I hope you spent the day surrounded by people you love. Our clan stayed put in North Carolina this year instead of making the cross-country trek to Seattle. After an insanely busy summer and fall, Conor, W, and I needed time to reconnect as a nuclear family and just slow down. While we miss our extended families up in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve actually had a vacation this week!
Now that W is almost 2, she understands Santa, presents, and patience. As parents, Conor and I were finally able to experience the excitement of Christmas morning through the eyes of our child. We had been planning on getting her a micro scooter for months, and the look on her face when she saw it was priceless.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on family tradition this month. I have so many fond memories of this season while growing up—eating kringle, putting up lights outside with my dad, lifting my sister up to put the angel up on top of the tree, my mom’s hand-sewn stockings… Funny how very little of the memories have anything to do with the gifts I received and were about family time instead. I wonder what will stick with W when she is older. So far, a love of kringle and rocking out to Trans-Siberian Orchestra have been passed down, but we are also starting some of our own traditions, some of which include a breakfast lollipop and outdoor scooter adventures.
Maybe one day our Christmas tradition will include sending actual Christmas cards out. I feel like that is still one last ‘adulthood’ threshold I need to cross. I am in awe of people who a) not only keep an up-to-date address book but b) get them out on time. Until then, at least I have this blog? If you need me, I’ll be racing my daughter’s scooter down the dock and embracing my inner child today.
Well, folks, it finally happened. After 2+ years of living aboard, my phone decided to go for a swim.
W and I were playing up in the cockpit yesterday morning. She was of course wearing her life jacket, but decided to try and step off the boat by herself. I grabbed her before she succeeded, and in doing so I sacrificed my phone.
PLOP. Right into the river.
I looked at her. She looked at me. “Mama. Uh oh!”
Yep. Uh oh was right.
I think drowning a phone is right of passage for all boaters. I’m actually surprised I held out this long. A wave of acceptance washed over me as I stared into the murky depths below. Sighing, I went to procure a net. My wonderful neighbor Ron came out and used his expertise to fish for it. Apparently, this was the fourth phone he’d scooped up this year.
Five minutes later, it was back in my hands, covered in mud. It had a case on it, but the port covers were not all the way sealed when it dunked. I wiped it off as best I could, put it in a bag of rice for 24 hours, and hoped for the best.
There was nothing more to do, so why stress? Surprisingly, it ended up being an awesome 24 hours. I kind of liked not being able to talk to anyone, be “on call”, feel guilty for not responding to people right away. No hotspot, no internet, nothing but the here and now. I was completely unplugged and totally present.
W and I had a wonderful day. After my weekend trip to Nashville to celebrate my mom’s 60th, I missed our quality time together. It was quiet and sweet, just the two of us. After she went to bed, instead of procrastinating with Netflix I did some boat projects that had been on my to-do list for a while and got some editing done.
This morning, miracle of miracles, the phone worked when I turned it back on. It is a little janky—the speakerphone works but not regular audio, the center button freaks out, and I am having trouble importing pictures to my computer—but it lives. I thought for sure it was done.
I am happy and grateful that my phone works, but this past day was a great reminder to slow down. I want to make it a regular thing, maybe once per week. Turn everything off and not worry that I’m missing out on something. The cruising lifestyle requires this, so it will be good practice for next year!
I learned a new phrase the other day—JOMO. It is the opposite of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and means the JOY of missing out. As introverts, Conor and I experience JOMO all the time while we retreat into our own hobbies. He plays video games while I write, and we don’t miss hitting the town on Saturday nights.
However, when it comes to cruising/sailing, we are a little envious of people who have already cut ties with the 9-5 (or in the military life, 7-6). It is hard to wait for our time to go and there is some serious FOMO when we look at boats anchored in crystal clear water next to deserted islands. Can we go now? What experiences are we missing by being in North Carolina still? Those sailors look like they’re having an incredible time. When will that finally be us?
But if we were already cruising, we would miss out on so much here. Grilled pizza date nights that turn into impromptu dock parties with 8 other liveaboards until 10 pm. Game of Thrones watch parties on the boat with not enough room on the couch. W going to her first gymnastics class and showing off her sea legs as she fearlessly traverses the balance beam. Conor getting his JTAC-E certification. Time to write with book #2 coming out and halfway through drafting book #3.
There is something to be said for stability and routine and finding joy in the present. We are focusing on turning our cruising FOMO into JOMO as we hang dockside for a little longer. Summers are SO fun here and we have many marina adventures to look forward to.
This is a special blog takeover by our lovely new neighbors on B-dock. We met them last fall when they were just starting their liveaboard journey. We’ve watched them go from planning, to buying their boat, to downsizing, and finally moving aboard! They are the most wonderful couple you’ll ever meet, and we are proud to introduce them on the blog!
First, tell us who you are! We’re Zach and Corri. We’re a married couple in our early 30’s who moved onto a 1975 Whitby 42 Ketch sailboat in January 2019, along with our Labrador Retriever named Hudson.
How did you come up with the idea of living aboard? We remember the exact moment that eventually led to us living on a sailboat. We were sitting in this awesome brew house in Osaka, Japan one evening during one of Zach’s work trips. We were living in Japan at the time and were doing a lot of traveling. We’d just met a couple in Thailand that sold all their stuff, strapped on some backpacks and took off to see the world and we talked about how incredible it would be to do the same. And how impossible it seemed. After a few beers and more “what if’s” we made a pact that after Zach’s work contract was over, we would travel the world for a year. Once we returned home, we started researching the best and most affordable ways to travel and we discovered sailing. We decided we would learn how to sail, buy a sailboat, live on it until the work contract ended, then set off for our year of adventure.
What appealed to you about the lifestyle? What made sailing so attractive at first was the idea that we could venture far away without ever really leaving home. We love the space and atmosphere we create in the homes we live in. When traveling in the past, we always missed our own four walls by the end of a trip, no matter how lovely the hotels were. Being able to tote our home along with us wherever we end up roaming is incredibly comforting. But we discovered something even more appealing once we started looking at sailboats to buy and spending time at marinas. We discovered that, embedded in sailing, there is an incredible community filled with so many interesting people. The community and people are enormous ancillary benefits we hadn’t thought of when we first began this journey. We’ve never met a sailor we didn’t like!
What experience did you have going into this? Zach took a weekend course years ago which qualified him to take a 22ft sailboat out for rental, which he only got to do twice because of work demands. Corri had absolutely no sailing experience (except for the one time she went with Zach on a windy ride in said 22ft sailboat). Both of us took the ASA 101 course before buying our boat, then during the delivery of the boat, we completed ASA 103 and ASA 104 enroute. Our lack of experience made our insurers, friends and family quite uneasy with our life choices at first!
What resources did you find to be the most helpful? Having a great broker who made us feel confident during the entire process (shoutout to Dave Huff at St. Augustine Yacht Sales!) and being lucky enough to have a kind previous owner who eagerly answers all of our questions, even now almost a year after buying the boat. Additionally, YouTube and Google have been invaluable resources. Our greatest on-going resource is our community — whether virtual (we are in an incredible Liveaboard Facebook Group) or in person (our neighbors at the marina are all so knowledgable).
What was the hardest part of this journey? Trying to make so many big decisions and changes while still working full time, going to school and keeping up with our social and family lives. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find a boat and move aboard as fast as possible because we knew that’s what it took to begin learning more and saving. It would’ve been wonderful to focus solely on just one thing — getting rid of most of our worldly possessions and moving onto a sailboat. But, it wasn’t possible for us and that made it very stressful during the time between buying the boat in March 2018 and finally moving aboard in January 2019.
What was the easiest? Corri was surprised at how easy it was to get rid of things (in fact, as more things flew out the door, the stress level dropped). Zach, adapting to living in a smaller space was very easy; less to keep track of, less to clean, less to move where the wind blows.
Anything you would have done differently? No, in hindsight, there everything happened the way it needed it to, when it needed to.
What’s the next step for your family? We’ll be working to fill the cruise kitty for about another year, then we’re taking our big trip! We’re hoping to head north along Canada, then eventually pop over to Europe, but we are open for changes!
Share any words of wisdom or inspiration for people who want to take the plunge! We met a new neighbor the other day who said he didn’t want to tell anyone at work that he was moving aboard because he didn’t want them to judge him. Fortunately, he did tell someone and that someone happened to be a good friend of ours and passed on our contact info. We then gave the new neighbor all the inside details of how to navigate to the marina and getting set up. So, tell everyone about your plan to move aboard. Don’t hide it because you’re worried people will think you’re crazy. Only about 5% of the people we told were negative about it. Everyone else was incredibly supportive and encouraging, and we needed those people to continue encouraging us when the process got challenging.
Thanks so much for the great interview, guys! If you want to follow Zach and Corri’s journey, you can find them on Instagram at @microretirement.
Well guys, Conor is back in North Carolina to do Marine things. W and I are still hanging in WA because he is going to be so busy, but we miss him so much! Thank God for Skype.
To commemorate what a great year we had as a family, I put together a little recap video for 2018. Our 2017 video is here, and our 2018 one picks up right where that one left off! It is crazy to look back and see how tiny W used to be. This year consisted of sleepless nights, two cross-country trips to WA, boat work, long summer nights, great sailing as a family of 3, and more. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed that I was able to put this together just a week after New Year. The 2017 recap video didn’t get posted until March 2018. I think I’m more on top of it this year!
The song is ‘End of the World’ by the Dirty Heads. Thanks for following our journey!
We had an unexpected guest on our boat this morning, and he made a lot of trouble for something so small.
The A.C. had suddenly stopped working. It wasn’t completely unexpected, because the tide had been out for a couple of days. We were sitting in a lot of mud, and that is what usually clogs up the raw water filter. Clogged filter= A.C. trip.
So with a sigh, I pulled up the floorboard and unscrewed the filter, and just about had a heart attack. A crab popped out and scurried into the bilge! He was the size of a quarter and super fast. I managed to coerce him into a mason jar and set to work getting the A.C. back on.
Nothing. The compressor didn’t turn on, and neither did the fan. That meant it was an electrical issue. Our little friend had blown the fuse!
Replacing the fuse was a pain in the butt. To reach it, I had to unscrew our settee bench, pull the cover off, find the fuse, put in a new one, and put everything back together again. Also, all of our tools were over in the dockhouse. I loaded W up to go get everything we needed and got to work. It is always a race against the sun when dealing with an A.C. malfunction, and I was very glad it wasn’t too hot out yet.
Here’s a visual:
Long story short: I am woman, hear me roar. This boat mama got everything up and running in 45 minutes.
Oh, and our new friend was set free to make trouble elsewhere.
Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all have a fun and safe Labor Day weekend.
I try to do at least 3 blog posts every month, but if any of you readers are looking for other great blogs to follow while you wait for me to get my shit together and actually write something, I have a few recommendations.
Live Free 2 Sail Fast is another military family working to get a sailboat ready for cruising. They are on the west coast and have been incredibly supportive of our journey so far. If you think we’re crazy, they’ve got kids and a GREAT DANE on a sailboat! Follow them 🙂 https://livefree2sailfast.com/
Windtraveler has been our inspiration from day one, and got the ball rolling with thoughts of, “This looks cool. What if we could do this one day?” Their three adorable little girls are living the island life, and Mom and Dad have great tips about parenting aboard. The blog can be found at http://www.windtraveler.net/
Boats, Boards, and Babies are a family with three little boys who split time on a sailboat in the Caribbean and ‘real life’ on the east coast. They have great tips for boating and travel with little ones. Their website: https://explorenewshores.com/
Women Who Live on Rocks is a space for women writers to share funny and real stories about island life. Their experiences make me yearn for the day when I can join their ranks! https://womenwholiveonrocks.com/
The S/V Ruby Rose crew posts incredibly detailed videos about boat maintenance. They are Conor’s go-to guide for videos on engines, installation, electricity, and more. Follow at http://yachtrubyrose.com/
Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone with the Wynns are a couple who started out with hardly any sailing experience and now cruise full time on their bluewater catamaran. Here’s their site: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/
I’m always on the lookout for other adventurers to follow, so if anyone has recommendations for other blogs, please post below in the comments section! Shout out to all the people who are making their big dreams happen.
Lots to celebrate this week: This stud’s birthday is coming up, and we passed 1 year aboard our boat!
I am such a lucky lady.
But because Conor doesn’t like to make a big deal out of his birthday, the rest of this post will be about our year aboard. This is a random collection of thoughts with contributions from both me and Conor, in no particular order.
Showing off the boat is fun. It’s like bragging about your kid, but people are more impressed.
Parenting is hard whether you are on a boat or in a house. Sleep deprivation is still sleep deprivation.
Sometimes I have no idea what to write on the blog.
It can be hard to focus on work when all you want to do is sail off into the sunset.
All boat work must be done with a beer in hand.
We still haven’t used our dinghy.
Why does the bilge always smell weird after we sail?
Conor keeps accidentally dropping AC filters into the river when he cleans them. We are on #3 now.
Using a cockpit as my writing office is super sweet, until the bugs come out in summer.
I am bad at taking Instagram photos. I don’t have the patience. Usually I look at my phone and say, “Meh, that will work.”
It is hard to get your significant other Christmas/birthday/anniversary presents because you don’t have anywhere to put them.
I have only worn makeup 8 times this year. Hobo boater fashion is going to catch on, I just know it.
Occasionally when the weather is horrible, I envy the people in base housing.
Doing the black water pump out always smells bad. In 4 degrees or 90. The first time or the thirtieth time.
Some friends like to exert their dominance by peeing on the boat, knowing that Conor will have to drag their urine up a hill.
Ice is a novelty.
It is okay to say, “I don’t know why it’s doing that.”
What is ‘personal space’?
The best part of Conor’s day is sliding open the hatch and yelling “Hello girls!” Even when the baby is napping.
We are thankful to be doing this today instead of 30 years from now.
We dodged another one. I can’t believe it. Hurricane Maria stayed 150 miles off of the North Carolina coast and is now currently churning across the Atlantic.
She passed a little closer than I was comfortable with, causing tropical storm warnings along the outer banks. The slightest shift in pressure could have pushed her ashore, leaving me to sweat it out over the last few days and constantly check the weather forecast. Thankfully, we just had two days of heavy winds and lots of chop on the water, but no real storm surge in Jacksonville.
Having never lived on the east coast before, this is my first experience with the hurricane season, and I am not looking forward to handling it each year. Is it just me, or has it been abnormally terrible this year? Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria…it never seems to stop. Seeing all of the destruction these monsters have left in their wake has me counting our blessings daily. Another part of me is wondering when our luck is going to run out, and when it will be ‘our turn’.
But in the hopes of keeping things on the positive track, we are really settling into life on base again. I’d forgotten how much easier it is when everything is within a 2 minute drive: commissary, PX, Starbucks, library, gym—our marina is pretty much in the middle of it all! Being surrounded by other military families and feeling like part of that community again has also been nice. Conor’s commute is down to 5 minutes, and it has been amazing getting extra time with him. Though we miss our NWC family and all of their impressive experience and expertise, the tradeoff living back on base has been worth it so far.
The best part about our new slip: we can step off the back of the boat and onto the dock! We are finally using one of the perks of our ‘sugar scoop’ butt. No more climbing up and over the side gate, and no more lifting Scout on and off! Gottschalk has a dinghy storage rack, so we moved our dinghy inside and reconfigured our lines for easy access. It is amazing how one small change can affect our day-to-day comfort so much. Take a look:
There are 400 steps from the marina parking lot to our boat. Our slip is the very last one. Scout is walked 3-4x daily, with each potty trip clocking in around 1,800 steps round trip. Hauling groceries requires loading up a dock cart and trying to take a week’s worth of food onto the boat without going back for round 2. Laundry requires 3 trips up and down the docks: one to load up the wash, one to switch it to the dryer, and one to load it up and bring it back onboard. We also like to shower at the marina locker room most of the time. Trash and recycling is also all the way down at the dockmaster’s office. Tired yet?
Day-to-day living on a sailboat also necessitates a certain amount of agility. Ducking under the bimini while stepping on and off the boat (holding a squirming dog), climbing up and down the ladder steps into the cabin, body contortions to avoid hitting our head in our bedroom, trips to and from the cockpit to turn the gas on/off while cooking…eventually it becomes automatic. Our bi-weekly yoga classes and weightlifting schedule also keep us limber for our lifestyle. Not to mention the actual sailing part: arms, meet winch workout.
The goal on my Fitbit is 10,000 steps each day, but since living on our boat, I usually clock between 12,000 and 15,000 without even trying. I’m walking the docks in all kinds of weather, because life goes on regardless of how freaking hot or humid or stormy it gets. Is it kind of a pain? Yes, sometimes. But our bodies are made to move, and staying active keeps us healthy. So while some days I yearn for the ease of pulling my car into a garage and taking my bags 10 (covered) steps inside, I know this is better for me in the long run. Take my word for it: boat life will get you in great shape!