Pirate Mama: Sailing with Her Little Boy

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January 2016 Mountain Mama will sail around the Virgin Islands with her four-year-old son and write about their adventures (and misadventures).

The idea to sail around the Virgin Islands to debunk the stereotypes rolling around –even in my own mind – about single mamas started two weeks before Christmas. I was stressing over whether to pay my bills or buy presents. I graded myself a C- in the parenting department, depriving my son of everything from regular playdates to swim lessons. Back-to-back bronchitis, strep throat, and the flu kept me horizontal.

Stuck in bed, I read about pirates and came across a tale about a female pirate, Anne Bonny. After the law seizes her pirate ship, she lands in jail. At five months pregnant, she avoids the noose by “pleading her belly.” She escapes from her cell, gives birth at sea, and sails to the Caribbean with her baby.

I bolted upright, realizing I’d bought into the victimized view of my parenting situation, focusing on the challenges instead of the possibilities. Back in college I lived on a sailboat with my then-boyfriend and later I raced yachts in Chicago. I daydreamed of taking my son sailing.  While I’d sailed plenty, I considered myself along for the ride, comfortable on the water but not competent enough to be in charge. In the back of my mind I was waiting for a guy to come along, my very own captain to appear.

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Then I remembered Anne Bonny.  I took sailing courses and over the course of a year, earning the certification to skipper a sailboat anywhere in the world. I was finally taking the helm, sailing a boat all by myself.

My son and I have gone on outdoor excursions from day one and he’s become my favorite adventure partner.  An up-for-anything attitude coupled with a goofy sense of humor makes him a joy to be around. For an almost- four-year old, he’s turned out to be a competent outdoors person. But we couldn’t sail alone.

When I told my friends about wanting to take my son sailing in the Caribbean and write about our experiences, they wanted to join us. I realized the incredible community who has supported me as a single mama will be the same friends who help us trim the sails. Meghan Rolfe, a professional photographer, offered to document the trip with her camera and Sarah Thomas, an experienced sailor, wanted to lend her boating expertise to the team.

I’m a modern-day-pirate-mama who wants to give to the community instead of plundering , and in the process teach my son what it means to be a steward for the environment. I’m working with contacts in St. Thomas at the Family Resource Center to take grade-school kids on the water with a sea kayaking outfitter, giving them a glimpse of why their fragile island ecosystem is worth protecting.

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I’ve reserved a boat in Tortola (a British Virgin Island) and the itinerary is shaping up to include circumnavigating St. John’s Island (national park status protects two-thirds of the island). Tagging along with park officials will inform us about local best conservation practices. Other destinations include British Virgin Island National Parks such as Peter Island, Dead Chest, Salt Island, Great Dog, and Virgin Gorda.

If Anne Bonny could escape from her cell and sail alone, I can become a badass single parent who pursues her passions too. Through this project, I hope to share my love for water with my son and nurture my writer’s voice. My writing will focus on my relationship with my son as we explore the Virgin Islands and connect other kids with their own watery backyards. Throughout the journey, we’ll be taking photos, recording voice and video interviews, and journaling the trip itself. Highlights from each day will be shared as snippets and the stories will be woven into a narrative at the end.

I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds. Kickstarter campaigns operate under an “all-or-nothing” funding model so if the Pirate Mama project doesn’t reach its goal at the end of 30 days then we won’t leave the dock this winter. To watch our video and to donate, go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1435241906/pirate-mama-setting-sail-with-her-little-boy.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/piratemamakickstarter to track our progress and spread the word to your social networks. Consider donating as little as $5 to help our project come to life. If you decide to donate more, you might be among the first to read the story of our journey.


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