We were able to experience a whole wonderful summer on board for four weeks. We criss-crossed the Baltic Sea. From our home port, the Ancora Marina in Neustadt/Holstein, via Vejle to Anholt, Copenhagen and Malmö. Ah, that was nice! Some shots were correspondingly long. I entered the longest day trip in the logbook with departure at 6.25 am and arrival at 7.30 pm. During this time, not one of our six children has asked when we’ll finally be there. How it works?

Factor one is the size of our family, which should not be underestimated. With a child of six, we fulfill the statistical basis of our own kindergarten group. This means: There are always enough playmates available. If one child argues with the other, they simply go to the next one. Of course, this has less to do with pedagogical approaches and creativity and much more to do with the size of our family – but it still helps. And educationally valuable does not necessarily mean suitable for families at sea.

An example: During our first big trip, my consumer-oriented eyes saw a lot of great offers in a Danish toy store. Among other things, they offered small velcro balls made of hard plastic. I was thrilled: no stains, no monitor, little space, no scratches – and interesting for children of all ages. Great! We bought the mega pack and walked back to the ship with excitement.

Once on board, our kids built dodos, batmans, and fat women who looked like me. Whoever was finished hid his treasure safely from the others. Gregor thought his velcro bird was safe under Juno’s pillow. A misjudgment, as it turned out the next morning. Juno was standing in the salon at seven o’clock in the morning yelling and had dozens of velcro balls in his hair.

It took us two hours to remove the educational toy from her hair. After that, for two weeks, Jünchen looked as if she had put her hand in a socket. Note: Not everything that seems great at first glance is really good.

What our kids need on board is the playful chew bone they can gnaw on for hours. Actually, we only provide them with the basis in the form of pens, paper, coloring books and toys – what becomes of them develops out of their heads. I keep discovering how wonderful the children’s world is compared to our adult counterpart.

So also during our summer trip. On the way to Aarhus there was a lull in every respect. My husband tried desperately to blow the wind in the sails. Bored we all looked at the sea. Suddenly Leo called: “There is a message in a bottle!” An empty wine bottle was floating around in the Baltic Sea. Our eyes saw garbage. The children’s eyes, on the other hand, saw a message in a bottle! Hooray! That’s what we want to do too!

Jan and I were given the task of emptying as many bottles of wine as possible from now on. After that it was quiet on deck. The salon had been transformed into an office where everyone had their job. Justus, Leo and Juno were busy writing rescue letters. Gregor and Greta painted the notes.

Julius stamped hearts and stars on both the table and the letters. A few days and a few bottles of wine later, our six children were standing at the stern of Panti. Everyone who could already said moving words of farewell before throwing their bottle into the sea. Leo’s sentence remains unforgotten: “And if we sink now, the world will still know about us.” The toy in the actual sense is the usual stuff that flies around at home osmotically distributed. It is important that it can be packed quickly and stowed away safely. Lego stays at home because I never want to step on individual blocks at night again. And it shouldn’t scratch or leave permanent stains.

For me, the jack of all trades toy store is a simple fabric box. If you put it on the floor and open it at the corners, it becomes – tata! – a toy carpet. How genius! Is still on board today. A mini foosball table, barbies, a collapsible farm and a wooden knight’s castle complete our toy equipment.

And now for the biggest and most important toys: us! One of the reasons we love life on the ship so much is the tight space. We cannot and do not want to avoid the playful ideas of our children. I say the usual “same” much less often on board than in the kitchen at home. We romp, read and cuddle until the children are tired.

It’s like its own little dimension that only exists for and through us. Thanks to Autopilot, playing Mau-Mau and being on duty at the wheel at the same time is no problem. My husband paints the girls’ fingernails while I lose to the boys at table football. Julius and Gregor look at hidden object books together.

This is how we get from one place to the next. Eat a little, sleep in between, clean up and help. Play a little more, watch the world up on deck and sail yourself – the next port is already there. As soon as they are docked and cleared, everyone wants to disembark. It has something to do with psychological hygiene. Despite all the joy, life with eight people at 50 feet is too narrow.

The children are not getting any smaller and everyone is still having fun. That’s why we’ve been thinking for months about actually going one size bigger… with a new ship.

This article was written by Tanja Gerlach

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The original for this article “Family of eight starts adventure vacation in a confined space” comes from floatmagazin.