Intermission

Sorry to drop this on everyone out of the blue, but we have decided to take a break from living aboard and have made the agonizing decision to put SV Story Time up for sale.

I know that you’re sitting there thinking, “WTF??” Trust me, we are too. It was a sudden decision that came to a head this past weekend while we were sailing. Let me see if I can lay it all out in a way that makes sense and start from the beginning.

When we decided to embark on this journey, it was a new and exciting adventure. It was also a way for us to move forward and focus on something other than our three miscarriages. We had no idea if we would be able to have children and we needed a new dream in case it never happened. Sailing and traveling was a way for us to keep our marriage strong during difficult times.

Lo and behold, as we were in the process of buying Story Time, we found out that my fourth pregnancy was viable! Baby on board it was, and I don’t regret a second of it. We have loved raising our family onboard this incredible boat. Our life at Gottschalk marina was filled with so much joy and connection to our special community. We learned that we LOVE minimalist living and can face challenges and discomfort head-on.

We just celebrated 4 years living aboard. In those 4 years, we have lived in two states and brought home 2 babies to this boat. Originally, we were only supposed to be dockside for 2.5 years while Conor finished his Camp Lejeune billet. Then he had to extend a bit. Then COVID hit. And here we are, four years later and STILL a year out from heading down to the USVI. However, we were able to pay off the boat and add to our family during this time.

Which brings me to this past weekend.

4th of July anchor out

We sailed the boat across the mouth of the Chesapeake this weekend to an anchorage that looked pretty neat. It was the first time sailing with just the four of us. When we moved from NC to VA, we motored up with ICW and R was still a tiny baby who liked to sleep in a wrap the entire time. Well, that tiny baby has turned into a full-fledged handful and there are just not enough adults onboard to make this a safe situation anymore.

A peek at the hot mess

Sailing was supposed to be a team effort between me and Conor. It was do-able with one kid, but with two kids, it leaves one parent totally occupied dealing with the kids and the other parent solo-sailing. The conditions over the 4th of July were a bit rolly, but nothing extreme like a pop-up storm or an emergency, and we struggled. It really fucking sucks to admit this.

The kids are just too little to be safe down below when we are on the lean. They need to be older to make this work and be active participants instead of safety hazards in the cockpit. If we had an extra set of hands or crew, we could still realize this dream. But the boat is not big enough for crew. It left us with the realization that at this moment, with this boat, it cannot work.

We are not willing to remain dockside for another four years and wait for the kids to get big enough. This boat deserves to be sailed. So, we are taking an intermission and plan on moving abroad to Europe for a few years.

Europe was always the plan after we were done being full-time liveaboards, but we decided to use it as a pause before we return to the boating lifestyle. The good news is that the second time around, we will be starting the journey with YEARS of experience under our belts. We will know exactly what to look for in a boat, how we want to split our time, and set ourselves up for a successful adventure as a family instead of pushing through with the wrong fit. I am looking heavily into catamaran sailing. We are also able to charter and captain a boat anywhere in the world and live out some vacation dreams in the interim. To be honest, it will also be nice not to have to hold our breath for 6 months out of the year waiting for a hurricane to hit. 3x in 3 years on the east coast has been exhausting, and it is only getting worse in the Caribbean.

Not giving up, just moving the timeline

I am feeling so many mixed emotions. The certainty that it would be selfish of me to insist we continue down this path at this stage in life. The feeling of failure that we didn’t make our “end goal” with Story Time. Contentment that we know we will get where we want to go, just on a different boat at a different time. Frustration that we can’t do it right now. Excitement to try something new. Guilt at selling the only home my babies have ever known. Exhaustion at the process of selling the boat. Gratitude for a loving husband who is by my side through it all. Tears, tears, tears. So many tears.

I’m still going to call this blog Cannons to Cruising and will still be documenting our lifestyle on here. Like I said, we WILL be returning to the ‘cruising’ aspect of this, but you might have to read about traveling through Europe for a while before we loop back around! Thanks for sticking by us and all your support through the years. I hope all of this makes sense.

So much love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Can’t imagine not living on the water anymore, but I have her hand in mine.

Boat Out of Water

Nothing looks so awkward as a fish out of water, except for maybe a sailboat. Poor Story Time is up in the boat yard right now, looking sad and forlorn. Instead of slicing through the waves with full, beautiful sails, all I see is a bulging belly teetering on a skinny keel.

However, it desperately needed to get done! Check this last post about the state of our hull. We were thrilled that Bluewater Yachts was able to accommodate Story Time before the summer sailing season really kicked off. They are sanding, epoxying, priming, and repainting as we speak. This haul out process must be completed every three to five years, and next time we would like to do the bottom work ourselves. But right now, with two small children and Conor still working a full-time job (plus his Marine Corps reserves!), it just isn’t possible. Instead, we hired the professionals and braced ourselves for the bill…

And our quote came back at HALF what we expected to owe! We are still awaiting the final cost, but it looks like she will cost us around $4,000. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Now to divert from boring boat maintenance posts, I have an exciting update about our friends on SV Minoh. After finally completing their bottom redo, Zach and Corri set sail south to Florida! They had a bumpy upwind sail with huge swells and too many pop-up thunderstorms to count. Through it all, they rocked their first solo offshore sail and made it safely to their destination. I am just so proud of them I could burst.

Corri said it best once they recovered from the trip and were all smiles again—“There’s gotta be a drug in the ocean air that causes amnesia and makes you forget just how stressful it can be out there…” As I remember our trip up to Virginia, I can definitely agree! We have to be a little bit crazy to keep doing this. Keep up with them on Instagram @microretirement.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

She’s Ours!

I know I’m behind on posting once again, but a lot has happened in the past month!

Firstly, Conor was gone for 3 weeks in California. Hence, my lack of time/motivation/energy to write anything while juggling home life. BUT it brings me to my second point—

Nana and Papa came to visit! We were lucky enough to have them here while Conor was away to help out with the kids. They recently transitioned to living in their renovated van (I’ll write a separate post about that soon!) and are enjoying the mobile life. I can’t wait to show you pictures of their sweet setup. The kids loved having their grandparents up in the parking lot and I loved having the extra hands. They will be popping in and out over the next few months as they travel extensively around the east coast. If you want to check them out, their website is opentoabundance.com and Instagram @opentoabundance.

Thirdly, WE PAID OFF THE BOAT! Yep, SV Story Time is OURS. We celebrated with champagne on the bow and poured some out for Neptune’s blessing. It was a pretty surreal milestone that we have been dreaming about for four years. A big part of this was putting our housing allowance toward the boat while living in Camp Lejeune. Now that there is no longer a lien on the boat, we have complete freedom to sail anywhere, which brings me to my last announcement—

WE HAVE A TIMELINE. Get ready, folks. Life is about to get a lot more interesting in 2022. I’ll lay it all out for you soon once we have ironed the details out, but it looks like we will no longer be in the U.S. by November 2022.

Anyone else feel like change always happens in rapid fire? Day by day it is mostly the same, then all at once, life gets overhauled. After months of not a whole lot happening, we are excited to delve into planning mode!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Libations to Neptune as SV Story Time is finally and officially ours!

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