A quick update for everyone—we are safe, we are back, docks are still standing, boats are still floating. Thank you to everyone who kept Story Time and all of Gottschalk Marina in their thoughts during Hurricane Dorian. We know how lucky we were to just get a small taste of Dorian before he headed out to the ocean. Hopefully this will be the only evacuation this season (knock on wood).
So happy to be back to normal life, and I can’t wait for this part of the year to be over.
There is nothing quite like the quiet that blankets a marina before a hurricane. You would expect that the days leading up to it would be all hustle and bustle, everyone on deck as they prepare their boats for the worst. You think it would be loud—halyards clanging and dock carts rumbling and people chatting. Last-minute laundry, canvas coming down, and engines rumbling.
Instead, tension tightens the air. Conversation is stilted; “Do you need help with anything? When are you evacuating?” Everyone keeps their head down trying to remember an expanding list of stuff left to do. We watch the horizon and worry about how much time we have left. The humidity weighs us down and fills our lungs. We move through water, drained mentally and physically. The list never seems to get shorter, and after our 30th trip up and down the docks, we are tired. Dinner consists of whatever we can scrounge from the fridge before we have to throw out the rest. Pump outs, fuel, water tanks… Oh! Don’t forget the sea cocks under the v-berth. Did anyone tape the propane valves shut?
One slip up and it could cost us a lot—even our boat. I will admit, we are more prepared this time than for Florence. In August, Boat Tribe came up with a checklist for hurricane season. I thought I would share it here:
Now, we watch and wait while Hurricane Dorian directs its wrath toward the North Carolina coast. Yesterday, we evacuated inland to Winston-Salem and are safe and sound. Story Time survived Florence, Gottschalk Marina endured, and I’m hoping we will be as lucky this time around. Keeping everyone affected in our hearts this week. If you’re in the path, let us know how you fare.
Well, folks, it finally happened. After 2+ years of living aboard, my phone decided to go for a swim.
W and I were playing up in the cockpit yesterday morning. She was of course wearing her life jacket, but decided to try and step off the boat by herself. I grabbed her before she succeeded, and in doing so I sacrificed my phone.
PLOP. Right into the river.
I looked at her. She looked at me. “Mama. Uh oh!”
Yep. Uh oh was right.
I think drowning a phone is right of passage for all boaters. I’m actually surprised I held out this long. A wave of acceptance washed over me as I stared into the murky depths below. Sighing, I went to procure a net. My wonderful neighbor Ron came out and used his expertise to fish for it. Apparently, this was the fourth phone he’d scooped up this year.
Five minutes later, it was back in my hands, covered in mud. It had a case on it, but the port covers were not all the way sealed when it dunked. I wiped it off as best I could, put it in a bag of rice for 24 hours, and hoped for the best.
There was nothing more to do, so why stress? Surprisingly, it ended up being an awesome 24 hours. I kind of liked not being able to talk to anyone, be “on call”, feel guilty for not responding to people right away. No hotspot, no internet, nothing but the here and now. I was completely unplugged and totally present.
W and I had a wonderful day. After my weekend trip to Nashville to celebrate my mom’s 60th, I missed our quality time together. It was quiet and sweet, just the two of us. After she went to bed, instead of procrastinating with Netflix I did some boat projects that had been on my to-do list for a while and got some editing done.
This morning, miracle of miracles, the phone worked when I turned it back on. It is a little janky—the speakerphone works but not regular audio, the center button freaks out, and I am having trouble importing pictures to my computer—but it lives. I thought for sure it was done.
I am happy and grateful that my phone works, but this past day was a great reminder to slow down. I want to make it a regular thing, maybe once per week. Turn everything off and not worry that I’m missing out on something. The cruising lifestyle requires this, so it will be good practice for next year!
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?
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
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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!
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.