Guest Blog: Setting Sail for a New Family Life by Leon Schulz, author, Sabbatical at Sea, a Family Sets Sail

The following is an excerpt from Sabbatical At Sea…..


sabbatical at seaIt was already May, and the step from Planning into the actual Sailing phase was only a few weeks away. Were we in chaos? That would be an understatement! We were such good planners, surely?

What we thought would feel like organizing a somewhat longer than usual summer holiday aboard our boat, Regina, eventually turned out to be a bigger project than we had ever thought, even after reading all those books by liveaboards and cross-questioning every blue-water sailor we ever met.

It was now two weeks before the moving company was due to empty our house, our home, and take all our possessions, every stick of furniture, bed-sheet and winter coat, book and frying pan, to a storage warehouse. Just six weeks before, we’d not even made the fi nal decision to put the house up for sale. Planning comes with some flexibility in our family, you see.

Another family we had been in contact with had just returned home with their two girls from a three-year circumnavigation. They had asked: “Why do you want to keep your house? Why don’t you sell it?” And we didn’t know why not. We had thought maybe keeping the house would give us a sense of security but when we thought hard we realized that was false. And, anyway, our house was not going to be ideal for growing children. Which led us to another thought: why keep a house to which we might not wish to return? And then another thought: the world was a big place, why should we come back to the same town or region or even country, at all? With every day and every decision, our world was getting bigger.

Packing, stowing and moving on to Regina suddenly became the flipside of boxing up, stripping and moving out of our old home.

I confess: in some quiet moments I asked myself why we hadn’t bought a bigger boat. Where would we stow everything? Box after box came out of our house and onto the boat and, somehow, empty boxes returned to shore. If their contents had not been dissolving in the moist marina air, they must all be onboard, somehow, somewhere. Endless lists were made, documenting where each item was now hidden inside Regina. Would we ever find any of them again?

Dead tired, both Karolina and I fell into bed each night, asking each other: Why? Why are we doing all this? Why have we sold our house? Why have we given up our business? Why abandon our comfortable life with steady income, good friends, nice wines and a school our kids liked so much? And most hard to explain: why are Jessica and Jonathan still so excited about our planned cruise, really looking forward to moving eventually onboard and at last being able to cast off ? Have we all become crazy?

It goes without saying that we didn’t feel quite as brave as we once had. The closer we got to going, the stronger became our doubts. The confidence I had felt just seemed to melt away under the tiredness that now seemed almost to overwhelm me. Tired of working in the office, tired of preparing the move from our house, tired of endless stowing, of fixing insurance, schoolwork, spare parts, tools; tired of scanning pages from instruction books, recipes, photos and important documents into our computer; tired of choosing which clothes, books, CDs and teddy bears to take onboard.

And still: what we were leaving behind ashore felt less and less important. Countless so-called ‘indispensable items’, which had not been given away or sold, had disappeared in yet other boxes and been put in the attic of Karolina’s parents. Why do we keep all these things? For our grand-children?

And the rest of our ‘old world’ felt less important, too. New tax laws, political squabbles, stock market going up and down… The News sounded as if it was being transmitted from inside one of those boxes we carried up into the attic, vaguely received and blurred on its muffled way to our minds. Maybe we were too occupied to bother, too focused on a deadline we weren’t altogether sure we believed in?

Suddenly, doubt manifested itself again. What did our business clients and suppliers really think when we told them that if they wanted to reach us in the future, they had to dial a satellite phone number, never knowing if we were fighting gale-force winds on the Atlantic or snorkeling in the tropics? Would they ask themselves why? Did they consider us irresponsible and crazy?

Regina was as beautiful as ever, almost ready to cast off, only lacking the necessary bunker of food. She was smiling, eagerly waiting for us in the close-by harbor. It was not Regina, but our old land-life which still was holding us tight with endless last-minute issues to finalise. Why couldn’t we just leave shore? With any luck, we would shortly be moving on board; undertaking some final fi ne-tuning, while we waited for the kids to end their school term.

The next time Jessica and Jonathan went to school, it would all be very different. For a start, their regular teachers would be ones they’d known from birth – their parents. But there would be special teachers, too – new places, new cultures and new experiences. How would the two of them cope with all that?

How, indeed, would we all change once we’d cast off? What would life teach us, living so closely together on a cramped 40-foot boat, almost constantly underway? We would be so close to Mother Nature with all her impact and beauty, and, at the same time, so far away from normal shore life? Why did we even think we wanted to find out? Why couldn’t we just go on like most others, taking the easy track? It would have been a lot less trouble, that is for sure!

leonschultzfamilyWhen the time finally came for us to watch our home-port disappearing in our wake, I hoped then I would to come to understand why we did all this.


Today, Leon Schulz lives in Malta during winters, while offering RYA Yachtmaster sail training and charter sailing on his Hallberg-Rassy 46 Regina Laska the remaining six months per year. The children Jessica and Jonathan study psychology and medicine at the University of Bath and King’s College, London, UK.  Visit

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