Sometimes it's rum punches and sunsets, and sometimes it's spare parts and blown gaskets. Full-time cruising is a work and reward type of lifestyle, but any cruiser will tell you, the reward far outweighs the work.
Meet the Sailing Wolfpack. They are a fearless family of five, with alpha male, Derek and alpha female, Alexa, leading the pack with their three cubs aged 16, 12, and 10. Their vessel of choice is a 1998 Leopard 45, a true classic. And when they do something they go all in, from summer RV trips into the mountains, to now exploring the world by sailboat. I suppose once you've conquered land, those adventurous types have to ask "what next"? And the Wolfpack decided that their "next" would be to conquer the sea.
You have to start somewhere
Derek recalls picking the boat up in Rhode Island after purchasing it. "I had never sailed a mile in my life. I hired a captain and we sailed it from Rhode Island to St. Augustine, and I learned a lot. I logged about 1,000 nautical miles in 6 ½ days. That was great." While Derek was a stranger to sailing, he was no stranger to big boats, having worked on them his whole life. But he understood that sailing is different ball game.
On that same trip he woke up to some heavy weather. "On night number two we were caught in a nor'easter with wind blowing 45 knots in 12 to 15 foot seas. And I came out at two in the morning for my watch to relieve the captain and I am in a panic, but the captain with his calming voice said 'This is lovely, we’ve got 2/3 of the jib out and two reefs in the main and we’re making 10 knots. This is nothing',"
Breaking the news
For Derek and Alexa, the decision to live out a dream wasn't a question of 'should we?'. Both parties were on board, and after months of searching and finding the right boat, the time was now. Of course, you might be wondering how the kids took the news. Derek explains, "Our 16 year old took it as a 16 year old would. The younger two, our 12 and 10 year old, were really excited. But, our 16 year old loves fishing, so he kept and open mind about it and its been really good. He has become an excellent free diver. He can dive 75-80 feet and hang out on the bottom for a little bit. He was our source of protein almost every day in the Bahamas. We were having grouper, snapper or lobster."
Hitting the old dusty trail
From St. Augustine, the family geared up for a cruising season in the Bahamas with the intentions to circumnavigate when the time is right. Adjusting to life on boat in the Bahamas seems like the perfect place to start. "The biggest adjustment for us has been no schedule. We never know what the day is going to bring," Derek explains. Alexa adds, "We are home schooling on the boat and we are brand new to homeschooling. That has been our biggest challenge out of this whole adventure, the homeschooling."
Alexa continues, "We had experience living in our motor home so we are used to living in a small space together. And we did tons of research, we knew that it was going to be a lot of work. It’s not always cocktails and floats."
But still, for the Wolfpack, the reward is greater than the work. "When we wake up every day feels like a new adventure. Sailing to a new spot, discovering a new island, it never gets old." Derek adds, "Some of the dead calm nights we have under a full moon when we are in the Bahamas anchored in 15 ft of water and you can see the bottom and it is just clear blue. That was really cool."
And these are the kinds of things that motivate cruisers. Experiencing those occurrences that to a normal person would be extremely rare, but on a boat, it's an everyday luxury.
If you want to follow in their footsteps...
Now that we have tempted you with the dream, Sailing Wolfpack was kind enough to provide some tips for anyone thinking about taking the plunge. "If you want to get into the cruising lifestyle you need to be prepared to spend money. To do it right, it’s worth spending the money. But also prioritize your upgrades. Make sure you are not starved for power or water. Have a water maker at all costs and have plenty of solar or some way to keep everything charged," Alexa advises. "You need to be able to adapt to change in order to live this lifestyle. There is a lot of togetherness, and that is why we are doing this. We can go to a secluded anchorage and live off the water we make and the fish we catch, and all is good. We just need to figure out a way to make our own booze and then we wouldn’t have any issues," Derek jokes.
The bonds you make
And what's more is that Sailing Wolfpack is creating an experience of a lifetime, something that the siblings will always have to look back on. As Alexa explains on Sailing Wolfpack's Instagram account: "Boat kids live the LIFE! There were so many times on this journey I was in awe of how amazing these little ones have it. They wake up around 8:30, do a couple hours of school work then they are gone! They play all day with other boat kids. From surfing, spearfishing, snorkeling, sailing on their own makeshift boats, building forts, hiking, kneeboarding and so much more. Their days are filed with exploring, learning and playing, at night they’re exhausted! Parents have sundowners with our friends on boats or bonfires while they play until dark. Socializing is never an issue. When it’s time to leave the old friends, we pull up anchor and they immediately notice new boats with kids in the new anchorage and they make fast buds. Derek and I have made great friends as well, most people are in the 'same boat'. We all have things in common. Being out here on the ocean, cleaning our boats nonstop, repairing the boat, learning to provision and homeschooling kids has been en experience! Since we’ve been gone our kids have changed so much. They regularly converse with adults and have learned so many new things, even how to cook! It was scary to push off land but I’m so glad we've been able to experience it!"
To infinity and beyond
Considering the Bahamas have officially been conquered by the Wolfpack, what is next for the thrill seeking clan? Alexa reveals, "We decided to come back to the US and get boat work done. We will wait out hurricane season in Galveston. We will likely go to the Yucatan and explore that area, then cruise down the coast of Central America, then Columbia, and eventually through the Panama Canal. That’s the plan for today, but that could always change."