At 33,000 feet over the Atlantic, I look down on a cloudless day and imagine someone on a small sailboat living and dreaming down there. It is one of those days when my “eight to six” has extended far more than I would prefer, and I am enjoying reading about a family who chose another road . . . or should I say another rhumb?

In All in the Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising you will read about choosing the right boat and systems, maintaining them, provisioning and cooking, communications while cruising, anchoring, and fishing. And you’ll notice themes related to raising a family afloat: education, health, finances, work, and play. But this book is about taking your life and dreams in your hands and leaving mediocrity behind. It tells us what it takes to build the right attitude, get away from land, and live a better life. Don’t get me wrong. Tom Neale does not judge your life or mine; he just extols the virtues of his family’s chosen path.

The Neales have chosen a boat to be their home for the past 20 years and raised their family doing what most of us only dream about. They will not tell you that the life you live is not genuine but rather that the dream you have is possible. You just have to work at it.

Lucy and I live in a two-bedroom condominium apartment in a typical neighborhood, drive over 15,000 miles a year, and work in air-conditioned spaces – a life Tom aptly describes. Like many others, we share a dream of knowing our greater neighborhood firsthand. We bought a good old sailboat because of this dream. Doubts nevertheless are always there. How do we do it?

Tom’s approach to the subject will help the reader considering these issues realize that life aboard is not an extended vacation. It will be fun only after understanding that it involves work of a different kind. The fact that the well-being of you and your family will depend only on yourselves is primordial. You need to develop the right attitude step by step. Sailing and navigational skills are mentioned first, but this is not a basic sailing course. Financial matters also need to be considered as well as communication with those ashore. Do you have small children or teenagers? What will their needs be? Comfort in a boat is not a joke; it will be forever linked to your safety. Water. Power systems: 12-volt or AC? What type of head do you need? Will you need ice? Medical emergencies while in paradise, how do we handle them? All these subjects are treated honestly and without disproportionate enthusiasm.

Although Tom’s name is on the cover, by the time you finish reading All in the Same Boat you will understand this book is more of a family endeavor than a one-person effort. Anecdotes by the other family members are interspersed with the main text.

In times and places where almost nobody will care for poetry and where the validity of the school system is in question, All in the Same Boat includes poetry by daughter Melanie (who also fixes a generator), sections written by daughter Carolyn (the musician in the family), and more from wife Mel (a photographer and painter). It covers recipes and parenting issues. This book is refreshing reading about attainable dreams.

As you read through some 350 pages of solid cruising and liveaboard counsel, your thoughts will wander just as mine did . . . if you happen not to be cruising at the time.

The Neales live and cruise on Chez Nous. At the time the book was written, this was a 1979 Gulfstar 47 Sailmaster. They have just moved to a 1975 Gulfstar 53 Motorsailer. The family also publishes a newsletter called Cruising: Coast and Islands.

All in the Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising by Tom Nealt (International Marine, 1999)