Kimberly and Michael Ward spent part of their Sunday afternoon reliving their two-year journey aboard their 34-foot catamaran, as they presented Kimberly’s recently published book “Crew of Three: How Bold Dreams and Detailed Plans Launched Our Family Sailing Adventure” on September 24 at the Mattapoisett Free Library.
Before embarking verbally, Kimberly asked the attendees to take a brief, guided meditation with her. She requested that everyone close their eyes and picture the sky, the beaches, the color of the calm warm water. She suggested that we could taste the sea in the air and hear the seabirds calling high above.
We were transported and refreshed upon returning to the Mattapoisett Library basement meeting room, as the cold, autumn rain and gray skies were the reality of the day versus the tropical warmth and blue colors of the Caribbean.
On the screen, Kimberly displayed what their reality aboard the floating home was at times during the cruising expedition – masses of hoses and wires, cables and tools, as Michael’s skills were needed throughout their adventure. While they spent many hours taking in amazing sunsets and sunrises, witnessed colors of immense depth and intensity, the trade-off was being fully self-reliant when things broke down. She said that cruisers, people who live aboard a boat and cruise from one port-of-call to another, have a saying: “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places.”
Today from the comfort of their Mattapoisett home, the couple are touring various venues upon the publication of Kimberly’s book. The book has been described not only as a travel log of their journey but a how-to book.
Contingency planning of the highest order was required. From economic planning for how to sustain life while basically unemployed to homeschooling and the materials needed, finding internet connections that were often in bars – that’s right, bars – along their travel route to grocery shopping and emergency preparedness.
From the practical needs of raising a young child aboard a boat on foreign islands – Ally, then 10, is now 19 – to the physical needs of three people, the Wards planned as best they could and apparently with a high degree of success.
One example of being ready when something goes wrong was the story of when their fuel pump stopped working and Michael had to figure out a way to bypass the system in order to make it back to port. “You have to be ready,” she said.
One surprising aspect of their story was peeking into the world of cruising. Kimberly said there are a surprising number of “cruiser kids,” children who travel in this manner that make up a community where friendships are easily made, where all are included and learning is a very varied experience far beyond strict academics. “It’s like an old-fashioned neighborhood,” she said.
As for Michael, he shared that he has sailed his whole life and owned several large boats over the years. Kimberly said he was equal parts electrical engineer, plumber and handyman. She said that he was a calm presence and the captain that they followed with confidence. For him, the return to a less adventuresome lifestyle in Mattapoisett was a difficult comedown.
“The reentry into everyday living is difficult,” Kimberly explained. After experiencing the adrenaline rush of “stellar highs,” there were the very deep lows and none deeper than reentry which she said can be “brutal.”
Michael would go back to a nine-to-five consulting job that found him in an office under florescent lights and ventilation systems versus wide-open skies. He admitted to Kimberly, “I don’t know if I can do this for another 10 years.” After talking it over, Michael embarked on a different type of adventure – he became a shellfish farmer. Kimberly commented with a smile that the hauling of shellfish cages has given her husband his college physique again.
Their adventure took them to 16 countries throughout the eastern Bahamas as far as Grenada, a trip and a memory the Wards will revisit for all their days to come.
And what about that little girl? Well Ally is now enrolled in university – in Scotland. Kimberly said, “Teach your kids how to travel and they will.” She said that Ally knows how extraordinary that adventure was and learned the world is a big place with humans taking up a rather small amount. “She’d say she was more open-minded.”
To learn more about the Wards’ journey, visit kimberlywardwriter.com.
By Marilou Newell