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

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I do a post on October 15th every year. Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For those of you who don’t know our story, you can start here: post 1, post 2, post 3.

It hurts looking back on those old entries, when we were in the trenches of fertility issues, but it no longer feels as agonizing as it did when I posted them. I want to go back in time and give myself a hug, cry with her but let her know it is all going to work out how it is meant to work out. She just has to weather the storm before the rainbows.

We feel beyond blessed to have our two beautiful children. We fought long and hard to get here, and now we are ‘two and through’. It is such a relief to end this chapter in our lives and focus on enjoying our babies. Watching them grow up and become their own independent, fierce selves is the start of a new adventure. No more waiting, wondering, and pain.

This journey defined much of my 20’s. I never thought that having a family would be fraught with so many obstacles and uncertainties. When we tried one last time for baby #7, we agreed that it would be the last pregnancy, regardless of the outcome. As it turned out, baby R was lucky #7 and I was able to bring my second baby home.

The truth is, though, that it doesn’t work out for a lot of people. Their journeys do not always have happy endings. I light my candle today during the Wave of Light for my losses, their losses, and for the dreams that will never be realized. My heart breaks for it all and reminds me that I can never take anything in my life for granted. For those still struggling, I see you and send you more love than you know. I am here for you, please reach out and tell me your story.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

North or South?

I have emerged from my endless cycle of feeding/changing/rocking/sleeping and donned my ‘mom jeans’ in order to bring you this important update—we have no idea which direction we are going.

Maybe we should just flip a coin.

It is now October. How can that be? Conor has less than 60 days left as an active duty Marine. Now that the end is in sight, everyone has been asking, “What are you going to do next?”

Pre-Covid, this was a no-brainer. We planned to go down to the USVI. The timing was great—terminal pay to fund the trip down there, post-hurricane season weather, and a winter spent on gorgeous beaches.

With the pandemic still raging and a newborn baby, we have decided to push our cruising plans back. There have been so many horror stories of stranded cruisers and closed ports down in the Caribbean, and with two small kids we cannot risk being one of them.

We have come up with two choices:

  1. Go down to Florida with our bestest boat family, Zach and Corri. Reasons:
    • Boat tribe sticks together
    • Only 90 miles to the Bahamas
    • We can sail in the winter
    • We have already reserved a slip at a great marina in Fort Pierce
  2. Go to Virginia so Conor can take a civilian JTAC position. Reasons:
    • With a full-time job, we can finish paying off the boat and fill the cruising kitty
    • Conor gets to do cool JTAC things while we wait
    •  We can sail on the Chesapeake in the spring
    • There are a lot of liveaboard marina options

My heart is being pulled in so many different directions it hurts to think about. I can’t believe we are leaving the Gottschalk family and our North Carolina friends so soon. At the same time, I feel SO READY for this next adventure. If only we could decide what it will be! Maybe I should start a poll and let you all vote.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

He’s Here!

 

Baby R1

And baby makes 4. Baby brother arrived this week just one day after his due date, and we are over the moon that he is finally here!

Labor was much quicker and easier this time around. After a 17-hour labor with W, less than 8 hours with baby boy felt like a dream. We got to the hospital in the middle of the night, I was already 8cm, was whisked up to the delivery room, and a little later I pushed for 15 minutes and he was out! Not to say it didn’t hurt, but I had so much more energy this time around and knew what to expect.

Giving birth during a pandemic was a little different. Options for pain meds were limited. I was able to use just nitrous oxide for pain management the first time around, but for this birth the hospital said it was epidural or nothing due to Covid risk. I opted for nothing, especially when the anesthesiologist introduced herself as the “student anesthesiologist”. Hell no. We were hoping to bring our doula in (zachthedoula.com) but because of the 1 support person rule, he couldn’t come to the hospital with us but helped me labor at home.

Baby boy came out alert and healthy. My recovery has been easy, and I feel almost back to my old self after just a few days. He was back to his birth weight by day 3, so high-fives all around!

W has completely embraced her role as big sister. She calls R “my baby!” and holds him every second she gets. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, though, because she still has those big toddler emotions to process and has been taking it out on Mom and Dad. We are trying to find our routine and new normal, but we are tired. Up all day with a toddler, up all night with a newborn.

This whole 2 kids thing is no joke. At least everything we need is always within arms reach on the boat! I do feel like we are just doing tiny living and not liveaboard life because we haven’t used the boat for her intended purpose since July. This season of life is so fleeting, though, and soon our tiny newborn days will be over forever. Trying to find moments to embrace the here and now of this stage and freeze the memories.

Wishing our families and friends could be here with us to celebrate the new arrival. Thank you, everyone, for your love and support.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

baby R2
Bringing baby home

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