WHILE I WAS FOUR and five, my mother got breast cancer. I was so scared. But she survived, and it left my family with an important
message. Live while you can, and make the
best of it, because you never know what will
happen next. So our family made a huge
decision — to save every penny we could,
get a boat, and go cruising for a while. My
parents found Zora in an old boatyard lying
in a field. Feral cats had been using her as a
litter box. Stuff was falling off. For two years
while Dad sanded, I came and watched movies on a small TV. While Mom varnished, I
drew. I was completely bored.
During the second year, we rented out
our house, and moved on Halloween night
to my grandmother’s house in Maine. Every
morning, I took the ferry to school, sometimes alone — and once with actress Liv
Tyler! — then back again in the evenings.
Sometimes for days on end my dad worked
all day at his job, then worked really hard all
night on Zora in the boatyard. Eventually she
was finished and launched.
The first night of our two-year trip aboard
Zora brought us an unexpected visitor — a
baby beluga whale we nicknamed Poco.
We were motoring back to Zora in our little
dinghy when…BUMP! “What on earth was
that?” said my mom. We looked over the side
and a friendly little white face peered up at
us. Poco! He was like a dog, playing with our
dinghy, letting us pet his rubbery skin. When
we left to sail south the next day, the friendly
little whale squirted my mom in the face! He
followed us all day and into the night, before
My mom designed
so I got to study
things that had to
do with the trip,
such as Mayan
on the ICW: The first was on an island near
Beaufort with some cruising buddies. We
were looking for the shaggy ponies that live
on the island when suddenly we heard whinnying and hooves. We flattened ourselves
behind some bushes as the whole herd came
thundering past. We were a bunch of kids,
no adults, in the middle of some wild island,
and had almost gotten trampled by ponies!
It was so cool.
My second encounter was just as odd:
On Cumberland Island, Georgia, the cruising
kids (again) were coming back from a beach
when we saw a herd of wild horses grazing
right in front of our noses! We couldn’t resist:
We mingled in with the uncaring horses and
picked out “our” horse. I chose a white filly
I named Snowflake, while my friend chose a
mare who was obviously her mother. When
it was time to go and we were walking back
to our dinghies, my friend whispered, “Turn
around!” I did. Snowflake was following me,
while her mother still grazed! The filly followed me to the edge of the field (it took all
my will not to stroke her), whinnied, then
ambled back to her mom. It was magical.
At last Florida was behind us and we
were in the Caribbean! Our first stop was the
Bahamas. On one of the islands I went to a
local school for five days. Everyone was wearing uniforms! I made friends with the island
children while I attended school. The school
didn’t even have windows, just shutters,
because it never gets very cold.
We then sailed through the Turks and
Scenes from a year of boating: Cruising playmates; Olivia and her mom riding horses; fellow cruising kids; Christmas
aboard Zora; Olivia and her dad; ship’s kitty Daisy.