Stayed for a Tropical Storm, Rode Out a Hurricane

In other words, whoops!

TS Isaias was forecasted to stay a tropical storm, then it became a hurricane, dropped back down to tropical storm, became a hurricane again, was supposed to hit South Carolina first, ended up making landfall in North Carolina, and skirted past the New River (a little too close for comfort) as a Category 1. It just goes to show how annoyingly unpredictable these weather systems are.

We made the decision to ride out the tropical storm on the boat this time. After evacuating twice in the last two years, I decided that there was no way the odds would land another hurricane on North Carolina three years in a row. HA. Thanks, climate change.

The last week had been dedicated to preparing for hurricane season anyway. We took down our headsail, put the dinghy up on dry-dock, went through our checklist, etc. The only inconvenience for Isaias was taking down the bimini and putting out extra storm lines/snubbers.

Our decision to stay was based on a few factors:

  1. The storm was very fast-moving and would be past us within 4 hours.
  2. It hit us in the middle of the night (W actually slept through it all!)
  3. Story Time had proven herself the past two years riding out Florence and Dorian with zero issues.
  4. Our marina is in a good hurricane hole.
  5. Other liveaboards stayed as well and would have been able to help in an emergency.

It was quite the experience to ride out Isaias onboard. We definitely won’t stay for another hurricane, but I think we made a good choice based on the information we had at the time. By the time we knew it would stay a hurricane, we had already committed to remaining onboard. The scariest part was the NOISE. The wind was howling. Apparently, we had a lot of side to side movement (our neighbor said Story Time’s mast looked like a metronome) but down below it didn’t feel too bad. It was reassuring to remember that our 4’10” keel helped our boat do exactly as it was made to do. Our boat felt incredibly secure riding the storm—completely watertight, leaning into the elements, and safe inside a well-proven slip.

The eye passed by us at 3am and I finally fell asleep. No damage in the morning, except base lost power until around 1pm. A tree fell in the marina parking lot, but miraculously missed any cars or power lines. Very little storm surge because Isaias went by so fast. I’m just glad I didn’t have a hurricane/pandemic baby! Looks like he is content to stay put a while longer.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

How do you fit TWO kids on a boat?

People thought we were crazy the first time around. Now that we are just weeks away from adding a second, everyone has asked, “Where are you going to put him?”

What they don’t realize is that everything we already have for W, we would need for baby brother anyway. W took over the whole v berth with books, toys, crib, etc. The changing pad still hasn’t moved from its spot on the navigation center and the stroller resides in the dock box. Playdough, arts and crafts, and snack cups surround the settee. To prep for baby brother, all we needed to do was install the infant car seat, pull out the Lillebaby carrier from storage, find room in the v berth closet for newborn clothes, and put the bassinet by my bed.

The biggest hurdle, however, was where he was going to sleep once he outgrew the bassinet, as W still uses her own crib strapped to the v berth.

A lot of cruising families split the v berth for their kids with lee cloth. Technically, that mattress splits into two twin beds. This is a great plan for older kids, but not ideal for an infant and a toddler. W didn’t sleep through the night until 20 months old, so I didn’t want baby brother following the same pattern and disrupting everyone’s rest.

We couldn’t have him out in the main cabin, so that left our aft bedroom. With our low ceiling, finding room for a safe sleep space proved difficult. Then, we decided to get creative and had a custom mini crib made!

Through word of mouth, I got in contact with an amazing woodworker named Anthony Blinson on Emerald Isle. I sent him measurements for the space above our engine block and the requirements for the project—easily collapsible with side-door access. He had free reign for the rest of the design and came back with the most INCREDIBLE boat baby crib!

Here it is at the woodshop (@Tonyswoodshop514):

crib1

Here it is on the boat:

crib2

crib3

crib4

We’ve ordered furniture anchors to secure it to the wall. The crib has just 8 bolts (4 on each side) that unscrew with an allen wrench to dismantle it. The bottom is on a hinge that folds flat. When we need to run the engine, the crib can be disassembled in less than 5 minutes and moved out of the way. It is truly a gorgeous and functional piece of furniture. If you have any woodworking needs for your boat, I highly recommend Anthony’s services, as he envisions and engineers to his customer’s unique needs.

I love that we will be able to keep baby brother in our room for at least the first year, as recommended by AAP guidelines. I love that W keeps her own room (mostly) through this new sibling transition. I love that in the evenings, the v berth and aft cabin doors will close, leaving Conor and I able to cook dinner and watch TV in our own space like adults!

Not to say that there won’t be challenges in the coming months but solving our sleep space problem is a huge weight off. Now, we just sit back and wait for him to show up!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

Considerations For Cruising Right Now — Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Today I’m sharing a GREAT article from livefree2sailfast.com about how COVID is affecting cruising plans this year. It definitely gave us a lot to consider! We are planning to leave Gottschalk in November but still need to figure out what comes next. It is so hard to plan for the future when we are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic. We hoped it would be over by this fall, but it isn’t looking promising. Might need to adjust our sail…

Things we should have thought through before taking off to go cruising.

via Considerations For Cruising Right Now — Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Reflections On Turning 30

If you had told me at 20 where I would be by 30, I would have laughed at you and said you got the wrong girl. I had aspirations of working in federal law enforcement, and though I hoped to be married, I had no plans for kids until after 30. I thought yoga was just a boring way to stretch. A part of me thought I would be a cheerleader forever. Grades mattered more than experience. I was afraid of breaking any rules. I cared a lot about what other people thought of me. I tried to do everything the ‘right’ way.

Who is this woman? Mother of two. Twice-published author. Lives on a SAILBOAT?

Over the past 10 years, this person has moved from the Northwest, to the Midwest, to the California coast, and all the way to North Carolina, meeting and connecting with people from all walks of life. She has survived and thrived through her husband’s multiple (and sometimes back-to-back) deployments. She learned what the terms ectopic, missed miscarriage, and recurrent loss meant all too well. She was rejected 237 times trying to make writing her career. She decided not to be afraid anymore and to redefine what’s normal. She discovered that happiness could be packed into 38 feet, with her husband and children within arms reach, on an adventure together.

This decade did not happen how I thought it would go. Honestly, how boring would it have been if it had? Instead, it was such a transformative journey that forced me to examine my own expectations, and more importantly, challenged me question why. This process of self-discovery led me in a completely different direction than the path I picked out for myself. Though at times it was uncomfortable and even painful, I am forever grateful to have gone through it, especially now instead of thirty years from now. This process of understanding my truest self will be ongoing throughout my life and ever-changing.

The only thing scarier than change is everything staying the same. I am going to embrace turning 30 tomorrow, thankful that it will give me new opportunities to grow. Who knows what is in store? I want to show my kids the world. I want to actually make some decent money with this writing gig. I want to tell my adventure buddy that I love him every day. I can’t wait to see what this next decade will bring, but with the understanding that although I cannot control the wind, I can adjust my sails. Cheers (& beers, when I can drink again!) to 30 years.

Love,

Taylor

turning 30

Milestone Moment

We have achieved a milestone on STORY TIME. After two and a half years of planning departures and returns around nap time or bedtime, we returned to our slip while W was awake and in the cockpit.

I was a nervous wreck as we approached the dock. We spent the night on another incredible anchor out, and our return time didn’t match up with nap time. While Conor and I have docked the boat with our daughter awake before, it has always been with an extra crew member or two to wrangle her and keep her occupied while we worked. This time, it was just the two of us.

With all that can go wrong during docking, it was always the easiest choice to have her asleep and out of the way in the past. I didn’t want to think about her grabbing the wheel while Conor was backing up, or tripping on deck while I tried to catch a line, or especially going overboard so close to the dock. All of this flashed through my mind and Conor had to remind me that she wasn’t a baby anymore.

This was the natural next step. W knows how to behave on a boat. She knows what she is and is not allowed to do, ingrained from her earliest memories. She knows where her safe spot is to sit and, most importantly, STAY when Mommy and Daddy are busy.

We talked it up the whole trip back to the marina—expectations, what was going to happen, and what we needed her to do. I am also not above bribery and set her up with a lollipop to entertain her while she watched the action.

As parents we cannot let our personal fears interfere with our children’s opportunities to rise to occasions. They often prove to us that they are ready before we think they are, and when given the chance, can blow us away. We chose to live aboard to provide growth and development opportunities that are unmatched in a traditional home. When faced with such a choice this time, I had to take a deep breath and trust her.

milestone
Explaining the docking process. She knows it is serious!

And guess what? W did AMAZING. She didn’t move, or demand attention, or grab anything. She sat quietly and watched, a feat I assumed to be nearly impossible for a child under three. I think that within the next two years, she will graduate to throwing and catching lines! She is well on her way to becoming a productive crew member in her own right. This comes just in time to start all over again with baby brother in a few months! At least he will have W to show him the ropes.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

 

Well, We Did Stay at Home!

Technically 🙂

We spent the weekend away from the docks and anchored out overnight with Minoh. 12 mph winds, clear skies, and 75 degrees—it felt like a dream! We anchored across from a private beach and made good use of our dinghy.

anchorminoh

 

 

anchoroutdinghy

 

 

 

In the past, Conor has usually been so busy with work in the spring that we don’t start getting into our sailing groove until Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to the quarantine and his recent work-from-home schedule, we were able to get Story Time into shape much faster this year and get out onto the water by April. It has been an absolute joy to take advantage of the warmer weather before the humidity hits. Good thing too because our sailing window is also going to end much earlier this summer.  We are adding another crew member! Baby #2 is arriving in August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

babybump
Baby’s current interests include dock yoga and kicking the crap out of me.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

End of Quarantine

We reached the end of our quarantine period on Saturday! No COVID-19 for us. We celebrated by finally taking the boat out for the first time this spring. Our last sail was in November, so Story Time had four loooonnngggg months stuck at the dock.

A great aspect about boating is that it is social distancing at its finest! I think boat owners naturally seek isolation, solitude, and quiet out on the water. It is the perfect activity especially when everything around us is closed. Our engine fired right up, all systems still worked, and we dropped anchor for a few hours across the river.

socialdistance
Looking for crab pots

As this pandemic drags on, we feel lucky that we can still do what we love as a family. We are thankful to all be together, happy and healthy. Wishing everyone we know the same fortune.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Covid Closeness

Here’s what you guys have missed—W and I were up in Seattle for the month of March. I know right now you’re thinking, WTF why would they go to the center of a pandemic? But keep in mind, when we left during the first week of March, there were only 5 known Covid cases in Washington state. Nothing had been shut down and we had no idea how bad things were going to get. Conor was slated as an augment instructor in Yuma until the end of April. It seemed like the perfect time to visit family, who we hadn’t seen since last spring.

Then shit hit the fan.

Suffice to say, it was not the vacation we had planned. We quarantined in my parents’ house and at my in-law’s farm for the duration of the visit. Lots of great time with grandparents, but each day that ticked by left me wondering if we were going to be stuck in the northwest indefinitely. When Conor’s assignment ended early, it felt like a “now or never” situation to try to get back home. I also needed to be back here in April for a very important medical appointment. After rescheduling flights five times, W and I flew back together to meet up with Conor in NC. It was a hard decision to make, but military orders changing last-minute qualified as “necessary travel”. I’ve never seen the airports so eerily empty.

We are currently in the middle of a 14-day self-imposed quarantine on our boat. We all feel great (no fevers or cough!) so fingers crossed it stays that way. It is just a precaution to make sure we don’t accidentally spread the virus if we are asymptomatic carriers. We report to the duty corpsman every morning with a temperature/symptom check and even have our own separate bathroom at the marina.

We aren’t going stir-crazy yet and are using this time to get Story Time ready for the sailing season! Right now, we are replacing the lifeline netting and doing brightwork. It felt good to strip that nasty old net off, but now the boat looks so naked!

oldnet
SO GROSS. Time for a new one after 3 years

 

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Naked Story Time!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Flying the Yellow Jack

We want to be cruisers so we can unplug from everyday life. The ultimate goal is to take our boat and go off the grid for weeks at a time, exploring uninhabited islands and leaving the “real world” behind. With all the COVID-19 insanity these past few weeks, it has made me wonder—will we ever be able to truly go offline? Is it dangerous to remain completely in the dark? How much of a break is good for mental health, versus safety and preparedness in the long run?

The virus situation escalated within weeks. I’ve seen news stories about couples on backpacking or hiking retreats returning home after a month to this shitstorm. It has to be like a bad dream. Living it IS a bad dream, but less of a shock after watching the pandemic develop. I’ve been wondering about all the cruisers out there who have just completed a long passage and are returning to find every port is closed!

When prepping for a passage, food is carefully prepared and rationed. There is garbage to be considered, water storage, and fuel. While sailors try to plan for delays or alternative stops, I can bet none of them saw this coming. How frightening to be low on food, fuel, and water but denied entry to restock. I don’t blame countries for trying to protect themselves, but these boaters are stuck in a terrible situation and I can’t help but worry. What would we do in their place? We have a hurricane plan, we know what to do if something breaks on our boat, but we have no pandemic plan. Honestly, I never thought we would need one!

Entering a port with a yellow flag flying has just been a courtesy for the last 100 years or so. It tells people ashore that all passengers and crew aboard are healthy and not bringing any diseases into the area. In the past, if a ship was quarantined, they flew a checked yellow and black flag called the Yellow Jack. Once the quarantine was up and the ship deemed safe, they were allowed to fly a solid yellow flag again. It is crazy to think that these flags now serve a real purpose again in this day and age, rather than as tradition.

This will be one more scenario to consider when we prepare to leave North Carolina. If any experienced cruisers have advice or resources to share, please do so. We are one hundred percent certain that we are on the right path, but it is also our responsibility as parents to adventure SAFELY.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Galentine’s Date with an Author

While there is not much to report on the sailing front since my last post, I do have some exciting stories about my writing life to share! I was honored to be a part of the Officer Spouse’s Club “A Galentine’s Date with the Authors” event this past week.

Six military wives made up the author panel—two children’s book writers, a contemporary romance writer, a regency romance writer, an illustrator, and ME! Your favorite fantasy romance author! Thanks to the TOUR OF HOMES in December, I was able to get the word out about my books and connect with other writers, who invited me to be a part of the Galentine’s date. This was my first author panel and I had no idea what to expect, so I brought bookmarks, business cards, nerdy swag pins (those were a hit!) and copies of Cloaked and Sonder Village to sell.

Over 30 people attended the event. Ladies came up to chat with the writers one-on-one, ask questions about their books, and collect some prizes. I’m happy to say that there were a few aspiring authors in the crowd, and I hope to see them up there next year.

galentines2

After the meet and greet, the Q&A kicked off. A lot of people were interested in the business aspect of publishing, which surprised me. We discussed the pros and cons of self-pubbing vs. traditional publishing (I was the sole trad pub voice here), series vs. standalone novels, and how to appeal to our readers.

galentines1

By the end of the night, I had sold all my copies of Cloaked but only a few of Sonder Village. I don’t know if it was just my audience that night or not, but this tells me that I need to get better at pitching Sonder Village! Hopefully the readers who bought Cloaked and enjoyed it will give my other book a chance, too.

It was just so inspiring to see other women who have carved an identity out from the chaotic and sometimes all-consuming military life. I was proud to sit alongside these creative, passionate, and hard-working women and talk about my favorite subject (besides sailing) all night.

In the spirit of keeping this promo momentum going, I was also interviewed this week on The Magic Book Corner book review site. You can read the full interview HERE!

Thanks for all the support, everyone!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W