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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This is our third recap video! Check out 2017 and 2018 if you need a blast from the past before watching 2019!
So much has happened this year—Conor took a trip to Norway and also graduated from WTI. I published my second book and wrote a third. W is speaking in complete sentences and scooter-ing down the docks like a madwoman. I can’t believe we have a 2-year-old!
This year was also filled with visits from family and friends, epic sails and sunsets, and (probably) too many cocktails.
Here’s the wrap up! The accompanying song is “Wars” by the Strumbellas (thanks for a great time, Nashville!)
Yep, you read the title right. 130 people. I have no idea what possessed me to say yes to this crazy plan, but I’m so glad we did! Story Time volunteered to be one of the stops for the Camp Lejeune Officer Spouses Club “Tour of Homes” this holiday season.
First, I had to learn what a “Tour of Homes” actually was—I guess it isn’t a big thing where we’re from on the west coast? It happens around Christmastime and people buy tickets to walk through houses and look at all the festive decorations. In this case, everyone who offered to be a stop on the OSC tour also planned a particular theme, signature appetizer, and alcoholic drink. The 2019 tour this past weekend included a total of six homes scattered around base plus one surprise—US!
The other homes looked incredible. I was blown away at the attention to detail and unique looks with the Nightmare Before Christmas house, a mid-century modern vibe (think Mad Men!), and a Harry Potter wonderland. Amid such creativity, I was so nervous that people would be let down with our “Caribbean Christmas” theme and wayyyyyy fewer decorations than our counterparts. I was also watching the weather obsessively and praying that high winds and rain would stay away because we planned an indoor/outdoor event.
Here is the little blurb I wrote up for the brochure to introduce our lifestyle:
Permission to come aboard Story Time, our 38-foot Catalina sailboat! She has been home to our family of three (+dog) since early 2017. In order to become full-time liveaboards, we embraced a minimalist mindset and downsized 95% of our belongings. Everything we own now has a place and a purpose, which can make decorating for the holidays a bit challenging. Even with space limitations, our boat is still cozy and festive when all dressed up!
We decided on a Caribbean Christmas theme to represent our cruising dreams. This time next year, we will cast off and head south to island-hop for the foreseeable future. For now, we want everyone to relax during the flurry of the holiday season and remind you that “every little thing is gonna be all right”.
So, kick off your shoes, let down your hair, and drink some rum. For us, the Christmas spirit is about being surrounded by people you love. The USMC holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope yours opens to our way of life!
I hoped it set the tone for the evening to come, but I was freaking out at the thought of hosting 130 people on board over the course of 3 hours. Thankfully, they arrived in groups of about 20 and stayed for 20 min before moving on to the next house. It was enough time to send everyone down for a look belowdecks with my amazing docent and fellow liveaboard, Corri. Conor was also a great sport and cooked 40 lbs of jerk chicken to make the chilled jerk chicken and pineapple skewers while keeping everyone boozed up with a delicious rum punch.
The Gottschalk Marina family was supportive throughout the event and didn’t mind one bit that 130 strangers marched through their backyard. I had so many helpers lend us decorations, tables, tents, lights, serving trays, custom crafts, and recipes. We begged, borrowed, and stole 😉 our way through the event and in true minimalist fashion, only really spent money on food and drink. It would not have been possible without them! True boater love.
I think we were a hit. Dozens of people were intrigued by our tiny living, travel capabilities, and close-knit lifestyle. Many walked away with my business card directing them to this blog to answer further questions, so if you’re new here and learned about us from the tour, welcome! If you’re looking for downsizing tips, check out this link. If you’re looking for information on how to buy a boat and live aboard, check out this post!
Here’s a look at our tour setup:
During the season of consumerism, it was a great way to show how much you can do with so little!
Weather woes impeded our brilliant plan to take Story Time to Wilmington for the Marine Corps ball. Here’s a short summary of what happened:
Set off at 7:30 am on Tuesday, Nov. 5. This left barely enough time to make the 9ish hour trip down the coast and up the Cape Fear river and into a guest slip downtown before dark.
Working against this trip were daylight savings time, currents, and the incredibly tricky New River Inlet.
Got stuck in the mud just past Snead’s Ferry and had to get a little help from Tow Boat US, putting Story Time and crew an hour behind the tight timeline.
Finally got to open ocean to face sudden 6ft swells.
Rocked and rolled 8 knots south, hugging the coastline a mile offshore before an unscheduled thunderstorm decided to pop up.
Had to high tail it back to the inlet in an attempt to get onto the ICW instead.
Due to the severity of the storm and frustration of the crew, it made more sense to return to Gottschalk. Home in the slip by 4 pm (just not the slip we thought we would be in).
We were very sad and disappointed not to be able to bring our home with us for the ball. Looking back, the ICW would have been the easier and clearer choice, but this event was a great excuse to try some coastal cruising. Regardless of the outcome, much experience was gained, and lessons were learned (and last-minute hotels were booked). We cleaned up nice and danced the night away anyway.
We are excited to try again when we can be more flexible with our timeline. Both Cape Fear and Cape Lookout are on our “to-do” list this year. As a conciliatory gesture, the weather decided to cooperate with us on Sunday and we had one of the best sails all year. We took the entire Hobbs clan sailing in 8-10 knot winds and just bopped around New River for the day in 60 degrees. Story Time still takes my breath away with how smooth she sails. We got up to 6 knots in only 10 knots of wind!
It was fantastic to have Conor’s whole family with us this past week and we are thankful they were able to experience the good part of boat life with us as well as the frustrations. Most of all, we are grateful to have loving family who supports our crazy lifestyle.
Fun fact: It’s been just me, W, and Scout on the boat since Hurricane Dorian. During the evacuation, Conor had to leave to attend a military school for two months on the west coast. HE JUST CAME HOME!
Let me tell you, it has not been easy. Major props to single parents out there. I’ve been going going going for weeks with no break. Also, I’ve had to do all the dirty boat chores AND handle an increasingly opinionated toddler. In the past two months, I’ve done 3 pump outs, fixed the central air twice, hauled laundry/groceries/garbage up the docks more times than I can count, shuttled W to swim EVERY DAY+ story time, gymnastics, tot time, and park visits. Itsy bitsy spider and baby shark haunted my dreams. There was either a child clinging to me or a dog in my lap 24/7. My autonomy disappeared.
And I really, really, really missed my adventure partner in all of this.
I know I’ve been sparse with updates recently, but I’ll get back to posting more frequently instead of collapsing on the couch at the end of each day. Thankfully, this was the last major hurdle before the reserves next year. Now that it’s done (and he kicked butt at the school!) we can focus on sailing, cruising prep, and time as a family again. The Marine Corps ball is next week, and we are taking the boat down to Wilmington for 5 nights. Stay tuned for trip updates and see if these boat people can get fancy.
It’s National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For those of you who don’t know our history, you can read this post and this post to catch up. I feel like I need to acknowledge this day with a post again, because even though we can’t celebrate a birthday we can at least dedicate a candle to them.
To be honest, I really didn’t want to write today. I am just…tired. Tired of imagining alternate timelines. Tired of the due-dates-that-never-were swirling around in my brain, impossible to forget. I am tired of the anxiety surrounding all things pregnancy related. Tired of no answers. Tired of tests and research that went nowhere. Tired of people feeling sad for us. Tired of being sad. Tired of hoping only to be let down again.
I’ve been pregnant 5 times. 5 times of symptom spotting, peeing on every stick in sight, and finally getting those two lines, only to break my heart in all but one instance.
I am thankful every day for my little girl. Still, though, I feel like I was robbed of enjoyment with her. I lived 9 months terrified that something would go wrong. I wish I could have been one of those happy, glowing pregnant women filled with excitement and celebrating the whole time, doing the pregnancy reveal and gender party. I can’t even imagine getting a positive test and automatically assuming that it leads to a baby.
So, where does this leave us? I don’t know. Each loss has changed us in a different way. My recent loss with twins in June felt like a different blow. Not only did it affect me and Conor, but W as well. Moving forward we need to consider what is best for her, too, and how long we are willing to leave this door of possibility open for. For my health, sanity, and well being of our family, at some point we will have to close it and be thankful for what we have.
If you know someone who has suffered a loss, reach out today. Let moms and dads know you’re thinking about them. It goes a long way.
We had a fantastic boating experience with another family this weekend. We invited one of my writer friends, her husband, and their two kids to come sailing with us on Sunday morning. This was their first time on a sailboat, and they were eager to learn!
Aspects of boat life that have slowly become mundane to us over the last two years were put into a new and refreshing light when explaining them to a six and eight-year-old. Getting off the dock became more than throwing lines and getting out to sail as quickly as possible. It turned into a fascinating explanation of WHY for everything. Why are there so many ropes? Why do you tie them that way? Why do we throw that over there? Why does the engine make that noise? Why do you have to look for water coming out the back of the boat? A five-minute process turned into twenty, but it enriched the experience for everyone.
Out on the water, the kids steered the boat, learned how to trim the sails, and found out how the navigation equipment worked. We even hung out with some dolphin friends!
Though he has had a great career in the Marine Corps, I really think teaching will be somewhere in my sweet husband’s future. Watching him interact with W fills my heart, but also seeing his ‘teacher mode’ with older kids makes me excited for the years to come. I can’t wait until W is old enough to go from “keep her from falling off the boat” to “active crew participant”.
It just amazes me how kids soak up knowledge and dive into new activities without hesitation. They aren’t afraid to do it wrong or ask questions. This makes sailing even more enjoyable because it snaps adults out of autopilot. Kids make you live in the moment; to stop and think about what you are doing, and most importantly, WHY you are doing it. And the answer is usually, “Because it’s fun!”
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!