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!)
Yep, you read the title right. 130 people. I have no idea what possessed me to say yes to this crazy plan, but I’m so glad we did! Story Time volunteered to be one of the stops for the Camp Lejeune Officer Spouses Club “Tour of Homes” this holiday season.
First, I had to learn what a “Tour of Homes” actually was—I guess it isn’t a big thing where we’re from on the west coast? It happens around Christmastime and people buy tickets to walk through houses and look at all the festive decorations. In this case, everyone who offered to be a stop on the OSC tour also planned a particular theme, signature appetizer, and alcoholic drink. The 2019 tour this past weekend included a total of six homes scattered around base plus one surprise—US!
The other homes looked incredible. I was blown away at the attention to detail and unique looks with the Nightmare Before Christmas house, a mid-century modern vibe (think Mad Men!), and a Harry Potter wonderland. Amid such creativity, I was so nervous that people would be let down with our “Caribbean Christmas” theme and wayyyyyy fewer decorations than our counterparts. I was also watching the weather obsessively and praying that high winds and rain would stay away because we planned an indoor/outdoor event.
Here is the little blurb I wrote up for the brochure to introduce our lifestyle:
Permission to come aboard Story Time, our 38-foot Catalina sailboat! She has been home to our family of three (+dog) since early 2017. In order to become full-time liveaboards, we embraced a minimalist mindset and downsized 95% of our belongings. Everything we own now has a place and a purpose, which can make decorating for the holidays a bit challenging. Even with space limitations, our boat is still cozy and festive when all dressed up!
We decided on a Caribbean Christmas theme to represent our cruising dreams. This time next year, we will cast off and head south to island-hop for the foreseeable future. For now, we want everyone to relax during the flurry of the holiday season and remind you that “every little thing is gonna be all right”.
So, kick off your shoes, let down your hair, and drink some rum. For us, the Christmas spirit is about being surrounded by people you love. The USMC holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope yours opens to our way of life!
I hoped it set the tone for the evening to come, but I was freaking out at the thought of hosting 130 people on board over the course of 3 hours. Thankfully, they arrived in groups of about 20 and stayed for 20 min before moving on to the next house. It was enough time to send everyone down for a look belowdecks with my amazing docent and fellow liveaboard, Corri. Conor was also a great sport and cooked 40 lbs of jerk chicken to make the chilled jerk chicken and pineapple skewers while keeping everyone boozed up with a delicious rum punch.
The Gottschalk Marina family was supportive throughout the event and didn’t mind one bit that 130 strangers marched through their backyard. I had so many helpers lend us decorations, tables, tents, lights, serving trays, custom crafts, and recipes. We begged, borrowed, and stole 😉 our way through the event and in true minimalist fashion, only really spent money on food and drink. It would not have been possible without them! True boater love.
I think we were a hit. Dozens of people were intrigued by our tiny living, travel capabilities, and close-knit lifestyle. Many walked away with my business card directing them to this blog to answer further questions, so if you’re new here and learned about us from the tour, welcome! If you’re looking for downsizing tips, check out this link. If you’re looking for information on how to buy a boat and live aboard, check out this post!
Here’s a look at our tour setup:
During the season of consumerism, it was a great way to show how much you can do with so little!
This weekend, I planned to have an epic post to share with you all. The original Labor Day weekend plan was to motor to Swansboro, stay the night, offshore sail in the freaking OCEAN, stay another night in Swansboro, and then return to Gottschalk with some incredible stories.
Then Hurricane Dorian appeared on the horizon, and plans changed.
Instead, we did an overnight raft up with some of our bestest dock buddies and stayed in New River! For those of you who don’t know what a raft up is, it is when one boat drops anchor and the rest tie up on either side. For this raft up, there were 4 boats in total—Zach and Corri were the “anchor” boat on Minoh, Story Time was on her port side, April Fools (a catamaran) was on the starboard, and the littlest boat was a 26-footer on the end.
It was a ton of fun to be able to walk across 4 boats to eat, drink, chat, and take in the views. 80 degrees, cool breeze, light chop, and surrounded by laughing friends… anchoring out always feels like something out of a dream. It is so removed from real life I wish everyone could experience it. In such perfect weather, it was hard remember that there is a very real hurricane threat lurking.
The next morning, after coffee and breakfast and amid W’s absolute obsession with her “CoCo” (Corri), we hit the beach. Can you tell we were still a bit in denial about the hurricane to-do list waiting for us back at the marina?
I’m thankful we took the time to enjoy ourselves before hurling into this week and all the drama it will bring. Boats are a LOT of work and can be a pain in the butt, especially around this time of year. It was nice to appreciate Story Time for all the joy she brings to our lives before cursing a lengthy checklist while Dorian bears down.
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.
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.