailing, kayaking or rowing, being in it surfing or swimming and more recently being under it…snorkelling is something that William and I have always loved and indeed have experienced on previous sailing adventures in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
But introducing the children to the wonders beneath the ocean is really quite a special family experience. We were keen that Nancy our youngest crew at 4 would be able to join us on family swims off the back of the boat and snorkelling expeditions. So, we did invest quite heavily in private, one to one swimming lessons for her in the year leading up to our departure. It was expensive, but I have to say her teacher was excellent with her and did a really great job – she was doggy paddling confidently across the pool way before we left home and now leaps in off the deck with no buoyancy aid required for a swim around the boat.
It is quite a challenge to find decent snorkelling gear that is not just a toy for young children – particularly our four year old. But after some trial and error we finally found a nice little set of Gul junior fins, snorkel and mask that works well.
Now that we are in warmer seas, it is great to be able to snorkel off the back of the boat and see the world waiting beneath the waves. The visibility is so much better than back in the UK, there are always colourful fish to spot and shells to dive down and collect. It is wonderful to all head out together clad in our snorkelling gear and hear the excited snorkel babble as they try to talk still underwater, snorkel in mouth to draw your attention to what they have spotted. As we glance behind to make sure they’re all still following and receive three snorkely grins and three little divers ‘OK’ symbols, with their thumbs and first fingers making a zero back at you, it does make me stop and think…this is why we’re doing this. We’re desperate to get across to the Caribbean, just to see them leap into warm waters and show them the underwater parks to play in there…