Evacuation Round 2

There is nothing quite like the quiet that blankets a marina before a hurricane. You would expect that the days leading up to it would be all hustle and bustle, everyone on deck as they prepare their boats for the worst. You think it would be loud—halyards clanging and dock carts rumbling and people chatting. Last-minute laundry, canvas coming down, and engines rumbling.

Instead, tension tightens the air. Conversation is stilted; “Do you need help with anything? When are you evacuating?” Everyone keeps their head down trying to remember an expanding list of stuff left to do. We watch the horizon and worry about how much time we have left. The humidity weighs us down and fills our lungs. We move through water, drained mentally and physically. The list never seems to get shorter, and after our 30th trip up and down the docks, we are tired. Dinner consists of whatever we can scrounge from the fridge before we have to throw out the rest. Pump outs, fuel, water tanks… Oh! Don’t forget the sea cocks under the v-berth. Did anyone tape the propane valves shut?

One slip up and it could cost us a lot—even our boat. I will admit, we are more prepared this time than for Florence. In August, Boat Tribe came up with a checklist for hurricane season. I thought I would share it here:

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Now, we watch and wait while Hurricane Dorian directs its wrath toward the North Carolina coast. Yesterday, we evacuated inland to Winston-Salem and are safe and sound. Story Time survived Florence, Gottschalk Marina endured, and I’m hoping we will be as lucky this time around. Keeping everyone affected in our hearts this week. If you’re in the path, let us know how you fare.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

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Keeping Boat Baby Busy

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

Cons:

  • 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.

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Ice Ice Baby

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!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Putting Up Lifeline Nets

This post could also be titled: “How one weekend turned into three”, and is all about how we made a project a lot more complicated than it had to be. But the great news is now we don’t have to worry about any precious cargo falling off the boat!

We knew when we bought our boat that lifeline netting was a must. It basically turns your boat into a giant playpen and gives an extra level of security if you have pets or children aboard (though they should always be supervised while on deck regardless, even at the dock). It doesn’t look pretty, but it is functional.

We asked one of our neighbors how long it took to put up his netting, and he told us 22 hours. We naively thought that he was exaggerating. Nope. Turns out, this project is meticulous, time consuming, and an all-around pain in the butt, especially outside in the summer heat. So we thought we’d do it a different way, and ended up paying the price. Lesson learned: never try to take a shortcut.

We bought two packages of 50ft lifeline netting ($50 ea) and dacron line for securing the bottom of the net to the boat. For the top of the net, we had the genius idea of using zip ties instead of running line through the diamonds, which would have kept everything much neater and less tangled. We ran the first 50ft section from gate to gate, around the bow of the boat (and had some to spare). Here’s what we ended up with the first weekend:

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Freshly zip tied around the bow
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Zip tied net with tails trimmed. Looked neat and tidy, right?

The zip ties were helpful in holding everything in place while we measured out the netting and secured the bottom, but we shouldn’t have assumed they would hold forever. We used white zip ties, which we soon found out had about a three month shelf life outside, because the UV rays from the sun would break them down. Talk about a safety issue! So we had to run the line through the top AFTER everything was already secured to the stanchions. Then once the line was through, we had to go back and snip off every single zip tie (without accidentally cutting the net!). We also ran another line through the middle of the net for extra security. That was weekend #2. Here’s what it looked like:

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Netting with dacron line wrapped around the center lifeline and through the top diamonds

Weekend #3 (this past weekend) Conor finally finished the stern of the boat. Our second 50ft piece wrapped around the back, and was trickier because of the extreme height changes and the catbird seats. Instead of stretching the net horizontally, it needed to be stretched vertically. He also had to figure out a way to tie the bottom of the net to the gates, while still making them easy to open. The solution: carabiners! He tied a loop knot at the bottom of the dacron line at the gates and hooked them to a carabiner to be easily slipped on and off when we unlocked the gate. Like this:

 

This is the lifeline netting wrapped around the catbird seat:

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Oh, and we also found out that you should replace your lifeline netting every two years. We’re vowing to do this right the first time around in 2019! At least we learned from our mistakes. If you’re putting up your own netting, feel free to ask us a question!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Our very scruffy puppy is happy with the results!

Itty Bitty Living Space

Even before realizing that I wanted to live on a boat, I was obsessed with tiny houses. It takes creativity and adaptability to make the most out of a non-traditional home, and I just love seeing the different ways that people utilize small spaces. Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters–I’m a creep. I just love touring inside people’s houses!

In the spirit of HGTV, here is a little glimpse inside the creative space-savers that we have on our Catalina 380.

We’ll start with the galley. In this picture, there is a full pantry, a fridge/freezer, all of our pots and pans, a set of 12 plates and 6 bowls, 4 glasses, 4 coffee mugs, cooking and baking utensils, a full set of knives, and whatever else I forgot to list. Looks pretty tidy, no? I’ll show you the tricks (moving counter-clockwise)!

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Under the sink we have our knives, cutting boards, a salad spinner, two saucepans, a big pot, a casserole dish, and 2 baking pans in the back. Our cast iron skillets hang out in the oven when not in use. The not-so-fun part is that this cabinet shares space with the A/C pipe (that silver thing) and our water pump (on the left)

kitchen 1 Moving back up, underneath the blue mat to the right of the oven is our hidden pantry:

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It is deeper than it looks, and there is a second half underneath the false bottom! Great for storing canned goods and stuff you don’t need to access everyday. Tadaa!!

 

Kettle goes in the microwave when neither one is in use. Sometimes you gotta get creative! This thing does NOT fit in any cupboard.

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Underneath our microwave and top cabinets, there are little hidey-hole, shallow spaces that are perfect for things like measuring cups, cheese graters, blender bottoms, etc.

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Moving on to the other side of the oven underneath the second blue mat: our fridge/freezer space. You can access it from the top or the front. Our little fridge also has the same magic floor as our pantry, and is much bigger than it looks!

 

Now for the table/settee area. I love love love our table. It has a handy silverware drawer attached right underneath it! Handy, right?

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The best part: the table drops down to make a comfy bed to watch TV on! (Anyone else pumped that Game of Thrones is back??) We just throw the extra cushion on top.

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Behind both of our couches, we also have some storage cubbies. I usually use them for extra supplies, like paper towels, cleaning stuff, toilet paper, etc.

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Back into our bedroom, we have two VERY deep cabinets on either side of our bed. Scout sleeps on top of one on Conor’s side. Great for holding extra tools or paperwork.

 

In addition to our closets (2 in our bedroom, and 1 in the v-berth), we also have these sliding door cabinets on both sides of our cabin. Just like having a dresser, only more compact!

 

In our tiny shower, there is a surprisingly large waterproof locker. Conor plans on putting his scuba gear in there eventually.

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Lastly, up in the cockpit, we have two GIANT lockers underneath our bench seats. These are the reason the ceiling is so low in our room! It is hard to tell from the photos, but they are so deep I can literally stand up inside them. Inside this one there is boat cleaning supplies, two umbrella chairs, a bbq, and 6 adult lifejackets. The other one holds extra lines, fenders, flares, etc.

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One thing we’ve learned about boat life is that there is a place for everything, and everything needs to be in its place. I hope you liked the photo tour! If you have any space-saving tips, please share them with us.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

How to Buy and Live Aboard a Sailboat in Your 20s (with little experience)

In honor of moving aboard our Catalina 380 this weekend (!) this post is dedicated to the people who want to do the same thing, but don’t know how or where to start. Having just been through this 6 month process, here is a step-by-step list of how we did it. Keep in mind, we aren’t cruising yet! This is about living at a marina in the U.S.

(NOTE- This is a LONG technical post. If you’re looking for an update on “Conor and Tay’s Big Adventure”…hi Mom, hi Dad…it will be up tomorrow)

1) Take a sailing 101 class. Make sure you actually like sailing. If you hate it but like the simplicity of small living or dock life, think about a trawler.

2) Make sure you and your partner (if you have one) are on the same page. Go to your local boat show, and tour different models. How small are you willing to go? Which boats do you fit comfortably in? Are you a fan of catamarans or do you like the traditional feel of a monohull? What would you need to live day-to-day? And last but not least: what kind of use are you looking to get from your boat? Coastal cruising or bluewater?

3) Start saving money. You will need to put between 10-20% down on your boat. Also, a lot of extra fees will pop up, so leave some wiggle room. We saved 25% of our max boat budget. (Make a note: figure out your own max budget/expenses projected at least 3 years out)

4) Research marinas in your area. If you are west coast, you might have a harder time finding marinas that allow liveaboards (some only allow 10% of slips to be liveaboards). What is the wait list? In California, it was up to 10 years. Price to dock per foot of boat? Are the facilities nice? Is it a reasonable commute to work? It would really suck to buy a boat, only to find out that you can’t live on it! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLACE TO PUT YOUR BOAT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!

5) If the stars are aligning and you’ve found your perfect marina, contact a local BUYERS boat broker. They work for you, like a real estate agent. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look at sailing forums, see what people have to say about certain agencies or brokers. Call around, and find someone you mesh with. I decided on our broker based on his great reputation, his bio (lived aboard for 15 years—can’t beat that expertise!), and the fact that the brokerage company as a whole promised to help newbie buyers navigate a complicated process. I wanted someone who would be patient with us and answer questions we didn’t know we had. If you don’t get that vibe, look for a better broker. They’re honest and they’re out there, you just have to do the legwork.

6) Start getting rid of all of your shit. Donate it, sell it, store the important stuff with family—and even though you THINK you’ve downsized to your bare minimum, you will still have way to much. We downsized to a 7×7 POD (only half full, too!) and I’ve discovered we will only need about a third of it all. Once it is gone, you won’t miss it, I promise.

7) Remember what I said about the boat show? Make a list with your broker about your wants/likes. You can talk make/models, but if this is your first boat, keep an open mind. Then let him or her do their thing. Our broker came back with 3 solid choices, and 2 additional boats that he thought would be a good fit, even though they didn’t fit our minimum length requirement. Lo and behold, we went with the smallest boat!

8) Once you’ve found your dream boat, you’ll need financing. You will put an offer on the boat, making sure that the deal is CONTINGENT ON SECURED FINANCING and a SATISFACTORY SURVEY. This clause is important, because if you can’t get the money or your survey sucks, you can walk away from the deal. 10% of the boat cost will go into an escrow account (remember when I said to save money?) while you find someone to finance your boat. Such a large loan that is not a house is difficult for some credit unions and banks to wrap their heads around. If you’re younger like us, they will basically laugh at you. Be prepared to have someone older than you with a longer credit history cosign the loan. Our cosigner will never pay a CENT of our loan, but he was needed on the paperwork. We went with LIGHTSTREAM for financing, a division of Sun Trust Bank, because their rates were reasonable and they allow liveaboards.

9) Schedule a survey with a certified surveyor. This will include a thorough check of the boat’s internal and external systems, as well as a haul out to inspect the bottom/keel (Ding ding! Surprise fees! See my post about our survey for more details). Your boat broker and the current owners will accompany you for this. It is an excellent time to ask questions about the boat! What are her quirks? What is their favorite thing about her? If no major issues are found during the survey, then is no need to counter-offer back and forth with the current owners regarding your original offer.

10) Now for the tricky part—GETTING INSURANCE! We hit a snag on this one. Nobody wants to insure first time boat owners, especially when your boat is a lot of money and you want to live on it. Add in the fact that we have never actually sailed a boat this size, and we were in trouble. Forums will tell you all the time to just get regular boat insurance and not tell your insurance company that you live on it, but I refused to lie. I was not going to deal with the anxiety of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and plus, this blog would give us away in a heartbeat! WR HODGENS MARINE INSURANCE was willing to work with us, thankfully. They don’t care if you want to live aboard, and we were able to get insurance by adding in a “Captain’s Clause”. This was basically our promise to not take the boat off of the dock unless we were accompanied by a certified captain. Once we have fulfilled a certain number of private instruction hours on our boat, our captain will send in a letter to the insurance agency stating that we have enough experience to be on our own. Then voila! Restriction removed and we will be the sole operators of our vessel.

*Remember when applying that ALL boat experience is experience, even small powerboats. Every little bit counts.

11) Once you have insurance, then you wire the rest of the money into the escrow account, the old owners sign the paperwork, and you’re the proud new owner of your boat! Everybody wins.

12) MOVE ABOARD YOUR BOAT! The old owners (absolute saints that they are and knowing that we are newbies) left us a detailed manual on how things work (galley, head, AC., etc) that we’ve been slowly working our way through. Even the simplest tasks become so much harder on a boat! We’re learning, though, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our first private lesson is next weekend, and until then, I’m just focusing on not hitting my head on everything.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

PS—If you have specific questions pertaining to your own situation, please feel free to email or comment and ask! I would love to help you out 🙂