Fun fact: It’s been just me, W, and Scout on the boat since Hurricane Dorian. During the evacuation, Conor had to leave to attend a military school for two months on the west coast. HE JUST CAME HOME!
Let me tell you, it has not been easy. Major props to single parents out there. I’ve been going going going for weeks with no break. Also, I’ve had to do all the dirty boat chores AND handle an increasingly opinionated toddler. In the past two months, I’ve done 3 pump outs, fixed the central air twice, hauled laundry/groceries/garbage up the docks more times than I can count, shuttled W to swim EVERY DAY+ story time, gymnastics, tot time, and park visits. Itsy bitsy spider and baby shark haunted my dreams. There was either a child clinging to me or a dog in my lap 24/7. My autonomy disappeared.
And I really, really, really missed my adventure partner in all of this.
I know I’ve been sparse with updates recently, but I’ll get back to posting more frequently instead of collapsing on the couch at the end of each day. Thankfully, this was the last major hurdle before the reserves next year. Now that it’s done (and he kicked butt at the school!) we can focus on sailing, cruising prep, and time as a family again. The Marine Corps ball is next week, and we are taking the boat down to Wilmington for 5 nights. Stay tuned for trip updates and see if these boat people can get fancy.
We had a fantastic boating experience with another family this weekend. We invited one of my writer friends, her husband, and their two kids to come sailing with us on Sunday morning. This was their first time on a sailboat, and they were eager to learn!
Aspects of boat life that have slowly become mundane to us over the last two years were put into a new and refreshing light when explaining them to a six and eight-year-old. Getting off the dock became more than throwing lines and getting out to sail as quickly as possible. It turned into a fascinating explanation of WHY for everything. Why are there so many ropes? Why do you tie them that way? Why do we throw that over there? Why does the engine make that noise? Why do you have to look for water coming out the back of the boat? A five-minute process turned into twenty, but it enriched the experience for everyone.
Out on the water, the kids steered the boat, learned how to trim the sails, and found out how the navigation equipment worked. We even hung out with some dolphin friends!
Though he has had a great career in the Marine Corps, I really think teaching will be somewhere in my sweet husband’s future. Watching him interact with W fills my heart, but also seeing his ‘teacher mode’ with older kids makes me excited for the years to come. I can’t wait until W is old enough to go from “keep her from falling off the boat” to “active crew participant”.
It just amazes me how kids soak up knowledge and dive into new activities without hesitation. They aren’t afraid to do it wrong or ask questions. This makes sailing even more enjoyable because it snaps adults out of autopilot. Kids make you live in the moment; to stop and think about what you are doing, and most importantly, WHY you are doing it. And the answer is usually, “Because it’s fun!”
People who find out we live on a boat: “How do you deal with a toddler in such a small space?”
Me: “How do you keep track of your toddler in such a large space?”
But really, I think no matter where you live, entertaining a toddler is hard work. This is the struggle that all parents face, the never-ending question of “What are we going to DO today?”
Pros for living on a boat with a toddler:
I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
Boat-proofed is automatically baby-proofed. Everything is latched, furniture is built in, and corners are rounded.
A lot of time spent outdoors
When we are all on the boat, we are all hanging out together!
Don’t have tons of toys underfoot
Everything is spill-proof and waterproof
I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
Silence is never an option
Deck time always involves a lifejacket
No space indoors to run her ragged
The last con is the biggest hurdle for us. How do I make sure my toddler burns off enough energy when she can’t run around outside due to weather? Summer here is challenging. 105 degree days with sudden thunderstorms. Here’s what we do to fill our week and get off the boat:
Early morning walks (most mornings) with an hour pit stop at the park. It is usually cool and shaded enough until 9 am. W can climb to her heart’s content while Scout and I get some exercise.
Story time at Barnes&Noble. Music, books, and socialization with kids. Plus, it is air-conditioned and there is an indoor play area at the other end of the mall. More things to climb.
Tot Time on base, or as W calls it, “T-T!” There is a 2-hour ‘free play’ for kids under 2 in one of the community center gyms on Camp Lejeune. Different toys and socialization time in the AC!
Gymnastics on Thursdays in the ‘Mommy and Me’ class. I think this one is her favorite. By the time the hour class is done, she usually falls asleep in the car.
Starbucks usually precedes a trip to the grocery store. Caffeine boost for Mom and a croissant for W! A good place to hang and people watch.
Library visits are also a favorite. We frequent two that are on base. They have separate kids rooms with puzzles and play structures, too!
Pool time is reserved for super-hot afternoons and extra-energy days. W likes the shaded kiddy pool, and 1 hr after playing in that she’s ready for bed.
Beach days are the best, but less frequent due to the absolute mess involved (read: SAND EVERYWHERE) but we usually go at least once per week. Conor loves doing this with her, so it is usually on the weekend.
Deck time will also entertain W for a while, as long as there is ice involved! Easiest entertainment ever: Get a bag of ice. Put out bowls of different sizes. Give toddler a big spoon. Have her move ice to various containers. When it melts, no cleanup needed! I don’t know why this is so amusing, but W loves it.
These are the big ones. When we are on the boat, we play games, sing songs, build block towers, read books, color, play pretend with baby doll, and try to empty various cabinets.
How do you entertain your toddler? Give me ideas below!
Dory in her infinite wisdom advises us to “Just keep swimming!” when we are at a low point. We took her words to heart this weekend but modified them a bit. Our motto: “Just keep sailing!”
On Saturday we participated in the Ragged Point Yacht Club Father’s Day race event. It had been a few weeks since Story Time had been off the dock, and I think it was exactly what our family needed. Fun times with friends and a great day doing what we love! Though Conor has crewed on other boats for RPYC races, this was the first race with our own boat. Our wonderful friend Zach joined us in case Baby W didn’t want to cooperate and I had to switch to baby duty partway through.
There were six boats from Gottschalk that participated in the race. Our boat is supposedly the fastest, so during the staggered start we were last off the block with an 11-minute delay. Right as the race started, the wind pretty much died and everyone had a slow first 30 min. It was still pretty wonderful to look out at so many boats though! We were like the Gottschalk Armada on the river.
Rounding the first marker, the wind started to pick up and things got exciting. We were neck and neck with another boat but didn’t realize we were edging too far away from the channel. Just as we were flying toward the second marker, BUMP!
We hit bottom. Oops! Thankfully New River is muddy sludge on the bottom so it was a soft and slow impact. Conor tried to wiggle us off with the rudder and the wind, but no luck. He had to turn the engine on to get the boat free, which means an automatic DQ. We were bummed to have to drop out, but we will know better for next time.
The smallest boat ended up winning! Que Pasa and crew sailed a great race. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at sailing or learn the ropes, PLEASE reach out to us or anyone at the Ragged Point Yacht Club! We would love to have you on board for the next race.
We decided to do our first anchor out over Memorial Day. We had been looking forward to it for weeks, but come the actual day, a few elements were working against us—no wind, 100% humidity, and a heat index of 104 degrees. Sounds like a great day to experience life on the hook, right?
We debated all day whether to leave the dock, until finally we decided that we would rather regret doing it than not doing it. Conor so rarely has enough time off to attempt a trip like this and we couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
At 6pm we set out. I know I’m making this sound like a grand adventure, but we were literally going around the corner to Hospital Point. Just out of sight of the marina so we felt like we were anchored somewhere exotic, but still a 20 minute dinghy ride back. It was important to keep the anchor spot as local as possible in case something went wrong and we needed to return ASAP. The other purpose was to test the systems (windlass, night lights, anchor light, battery life, etc.) and check that everything worked before we planned longer excursion later this summer.
Before we left, Conor also downloaded an anchor app that alerts you when you drift so many meters from your starting position. That way, if your anchor comes loose and you start dragging toward shore, the alarm will wake you up before you run aground. We were also equipped with these wonderful wind scoops that look like teeny tiny spinnakers. They redirect the wind down into the cabin for some nice airflow.
By 7 pm we dropped anchor and watched the sunset. The wind picked up and cooled us off while we watched dolphins hunt their dinner. W had her bath up in the cockpit before being rocked to sleep by the waves. For a few hours, anchoring out was every bit the experience we had hoped for.
Then the wind died at 10pm, and holy hell was it a long, hot night. FYI, wind scoops only work when there’s a breeze. There were no bugs, thankfully, but even with every window thrown open we were sweating it out. W woke up when the sky lightened at 5:15 am, so the whole family was pretty tired.
Watching that sun rise, though, was indescribable. It was a different feeling than being in our cockpit on the dock. It really did feel like an escape from day-to-day life. W thought it was hilarious that we were still out on the river and ran to and from the bow while Conor and I sipped our coffee. Fun fact: Memorial Day last year was W’s first-ever sail! It was amazing to see how far we’ve come as a family and how comfortable she is on the boat now.
Scout needed her morning potty, so the family took a dinghy ride to shore. On the way back, W fell asleep standing up with her head in my lap! Poor baby had too much excitement for one weekend. I put her down for a nap on the boat and we headed back to Gottschalk.
All in all, we had a great time despite the weather. All our systems worked, but I need to look at our battery life. Our house battery was almost dead after only 16 hours, so we need to get better at conserving energy and utilizing our solar panel and wind generator to their full extent. It’s a learning process, but I’m proud that we checked off this important step.
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.
Because Story Time is officially back at it this season! Sunday was our first sail of 2019 and MAN did it feel great to be out on the water again. 75 degrees and sunny with 5-10 knot winds means that winter has finally lifted. Conor is home from Norway at last, and there is no better way to reconnect as a family than doing what we love all together.
It didn’t matter that we discovered a rip in our mainsail (again! Seriously, wtf) and the wind died on us for about an hour out there, because our engine ran great, our rigging looks good, and Story Time seems no worse for the wear after hanging out in her slip for the past 4 months.
We had a magical encounter with a pod of 6 dolphins that played around our boat for at least 20 minutes. I could have reached out and touched them, they were that close. I was a bit nervous to see how W would cooperate while we were sailing now that she’s extremely mobile, but she loves her sailing harness and was very into ‘helping’ with the lines.
Looking at this picture makes my heart so full. She’s only 15 months but ready to dive right in to every adventure. I can just see the little girl she’ll become—brave and fierce!
I’m keeping this post short and sweet so we can get back to family time, but now that Conor is home I will be able to update more frequently with sailing and liveaboard life. After only 2 posts in March (gah!) I promise to be more on top of it in April.