We Did It. Did you ever think about what are the best mini-vacations – here’s what we did?
Some time ago I wrote an article entitled “what is a mini-vacation” and I had mentioned we would be taking 3 of our grandchildren on a sailing adventure.
We accomplished that goal and I thought it was important to share our adventure with you.
A Unique Challenge
I know lots of people go sailing and plenty of people go sailing with their kids or grandkids but how many go sailing and actually live aboard when one of those grandchildren has type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes makes not only sailing but daily life full of unique challenges.
Typical of most sailing couples, our crew consists of the two of us.
So while my husband steers the boat and keeps his eyes on our water depth, keeping us on course my job is to manage the sails. That includes raising or lowering various sails but also keeping them trimmed for best performance when underway.
Having our type 1 diabetic grandson meant my tasks also included frequently checking his blood glucose levels, getting him snacks or drinks as required.
This was extremely important because meals can’t always be on time when underway.
Inevitably the waves increase or winds go wonky requiring mealtimes to wait for calmer water in which to drop the sails to prepare a meal.
We managed well and everyone had a great time.
We are feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work but also missing the water already.
Our trip consisted of two parts.
Part 1 (Friday – Sunday)
The first part of our trip was just my husband and me aboard.
The plan was to sail down the St. John River to the Jemseg River.
Motor up the Jemseg River to Grand Lake.
Sail around Grand Lake a bit then find a cove to drop anchor for the night, then sail into Douglas Harbour and pick up our 3 grandchildren there the next day.
The first part of the trip didn’t exactly go as planned but that is part of sailing.
First of all, we were rather late leaving.
Because the grandkids would be joining us up at the lake, I needed to have bedding, towels, extra life jackets on board before we left.
Loading took longer than anticipated.
Our boat is a McGregor so we loaded her at home then trailered her to the river to launch.
Because it was late in the day when we launched winds were very light so we were lucky to be able to move at about 2.5 knots.
We ended up anchoring at Ox Island on Friday night which was just about night time when we arrived.
Saturday morning was a very relaxing morning listening to nature with a coffee on the bow. There was no wind in the morning so we spent most of the morning just hanging about. At noontime, we decided to head out despite the lack of wind. The afternoon was light wind again and only got as far as Hartt’s Lake where we anchored there for the night.
Sunday the winds were light but we were able to move a little faster. Finally, got to the Jemseg River and doused the sails.
Because of the shallower water and narrower channel we decided to motor the 8 km upriver to the lake.
On reaching the lake we were hit with 20 km/hr winds providing very choppy water.
Dropped anchor just off from the main route to grab a bit of lunch, had a beer and swim then we finally raised the sails and we were on our way for a great time with some fantastic sailing. The sailing was mostly tacking back and forth across the lake.
It was a very hot day and out of necessity we would douse the sails and have a periodic swim.
Life is great on the water.
We sailed past Douglas Harbour which was the plan to drop anchor in a cove up the lake further however the winds were acting up and we thought it best to just drop anchor in Douglas Harbour just to make sure we are there to pick up the grandkids lunchtime the next day.
That turned out to be a good decision because the wind became very strong and not blowing in our favour. With both sails up we were still going backwards.
After about an hour trying to figure the best angle to approach the wind, we decided to take the main down and try with just the Genoa. It was like magic, we hit 3.5 to 4 knots and reached Douglas Harbour in 30 minutes.
We decided to grab a mooring in Douglas Harbour for the night then we could relax and enjoy the morning before the grandkids came aboard.
Part 2 (Monday – Wednesday)
It was now Monday and it was just after lunch when we headed over to the dock to board the grandkids and their clothing bags.
I also had our son-in-law pick up a few extra groceries for us. Took some time to store away all the new food, diabetic supplies, and kids clothing bags.
We then got them into their life-jackets and went over the boat rules.
Their parents left and we headed out of port. Once out of port the wind was incredibly light and we were so disappointed that sailing was not good right then.
We decided to take them for a swim so they can get a chance to cool off a bit.
We went to a spot where we can actually beach the boat on the leeward side of Grand Point Bar.
It is a very popular place for boaters and sailors to go for a splash in the shallow water in the middle of the lake. The photo was taken from the boat facing the shore.
After a couple of hours, we noticed the wind was picking up so we boarded again and headed out.
Within a short time, we noticed a storm was heading our way so I got out the canvas and enclosed the cockpit just in time before the heavy rain hit.
The water instantly turned pretty choppy and plenty of whitecaps with 2 to 2.5 ft waves which gave us some serious fun sailing.
The kids were getting used to the boat heeling and only on the sudden gusts did they get a little scared. I don’t blame them though, those sudden gusts get me too.
It started to really cool down and the wind was picking up quite a bit.
We were only sailing with the Genoa reefed to about half sail. We were still clipping along pretty good at about 3.5 – 4.2 knots with a 20-degree angle.
As quick as it started it was all over. Now getting to around supper time we decided to head back to port and moored again.
The kids swam with the two youngest tied on to the boat while I cooked supper.
Relaxing evening aboard, the girls read while Alex pretended he was captain and steered the boat.
The following day
We had good wind and sailed to the opening of the Jemseg river.
We made the best time when tacking and got some pretty intense splashes over the bow, The lake had 2 – 2.5 foot swells so it was a fun sail.
Trying to cook lunch while in rough water was tricky but we got her done and even managed Alex’s injection without incident.
We got to the buoys marking our channel to the river around 3 so motored all the way to Ox island so we could get supper started close to on time for Alex.
We went to our favourite area but it was too windy and two anchors wouldn’t hold so we packed up and headed to the other side of the island.
The kids enjoyed it so much more with the calmer waves.
Lots of water and sand play. In the evening we had a nice little campfire while the kids had a video chat with Mom and Dad.
Wednesday we packed up and headed for home after lunch.
Space is Limited
Our boat is a 26′ McGregor which means we don’t have the space to store a lot of stuff.
It is really important to seriously think about everything that comes aboard to be sure it is essential.
We took 3 of our grandchildren which meant using a berth to store something was not an option.
Absolutely everything had to be properly stored in some nook and cranny.
The boat does have plenty of storage areas so it was just a matter of keeping the most often needed items handy to grab.
Naturally, we kept all the diabetes supplies easily accessible at all times.
Snacks and drinks were always close by and stored as conveniently as possible.
Cooking in cramped quarters
We have both a single burner alcohol stove and a propane BBQ aboard which means we can cook most of our favourite recipes during those times the boat is our home.
I definitely have a few favourite recipes to cook while on board.
Whether veggies & dip or a side salad, fresh veggies are a part of almost every meal.
We had hotdogs, hamburgers, pork chops and even had a steak dinner one night.
The last day we did not have supper on board as we headed for home soon after lunch.
The McGregor’s were designed to sleep six so it wasn’t too cramped for the five of us.
Monday night (our first night with the kids) Alex woke up with leg pains so I was up massaging his leg for him.
Tuesday night he slept very well.
Personally, I seem to have my best sleep on the boat.
Rick and I took the V-berth, Alex on the table that converts to a berth and the girls shared the rear berth which is the size of a king-size bed.
Everyone had a good comfortable sleep.
Managing Type 1 aboard
I set the alarm on my phone to check Alex’s blood glucose levels throughout the night.
The first night he required me to wake him for some juice as he went low.
The second night his numbers were fantastic.
His long-lasting shot was at 7 am and his breakfast shot was within an hour of that.
I would put the table back together once he was up and get his breakfast first. Then I would get everyone else’s breakfast ready.
Like I said before, snacks were important because when underway I couldn’t guarantee that a safe place to prepare a meal would be found at exactly the right time.
Snacks gave us the freedom to find a place we could more easily manage food preparations and insulin injections.
We had as many fun adventures as possible.
We would get the kids to secure a line or help trim sails when safe to do so.
We would occasionally tie a line to their life jacket and allow them to swim off the stern in the big waves. They loved this.
In port, we still had some wind so again tied them to a line and allowed swimming.
At the island, we had more swimming in shallower water so life jackets and lines were not necessary.
We even had a campfire.
Naturally, while underway there were a few moments of boredom for the kids but these were kept at bay by giving them tasks they could easily do.
Now they can go home and tell their friends they helped sail the boat.
With summer comes vacation, and because of COVID, what are the best mini-vacations – here’s what we did became an important topic to discuss.
While I mainly shared our personal experience I hope you can see that type 1 diabetes does not need to stop any adventure whether sailing or doing some fun activity on land.
All it takes for a successful, fun-filled mini-vacation is planning to ensure you have everything you need on board.
Because we had very hot humid weather it was important to check Alex’s blood glucose levels frequently. He was tending to run high so drinking plenty of water was important.
Next time we will be much more vigilant with water drinking.
I think all of us really should have drunk more water than we did although nobody complained about being thirsty.
I would also maybe take along some cards or a board game for entertainment.
Five people living in 26 feet requires a little creativity to prevent boredom.
Alex did have a few toys and the girls had their books they love to read.
We all had a great time.
Building lasting memories with our grandchildren is fun for all of us and I am thankful we can give them those experiences.
My advice for anyone thinking of sailing with a diabetic is to plan.
Be sure to have a glucagon kit on board just in case. Also, marine radio and cell phones are a must.
Have enough insulin, glucose testing supplies, ketone test strips.
Plan for highs and what you can do to treat them. Plan for lows and have fast-acting sugar snacks available at all times.
If you plan for everything you can think of and be sure to pack the necessary items for each scenario then things should go smoothly.
We had a ton of leftover everything but I would rather pack too much than not have something when needed.
Be selective on what you bring on board. You don’t want to be crowded. Remember, this boat was our home for those 5 days. We had what we needed with us but very few luxury items.
Do you have experience sailing with a type 1 diabetic?
Leave your tips or suggestions in the comment section below. I look forward to trying your suggestions.
I hope this helps you plan your mini-vacation.
Don’t let diabetes stop you. Find a way to make it work, whatever adventure awaits you.
“I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.”