Families puke together, stay together
Jan is making tea, Tony is pottering, little Blake is drawing a squiggle and I’m visiting. It’s a normal Sunday afternoon, except for the wind that is whistling through the mast.
I’m on Jan and Tony Braddock’s boat, Alishan, at Seaview Marina in Petone. They’ve lived on a boat for 22 years. They’ve raised their two children, Hayden and Chrissy, in this different way of life.
Jan said the different way of life had made her family closer.
‘‘Our kids had their teenage years here,’’ she said.
‘‘They learnt to get on. They had to. They are now each others’ staunchest supporters – they are stunning together.
‘‘We always tell their partners, ‘I hope you realise you’re marrying into the whole family here’.’’
I live on a boat at Mana Marina with my partner and I know for myself that you do learn strategies for living in a small space, like a sixth-sense for when to back off. Having your own room is key - Virgina Woolf would approve - except it’s a 1.5 metre by 3m cabin with not a lot of head room.
Tony and Jan used to live in a house in Levin. They realised they had to do something different, as a family, in order to be forever-happy together. They chose adventure at sea.
Over the years they have felt the pressure from others to buy a house, so they could get into the property market. They did put an offer on one once, but missed out. They looked at each other and said, ‘‘Thank goodness for that’’.
The Braddocks started their sailing life in a little fibreglass boat. It was too slow for Tony. He’d whack the side of the boat with a rope, like a horse. They progressed in size with various boats until their ‘‘dream boat’’, a 42-foot Alan Wright designed Lotus 1280. Both teachers, they have also taught adult sailing courses.
When boat people are asked standard questions like, ‘‘How do you live in such a small space?’’ the replies are similar. Tony’s is, ‘‘My backyard never finishes’’.
And Jan’s response for choosing this odd, invigorating life: ’’You know you are alive. If you’re living a half life, you aren’t really living.’’
I ask Jan and Tony if they think the way they live is odd. They say in unison, ‘‘It’s what we do’’. They can’t ever imagine swapping their ever changing sea for a patch of grass.
I do think it’s a bit peculiar though. When some people are mowing lawns or shopping for sofas, we’re negotiating 30 knots of wind and wondering if this is the trip we’re going to die.
The Braddocks are proud that there are now three generations of their family attached to the sea. Hayden lives on a boat a few berths down and Chrissy hopes to live on a boat with her own family one day. Every Friday night their growing sea family squish into the cockpit and eat fish and chips.
When their ducks are in order, they’ll sail offshore in Alishan – they have plans. Jan has a wish to sail over the equator in their own boat.
You have to be brave to hit the high seas. We sailed around the South Pacific last year - I’m still semi-traumatised – but it was an unbelievable adventure for so many reasons. And imagine it, sailing around the world. Imagine if you were that fearless...
Real Boat People: Jan and Tony Braddock and their grandson Blake, 3.