Have you ever wanted to just sail away? What a sense of freedom accompanies the daydream of cruising out of one life and into another, imagined but not fully charted, with the promise of adventure and serendipitous discoveries just over the horizon.
This seems close to the voyage the Falk family is about to embark on. For the coming year, their Swarthmore home will be in the care of the Johnstons, a “wonderful family” from Australia. Their new home for almost 12 months, beginning in September, will be “Baila,” a 42-foot Catalina sailboat, which will carry the five Falks and their dog Walter through coastal and offshore Atlantic waters, the Caribbean Sea, and the open ocean.
“We’ve been considering this for years,” said Brad Falk, who grew up sailing and cruising with his family. His wife Lynn “took to the cruising lifestyle, and our kids have grown up with it. We decided to purchase a bigger boat in 2013 as our first step to making this happen.” This boat was named Baila, Spanish for “dance” and an anagram of the initials of the family members: Brad and Lynn, daughters Anna, Isabelle, and Avery.
Why go now? “Our daughters are 12, 10 and almost 6 years-old,” Brad said. “Right now, they are mostly excited about this adventure. If we waited a year or two, home-schooling would be more complicated, not to mention the difficulty of extricating a teenager or two from their friends! So, we’re sailing while we still have happy, willing participants.”
Ten year-old Isabelle will miss her friends, her own room, ice skating and the 5th grade art project. But Izzy is “excited about going to the island in the Bahamas where the pigs swim out to the boat, because I wanted a pig for Christmas last year and did not get one.”
Anna, a rising 7th grader, is going to miss all of her friends, wi-fi, and ice skating. Anna is excited about living on the boat for a year because “it is like a second home.” Youngest daughter Avery will miss her friends, play dates and toys, but is excited to have her mom, dad and sisters as kindergarten teachers.
The boat-schooling the girls receive will differ from, but perhaps be more focused than, a traditional school curriculum, Lynn said. “We look forward to being an integral part of our kids’ education. We plan to work the traditional math/science teaching into what they’ll be experiencing every day — navigational exercises, physics of sailing, keeping track of provisions, budgeting, making fresh water, et cetera. They’ll be floating in a biology classroom 24-7 and hopefully they’ll see and learn something new every time they jump overboard with snorkel and mask!”
Cultural education will also be a component of the seafaring curriculum. Starting from Annapolis, Md., the sail plan has Baila cruising south to Florida on the Intracoastal Waterway and in the Atlantic. From there, the Falks will cross to explore the 700-island archipelago of the Bahamas. They hope that by the latter stages of their journey, Cuba will be a viable destination for U.S. sailors, but current restrictions make that an iffy proposition.
“Our goal is to just do it,” Brad said, “to experience living aboard with our kids and to take a break from our increasingly hectic lives.” Their careers in those lives will be on hold — Lynn, a founder of The Creative Living Room, will remain a board member and has found teachers to continue her classes at TLCR in Wallingford. Brad is taking a leave of absence from his job as an emergency physician at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia.
“We will miss our great friends here in Swarthmore, the gatherings and relaxing conversations at the pool, Co-op, schools, and sidewalks,” Brad said. “And we’ll think about how wonderful it will be to come home to Swarthmore after a year away.”
The Falks invite friends, neighbors, and anyone interested in a vicarious escape from life on dry land to keep up with their adventure on their online “ship’s blog” at sv-baila.net. Perhaps following their sojourn at sea will inspire other readers to turn some of their own daydreams into plans.