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Looking Back On A Year At Sea

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The Johnson family of Oxford, Md. recently returned from a year-long sailing expedition around the world in their 62-foot catamaran, named Elcie.
Tara Boyle
The Johnson family of Oxford, Md. recently returned from a year-long sailing expedition around the world in their 62-foot catamaran, named Elcie.

Last November, Jessica and Richard Johnson set sail on a yearlong sailing expedition. They brought their daughters Emma and Molly, and together they traveled down the East Coast, through the Caribbean, and across the Panama Canal. They then set sail across the Pacific Ocean, visiting exotic locales such as Tahiti, Pitcairn Island, and Fiji.

Before they left, we gave the Johnsons recording equipment, and each month they sent us back audio of their adventures. That audio became the basis of a series of audio postcards that we called "The Elcie Diaries."

The Johnsons recently returned home to Maryland, and sat down with us to talk about the lessons learned on their trip, and the many people they met along the way.

On Recording the Journey

Jessica says she was at first a little shy about approaching strangers with her recording equipment and requesting interviews.

"It was challenging because we were moving quickly through an area, and I did feel like it helped to have a couple days to cultivate a relationship with someone before I could feel brave enough myself to ask them to do an interview," she says.

"I did find that going to a tourism office was always easy, because I think people in tourism offices are used to people asking them questions. But we were really enjoyed the experience, because it got us out meeting interesting people."

The People They Met

Among the interviews the Johnsons recorded was a conversation with a man named Brother King, who works to rehabilitate turtles on the island of Bequia. While in Samoa, they interviewed a young man about the symbolism of his tattoos. Jessica says her daughters took the lead on that particular conversation.

"They were just completely rapt by the conversation with him, and asked him almost all the questions," she says. "So that was just a really special experience that I know the girls will always remember."

Bonding With Each Other

The Johnsons say their life at sea allowed them to live a simpler life, because they were limited on the supplies they could bring with them.

"I think there was a bit of settling in for the girls," says Jessica. "They of course missed their friends and missed some of what they did in regular school, but after a few months we really got into a great routine with home schooling, with traveling together, and I think overall it's been a really positive experience for our family. I can see where we've gotten closer to each other, and really enjoyed our time together."


[Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "Sailing" by Donna the Buffalo from Rockin' in the Weary Land]

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