Portrait of a Cruiser: The Craven Family

Number 11 to take part in our “Portrait of a Cruiser” series are the Cravens, a British family with 3 small children on board who circumnavigated with the World ARC. Their book about the 2-year voyage has just been released.

Published 6 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Names of Owners (and crew): Caspar and Nichola (parents), Bluebell, Columbus and Willow (children)

Nationality: British

Boat Name: Aretha

Boat Type/Model and Size: Oyster 53, built in Southampton 2003

Your Home Port: Southampton, UK

Blog/website/Facebook pages: www.familysailing.co.uk and www.casparcraven.com

How did you start cruising?

Caspar grew up living near the water in Devon and spent his childhood in both fishing boats and sailing boats. He then went on to compete in the BT Global Yacht Race in 2000-2001. This was very different from Nichola who grew up in a town about half an hour outside of London, had never sailed until meeting Caspar, who introduced her to sailing. By the time they hatched a plan in 2009 to sail around the world, she had still only sailed two or three times.

Describe what sort of cruisers you are:

From 2014-2016 we spent two years as a live-a-board, global cruising family.

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

After two years sailing around the world, in 2016 we ended up docking in San Francisco and moving ashore. Since then in 2017, we sailed Aretha from San Francisco up to Victoria, Canada, where we cruised around the waterways before heading back down to San Francisco. For our next adventure, we plan to take Aretha back up to Canada, but this time head further north and get as far as Alaska with more time for cruising. After that we are planning a more adventurous route to . . .

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

We were looking for a boat which was solid for the type of cruising we had in mind, as well as spacious for a family of 5 for two years. We were attracted by the infamous Oyster after-sales service, which was truly invaluable. We loved the fact that the saloon was a wide-open space with lots of light and the master cabin was also similarly spacious. Finally, we loved the security of the central cockpit, especially sailing with 3 young children.

What other boats have you owned?

Apart from small fishing boats, Aretha is the first yacht we have owned.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

  • We added Sat coms, in particular we updated the sat phone and installed SSB.
  • We altered the reefing lines so that they could be handled from the safety of the cockpit, rather than having to go the mast and we added a third reefing line.
  • We installed a more practical colour upholstery (dark blue rather than cream).
  • We added netting around the boat due to having small children on board and jack stays for extra clipping on points.
  • After our power failure due to dirty diesel in the Pacific, we added an extra source of power creation – a Watt and Sea.
  • Aside from that we have had the constant repairing and updating of boat systems which is part of the course, upgrading all the lights to LED for maximum efficiency, updating seacocks, running rigging, sails, engine, genset.

Most useful equipment fitted, and reasons for this choice:

The SSB for ocean crossings (especially the Pacific Crossing in the event of emergencies).

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

Thought about extra power management options – when we set off we had the generator which was dependent on diesel in the same way as the engine. We would have considered solar power as well. Maybe next time a washing machine would be nice. We would have upgraded the freezer and removed the microwave which was already in place.

List the countries you have cruised:

We circumnavigated with the ARC and the World ARC – UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Madeira, Canary Islands, St Lucia, Grenada, Panama, Ecuador (Galapagos), French Polynesia, The Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Indonesia, Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius, Réunion, South Africa, St Helena, Brazil, Costa Rica, San Francisco, Canada.

Future cruising plans:

More cruising in British Columbia – we plan to sail Aretha back up to Canada but this time head further north and get as far as Alaska with more time for cruising. After that we are planning more adventurous routes.

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, English Channel, Bay of Biscay, Caribbean Sea.

Approximate sea miles: 40,000

Scariest day on the water:

When we experienced power failure due to dirty diesel, 500 miles from Niue in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Best cruising moment:

Two come to mind, although there were so many more:

1. Completion of our first ocean crossing, which was the Atlantic with the ARC, as we approached St Lucia with our friends there to greet us;

2. When we made landfall in the Marquesas from the Galapagos, after 3 weeks at sea and that first smell of the land – when you are so settled into life at sea that you have mixed feelings between the joy of making landfall and the urge to just keep sailing!

Favourite cruising area and why:

The Indian Ocean – we had a perfect passage from Cocos Keeling to Mauritius with incredible fishing, magical night skies and sea life spotting.

Favourite anchorage:

Cocos Keeling – truly paradise!

Favourite cruising apps:

Weather 4D Pro

Favourite cruising websites:

Noonsite and Cruisers Forum.

Favourite cruising books:

Here are just a few of the many books that we read both before and along the way:

What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?

Don’t wait for perfect – you will never be completely ready. Do enough and then set off – there will always be more jobs to complete and there will always be more you could do. That also means to remember to enjoy yourself when cruising, you could easily spend your entire time working on the boat! Set yourself a list of tasks and a deadline and then leave the list for next time while you remember to enjoy your surroundings.

Secondly, don’t wait until the children “are old enough”. Go when they are young enough that you can spend as long as possible cruising. Young children are very adaptable. As they get older (11+) it can become more of a challenge and you may find yourself choosing between stopping cruising and leaving them on land.

Why cruise – what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

The total freedom – when you are at sea the problems you experience on land seem very very far away. The freedom that you can go anywhere, the freedom from the internet and the digital addictions we are accustomed to on land.

Any other comments:

We’ve just launched a book, published by Bloomsbury.

It’s on Amazon here:

Where the Magic Happens: How a Young Family Changed Their Lives and Sailed Around the World

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