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!”
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.
We decided to do our first anchor out over Memorial Day. We had been looking forward to it for weeks, but come the actual day, a few elements were working against us—no wind, 100% humidity, and a heat index of 104 degrees. Sounds like a great day to experience life on the hook, right?
We debated all day whether to leave the dock, until finally we decided that we would rather regret doing it than not doing it. Conor so rarely has enough time off to attempt a trip like this and we couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
At 6pm we set out. I know I’m making this sound like a grand adventure, but we were literally going around the corner to Hospital Point. Just out of sight of the marina so we felt like we were anchored somewhere exotic, but still a 20 minute dinghy ride back. It was important to keep the anchor spot as local as possible in case something went wrong and we needed to return ASAP. The other purpose was to test the systems (windlass, night lights, anchor light, battery life, etc.) and check that everything worked before we planned longer excursion later this summer.
Before we left, Conor also downloaded an anchor app that alerts you when you drift so many meters from your starting position. That way, if your anchor comes loose and you start dragging toward shore, the alarm will wake you up before you run aground. We were also equipped with these wonderful wind scoops that look like teeny tiny spinnakers. They redirect the wind down into the cabin for some nice airflow.
By 7 pm we dropped anchor and watched the sunset. The wind picked up and cooled us off while we watched dolphins hunt their dinner. W had her bath up in the cockpit before being rocked to sleep by the waves. For a few hours, anchoring out was every bit the experience we had hoped for.
Then the wind died at 10pm, and holy hell was it a long, hot night. FYI, wind scoops only work when there’s a breeze. There were no bugs, thankfully, but even with every window thrown open we were sweating it out. W woke up when the sky lightened at 5:15 am, so the whole family was pretty tired.
Watching that sun rise, though, was indescribable. It was a different feeling than being in our cockpit on the dock. It really did feel like an escape from day-to-day life. W thought it was hilarious that we were still out on the river and ran to and from the bow while Conor and I sipped our coffee. Fun fact: Memorial Day last year was W’s first-ever sail! It was amazing to see how far we’ve come as a family and how comfortable she is on the boat now.
Scout needed her morning potty, so the family took a dinghy ride to shore. On the way back, W fell asleep standing up with her head in my lap! Poor baby had too much excitement for one weekend. I put her down for a nap on the boat and we headed back to Gottschalk.
All in all, we had a great time despite the weather. All our systems worked, but I need to look at our battery life. Our house battery was almost dead after only 16 hours, so we need to get better at conserving energy and utilizing our solar panel and wind generator to their full extent. It’s a learning process, but I’m proud that we checked off this important step.
Because Story Time is officially back at it this season! Sunday was our first sail of 2019 and MAN did it feel great to be out on the water again. 75 degrees and sunny with 5-10 knot winds means that winter has finally lifted. Conor is home from Norway at last, and there is no better way to reconnect as a family than doing what we love all together.
It didn’t matter that we discovered a rip in our mainsail (again! Seriously, wtf) and the wind died on us for about an hour out there, because our engine ran great, our rigging looks good, and Story Time seems no worse for the wear after hanging out in her slip for the past 4 months.
We had a magical encounter with a pod of 6 dolphins that played around our boat for at least 20 minutes. I could have reached out and touched them, they were that close. I was a bit nervous to see how W would cooperate while we were sailing now that she’s extremely mobile, but she loves her sailing harness and was very into ‘helping’ with the lines.
Looking at this picture makes my heart so full. She’s only 15 months but ready to dive right in to every adventure. I can just see the little girl she’ll become—brave and fierce!
I’m keeping this post short and sweet so we can get back to family time, but now that Conor is home I will be able to update more frequently with sailing and liveaboard life. After only 2 posts in March (gah!) I promise to be more on top of it in April.
This is a special blog takeover by our lovely new neighbors on B-dock. We met them last fall when they were just starting their liveaboard journey. We’ve watched them go from planning, to buying their boat, to downsizing, and finally moving aboard! They are the most wonderful couple you’ll ever meet, and we are proud to introduce them on the blog!
First, tell us who you are! We’re Zach and Corri. We’re a married couple in our early 30’s who moved onto a 1975 Whitby 42 Ketch sailboat in January 2019, along with our Labrador Retriever named Hudson.
How did you come up with the idea of living aboard? We remember the exact moment that eventually led to us living on a sailboat. We were sitting in this awesome brew house in Osaka, Japan one evening during one of Zach’s work trips. We were living in Japan at the time and were doing a lot of traveling. We’d just met a couple in Thailand that sold all their stuff, strapped on some backpacks and took off to see the world and we talked about how incredible it would be to do the same. And how impossible it seemed. After a few beers and more “what if’s” we made a pact that after Zach’s work contract was over, we would travel the world for a year. Once we returned home, we started researching the best and most affordable ways to travel and we discovered sailing. We decided we would learn how to sail, buy a sailboat, live on it until the work contract ended, then set off for our year of adventure.
What appealed to you about the lifestyle? What made sailing so attractive at first was the idea that we could venture far away without ever really leaving home. We love the space and atmosphere we create in the homes we live in. When traveling in the past, we always missed our own four walls by the end of a trip, no matter how lovely the hotels were. Being able to tote our home along with us wherever we end up roaming is incredibly comforting. But we discovered something even more appealing once we started looking at sailboats to buy and spending time at marinas. We discovered that, embedded in sailing, there is an incredible community filled with so many interesting people. The community and people are enormous ancillary benefits we hadn’t thought of when we first began this journey. We’ve never met a sailor we didn’t like!
What experience did you have going into this? Zach took a weekend course years ago which qualified him to take a 22ft sailboat out for rental, which he only got to do twice because of work demands. Corri had absolutely no sailing experience (except for the one time she went with Zach on a windy ride in said 22ft sailboat). Both of us took the ASA 101 course before buying our boat, then during the delivery of the boat, we completed ASA 103 and ASA 104 enroute. Our lack of experience made our insurers, friends and family quite uneasy with our life choices at first!
What resources did you find to be the most helpful? Having a great broker who made us feel confident during the entire process (shoutout to Dave Huff at St. Augustine Yacht Sales!) and being lucky enough to have a kind previous owner who eagerly answers all of our questions, even now almost a year after buying the boat. Additionally, YouTube and Google have been invaluable resources. Our greatest on-going resource is our community — whether virtual (we are in an incredible Liveaboard Facebook Group) or in person (our neighbors at the marina are all so knowledgable).
What was the hardest part of this journey? Trying to make so many big decisions and changes while still working full time, going to school and keeping up with our social and family lives. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find a boat and move aboard as fast as possible because we knew that’s what it took to begin learning more and saving. It would’ve been wonderful to focus solely on just one thing — getting rid of most of our worldly possessions and moving onto a sailboat. But, it wasn’t possible for us and that made it very stressful during the time between buying the boat in March 2018 and finally moving aboard in January 2019.
What was the easiest? Corri was surprised at how easy it was to get rid of things (in fact, as more things flew out the door, the stress level dropped). Zach, adapting to living in a smaller space was very easy; less to keep track of, less to clean, less to move where the wind blows.
Anything you would have done differently? No, in hindsight, there everything happened the way it needed it to, when it needed to.
What’s the next step for your family? We’ll be working to fill the cruise kitty for about another year, then we’re taking our big trip! We’re hoping to head north along Canada, then eventually pop over to Europe, but we are open for changes!
Share any words of wisdom or inspiration for people who want to take the plunge! We met a new neighbor the other day who said he didn’t want to tell anyone at work that he was moving aboard because he didn’t want them to judge him. Fortunately, he did tell someone and that someone happened to be a good friend of ours and passed on our contact info. We then gave the new neighbor all the inside details of how to navigate to the marina and getting set up. So, tell everyone about your plan to move aboard. Don’t hide it because you’re worried people will think you’re crazy. Only about 5% of the people we told were negative about it. Everyone else was incredibly supportive and encouraging, and we needed those people to continue encouraging us when the process got challenging.
Thanks so much for the great interview, guys! If you want to follow Zach and Corri’s journey, you can find them on Instagram at @microretirement.
Well guys, Conor is back in North Carolina to do Marine things. W and I are still hanging in WA because he is going to be so busy, but we miss him so much! Thank God for Skype.
To commemorate what a great year we had as a family, I put together a little recap video for 2018. Our 2017 video is here, and our 2018 one picks up right where that one left off! It is crazy to look back and see how tiny W used to be. This year consisted of sleepless nights, two cross-country trips to WA, boat work, long summer nights, great sailing as a family of 3, and more. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed that I was able to put this together just a week after New Year. The 2017 recap video didn’t get posted until March 2018. I think I’m more on top of it this year!
The song is ‘End of the World’ by the Dirty Heads. Thanks for following our journey!
We are fair-weather sailors and not ashamed to admit it. Though one day we aspire to be salty and experienced in all conditions, now is not the time to be reckless. We have a baby on board. Enough said.
I will admit it can be frustrating. In order for us to take the boat out, we have to work around nap schedules, military life, and weather windows. Basically, we have to sail on weekends, with decent temperatures, no storms or high winds in the 12-hour forecast, and be back at the dock in time for baby bedtime routine. This perfection only occurs about once or twice per month, sadly.
Before W came around, “good enough” conditions were just fine. It was a thrill to handle the unexpected, and learn on our toes. Now, it just isn’t worth sacrificing our family happiness to push ourselves to the limit on the boat. Stressed out Mama=stressed out baby, and that means lots of screaming. That is not my idea of quality family time!
So for now we are making the most of our easy sailing days, and focusing on making positive memories with our boat baby. We had an absolutely wonderful, easy sailing day this weekend with some good friends. Sunny, 7 mph winds, and 68 degrees. Conor and I actually got a few pictures together! Can you believe it’s November?
I’m hoping this won’t be our last sail of the season, but I have to accept that it may well be. Last year, temperatures dropped dramatically after Thanksgiving. If we are lucky enough to have good weather for the next few weeks, we will jump on our chance. But if there is any doubt…well, we still have springtime sailing to look forward to!