Living Large Takes a Rebel Heart

Maia aboard her family's sail­boat. Photo by Diane Selkirk


Thanks to all of you who have been patiently wait­ing and watch­ing for more posts here at Living Large.

I didn’t intend on tak­ing such a long break, but my favorite say­ing since mov­ing to Our Little House has been, “Life is some­thing that hap­pens while you’re busy mak­ing other plans.”

It was a long, cold win­ter here, as it was in much of the coun­try. It was the rough­est win­ter we’ve had since we moved here.

I’ll be post­ing more about that on Friday.

In the mean­time, I’ve watched with inter­est (and some­times shock) to the reac­tions to the story of Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, the sail­ing fam­ily that last week had to be res­cued from their founder­ing sail­boat, the Rebel Heart.

(If you haven’t heard the story, catch up here)

They were expe­ri­enced sailors and had lived on their boat for the past seven years; the past three of those was with their old­est child and their youngest, a 1-year-old, who was very ill when the boat broke down.

Reactions to this family’s plight has been mixed, rang­ing from out­rage that some­one could put their chil­dren at such risk, to com­mend­ing them for giv­ing their kids a child­hood of explo­ration and adventure.

When my hus­band first saw the news, his reac­tion was pre­dictable: “What were they thinking?”

My hus­band is safe. He’s always cho­sen paths that were as pre­dictable as possible.

I’m more of the risk taker, the adven­tur­ous one. I was the one who wanted to jump at the chance of a weeks-long cul­tural exchange that would have taken me to Istanbul (unfor­tu­nately, I was very ill at the time and couldn’t com­plete the train­ing process).

The boat, trips, build­ing Our Little House and finally mov­ing here was all at my urging.

So when my hus­band asked what these par­ents were think­ing, I told him of all the won­drous things these chil­dren have done so far in their lives and if their par­ents con­tinue on this path, all they will do.

They’ve seen and expe­ri­enced things dur­ing their child­hood that most of us never will have the oppor­tu­nity to expe­ri­ence or see.

I learned this les­son through Diane Selkirk, a writ­ing col­league I “met” many years ago on a writer’s forum. She and her hus­band are also expe­ri­enced sailors and since she was three, they’ve sailed with their 12-year-old, Maia.

I’ve lived vic­ar­i­ously through their adven­tures Diane’s posted to social media know­ing all the while that Maia didn’t have to just read about exotic far­away lands or dol­phins and starfish in books as the major­ity of us did, but she is get­ting to live those adven­tures every sin­gle day.

“Maia’s now put in more sea hours than shop­ping hours and is more famil­iar with the stars in the sky (in both the Northern and Southern hemi­spheres) than the ones in the tabloids. She’s grace­ful and self-assured, in no small part because of her uncon­ven­tional child­hood,” Diane writes in a recent essay in defense of sail­ing families.

Diane’s full essay can be read here.

I reminded my hus­band that life is full of risks. Parents risk their children’s lives every time they buckle them into a car, let them ride their bikes, get into a pool or even leave them at school.

I also reminded him that we also live an “uncon­ven­tional” life in a small home, waaay out in the woods.

People have ques­tioned our choice and oth­ers who choose to live the tiny or small house lifestyle.

Would the Kauffman’s have left port if they knew their baby would relapse and become ill again? No.

Would we have moved know­ing our whole plan would be derailed by an eco­nomic reces­sion not seen since the Great Depression. No.

I can hon­estly say that I wouldn’t have even moved here had I known that our plans of build­ing a larger home were not going to come to fruition.

But I will say that is one thing in life I’m glad I couldn’t fore­see. Life is all about risks – indeed hav­ing a rebel heart — and liv­ing is all about over­com­ing the chal­lenges those risks some­times present.

It’s called Living Large.

Read more on Friday about our win­ter here at Our Little House. What do you think, do you think the sail­ing life puts chil­dren at unnec­es­sary risk, or do you think the risks are worth the rewards?   

15 Responses to “Living Large Takes a Rebel Heart”

  1. Carol says:

    I too have missed your great posts and am so glad you are back.

    I would have taken my chil­dren on this trip in a heart­beat if I had their expe­ri­ence and exper­tise. Over the years there have been many "res­cues at sea" for folks sail­ing alone, sail­ing around the world, etc. when they have ill­nesses and equip­ment fail­ures. Life is fraught with dan­gers, but the oppor­tu­nity to have an adven­ture should not be passed for the fears of "what if…" You can pre­pare for almost every­thing, but not every­thing. Children and adults get sick, but they can stay healty too. There would be no hoopla if they had not needed assis­tance, and peo­ple would say "What a won­der­ful trip they had" Just how you look at things, I'm a glass half full kinda person.

    • Kerri says:

      LOL, Carol, I love the "glass half full." Thanks for shar­ing your thoughts and for also being patient and con­tin­u­ing to visit Our Little House here!

  2. Patricia says:

    SO GLAD you're post­ing again… really missed fol­low­ing you, your fam­ily and your lifestyle. I've fol­lowed the "sea adven­ture and res­cue" and have to say, I'm on the edge between the two "sides" — I love adven­ture, I love push­ing the enve­lope (or I did when I was younger) but, as a mother, I also would have been ter­ri­fied to take my two chil­dren out on the ocean, any­thing can hap­pen, and it did. For awhile I fol­lowed a cou­ple who lived on a large sail­boat with a fam­ily, they would sail from port to port and use the stops to edu­cate their home­schooled chil­dren. But when in port, would use it as a home base, there would be temp jobs, vis­its to edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions, stock­ing up on fresh foods and veg­gies to last them until the next port. I admired them and their lifestyle because it was one of adven­ture but it was done with their children's safety put first. Then there was the fam­ily that set sail from Block Island, RI and they sailed around the world — across vast oceans in their mid-sized sail­boat. I would read their posts and my stom­ach would clutch — when they returned to RI I said a prayer in thanks­giv­ing.
    I real­ize they didn't plan for the lit­tle girl to get so sick, but chil­dren do get sick, unex­pect­edly. And I agree that if the boat didn't become dis­abled they would prob­a­bly go back to port but they couldn't and that, I believe is at the crux of this issue. There was no backup plan, what would they have done if help had not been able to get there in time, before the lit­tle one got sicker, before their sail­boat was hit by a huge wave, before a storm blew over, before … well before they were rescued.

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Patricia! Thanks for stick­ing with Living Large, I"m happy to be back. The fam­ily I know also stops in ports, the child goes to school for awhile and they take in the cul­ture of the local city and coun­try they're in. I think that's a reg­u­lar part of the sail­ing fam­ily life. I think the fam­ily that was res­cued pre­pared as best they could for unplanned events, but I you're right, this high­lights that every­one can­not pre­pare for every mis­for­tune. Thanks you for tak­ing the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Alexandra says:

    Glad you are back. I shud­dered when I read about these folks on the sea with such small lit­tle ones. Felt it wasn't wise. Anything can hap­pen and it did.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Alexandra. It's good to be back. Yes, what they didn't plan for did hap­pen. Like Kathleen, I'm just really glad every­one is safe.

  4. Mary says:

    Glad you're back to post­ing. I have not fol­lowed the news of this family's adven­ture and so won't com­ment.
    We have sur­vived the win­ter (even the snow flur­ries of yes­ter­day). Grass is green again. Hooray.

  5. Brette says:

    I know peo­ple are out­raged by this but if the boat hadn't bro­ken down I think they would have just turned around and got­ten med­ical care on shore. The only rea­son we have heard about this is because their boat sunk. I too read Diane Selkirk's writ­ing and agree that there are won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties if you take some risks.

    • Kerri says:

      Agreed, Brette. If their boat hadn't been crip­pled as well, we prob­a­bly would have never heard about a res­cue because they just would have turned around to head back.

  6. I have mixed feel­ings about this. On one hand, I under­stand par­ents who want to give their kids amaz­ing expe­ri­ences and expose them to adven­ture early in life. However, this seems to be a mat­ter of degree, to me. Weekend sail­ing trips or even longer are one thing, sail­ing around the world and being in the mid­dle of the ocean for weeks and months on end, is another.

    Having had two daugh­ters, I won­dered how chil­dren at such young ages could even have enough room to be ram­bunc­tious and run around on such a small boat. Again– that wouldn't be a big deal for smaller trips, but months aboard a small ves­sel like that would make it very dif­fi­cult for kids to do what they need to do for phys­i­cal exer­cise and men­tal health– like climb trees, play on play­ground equip­ment at the park and social­ize with other kids.

    And– chil­dren and tod­dlers do get sick, as hap­pened with the one year old in this fam­ily. Even in the mid­dle of the ocean, babies can fall ill. I do think these peo­ple took a big risk with their kids, and won­dered why they could not limit their sail­ing adven­tures to week­ends or extended vaca­tions, rather than expos­ing them to the dan­gers of such a long and poten­tially dan­ger­ous trip. And I have to ques­tion what a one year old would get from this expe­ri­ence, since in all like­li­hood, that child will prob­a­bly not have mem­o­ries of it.

    I don't mean to be crit­i­cal, and yes, there are inher­ent risks in many of the activ­i­ties that nor­mal kids engage in, but I did think this par­tic­u­lar adven­ture was a bit much for chil­dren that young. However, I'm glad it turned out the way it did and that every­one is safe.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for your per­spec­tive as a mother with two daugh­ters, Kathleen. One other "risk" I was think­ing of is when par­ents expose their chil­dren to liv­ing out­side of the U.S. on mis­sion­ary trips, most often in war-torn or coun­tries with polit­i­cal and social unrest where med­ical tech­nol­ogy is not near what it is here. One of the exam­ples I thought of was the American fam­ily that was caught in the mall shoot­ing in Kenya last year. I don't hear a lot of peo­ple say­ing those risks are too great. Is it because those fam­i­lies are sup­pos­edly fol­low­ing a "higher call­ing?" I think it's one thing to say, "This isn't my thing and the risk would be too great for MY fam­ily," as you have so well expressed in your opin­ion, but I see such vicious­ness in some com­ments when peo­ple choose a "dif­fer­ent" path than a 3 bed­room house in sub­ur­bia. This sail­ing path is a way of life for these fam­i­lies. Many of these par­ents also grew up doing it. As long as they're pre­pared to han­dle fore­see­able chal­lenges, I think it's a good thing.

      • Kerri says:

        I, think too, the other thing that dis­turbed me about the cov­er­age of the Rebel Heart is that we didn't have any back­ground on the fam­ily. Most of the cov­er­age I saw only focused on the need for res­cue. It kind of made them look like inex­pe­ri­enced fools who just decided one day to take a boat out into the mid­dle of the ocean with their kids, when that's far from the whole story.

        • I agree, they were clearly expe­ri­enced and knowl­edge­able about sail­ing and the risks involved. When my daugh­ter was ten, she started com­pet­ing in hunter jumper horse shows. Some would ques­tion the wis­dom of let­ting a lit­tle girl climb onto the back of an eight hun­dred pound ani­mal and ride it over jumps. However, she did it under the super­vi­sion of extremely com­pe­tent train­ers who all had first aid train­ing, and the emer­gency room was only ten min­utes from the barn. Nevertheless, there were cer­tainly risks involved in let­ting her do that. I have no regrets, and to this day she thanks me for allow­ing her to fol­low her dreams.

          • Kerri says:

            Oh, what a won­der­ful oppor­tu­nity your daugh­ter had! I showed horses for a cou­ple of years when I was a kid and loved every moment of it and still have won­der­ful mem­o­ries from those expe­ri­ences. You're right though, any­one who has ever seen "Gone with the Wind" might be a bit hes­i­tant to allow a kid to do jump­ing. But again, it's all a mat­ter of hav­ing the courage to do what we love to do (or allow­ing our kids to do the same).