All posts by dessertfirst

We have a boat!!! For real this time!

IMG_5330 IMG_5355Finally! We have a signed contract and money has been exchanged. We are set to leave Washington on July 25th for Halifax where we will then rent  2 cars to fit all of our belongings and drive to St. Peter’s Bay on Cape Breton where our boat will be waiting for us!

The new Dessert First is a 2002 Lagoon 380. She is equipped with a watermaker, radar, AIS, a large solar bank, brand new sails, and many other features that make it easy to move aboard and sail away without needing to modify her. We had been hoping to get a newer boat, but realized that in our price range newer meant charter, and we have seen the wear and tear on charter boats compared to older privately owned boats. We felt we were better off with an older privately owned vessel. We will have several minor things we need to do to make her the best she can be, but we look forward to putting our stamp on her!

Because she is located in Nova Scotia, we will spend a week or so (depending on weather) there learning the boat. Apparently Cape Breton is gorgeous in the summer. Then we will make our way down the east coast, and after hurricane season ends (Nov.) we will head to the Caribbean.

There are a lot of logistics we are having to figure out right now, so still a bit stressful. Really looking forward to having our first sun downer in the cockpit after we have moved aboard!

Homeless during the search for our floating home

Although it was difficult selling and giving away most of our material possessions, we thought that feeling would eventually go away. It’s interesting because we have only been away from home for a month, but we are really missing having somewhere to call “home” and the things that made it feel like home.

Once we were able to get into my brother’s house we could unload some of the stuff in the van. We found some toys, books, and clothes that we had been missing. Seeing these things brought us so much joy!

While we were camping I didn’t realize how much I would miss having a kitchen and cooking foods that “feel like home”. Or showering with the soaps that smell like home, or using the detergent that smells like home. It was so nice to use my future SIL’s mother’s house (who lives across the street from my brother) to cook some of our favorite dishes.

Although we want to travel and see new places frequently (like the pic of Grenada below) we also want a home base where it feels familiar and comfortable. There are so many little things that we have been missing. We are so anxious to find the right boat so that we can make it feel like home. It will travel with us, but be our stability and carry our treasured comfort “things” with us. image

Boat Shopping That Never Ends!

While in Bryce Canyon we received the results of our mini-survey. They were not exactly what we’d hoped for – for a newer boat it seemed to have several issues that pointed to a lack of maintenance. The owners said they would fix some of the issues, but the question still remains – to what extent and quality will they actually fix things? This was just the mini-survey, so what will we find in the main survey and will they be willing to fix any of that? These are all major concerns we don’t feel we have the answers to and we have to decide if we should spend thousands of dollars on the main survey and travel to Grenada. Damn! This buying process is certainly not as easy as we had hoped.

We frantically looked at several other boats, made a couple of offers but nothing has panned out. We decided if we wanted any chance of getting on a boat before July we would need to move forward with the boat in Grenada. We scheduled a survey just before our contract ran out and Pat left for the long trip from Portland to Grenada. Unfortunately our suspicions were confirmed- lots of issues with the boat. We told the charter company selling the boat we were walking away and they offered to fix nearly everything. While this is tempting, we do not believe they will fix things to our satisfaction. For example, we wanted the sail bag repaired or replaced and they put a sticky piece of Velcro on! We are pretty much over considering boats that have been chartered- the surveyor said the Grenada boats was one of the best he’s seen for a charter, but it had over 30 items that need to be fixed- and although many things are fixable, they show a general disregard for the boat- like mold on the beds and window treatments and sea life built up on the hull!image

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In the meantime, a guy we met through our boat search who is also searching for a boat for his family (but for next summer), sent us a link to a boat. This one is located in Nova Scotia – a very rural area that is difficult to get to. It’s much older and cheaper, but has never been chartered and has all of the equipment we would need. Pat is going to take a look at this boat this coming Friday. We are down to less than 2 weeks until we should be leaving Washington for “our boat”. Really hoping third times the charm!

Fingers crossed something works out in the next few weeks so we can leave Washington/Oregon without overstaying our welcome and finally move into our new home!

Road Trip: Part II

We left Yellowstone and headed to Bend, OR where Pat’s brother and his family live. This is what Hope had been waiting for – to see her cousin Luke! This came at a great time as I think we all needed some play time, family time, and time inside of a structure other than our tent! We hung out, visited a lava cave, falls, creeks, rivers, ponds, and breweries!

This was the perfect time to decompress a bit from our travels. We were a bit scared of the coast as we’ve heard it rains a lot and is cold. I’ve been feeling a bit “done” with being freezing every night in our tent, so we briefly thought about buying an old pop-up trailer for the rest of the trip, but decided against it.

A big thank you to Pat’s brother and his family for hosting us – all 5 of us plus our naughty dog!


We were supposed to go straight to my brother’s new house in Pe Ell, Washington but there was a problem with the building inspection so their move in date is delayed. Which also means our visit date is delayed. We decided to visit the Oregon Coast for a week and hoped to visit soon after that.

Washburne Campground (just outside of Florence) June 17-19:

We left the house in Bend Friday morning and made our way through Eugene to the Oregon Coast. All of the reservable campgrounds were full, so we crossed our fingers and hoped that the one central Oregon campground that is first come, first serve would have space! We rolled in around 4:15 and got the last spot – thank goodness! We really didn’t care if it was a good campsite or not, we just wanted a place to set up the tent. We walked into the tent area of the campground and I felt like I was in a fairly tale. The trees were massive with moss growing everywhere. Mushrooms, lush vegetation and the sound of the ocean enveloped us. We were beyond excited. Not to mention they had flush toilets, showers, and no mosquitos! Not only did we have an awesome campsite, but we were able to stay for 3 nights which meant no tearing down and setting up

It might sound like I’m exaggerating, and it might be because of the cruddy campsites we had up until then, but this place was magical – several bluebirds (the sign for my deceased Uncle) came to our campground every morning. There was a trail from the campground to the beach across the street. On the coastal highway that took us to our campsite we stopped at a special viewpoint of the Heceta Lighthouse. Pat was just going to stop to take a picture and then told us we had to get out of the car and look – there was a grey whale spouting and breaching in the bay and sea lions on the rock below. See – I told you this place was magical!


The two full days we had in this special area were spent looking in tide pools, playing on the sandy beaches, and taking in the breathtaking scenery. We felt so lucky to be here and thought about the fact that we have been gone from home visiting amazing locations, learning a lot (see future post on World Schooling), and spending time with family for 2 whole weeks. That is normally the amount of time we would have for the entire year to take off from work – and with Pat’s job duties would never have been able to do it during the summer when the kids had time off from school. We truly feel like we have been eating dessert first and are so grateful to have this time.

June 23-July 17th: Pe Ell, WA

We headed to my brother’s house in Pe Ell, Washington after taking our time heading North. We stopped at the Tillamook Factory for some cheese tasting and ice cream and made another laundromat stop.


My brother thought his house would be ready for move-in by the time we got there, but unfortunately the county inspector and well testing folks had some communication issues and we didn’t get into the house until June 29th – so we had several more night in the tent. During this time, Pat left for a boat survey in Grenada (see future post on our continued boat search!) and Charlie decided to rip a hole in the door of the tent when we left him in there by himself so we had to cover it with a huge tarp to keep the weather/animals out.

We’ve been having a good time visiting with family, getting to know my brother’s future in-laws better, and just being able to relax a bit from the constant driving. Grant’s 7th b-day was on June 30th and we were a bit worried it wouldn’t feel special away from his friends and normal birthday activities, but his Uncle, Aunt, and their extended family helped make the day special with decorations, gifts, and spending the day at an amusement park!


Pat is headed to Nova Scotia for another boat shopping trip, we’ll spend a few days in Seattle, and then leave (hopefully to our boat!) right after my brother’s wedding on July 16th.




New Job! Hooray! And What Does Our Budget Look Like Anyway?

Whew! I can finally breath a sigh of relief! When we left our jobs in Flagstaff we knew I had a job that paid at least a little bit that I could do from a distance since I already taught on the side for an online MSW program. But we also knew that amount of money was not enough to get us through each year. We had saved a decent amount so we had something to fall back on, but the plan was to find another source of income. The week before we left home I had a bit of a panic attack because neither of us had secured employment. On the drive to YellowStone I received an email with an offer for a 9 month contract to work full time for Arizona State University teaching online. This will provide us with more than we need for the year and includes benefits so we will only need to pay for evacuation insurance if we end up starting our trip out of the country. Things are finally falling into place! It all seems to be working out in its own way and on its own time. We’re going to continue to trust in the process and have faith that it will all work out.

For those of you that are wondering what it would take to live on a boat, here is our estimated budget for a year. Of course you have to factor in buying a boat which can range from $30K to $500K depending on what type of boat you want to buy. In our research we have found families living on boats of all kinds with widely varying budgets.

Boat Insurance $5,000.00
Health Insurance $1,600.00
Home Schooling $500.00
Provisions $6,000.00
Entertainment $3,000.00
Marina/Mooring $1,500.00
Communications $1,000.00
Fuel $700.00
Customs/Officials/Fees $700.00,
Mailing Service $124.00
Boat Maintenance $4,500.00
Misc. $1,200.00

Total: $25,824.00

This budget assumes we will be anchoring instead of mooring/docking whenever possible, cooking our own food rather than eating out as much as possible and that we don’t have a catastrophic boat failure (such as an engine needing to be replaced which would be approximately $10K). You can see we are only estimating $500/mo on food. This is because we hope to catch some of our food and cook most everything from scratch rather than buying pre-made or processed foods. We’ll see, we might need to increase this part of our budget.

Our boat insurance should go down dramatically after the first year or two once we can prove ourselves to the insurance companies as competent sailors.

If you ask me, this looks pretty good! A family of 5 is able to travel and see the World in relative comfort on a pretty limited budget. I’ll update as we go along to share what our actual vs. estimated numbers look like.


Alone Time

We have only been gone from home for about a week and a half and I am already realizing the need for alone time – both for myself and for Pat and I as a couple. On the fourth day on the road I decided I needed to go into the tent early while the rest of the family was by the fire just to have some quiet time to myself. I was dying to just read a little bit of a book I had started in peace. Of course Hope wanted to come in and have me read to her instead. I’ve been attempting to find little bits of time here and there for myself, but have come to realize we won’t have anytime as a couple for quite a while. I’ve heard tips from other live aboard families that say they send their kids to bed early where they can read, play quietly or sleep so there can be adult only time on the deck. We’ll definitely implement something like this, but for the next month of traveling in the Pacific Northwest no such luck. I can already see there are several challenges we hadn’t anticipated and we’ll have to get creative to find solutions.

The kids also need some time to themselves. Luckily we are now spending time in just one location- on a farm- so the kids can explore on their own, or just hang out on the couch.


Leaving the Nest: Road Trip North, Part 1

So, we left our home on June 4th – packing until the wee hours of the morning still not sure everything we had left was going to fit. We slept on the floor in our guest room that night all a bit anxious and excited. We had been talking about this day for a while now and honestly I think it felt a bit anti-climactic because we aren’t moving onto our boat right away. We pulled out of the driveway crammed into the van like sardines and headed to Lake Powell near Antelope Canyon. To save money and because we have Charlie, our dog, we decided to camp on our way North to Washington where my brother is getting married in July. This meant that we needed everything we are taking on the boat plus our camping supplies to fit.

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On the way we stopped at HorseShoe Bend. It was beautiful, but a bit hot (around 100 degrees).


When we reached the campground, it was the heat of the day and the campsite had ZERO shade. We attempted to set up the tent (which we hadn’t done in quite some time) in 100 degree heat and stickers getting on everyone’s feet/hands. Needless to say, it was a rough start to our adventure. We went to the lake to try to cool off and make the best of it. We all slept nearly naked it was so hot and the second the sun came up we packed up to avoid as much of the heat as possible. Pat and I gave each other a couple of “knowing” glances thinking to ourselves that we better toughen up if we are going to make it through a Grenada summer without air conditioning. We opted not to go to Antelope Canyon because they do not allow dogs and it was way too hot to leave Charlie in the car. Bummer, as I’ve heard it is beautiful.


We headed straight for Zion National Park in Utah. The drive was beautiful and we were in better spirits. We got to the park too late for a camping spot in the park, but found a decent spot outside of the gate. This area was pretty warm as well, but this time cooled off at night. We slept without the rain fly on could see the stars as we drifted off to sleep. The drive through the park was gorgeous and we  found a sandy beach near a creek that the kids had fun cooling off in. This campground had shower! Yay! I try to be a good sport, but I REALLY need to take a shower every other day at a minimum (especially when camping in 100 degree weather).


The next morning we had a relatively short drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. We found an awesome campground that was spacious, treed, had a pool, laundromat, and very clean toilets and showers. Bryce was beautiful, but again we couldn’t do a whole lot other than drive to the viewpoints because dogs are not allowed on the trails and it was still quite warm. The kids took advantage of the pool while I did some laundry. It was finally cool enough for a fire which was like music to the kid’s ears (fire = s’mores!).


The next morning the plan was to drive to Ogden, UT as a stopover on our way to the Grant Tetons. The drive through Utah and parts of Wyoming was absolutely gorgous! The weather started to look a little sketchy in the distance and we still had some energy left so we decided to keep driving to see how close we could get to the Tetons. We stopped in a small town in Wyoming and I had hoped to stay in a hotel because of the weather. The only decent hotels that took dogs were full. Hmmm, what to do? We found a yucky RV park nearby and when we pulled into the parking lot, Noah had a bathroom emergency but the doors to the bathrooms were locked with a code. Pat went inside to ask if Noah could use the restroom and was told it was only for customers. Pat told him it was an emergency and he didn’t care. That settled that – we were definitely not staying there! We made it to a gas station for Noah, and kept on trucking even though it was getting late. We found a sign for camping off of a dirt road and followed it a few miles to a reservoir. Perfect! We had it all to ourselves and could finally get some rest. Pat got out to check out the area and quickly ran back in. We had seen what I thought were nats in large swarms outside the car, but they turned out to be mosquitos! Yikes – definitely not staying there! Back on the road – we had to stop for a potty break on the side of the road a while later and Hope got 4 bites on her tush! We felt like we were trapped in the car and might have to sleep in there! Finally around 9:00 (thank goodness the sun stays up late in the summer) we made it to a campground somewhere in Wyoming in the pouring rain. We quickly set the tent up – something we had gotten quite good at by now – and went to sleep. We woke up to an absolutely beautiful campground – a nice quiet little spot that was lush and green and wasn’t infested with mosquitos! *This campground had no showers 🙁

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We headed toward Grand Tetons where we had a reservation at a campground which is always a relief. The drive was gorgeous again through the Jackson Hole area. Our campground was a bit cramped and not especially scenic, but it was right outside of the gate to the park and had showers! We spent the afternoon at a lake in the park and picnicked for dinner. That night an intense thunderstorm came through – I should mention that a theme for the past several nights was getting little to no sleep and has impacted our ability to have patience with each other! Again, Pat and I realize our sleep will not be the same when anchored on a boat – worrying about dragging anchor or dealing with weather. We’re slowly adjusting to a new normal, but I’m hoping living on a boat will be slightly less stressful since we will know we have a place to sleep every night and don’t have to constantly set up and tear down our living quarters.


Next up was Yellowstone! Just a short drive through the parks – we thought! Yellowstone is massive and just to get to a campground to see if they still had space we had to drive an hour. We left our soaking wet campground in the Teton’s at 6am in hopes we could snag a campground in Yellowstone. After much driving, it was determined we would have to go to West Yellowstone to find a campground. We stopped at attractions along the way (and were still in our pajamas from our frantic pack-up early in the morning). It was beautiful, but a little too crowded for my taste. Lots of people and often no parking spots available at some of the attractions. We made it to our campsite and got the last spot avaialable, which was only available for 1 night (boo- that means we’ll have to tear down and set up AGAIN!). The campground was beautiful, quiet, and right near a gorgeous lake (without mosquitos!). Again, no showers 🙁


We headed to Boise as a half way stop on our way to Bend, OR. The drive was pretty boring, outside of Hope throwing up every so often (poor thing woke up sick and slept most of the day) but I was so excited to be one night closer to  the kids having a playmate at their cousin’s house, a warm house, and a SHOWER! We rolled into Boise fairly late and thought we could camp at Lucky Lake. Apparently it was a popular spot, so we had to find a place on the beach of the lake several miles back. This is also where the young kids that want to party into the wee hours of the morning without getting caught like to go. Ugh. The evening and night consisted of loud music and trying to keep the kids from seeing and hearing questionable things. No sleep for the Ryan clan….. AGAIN. Needless to say this spot did not have showers 🙁 The plus side was that is was a beautiful location. When we were getting ready for bed, Pat found Grant sitting on a log looking out to the lake. He said he was just thinking about “home” and feeling a bit homesick. This just about broke our hearts. Again, so glad to be heading to Pat’s brother’s house to spend time with family. It’s just what we all need right about now. As exciting as our “adventure” is, it  is certainly a transition and we’re all having some emotions related to leaving our home, things, and friends. This time of transition is especially tough because we won’t be living in our new “home” for over a month — essentially we’re feeling a bit homeless.



We’ll write another post with the second half of our road trip in a couple of weeks.

Fearless….. Or Not.

As we approach our departure (without a boat!), I am having increasing bouts of fear. I wake up and when I remember what we are about to do, I feel a pit in my stomach. I quickly talk myself out of the panic, but I have reoccurring episodes of this. But one thing I know is certain – just because I’m afraid doesn’t mean I won’t follow through.

I’m writing this on a plane – I’m returning from what might be my last work conference – at least for a while. As we take off, I think about how I’m scared every time I fly, but I keep doing it. I’m scared to drive the highway from Flagstaff to Phoenix, but I do it fairly frequently. I was scared to backpack Europe when I was 18 with my best friend, but we did it. I was intensely scared of beginning the PhD program, but I did it. I was terrified to have kids, but we got pregnant. I was scared to buy our first home, but we did. The list could go on and on.

What was I scared of? Well, I had lots of legitimate concerns: What if we crash? What if I get assaulted or lost? What if I fail? What if my child has special needs or I can’t provide for my children? What if we lose our jobs and have to foreclose?

Life is a series of new and scary events. Have you figured out what all of these events have in common? They’re scary, but they can provide huge reward. Can you imagine life without the results of these risks? I wouldn’t be able to connect with friends and colleagues, I wouldn’t see friends in PHX and the kids wouldn’t see their grandma, I wouldn’t have had the trip of a lifetime that broadened my horizons, I wouldn’t have succeeded and opened up professional doors for myself, I wouldn’t have the 3 loves of my life, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to build equity and financial security for my family.

For whatever reason, the events I just listed are things that society has embraced as acceptable to attempt. I realize that selling all of your belongings and moving onto a boat is not an event on the socially acceptable list, but it has just the same qualities as all of the other events I just listed.

After going through this list in my head, for a moment I thought, man – I must be fearless! But then I realized, I’m full of fear – I just choose to push through it to see what’s on the other side. What a sad life we would have if we let fear get the best of us.

With all of that said, I want to point back to my blog post on Privilege and Opportunity. Pushing through fear is just one component of being able to do something like this.


Health Care

During the few weeks leading up to our departure I have been getting serious about researching the various health care options we have as ex-pats. It hit home when this week Noah was helping get nails out of the walls and hit himself in the head with the hammer when working on a stubborn nail.

We want more than just evacuation insurance because what happens once you are evacuated and taken to a US hospital? The hospital bills alone would kill us! Another factor we need to consider is what short-term coverage we will buy to cover us during our road trip from AZ-WA prior to leaving the US. Our COBRA will cost $1900 for 30 days of coverage – ouch! Luckily, when I called IMG, the global travelers insurance provider we will be using, they suggested I look up United Short Term Domestic coverage. I had no idea such a thing even existed, and for MUCH cheaper than COBRA insurance. So, for the time we are in the US before we leave, we will use United Short Term, for only $269/mo. (covering all 5 of us!).

Once we leave the US, IMG will cover up to $1M in health care costs for our family of 5 and emergency evacuation for only $1600 for the year. We will have a $2500 deductible, but we are really only wanting this insurance if the worst case scenario occurs – someone has cancer or other life threatening illness that will require expensive diagnostics/treatment. We plan on using local clinics for our occasional infection, etc.

We don’t have to worry about paying a fine for not having US based insurance due to the Affordable Care Act requirements because we will not be in the US for at least 10 months out of the year. Whew!

This is the first aid kit we will be purchasing. It has everything you can possibly imagine needing. Most of the items are if we don’t have access to clinics (i.e. we’re in the middle of the ocean), but we don’t foresee doing that for some time. Between our health insurance, first aid kit, and vaccinations, I think we’re covered!