Today I’m sharing a GREAT article from livefree2sailfast.com about how COVID is affecting cruising plans this year. It definitely gave us a lot to consider! We are planning to leave Gottschalk in November but still need to figure out what comes next. It is so hard to plan for the future when we are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic. We hoped it would be over by this fall, but it isn’t looking promising. Might need to adjust our sail…
Things we should have thought through before taking off to go cruising.
We have achieved a milestone on STORY TIME. After two and a half years of planning departures and returns around nap time or bedtime, we returned to our slip while W was awake and in the cockpit.
I was a nervous wreck as we approached the dock. We spent the night on another incredible anchor out, and our return time didn’t match up with nap time. While Conor and I have docked the boat with our daughter awake before, it has always been with an extra crew member or two to wrangle her and keep her occupied while we worked. This time, it was just the two of us.
With all that can go wrong during docking, it was always the easiest choice to have her asleep and out of the way in the past. I didn’t want to think about her grabbing the wheel while Conor was backing up, or tripping on deck while I tried to catch a line, or especially going overboard so close to the dock. All of this flashed through my mind and Conor had to remind me that she wasn’t a baby anymore.
This was the natural next step. W knows how to behave on a boat. She knows what she is and is not allowed to do, ingrained from her earliest memories. She knows where her safe spot is to sit and, most importantly, STAY when Mommy and Daddy are busy.
We talked it up the whole trip back to the marina—expectations, what was going to happen, and what we needed her to do. I am also not above bribery and set her up with a lollipop to entertain her while she watched the action.
As parents we cannot let our personal fears interfere with our children’s opportunities to rise to occasions. They often prove to us that they are ready before we think they are, and when given the chance, can blow us away. We chose to live aboard to provide growth and development opportunities that are unmatched in a traditional home. When faced with such a choice this time, I had to take a deep breath and trust her.
And guess what? W did AMAZING. She didn’t move, or demand attention, or grab anything. She sat quietly and watched, a feat I assumed to be nearly impossible for a child under three. I think that within the next two years, she will graduate to throwing and catching lines! She is well on her way to becoming a productive crew member in her own right. This comes just in time to start all over again with baby brother in a few months! At least he will have W to show him the ropes.
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.
We reached the end of our quarantine period on Saturday! No COVID-19 for us. We celebrated by finally taking the boat out for the first time this spring. Our last sail was in November, so Story Time had four loooonnngggg months stuck at the dock.
A great aspect about boating is that it is social distancing at its finest! I think boat owners naturally seek isolation, solitude, and quiet out on the water. It is the perfect activity especially when everything around us is closed. Our engine fired right up, all systems still worked, and we dropped anchor for a few hours across the river.
As this pandemic drags on, we feel lucky that we can still do what we love as a family. We are thankful to all be together, happy and healthy. Wishing everyone we know the same fortune.
We want to be cruisers so we can unplug from everyday life. The ultimate goal is to take our boat and go off the grid for weeks at a time, exploring uninhabited islands and leaving the “real world” behind. With all the COVID-19 insanity these past few weeks, it has made me wonder—will we ever be able to truly go offline? Is it dangerous to remain completely in the dark? How much of a break is good for mental health, versus safety and preparedness in the long run?
The virus situation escalated within weeks. I’ve seen news stories about couples on backpacking or hiking retreats returning home after a month to this shitstorm. It has to be like a bad dream. Living it IS a bad dream, but less of a shock after watching the pandemic develop. I’ve been wondering about all the cruisers out there who have just completed a long passage and are returning to find every port is closed!
When prepping for a passage, food is carefully prepared and rationed. There is garbage to be considered, water storage, and fuel. While sailors try to plan for delays or alternative stops, I can bet none of them saw this coming. How frightening to be low on food, fuel, and water but denied entry to restock. I don’t blame countries for trying to protect themselves, but these boaters are stuck in a terrible situation and I can’t help but worry. What would we do in their place? We have a hurricane plan, we know what to do if something breaks on our boat, but we have no pandemic plan. Honestly, I never thought we would need one!
Entering a port with a yellow flag flying has just been a courtesy for the last 100 years or so. It tells people ashore that all passengers and crew aboard are healthy and not bringing any diseases into the area. In the past, if a ship was quarantined, they flew a checked yellow and black flag called the Yellow Jack. Once the quarantine was up and the ship deemed safe, they were allowed to fly a solid yellow flag again. It is crazy to think that these flags now serve a real purpose again in this day and age, rather than as tradition.
This will be one more scenario to consider when we prepare to leave North Carolina. If any experienced cruisers have advice or resources to share, please do so. We are one hundred percent certain that we are on the right path, but it is also our responsibility as parents to adventure SAFELY.
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!)
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.
This weekend, I planned to have an epic post to share with you all. The original Labor Day weekend plan was to motor to Swansboro, stay the night, offshore sail in the freaking OCEAN, stay another night in Swansboro, and then return to Gottschalk with some incredible stories.
Then Hurricane Dorian appeared on the horizon, and plans changed.
Instead, we did an overnight raft up with some of our bestest dock buddies and stayed in New River! For those of you who don’t know what a raft up is, it is when one boat drops anchor and the rest tie up on either side. For this raft up, there were 4 boats in total—Zach and Corri were the “anchor” boat on Minoh, Story Time was on her port side, April Fools (a catamaran) was on the starboard, and the littlest boat was a 26-footer on the end.
It was a ton of fun to be able to walk across 4 boats to eat, drink, chat, and take in the views. 80 degrees, cool breeze, light chop, and surrounded by laughing friends… anchoring out always feels like something out of a dream. It is so removed from real life I wish everyone could experience it. In such perfect weather, it was hard remember that there is a very real hurricane threat lurking.
The next morning, after coffee and breakfast and amid W’s absolute obsession with her “CoCo” (Corri), we hit the beach. Can you tell we were still a bit in denial about the hurricane to-do list waiting for us back at the marina?
I’m thankful we took the time to enjoy ourselves before hurling into this week and all the drama it will bring. Boats are a LOT of work and can be a pain in the butt, especially around this time of year. It was nice to appreciate Story Time for all the joy she brings to our lives before cursing a lengthy checklist while Dorian bears down.
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.