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Fighting Fears

Taking the Plunge

by Clare Collins

Back to Fears

I stood at the kitchen sink looking out at our pool and the lake beyond that had been my view for the last eight years and felt gripped with doubt and fear.

Was packing up and selling off our house and possessions and taking our children away from this comfortable life the right thing to do?

It was certainly far and away the hardest and most exhausting thing I had ever done, and you are talking to someone who has made every house move, including one international, not only solo but pregnant (I have four kids; you do the math). This was on another plane and utterly overwhelming.

There was the temporary storage to declutter the house, but then that had to be resorted and combined with either the long term heirloom storage or short term-take-to-the-boat storage. Then there were the four garage sales, the last of which almost destroyed me before we realized the boys down the road had turned the signs around so no-one was coming.

Repeated dumpster deliveries and innumerable trips to libraries to unload hundreds of books were soul destroying. In amongst all of this, on only two hours of sleep per night, I was trying to get the year's homeschool curriculum finished, including all manner of odiferous dissections, and the house had to be spotless every day and intermittently vacated for all the real estate viewings.

Where was the dream?

Learning to sail with Matthew and Drew in Santa Barbara


When I met my Australian husband in London he was looking for a houseboat and I knew he was a man after my own heart. We would walk along the Thames and gaze enviously at the homes tied up along the banks with their bikes and their boxes of geraniums. We had both sailed in Australia and the dream of living on and sailing in a boat took shape throughout our marriage.

At first we contented ourselves with the model variety; Ken would build them and I would sew the sails. “Bluenose” took shape during the first pregnancy in the landlocked city of Denver a mile above sea-level. In Boston, however, our oldest boys, then aged 3 and 6, got their feet wet sailing a Drascombe Lugger with Ken to George's Island, where I joined them by ferry with our baby daughter.

Then in California, when they were aged 10 and 13, I spent an incomparable 10 days with the boys completing two sailing courses in Santa Barbara. I followed this up with a number of community college classes in sailing, navigation (celestial, paper and electronic), marlinspike and weather. I also studied for my ESL certificate so I could teach English on our travels.

All this time we looked at potential boats online and took turns traveling the country from Alaska to Texas and Maine to Miami, up and down California and across to Baltimore. I pored endlessly, obsessively, over cruising books and magazines.

Finally, we found our boat. In England.

Lymington, UK The boat

Signing the purchase document for our new home

Our next challenge was how best to move on.

Would we move us to her or move her to us? Our solution was a tag team approach.

Ken started from England with a crew and was joined in the Canaries by our oldest boys, by now aged 12 and 15. They all sailed the Atlantic to Panama, where I joined them with our youngest two. Shedding crew along the way we made our way through the canal and up the coast to Ensenada, Mexico, where we left the boat in a yard.



She spent the next year being refit while we readied the house for sale during the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, the closure of my husband's company and the concomitant loss of health insurance.

Were we doing the right thing?

The new graduate crosses the Equator

Earlier this year we held our eldest son's graduation ceremony as he steered our boat across the Equator towards the Galapagos Islands. He will head to university in Australia in January, having sailed two oceans and acquired a second language.

We grabbed the last years that we could to live an adventure together as a family.

Fear can paralyze you.

At the time we were going through the transition, I was reading “Suite Française” by Irene Nemirovsky (OK, so I bought one book on store credit from the used book store when I unloaded all my own).

It is an extraordinarily moving two part novel written during and about the German occupation of France, and reading it colored the countdown in those truly awful final weeks. The first part is all about people failing to identify the signs, leaving too late and clinging onto what no longer matters.

I found it focused me sharply on our tendency to inertia when faced with difficult decisions. We sold our house to the one and only bidder and grabbed our hat from under the descending door of the financial world, jumped in the car and headed south.

Even if this was not the most sensible thing to do, I realized I was more afraid to be still looking at that pool and lake in 10 years time.

I was more afraid of never having tried than I was of making a mistake.


About Clare Collins

Clare Collins and her family are currently sitting out the hurricane season in Ensenada on their Challenge 72 steel racing boat, Ironbarque.

Clare, a speech pathologist and linguist, has always home schooled her children and loves to write about education and cruising. 

Their adventures are documented on their website www.ironbarque.net