What Lurks Below?

Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun! AHHHHHHH!

We found out Story Time’s hull is in need of SERIOUS work. Below is the video that made me want to cry.

Ouch.

How on earth did this happen? We pride ourselves of taking excellent care of our boat, and this, quite frankly, is embarrassing.

To start with, our old diver at Gottschalk marina was not upfront with us about the state of our hull for the past few years. He also used the wrong tools for cleaning, leaving huge scratches in our paint and letting black algae grow. We had no idea we were down to bare on some parts of our keel, and it is beyond frustrating that we were not told this until we found a new diver at Bay Point marina to give us the scoop (and the video). A huge thank-you to Jason at Deep Blue Marine Solutions for the diagnostic.

Some of the responsibility is on us, of course. We should have had Story Time hauled out last summer at the 3-year mark, but the pandemic and baby on the way complicated things.

After a good, long panic about it, we have already found a boatyard to take her out at in June to get some work done. Hauling out is even more of a pain when you live aboard, because now not only are we on the hook for our Bay Point slip, but also the yard slip AND somewhere else to stay for the yet-to-be-determined duration of the rehab work. Fingers crossed it will only take a few weeks, but we might be in it for the long haul (out).

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

B.O.A.T

Bust.

Out.

Another.

Thousand.

We feel the true meaning of the word ‘boat’ as we aim to put the entirety of our tax return toward Story Time’s pre-season maintenance. This past week, the bimini and dodger got some TLC from Little Bay Canvas. They replaced a few pieces of cracked Eisenglass, tightened seams, and fixed hardware (Cost: $650). Then, West Marine had a 30% off dock lines sale, so OF COURSE we had to get in on that as well. Some of our dock lines came with our boat when we bought it, so we were past due to replace them all (Cost: $415).

6 new dock lines with 7-month-old baby for scale

Next items on our list:

  • New seals on hatch windows
  • Rigging check
  • Bottom scrape
  • Possibly haul out+antifouling on hull
  • Brightwork
  • Troubleshoot chart plotter
  • Patch the dinghy
  • Clean anchor chain
  • Service winches
  • Service AC unit
  • Change oil/fuel filter
  • Power wash deck
  • Replace fresh water pump
  • Clean cockpit lockers (yuck)

Some of this is yearly maintenance, some of it should be done every 3 to 5 years. This will be our 4th summer on the boat, so we have to start thinking about the long-term chores that we’ve been avoiding up until now (thanks, babies!)

What’s really killing me is having to spend so much time doing all this when we haven’t left the dock in four months. Expenses don’t feel quite as painful when we can get out and actually enjoy the boat for its intended purpose, but the weather has been absolute crazypants this winter/spring. This week alone it went from 82 degrees and 30mph wind to 45 degrees within 12 hours.

It can’t be anchor outs and sundowners all the time, I guess. Hopefully, we will toast to getting this massive list completed before the sailing season really kicks off. To inspire us to get our butts in gear, we have been watching SV Delos from the beginning on YouTube. I’d seen their videos here and there over the years, but never consecutively. They are basically the OG cruising vloggers and have been going strong for over a decade. With our own cruising dreams within grasp now that Conor is no longer active duty military, I’m starting to get a little giddy. After all, who can put a price on dreams?

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

The Nose Knows

Sometimes I feel like a bloodhound on Story Time. I’m actually more useful than Scout! For whatever reason, anytime there is a problem on the boat, I usually smell it first. Conor lives in fear of when I catch a scent, because inevitably, it leads to more boat problems for him to fix.

I saved our butts twice when our AC electrical box overheated. In October, the central air was running, and it suddenly smelled like bacon. I called Conor at work and made him come home. At first it seemed like an overreaction, but it was discovered that one of the wires had started to melt and it was a fire risk. The second time it happened (in January), the fuse holder overheated at 3am. My brain screamed at me that something wasn’t right, and I woke up from a dead sleep to that same scent. For anyone freaking out right now, we now have a new Mermaid Air AC electrical box. Even the manufactures couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it—it was just some freak thing! It had been working fine for 2 years before and suddenly decided to crap out. Very scary!

In other instances:

  • Conor cooking on the stove. Me: “Babe, the propane is low.” Him: “Did you check it today?” Me: “No, I just smell the difference.” Lo and behold, time to change the tank.
  • Opening the fridge. “Oh shit. R must have kicked the switch panel during his diaper change.” Yep. Thankfully, it was off less than 2 hours and we didn’t lose the groceries.
  • Watching TV. “Bilge pump isn’t working.” I guessed it. The automatic float switch stopped working (suuuuuper old) and needed a replacement. I scrubbed the bilge after Conor wired in a new one.
  • And everyone’s favorite: “Holding tank is getting full.” “I don’t smell anything!” “We have three more flushes. Trust me.”

To sum up: boats are quirky and have unique smells. If you are tuned into them, it can warn you of minor problems before they become MAJOR problems. I’ve lived in fear of COVID for obvious reasons, but what really petrifies me is the possibility of losing my sense of smell! I never realized how much I’ve relied on it to sense the inner workings of the boat until there was a chance I could lose it. Counting down the days until I can get the vaccine.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Downward dog, anyone? Training W to be a bloodhound as well!

In Defense of Baby Steps

I promised myself six months. Six months before I needed to get my life back on track after the upheaval that is the newborn and post-partum stage. I gave myself grace when it came to workouts (ahem, none), sugar consumption (ahem, a lot), writing, blogging, marketing my existing books, research, cruising prep—all of it. I reveled in my baby time and let a lot of things go by the wayside.

But now we are here, at the six-month mark. Damn. The process of getting my life back in working order is daunting. I don’t want to start. There are too many facets I need to improve. My physical being, for one, has been neglected, as has letting my brain rot with Netflix during my ‘down time’ because I am too tired to focus on anything else. I am one of those people who wants to do it all perfectly the first time. I don’t like slow starts; I want to go all in and pick up right where I left off.

Motivation to suddenly improve every aspect of my life, though, is unrealistic. I need to celebrate the baby steps instead and know that it won’t all change overnight. I don’t expect my baby to suddenly learn to eat solids and crawl and talk on the first try. I see his progress every day, so minute that only a parent would notice, and cheer him on. I don’t get frustrated or wonder why he isn’t going fast enough. Why can’t I do this for myself?

I find joy in his baby steps, so here is me taking my own. Last week, I did a mini stroller workout. Walking lunges and squats got my heart rate up to 140. “Wow, that’s embarrassing,” I thought. I used to pride myself on being fit and strong. Now, 15 minutes of body-weight exercises leaves me gasping. But I would never call anything my children accomplished after a lot of effort ‘embarrassing’, so I am trying to do the same for myself.

Baby steps, day by day. This post is one. The 750 words I wrote for my work-in-progress novel draft is another. That was a doozy. I stopped working on it the day before my 30th birthday in July and hadn’t looked at it since. I have never let a story sit so long, and getting my brain working again to put words on a page almost had me in tears. Did you know that pregnancy literally changes the structure and function of a woman’s brain? It also shrinks the grey matter, which doesn’t recover until at least two years after the baby is born. Combining that with hormone flux and sleep deprivation makes me feel so dumb.

I am trying to reframe my thought patterns. I am not dumb; I just haven’t used certain parts of my brain in a while. Things are slow. Sitting around in denial about it isn’t going to improve the situation. I need to put one foot in front of the other and not look too far in front of me for a while. I owe it to myself.

Love,

Taylor (and Conor, W, and R, who support me through it all) 

The sun finally came out today!

A Re-Introduction

Hello and welcome to all our recent blog followers! Since arriving in Virginia, we have met some wonderful new people (while staying 6ft apart) who have inquired about life on Story Time. Considering I started this blog four years ago, I thought we were due for a re-introduction. Here are a few questions I’ve gotten over the past few weeks:

  • How long have you been living aboard and how many kids do you have?
    • We have been living aboard Story Time for 3.5 years. She is a 2002 Catalina 380 and used to be called At Last. We bought the boat in New Bern, NC and moved it down to Camp Lejeune. During the past three years, we had our two kids, a girl ‘W’, and a new baby boy, ‘R’, while living aboard full-time.

  • Why is your boat called ‘Story Time’?
    • I am an author. I have two books out right now that were published by The Wild Rose Press in 2018 and 2019. You can read more about Cloaked and Sonder Village here! It was also a fitting name because we have kids onboard. We plan on making and telling a lot of adventurous stories on this boat.

  • What do you write?
    • I write mostly women’s fiction, sometimes with a hint of fantasy. I am halfway through a draft right now, but it has been on hiatus since summer due to the whole ‘giving birth’ thing, then moving states + getting out of the Marine Corps. It has been a busy few months! I’m about to pick it back up any day now, as soon as I get the motivation…any day now…

  • What’s your endgame with the boat?
    • We will head down to the USVI in the near future. COVID changed a lot of plans, but we will still end up in the Caribbean.

  • Where do you put everything? Where does everybody sleep?
    • We have embraced the minimalist lifestyle, so most of what we own is on the boat. We do have a small storage unit for Conor’s military gear and our seasonal wardrobes. Our boat has two separate ‘bedrooms’. Our daughter is in the v-berth, while baby, me, Conor, and Scout are in the aft cabin. We all have doors that close, thank god. Eventually the kids will share the v-berth.

  • How often do you sail?
    • Not as much as we would like. In North Carolina, we tried to leave our slip at least once or twice per month. Our 10-day trip up to Virginia was our longest trek to date. We are very excited to rack up some nautical miles this summer on the Chesapeake though!

  • Do you plan to do this forever?
    • Nope! We LOVE living aboard, our boat, and the opportunities it has brought us, but Conor put a firm 10-year deadline on this plan. Our dream is to keep the boat, but also have a house with a large kitchen one day. This lifestyle gives our kids an incredible childhood—wild and free—while also giving us the financial flexibility to travel. When the time comes, I want W and R to use the boat to go have their own adventures as they enter adulthood.
Barefoot childhood

Anything else you’re wondering about? Please put it in the comments or shoot me an email on our contact page! I am happy to help, especially if you are thinking about a major lifestyle shift along these lines. Tiny homes, RV’s, minimalism with kids—I wanna hear about it! I’m also planning to revamp the layout of the blog in the coming weeks. I never thought it would have so many entries!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

2020 Recap Video

Like most of you all, we will be happy to see 2020 in the rearview mirror as we head into 2021. Although this year has had a unique amount of crazy, we have also found a lot of joy. We welcomed a new member of our family, learned the value of time together without distractions, and successfully moved our boat to a new state. This was not the year we had planned, but I still wanted to commemorate the good instead of focusing on what we missed out on.

Here is this year’s slideshow recap. Song is “Get Along” by Kenny Chesney. If you want to start from the beginning, here is 2017, 2018, and 2019. I can’t believe we have been doing this for four years now!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Wishes Do Come True

We can STAY! After signing our permanent slip lease at Bay Point Marina this week, we get to stay in the land of beautiful bathrooms, a pool, restaurant, pump out service, short work commute, beach, brewery, and park. If you put down every wish list item we had in mind for a marina (including pet-friendly!), this would be it.

We feel so incredibly lucky that they have allowed us to join their liveaboard community. When I called back in November, the dockmaster said that they were no longer adding any more liveaboard boats. For those that don’t know, marinas usually have a cap on how many liveaboards they can support and sustain. It isn’t about the slip availability, it is about the infrastructure to support people living there long term—laundry, pump outs, showers, garbage, parking…

The plan was to come up to Bay Point and stay in a transient slip for 30 days while we sorted out our new life in Virginia. Walking around, I wistfully said to Conor, “I just want to stay here so badly! It is perfect for the kids.” So, we took a chance and asked with our fingers crossed.

I was completely prepared to have to move to a different marina in January. It would have sucked big time to leave this awesome area, but honestly, I didn’t expect the owner to say yes. We are A LOT with two small kids and a dog. Our family is loud and a hot mess most of the time. By adding one boat, they were adding a dose of chaos yet unseen to this pristine marina.

So many masts!

Despite it all, they took us in. Maybe it was the sight of W scootering down the docks. Maybe it was Scout’s wagging tail. Maybe it was sweet R’s eyes peeking out from his stroller. Maybe it was the desperation of a mom on the edge. Regardless, we have a new marina to call home. Now I can breathe.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Days 5-10 to Virginia

Days 5&6: Oriental to Dowry Creek + Rest Day

Weather: Warm, calm, water like glass

Travel time: 7 hours, 43NM (longest distance traveled)

Highs: Such an easy travel day that we combined what would have been two short days into one long day and decided to take an extra day off at Dowry Creek Marina. They had FREE LAUNDRY and a pumpout service! Also squeezed in a grocery run with their complimentary marina car. I highly recommend this marina; their staff was great.

Lows: Bugs! It was very swampy in this section.

Final thoughts: This day gave us a taste of what it would have been like moving the boat just a few weeks earlier. It was incredible to have a few warm days and a full-service marina to get ourselves sorted halfway through the trip.

Where sea meets sky (this is unedited!)

Day 7: Dowry Creek to Alligator River

Weather: Colder and windy

Travel time: 8 hours, 39NM

Highs: Hanging with my husband up in the cockpit while both the kids were napping. Music, snacks, and conversation. It felt like an afternoon date.

Lows: Alligator River Marina was terrible and had an unresponsive staff. The marina’s bathrooms were not cleaned recently and totally gross. We had to get ourselves off the dock the next morning in 30 mph winds that kept pushing us back. Definitely my least favorite stop of the trip.

Final thoughts: Having very little help casting off and docking the last few days made me see how far we have come as a team. We CAN do it with just the two of us.

Trying to overcome helm anxiety

Day 8: Alligator River to Elizabeth City

Weather: Gusty with large swells

Travel time: 6 hours, 30NM

Highs: Conor threaded the needle to get us into tiny Lamb’s Marina. It is a small stop just off the ICW and soooo narrow. Zero maneuvering room but he did great!

Lows: Got our asses handed to us in 4ft swells. Albamare Sound pounded us for almost three hours as we crossed over to Elizabeth River. W slept through most of it down in the v-berth and R was strapped to me in the cockpit.

Final thoughts: We got to see how Story Time experienced rougher waters. She did GREAT! I’m excited for us to sail offshore this summer.

Day 9: Elizabeth City to Norfolk

Weather: Cold and calm

Travel time: 9 hours, 37NM

Highs: Up at dawn to make the lock times! It was tricky to time leaving the marina with enough light, as well as factoring in the 2 hours it was going to take to make it to the first lock. We made it with 15 minutes to spare.

Lows: Our toilet had some issues. After a long day, the last thing we wanted to do was troubleshoot the head. Turns out there was significant calcium buildup in the discharge hose. Gross.

Final thoughts: This was the hardest day. We had to go though two locks with a tight timeframe and make it to the next stop before the sun went down. Being under a time crunch added a new level of stress to family travel. I’m glad the whole trip worked up to this day so we had enough experience to navigate it correctly.

Good morning from the ICW
Did you know there are only 3 locks total on the ICW? We went through 2!

Day 10: Norfolk to Virginia Beach

Weather: Cloudy, humid

Travel time: 5 hours, 27NM

Highs: The last day of travel! We arrived on Thanksgiving. SO much to be thankful for—boat, babies, and marriage were all in good shape.

Lows: It really hit me that we were no longer at Gottschalk. I didn’t know all my neighbors, W felt overwhelmed and was missing “home”, and we had to start over here. Moving is hard.

Final thoughts: Bay Point Marina is completely gorgeous. It has a pool, restaurant, hotel-like dock house, and is in the cutest neighborhood. After being on base for three years, it feels strange to have so much within walking distance. I can’t wait for COVID to be over and go do stuff.

Rocking the foul weather gear

And there you have it, our grand NC to VA adventure with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old. 245 Nautical Miles. It was the best trip ever! I don’t recommend it.

I’ll give you guys a little tour of our new spot next post. Time to get our feet under us and check some things off our boat chores list while we don’t have to travel for a while.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

The First Leg

We left Gottschalk Marina on Tuesday morning and are Virginia bound! Goodbyes were happy/sad. On one hand, we were so excited to use the boat for its intended purpose—TRAVEL! On the other hand, we had to leave our safety net and boat family to do it. For our farewell, we had everyone write “Stories For Story Time” in a notebook to take with us: a favorite memory, a word that comes to mind when they think of us, or any hopes for the future.

Day 1: New River to Swansboro

Weather: GUSTY, cold, clear. Not too choppy.

Travel time: 7 hours, 27 nautical miles

Highs: Dolphins! And starting the adventure. Motor and systems running smoothly, no issues at the Onslow swing bridge.

Lows: New River Inlet is a hazard. The charts DO NOT line up with the route, too much has shifted over the past two years. It is incredibly shallow and easy to lose the channel. We ran aground and Tow Boat US had to come pull us out, and even he couldn’t find the channel again for over an hour. Proceed with caution to ICW.

Final thoughts: I’m SO PROUD of Conor for his excellent navigation and docking skills. He received some very high compliments at the marina we docked at for working against a tricky current and getting us lined up safely.

On our way!

Day 2: Swansboro to Morehead

Weather: Butt Cold

Travel Time: 4 hours, 22 NM

Highs: No running aground! And we got to our transient slip by 2pm with plenty of time to explore. Also, the dock had a pumpout service. Conor said it was the most incredible $10 he ever spent.

Lows: A few toddler meltdowns as she adjusted to this new travel routine. Plus, it was too freaking cold.

Final Thoughts: We were not as prepared for the cold weather as we should have been. When we were packing and organizing for the trip last week, it was 80 degrees. Conor forgot to get a pair of gloves out of storage before he shipped the POD. I can’t believe the temperature halved in less than a week!

Day 3&4: Morehead to Oriental + Rest Day

Weather: Significantly warmer, breezy, rolly across the Neuse River

Travel Time: 4 hrs, 22 NM

Highs: Getting into a rhythm as a family. Hanging with everyone up in the cockpit and listening to music as the NC coast went by. Conor was complimented AGAIN on his docking skills as he navigated a tricky, narrow slip into Oriental (Another cruising family said it was a “10/10”)

Lows: My nerves at the helm.

Final Thoughts: We are enjoying our extra day in Oriental to relax and take time as a family. It is starting to feel like a real vacation as we explore this adorable sailing town.

Story Time in her Oriental slip

One of the coolest moments so far was after we docked in Oriental and another sailboat family asked how long we had been doing this for. I said, “We’ve been living aboard for just over three years,” as I chased my toddler up the dock while holding a baby.

She said, “Oh, that explains the docking then! We have only been doing this since October.”

There were so many things I wanted to say to this woman, but I had to follow W before she got too far ahead. I wanted to tell her that docking used to make me want to throw up. That the learning curve is SO steep for her right now, but it will get better. That it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed.

I’ve admired many sailing families over the years, hoping and waiting for the day when we would get on their “level”. It hit me yesterday that from the perspective of this stranger, we actually knew what we were doing! Little does she know…

Last thing: confession time. I’m struggling at the helm away from the familiar territory of the New River. I’m out of practice. I have always had a hard time spatially, and maps have never been my strong point. Adding in the confusion of the charts not matching up the first two days of travel, I’ve been too anxious to do much at the wheel. My attention is also always split with what the kids are doing, and it is hard to focus. Thank goodness we decided to do short travel days.

I’ll try to update on our rest days!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

New Dawn, New Chapter

Photo cred to my awesome neighbor who works out before the sun comes up

Drumroll please…WE ARE GOING TO VIRGINIA! My head is spinning as we try to figure out all the logistics over the next two weeks. Conor is transitioning out of active duty, we have to prepare the boat for a 12-day journey, and, hardest of all, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love in North Carolina.

We will take the ICW up to Virginia Beach. Without kids, it would take about 6 days. With kids, we plan on doubling our timeframe. To complicate things further, the marina we initially picked out is undergoing extensive construction (read: no dock house or laundry available) so we are scrambling trying to find another marina up there. If you have any insights or can offer any help, please reach out to me on the contact page.  I’m so excited for this scenic journey with our little family, but a bit terrified at the same time. I plan on posting lots of pics and updates during the move, so stay tuned!

Right now, we are trying to check a million things off our to-do list, so I’m going to keep this short. Also, it is election day, so I hope some of you are reading this while in line at the polls!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R