Posted Monday, May 9, 2005
The day of the crossing drew nearer and soon we would be setting off across the Atlantic. We all felt pretty depressed at the thought of no kids for nearly three weeks. The yacht Onskan came to the rescue and suggested a kids net. The idea was to use the Single Sideband Radio to keep in touch. Everyone was thrilled! So, while we were going across the Atlantic we were able to chat to other kids doing the same. During the ARC the adults used the SSB every day to report their positions so that information could be relayed back to the ARC offices in the UK so they could update the website. THey also used the SSB to get weather information and some boats took it in turns to be net controller to share the responsibility. So it seemed natural for our net to follow this format.
On our net we could collect each other's positions and find out what everyone was doing. We made sure each other kids' boat were allocated days to be net controller. Being net controller meant you were in charge and you had to do three things: ask for emergency traffic, ask for general check-ins and collect vessel names and positions. After this was done we all got chatting. We talked about the fish we caught to see who had caught the biggest and also what damage had been done if any. One boat lost its self steering, we damaged one sail and another boat took a wave over the boat and got all its bedding very wet indeed. Victoria (12 yrs old) from Onskan damaged her hand when her father fell on it while tryint to land a fish and they had to have medical advice sent via the SSB through a relay back to the UK. And finally Freya on Canina celebrated her 12th birthday while crossing the Atlantic and we all sang her Happy Birthday on the net.
When all the kids arrived in St. Lucia realisation hit. We were all going on to different places. What could we do? Well, carry on with the net of course! So as all of the other kids drifted in different directions we still kept in contact. As well as the original boats new boats have been joining all the time, so if any kids want to be listed or chat to the kids net go onto frequency 8122 at 12:00 local time (16:00 UTC).
The SSB was not the only form of communication which was used by the kids. Email played a big part in getting us together in the first place. The ARC sent out to all of the kids a list of the other children's email addresses before the ARC was due to happen. So all the kids emailed each other, sent jokes and messages and began to feel that we already knew each other even though we had not yet met face to face.
Some kids' boats will carry on cruising around the Caribbean, others will return to the U.K... We wil be heading through Panama and off to our new home in Australia. As we get further away from each other we may have to resort to email but we hope the kids net will continue in the Caribbean and we hope to set up a similar net in the Pacific.
This article was reprinted by permission from page 24 of the April 2003
issue of All At Sea (www.allatsea.net), The Caribbean's Waterfront Newspaper.