When Karen and Carter Morris took their 13-year-old twins, Katy and Annie, on a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in April, they turned down the WiFi option on the Lagoon 400 catamaran they chartered from Dream Yacht Charter out of Hodges Creek Marina on Tortola.
The original plan was to have another couple join the trip, but because of a family emergency, the others had to back out, leaving the family of four together on a spacious catamaran. One night on the boat, Karen overheard her daughters discussing that perhaps their parents couldn’t afford the WiFi. As a parent, she was pleased about their awareness that there wasn’t an unlimited budget, but she came clean and told them it was a choice. The kids already knew when packing and not being able to bring a flat iron to do their hair and downloading DVDs that this was not going to be like life at home.
The Morris girls and their parents were no strangers to sailing. Karen and Carter had traveled to the BVI for their honeymoon and a charter vacation 10 years later. They had sailed as a family in Maine and Croatia, and their children had taken sailing lessons. “They had never been on a longer trip,” says Karen.
As a mother of teenagers, Karen admits that she was a little bit concerned with how the “lack of being able to share every moment” on their smart phones was going to go. “After one night, they forgot about it,” she says. “At Virgin Gorda, they did connect to WiFi and shared some pictures, but by the time we got back to the dinghy, they forgot.” After that, the girls used their phones for pictures only.
Island time worked wonders for the Annapolis family. “Once you moor and get everything settled in the afternoon, you take a swim or snorkel; we had some cheese and crackers; we would grill. Then it would be dark, and we would still be up talking. It was a nice rhythm we got into.”
Her two children “who hem and haw at home,” says their mother, did dishes and the other “work” of life onboard without hesitation. “They knew when it was time to catch a mooring or to get the bumpers out. As soon as Carter was at the helm, they knew he was the captain. There were no questions.”
Although her personal goal was to spend time on Anegada, Karen says that the highlight of the trip was en route home from the more remote island when they stopped in Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda to see friends who were staying in a hillside villa. She figured the girls would want to stay at the villa, where they had television, chargers, and WiFi. The reverse took place. The kids missed the boat. Even after a few days, it already felt like “home” to them.
While staying at Dix Bay, they took their friends, who also had three teenaged children, out sailing. “The kids had never been on this kind of boat. Carter let them all steer. The girls had a chance to share their skills and knowledge… All of the kids, even the ones who stayed in a beautiful villa, wanted to be on the boat. It was more adventurous for them.”
As well as helping with boat duties, the Morris girls “became conscious of trash and how to dispose of it properly; they became conscious of nature and knew not to touch the coral.” They appreciated the beauty of the place. Katy said, “I’ve never been anywhere where the water was the color of a crayon.”
In the absence of WiFi connection, the family reconnected in unexpected, pleasant ways. “We talked so much. They talked about things like their fears of college and other things… We learned that we need to reconnect to our kids. They are at this age where they are on the verge of being independent, but they still liked being with us.”
The Morris family thought they were going on a sailing vacation. “It was so much more than that,” says Karen. “It was so different from a beach vacation, where you lie on the beach or go for a swim. Each day you have a mission, a plan. You read the charts and figure out where you’re going. You’re always helping each other… It was so amazing to connect with teenagers in this way. I recommend it to anyone with kids that age.”
The 13-year-old twins, in case you had not guessed, are absolutely hooked and ready to take another charter vacation.
Karen says that the family discussed how great it was to talk to each other. “Now that we’re home, we all get along better. We are interacting in a different way.” She says of her children, “They are bright and funny and have very mature feelings, not often shared on land — which only scratches the surface of why I consider it the best vacation ever. It is not until you actually catch a boat that you realize that you have been missing ‘the boat.’”