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12 Questions to 12 Sailing Families

S/V Merlin Dean 44' Catamaran - Homeport: Cape Town, South Africa

Families Revisited
12 Families
Emmanuelle & Gregory HALL + Victor (15), Félix (13), Cléa (10) - The sv Merlin children were 8, 6 and 2 1/2 years old when the family set sail from South Africa 7 years ago. After cruising to and through the Pacific, the family has put down roots in the Australia. How have they all changed and how are they adapting to their new lives?
2016 - Australia 2008 - South Africa

Click on a question or scroll down this page

1.When and why did you stop cruising?   5. What impact has cruising had on your kids' education?
2. What are you doing now?   6. Any new advice for families contemplating cruising?
3. Do you plan to cruise again?   7. Anything else you would like to share?
4. What impact has your cruising had on your family?    

See Merlin's answers to the original 12 families questions (2010)

About Emmanuelle HALL's BOOK


1.Are you still cruising? If you have stopped, when and why did you stop?

1st stop in Brisbane right in the city between piles - before the big floods

We stopped cruising in December 2010. Our sailing kitty was too light so we had to start working again.

The wind took us to Brisbane, Australia. Landing there wasn’t a clear and well thought choice. We gave ourselves few months to see how things would turn out.

There was one common friend in Brisbane and I soon discovered that I had an old school friend from France living here too. Apart from these two friends, it was an unknown life awaiting us.

Four years later we are still living in Brisbane and on board Merlin, docked at Dockside Marina. It is a little neglected marina on the Brisbane River. However, it is a quiet little spot only a ferry hop away from the city. 70% of the boats moored there are liveaboard boats offering a nice tight little community.

While we are waiting for Merlin to sell (yes Merlin is waiting for a new adventurous family), we are enjoying this very simple life aboard.

2. What are you doing now?

We became Australian citizens a few months ago

We arrived in Australia with a 12 months visitor visa. To be able to work here we had to find someone who would be keen to sponsor one of us, allowing us to then get a working visa.

It took Gregory 5 months to find that job enabling us to get the right visa so we could stay 4 years in Australia.

We were first permanent residents and became Australian citizens a few months ago. Our kids have passports from France, South Africa and Australia, making them real citizens of the world.

Gregory is working in his field. I haven't been so lucky and I have been looking for my dream job since we arrived. I am working part time in a field which has nothing to do with my qualifications. However, it is a paid job, only 5 minute walk from the marina and I work with a boat lover which makes my work environment more pleasurable.

2016 might bring some changes as I decided to go back studying.

3. Do you plan to cruise again?

We miss the cruising life.

When we stopped, we felt that we needed to stop for a little while. We now miss the intense experiences we had in such a short time, the people we met, the cultures we learnt about, the new countries we explored and of course the green flashes.

We go out and sail in Moreton Bay as often as we can, which with our kids activities is not often enough. As soon as we start the motors and leave the dock everybody feels lighter and we all have a smile on our face. Going sailing, even if it is just for the weekend, is our way to reunite our family.

Moreton dunes across the bay - our week-end spot

It looks like we might not go cruising in a too near future, but the cruising/sailing bug is still here. We will do it again, maybe once the kids have left home. We would like to explore some less travelled routes in the Pacific and maybe finish the loop.

All questions

4. What impact has your cruising had on your family and on each of you personally?

We've been living on board Merlin for the last 7 years. Living on a boat means closeness, less material focus, enjoying the river life and going out and about as often as possible. Our favourite activities are to go to the bush for a hike or a bike ride or to go to the beach. We try to teach our kids that accumulated stuff doesn't make you happier and that experiences are much more important.

Our kids now have the travel bug too and ready to try new things whenever possible.

Victor is planning a trip to Nepal for 2016. He loves everything which is outdoorsy. He could hike kilometres without any complaint and has an amazing eye to spot animals (especially snakes which is great for those walking behind him), he goes climbing three times a week and feels free riding downhill with his mountain bike.

Félix and Cléa were chatting together the other day saying that they would like to go cruising one day like we did.

Cruising taught us to travel simply. We try as often as possible to go camping.
The camping philosophy is very similar to the cruising one: having only the essential items, water and energy restrictions, enjoying nature, checking our surroundings, being all involved in some decisions and doing something special together. The kids are very involved. They have their own tent to set up, they make the fire and help with cooking and dishes.

Cléa helping with her tent while camping in Tasmania

Our three children became avid readers. Victor reads a book a day. Félix and Cléa followed his example. Libraries and Kindles became essential. Recently, we took 10 boxes of books out of Merlin and the waterline went up by few centimetres. Even without all of these, there are still books everywhere on board.

Victor reading with his kindle Félix: no book is too big Cléa


We try to stay very curious. We go to exhibitions, learn about new places. We are all more open towards people and new cultures and we engage in conversation easily, even our kids. We are always eager to try new things. Our cruising discoveries taught us to have fewer fears and go out of our comfort zones more easily.

5. What impact has cruising had on your child's education? Has your child enrolled in traditional schools? How has that worked out?

Once we had our working visas we could enroll our children in a public Australian school. After 4 years of home-schooling three kids, I was by then really keen to hand over the teaching hat to someone else.

We went to the local state school and the principal welcomed our kids with open arms. The kids from other passing cruising boats like Totem, Ceilydh and Victoria joined the same school.

After 1 year at school

Cléa started at “Prep” which is the first year in Australia. She was just surrounded with first time schoolers too. She was so happy to have so many friends around her on a daily basis.

Victor and Félix had different experiences. Academically there weren't any big issues. However, it was their first time in an English speaking school and Félix needed extra support with his English. The school offered him some extra classes and after a couple of months he became a very confident English speaker.

Victor had to face some bullies as his differences of being French and South African, home schooled and having sailed across two oceans annoyed a few boys. He didn't want to blend in and stayed with a very small group of friends who he could relate to. So going back to school wasn't a smooth start for Victor but like his siblings he was happy to go to school and do something on his own.

Four years later, our kids are doing great at school and have great report cards. What comes out from the various teachers/parents meetings we've attended is that our three children are confident learners, independent workers, social, very polite and “a pleasure to teach”.

I am sure that their cruising life has had an important role in their way of being, thinking and interacting with others.

Cléa is an amazingly social little girl. Her week-ends are always full of invitations and not only from her class friends.

Félix gave an impressive speech at his primary graduation last year. His school offered him the opportunity to start an instrument. He fell in love with music and now plays clarinet daily by himself and in a few bands.

Félix doing his end of primary school speech Clarinet concert

Victor started drawing shelters and cabana while we were cruising. Now, he designs houses in his spare time as he would like to become an architect. His houses are environmentally friendly, bright and somehow open to their surroundings.

Victor loves everything which is outdoorsy   Cléa is an amazingly social little girl

However, we believe that education doesn't only come from the class room. We try to learn about different topics whenever an opportunity arises. While cruising you are always aware of your environment. Our children understand the reality of climate change and the necessity of protecting our planet. They also know that some people have a less easy life. The boys just finished a fundraising challenge to help children in need.


6. Do you have any advice for families contemplating cruising that you did not cover when you first participated in the Cruising Families project?

Even if it is only for a short time, the cruising life will bond your family with happiness, closeness, and a little something indescribable that only cruisers or travellers might recognise.

7. Anything else you would like to share with potential cruising families?

As you are always on the move with your home, cruising is a great way to travel as a family. It is practical, easy, teaches you great life and practical skills and opens your mind.

Going on such adventure could be intimidating for some kids. Victor wasn't keen on leaving when he was 8 and it took us some determination to convince him about the good times we'd have together.

Reading blogs and stories could encourage their imagination and show them that other kids are also doing it.

My book Merlin's Voyage was inspired by our discoveries and our sailing time. I wanted to share our experiences. This little book might help kids who are unsure but also could show them the importance of having dreams that you can realise one day.

Showing your kids that perseverance and being focused on making your goals happen is an amazing life lesson.

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Read also:

Sailing Families Revisited (2015-16)

MERLIN's answers to the original 12 families questions (2010)

MERLIN's blog

12 questions to 12 sailing Families (2010)

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