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Monday, June 2, 2008

Come sail away, bring the family

Family chucks it all, sails off to see the world

By Pamela McLoughlin
Register Staff
— Glenn and Pamela Maddox didn’t want to die wishing they’d spent more time with their two children, so the couple made a bold move most people only fantasize about.
“We pulled the plug,” Glenn Maddox said.
By that, he means they quit their professional jobs, sold their house, cars and most of their material goods, bought a 44-foot Catalina-Morgan sailboat, and in 2006 set sail to see the world with Linzi, now 6, and MeiLing, 4.
“It sounds like pure insanity, but we had this dream,” Glenn Maddox said. “The idea is, you realize your kids grow up fast. We had plenty of money (after selling everything) and this great realization that life was going to end sometime.”
Pamela Maddox admits: “It was a leap.”
The family, shown on East Island above, who lived in Colorado, is temporarily staying in Milford with Pamela Maddox’s father because their boat — or floating home — is undergoing repairs. Shown above, the craft was caught up on rocks and damaged during a severe storm in Chile, 350 miles north of Cape Horn.
But they’ll head back out in September when the weather in Chile is better, and complete what was to be a three- to four-year journey. They’ve had their ups and downs: thunderstorms, hurricanes, bouts of too much adult togetherness and a couple of medical emergencies that were solved.
More than that, however, they’ve had the beauty of one another’s frequent company, adventure in foreign lands and exposure to various cultures, the satisfaction of pulling together in tough times, and the joy of seeing Linzi and MeiLing light up at each new experience.
The family set sail from Tampa, Fla., and went on to such places as Bar Harbor, Maine, back to the Carribean, and on to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Argentina and the Galapagos Islands.
Experienced boaters before this journey of a lifetime, the Maddox family has sailed 15,000 miles and plans to go another 30,000-50,000 before returning to life on land.
They’ve stopped in many parts of the world and made aquaintances, a few friends with whom they’ll stay in contact. The girls are like a gateway to the world, making folks smile at every port with their outgoing personalities and helping everyone to open up. In South America, especially, few could fathom living on a boat, the couple agrees.
Pamela Maddox, a systems analyst in her previous life, learned on board how to make homemade bread and tortillas and home-schooled Linzi. These were among the many hands-on activities that have made her hope to never have to return to the workplace.
She relishes the nights the family laid on the bow, studying the stars and constellations or when they came upon a breathtaking waterfall, blue whales or dolphins leaping through the water.
“I’m hoping I can keep it (the simplicity) in our lives,” Pam Maddox said. “We don’t want to go back to that crazy life.”
Glenn Maddox, once a real estate broker and now much happier as captain of “The Red Thread,” said he’ll have to go back to work one day to earn a living, but it won’t be in the intense, stressful real estate field.
“You just see the world differently,” Glenn Maddox said. “When you’re living on a boat, you don’t need or want many things ... you don’t need all the entanglements.”
The Maddoxes aren’t exactly kids: Glenn is 44 and Pamela is 52, and they’ve been married about 12 years. But still, the couple found relationship challenges living in such close quarters 24/7.
Agreeing that living on the open sea can be a “pressure cooker,” they made lots of rules about how to talk to each other and cope. If they need space, they ask for it, since there’s nowhere to take a long walk. Holding grudges is not an option, they said. And they’re always revisiting that age-old couple’s question, “How do we communicate better?”
When there is a disagreement, it all feels “much more intense” then on land where there are more distractions, Glenn Maddox said.
“It’s the ultimate marriage therapy,” he said.
Even though the sailboat is state-of-the-art, with all kinds of computers and gadgets, bringing that investment to $375,000, someone has to keep watch at all times, even when it’s on auto- pilot.
So the couple works together, sometimes round-the-clock if they don’t anchor for the night, taking turns while the other sleeps. Glenn Maddox takes more hours at a time than his wife.
When the going gets tough, they all work together and even the girls have chores. There is no television on board, but they’re allowed one movie on DVD a day or two movies if the family spends 24 hours at sea.
Pamela Maddox said she sometimes misses family and Chai tea from Starbucks. They can communicate by e-mail in certain ports.
Glenn Maddox has found one of his favorite drinks, real coffee for brewing, isn’t available in all parts of the world; in some places, he had to settle for instant.
The family weathered some tough storms by anchoring in safe places, but the last one in Chile, in April, took its toll. They knew the storm was coming and anchored in a lagoon about 225 feet from shore. For three days, they endured 40-70 mph winds and eight hours before the storm broke their anchors, which tore loose, and the boat landed on rocks.
Glenn got out in the middle of the storm, into the dingy to pull the boat off the rocks. The dingy turned over and was lost, so he continued to try to rescue the boat, freezing in the very cold water. Pamela was worried about Glenn, but could see a little house on land not too far away and that brought comfort. It turns out the man who lived in the house saw the family’s struggles and came to help, then took them in for the night.
“I gave the order to abandon ship,” Glenn Maddox said.
They had put out a distress call, but heard nothing back. Eventually, they called the U.S. Coast Guard, which in turn called the Coast Guard in Chile.
Pamela and the girls went to Milford and Glenn stayed behind for a couple of months to work on the boat before arriving here recently. The storm damage took a bite out of their budget, but nothing life-altering, and so they’ll make the high seas home again come September.
“There’s nothing worse than unfulfilled dreams. ... The only other option is to live with your regret,” Glenn Maddox said.


Anonymous Big Deal said...

Why is this a news story? Who really cares? I would feel it a better story if they were helping the poor or donating their time to their community to plant tree not sail around.

June 5, 2008 at 8:38 AM 

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