After seven years spent sailing the Pacific Ocean on a 14-metre boat, the Shaw family is ready to settle down in Canada again — and they’re going to have to make more than a few changes.
“Our wardrobe until recently has consisted of not much more than shorts and T-shirts,” Max Shaw told CBC’s Information Morning.
Shaw, along with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children left their home in Halifax behind to begin a Pacific Ocean adventure in 2012. But now, they’re just about ready to make a permanent home in Victoria.
“We sailed down to Mexico, across through French Polynesia to New Zealand, up through the South Pacific, the Marshall Islands, and now we’re headed up to Alaska and down the B.C. coast to Victoria,” said Elizabeth Shaw.
The family has taken several breaks during the past seven years, but they say the 14-metre SV Fluenta, which has three bedrooms, has been their main home.
And if five people in three bedrooms sounds crowded, it’s important to point out that one of those rooms is for storage.
“I kind of forgot that all those belongings I said that we had to surround ourselves with would need to have a place to be stowed,” said Elizabeth Shaw. “Somehow, I thought I would suddenly turn into Martha Stewart overnight in terms of how it would all get arranged aboard.”
So, with space at a premium, for the past few years the couple have shared one room with their youngest son, five-year-old Benjamin, while 15-year-old Victoria and 13-year-old Johnathan shared the other cabin.
“We enjoy the closeness and sometimes there’s too much closeness,” said Elizabeth Shaw.
When things get too close for comfort, she said it’s usually time for a swim or a walk on the beach.
While everyone in the family emphasizes there’s always work to be done, such as doing schoolwork or boat maintenance, it’s still a slower pace of life than the one they used to live.
Elizabeth Shaw said she and her husband’s busy military careers meant the family was hustling “all the time from one thing to the next.”
“Now we’re together as a family around the clock, and that’s a pretty extraordinary gift,” she said.
The Shaw teenagers say there are lots of reasons to like life on a boat. Johnathan Shaw said he’s become more independent and resourceful, and has learned to make friends quickly and easily.
Victoria Shaw loves the freedom of life on the boat, the beautiful scenery of islands like Fiji and meeting “amazing” people. Recently, during their stop in the Marshall Islands, a local craftsperson took the time to teach her how to weave a traditional basket.
Even as they lament missing out on the fun of the SV Fluenta, the older Shaw kids are excited to have a permanent home, especially since they don’t like leaving friends behind at ports.
“I’m looking forward to when we get to Canada and not needing to say goodbye to people every few weeks or months,” said Johnathan Shaw.
As for the youngest child, Benjamin Shaw was born in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the family’s journey and is “quite fascinated” with socks, according to his dad.
“Because, of course, he has never actually lived anywhere that’s required them,” said Max Shaw.