Go to WomenAndCruising.com

Sailing Families Revisited

S/V Terrapin 45' Dufour Ketch - Homeport: San Diego, USA

Families Revisited
12 Families

Phil & Aimee NANCE + Jessica (11) & Emma (10) - This family of 4 read and reread Women and Cruising to gain the motivation and knowledge to go cruising. Now out sailing in Mexico, they are “passing it on” and sharing THEIR answers.

Click on a question or scroll down this page

1. The biggest challenge you faced in getting out there?   7. How do you handle: HEALTH and SAFETY?
2. Is there a best age to take children cruising?   8. How do you handle: EDUCATION and FULFILLMENT?
3. Any modifications to the boat for your children?   9. How do you handle: TASKS and CHORES?
4. Any advice for would-be sailing families?   10. What do you like BEST / LEAST about cruising?
5. A typical day aboard?   11. Has cruising changed your family?
6. What are your kid's responsibilities aboard?   12. A recipe for cruising families?

Learn More about the TERRAPIN family


1. What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting out there?


Our greatest challenge was finding a boat within our budget that met all of our criteria.

We really wanted our girls to have their own cabins, I wanted a boat that let in a large amount of light and Phil wanted to ensure our boat was mechanically sound.

We had originally wanted a catamaran, but they were not in our price range.

We went with our Dufour because of her seaworthiness, her high and well-lit pilothouse salon, and the 3 cabin layout.

2. How old were your children when you left? Is there a best age to take children cruising?

Our girls were 9 and 11 years old when we left to cruise.

We felt these were the perfect ages as they are old enough to contribute to running the boat, and also old enough to have their own personal experiences that they will understand and remember.

If they were much older we would have felt that we’d be tearing them away from well established social lives and teenager-hood.

All questions

3. Did you make modifications to the boat for your children?

Lifeline netting and kayak racks
Cabin make over
Sisters..hanging out in a newly designed cabin
  • We added lifeline netting to keep kids, cats and other objects onboard.
  • We also added racks attached to our stanchions to carry our two big 2-person kayaks.
  • To personalize the boat we had all new upholstery done for the settee and cockpit, painted both girls cabins and put our Terrapin logo on both sides of the bow.
  • We wish we had upgraded the solar system on board to a 600 watt system. Our system is older and does not give us enough power to run the fridge, freezer and watermaker while at anchor

4. Anything you wish you had known before you got started?

At this point, not really. Part of the fun for us has been figuring it out as we go along!

Phil, Aimee, Jessica, Emma and Murphy
ready to set sail for adventure

Any advice for families?

Make a plan, and get out there! It is a million times worth it and you and your kids will benefit in ways that you can’t even imagine.

We cut the dock lines with hopes that selling off our possessions, saving for almost two years and all the goodbyes would be worth it.

Over hearing our daughters talk about how they can’t wait to read out of their daily journals to their future children assures us that it’s worth it and that this was the right decision.

All questions

5. A typical day aboard

A typical day at anchor

Girls snorkeling at Jaltemba, Mexico

While there is no typical day we aim to have a routine.

We usual start each day with 3-4 hours of school followed by lunch. Boat schooling can be hard when there are so many adventures to be had.

After school and lunch we do an afternoon activity. Sometimes this means we go for a hike, snorkel, go into town, kayak or just swim.

The girls love fishing from the boat and Phil spearfishes every day. This keeps us stocked up with plenty of fish to eat.

Almost everyday we have a family happy hour. This is when the four of us talk about the highlights of our day and plan for tomorrow.

Family happy hour consists of a homemade snack such as ceviche with freshly caught fish, homemade pretzel sticks or cookies. The girls have an afternoon glass of juice, lemonade or punch and we enjoy a cold cerveza.

Playing with Legos in the cockpit during a smooth passage

A typical day on passage

Passages sometimes start in the middle of the night so that we reach our destination during daylight hours.

The sea state really dictates what we do on passage.

There have been days when we all sit in the cockpit as it’s the only comfortable place to be.

Then there are days when it’s calm enough that Phil and I will read books while the girls play with Legos, Barbies or other toys on deck.

Each passage starts the same with a loaf of banana bread for an easy breakfast or snack and we have always made a large pot of stew for a quick lunch or dinner.

We always fish while on passage, so sometimes we get to enjoy fresh fish as well.

All questions

6. What are your kid's responsibilities aboard?

Emma hard at work helping to raise sails   Jessica, trying to beat Emma's time in their daily furling of the jib contest

Our girls have a list of things to do in order to help get the boat ready for passage. Their responsibilities range from making sure all our doors are latched, putting away all clothes drying on the lifelines to helping with the anchor.

Daily responsibilities include taking care of our cat, doing the dishes, helping to ready the kayaks and putting towels on lifelines to dry.

Underway, they hoist and trim the sails and pull in the fish that we catch.

7. How do you handle: HEALTH and SAFETY?

Safety is our main priority. Many decisions made are based upon safety, like when to leave versus stay at anchor, places we venture onshore or food we're willing to try.

We've forgone any type of traveling health insurance as medical procedures and drugs are a fraction of the cost in other countries compared to the States. Phil has an extensive background in dealing with health situations and has compiled a comprehensive medical kit. We have everything one would need for scrapes, cuts, bug bites to a full cabinet of antibiotics, etc.

In additional to our medical kit we have remedies for seasickness such as Dramamine and a variety of ginger candies and sodas. Emma gets seasick only when it is really rough and Dramamine seems to work fine for her.

8. How do you handle: EDUCATION and FULFILLMENT?


After searching for what would be the perfect way to approach boat schooling we created our own curriculum.

Using a fish to learn about science.

We had considered purchasing a “school in a box” type program like Calvert but wanted to tailor our girls studies appropriate for where we’d be traveling. Why learn about ancient Egypt when you’re sailing through the Panama Canal?

Starting with printing out the state standards we researched books that had been used within the school system to teach the various subjects.

Because many schools now offer online textbooks it was easy for us to find their books online or in a pdf file and print them out ourselves.

Not wanting to rely on WiFi it was important for us to have most of our books either downloaded to a tablet or printed out and put into folders.

With the help of a hard drive, we keep most school material on the hard drive and download new material when necessary to the girls Kindles.


Boat kids keeping busy having fun.

As far as social interactions, we hang out with other kid boats as much as possible.

There is no shortage of cruising families in Mexico!

9. How do you handle: TASKS and CHORES?

Emma helping to make cookies

Part of what we want our girls to get out of this trip is to learn to work within a cohesive group.

Everyone on the boat has chores appropriate to their ability.

The girls take turn feeding the cat, making sure he has water and his liter box is kept.

They both assist Phil and I in preparing the boat to sail by stowing all belongings, latching doors, clearing off towels from the lifelines and helping remove the sail covers.

For laundry, we use a bucket and a toilet plunger and then hang the wet clothes on lines up on deck.

10. What do you like BEST / LEAST about cruising?




I like being in warm places. I love coming into a new place and not knowing what to expect.


I love the quality of family time and experiencing new adventures together.

Jessica (11)

I love seeing all the animals.

Emma (10)

I love how different all the places we visit are from each other.




Rolly anchorages, watching a family member get seasick or be uncomfortable.


Hunting down WIFI .

Jessica (11)

Rough passages.

Emma (10)

Bugs that bite.

11. Why did you go cruising as a family? Has cruising changed your family?

Why did we go cruising as a family

Our trip was prompted by the two hour a day commutes we were both doing. For years we each would get in our cars and head off to work in opposite directions leaving a nanny to raise our girls. Never were we all together for dinners and we both felt that we were missing our girls growing up.

One day while going through our daily routine, Phil suggested that we sell our house, buy a boat and set sail.

After two days of thinking about his “crazy” idea I agreed and in less than two years we set sail.

Has cruising changed our family

We’ve all learned to practice patience. Nothing about sailing is fast.

We have a new found respect for each other as living in close quarters requires it. We now make decisions for the family as a family. Our girls help decide where we anchor, what we explore and where we visit.

We have also realized how much “stuff” we carried around with us before and how little of this “stuff” we actually need.

All questions

12. One of your favorite quick, handy recipes for cruising families?

Passage stew"




  • 2 white potatoes
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound chicken or pork
  • handful fresh cilantro
  • 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  1. Cut potatoes, carrots, celery and onions into stew-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Cut pork or chicken into small cubes. Heat vegetable oil in pressure cooker base and sauté in chicken or pork until browned.
  3. Add onions and crushed garlic and sauté until onions are cooked. Add vegetables, water, bouillon and chopped cilantro and stir well.
  4. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes. Use quick release method and serve.

About the TERRAPIN family

Who is aboard?

Phil 40, Aimee 40, Jessica 11, Emma 10

What kind of boat do you have?

1978 45' Dufour 12000ct Ketch.

Where have you sailed? Where did you start out?

We started from San Diego, sailed the Pacific Coast of Baja and have crossed over to the mainland and then up into the Sea of Cortez.

How long have you been cruising? How old was your child when you started?

We are very new to cruising. Our first sailing experience to ensure that we all like sailing was when the girls were 7 & 9

Where are you now?


What's next?

Central America, Panama Canal and then ??

Your blog or website(s)?


Top of page

Sailing Families Revisited

12 questions to 12 sailing Families (2010)

All Feature Articles