Do you dream of a big adventure? Of course you do. But you probably quash it, thinking it's just not possible while the kids are at school or you have a job. But Nadine Tedder and her family did it, and lived to tell the inspiring tale.
In our mid-20s, my husband Bruce and I spent 10 years working on big luxury sailboats, mostly in the Med and the Caribbean. When we came back to Cape Town, we struggled to get back into the 'real' world. Eventually we settled, getting involved in a fun-orientated business (with Bruce as yacht broker and charter operator). In our forties we had Tristen, and vowed to take time off to do yachting cruises with her before she went to high school.
When she was in Grade 2, we took Tristen out of school for the third term and cruised the west coast of Madagascar for four months – incredible! But we knew we had to do another one before she got older. So, when she was in Grade 6, we took her out of school for a term and cruised Turkey and Greece for three months.
Is this experience for everyone?
Bruce & Nadine: We'd strongly recommend it to families who are happy to break the mould. It makes for awesome memories. Having time out with your family is a must! This trip took us back to basics, with lots of reading, talking, personal interaction, board and card games. It was wonderful to be free of the distractions of technology and TV. We were able to be mindful, in the moment – totally absorbed in whatever we were doing. There are so many healthy outdoor activities to enjoy as a family. But it takes a lot of planning and good organisation. Research your destinations well. It's huge, packing up your life, even if it's only for four months. But once on board, you leave it all behind. Still, we'd suggest one or two visits from family or friends.
Tristen: I'd highly recommend it. I so enjoyed living on a boat and just diving over the side into the ocean.
Did it bring you all closer?
Bruce & Nadine: Definitely. We're lucky we have a tight bond; our business allows us plenty of family time.
Tristen: I was with my parents every day, so it did bring us closer.
Did you ever feel cooped up?
Bruce & Nadine: Never. Both trips were in summer, so we were always outside. Catamarans offer a lovely wide platform to play on.
Tristen: I never felt cooped up – the weather was beautiful. I loved my cosy cabin and enjoyed decorating it with photos and souvenirs I bought.
And Tristen's schoolwork?
Bruce & Nadine: She only fell behind when our friends joined us. She got home with the work fully completed, and excelled in the finals. You do need to be disciplined, though.
Tristen: When I got back I was ahead of my peers. And I'd learnt so much more: I gained life skills and learnt about each country's history, geography, people and marine life.
Did it work having friends with you?
Nadine: We chose the friends very carefully; we're close, we always have lots of laughs and the kids get on extremely well. It felt effortless. But there was also quality family time, even with the others on board.
How much did it cost?
Nadine: For the Madagascar trip, we chartered a boat in rands, at a good rate, from friends who wanted it delivered to the Seychelles from Durban. In Durban, we stocked up on four months of basic food. In Madagascar, we bought fish, fruit, veg, chicken – all much cheaper there. We spent about R19 000 on food and were feeding six people half the time.
On this trip we also chartered a boat from a friend in rands. Though we were buying our food in euros, it worked out to the same price as it is here. Eating out is expensive, but we did that only as a special treat. In most places there were no dockage fees. At the municipal docks on the Greek Islands, charges were very small.
Getting away from it all means that life is simple – you don't have those expenses where cash just flows out of your wallet. And if you rent out your house while you're away, that covers your bills – plus there should be some change!
For us, being in the boating business means we have contacts that helped make this happen easily and more affordably. My husband is also a very experienced skipper – not everyone can just jump on a boat and do this. But you could hire a skipper, with the family acting as crew.
We want to tell other families that whether you go cruising, 4x4ing through Africa or whatever interests a wannabe adventurer, it can be done. It's just about escaping this crazy world, where we're always rushing around like headless chickens.
I documented both these cruises in newsletters to family and friends. Here's an extract from the Turkish leg of our Mediterranean trip.
We anchored in three metres of crystal-clear water. It was balmy and warm. This time four years ago we were in Madagascar – raw, unsophisticated, but with incredible sea life. Here, the superyachts are ostentatious, the food abundant and the area rich in historical sites – a feast for the senses, but a desert underwater.
We started our trip at this marina, which is an hour north of Bodrum, on the west coast. For a month, we'd be cruising the Turkish coastline with our friends Paul, Annie, Abigail and Romy Fuller. Provisioning the boat was fun. As the market garden of the eastern Med, Turkey offers an array of fresh fruit – plump red cherries, apricots, figs, nuts – and organic veg straight from the ground. And then there's the sweet, syrupy baklava and fresh Turkish delight.
We put up sail and headed for Gümüslük. Before long, we were smoking downwind at eight knots. Here we enjoyed the first of many swims in the cobalt-blue waters – our pasty bodies would soon become lithe and golden. We loved the sights, smells and tastes of this little town: a fisherman holding freshly caught octopus; beautiful shops with artisans crafting leatherwork and glass ornaments, waterfront restaurants perfect for open-air candlelit dining...
Anchored off the 15th-century St Peter's Castle, we drifted off to sleep with a breeze flowing through the hatch and soft music playing ashore. At midnight, we awoke tocolourful laser beams dancing across the bay and loud, thumping music from three nightclubs. And at 4am Club Catamaran, a huge party boat, drifted in with drunken revellers. Bodrum is a touristy maze of small shops and clubs. After a lunch of döner kebab, we hotfooted it out of there in search of quieter waters.
We anchored at a small pier hugging the ancient ruins of a 5000-seater amphitheatre in this once prosperous Dorian port city dating back to 400BC. The kids loved the sundial and stone columns. Back at the dock, we enjoyed the freshwater hosepipe. Domicilium doesn't have a water-maker – we have salt-water showers, then rinse off in a tiny bit of fresh water.
A fantastic spinnaker sail took us to this peninsula. The incredible bay, with its inlets, craggy rocks and islands was one of our favourite areas to explore. Here we attempted our first anchorage Turkish- and Greekstyle: tying a rope from the stern round a rock or tree ashore. It is so special to sit in the cockpit with a vista of sheer cliff against turquoise waters.
A local in a small, freshly painted boat puttered up alongside. He lifted the carpets covering the deck area to reveal an aqua store selling sarongs, tablecloths and clothing. Fortunately Turkey is reasonable on the rand. Like every other Turk we've met, he is so friendly and obliging. Next morning at breakfast we watched with interest as a peasant couple washed their goats in seawater!
Dominated by a silver-domed mosque, Bozburun town is a gem. We stocked up with fresh provisions, found the bakery and did the Turkish coffee and tea ritual. In the warm, sultry evening we had our first braai on board and later wended our way to a restaurant to watch the World Cup soccer final. Four years previously we'd watched the 2010 final in a grubby eatery in Madagascar on a TV from the '70s that blinked on and off as the power surged. At midnight, the full moon lit the way back to the boat.
As we did most days, we snorkelled for miles in the vain hope of seeing something! Next day, Bruce organised a boat trip up the Dalyan River to the ancient town of Caunos. At the river mouth on Iztuzu Beach, loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs. We caught a glimpse of one. Later, a tractor ride took us up to the Lycian tombs carved into the rock face. Wow.
GULF OF FETHIYE
We limped into Kapi Creek with a burst freshwater pipe and engine trouble. But we were surrounded by olive groves, stoney ruins, pine trees and crystal-clear water. That night, we ate grilled octopus ashore with an array of mezze in more than generous portions – and at a great price! Once in the Göcek marina, we enjoyed long freshwater showers and did our laundry – our salty swim towels were stiff as cardboard. Sliding into soft, clean sheets that night was a dream. But soon we were off again, sailing the lovely flat waters. The kids enjoyed seeing a huge yellowfin tuna jump out of the water as it chased a shoal of small fish.
In Fethiye town we delighted in a lovely Turkish lunch, after which Tristy and I made our way through the alleyways of the old town to visit a traditional 16th-century hamam (Turkish bath). That evening, we dropped anchor in the most beautiful bay – inlets with sheer cliffs and thick vegetation. A highlight was watching a wedding at the only quayside restaurant.
The bride arrived by gulet, a traditional sailing boat. It was the most romantic setting on a breathless evening. At sunset we watched the kids playing in the orange light while we sipped on chilled rosé cava. I didn't want the day to end...
We got up early, and the kids had a 'skurf' [waterskiing using a board] in glassy conditions, before heading to this tranquil picture-book spot to snorkel among the rocks and caves.
We set the alarm for 5am so we could have a windless passage. And it paid off: the weather was perfect, and soon we were in this magical bay. I could have 'nested' here for days. In the distance, the only sign of civilisation was a dock leading up to Captain Nemo's restaurant.
Back in this quaint town, we had a memorable farewell dinner at a restaurant perched at the water's edge.
We waved a teary goodbye to our fabulous 'crew': Paul, Annie, Abigail and Romy. We docked here for a few days, doing maintenance and cleaning, and getting stuck into the schoolwork. Bruce familiarised us with the boat systems – we'd been lazy while Paul was on board. With the boat well prepared, we were ready to head into Greek waters… ✤