Intermission

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.

4th of July anchor out

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.

A peek at the hot mess

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.

Not giving up, just moving the timeline

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.

So much love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Can’t imagine not living on the water anymore, but I have her hand in mine.

B.O.A.T

Bust.

Out.

Another.

Thousand.

We feel the true meaning of the word ‘boat’ as we aim to put the entirety of our tax return toward Story Time’s pre-season maintenance. This past week, the bimini and dodger got some TLC from Little Bay Canvas. They replaced a few pieces of cracked Eisenglass, tightened seams, and fixed hardware (Cost: $650). Then, West Marine had a 30% off dock lines sale, so OF COURSE we had to get in on that as well. Some of our dock lines came with our boat when we bought it, so we were past due to replace them all (Cost: $415).

6 new dock lines with 7-month-old baby for scale

Next items on our list:

  • New seals on hatch windows
  • Rigging check
  • Bottom scrape
  • Possibly haul out+antifouling on hull
  • Brightwork
  • Troubleshoot chart plotter
  • Patch the dinghy
  • Clean anchor chain
  • Service winches
  • Service AC unit
  • Change oil/fuel filter
  • Power wash deck
  • Replace fresh water pump
  • Clean cockpit lockers (yuck)

Some of this is yearly maintenance, some of it should be done every 3 to 5 years. This will be our 4th summer on the boat, so we have to start thinking about the long-term chores that we’ve been avoiding up until now (thanks, babies!)

What’s really killing me is having to spend so much time doing all this when we haven’t left the dock in four months. Expenses don’t feel quite as painful when we can get out and actually enjoy the boat for its intended purpose, but the weather has been absolute crazypants this winter/spring. This week alone it went from 82 degrees and 30mph wind to 45 degrees within 12 hours.

It can’t be anchor outs and sundowners all the time, I guess. Hopefully, we will toast to getting this massive list completed before the sailing season really kicks off. To inspire us to get our butts in gear, we have been watching SV Delos from the beginning on YouTube. I’d seen their videos here and there over the years, but never consecutively. They are basically the OG cruising vloggers and have been going strong for over a decade. With our own cruising dreams within grasp now that Conor is no longer active duty military, I’m starting to get a little giddy. After all, who can put a price on dreams?

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

The Nose Knows

Sometimes I feel like a bloodhound on Story Time. I’m actually more useful than Scout! For whatever reason, anytime there is a problem on the boat, I usually smell it first. Conor lives in fear of when I catch a scent, because inevitably, it leads to more boat problems for him to fix.

I saved our butts twice when our AC electrical box overheated. In October, the central air was running, and it suddenly smelled like bacon. I called Conor at work and made him come home. At first it seemed like an overreaction, but it was discovered that one of the wires had started to melt and it was a fire risk. The second time it happened (in January), the fuse holder overheated at 3am. My brain screamed at me that something wasn’t right, and I woke up from a dead sleep to that same scent. For anyone freaking out right now, we now have a new Mermaid Air AC electrical box. Even the manufactures couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it—it was just some freak thing! It had been working fine for 2 years before and suddenly decided to crap out. Very scary!

In other instances:

  • Conor cooking on the stove. Me: “Babe, the propane is low.” Him: “Did you check it today?” Me: “No, I just smell the difference.” Lo and behold, time to change the tank.
  • Opening the fridge. “Oh shit. R must have kicked the switch panel during his diaper change.” Yep. Thankfully, it was off less than 2 hours and we didn’t lose the groceries.
  • Watching TV. “Bilge pump isn’t working.” I guessed it. The automatic float switch stopped working (suuuuuper old) and needed a replacement. I scrubbed the bilge after Conor wired in a new one.
  • And everyone’s favorite: “Holding tank is getting full.” “I don’t smell anything!” “We have three more flushes. Trust me.”

To sum up: boats are quirky and have unique smells. If you are tuned into them, it can warn you of minor problems before they become MAJOR problems. I’ve lived in fear of COVID for obvious reasons, but what really petrifies me is the possibility of losing my sense of smell! I never realized how much I’ve relied on it to sense the inner workings of the boat until there was a chance I could lose it. Counting down the days until I can get the vaccine.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Downward dog, anyone? Training W to be a bloodhound as well!

Wishes Do Come True

We can STAY! After signing our permanent slip lease at Bay Point Marina this week, we get to stay in the land of beautiful bathrooms, a pool, restaurant, pump out service, short work commute, beach, brewery, and park. If you put down every wish list item we had in mind for a marina (including pet-friendly!), this would be it.

We feel so incredibly lucky that they have allowed us to join their liveaboard community. When I called back in November, the dockmaster said that they were no longer adding any more liveaboard boats. For those that don’t know, marinas usually have a cap on how many liveaboards they can support and sustain. It isn’t about the slip availability, it is about the infrastructure to support people living there long term—laundry, pump outs, showers, garbage, parking…

The plan was to come up to Bay Point and stay in a transient slip for 30 days while we sorted out our new life in Virginia. Walking around, I wistfully said to Conor, “I just want to stay here so badly! It is perfect for the kids.” So, we took a chance and asked with our fingers crossed.

I was completely prepared to have to move to a different marina in January. It would have sucked big time to leave this awesome area, but honestly, I didn’t expect the owner to say yes. We are A LOT with two small kids and a dog. Our family is loud and a hot mess most of the time. By adding one boat, they were adding a dose of chaos yet unseen to this pristine marina.

So many masts!

Despite it all, they took us in. Maybe it was the sight of W scootering down the docks. Maybe it was Scout’s wagging tail. Maybe it was sweet R’s eyes peeking out from his stroller. Maybe it was the desperation of a mom on the edge. Regardless, we have a new marina to call home. Now I can breathe.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Days 5-10 to Virginia

Days 5&6: Oriental to Dowry Creek + Rest Day

Weather: Warm, calm, water like glass

Travel time: 7 hours, 43NM (longest distance traveled)

Highs: Such an easy travel day that we combined what would have been two short days into one long day and decided to take an extra day off at Dowry Creek Marina. They had FREE LAUNDRY and a pumpout service! Also squeezed in a grocery run with their complimentary marina car. I highly recommend this marina; their staff was great.

Lows: Bugs! It was very swampy in this section.

Final thoughts: This day gave us a taste of what it would have been like moving the boat just a few weeks earlier. It was incredible to have a few warm days and a full-service marina to get ourselves sorted halfway through the trip.

Where sea meets sky (this is unedited!)

Day 7: Dowry Creek to Alligator River

Weather: Colder and windy

Travel time: 8 hours, 39NM

Highs: Hanging with my husband up in the cockpit while both the kids were napping. Music, snacks, and conversation. It felt like an afternoon date.

Lows: Alligator River Marina was terrible and had an unresponsive staff. The marina’s bathrooms were not cleaned recently and totally gross. We had to get ourselves off the dock the next morning in 30 mph winds that kept pushing us back. Definitely my least favorite stop of the trip.

Final thoughts: Having very little help casting off and docking the last few days made me see how far we have come as a team. We CAN do it with just the two of us.

Trying to overcome helm anxiety

Day 8: Alligator River to Elizabeth City

Weather: Gusty with large swells

Travel time: 6 hours, 30NM

Highs: Conor threaded the needle to get us into tiny Lamb’s Marina. It is a small stop just off the ICW and soooo narrow. Zero maneuvering room but he did great!

Lows: Got our asses handed to us in 4ft swells. Albamare Sound pounded us for almost three hours as we crossed over to Elizabeth River. W slept through most of it down in the v-berth and R was strapped to me in the cockpit.

Final thoughts: We got to see how Story Time experienced rougher waters. She did GREAT! I’m excited for us to sail offshore this summer.

Day 9: Elizabeth City to Norfolk

Weather: Cold and calm

Travel time: 9 hours, 37NM

Highs: Up at dawn to make the lock times! It was tricky to time leaving the marina with enough light, as well as factoring in the 2 hours it was going to take to make it to the first lock. We made it with 15 minutes to spare.

Lows: Our toilet had some issues. After a long day, the last thing we wanted to do was troubleshoot the head. Turns out there was significant calcium buildup in the discharge hose. Gross.

Final thoughts: This was the hardest day. We had to go though two locks with a tight timeframe and make it to the next stop before the sun went down. Being under a time crunch added a new level of stress to family travel. I’m glad the whole trip worked up to this day so we had enough experience to navigate it correctly.

Good morning from the ICW
Did you know there are only 3 locks total on the ICW? We went through 2!

Day 10: Norfolk to Virginia Beach

Weather: Cloudy, humid

Travel time: 5 hours, 27NM

Highs: The last day of travel! We arrived on Thanksgiving. SO much to be thankful for—boat, babies, and marriage were all in good shape.

Lows: It really hit me that we were no longer at Gottschalk. I didn’t know all my neighbors, W felt overwhelmed and was missing “home”, and we had to start over here. Moving is hard.

Final thoughts: Bay Point Marina is completely gorgeous. It has a pool, restaurant, hotel-like dock house, and is in the cutest neighborhood. After being on base for three years, it feels strange to have so much within walking distance. I can’t wait for COVID to be over and go do stuff.

Rocking the foul weather gear

And there you have it, our grand NC to VA adventure with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old. 245 Nautical Miles. It was the best trip ever! I don’t recommend it.

I’ll give you guys a little tour of our new spot next post. Time to get our feet under us and check some things off our boat chores list while we don’t have to travel for a while.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R