All posts by dessertfirst

Changes!

We’re selling the boat! Our year on the boat was absolutely magical and we made countless memories that have not only bonded us as a family, but allowed us to grow and learn in ways we never would have if not for this adventure.

Why are we ending our sailing adventure after a year? Well, we have several reasons, and combined they are pretty convincing. First, Pat left his job as a construction project manager last year wanting to find something different that set his soul on fire. Our time on the boat gave him time to reflect and when he saw a family member achieve his dream after years of effort, it ignited a fire in Pat to pursue his dream as well. He still has a GI Bill to use and he has decided to take another stab at getting medical clearance to fly airplanes commercially. In the past he had a medical condition (kidney stones) that made his chances of medical clearance low, but he has not experienced anything associated with the condition for 15 years now, so he’s going to give it another go. We, as a family, couldn’t be happier that he is going for it again. Flying really is his calling.

Second, the kids have requested no more homeschooling. We think our homeschooling efforts were less than enjoyable for all involved due to our steep learning curve with learning to sail, learning to homeschool, and learning to work online full-time – all while sailing thousands of miles and exploring new places. I don’t think our efforts we unsuccessful – the kids learned a lot and are ahead of where they need to be for math, reading and writing (and I suspect science and social studies!), but we had many conflicts along the way. Additionally, while we met many kid boats and made many friends, we ultimately left them after a few weeks and the kids would be sad to part ways with their friends. They want to form lasting, in person friendships – which I think is totally valid. The social challenges from our time on the boat and in Costa Rica have made them more social – engaging with kids outside of their “comfort zone” (i.e. older, younger, different gender, spoken language, etc.).

Finally, once we spent a few weeks on land we realized how easy land life is! I think we didn’t even realize the level of stress we were under while on the boat. It might sound strange, but having easy access to good food, a large refrigerator, internet, and a washing machine – and not having to worry about weather systems affecting our safety, I realized that I liked Pat and the kids a whole lot more all of a sudden! While the experiences are amazing and we feel the stress levels are worth it for those experiences – when we had the other two factors involved, it really was a no brainer to sell the boat.

So, what’s next? We are putting the boat up for sale, but it likely will not sell while it’s stored on the hard. If it does, we’ll head to Portland at the end of our time in Costa Rica (December). If it doesn’t sell, we’ll go back to Grenada and sail it to Florida to sell there or somewhere along the way in the Caribbean – and then make our way to Portland. Will we go back to the regular lifestyle we had before – working in jobs that were not good for our souls and keeping schedules that left little room for enjoying each other and life? Heck no! There is no way we can go back to working 9-5, trying to climb the ladder, having one 2 week vacation per year, accumulating things, etc. Pat’s job as a pilot will eventually lend itself to flight privileges for the family – we want to continue traveling and doing so in long enough stints that we really engage in the various cultures – a month or so at a time. I plan to continue teaching online, which allows for so much flexibility, but to also incorporate teaching yoga and having my own massage business based out of our house. The kids want to attend public school, so that is the plan for right now. We hope to purchase a small home in Portland, OR and keep to our minimalist lifestyle. But honestly- we could totally change our minds in a month or two…

Here is a link to our boat sale ad if you know of anyone who is interested:

S/V Dessert First

One Year Anniversary

We are quickly approaching our one year anniversary of leaving Flagstaff, AZ for something different. On June 4th last year we left our home with what we could fit in our minivan (and on top and behind it!). We were literally homeless as the boat deal we thought we had fell through and our new tenants were moving into our house. We camped our way through National Parks from AZ to WA. We stopped along the way to visit family, and then set up camp at my brother’s farm for a month while we continued our boat search.

Lake Powell

Horseshoe Bend

Bryce Canyon National Park
Grand Tetons
Yellowstone
Caves near Bend
Oregon Coast
The farm in WA

If we had stopped there, it would have been an epic summer – Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Idaho, Bend, Oregon coast, farm life in Washington. We saw some amazing things and the kids learned a lot. But we didn’t stop, we kept going on our adventure. We found a boat in, of all places, Nova Scotia. This was not exactly what we had planned, after all we had sold this sailing life to the kids by telling them about the crystal blue waters they would be able to jump into from the boat. We decided to embrace seeing the East coast of the US, as we are West coast people and had not explored much in that area.

One of our first passages in Nova Scotia

We spent a couple of weeks in Bras d’Or Lake in Nova Scotia learning how to sail our new boat. We then set off down the rocky Nova Scotia coastline doing 20 mile hops. We met an amazing boat family in Halifax and were able to spend time with them on our way to Portland, Maine. This was the kid’s first introduction to making new friends instantly – the boat kid way.

Boat friends!

They gave us some guidance and encouragement for our first multi-day passage across the Gulf of Maine. We spent a month in Portland – an amazing city where I was able to reconnect with some friends from my PhD program. We worked on the boat living “on the hard” for three weeks – not something I recommend doing with kids! We then worked our way South hitting some amazing spots – Portsmouth, NH, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Annapolis, Martha’s Vineyard, Norfolk, VA, the Carolinas, Cumberland Island, GA, and St. Augustine, FL.

We sailed right up to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island!
Boston

In December, after hurricane season, it was time to leave the comfort of U.S. waters. We spent 2 months in the Bahamas, 1 week in Turks & Caicos, 1 1/2 months in Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands, and 1 1/2 months in the USVI’s. From there we did a brisk sail hopping South via St. Martin, St. Kitts, Dominica, and finally landing in Grenada.

Pristine beach – Bahamas
Bahamas beach
Dinner with all of the kid boats in Turks & Caicos

It’s hard to put into words what this time has meant to us. It was very scary to leave everything behind and try something so radically different from what we were used to. We left our dream home, good and stable careers that we had worked so hard for, and the comforts of a predictable and safe land life. It has been incredibly challenging – both mentally and physically. The learning curve was steep, and we are still learning everyday. BUT, it has been so gratifying – every time we pull anchor and head for a new destination we’re excited and ready to explore – places I’m sure we would have never been able to see if not for traveling to them by boat. We have met so many amazing friends – both locals and cruisers – people that we would have never crossed paths with if not for living on our boat. We have shown the kids that they can live a different type of life – not one within the boundaries of what society says we should do.

I was recently being interviewed to join a yoga teacher training program and was asked what I have achieved that I am most proud of. If you had asked me that last year it would have been successfully completing my PhD. I paused when she asked me this and answered, moving onto the boat – sailing and traveling – taking a risk to live life more fully and authentically. I am a planner and am always creating goals and looking to the future. While this might be good in some respects, I have trouble living in the moment and taking time for the joys in life. Taking this plunge has forced me out of that state of being (for the most part). I’m proud of all of us for making it this first year. We not only made it, but we thrived.

Some highlights from our first year (according to the kids):
– dolphins on the bow
– sailing up to the Statue of Liberty
– planing in the dinghy (this means going so fast your barely touching the water – this can only be done in our dinghy with the weight of only one adult and the 3 kids).
– playing on the trampoline
– fishing
– met new friends

Lowlights:
– limited internet for the kids since we save expensive data for my work
– no TV/xbox
– missing friends back home
– missing riding bikes (we have one, but there aren’t many sidewalks/safe areas to ride in the ports we’ve been in)
– very limited access to milkshakes/ice cream/ice

Highlights according to the adults:

– sunsets and sunrises, full moons over the water- absolutely extraordinary and can never be fully captured in pictures
– swimming with turtles, eagle rays, sting rays and beautiful marine life
– fresh fish
– meeting new friends you instantly have so much in common with
– whale sightings in Oregon and the Silver Banks heading to Puerto Rico
– rain forest in Dominica – incredible flora and fauna. So different from AZ.
– the sound of the boat moving through the water with sails up
– no TV/gaming equals 2 great young readers
– the kids have bonded and get along much better than on land
– Bahamas beaches/snorkeling/free diving

Lowlights:
– overnight sails – still not a fan after doing several. I am just too dang tired to have any great insight into life during my time in the middle of nowhere at sea.
– manual pump toilets
– finding/transporting groceries with no car (we don’t do taxis because we are on a budget)
– constant boat maintenance
– diminished sleep quality feeling like you’re always “on watch” when anchored out and the waking to close hatches for nightly rains

USVI’s turned into our home for longer than anticipated

St Thomas

We originally hadn’t planned on even stopping in the Virgin Islands, let alone spend over a month there. We had heard it was very crowded with charter boats. That was true; however, staying put in the Virgin Islands gave us time to order parts duty free, have Pat’s mom come visit, and allow me to travel back to the states to meet my new niece, Ezzy Mae, and to look for areas in the Pacific North West to purchase our “home base”.

I was only gone 5 days, but it sure seems like a lot when you are around each other 24/7
Annie came to visit! The kids were so excited!
Loving on our dog, Charlie. He has such a good home with my brother and his family. It just about broke my heart to leave him again.

We ended up being there for Carnival, which was a special treat. It was a 2 week long celebration with food, drinks, music, rides, and parades. Although we enjoyed our time in St. Thomas, we have the traveling bug and were definitely getting antsy to get moving. We also happened upon a free beach concert with some great new bands and G-Love!

Hope with the stilt lady!
Carnival was multicultural – celebrating all of the various groups on the island. This was the Philippine dance group – so beautiful!
The costumes were spectacular!

We stayed on St. Thomas for the majority of the time as you can anchor there for free, while on St. Johns you are required to use a mooring ball at $26/night! Although St. Johns is far superior in terms of beaches and hiking, we were there for only about 2 weeks total. We thought about going to the BVI’s, but we would have to check in and out of the countries which is time consuming and an expense. Instead we decided to skip the USVI’s next year on our way North, but spend some time in the BVI’s.

St Johns
Beach concert!
Hike on St Johns
Petroglyphs on St. Johns
Awesome tree on St. Johns

Hurricane Season 2017 Gives Us an Opportunity to Stay Put

Hurricane season (June-November) really throws a wrench in cruising plans. Basically all of our plans revolve around making it to hurricane safe cruising grounds by June. Many boats cruising the Caribbean head to Grenada to wait out the season. We had thought about doing this, but I can’t imagine staying on our boat on one small island for 6 months, especially during the hottest months of the year. We had thought about cruising quickly down the Caribbean chain, then West towards the Panama Canal to spend the season on the Pacific side of Central America. Unfortunately, the Caribbean side of Central America doesn’t have much in the way of cruising grounds (anchorages, marina’s, etc.). When we thought a little more about this prospect we realized we’d be hurrying past some of the best spots in the Caribbean, and then would either have to cross back through the Canal (no easy or cheap task), or we’d need to head across the Pacific sooner than we feel comfortable. We had assumed that putting the boat “on the hard” would be out of our budget, but it turns out it’s pretty affordable. So, with this as an option we have decided to put the boat in storage in Grenada for hurricane season. We will bypass much of the Caribbean chain on our way South to Grenada, but that gives us nearly all of the cruising season next year to explore those islands going North.

We will fly from Grenada to Samara, Costa Rica at the end of May where we have secured a 2 bedroom apartment 350 meters from the beach and a 2 minute walk from the kid’s school – it’s called Casa del Sur. I love that the homes there have names! It will be cozy as all of the kids will be sharing a room, but much like the boat, I don’t anticipate us spending a ton of time at the apartment when there’s a great swimming, snorkeling and surfing beach just steps away! Thank you Southwest Visa reward program– free flights for 5 to Costa Rica! This will allow us to rent a car occasionally to explore parts of Central and South America, it will allow the kids to make friends that they get to play with for more than a few weeks, and what I am most excited about – we will all be learning Spanish! The kid’s school is a bilingual school – pre-K-6th grade. They spend half the day learning in English and half in Spanish.

Our plans are constantly shifting as we realize all of the opportunities available to us and what feels right. We are all very excited about this next part of our journey. We have thought about making this 6 months on the boat, 6 months off our new routine from here on out. We have met a few other families cruising that do just that. It works great for their kids as they get to come back to the same home, friends, and school during Summer and Fall semester at school. Then they take Spring semester to cruise/homeschool. It is also a good financial plan as it will allow us to work more during the 6 months in the states. This is our ideal situation. We would need to be able to rent out the home we purchase from Dec.-May. Right now we are looking at Portland, Oregon as it’s located between Bend and Southern Washington where our brothers and their families live, the rental market is strong there, the schools are rated highly, there are lots of extra-curricular opportunities for the kids, and it’s just an awesome city to spend Summer and Fall! As always, this is our current plan and may very well change as we move along.

Check out this article on Samara

Feeling Adventurous!

Downtown Mayaguez
At the dentist in Mayaguez, PR
Breakfast at the local bakery
Dinner with all of the kid boats
Osprey nest
Beach park in Provo
Ice cream with S/V Sapphire
Snorkeling in Turks & Caicos
Watching humpbacks breach.
Entering Puerto Rican waters.
Taking the Turks & Caicos flag down.

We have been in Puerto Rico for just 3 days, but it finally feels like we are somewhere truly out of our element. It feels exciting and adventurous being somewhere that everyone doesn’t speak English. Noah is determined to learn Spanish so he can play with the local kids. The owner of the Marina we are currently at has a 9 year old son that plays soccer. They live in a town that we will be visiting on the way East and he said he would like us to call him to arrange a soccer play date with our boys, his son and his son’s friends. I think Noah feels a little nervous about that as he mentioned that everyone here speaks much better English than we do Spanish, even if their English is minimal. I am so excited for us to learn Spanish as a family, and while it feels overwhelming right now I know that as we spend more time in Spanish speaking countries learning will be inevitable.

Noah had complained about a toothache while in Turks & Caicos and when inspected I could tell he had a cavity. The first thing we did when we checked into the Marina in Puerto Rico was to ask about a dentist. The Marina owner got on his phone and had scheduled an appointment for us for the following morning at 8am. People are good! The hygienist asked me something in Spanish and when I couldn’t understand she got out her cell phone translator – it said “where is the hassle?”. I showed her which tooth and all was good. It was a baby tooth so they decided to pull. Two x-rays, Novocain, and the extraction was $50! I was seriously impressed.

We were able to have dinner with the parents of a man we met in Belize this time last year, Adam Mellor. Check him out on FB and Instagram – he is traveling 200 countries living in his truck. He’s a total inspiration for living life to the fullest and his parents were so sweet and hospitable. Again, it reminds me that my favorite part of this adventure is meeting people we never would have if we stayed in one town and never left. There are so many amazing people out there.

A quick update on what we have been up to and plan on doing:

As previously mentioned, we were having issues obtaining our US Coast Guard registration which is required when checking in with customs and immigration in each new country. We finally figured out a solution to our problem and received our registration while waiting in Mayaguana (a southern Bahamian Island). This allowed us to go to Turks & Caicos where we could stage and fuel up before leaving for Puerto Rico. Turks and Caicos had some great snorkeling, but honestly most of our time was spent socializing with several other boat families that were there at the same time as us. The boys met 2 Brazilian boys their same ages and literally played from 6am-8pm 2 days straight. Turks & Caicos does not have a friendly customs policy and if we wanted to stay longer than 7 days we would have to pay another $550, so needless to say we needed to high tail it out of there after a strong front settled down. The winds were certainly not ideal, but they weren’t horrible either so we left on a Friday afternoon and arrived on Monday morning. We timed it this way so I would not be out of touch for work during the week.

The passage was much rougher than we had anticipated. Trade winds were on our nose for much of the way and we were banging into large swells – definitely not fair winds and following seas. In the middle of my night watch on the first night I heard a bang and saw half of the dinghy had fallen into the water. The pulley holding it up had shattered with the force of our banging. I woke Pat up and he donned his life jacket and tether and got into the dinghy and was able to re-attach it with a knot – in the dark, in the middle of the ocean. I was so grateful for his level headedness. Our second night, we had a few large barges come quite close and we had to back track to avoid being run down, and again during my shift we had a mysterious spot light shine towards us followed by Morse code. I didn’t realize what was happening until I woke Pat up (again!) to check it out because it was creeping me out. As we figured out what was going on, we had gotten farther and farther apart and it was too late to try to communicate. Neither Pat or I are brushed up on Morse code so we didn’t know what the message was. We keep thinking back on that, hoping it wasn’t a refugee boat in need of assistance. This was fresh on our mind as we had just heard that a couple of days prior a refugee boat from Haiti had hit a reef right near us in Turks & Caicos and most of the passengers did not survive. The ocean is no joke, and I can’t imagine traversing the same waters we do in our boat in a small wooden boat without instruments in an attempt at a better life.

Our last full day I was woken up to Pat telling me our main sheet (the line that holds our boom in place) had broken (the stainless steel shackle holding it to the boom literally blew up) and our power had gone out. Again we are in the middle of the ocean and while we could potentially handle not using the main sail, losing power is catastrophic. This means our VHF (for lack of a better description our telephone used to hail for help in emergencies), bilge pump, navigation equipment, depth sounder, etc were gone. As Pat and I went into survival mode I sent Noah downstairs to find something and he came up to tell us our battery isolation switches were not in their correct positions. When we fixed that, our power came back on. Apparently somehow they had been tripped. Way to go Noah! I cannot tell you the sense of relief we had when that situation was resolved. Pat was able to tie the mainsheet down with another line so we could use our main sail. This was very important as we were already going slow beating against the waves and losing the main sail would slow us down even more. This means using more fuel (which is not unlimited on our boat), and sailing past the weather window we had selected. We hobbled into Puerto Rican waters Monday morning beat. Nobody had slept for 3 nights as the bashing boat was just too loud and rocky.

We could smell land before we saw it. It smelled divine – earthy, smokey, and a little sweet. Pat and the boys didn’t fish as much as they wanted to on this passage because it was just too rough. Pat caught 3 Barracuda which he released. We sailed past several shallow banks in the middle of 25,000 ft. depths where Humpbacks are currently calving. We were lucky enough to see some breaching on our second night at sea and thankfully they weren’t too close. After this passage I’m not so sure about doing a big crossing at any point in the future. The thought of being out at sea for weeks at a time makes me very uncomfortable. We won’t see another multiple night passage until we hit the end of the Caribbean Islands and head for the Panama Canal. And once that passage is done, we won’t have any more long passages! Not that I’m counting .

I realized that we haven’t given any updates on our plans for the foreseeable future and that is because they seem to change daily. Our current plan (reserving the right to change it completely tomorrow) is to hop along the Southern Coast of Puerto Rico, hit the Spanish Virgin Islands, USVI’s, BVI’s, and then most of the Caribbean chain Islands. We will hop off from Martinique (staying far enough North that we don’t have to worry about Venezuelan Pirates) to the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao). Although the ABC’s are near Venezuela they are safe because of the tourism industry. We will then go to Cartegena, Columbia, the San Blas Islands, and transit the Panama Canal. Our goal is to be on the Pacific side of Costa Rica for hurricane season. We will enroll the kids in a Spanish/English immersion school and stay there from June-December, and we are considering renting a house during the rainiest months (September/October). We plan to get a used car for the time we are there to explore the rest of Central America. Stay tuned!

Bahamas!

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated the blog. We have been so busy exploring our new environment it’s been hard to find time to do much! Here’s a quick re-cap of the past month or so:

We spent a good amount of time in Florida making our way down to Miami as that was the best hopping off point to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini, Bahamas. We got hit by another boat that anchored too close to us (damage to them and luckily not us) and took the trolley to do a massive provisioning in West Palm Beach, Pat fixed a leak in our engine and I finished up the semester in Fort Lauderdale, we saw alligators in our mooring field in Biscayne Bay and had fireworks light up the sky (a good omen I think!). We were a little bit nervous for the crossing just because it meant we were leaving the comforts and familiarity of the U.S.

We chose a very calm day for our crossing which meant we motored the whole way, but that is better than the alternative (9 ft + seas with high winds crossing the Gulf Stream). The sea was like glass, a HUGE fish bit Pat’s line but it got off after a fight, and we rolled into Bimini a few hours before a storm hit that evening. We stayed on the boat while Pat cleared customs and immigration and it was torture for the kids to not jump in the crystal blue water! Lucky for us the storm rolled in as Pat was returning to the boat, otherwise we would have immediately jumped in the water which we later learned is not safe to do as they feed the sharks from the nearby dock and if anything splashes in the water they go for it!

We waited out the storm which dumped rain and produced high winds for several days, so we decided to dock the boat which was a great idea as it was cheap, safer, they had a pool the kids loved, and we met several other cruisers that were awesome. Once we left Bimini we crossed the Bahama Banks on the way to Providence Island. Pat caught a Dorado on the way and although Noah and I don’t eat meat of any kind, everyone else said it was delicious! The Bahama Banks was a swath of ocean that is only 10 feet deep for miles. We anchored in the middle of it the first night and then went to West Bay to avoid Nassau where there is a high crime rate. We thought we would just stay in West Bay for one night, but it had some awesome snorkeling and underwater sculptures, as well as a new kid boat with boys! Pat hitchhiked to the grocery store as he found out it was a 15 minute drive once he was walking on the highway and a woman stopped and told him he was crazy and to get in the car :).

Gun Cay – where the stingrays hung out with us!

We left West Bay for Highbourne Cay – it’s private, but they have a marina where we could fuel up and a small market that had fresh produce. I bought a few essentials and went to pay – holy sticker shock! I had to go back to the boat for more money – a lot more money – ouch! We anchored there for the night and then started making our way down the Exuma chain of Cays. This is what people talk about when referencing sailing in the Bahamas – these islands are unreal. They are what dreams are made of. Totally secluded, white soft sand, amazing shells – landing on these parts of the islands feels as though we are the first ones to ever set foot there. I’m worried we’re getting so spoiled in the Bahamas that nothing in our future can compare.

DCIM100GOPROG0160463.
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We are able to access remote cays that are uninhabited, snorkel and anchor off of the private islands, and we had Christmas in the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Wardrick Wells Cay.. Christmas was really special as 3 of the 4 nights we were there the Park Rangers and police organized a potluck on the beach and they hosted Christmas at their house. There were at least 5 other kids boats there and we met some great people! One of the boats bought 86 presents so that everyone could take part in a white elephant gift party! We hiked up to Boo-Boo Hill and left a sign with our Boat and crew names.

We left Warwick Wells for a place called the Aquarium. It was a reef in the middle of several private island’s and we must have seen at least 30 different types of fish. It was amazing. We had lunch and left for nearby Compass Cay to spend the night. Compass Cay had an area you could hike back to that was on the land side of a blow hole – when a wave hit the splash would go into a pool where you could swim it it would create a natural wave pool with tons of bubbles. Just across the bay from Compass was a cave called Rocky Dundress. The waves were a little high, but a family we had met at the Christmas function did it just before we did and showed us the safe way in. It was spectacular!

We left Compass Cay for Big Major Spot – this is where the famous pigs live. We kayaked/paddle boarded to shore and they were a little aggressive upon a new visitors arrival, but settled down once they were fed carrots. This was one of the things we were really looking forward to, but unfortunately I felt it was tainted by some other boys on the beach taunting the pigs. This anchorage was very crowded so we went around the corner to Staniel Cay and unfortunately this was also a busy anchorage – especially since it was close to New Years and Staniel is the only Cay with services/bar for many miles. The produce boat came the next day so we were first in line to stock up, we finally did some laundry at Ruth’s laundromat, and we took a walk to the dump the get rid of our trash. The islands have to burn their trash so many places don’t accept cruiser’s trash or charge you to take it. We felt lucky to provision as the boat only comes once a week and they had missed the week prior due to the holiday. The produce is sold out within hours of arrival on the island.

DCIM100GOPROG0390551.

We were ready to get out of the busy anchorage – I think we’re used to anchoring out by ourselves or with only one other boat nearby. It’s so nice to have quiet, space, and no powerboat wakes to deal with. We left for Bitter Guana Cay to see the endangered iguanas. We were all alone in that anchorage and it was beautiful. It’s such a treat to find an amazing anchorage that isn’t private so you can utilize the beach and explore. I had no idea before, but many of the islands in the Bahamas are private- during touch economic times this was a source of income for the government.

We left the next morning for a well protected anchorage near Black Point as a strong front was coming through. The following day we left for Little Farmer’s Cay to meet another boat family for New Year’s Eve at Tye’s Tiki Bar. We were the only 2 boats anchored there – spent the day on the beach and had a nice dinner while the kids played. The next morning we dinghied to the other side of the island where we had heard there were lots of sea turtles. One of the local guys has Conch there and he will cut it up and throw it in the water for a few bucks. The conch brings the turtles (sting rays, blow fish, and lots of other fish!) up close. We got to swim with them all within a couple of feet of us. Noah was certain the very friendly blow fish wanted to eat him. I’ve never seen a blow fish up close, but this guy was hilarious. He was constantly right in your face with his huge eyes and a big smile (no joke!).

We then anchored outside of Compass Cay (David Copperfield’s private island). There is an awesome cave we explored, snorkeled the underwater sculpture of a mermaid playing a piano, and found an amazing reef just a hundred yards from our boat where we saw a ton a marine life including a reef shark, baby sea turtle, and squid.

We took a weather window to go outside (the deep side of the islands) and have made it to Georgetown! We will be able to get some mail, provision, and maybe do some boat maintenance there as it is a large town (relatively). Although our cell coverage has been pretty good most everywhere, I want to get to Georgetown before the start of the Spring semester on January 9th to ensure I am able to do my work without interruption.

Whew – so there is our update! We have been loving our time here. We truly feel so lucky. We have had our share of maintenance issues and are still trying to work out our boat registration (long story!), but I think on the whole we are holding our own. Pat has fixed 2 maintenance issues with the engine, which is awesome considering we have no experience with diesel engines.

Finding the correct wiring to install the new chart plotter.

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I think we might be sailors!

Approaching Florida has prompted us to reflect on how far we’ve come. With very little experience sailing we flew to our new boat on the northern end of Nova Scotia. We knew we’d have to get the boat South before it got cold so that left us with only a couple of weeks of learning the boat before we had to head out into the Atlantic. We nervously started our journey and had more than a few stressful moments. Reflecting back on how far we’ve come in four short months is amazingly gratifying. We now have confidence in our anchoring abilities, know the in’s and out’s of planning a passage, have done (although still don’t enjoy) multiple overnight passages, and know how to maintain and operate the boat. While we still feel like newbies and have much to learn (and always will), in meeting other sailors and chatting, we’ve come to realize that we have garnered a bit of “street cred” when we say we’ve sailed from Nova Scotia. I think we might actually be considered sailors.

We have sailed roughly 2200 miles to date and will have more than 2400 by the time we cross to the Bahamas in just a couple of weeks. We are beyond excited to be in Florida, in warm weather and closer to warm, clear water. Bahamas here we come!

Enjoying Florida's waters.
Enjoying Florida’s waters.
Warm enough to play on the beach with friends.
Warm enough to play on the beach with friends.
Sailing :)
Sailing 🙂

Holidays at Sea

The kids missing out on holiday traditions was brought up by some as a concern prior to leaving for the boat. So far on the road we’ve celebrated 4 birthdays, Halloween and now Thanksgiving. We’ve found the cruising community to be full of people that are similar to us – they are out exploring but enjoy the company of others often and make a point to create event/groups that bring cruisers together. For Halloween we decorated the boat, carved pumpkins, went trick or treating and attended several local festivities. We were fortunate enough to meet up with another live aboard cruising family in Annapolis through the Kids4Sail FB page. The cruising community puts on “Cruisers Thanksgivings” all over the World. We started the week with festivities in St. Mary’s, Georgia. They had a happy hour at the local hotel for all the cruisers and there were probably at least 50 people there. They had arranged for transportation for us to get groceries where we met a wonderful couple that we had much in common with. Another local cruiser drove Pat and the kids to the library for a special craft event while I was able to use the hotel’s lobby to work. Unfortunately, there weren’t many kids at the happy hour and the kids were a little bummed, so we decided to go to the St. Augustine Thanksgiving event instead as the family we spent Halloween with will be there and the kids can play. While our holidays look a little different now, they are still meaningful and sure to create memories.
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Let’s go home…..

Up until about a week or so ago we referred to the boat as “the boat”. It always felt awkward, like we wanted to say “home”, but it wasn’t home – it was the boat. Now, at the end of a long day, everyone says they want to go home – and that feels oh so nice.

I had to leave Pat and the kids for several days last week while I dealt with some outstanding issues in another state. I wondered how I’d feel coming back to the boat after having the luxuries of a car, hair dryer, shower, sleeping without thinking about my house moving, TV, etc. Would I dread coming back to the constant stress of the boat? When I stepped back onto the boat I realized it’s home. I wanted my own bed and the rocking that comes with it, I wanted our uncertain and exciting routine, I realized how much I can’t stand what is on TV, and most of all I realized I can’t stand to be away from the kids and Pat. We are together almost non-stop and while at the beginning of this adventure that was a tough transition for me, it has become something I enjoy completely. Even though we each have our own cabins, we all tend to hang together during our downtime in the salon, cockpit, or snuggling in our bed (just like at home our bed is apparently superior to all other beds).

I know the kids so much better than I did when I sent them to school everyday. As an example, I remember only seeing Noah after soccer practice at night for about an hour before it was bedtime. When I asked about his day, I usually just got a “good”. I had no real concept of what he was learning, what he knew, what he liked doing (other than soccer), what his academic strengths were, etc. Now I know he loves math and science, is interested in how things work and wants to be an inventor, he is incredibly curious, he likes snuggling his mama, and he really enjoys being called upon to do things that we would only ask of the “oldest”.

While of course we have our moments, generally speaking I think we all really like being around each other so much. We know what makes each other tick, and the kids are really bonding. Noah and Grant had an on again off again relationship before we left and just the other day when Noah was asked who his best friend is he said it is Grant. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that made my heart swell!

We’ve heard that families who have lived on boats together find it hard to go back to living in a big house with so much space between them. I can see that being the case for us.

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One month into boatschooling and……

We’ve definitely had our ups and downs since starting in earnest to boatschool. It is a challenge to keep Hope entertained while the boys are being instructed. I am usually doing my own work for ASU while the kids are doing their work with Pat. This creates the challenge because Pat can’t be 3 people at once. Hope is not reliably napping anymore so we can’t count on that as a time to school the boys either.

We have been taking advantage of the places we are visiting to educate the kids. This means that some days we focus more on history than math. Some of our “field trips” have been on include Paul Revere’s path to warn of the RedCoats coming, the USS Constitution Museum, the African American Burial Grounds for slaves, the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the 9/11 memorial, Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb, etc. The days we are not doing “field trips” we focus on math and writing. The kids are doing weekly spelling, and writing to their new pen pals in Senegal, Africa (we met their mom who was on a work trip in Portland, Maine), and writing to their grandma (aka, Annie). We found a great used book store in Saybrook, CT and loaded up on kids books about Ellis Island, the Revolutionary War, the Vietnam Memorial, etc. to supplement their field trip learning.

In front of Paul Revere's house.
In front of Paul Revere’s house.
We sailed right up to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island!
We sailed right up to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island!
China Town!
China Town!
9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial

The kids do art and have free play on our sailing days. We planned on having time set aside everyday for French (duolingo) and silent reading, but that hasn’t happened everyday as our exploring days we don’t get back to the boat until late. They are still doing those things, it’s just not 7 days a week as we had planned. The kids are taking pictures with their ipads for the pen pal correspondence and we talk about what makes for a good picture. We had also planned on doing some kind of music lesson, but have found that we’re too busy to make that happen right now. When we’ve settled in the Bahamas for a few months I think this will become a reality. The boys have chosen topics to research, have learned powerpoint and have created presentations on their research (Noah is researching how to make knives and Grant is researching the Harp Seal).

I have started to try to do my work at night so I can help with Hope while the boys are doing work. She has a very short attention span so it’s been a bit more difficult than I anticipated. God bless preschool teachers! I just need to get a little more creative so Hope doesn’t know she’s learning during her lessons. We have puzzles for number recognition, letter writing practice books, apps for letter and number writing and recognition. We do crafts and encourage her to use scissors to cut shapes. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Trying to find something creative to help Hope practice her writing.
Trying to find something creative to help Hope practice her writing.