Does anyone know the collective noun for children? A squirm? A squeal? A clatter? A crash? A riot? An exertion? I need a collective noun right now, because there are children everywhere. We motored upriver on Wednesday morning from Laranjeiras to Alcoutim and the place was wriggling with sailing kids.

The girls and I went to the chestnut and wine festival that night and met a family from Oregon: Mike and his wife, with Kenna, Porter and Alexander, aged 6, 10 and 13. A game of hide and seek immediately ensued between my girls and their youngest two, and before we parted company we arranged a date for a walk to the ruined castle on the hill the next morning. The four again had fun hiding and playing tag and ‘What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?’ All too soon we had to return to the river and we bid farewell, as they set sail for Cadiz later in the afternoon.


Lily and Katie playing with their friends aboard Ros Alither

But in their wake came two more families. Hazel and Dave, who used to live aboard and run the Topsham to Turf Locks ferry near Exeter, now live aboard Ros Alither, their beautiful Killybegs trawler with their children, Katie 8 and Reuben 5. We met them when they came ashore by dinghy and a few hours later they moved from their anchorage onto the pontoon behind Carina. On the pontoon over in Sanlúcar are Paul and Emma, an English couple with two New Zealand-born daughters, Lola 6 and Isla 3, living aboard Spirit of Mystery.

Our six children have been having a riotous time together, at the beach, on the pontoon, at the outdoor gym at the top of the slipway, and on each others’ boats. We parents have been drinking tea and coffee together, sharing our home schooling and sailing experiences, and taking turns looking after each other’s children, freeing each other up for Internet time, laundry, boat maintenance.


Lily swinging from the rigging of Ros Alither

Lily and Katie, of course, are in their element, having all these children so close in age to play with. Aboard the other boats they have been knitting, playing Lego, making dens, climbing the rigging, and having very serious conversations about their favourite characters in Frozen, Tangled and other movies. We’ve invited Lola and Isla over for a movie and popcorn evening later this week, as they haven’t seen Tangled.

It amazes me how quickly children become the best of friends. As adults, we are more cautious, gradually feeling the waters to get a sense of the new people we meet. I’m always conscious of things such as politics, religion, health, and things like that, and tread gently until I know more about the new people I meet. Not so kids. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and throw themselves headlong into newfound friendships. They don’t worry about offending anyone or about people not liking them. They just want to play and have fun.


7 thoughts on “Rugrats

    • Thanks Susie. The girls have so much freedom here. And although I grew up far from the sea, I had a similar freedom across fields and in woods, with other children. I’m so happy that my kids spend most of their time out of doors.

  1. That is fantastic, it is heartwarming to hear about the kids meeting up and playing with others – this was something we missed out on in our northern route (not so many people opting for cold weather and risk of icebergs and storms – funny, huh?!) But whenever we hit port my girls managed to find local kids to play with despite the language barriers. One of my most memorable times, we met a 9 yr old Canadian girl who was deaf and didn’t speak. My girls roamed the little island where she lived with her from dawn til dusk with her and were fast friends in no time at all. Made me wish I’d pulled out the sign language DVDs I’d had stowed away after all. We hope to sail in areas frequented by more boat kids some time in the future, and your post just reinforces that goal!!

    • The family from Oregon were delighted to meet us, because they hadn’t met any other sailing families for months. It’s funny – some cruising grounds are packed with kids and others are not. The Oregon family said they met lots of cruising families in Mexico. And for us, Aguadulce last winter was pretty devoid of sailing kids. Most of the people there were aged 60+ retirees. Families always seek each other out though, which is good for both kids and parents socialisation.

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