A single mom in Courtenay teaches her kids essential life skills using the ocean, whether that means smooth sailing or rough waters.
Daphne Stuart takes her two sons, aged 11 and 15, out on extended boating trips each summer around Vancouver Island’s east coast. She says the best part of the experience is what she’s able to share with her boys.
“There’s no TV or computers or anything out there, and they’re out there seeing killer whales or riding on the bow of the boat with dolphins swimming underneath them … and just that exploring characteristic that I want to show them — that there’s more than just our little small town,” says Stuart.
“It’s not always perfect … There’s been several times where it’s been a little dicey out there of course — you get into some waves or some rapids or something — and it’s not fun, it’s scary. And they see me pushing through and not quitting, and they see my fears and how to handle that.”
Stuart grew up boating in Vancouver Island waters with her parents. She says she’s always loved the water and has owned a boat for much of the 11 years she’s lived in Courtenay, but she stayed closer to land in the past, sticking to short excursions.
A few years ago, however, she read The Curve of Time by Muriel Wylie Blanchet. The Vancouver Island author and her husband took their five children on extended summer journeys on their 25-foot boat. Blanchet was widowed in the 1920s, but continued to take her kids out each summer on her own and wrote about their many adventures in her book.
“I just thought, ‘Well, if she can do it so can I,’ ” recalls Stuart. “I thought, ‘If I prepare properly, I can do this — just because I’m a single mom, doesn’t matter.’ So I did it.”
She bought a new Bayliner to ensure her boat would be reliable, got all the necessary safety equipment and set out in June 2011 for the first summer. The family has been out each summer since and has explored all over the east coast of the Island, including Desolation Sound, Broughton Archipelago, and the Gulf Islands down as far as the American border.
Stuart says they will head up to Bella Bella this summer, which should take four to five weeks there and back as they like to take their time, stopping off here and there.
Stuart teaches piano to kids during the school year, so she’s unemployed in the summer, a good thing in her opinion. To help make the trips financially feasible, she rents out her Courtenay home for the summer.
The family comes back to the Valley once during the summer to do a major restock on their supplies. Then they head back out until it’s nearly time for school to start in September.
Stuart will be a speaker at the Vancouver International Boat Show on Jan. 22 and 23.
“I’m totally flattered,” she says of the opportunity to share her experience with boat show attendees. “I don’t think I’m that big of a deal, (laughs). I just did it because I love the ocean. It’s like oxygen for me; I just need the ocean.”
I plan to “show them how I do it so that maybe somebody else will do it, and not be held back by the stereotypes that you need two parents on a boat to do it.”
For more information about Daphne Stuart’s travels, visit www.daphnestuart.com. For more information about the Vancouver International Boat Show, which runs from Jan. 22 to 26, visit www.vancouverboatshow.ca.