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The Brouse family ready to return to life at sea

by Adam Jacobs

The Brouse family, father Kirk, mother Elizabeth and kids Wesley and Claire are back from the first leg of their sail, halfway around the world.
 HUBBARDS - It was just about a year ago the Brouse family quit the rat race and traded 9 to 5 for a life on the open water.

 Well, a couple of years on the open water, anyway.

  The family, originally from Oakville, Ontario, but with strong family ties to the South Shore, was living a lifelong fantasy to sail around the world, or, at the very least, halfway around it.

 Well, the Brouse family (Kirk, Elizabeth, and 11-year-old twins Claire and Wesley) is back in Hubbards (via air, not sea) now, but not for long as the next leg of their journey is soon ready to begin.

 But the family's time back in Nova Scotia has allowed them to reflect on their travels aboard the Discovery, a 57-foot sailboat purchased on EBay.

 "It certainly wasn't without its issues," said Mr. Brouse. "There are people that think sailing is sitting around and laying around and relaxing. Sure, it can be that at times, but it's also a lot of hard work."

 And for the family who cut its teeth sailing Discovery on the Great Lakes, the challenges of the open water were soon quite obvious.

 "Well, after we left Hubbards we were in Shelburne for a week, waiting for a weather break," Mr. Brouse said. On the day "we set sail, by noon it had turned ugly."

 The wind quickly picked up, blowing 40 to 45 knots (about 75 km/h)

 "The waves were 30, 35 foot," Wesley said.

 The boat and all aboard were tossed about.

 "I felt very small," Ms Brouse said. "The waves were coming from all directions. It was a very scary experience."

 Both children and even the mate were sick.

 "I think the only thing that kept me from being sick was having to look after the kids," Ms Brouse said. "And Kirk, well, somebody had to sail the boat."

 For about 20 hours the family dealt with the harsh weather conditions, until help arrived in the form of a U.S. research vessel, which stayed with Discovery until the seas began to subside at about 5 a.m.

 "By 10 a.m. the waters were eerily still," Mr. Brouse said. "And that was our first offshore experience."

 The family had left Hubbards to sail to Cape Cod, Hampton, Virginia and eventually to the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.

 "We were pretty shell shocked when we reached Cape Cod," Ms Brouse said. "But, we also learned what our boat can do."

 Having survived their first challenge, the family gained confidence heading into the remaining legs.

 The remainder of the trip went by without major consequence, on the open sea, anyway.

 About 300 nautical miles from the British Virgin Islands the ship lost its engine.

 Luckily, the insurance company covered the loss and the two-month docking fees that came with it.

 Visits followed to Martinique, the Grenadines, St. Kitts, Dominica, Trinidad and other exotic locations.

 At the numerous locations the Brouses saw native monkeys and giant tortoises, experienced local lifestyles and traditions and made friends for life.

 But perhaps the most exciting experience, at least to outsiders, may be their brief encounter with the island of Montserrat on January 8.

 "We ended up sailing through a no-sail zone," Mr. Brouse said. "We didn't really know it at the time. But we sailed by an active volcano. Well, we thought, what could be the harm? We got close to some of the volcano activity. As we passed by some ash went by us."

 No harm, no foul it would appear.

 "It wasn't until about an hour later we looked behind and this big explosion occurred. It turns out a mushroom cloud was thrust 20,000 feet into the air. Had we been an hour later sailing through, we would have been in the middle of it."

 As the summer draws to a close, the Brouse family is once again preparing for a life at sea.

 The Discovery awaits them in Trinidad, where the next leg of their journey begins.

 The plan is to go to the Panama Canal, maybe, and see where the sea takes them.

 If Claire were in charge, she knows where she'd go.

 "We can go through there and go see the French Polynesians," she said. "And I think I could do the 28 days (at sea) from the Galapagos Islands to Marquesas. And from there we can go to Australia."

 Ms Brouse jokes Kirk and Claire can go to Australia and Wesley and her will head home.

 "We'll see how it all comes together," Mr. Brouse said.

 So far, it's come together swimmingly.

posted on 09/07/10
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