I want to travel and live abroad. I want routine for my kids to thrive. I want to write more books. I want to contribute more to our household income, instead of as a hobby. I want to be a present mom. I want an identity outside of them. I want to keep living minimally. I want a house with a huge kitchen for my husband to enjoy. I want to buy another boat. I want to set down roots. I want to meet new friends in exotic places. I want to deepen and nurture the connections with existing family and friends. I want the ocean. I want to rest. I want my MFA. I want to have everything right now.
And it is impossible.
There is simply not enough time or energy to accomplish everything. It is vital that we dedicate these important resources in a meaningful way, and these past few years, I have been spread too thin. I have focused much of my energy on external growth, the growth that is easy for me to see and measure—the boat adventure, publishing books, raising children. This ‘tree’ of mine has grown noticeably taller, branches spreading out in every direction, always moving up up up and seeking more more more.
But what about my roots? The core and foundation, the stability that allows for strength, has been neglected as we seek the next exciting thing. I realized I need to spread my roots down deep and work under the surface for a while. The year up in Virginia has been lonely, and both Conor and I find ourselves longing for community and connection. For family. For the childhood friendships that lasted through adulthood. As Mary Schmich said, “Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.”
These amazing people have cheered us on while we experienced living in California, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Virginia. Celebrated the birth of our children and career successes, but it has been from so far away. I yearn to be present in the lives of people I care about in real way, through the ups and downs. I want to dance at their weddings, hold their babies, and simply be with them without a return to the airport. I want to show the people we love how much we love them. After a decade away, I think it’s about time.
I know I’ve been posting very infrequently on here lately. These last few months have been filled with reflection, planning, and asking questions. Where are we headed and what are we doing? I’ve been quiet on all social media as we try to find our footing and take our next steps, but I knew I needed to put together one last recap video to commemorate our final year on the boat. If you want to watch them all in order, here is 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. 2021 marked 5 years with our beloved Story Time, and it astounds me to see how much we accomplished and the life we built together.
There will be some new developments and projects in store for 2022. I’m excited for them, even though they are not boat related. I’m hoping for career pivots and fresh challenges, so stay tuned. I’ll post more in the new year, and much more often from now on! Thanks, guys.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Over this howling northern wind, I can hear it calling to me. It is currently 35 degrees out but in my head I am lying on a beach in front of crystal blue water…
My imagination has been running away from me lately. Conor and I are having a blast playing the “what-if” game and researching tons of marinas down in the Caribbean. It has started to sink in that by this time next year, we will be GONE! It is both exciting and terrifying as we try to get our rears in gear. Not only are we leaving the country, but the active duty “security blanket” as well. Here is our marina wishlist so far:
U.S. territory so work visas will not be an issue that first year
reasonable liveaboard prices+pets allowed
good diving opportunities
great daysailing to other islands
dock amenities like storage and laundry
The biggest shock during our research has been the prices! I know we’ve had it pretty good at Gottschalk with $5 per foot per month, but most places down in the islands are $20 per foot per month. Ouch! But in some cases, the amenities are totally worth it. Here is our top contender right now on St. Croix USVI: http://www.tamarindreefresort.com/marina-en.html
I mean, come on! It would be a dream to stay there, we just have to find a way to make it happen. Good thing we still have 11 months to plan! We are prowling cruisers forums for other recommendations for a home base next year. If you have a marina you’d recommend, please reach out and let us know!
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.
Sonder Village was released today! Here’s the scoop on my new book and some fun facts.
This book is based off a news article I read in 2015 about abandoned villages up for sale in Spain. All the properties seemed to have a rich history and a story to tell. I had always wanted to play with setting as a character and this concept presented the perfect opportunity!
I finished this book right before going into labor with Baby W. Once she was born and I exited the baby fog, I realized I hated my original ending and rewrote the last 15,000 words!
I actually speak Spanish. It was one of my majors in college.
Early readers of this book include my parents, Conor, and my dear friend Annie B. Their honesty and support keeps me going! Thanks for slogging through early drafts, guys!
I pitched this book to my editor while we were in Atlanta after evacuating for Hurricane Florence.
The cover artist who did Sonder Village also did my cover for Cloaked
My favorite passage in the book is this one (I wonder why?):
Bieito transformed at the helm. Holding onto the tiller, he expertly steered them through the breaking waves, showing no hint of fear. He was right—it was a dance. Remy tried to stay out of the way as he raised and trimmed the sail. Soon they were flying. The little sailboat skipped over the choppy waves, riding on moonlight.
Their serious conversation from earlier was placed on an indefinite hold. Remy couldn’t speak right now even if she wanted to. The entire experience stole her breath away, and all she could do was hold on tight, smiling from ear to ear until her cheeks ached.
Let’s sail forever. Remy longed to just keep moving forward, into the unknown. To never see land again, and to live in the waves and at the whim of the wind. It blew all the thoughts and worries straight out of her head.
This was Bieito’s version of painting. The release of consciousness as he let his body live in the moment, just as Remy did with a brush. She looked back at him from her seat across the cockpit. The lines on his face were completely smoothed out in the silver light, and she could see the boy he used to be; a boy who got his love of the sea from his mother, and the respect of the sea when he learned how to ride it.
Send me your questions! Anything about the book, the publishing process, or writing strategies. Happy reading and I hope you enjoy Sonder Village!