June 20, 2018
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Stern parenting: Rockport family will lift anchor for adventures at sea

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — Two hundred miles down, and 24,000 to go.

It’s the first week of an epic sailing adventure for the Lyman family of Rockport that might lead them all the way around the world.

So far, life’s been a breeze, according to Capt. David Lyman and his wife and third mate, Julie Robinson Lyman. The couple and their daughter, 10-year-old Renaissance, and son, 8-year-old Havana — who seem to have an ongoing dispute about who is the first mate and who is the second mate — are the crew on the Searcher, a 57-foot Bowman Ketch.

On Friday the family was exploring Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where they have temporarily dropped anchor.

“The world is our oyster,” Julie Lyman said in a phone interview. “Our biggest hope is that we have a great experience, and that it helps bond our family even closer than we are now — and that we all keep safe. The rest is just icing on the cake.”

That icing will definitely include stops at Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin, David Lyman said. But then the itinerary ends.

In May, the family will decide the Searcher’s next direction. They may head westward through the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean, eastward to the Azores and Europe, or north to Maine. The voyage could last as long as two years, David Lyman said, and no one is sure yet exactly where it will lead.

That sense of the unknown is just part of the journey.

“As an adventure, you get started on the voyage and discover what you want to do,” David Lyman said. “Otherwise, it would be a Cook’s tour — if it’s Wednesday, it must be Paris.”

Havana and Renaissance — who were both quick to say that swinging on the rigging is their favorite shipboard activity — will practice skills and responsibilities on the boat that many kids their age don’t have the chance or desire to develop.

“Being on the boat is fun,” Havana said. “I get to help with sailing, with the lines, lift up the anchor, bring the dinghy up on deck, get the dock lines ready. Stuff like that.”

The trip has been a long time in the making. David Lyman, who plans to celebrate his 70th birthday in the Virgin Islands this Thanksgiving, is an avid, lifelong sailor, as well as a photographer, journalist and entrepreneur. He bought the Searcher 14 years ago, before having a family, in hope of one day sailing around the world. In the meantime he kept busy, most notably with Rockport’s Maine Media Workshops, which he founded in 1973 as Maine Photographic Workshops.

That’s where he met his wife, who turned 50 this week. She was working in film production in London and took a class at the school in Rockport.

“He asked me to teach, and I sort of got sidetracked, in a very nice way,” Julie Lyman said.

David Lyman sold the workshops to a nonprofit agency in March 2007 and serious preparations for the sailing trip began a year ago. The Searcher had an engine overhaul, new decks, new rigging and brand-new electronics installed, including the latest safety systems.

Julie Lyman was a tougher sell than the kids, David Lyman said, but the whole family got onboard with the idea — literally — in June, when they moved out of their Rockport house and onto the Searcher.

“I’m now at the point in my life I want to do something challenging and exciting. I’m going for it,” Julie Lyman said. “Other people would be saying, let’s think about our future, and the kids’ futures, and putting money in the bank … but what are we really here for? Is it really to work our tails off? No, it’s really to enjoy each other in life, and respect each other along the way.”

In fact, traveling to exotic ports of call in the Searcher will cost the family about half as much as they spend on land, David Lyman estimated. They also have some shipboard plans to generate income, including from some photographic workshops David Lyman is holding on Grand Cayman Island.

The family also hopes to make money from a Web site David Lyman has created which aims to connect other families doing the same thing. He hopes to link the Web site with one or more boating publications to make some money.

The Lymans are enthusiastic about the Web site and hope that it will allow them to meet other kids along the way. One feature will be a chart of the world where sailing families can add their locations. It will also be a forum for parents to share information on home schooling and a place for kids to meet and become online pen pals.

That would be OK with Renaissance, who would be in the fifth grade at the Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport.

“I’m going to really miss my friends,” she said.

Havana, who loves to build model boats, said that he’s looking forward to the possibility of sailing around the world.

“My favorite part is when we stay up at night and get to see the stars and the phosphorescence,” he said. “And I really like it when we heel over.” He explained that heeling over is when the boat leans way over to one side.

Regardless of the Searcher’s exact trajectory, David Lyman knows one thing for sure.

“It’ll be one of the most important things they’ll do in their lives,” he said. “Kids who do this wind up having a great deal more self-confidence. And they experience what adventure is. We’re living a novel. We’re living a film.”

For information about the Lyman’s trip or sailing with children, visit the Web site www.kidsonboats.net.


Julie Lyman comforts her daughter, Renaissance, after something fell into her eye while playing onboard their 57-foot sailboat the Searcher. They were making the final preparations for a long journey that may take the family of four around the world.

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