Sailing time means family time for this crew. Most of us spend our time daydreaming about selling it all to adapt to life at sea, but rarely does anyone act on those dreams. Unless of course, you are the Bou Crew! Meet this fascinating family of five (plus one canine) who said goodbye to a conventional life to live out their dreams on the salty sea.
Dinghy rides and spear fishing > carpools and drive-throughs
Julie and Bill will forever be grateful for the decisions that they have made that led up to the opportunity to experience life in the best way possible, while their family is still young.
"Bill retired after 20 years in the United States Navy so being on the water has always felt like home to him. We were stationed in many great places during his career, most close to the water, but my plan the whole time had been to go back to my home state of Georgia and plant roots once he retired," Julie explains.
Bill kept his promise and once his time in the Navy was up they bought their dream home on a golf course, settled into a great life, and they loved it. But something was not right.
Julies reveals, "We missed the water. We missed family time. By this point, Bill had started his second career as a consultant so he was traveling 4-5 nights a week. The kids were all involved in so many activities and sports I spent a good portion of my life in carpools and the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. Once Covid hit and we were all home more we started to examine the rat race our life had become. We began to reevaluate some things."
Resuming travel the best way possible
When the US started lightening up on travel policies, the first order of business for the Bou Crew was to charter a boat in Key West. Julie remembers, "We spent three days on the boat, and no one even thought about technology. Instead, our kids learned and asked questions, practiced knots, fished and jumped off the boat to swim to shore. I still get chills when I think about that trip because somewhere on that second day, I looked at Bill and said, 'We should do this full time.' Long story short, we called our friend and realtor on the way home from that trip and our house was under contract a few weeks later. We were homeless less than two months after that sailing trip!'
Finding the pick of the litter
When the search began, Julie and Bill were dead set on the Leopard 46. They had watched every YouTube video they could find could and read every article about the boat.
The family's mind changed quickly when they stumbled on the newer model. "We were leaving a showing on a Leopard 46 when we walked by a Leopard 48 on the dock. She was equally as beautiful, and she also had a front door. After hours and hours of more research, we decided that the 48 would be the best fit for our family. And our instincts were right! We love having the doors open at anchor for a great breeze, and the 'front porch' as the kids call it, has been a cozy spot to hang when someone might need some alone time," Julie continues, "The bond between sailor and boat is deep. Every time I get a glimpse of Jubilee from the beach or an overlook on a hike, I am in awe that she belongs to us. Several times a week, one of the kids will say, 'I love our boat so much.' We all do!"
The transition to boat life
As you can suspect, for many cruising families, making the change can be a difficult one at first. Your children don't want to say goodbye to their friends or they don't want to miss out on playing sports, whatever the case may be, at the end of the day you need the confidence to know that the reward will be greater than any risk.
While it may be difficult for some families, this was not the case for the Boucek family. " I’m almost hesitant to say this because maybe we are still in the honeymoon phase, but the transition to full-time liveaboard life was nearly seamless for us. Our family genuinely enjoys hanging out together, and we all love to explore and learn new things. Moving onto a boat has provided so many opportunities to make memories together as a family, and after spending three years with Bill traveling every week for work, I think the payoff of this family time makes up for any sacrifices we have to make," Julie adds, "Keeping up with friends back home has certainly been a challenge out here, but we do the best we can and plan to spend time together when we are back on the East Coast for hurricane season."
Unfortunately, the only one who had a bit of a difficult time making the transition was the family's Lab, "Sweet Brandy Beth got off to a rough start at being a boat dog. Our first passage through the Chesapeake was brutal and she got severely dehydrated on the trip. She ended up at an Emergency Vet. Thankfully, she found her sea legs and there is no doubt that Brandy Beth is living her best life out here on the salty sea. She loves dingy rides, runs on the beach, and patrolling SV Jubilee on the very rare occasion we leave the boat without her," Julie testifies.
"My advice for anyone who might want to bring a dog on board a boat would be to pack your patience! We learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it takes time and consistency. Teaching Brandy Beth how to use the bathroom on the boat was harder than potty training my kids!"
Conservation is key
Learning to live in a small space was a piece of cake for this family. What they found most difficult about living aboard was conservation. Julie explains, "Our water maker is great, but keeping up with five people plus a dog who needs daily freshwater washdowns is impossible without us being very careful with each drop of water. Washing dishes using as little fresh water as possible is challenging. We also have friendly competitions as to who can take the fastest shower, and none of us would even think of leaving the water running for the whole shower. Bill is a big fan of saying, 'What do you think this is….the Love Boat' when he sees us using too much water."
Julie adds, "I joke that Bill used to get annoyed with me because of too many trips to Target. Now it’s when I use too much water washing dishes."
Life lessons not available in land-based life
While the Boucek kids do partake in traditional homeschooling, Julie and Bill see non-traditional learning as one of their biggest assets. They appreciate the opportunity to share with their children the lessons at sea.
Julie acknowledges, "By far the value in a life on the water for us has been the life skills the children are learning. Bill and I set out with a goal to have our three children trained to man this boat should any emergency arise and through a tremendous amount of hard work on their part, they are nearly there. Our kids take night watches, drive the boat, change the oil, man the lines when docking and handle all anchor responsibilities. Inside chores include making water, cleaning filters and managing our provisions. It’s amazing what they are capable of at such young ages. And even though it is hard work, they are thriving. Yesterday, our 14-year-old was at the helm while we weighed anchor in a very busy anchorage. Her 12-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister were upfront on anchor duty. Their teamwork was flawless and the mission was executed perfectly. It struck me at the moment that, back on land, she wouldn’t even be allowed to drive a car!"
What each family member appreciates the most
Julie: "I love that I’m getting to experience all of this with my family. I love that my teenagers chose to give up cell phones in exchange to live in paradise. I love to watch the kid’s confidence soar with each new accomplishment, and I love the beauty that surrounds us. I also love being able to move our home whenever we want!"
Bill: "I love the fact that we are always learning out here. And every day is a new adventure."
Hendley: "I love seeing new places and learning about new cultures."
Boss: "I’ve discovered so many new hobbies out here. Spearfishing is now my favorite thing to do, and being able to provide dinner for the family has been fun."
Anna Bea: "I love all of the new people we’ve met out here and the adventures we’ve been on. I especially love all the kid boats in Georgetown!"
The Bou Crew's next move
What began as a one-year sabbatical has quickly developed into a passion and love for the lifestyle. And Julie doesn't see an end in sight, "After leaving our traditional life and becoming a traveling family for nine months now, none of us can imagine leaving the water anytime soon. It's still technically a family sabbatical, but who knows for how long. I like to tell people that we are on the 'No Plan Plan'.’’
Follow along on the adventures of the Bou Crew aboard SV Jubilee: