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!
The boat owners of Gottschalk Marina took a little field trip together on Saturday. We all went down to Swansboro for Derby Day! I had no idea what to expect, except for the fact that that most people were going to dress up. This, as you know, is normally a momentous occasion for boat people, especially liveaboards. I think we cleaned up very nicely!
The event itself was impressive, though no one seemed to care much about the actual race! We had a great time hanging with our boat tribe at the docks, drinking mint juleps and crowd-watching. Our friends stayed the whole weekend. They took a 42 ft sailboat and a 48 ft powerboat down on Friday to get slips in the middle of the action. We just drove there for the day this year, but we will definitely bring Story Time next year! It is only a 5 hour motor out of New River and into the ICW.
We need to keep an eye out for other day trip opportunities like this. How lucky are we that we can just take our home with us? Time to start taking advantage of it more. Although, our friends did say that they missed Gottschalk after the third day. Can you be homesick while bringing your home with you? While travel is amazing, I think it is always nice to return to familiar territory and routine. Home is also the people you surround yourself with, and we are grateful to have such amazing friends here.