Through A Child’s Eyes

We had a fantastic boating experience with another family this weekend. We invited one of my writer friends, her husband, and their two kids to come sailing with us on Sunday morning. This was their first time on a sailboat, and they were eager to learn!

Aspects of boat life that have slowly become mundane to us over the last two years were put into a new and refreshing light when explaining them to a six and eight-year-old. Getting off the dock became more than throwing lines and getting out to sail as quickly as possible. It turned into a fascinating explanation of WHY for everything. Why are there so many ropes? Why do you tie them that way? Why do we throw that over there? Why does the engine make that noise? Why do you have to look for water coming out the back of the boat? A five-minute process turned into twenty, but it enriched the experience for everyone.

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This pic is my favorite (posted with permission from his mama!)
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She nailed the toss!

Out on the water, the kids steered the boat, learned how to trim the sails, and found out how the navigation equipment worked. We even hung out with some dolphin friends!

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So close you could touch them

Though he has had a great career in the Marine Corps, I really think teaching will be somewhere in my sweet husband’s future. Watching him interact with W fills my heart, but also seeing his ‘teacher mode’ with older kids makes me excited for the years to come. I can’t wait until W is old enough to go from “keep her from falling off the boat” to “active crew participant”.

It just amazes me how kids soak up knowledge and dive into new activities without hesitation. They aren’t afraid to do it wrong or ask questions. This makes sailing even more enjoyable because it snaps adults out of autopilot. Kids make you live in the moment; to stop and think about what you are doing, and most importantly, WHY you are doing it. And the answer is usually, “Because it’s fun!”

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

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Monday Motivation

As the tagline for this blog points out, ‘we are a military family sailing by the seat of our pants’. Therefore, when I saw this quote, I immediately felt it in my bones:

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” —General George Patton

We are learning as we go. We are not boat experts, or salty sailors, or even semi-experienced cruisers. Yes, it is scary. We could have waited to live this life until we felt more prepared, had better timing, weren’t raising a toddler, no longer in the military…waiting, waiting, waiting…

What we have is messy, sometimes chaotic, difficult, and time-consuming. Constant learning curves, fixing what breaks, and always getting interrupted whenever we settle into a routine. It is decidedly not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. I would take this life a million times over rather than still be in the planning phase, too afraid to pull the trigger until I answered all the ‘what-ifs’ that kept me up at night.

Right now I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is mostly about writing, but her advice for creative living beyond fear is also applicable to liveaboard life, or for anyone who yearns to live passionately.

She says: “And you have treasures hidden within you—extraordinary treasures—and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing these treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

So if you have faith and focus and courage and devotion, you already have the tools you need to put your plan into action. Figure it out as you go, but don’t wait forever to make the decision. What would you do if you were not afraid?

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

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Keeping Boat Baby Busy

People who find out we live on a boat: “How do you deal with a toddler in such a small space?”

Me: “How do you keep track of your toddler in such a large space?”

But really, I think no matter where you live, entertaining a toddler is hard work. This is the struggle that all parents face, the never-ending question of “What are we going to DO today?”

Pros for living on a boat with a toddler:

  • I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
  • Boat-proofed is automatically baby-proofed. Everything is latched, furniture is built in, and corners are rounded.
  • A lot of time spent outdoors
  • When we are all on the boat, we are all hanging out together!
  • Don’t have tons of toys underfoot
  • Everything is spill-proof and waterproof

Cons:

  • I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
  • Silence is never an option
  • Deck time always involves a lifejacket
  • No space indoors to run her ragged

The last con is the biggest hurdle for us. How do I make sure my toddler burns off enough energy when she can’t run around outside due to weather? Summer here is challenging. 105 degree days with sudden thunderstorms. Here’s what we do to fill our week and get off the boat:

Early morning walks (most mornings) with an hour pit stop at the park. It is usually cool and shaded enough until 9 am. W can climb to her heart’s content while Scout and I get some exercise.

Story time at Barnes&Noble. Music, books, and socialization with kids. Plus, it is air-conditioned and there is an indoor play area at the other end of the mall. More things to climb.

Tot Time on base, or as W calls it, “T-T!” There is a 2-hour ‘free play’ for kids under 2 in one of the community center gyms on Camp Lejeune. Different toys and socialization time in the AC!

Gymnastics on Thursdays in the ‘Mommy and Me’ class. I think this one is her favorite. By the time the hour class is done, she usually falls asleep in the car.

Starbucks usually precedes a trip to the grocery store. Caffeine boost for Mom and a croissant for W! A good place to hang and people watch.

Library visits are also a favorite. We frequent two that are on base. They have separate kids rooms with puzzles and play structures, too!

Pool time is reserved for super-hot afternoons and extra-energy days. W likes the shaded kiddy pool, and 1 hr after playing in that she’s ready for bed.

Beach days are the best, but less frequent due to the absolute mess involved (read: SAND EVERYWHERE) but we usually go at least once per week. Conor loves doing this with her, so it is usually on the weekend.

Deck time will also entertain W for a while, as long as there is ice involved! Easiest entertainment ever: Get a bag of ice. Put out bowls of different sizes. Give toddler a big spoon. Have her move ice to various containers. When it melts, no cleanup needed! I don’t know why this is so amusing, but W loves it.

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Ice Ice Baby

These are the big ones. When we are on the boat, we play games, sing songs, build block towers, read books, color, play pretend with baby doll, and try to empty various cabinets.

How do you entertain your toddler? Give me ideas below!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Pop Quiz

How do we know summer is in full swing? Is it because:

A) We try to BBQ every meal

B) We are sweaty all the time

C) Boat work the whole weekend

D) My feet look like this:

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E) All the above.

If you answered ‘All the above’, you are correct! Hot days, humid nights, and incredible tan lines. You should see Conor’s redneck tank top tan. We have been hard at work doing annual maintenance as well as getting another step closer to cruising!

The work these past few weeks started out with an incentive to get our Coast Guard safety certification. This is a sticker that goes on our boat that shows we have already met with an agent and they have pre-examined our boat for things like fire extinguishers, battery covers, pollution stickers, etc. This is so if we get boarded by the Coast Guard later on, they just have to examine our paperwork real quick and we can be on our way! Also, we might be able to get a discount on our insurance if we have the certification.

Sounds like a great plan, right? We were mostly good to go, except for the battery covers. This led to, “Well, if we are going to replace the batteries soon anyway, why would we get covers for the old ones?” So what did we decide to do? Get new batteries instead 😊

With three trips to West Marine in less than a week, we got rid of our old flooded batteries and installed fancy AGM batteries! And when I say, “we installed”, I mean Conor did the heavy lifting and I sat up on the stairs and held the flashlight.

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Actually, I did scrub the corrosion off the old cables with baking soda and water!
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Guess how much these cost? $350 a pop. Boats ain’t cheap!

This undertaking has been on our to-do list for quite some time but became especially urgent after our Memorial Day anchor out and our discovery of how quickly our old batteries drained. Conor spent a few days reading up on electrical systems and how to avoid shocking himself before getting it all up and running. I’m so proud of how much he has learned!

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Can’t do boat work without this bible

One piece at a time, and soon we will be experts on every boat system. I’m happy we have had the opportunity to go slow and tackle repairs as they come up instead of doing it all at once. In just the two years we’ve owned the boat, our major replacements include upgrading the toilet, replacing the A.C. unit, installing cabin fans, customizing our hatch doors, and now installing new batteries.

And if you’re wondering, we passed our inspection with flying colors! Time to relax with a beer this weekend. Hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth!

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Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Just Keep Sailing!

Dory in her infinite wisdom advises us to “Just keep swimming!” when we are at a low point. We took her words to heart this weekend but modified them a bit. Our motto: “Just keep sailing!”

On Saturday we participated in the Ragged Point Yacht Club Father’s Day race event. It had been a few weeks since Story Time had been off the dock, and I think it was exactly what our family needed. Fun times with friends and a great day doing what we love! Though Conor has crewed on other boats for RPYC races, this was the first race with our own boat. Our wonderful friend Zach joined us in case Baby W didn’t want to cooperate and I had to switch to baby duty partway through.

There were six boats from Gottschalk that participated in the race. Our boat is supposedly the fastest, so during the staggered start we were last off the block with an 11-minute delay. Right as the race started, the wind pretty much died and everyone had a slow first 30 min. It was still pretty wonderful to look out at so many boats though! We were like the Gottschalk Armada on the river.

Rounding the first marker, the wind started to pick up and things got exciting. We were neck and neck with another boat but didn’t realize we were edging too far away from the channel. Just as we were flying toward the second marker, BUMP!

We hit bottom. Oops! Thankfully New River is muddy sludge on the bottom so it was a soft and slow impact. Conor tried to wiggle us off with the rudder and the wind, but no luck. He had to turn the engine on to get the boat free, which means an automatic DQ. We were bummed to have to drop out, but we will know better for next time.

The smallest boat ended up winning! Que Pasa and crew sailed a great race. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at sailing or learn the ropes, PLEASE reach out to us or anyone at the Ragged Point Yacht Club! We would love to have you on board for the next race.

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

 

Keep Us In Your Hearts

Hello friends. It has been a tough couple of weeks. We found out last week (on Conor’s birthday, unfortunately) that my fifth pregnancy was unviable. For those of you who have been following our journey for a while, you might remember this post where I discussed our three previous losses before getting pregnant with Baby W.

For this current pregnancy, I went in for my first ultrasound at what was supposed to be 10.5 weeks along. It turns out the babies, yes babies—it was twins—stopped growing at 6 weeks. This matched the timeline with 3 of my other losses around the same time. We are devastated. We have lost 5 babies. It doesn’t even seem possible to type it out. 5 babies. Unreal.

I had a D&C yesterday. This is a procedure to surgically remove an incomplete miscarriage because my body wasn’t getting the memo to do it on its own. I opted for the surgical route because I did the medical way with my second miscarriage and it was excruciating. I was in labor with W for 17 hours and gave birth to her unmedicated, and I can safely say I would rather do that again than miscarry with the Cytotec. The D&C procedure went great and today I physically feel fine. Emotionally, well, who knows. We are taking it day by day. Thank God we are so busy with W and we are holding her extra close.

There may be a light at the end of this long tunnel. This is about to get pretty personal, just warning you. My doctor believes I may have what is called a septate uterus. This is a line of cartilage running through the uterus that increases the chance of miscarriage in women by about 40%. If embryos attach to this instead of the uterine wall, there is no blood flow for a placenta to form. This is likely what is happening with me, because the babies all stopped growing around the same time. While it is a relief to maybe have an answer, it means another surgery. It also just really, really sucks because these losses could have been prevented if we had known. The only way to test for this condition, though, is to have recurrent losses.

So as it turns out, Baby W was pretty much a miracle. The likelihood of carrying her to term and having a natural birth with my suspected condition was incredibly low.

The outpouring of love and support from family and close friends during this time has been incredible. We have received cards, care packages, phone calls, and hugs. While it is tempting to just hide away from the world to grieve, it is also so incredibly important to talk about this.

I wanted to share this story because of the impact being open with pregnancy loss has had on the people in my life. Since writing my first story about it, I have had numerous friends reach out to me with their own miscarriage experience because they didn’t know any other women who had gone through the same thing. You are NOT alone. Even once the miscarriage is over, there is still the lingering pain of a future unfulfilled. You remember your due date. Think about your child’s future milestones. Holidays. What you would be doing this very minute if you hadn’t had a loss. It is so hard, and I think that people who have shared this experience have a special connection. We should be free to talk and heal. I channeled some of my experience into Sonder Village with a character who dealt with multiple pregnancy loss and infertility. Writing is my outlet, and a part of me needed to put it in the book to process my own emotions.

Everyone deals with loss differently. Conor has been a rock throughout all of this even though he is grieving and heartbroken, too. I am so thankful to have such a supportive husband by my side throughout all of this. After getting the bad news at the ultrasound last week, I spent the weekend finishing my next book. It was almost like a ‘fuck you’ to the universe. I am STILL ME. I am STILL STRONG. I can STILL do great things. One of my bad ass friends ran a half-marathon the day after getting her terrible news to know her body was still hers. Another friend started a business. Women are incredible, and though we may hurt, we do not break.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Anchors Aweigh!

We decided to do our first anchor out over Memorial Day. We had been looking forward to it for weeks, but come the actual day, a few elements were working against us—no wind, 100% humidity, and a heat index of 104 degrees. Sounds like a great day to experience life on the hook, right?

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Story Time at anchor!

We debated all day whether to leave the dock, until finally we decided that we would rather regret doing it than not doing it. Conor so rarely has enough time off to attempt a trip like this and we couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

At 6pm we set out. I know I’m making this sound like a grand adventure, but we were literally going around the corner to Hospital Point. Just out of sight of the marina so we felt like we were anchored somewhere exotic, but still a 20 minute dinghy ride back. It was important to keep the anchor spot as local as possible in case something went wrong and we needed to return ASAP. The other purpose was to test the systems (windlass, night lights, anchor light, battery life, etc.) and check that everything worked before we planned longer excursion later this summer.

Before we left, Conor also downloaded an anchor app that alerts you when you drift so many meters from your starting position. That way, if your anchor comes loose and you start dragging toward shore, the alarm will wake you up before you run aground. We were also equipped with these wonderful wind scoops that look like teeny tiny spinnakers. They redirect the wind down into the cabin for some nice airflow.

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By 7 pm we dropped anchor and watched the sunset. The wind picked up and cooled us off while we watched dolphins hunt their dinner. W had her bath up in the cockpit before being rocked to sleep by the waves. For a few hours, anchoring out was every bit the experience we had hoped for.

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Then the wind died at 10pm, and holy hell was it a long, hot night. FYI, wind scoops only work when there’s a breeze. There were no bugs, thankfully, but even with every window thrown open we were sweating it out. W woke up when the sky lightened at 5:15 am, so the whole family was pretty tired.

Watching that sun rise, though, was indescribable. It was a different feeling than being in our cockpit on the dock. It really did feel like an escape from day-to-day life. W thought it was hilarious that we were still out on the river and ran to and from the bow while Conor and I sipped our coffee. Fun fact: Memorial Day last year was W’s first-ever sail! It was amazing to see how far we’ve come as a family and how comfortable she is on the boat now.

Scout needed her morning potty, so the family took a dinghy ride to shore. On the way back, W fell asleep standing up with her head in my lap! Poor baby had too much excitement for one weekend. I put her down for a nap on the boat and we headed back to Gottschalk.

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W passed out standing up while riding the dinghy. Life skills.

All in all, we had a great time despite the weather. All our systems worked, but I need to look at our battery life. Our house battery was almost dead after only 16 hours, so we need to get better at conserving energy and utilizing our solar panel and wind generator to their full extent. It’s a learning process, but I’m proud that we checked off this important step.

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W