Think of it as if it were meditation or prayer," says Judy, seeing that I'm struggling to understand the purpose of the trip. "Your ordinary life may be good, but once in a while you need to step out of it."
She and her husband, David, are aware of the jeopardy in which their family name puts them, but the Nutts are going to take their three-year voyage anyway. David is a boatbuilder, a former competitive kayaker and (fortunately) an expert sailor, Judy, an accomplished skier and (also fortunately) an emergency room physician. They and their four children, Charlotte, 4, Jasper, 9, Sarah, 11, and David, 13, will sail around the world in a 60-foot ketch named Danza, for a slow Puerto Rican dance, with only themselves as crew. The world they will leave is mid-coast Maine, known for blue bays, white gulls, gray shingles, and traps, both lobster and tourist. The world ahead will consist of a great deal of water: 200 days at sea, 900 in various ports.
From Boothbay Harbor, Maine, they plan to sail to the British Virgin Islands, then to the San Bias Islands of Panama and through the Panama Canal. Next they will go up the west coast of Costa Rica and down the Pacific to the Gal�pagos Islands of Ecuador. Then comes a 3,600-mile westerly journey to the Marquesas and southwest to the Society Islands, including Tahiti, before heading down to New Zealand.
So much for Year One. The next two years will entail sailing to the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Indonesia and Thailand, where the Nutts will pause to wait out the typhoon season, then on to Singapore, through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. On the final leg the family will cross the Atlantic by going up to Iceland, Greenland and Labrador before bringing Danza back to Boothbay Harbor.
At the moment the boat rests in David's boatyard, undergoing a complete makeover. Her steel hull has been painted and glows a ghostly white under fluorescent lights. David, Judy and I climb a tall ladder to her deck—an eruption of wires, paint dust and nails. I expected the boat to look bigger. It's not that it's only 60 feet long; a 40-foot boat can sail across an ocean. It's just difficult to imagine six people living in the narrow space in which we are standing. A lot of families have trouble taking a ride in a car without contemplating divorce or murder.
What looks cramped to me, however, looks like a whole world to the Nutts. "I'm overwhelmed by this boat," says David.
Judy says, "I feel that I'm on the Titan—...oops. I mean, a very big boat."
Judy has an alert face and a can-do voice. She has kept her maiden name, Sandick, preferring not to be called Dr. Nutt. David, who looks like a weathered David Cassidy, is orderly, calm and intense. They have planned this adventure carefully. The boat is being refitted with a new electrical system, new plumbing, new engine, rigging and sails. The main 70-foot aluminum mast, which lies outside on the grass like a large section of pipe, is being completely refurbished. A new steering system is being installed. "At sea," says David, "losing one's steering is worse than losing one's mast." The teak deck is being recaulked. The paint, hull and spars are being replaced. Three hatches are being added to the original six, as is new deck hardware. The layout of the forward cabins is being changed to give the children bunks, bookshelves and tables. The galley is being rebuilt, as are the two heads. A washing machine and water maker are being added. All this is being done by David and four of his employees in the boatyard.
"They have an incentive to work well and quickly," David says. "They're getting rid of me for three years."
Judy and David have all the necessary charts. They have taken note of weather and other hazards. They have practiced man-overboard drills and abandon-ship drills. A six-month excursion in the Caribbean last year served as a sort of wet run for this one. But three or more years on a boat is a complex and dangerous undertaking. I ask David if there is a set procedure when a sudden storm comes up.