Chasing dreams and sunsets

The family on their boat.  - Contributed photo
The family on their boat.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Margie Smith holds the Caribbean in her hands.

Or rather, she holds a map of the Caribbean.

With a finger she traces the general area within which her son, Ryan, and his family are currently sailing.

She does not know exactly where they are.

She does not know exactly when they are coming back.

What she’s sure of, however, is that she couldn’t be more pleased for them.

“Their biggest consideration is Luma,” Smith said, pointing to her computer’s desk top photograph.

The picture is of Ryan, and his one year old daughter Luma. Parent and child are backlit on a boat with the brilliant blue of the Caribbean behind them.

It must be Ryan’s partner, Alexis, who takes the photo, because there is no one else in this three person story of freedom, romance, and chasing a dream while you have the opportunity.

Since Dec 28, the family have been living on their 1963 Pearson-built Alberg 35 sloop, “Ventana” They named it that, Smith said, because it means “window,”— “it was their window to adventure.”

So far, this journey has seen the family navigate down through the Caribbean, stopping where they like, and staying as long as they like or as the weather permits.

The couple has no particular destination in mind, only a myriad of options. The map in Smith’s lap represents the couple’s personal universe, which they will explore as long as they can.

It’s also a universe with unpredictable internet connections.

Like a message in bottle gone astray, the couple’s emails are delayed, short and to the point.

“We just found an internet connection at Staniel Cay in the Exumas,” came one message. “This satellite connection is very slow, however, and ends tomorrow afternoon.”

Nonetheless their emails are full of the love they have for family, and for their open-ended adventure.

“I grew up landlocked and did not know a sailboat from a powerboat until college when Ryan talked me into buying our first dinghy sailboat in Olympia,” Alexis wrote.

Ryan may be the one who was raised on sailing, but the freedom afforded by life on the water quickly caught Alexis.

“This is one of my favorite qualities of Ryan’s: he is not afraid to resist the norm and capture his dream. Which happened to be sailing and which, luckily, I also found attractive...We shared a common dream of travel and I loved his idea of doing it under sail, like a turtle, with our home on our backs.”

Their turtle shell home was bought in spring 2007, in Maryland.

The couple initially took short trips on the boat; the east coast Intracoastal Waterway, the Bahamas, before returning to Friday Harbor to make enough money for a longer cruise.

Then, in late summer 2009, “the third crew member came along,” wrote Ryan.

Luma’s arrival, far from deterring the two from their plans, meant only a few adjustments to their vessel. A water maker, a D400 wind generator, extra lighting, and a multitude of extras were added to the “Ventana” to make it baby-friendly.

Anchored on San Juan Island, Smith and her husband miss the young couple and their grandchild, but are equally proud of their adventure.

“We have faith in their competency, we’re real proud of them,” Smith said, adding she thought it was the perfect timing for such a trip.

“I think Luma’s age is what makes this a unique opportunity, for now I get to spend all day, every day with my family. A toddler needs little more than mom, dad, a beach, a shovel and an ocean full of turquoise waters!,” they wrote.

The couple knows this will not always be the case. Luma will grow, their needs will change and the journey will come to an end. There will be a time when the the “Ventana” must pull into port.

For now, they are free to enjoy, “unmatched peace and quiet, gentle rocking motion, sunsets and cocktails, no roads, no deadlines, fresh air, and new places to explore.”

And as for their route? There are still no set plans. “One possibility is we could get down to DR or Puerto Rico and cross to Jamaica and on to Central America. Or we could continue south through the Windward and Leeward Islands to Trinidad, over to Columbia then on to Panama. Or we could spend a lifetime cruising the Bahamas, it’s beautiful here!” Ryan wrote. “It can’t last forever, all too soon the window will pass.”

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