What do cruising kids do all day?

10 Mar
making a box

It seems that the everyday life of the Totem cruising kids is somewhat opaque in recent blog content (thank you reader email for pointing that out!). They’ve been pretty busy- just a little differently than the normal ways that a 9, 11 and 14 year old are busy. Here is a smattering from the last few days.

Siobhan started a little bakery business. On Fridays, there’s a vegetable truck that comes around to sell fresh produce to cruisers in the little bay where we are anchored. She’s gotten up early to do some baking and earned a nice bit of cash by selling muffins and pastries to the cruisers who come in for veggies. She pays me back for ingredients, and keeps the rest of the proceeds.

Siobhan's muffin sales
asking price: three ringgit each (about $1). great math practice making change.

Niall built a raft from all the driftwood and garbage (an esky, plastic sheets, fishing line) that washes up on the beach of the little islet where they play every day. He rigged it with a crab claw sail and took it for a spin. (Thanks to our anchorage neighbor Nigel for this shot!)

the boat
heading for the pass between the islets

the tree fortWith help from their friends on other kid boats, they’re building shelters on the beach: forts, hideouts, tree houses. Some of these were started before they arrived, others they’ve created on their own. Honestly, this tree house terrifies me, and we’ve had The Safety Talk. I trust them, but… well, I’m still their mother.

Notice the hammocks, strung up between trees around the bonfire area from fishing nets. There’s even a dried-out puffer fish “chandelier” dangling overhead to complete the image.

They built a network of trenches on the beach. I asked why. They just said “for fun!” Well, OK! Niall said that when they put a leaf structure over the top it’s a nice cool spot to rest a while. It’s hot here. I get that.

It’s a long skinny islet that we’re anchored off. Yesterday’s discovery was a shed snakeskin. That’s a little disturbing for mama bear here, because snakeskin = snakes, and not all the snakes around here are the kind you want to met on a dark tree limb. We think we’ve identified it as a harmless tree snake, but it’s hard to really know for certain.

Back on Totem, kid-driven carpentry is happening. Wood scraps have been reclaimed from the area under the aft cabin berth as it is cleared to make room for our much-anticipated new battery bank. As the pieces which can become giveaways or scrap end up on deck, the girls have requisitioned them for their own projects. First on the list: building a box to hold their treasures in.

making a box

What else? They read. A lot. Sometimes it seems like a ridiculous amount, and I want to redirect them: go swim! Sweep the floor! Kayak! SOMETHING! Then I remember- they have fallen in love with reading, one of the things I perhaps irrationally worried about the most. In the world of life skills on their docket, I’m happy. Niall is deep in history books (re-reading 1776). Mairen is in the middle of The Lord of the Rings series. Siobhan has started the sixth Harry Potter book. And I wondered if they would ever be “readers”…

A bonfire in the evening brings us together with the spread of crew from other boats. Happy evenings, roasting marshmallows on a bonfire on the islet.

Related post: facing fears about raising kids differently.


roasting marshmallows

Kids at heart know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website. 

This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world


  1. rings

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  2. Brian Mistrot

    I got a chuckle out of the reading part. We actually have had the same problem for many years and can even threaten to take away their books as punishment! I am sure glad to have Kindles aboard as ten years ago our boat was flooded with paper books.

  3. Behan - s/v Totem

    Tim- it’s true! They have had some guidance. It is a hard balance to strike: letting them explore / experience and keeping them safe.

    Mum- it is our job (yours and mine) to be the worriers. :-)

    Carol- glad NZ is working so well but wish we were in the same waters again! Someday!

  4. carolm

    Lucky you have met up with other kid boats for them to hang with. The last half of Fr. Poly and the trip here to NZ had very few kid opportunities for Josh – Hence a full stop here in NZ – which he is loving.

  5. kirsty

    tree houses scare the crap out of me too but i also remember the fun and excitement when we used to do the same thing as kids. Sounds like your children are happily doing their thing which is as much as any parent could ever ask for!

  6. judy fravel

    Oh my goodness..you might be their Mum Behan but I am the GrandPlug and I got nervous just looking at the forts up high in the tree. Jamie – have you climbed up to check the basic safety of the construction ?

    What kind of Muffins are in the bakery today Siobhan ?
    Is Mairen going to join you and make scones ?

    For all the missing passengers on the Malaysian plane and their families we pray…


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