I just read about a girl, 17, who drank tequila
all afternoon then drove off in her expensive
sports car. She dialed a friend on her cell phone
and, thus distracted, hit another girl who was
rollerblading. Later, in court, her parents asked
the judge if it would be okay if their daughter
spent the summer in Paris, as she usually did.
Cue in the parental lecture: One, Quit coddling.
Two, Go boating.
In my experience kids who go boating with the
family end up as responsible adults. I'm a
school-of-hard-knocks proprietor of a boating
school and boat chartering operation and for the
past 30 years I've been helping families learn
about boats and how to have fun on a cruise.
Now hold on. I'm not talking about a cruise on one
of those 5,000-cabin, infection-factory ships. I'm
talking about calm-water boating on a cabin
cruiser that you charter. Just you and your
family. If you're not ready to take over the helm,
no worries, mon, because the captain will take
care of that, even teach you and yours a few
things, and then make himself scarce when it's
For safetyís sake there are some serious do's and
doníts on a cruising yacht and the captain insists
they be followed. You might say the atmosphere is
lighthearted, but disciplined. When you think
about it, you could say the rules for a successful
cruise are probably the same as the rules for the
Kids who grow up boating learn that successful
boating requires a degree of self-sufficiency and
personal responsibility and from my observation
post I'd say that most become responsible,
successful adults. If the teenager mentioned above
had spent her summers on a boating vacation with
the whole family instead of in Paris on her own
perhaps those experiences might have fostered
responsible rather than destructive behavior.
Boating parents are secure in this knowledge. If
you're landlubber parents, let me suggest a family
vacation that guarantees quality family time. Itís
an expedition, an adventure, summer camp, summer
school and even manners school all rolled into
Instead of crossing an expanse of ocean to dock at
foreign shopping districts, imagine your family
cruising the sheltered Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
past Southwest Floridaís gulf barrier islands and
wild mangrove sanctuaries where herons, egrets,
pelicans and ospreys roost.
Leave the iPods and iPads at home. Bring cell
phones, if you must, but turn them off. This is
not your vacation. This is the family vacation.
WARNING. If your vessel has a TV set, fine, but
don't expect a great signal. Many chartering
families ask that we remove the TV set from the
This is an expedition into the wild, although
civilization is usually less than a few hundred
yards away from your boat at any point in time.
Youíll see dolphins surf your wake, watch the
magnificent frigatebird soaring overhead, and
catch a glimpse of a giant ray in the clear water
below. He'll be half-buried in the sand, thinking
you donít see him.
Drop the dinghy in the water one morning and
paddle to a Gulf beach laced with fine, pink-white
sand. Let the little children cover you up with
it. Walk the beach and collect some of the
prettiest seashells you'll ever want to see. This
is, after all, the shelling capital of the world.
After dark call a "family meeting' on the
fly-bridge to look at stars. On a clear night,
without the glare of city lights, you can see
5,000 stars. Now, look at one star, and imagine
that you could be looking not at a star but
the light of a star that no longer exists. Youíre
seeing light that took a million years to reach
you. Did somebody just say "Tempus fugit?"
This is the new family vacation. It's the same as
the old family vacation. Give credit where credit