Crazy «Coconuts»
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Crazy «Coconuts»

About a family of six people who walked 20,000 miles on a motorless sailing boat and settled in France to build a prototype Class Mini 6.50 on the foyles for regattas around the world.
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They call themselves The«Coconuts». «Many years ago, while sailing in the Caribbean Sea, we had a coconut on our tiller, from which a coconut palm grew. We called that coconut our compass, always indicating the direction we wanted to go. Given the racial diversity in our family, so much like brown skin and white coconut flesh, the name "Coconuts" seemed appropriate and took root», says The Coconuts website.

The American Jay Thompson and Costa Rican Natasha Gonzalez have four children: two - 12-year-old Sol and 11-year-old Moon - are mestizos, and they were born before Natasha met Jay. Natasha became a single mother of her own choice», «she claims. Jay met her in Costa Rica when the kids were one and two. He raises them as his own. The two children Natasha and Jay share were born during their journey on a yacht that has become the home of the family for seven long years.

Five-year-old Caribbean was born in Martinique, right on board a yacht. Junior Artico is now two; he too had a good chance to be born on board, but the family was in the cold and dark port of Reykjavik at the time, so the parents took advantage of friends' offer and moved to a 200-year-old house that was covered in snow. Artico became the 26th child born in this house. In contrast to Sol and Moon, Martinique and Artico are stinging blondes with very white skin; just like the core of a coconut.

Jay, Natasha and their four children wrapped 20,000 miles around the world on Jay's own restored 1980s racing yacht «Messenger».

They have been to the Bahamas, Cuba and Costa Rica (where they married on the beach), Panama, Colombia, Curacao, Bonaire, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia and Martinique where they had their daughter. When the newborn was one and a half months old, the «Coconuts were on their way» again: Dominica, Antigua, Barbuda, Bermuda, New York and Newport, where they stopped to completely refit the yacht. During this stop, the family flew to California to meet Jay's parents. The meeting ended with the purchase of an old Volkswagen, which they converted into a garage for Jay's parents, and in which they headed across the country back to Newport a week later.

When the Messenger repair was finished, the family sailed again. Natasha was pregnant with her fourth child at the time. They went to Lunenberg - Nova Scotia, St. Pierre and Michelon, St. Johns - Newfoundland, St. Anthony - Labrador and further to Iceland, where Artico was born. When the youngest was four months old, the «Coconuts» circumnavigated Iceland, passed through the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and finally found themselves in France.

In France, mecca of sailing, the Coconuts have launched a new project. They organized a fundraising campaign to build a dream racing sailboat: a 21-foot Class Mini 6.50 designed by Guillaume Verdier.

It is a boat made entirely of carbon fiber with a rocking keel, equipped with the latest generation hydrofoils. The family intends to participate in sailing regattas in Europe, the Caribbean and the USA.

«What is your favorite thing about living on a boat?» - Natasha Gonzalez, author of the Windtraveller blog, asked about yachting with children.

«That's it! - was her answer. - Not only do we all love the sea, travel to new places, we are also real minimalists, so life on the sea, on a boat with a small amount of things suits us very well. We like to meet new people, cultures, traditions and food. We really immerse ourselves in the places where we go and have friendships with the locals. So we like that our home is mobile. We do not feel like tourists anywhere, because our home is always with us».
«The coconuts» are really minimalists. Their Messenger yacht is not equipped with a motor and does not even have a freezer on board.

«For me it was a very natural evolution," explains Jay Thompson, who has been sailing since childhood. - I used to sail mostly on small boats. And on the big boats I was on, the engines never worked, but that didn't stop me from moving on. I think it's okay to go on a sailboat without a motor».

There is also a practical aspect to giving up the engine: less expensive and labour-intensive maintenance. «It is not only the engine, it is also fuel pumps, generators and other equipment to which other cruisers have to wait for months, sitting in port all season and depriving themselves of the joy of sailing. I don't do engine maintenance, so that's none of our business».

The disadvantage of traveling without a motor is the inability to plan. «We have to be flexible about any timetable and time commitments, because we rely on the wind. We can't promise to be anywhere by a certain date»," Natasha said.

A must-have tool for the Messenger crew is a solid set of weights. They can be used when there is no wind, or to maneuver to the anchorage area. «We have 20-foot paddles and benders on the transom. They were given to us by a family in Martinique who also walks around without an engine»," Jay said.

«There are as many problems in our lifestyle as there are joys. Living on the sea with as many children as we have, with a limited budget, and we always have a limited budget, is not life for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Finding a job, finding money, living in a limited space, having to carry food and dirty laundry on a boat are all challenges," says Natasha Gonzalez. - We are modern nomads. Just like the nomads of the past, we go out hunting and gathering. We go out hunting in a grocery store and then we carry snow on our backs, we load them in dingi and row to our boat. In fact, during our travels we catch a lot of things ourselves: fruits, mushrooms, snails, mussels, coconuts and of course a lot of fish... We are collectors and hunters in many ways».
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