The First Leg

We left Gottschalk Marina on Tuesday morning and are Virginia bound! Goodbyes were happy/sad. On one hand, we were so excited to use the boat for its intended purpose—TRAVEL! On the other hand, we had to leave our safety net and boat family to do it. For our farewell, we had everyone write “Stories For Story Time” in a notebook to take with us: a favorite memory, a word that comes to mind when they think of us, or any hopes for the future.

Day 1: New River to Swansboro

Weather: GUSTY, cold, clear. Not too choppy.

Travel time: 7 hours, 27 nautical miles

Highs: Dolphins! And starting the adventure. Motor and systems running smoothly, no issues at the Onslow swing bridge.

Lows: New River Inlet is a hazard. The charts DO NOT line up with the route, too much has shifted over the past two years. It is incredibly shallow and easy to lose the channel. We ran aground and Tow Boat US had to come pull us out, and even he couldn’t find the channel again for over an hour. Proceed with caution to ICW.

Final thoughts: I’m SO PROUD of Conor for his excellent navigation and docking skills. He received some very high compliments at the marina we docked at for working against a tricky current and getting us lined up safely.

On our way!

Day 2: Swansboro to Morehead

Weather: Butt Cold

Travel Time: 4 hours, 22 NM

Highs: No running aground! And we got to our transient slip by 2pm with plenty of time to explore. Also, the dock had a pumpout service. Conor said it was the most incredible $10 he ever spent.

Lows: A few toddler meltdowns as she adjusted to this new travel routine. Plus, it was too freaking cold.

Final Thoughts: We were not as prepared for the cold weather as we should have been. When we were packing and organizing for the trip last week, it was 80 degrees. Conor forgot to get a pair of gloves out of storage before he shipped the POD. I can’t believe the temperature halved in less than a week!

Day 3&4: Morehead to Oriental + Rest Day

Weather: Significantly warmer, breezy, rolly across the Neuse River

Travel Time: 4 hrs, 22 NM

Highs: Getting into a rhythm as a family. Hanging with everyone up in the cockpit and listening to music as the NC coast went by. Conor was complimented AGAIN on his docking skills as he navigated a tricky, narrow slip into Oriental (Another cruising family said it was a “10/10”)

Lows: My nerves at the helm.

Final Thoughts: We are enjoying our extra day in Oriental to relax and take time as a family. It is starting to feel like a real vacation as we explore this adorable sailing town.

Story Time in her Oriental slip

One of the coolest moments so far was after we docked in Oriental and another sailboat family asked how long we had been doing this for. I said, “We’ve been living aboard for just over three years,” as I chased my toddler up the dock while holding a baby.

She said, “Oh, that explains the docking then! We have only been doing this since October.”

There were so many things I wanted to say to this woman, but I had to follow W before she got too far ahead. I wanted to tell her that docking used to make me want to throw up. That the learning curve is SO steep for her right now, but it will get better. That it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed.

I’ve admired many sailing families over the years, hoping and waiting for the day when we would get on their “level”. It hit me yesterday that from the perspective of this stranger, we actually knew what we were doing! Little does she know…

Last thing: confession time. I’m struggling at the helm away from the familiar territory of the New River. I’m out of practice. I have always had a hard time spatially, and maps have never been my strong point. Adding in the confusion of the charts not matching up the first two days of travel, I’ve been too anxious to do much at the wheel. My attention is also always split with what the kids are doing, and it is hard to focus. Thank goodness we decided to do short travel days.

I’ll try to update on our rest days!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

New Dawn, New Chapter

Photo cred to my awesome neighbor who works out before the sun comes up

Drumroll please…WE ARE GOING TO VIRGINIA! My head is spinning as we try to figure out all the logistics over the next two weeks. Conor is transitioning out of active duty, we have to prepare the boat for a 12-day journey, and, hardest of all, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love in North Carolina.

We will take the ICW up to Virginia Beach. Without kids, it would take about 6 days. With kids, we plan on doubling our timeframe. To complicate things further, the marina we initially picked out is undergoing extensive construction (read: no dock house or laundry available) so we are scrambling trying to find another marina up there. If you have any insights or can offer any help, please reach out to me on the contact page.  I’m so excited for this scenic journey with our little family, but a bit terrified at the same time. I plan on posting lots of pics and updates during the move, so stay tuned!

Right now, we are trying to check a million things off our to-do list, so I’m going to keep this short. Also, it is election day, so I hope some of you are reading this while in line at the polls!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I do a post on October 15th every year. Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For those of you who don’t know our story, you can start here: post 1, post 2, post 3.

It hurts looking back on those old entries, when we were in the trenches of fertility issues, but it no longer feels as agonizing as it did when I posted them. I want to go back in time and give myself a hug, cry with her but let her know it is all going to work out how it is meant to work out. She just has to weather the storm before the rainbows.

We feel beyond blessed to have our two beautiful children. We fought long and hard to get here, and now we are ‘two and through’. It is such a relief to end this chapter in our lives and focus on enjoying our babies. Watching them grow up and become their own independent, fierce selves is the start of a new adventure. No more waiting, wondering, and pain.

This journey defined much of my 20’s. I never thought that having a family would be fraught with so many obstacles and uncertainties. When we tried one last time for baby #7, we agreed that it would be the last pregnancy, regardless of the outcome. As it turned out, baby R was lucky #7 and I was able to bring my second baby home.

The truth is, though, that it doesn’t work out for a lot of people. Their journeys do not always have happy endings. I light my candle today during the Wave of Light for my losses, their losses, and for the dreams that will never be realized. My heart breaks for it all and reminds me that I can never take anything in my life for granted. For those still struggling, I see you and send you more love than you know. I am here for you, please reach out and tell me your story.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

North or South?

I have emerged from my endless cycle of feeding/changing/rocking/sleeping and donned my ‘mom jeans’ in order to bring you this important update—we have no idea which direction we are going.

Maybe we should just flip a coin.

It is now October. How can that be? Conor has less than 60 days left as an active duty Marine. Now that the end is in sight, everyone has been asking, “What are you going to do next?”

Pre-Covid, this was a no-brainer. We planned to go down to the USVI. The timing was great—terminal pay to fund the trip down there, post-hurricane season weather, and a winter spent on gorgeous beaches.

With the pandemic still raging and a newborn baby, we have decided to push our cruising plans back. There have been so many horror stories of stranded cruisers and closed ports down in the Caribbean, and with two small kids we cannot risk being one of them.

We have come up with two choices:

  1. Go down to Florida with our bestest boat family, Zach and Corri. Reasons:
    • Boat tribe sticks together
    • Only 90 miles to the Bahamas
    • We can sail in the winter
    • We have already reserved a slip at a great marina in Fort Pierce
  2. Go to Virginia so Conor can take a civilian JTAC position. Reasons:
    • With a full-time job, we can finish paying off the boat and fill the cruising kitty
    • Conor gets to do cool JTAC things while we wait
    •  We can sail on the Chesapeake in the spring
    • There are a lot of liveaboard marina options

My heart is being pulled in so many different directions it hurts to think about. I can’t believe we are leaving the Gottschalk family and our North Carolina friends so soon. At the same time, I feel SO READY for this next adventure. If only we could decide what it will be! Maybe I should start a poll and let you all vote.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

He’s Here!

 

Baby R1

And baby makes 4. Baby brother arrived this week just one day after his due date, and we are over the moon that he is finally here!

Labor was much quicker and easier this time around. After a 17-hour labor with W, less than 8 hours with baby boy felt like a dream. We got to the hospital in the middle of the night, I was already 8cm, was whisked up to the delivery room, and a little later I pushed for 15 minutes and he was out! Not to say it didn’t hurt, but I had so much more energy this time around and knew what to expect.

Giving birth during a pandemic was a little different. Options for pain meds were limited. I was able to use just nitrous oxide for pain management the first time around, but for this birth the hospital said it was epidural or nothing due to Covid risk. I opted for nothing, especially when the anesthesiologist introduced herself as the “student anesthesiologist”. Hell no. We were hoping to bring our doula in (zachthedoula.com) but because of the 1 support person rule, he couldn’t come to the hospital with us but helped me labor at home.

Baby boy came out alert and healthy. My recovery has been easy, and I feel almost back to my old self after just a few days. He was back to his birth weight by day 3, so high-fives all around!

W has completely embraced her role as big sister. She calls R “my baby!” and holds him every second she gets. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, though, because she still has those big toddler emotions to process and has been taking it out on Mom and Dad. We are trying to find our routine and new normal, but we are tired. Up all day with a toddler, up all night with a newborn.

This whole 2 kids thing is no joke. At least everything we need is always within arms reach on the boat! I do feel like we are just doing tiny living and not liveaboard life because we haven’t used the boat for her intended purpose since July. This season of life is so fleeting, though, and soon our tiny newborn days will be over forever. Trying to find moments to embrace the here and now of this stage and freeze the memories.

Wishing our families and friends could be here with us to celebrate the new arrival. Thank you, everyone, for your love and support.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

baby R2
Bringing baby home

Stayed for a Tropical Storm, Rode Out a Hurricane

In other words, whoops!

TS Isaias was forecasted to stay a tropical storm, then it became a hurricane, dropped back down to tropical storm, became a hurricane again, was supposed to hit South Carolina first, ended up making landfall in North Carolina, and skirted past the New River (a little too close for comfort) as a Category 1. It just goes to show how annoyingly unpredictable these weather systems are.

We made the decision to ride out the tropical storm on the boat this time. After evacuating twice in the last two years, I decided that there was no way the odds would land another hurricane on North Carolina three years in a row. HA. Thanks, climate change.

The last week had been dedicated to preparing for hurricane season anyway. We took down our headsail, put the dinghy up on dry-dock, went through our checklist, etc. The only inconvenience for Isaias was taking down the bimini and putting out extra storm lines/snubbers.

Our decision to stay was based on a few factors:

  1. The storm was very fast-moving and would be past us within 4 hours.
  2. It hit us in the middle of the night (W actually slept through it all!)
  3. Story Time had proven herself the past two years riding out Florence and Dorian with zero issues.
  4. Our marina is in a good hurricane hole.
  5. Other liveaboards stayed as well and would have been able to help in an emergency.

It was quite the experience to ride out Isaias onboard. We definitely won’t stay for another hurricane, but I think we made a good choice based on the information we had at the time. By the time we knew it would stay a hurricane, we had already committed to remaining onboard. The scariest part was the NOISE. The wind was howling. Apparently, we had a lot of side to side movement (our neighbor said Story Time’s mast looked like a metronome) but down below it didn’t feel too bad. It was reassuring to remember that our 4’10” keel helped our boat do exactly as it was made to do. Our boat felt incredibly secure riding the storm—completely watertight, leaning into the elements, and safe inside a well-proven slip.

The eye passed by us at 3am and I finally fell asleep. No damage in the morning, except base lost power until around 1pm. A tree fell in the marina parking lot, but miraculously missed any cars or power lines. Very little storm surge because Isaias went by so fast. I’m just glad I didn’t have a hurricane/pandemic baby! Looks like he is content to stay put a while longer.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

How do you fit TWO kids on a boat?

People thought we were crazy the first time around. Now that we are just weeks away from adding a second, everyone has asked, “Where are you going to put him?”

What they don’t realize is that everything we already have for W, we would need for baby brother anyway. W took over the whole v berth with books, toys, crib, etc. The changing pad still hasn’t moved from its spot on the navigation center and the stroller resides in the dock box. Playdough, arts and crafts, and snack cups surround the settee. To prep for baby brother, all we needed to do was install the infant car seat, pull out the Lillebaby carrier from storage, find room in the v berth closet for newborn clothes, and put the bassinet by my bed.

The biggest hurdle, however, was where he was going to sleep once he outgrew the bassinet, as W still uses her own crib strapped to the v berth.

A lot of cruising families split the v berth for their kids with lee cloth. Technically, that mattress splits into two twin beds. This is a great plan for older kids, but not ideal for an infant and a toddler. W didn’t sleep through the night until 20 months old, so I didn’t want baby brother following the same pattern and disrupting everyone’s rest.

We couldn’t have him out in the main cabin, so that left our aft bedroom. With our low ceiling, finding room for a safe sleep space proved difficult. Then, we decided to get creative and had a custom mini crib made!

Through word of mouth, I got in contact with an amazing woodworker named Anthony Blinson on Emerald Isle. I sent him measurements for the space above our engine block and the requirements for the project—easily collapsible with side-door access. He had free reign for the rest of the design and came back with the most INCREDIBLE boat baby crib!

Here it is at the woodshop (@Tonyswoodshop514):

crib1

Here it is on the boat:

crib2

crib3

crib4

We’ve ordered furniture anchors to secure it to the wall. The crib has just 8 bolts (4 on each side) that unscrew with an allen wrench to dismantle it. The bottom is on a hinge that folds flat. When we need to run the engine, the crib can be disassembled in less than 5 minutes and moved out of the way. It is truly a gorgeous and functional piece of furniture. If you have any woodworking needs for your boat, I highly recommend Anthony’s services, as he envisions and engineers to his customer’s unique needs.

I love that we will be able to keep baby brother in our room for at least the first year, as recommended by AAP guidelines. I love that W keeps her own room (mostly) through this new sibling transition. I love that in the evenings, the v berth and aft cabin doors will close, leaving Conor and I able to cook dinner and watch TV in our own space like adults!

Not to say that there won’t be challenges in the coming months but solving our sleep space problem is a huge weight off. Now, we just sit back and wait for him to show up!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

Considerations For Cruising Right Now — Live Free 2 Sail Fast

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.

via Considerations For Cruising Right Now — Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Reflections On Turning 30

If you had told me at 20 where I would be by 30, I would have laughed at you and said you got the wrong girl. I had aspirations of working in federal law enforcement, and though I hoped to be married, I had no plans for kids until after 30. I thought yoga was just a boring way to stretch. A part of me thought I would be a cheerleader forever. Grades mattered more than experience. I was afraid of breaking any rules. I cared a lot about what other people thought of me. I tried to do everything the ‘right’ way.

Who is this woman? Mother of two. Twice-published author. Lives on a SAILBOAT?

Over the past 10 years, this person has moved from the Northwest, to the Midwest, to the California coast, and all the way to North Carolina, meeting and connecting with people from all walks of life. She has survived and thrived through her husband’s multiple (and sometimes back-to-back) deployments. She learned what the terms ectopic, missed miscarriage, and recurrent loss meant all too well. She was rejected 237 times trying to make writing her career. She decided not to be afraid anymore and to redefine what’s normal. She discovered that happiness could be packed into 38 feet, with her husband and children within arms reach, on an adventure together.

This decade did not happen how I thought it would go. Honestly, how boring would it have been if it had? Instead, it was such a transformative journey that forced me to examine my own expectations, and more importantly, challenged me question why. This process of self-discovery led me in a completely different direction than the path I picked out for myself. Though at times it was uncomfortable and even painful, I am forever grateful to have gone through it, especially now instead of thirty years from now. This process of understanding my truest self will be ongoing throughout my life and ever-changing.

The only thing scarier than change is everything staying the same. I am going to embrace turning 30 tomorrow, thankful that it will give me new opportunities to grow. Who knows what is in store? I want to show my kids the world. I want to actually make some decent money with this writing gig. I want to tell my adventure buddy that I love him every day. I can’t wait to see what this next decade will bring, but with the understanding that although I cannot control the wind, I can adjust my sails. Cheers (& beers, when I can drink again!) to 30 years.

Love,

Taylor

turning 30

Milestone Moment

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.

milestone
Explaining the docking process. She knows it is serious!

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.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby