A Canadian family sailing around the world finds safe harbour in Seychelles amidst COVID
A Canadian family that is sailing around the world is currently enjoying the seas of Seychelles as they take a break in their quest. The Lim family – parents Amber and Jeff, with children Carden, 13, and Morley 9 – were amongst a group of boaters who arrived in the island nation when it opened its borders to private jets and sailing yachts on June 1.
SNA spoke with the family to learn more about their journey on board their boat Whiskey Jack.
SNA: What an interesting name for your boat.
JL: “Whiskey Jack is a well-known Canadian bird. Sailboats are often compared to birds: we use our sails as wings to fly to places that we love to explore. Sailing is a very ‘green’ activity: we use the wind to go somewhere and the sun shines on our solar panels to provide us with electricity”.
SNA: When did the interest in sailing develop for the family?
AL: “When I was in my 20s I had this dream of travelling the world on a sailboat. We did a “learn to sail” course in the British Virgin Islands as a holiday when we were dating and the dream grew for both of us from there. In 2007 we left Canada on our first boat; the children were still very small then. We sailed south to Mexico and then across the islands of the South Pacific to Australia. There we sold the boat and went back home for a few years to work. We later started again in Australia, but in a different boat: the children are bigger now and need more space. So, we have a catamaran now”.
“Exploring the countries we visit are our main activities,” Amber Lim told SNA. (Jeff and Amber Lim) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
SNA: Besides travelling around the world what else do you do?
AL: laughing: “A lot of people think that the cruising lifestyle is very lazy and relaxed; they think that we are drinking cocktails on the aft deck all the time. But actually, we are quite busy when we are moored like we are now. Raising our children, homeschooling, maintenance of the boat and exploring the countries we visit are our main activities. Besides that, I still own a business in Canada that I manage remotely. Thanks to good internet almost everywhere we can work from our boat.”
SNA: Life in Canada entails what?
JL: “RAIN!!! Vancouver is very wet. We live a typical city life. Lots of 9-5 pm work, driving the children around in heavy traffic and rushing to activities. Trying to squeeze in time with family and friends – it’s very busy”.
AL: “Jeff has a construction business and I own a large dog walking business. In big cities like Vancouver, a lot of people live too far from their work to be able to walk their dogs during the day and they hire dog walking services”.
The Lim children are homeschooled. “We have built up a lot of experience with homeschooling and have found out what works for our family.” (Jeff and Amber Lim) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
SNA: Describe a typical day as a family on the sea?
JL: “When we are sailing, a lot of time and energy goes into watch keeping, trimming the sails and navigation amongst others. The children help out as much as they can. If the weather is calm, we can still continue the homeschooling program”.
AL: “When we are at anchor in remote locations, our mornings start quite slowly with daily chores, breakfast and homeschooling. We always have plenty of maintenance jobs to keep us busy. When the schoolwork is done, we spend a good part of the day free diving, fishing and playing.”
JL: “When we are near a town like we are now, we love to hike and explore the community. We seem to spend a great deal of time hunting down elusive boat parts.”
SNA: And how does the homeschooling go?
AL: “Yes, we have built up a lot of experience with homeschooling and have found out what works for our family. We don’t follow a strict curriculum but we keep up with Maths and English. Besides that, we see that the children develop an interest in other subjects. We follow those interests and use lots of apps, workbooks and videos for the children to do projects. We go out to learn things in nature or in museums. Our visit to the National Museum in Victoria was a highlight. Especially the story about the pirate treasure!”
SNA: What are your plans whilst in Seychelles?
JL: “The kids are signed up for an art camp, Amber and I are doing yoga. We are ticking off the local hikes and beaches, working on small boat projects and daily visits to hardware stores.”
AL: “Truly, mostly we are just eating our way across the island as we love learning about local food. I love cooking and I’m looking for a local cooking class to learn about Creole dishes.”
JL: “We also really enjoy observing wildlife and nature so we are excited to be introduced to some tortoises and possibly see a whale shark while we are here. ”
The family enjoys diving, as seen here in the Maldives. (Jeff and Amber Lim) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
SNA: Tell us more about your voyage? How many countries have you been to?
AL: “We have been in 20 countries over 13 years of cruising.”
SNA: What do you do in each country?
AL: “Lots of tourist things at first but because we have the boat and stay longer than usual than the average visitor, we enjoy visiting remote communities and getting to know the local residents and really participate in the day to day life.”
SNA: Challenges along the way?
JL: “Certain stretches of the ocean can be very challenging for sailing. Sometimes we are at sea for weeks. Sailing from the Maldives to Seychelles was very hard with headwinds and a strong current against us. But also: maintaining boat systems and finding repair parts in remote areas is difficult especially when you don’t speak the language. For example, in Papua, our refrigerator broke and we needed a part that was unavailable because most villages in Papua didn’t have any power or refrigeration.”
AL: “By far the most challenging battle is homeschooling. You are a parent, teacher and friend all at the same time. Especially when there are no other boats with children around, we are together as a family 24 hours a day in a small space. When we spent almost three months in isolation in the Maldives, this was particularly tough.”
Seychelles is very special in that respect: the kind of hospitality we meet everywhere here makes us feel very welcome! (Jeff and Amber Lim) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
SNA: And the best moments so far?
AL: “Truly… it’s the people that make the best moments and memories. The local people who welcome us into their homes and lives and become lifelong friends along the way. Seychelles is very special in that respect: the kind of hospitality we meet everywhere here makes us feel very welcome!”
SNA: What is the next step after Seychelles and when are you due back home?
JL: “We planned a 4-year trip but it has stretched out indefinitely now. Our planned route was to sail on to Madagascar and South Africa and into the Atlantic but COVID has shut down these countries. As of now, we have no options for onward travel. We love Seychelles and feel very lucky to be here. When nothing opens, our stay here may be longer than we expected. We still have lots to see and explore here, so we’re happy to stay a bit longer.”
Source: Seychelles News Agency