Adventures of a writer

Karalee’s Post #30 — I’ve made some headway with my writing the last week, getting my timeline straight with my villain and my protagonist. They have both conceded and stepped up to the plate with sleeves rolled up and guns out so-to-speak. I now have the first 35,000 words in second draft form.

dragonsinger20Yesterday I took a trip back in time. The Blue Water Cruising Association invited my husband and I to Victoria to give a talk on the sailing trip we took with our family in the Mediterranean. That was in 2001 and 2002. Our children were 11, 9 and 5 when we got on the plane from Vancouver to London and then on to Paris where we commissioned our sailboat.

We returned two years later. We had planned for one.

My husband kept a wonderful log of our adventure. It’s on the website

Friends and people I meet invariably ask me if I’m going to write a book about our trip. Undoubtedly I will pull some experiences into a scene here and there, but I don’t intend to write about the adventure as a story in itself. It was a difficult time for me. I had sold my physiotherapy practice the year before and was at the point where my children were in school and I was going to take time for myself and WRITE.

Instead my husband made a decision that lead to him having to sell his business. He had a good buy-out, not enough to retire on, but enough to give him time to get into another business (we hoped). It’s a decision that the family still feels the consequences of and one that I still have difficulty getting my head around. I knew our life would change dramatically in a direction I had never anticipated or wanted. I suffered acute depression and it  took over a year to bounce back.

But I’m a strong person and supported the family on this trip since the opportunity was there and the children were both young enough to go with us and old enough to remember it. I also had to face my fears of high winds, anchoring, and raising a family in completely new surroundings every week. On average we were at a new port  or anchoring spot every 3 days.

It makes finding an agent and publisher seem like a piece of cake, although I’m like Joe and have a moment of great anxiety as I press the ‘send’ button.

We decided to take the family on this sailing adventure and face the financial consequences of both being unemployed when we returned. We weren’t being foolish safety-wise as we had twenty years of sailing experience on the West Coast and our children were also used to being on a sailboat.

The trip was an adventure, not an all-inclusive holiday. Not only because we had three children in tow, but also because we lived full-time on a sailboat and did what families have to do, such as shop for food, cook, clean, and do laundry. We did all of this in strange ports and in languages we didn’t speak, and in addition we had to teach the school curriculum to our children.

dolphin and boys in MedIt was a great family time and a learning experience for all.

What did I learn?

  • a 45 foot sailboat is about 200 square feet of space. Over half is common area, so there is about 15 square feet per person of private real estate. Our boys shared bunks so they had even less.
  • Being a parent is a difficult job to begin with and safety concerns on a sailboat compounds it. Let a six year-old learn to ride a bike on a dock and it’s downright negligent, although I’d wager that it does make the learning curve shorter.
  • I prefer being tied to a dock than anchoring. We dragged anchor a few times and it was frightening.
  • Being a school teacher is hard. I don’t know how teachers manage twenty or more in a class. I salute them.
  • My daughter and my youngest son are self-driven and my middle boy needs lots of encouragement and consequences. Genetics must be a factor here.
  • Self-propelled scooters are a godsend to keep children happy when out touring with their parents or getting groceries.
  • We enjoyed a day sail on a catamaran and the comfort level under sail far exceeds that of a mono-hull, plus they could leave everything out on the counters too.
  • All the males on board get seasick. The females don’t (thank goodness).
  • Sailing doesn’t mean I couldn’t write and I wrote my first book in Tunisia where we stayed in a marina for 5 months over the winter. (Ha-ha, there’s the 5 months again) Some of it is good writing and maybe I’ll do another draft. And no, it wasn’t about the sailing trip.
  • Being disconnected from media is a good thing. Both the destruction of the twin towers in New York (9-11) and the start of the Iraq war happened when we were out of touch.
  • Night crossings terrify me and exposure didn’t decrease the fear. My brave daughter’s company helped a lot though, and I thank her.
  • Families that play together stay together. I’m sure this concentration of time together has anchored the family and we still talk about the experiences we had in the Mediterranean.

jocelyn swinging on boatOn our return finances became tight as the dot-com fall-out made getting a job difficult for my husband and I couldn’t return to physiotherapy after being out of practice for 3 years. Consequently we’ve had to sell all our major assets and downsize. It’s not easy to sell one’s home and I am still dealing with the loss.

I did insist on having a space to write though, and for the first time I have an office to myself. I feel lucky to have the writing bug. I also love to garden, and both keep me more than busy full-time. And of course, I still have a family to care for even with the two oldest living on their own.

The presentation in Victoria went well and I shed a few tears reliving the sailing experience with our young family and all the good times and learning situations we had. Our children are now 23, 21 and 17. They are all responsible young adults and I’m sure that exposure to different cultures and to many people living in poorer living conditions than in our home environment have played an important part in their world view.

And now it’s back to getting my fiction story finished.

Happy writing.

All the photos were taken by David Greer.

10 thoughts on “Adventures of a writer

  1. Thank you for the honesty – I wondered how other families did it and seemed sane when they returned – now I know, and it makes me realize that not everybody else is superwoman! Not something I would want to do, but as you said – pluses and minuses in it, and it definitely is something to tell your grandchildren about. But now I have to go hit Joe upside the head. He should have given you my number so we could have met while you were in town! I would have loved to have connected with you, even for just a few moments! next time you’re here, for sure!

    • No sense hitting Joe, he didn’t know I was going to Victoria for a quick overnight trip. I didn’t realize you were on the island. Next time I will make a point of meeting up! Thanks.

  2. Karalee I loved this post. Although I knew you had taken a long sailing trip, I didn’t realize it was two full years. Amazing. I’m sure this adventure, both the high and low points, will be a fabulous source of inspiration for your writing in years to come, and hopefully, as the years put distance between you and some of the more difficult memories, the happy memories outweigh the bad! great post!

    • Thanks Paula. Time does make a difference. So does working through feelings instead of letting everything build up. Our children are healthy, happy and independent so that is very positive.

  3. This post moved me beyond words (a dumb thing to say among writers, but true). I wouldn’t have had the guts to do that without kids, even under the best of conditions. I admire your courage and your resiliency, and am particularly inspired by the alter.

  4. You are one brave woman, friend and writer, Karalee. I envy you for your courage to open up in a public forum with such honesty. You have achieved so much and dealt with your setbacks face on. I am sure your writing will reflect some of your struggle and your incredible strength. I look forward to read your manuscript.

  5. Being a sailor, I really understand and appreciate your story and all the trials (and rewards) of your journey. We considered going “blue water” and (with some regrets) didn’t do it, so although I read your account with admiration and sympathy for the hard parts, it was tinged with a bit of envy. Whatever we do, it makes us who we become, and although your sailing adventure was a hard time for you it also has given you a chance to test your courage, patience and resilience … and clearly you’ve passed those tests with flying colours, Karalee! Thanks for sharing your amazing story!

  6. Pingback: The power of five | 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months

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