Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Sailing Swing

One of my fondest memories of being a boat kid, is when my dad would make a halyard swing with the bosun's chair for us. We'd be underway - sailing upwind - and when we got a good enough heel, we'd launch ourselves of the side of the boat and skip across the water, tip toeing along the waves and laughing hysterically as we charged forth alongside the hull. It got especially fun when a good gust would come through giving the boat that few extra degrees of heel, dunking us thoroughly into the cold, fresh water or when we'd get too close to the boat and have to kick off to get back out over the water. Shrieks and gasps and wide eyes would ensue. It was good, clean - possibly dangerous - fun.

Such is life on a boat, right?

Isla is a monkey. I think I have mentioned it before, but one advantage of bringing babies on boats when they are very young is the simple fact that by the time they are two or three, they are seasoned little sailors or, at the very least, adept at maneuvering around on a sailboat. Isla roams free on our boat, no area is off limits to her. She understands the consequences of getting too close to the edge, knows exactly how to move along a sailboat's odd angles, instinctively avoids cleats and dodges lines, and embodies the cardinal rule of "one hand for you, one for the boat". Some might call us "reckless" for allowing her to play freely on deck, but we think of this sort of play as "skill building". She is never more than fifteen feet away from either of us at any given time and let me tell you, this kid can climb.

The other day, I was down below making breakfast while Isla was playing on deck, watching for turtles with her little binoculars and climbing around on the rigging. "Mama, come see me swing!" she yelled from the bow. Swing? I thought. I went up on deck and found her hanging on the jib sheets with a huge, beaming smile plastered across her sweet little face. Scott decided then and there she needed a proper swing. So a proper swing was made.

Needless to say, she loves it. We hoist her ten feet off the deck and swing her out over the water. Some might see a boat as one big hazard for kids, but to us - and certainly Isla - it's one, big playground.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Running out of Coffee...I mean Propane

I write you this morning sans caffeine. That might not sound like a big deal to some of you, but to you fellow coffee addicts lovers and mothers of small children who rise with the sun - I'm pretty sure I heard you all collectively gasp. "First world problems", I know. But it's a problem nonetheless. My head is positively pounding. I never knew the caffeine headache was real, I mean I heard about it, but was skeptical - but it is. It is very, very real.

How does this happen, you wonder? Well, our boat carries two ten pound propane tanks which provide gas for our stove and oven. They each last well over a month usually, and when we finish with one, we are typically careful to monitor (by the passage of time, we have no gauge on our tanks) when we might need a refill so we don't find ourselves in this predicament. When we ran out the other day, it was no biggie. Switch tanks, use the full one and - voila! - we were back in business. Except we weren't because our spare tank wasn't full. Looks like when we put our boat away, way back when, we forgot to top them up or at least remember that one was empty. So yesterday, as I was cooking pasta for lunch, I saw the flame flicker and fade out - poof! - and just like that, it was gone. The plus side of this was the pasta had actually cooked, so that was good. The down side was we had no idea when and where we'd get more propane. Sometimes this can be a tricky endeavor that involves leaving tanks in various locations only to get them back days later.  My first thought, of course, was "What will I do for coffee in the morning?!?!" I mean, cold meals I can deal with a but a morning without coffee? That just seems impossible. But here I am. This is happening.

My point in all that is to excuse this post. It might ramble and it might not make sense. It probably doesn't even have a point. But I'm just going to go with it while the babies nap and Scott and Isla get our tanks filled ashore (fingers crossed).

After spending a week in the beautiful Hansen Bay, we decided it was time to move. Not because we needed a change of scenery - we actually really enjoy finding a nice spot and staying for a while (because sailing with three little ones is a...production)...no, we decided to move because of upcoming weather. The easterly trade winds are supposed to pick up significantly in this area and night time calls for gusts in the 30's, which isn't too crazy, but the bay we were in has very little land mass to the east, meaning gusts could be even stronger (think williwaw effect except a little different). We decided to move somewhere that offered a little more protection from the wind and, as such, better sleep at night. So we did, over to the easternmost side of the island in the area of the main town, Cruz Bay. Where, luckily (hopefully?), we will be able to fill our propane tanks.

The passage was okay, if not a bit rolly. In fact because I was up and down and up and down so much between getting the kids to sleep and preparing lunch, it was the first time I actually thought I might get seasick. Luckily I didn't. Laying down in the cockpit once all the kids were out was all I needed. Sleep, precious sleep. The cure-all for just about anything. Other than coffee, of course.

I have to say, each time we sail with the three kiddos I praise our choice to stay in an area where passages are short and sweet. I mean, wow. There is no way I would attempt anything longer than three or four hours with this crew right now (unless it was overnight, and even then I wouldn't want to because that can be beyond exhausting). The other day we met a guy on the beach; "So he sails the boat while you watch the kids?" (he paused inquisitively) "So who's job is harder?" he asked in earnest. I wasted no time in telling him mine was. Because it is. You do not need to be a math whiz to figure our that two arms for three kids is simply not enough. Factor in a moving sailboat where two of the three cannot maneuver safely because of their fledgling legs, and it's a no brainer. We make it happen and it works pretty well, but we have found two hour sails are our sweet spot. Long enough to get some place interesting but short enough that they can all be sleeping for most (if not all) of the journey. Baby steps.

SKEEEERT....Stop the press!

Okay, our amazing buddy boat just dinghied over with a french press full of steaming hot fresh coffee so I must go drink it now. Right this minute. This blog post is over.

Priorities.

Boy does it pay to have good friends. And caffeine.
Saved by the Press!! Thank you s/v Necesse! Best cup of coffee I ever had!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Awesome Sailing People: The Delos Crew

Imagine being on a well appointed cruising boat in an impossibly perfect tropical paradise with two hot blonds, two handsome men, tons of toys (from drone to dive gear), a moonshine brewing still, a thousand beers and a penchant for all things fun. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Yeah. Such is the life of the s/v Delos crew. These four have perfected the art of living harmoniously "in the moment".

If there is any crew in the whole wide world that I would want to join and sail with for a good long while, it is this one. Not only are they accomplished sailors who've logged an impressive number of nautical miles from Seattle to Asia, they are people after my own heart and I'm pretty sure their sailboat acts as a sort of portal to personal enlightenment because everyone who steps off s/v Delos seems to have changed permanently for the better. Or maybe it's all the alcohol they brew. Either way, I want in.

When we started blogging back in 2009, there were no where near as many blogs as are out now, but there were a few, and Delos was one of them. We've been online "friends" since our blog's inception and their site has evolved from blog to vlog - and a really, really, REALLY fantastic one at that. If you have not checked out their amazing videos, you should (subscribe to their YouTube Channel >>>>>HERE<<<<<). Not only are their episodes excellent dream fodder, but candy for the eyes as well. They've really honed in their techniques over the past few years and each crew member brings something unique to the table. I want to be friends with each of them, for real.

I love these guys. They make me smile. I love their attitudes (Nothin' but love!), their spirits (Peace and positivity!) and their approach to life (Have fun!) and everything in between. I think you will, too. Jump in and read my interview with them to learn little bit more about the Trautman boys, Brian and Brady, (real life Peter Pan's) and their beautiful side kicks, Karin and Josje...and if you want even more Delos ('cuz you will!), be sure to head over and like their >>>>Facebook Page<<<<

1) Brian, when you set off for this trip - none of your current crew were a part of your team...What was the vision for Delos then and how has it changed?


(Brian) That’s the really amazing part of this for me personally.  I didn’t start out with a vision at all….  I just wanted to take some time for myself, sail, travel, explore, a bit of soul searching and discovery.  Along the way my brother joined and we met some fantastic, amazing people.  In fact we’ve had over 35 people sail on Delos!  Some for only a few months, others for years.  Everybody has left their energy and added to the experience in their own special way.  To me this has been the most awesome aspect of the voyage, and has really helped to shape the vision of Delos.  Which is pretty simple actually- just have as much fun as possible, and show others what a beautiful place this world really is.  If we can make someone smile then we’re doing a good thing!

2) Brady, what were you doing when you decided that you *needed* to be a part of the crew - and when did it become apparent that you were not going to leave? 

(Brady) I was ‘treading water’ at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.  I spent the semesters convincing myself that I really needed the Environmental Engineering degree I was working towards and I spent my summers down in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, teaching scuba diving and playing with boats! I spent Christmas and New Year of 2009 sailing with Brian in Mexico and had an awesome time diving and cruising around. That’s when they asked if I’d like to join for the passage to the Marquesas in March of 2010. I asked myself “Go back to finish a degree just for the sake of finishing or go sailing to this far away mystical place called French Polynesia?”  Let’s just say the banks who gave me my student loans to go back for the spring of 2010 weren’t happy.  I was supposed to be on for the 3 week passage, hang out for a few weeks then fly back home from Tahiti  All of a sudden we were about to sail into New Zealand 7 months later…  I knew at that point I had permanently switched to the University of Sailing the World.

3) Josje - (I think you are the one behind the animation of the videos?) - you are wicked talented - was this something you always did (video editing) or is this a talent you discovered underway?

(Josje) We all take turns at editing the videos which you can tell by who does the voice over. When we started making them in Australia, it was just sort of a hobby so when we got our hands on a decent editing program, we all just sort of taught ourselves! It was a huge learning process but really fun! Still learning heaps even now. So I guess I was never ‘into’ editing before but it’s definitely a skill I highly value and appreciate now. It’s so awesome to be able to whip up a little something with music and the whole works! Haha in terms of most of the effects in the videos, Karins gets the credit for this! She’s been teaching herself a program called ‘after effects’ where she’s able to do all the awesome effects like in our intro for the vids. I also really like the fact that we take turns at editing the videos, it makes it really unique in the fact that we are all able to portray our experiences through our own perspective. And I think people can pick up on those sorts of things which is really unique! 

(Karin) We all edit the videos, which I think is awesome, and everyone has different styles and ideas. The animation part really started with us wanting to create a new cool intro. I looked into stop motion and really loved it! 

I did some small video projects during my 3-year degree as a landscape architect, but this was on a different level. And so much fun! 

In the beginning I did the old school camera on a tripod, take a photo, move the object then another photo. This was extremely time consuming! So I looked into After Effects, after a week and dozens of YouTube videos later I knew enough to make a small intro. It’s a fascination program and I’ve only started to scratch the surface of what’s possible.

*Editor note: Sorry Karin!! I thought Josje did the stop motion - SO FANTASTIC. Love it. I stand corrected.

4) You all seem to have a good dose of "hedonist" in you - is this something you always had in life - or was this cultivated by living on the water, being free and just letting go of social constrictions that the US sort of imposes?

(Brian) I think it’s probably a mix of lots of things.  Society in general has this idea of what is common, and what is out of the ordinary.  For me that really changes when we go sailing.  It’s a very different life spent in a small space with people you really care about.  You’re more than just friends- you become a family of sorts.  So things like partying a bit, skinny-dipping, and showering on deck that in a city would be considered way out there are just part of the norm for us now. We’re all in committed relationships and care deeply enough that we all respect personal boundaries so that helps.  So, I guess yes and no at the same time.  What may be crazy for some is just a shower in the rain for us ;)

(Brady) Haha well after googling hedonist I can say that I have always had a strong belief in the power of pleasure and have always searched for it and surrounded myself with pleasurable experience.. (winky face)…  I guess what I mean is I have always thought that you should put your happiness and pleasure first (as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else in a negative way).  Life is short so eat well, drink often and laugh a lot. Delos has definitely brought out more hedonistic tendencies though.  We often gorge in alcohol, food and other pleasures to the point of it being a bit much…Nah, never too much…

(Josje) Haha this question is great. I think it’s definitely something that I’ve always had a craving for and being on Delos has definitely been a space where being free and open is the norm. No we don’t all have sex with each other or anything, but going for a naked swim or taking an outdoor shower while the others read a book in the cockpit is totally cool and accepted. It’s a boat after all! 

(Karin) I don’t think I’ve ever really seen myself as an adventurous, living in the now person. And it’s definitely taken me some time to be able to really live in the present and not think so much about all the things your “supposed” to do in life. So the sailing life style has definitely changed me as a person, only for the better. I will always remember one thing Brian told me when we first met “you will never look back and wish you worked more.” – so true!

5) Josje and Karin - both of you joined the crew of Delos as girlfriends (I think?) did you ever picture yourselves living on a boat or did the love of the Trautman boys lead the way to the sea for you? What finally made you both realize that, yes, you would live on the boat as sea gypsies and was the transition hard?

(Josje) Haha yeah I guess thats pretty bang on. I met Delos in 2011 in Fiji and Brady pulled the old “wanna come sailing for the weekend” line. Its been four years of sailing on and off since then! Sailing had never been something I was remotely interested in before I went travelling. My dad actually put me through sailing lessons when I was about 10 and I absolutely hated it! Strangely enough, 10 years later, I was cruising around. I think the moment I realized that yes, I would live on a boat as a sea gypsy, was when I first met Delos. They were young, fun and totally about living simply and free, everything I had been craving. I knew I had been searching for something, not quite knowing what, and when I moved on board Delos I knew I had found it. So I guess the transition wasn’t so hard, I still miss life on land, my friends and family. Ive come to realize its all about balance! 

(Karin) I met Brian in Auckland, NZ in 2011. He asked me if I wanted to go sailing for a weekend and here I am 4 years later.  I grew up above the polar circle in a small town in Sweden so I’d never sailed before. It had never even crossed my mind that I could do something like this and now it’s something I could never live without.  I loved it straight away- it’s an incredible feeling of freedom and self-sustainability, the ultimate way to travel and it’s now my whole life!

6) Videography seems to be your platform of choice - and your Delos episodes are so well done and entertaining, they are practically television-worthy. What made you decide to go the "vlog" route when so many sailors are doing blogs? Was it a conscious decision or was it more organic?

(Brian) I was actually sitting with a guy in a bar in Mexico enjoying a few Pacifico’s.  He had inherited a fortune from his family and had been traveling around for about 7 years through South America and Mexico.  I thought his life sounded really interesting.  When he asked what we were up to he lit up and said “Wow man, that’s really cool!  You should be capturing everything on video!”  I thought if this guy with a fascinating life felt our experience was interesting then maybe others would as well.  So I bought a cheap $200.00 camcorder and starting messing around. This sort of stuck with me and over time we started taking videos of what we were up to.  As we got better gear and more into the project it sort of evolved over time.  We love writing the blogs and taking photos, but video brings such a different perspective. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video must be worth a million right?  Plus it’s a whole lot of fun, and we’re really looking back to seeing these 30 years from now!

(Josje) From my perspective, it was definitely more organic. I remember when we started to make the videos, it was like a funny joke almost, like we just had a bunch of footage of us doing random, stupid stuff and thought if we threw it together, 30 years down the track we could all meet up, drink some wine and watch them and have a giggle about the the 'good old days’. So when we started getting a big following and lots of support and interest from the videos, it turned into something more which sort of got the ball rolling to where it is now. So its definitely been a wonderful and interesting journey, but still learning and growing, always! 

(Brady) Thanks so much for the compliment!  We really have an awesome time doing the videos.  It has been a totally organic thing.  We started making them because we thought it would be funny to look back and watch them 30 years from now.  We also thought it was a great idea to show our family and friends what we were actually up to.  Writing is a really great way to tell stories but video footage is even better.  Unless you’re a wicked writer like yourself! (*Editor's note: Thank you Brady!) While Josje and I went off to work last year Brian and Karin did an awesome job making the videos on a regular basis and helping to keep the momentum of everything going. We still do a bit of blogging but it has definitely taken a back seat to the videos.  Maybe we will write more on this next season!

(Karin) When I want to learn new things or get inspired I find it easier to watch rather than read. Therefor it came naturally to start filming, we wanted people to be a part of our lifestyle. It’s a great way to connect with your audience and the whole experience becomes more alive.

7) Your blog has been around a long time - you are actually one of the few I followed from the get-go (as you know since we have emailed back and forth almost yearly since 2009)...from my perspective, it seems like your blog has changed - you've obviously gained a ton of popularity with your awesome videos, but I feel like there has almost been a sort of "enlightenment" amongst your crew and the way you share your life - do you agree, or have I drank too much wine tonight?

(Brian) Is there such a thing as too much wine?!?!?  Certainly not if you can still type ;) There is no doubt that this experience has changed us in ways that we are still just beginning to realize.  I’ve often wondered if the places and people we visit get more fun, beautiful, and interesting as we sail West or are we changing as people and are now better able to absorb the experience more fully? Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.  In any case I think our perspective on things has changed, and this has come through in our sharing of the experience to others.  We are so lucky to be able to do this and sharing the experience with others only adds to it.

(Brady) First of all, there is no such thing as too much wine!  Is that a hedonist statement? Haha. Yep, we have definitely e-mailed back and forth over the years. One day we will anchor together and finally meet! (*Editor's note: YES! And by then our kids will be old enough so we can party a little harder - ha!)  Yea, we have changed the way we share our lives and it has just been a natural progression of the blog.  You can really SHOW people what goes on while sailing through videos.  I think videos really reach people that normally wouldn’t be searching and reading blogs.  We got an awesome email from a trucker that would get together with his trucker buddies at a rest stop on the highway each time a Delos video came out!  How crazy is that?!  It is really inspiring to be able to reach so many people.

(Josje) Firstly you definitely haven’t drunken too much wine tonight. There is no such thing as too much wine. Secondly, I agree with your statement. I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘enlightened’ because I don’t consider myself a monk or buddha, but I’d definitely like to think I’m on that path of love and all things positive. Everyone brings something different and unique to the boat and I think over the years, as we have travelled further, pushed the horizons and expanded our minds, I feel we’ve definitely become a lot more content and understanding with the world, with each other and most importantly with ourselves. I think from sailing on Delos, we’ve all realized how to slow down and realize whats important in life. I’ve definitely seen a lot of mindfulness and meditation books being read on the boat! 

(*Editor's note: See!?!? I told you they were after my own heart. All of them mention that there is no such thing as too much wine. My love grows...)

8) This question is for each of you - if you could sum up how Delos has changed you life in five words or less, what would you say?

(Brian) It has changed my DNA!
(Josje) (This is so hard!! Ummm….)  Opening eyes, heart and mind
(Brady) Poor Materialistically, Rich Spiritually, Grateful
(Karin) Value of freedom!

9) You guys have mastered the art of cruise - break to work - cruise break to work, and this has obviously been a good formula for you. Do you ever see yourselves being called back to land? Is there ever the urge to "settle down" for any of you?

(Brian) Wow, great question!  I only intended to sail for 2 years and we’re moving onto 6 years now!  One of the toughest things about cruising is being so far away from family and friends.  So the thought of having some sort of a “home base” on land is attractive.  Plus, I’ve found that after leaving Delos for a few months to visit home it creates a new level of excitement looking forward to the next season of sailing.  It’s not in the immediate future, but a definite possibility to sail for a few months a year then live somewhere awesome the rest of the time.  Come home to visit with family and friends, then return to Delos when the time is right.  We’ll just have to see.  For now we’ve still got a few more years I reckon though!  Plus it would be really sweet to have someplace to set up all the awesome things we’ve collected in the islands so far!

(Josje) Haha definitely. There is something about the mountains and being surrounded by the forest that just resonates with me and I definitely miss this while sailing. When I am home and surrounded by it, its definitely hard to leave. But I wouldn't say an urge to ‘settle down’ just yet. I love to travel. And to travel by Delos is the cherry on the cake. Actually it should be the cake! 

(Brady) A few years ago I would have answered this question with “Nope, I will live the rest of my life as a pirate”.  As time has gone on I realize that just as much as I love sailing and traveling the world, I really love having a home “base” where friends and family are not on the other side of the world.    I will always sail but maybe it will evolve into a 3-4 months sail then the rest of the year in a bad ass house with a garden, dog, a place to keep all the carvings collected, and of course friends and family..

(Karin) I have always said I will sail until I run out to money or until it stops being fun. I have run out to money a few times already and the more I learn about sailing the more fun it becomes. So at this point I can definitely see myself doing this for many more years but I try not thinking too much about what the future holds. 

10) Will there ever be any mini Delos sailor thrown into the mix? (And, yes, I am talking about babies - sorry, but - come on, look who you are talking to here!!)

(Brian)  After meeting so many awesome kids cruising on boats it’s really opened my eyes to just how cool of childhood it must be!  So that’s a definite maybe, when the time is right of course! ;) 

(Brady) Haha hmmmm nothing on the Horizon for Josje and I at the moment….Maybe a little half Swedish half American sailing spawn from Brian and Karin?!

(Josje) Haha good question! I think this one is more suited for Brian and Karin, they’re kind of that age where there is subtle hints of thoughts and possibilities. As for Brady and I, not in the forseeable future right now. Haha I’m 22 this year, got a lot more life to live before I feel totally cool with bringing another little being into this world! 

Haha cheers for the questions brittany!! After answering all of these, I asked Brady to read his answers and literally laughed out loud when I realized we had written so many similar things!! So its not like we talked about them first, it just happened! Shows how connected we are haha. 

(Karin) I could definitely see myself having a family in the future. And I’ve met so many awesome cruising kids out here, what an awesome way to grow up! 


See, don't you just love them? I thought you would ;) Subscribe to their YouTube Channel >>>HERE<<<, Follow them on Facebook >>>HERE<<< and check out their blog >>>HERE<<<.

Thanks so much for taking the time to interview with me you guys, we are sending nothing but LOVE and positive thoughts your way and can't wait for our wakes to cross one day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Anchor Drills: Keeping One's Humility in Check

Sometimes a view like this doesn't come easy!
Life afloat offers many moments when you kick back and think, "THIS is the life." These moments usually involve a spectacular sunset, a perfectly calm anchorage in a beautiful bay, and, more often than not, are accompanied by an adult cocktail of some sort. Yes. Cruising is full of moments like these where you truly cannot believe how lucky you are to be living this life. A-men.

But cruising is also full of moments when you curse your choices and would do anything to be back amidst the convenience of land, away from the rigorous challenges that boat life offers in spades.

Those moments are too many to list, but one such instance is when you try - over and over and OVER again - to set your anchor only to have it drag. Every. Damn. Time. Mix in an audience of fellow boaters, throw in a couple of screaming kids, and you have yourself a one way ticket to the nut house, my friends.

Let me explain...

Anchoring, for the most part, is pretty straightforward; find a spot, drop anchor (with appropriate scope), back down on said anchor (to dig it in nice and solid), check that anchor (we usually dive it) and relax. Scott and I consider ourselves pretty okay at this drill... I mean, we've never ever dragged (touch wood) and we have a rather robust ground tackle set up, so at anchor, we sleep well. We don't fancy ourselves experts at anything, but after having anchored hundreds of times - we sort of feel like we know what we're doing in this department. Until we don't. 

The other day we returned to our quiet and peaceful Hansen Bay to rejoin our friends, and went to "drop the hook" as it were. We got the babies in their seats, pacified them with fig newtons, and Isla and I took our spots on the bow (she likes to be up there to "help" me, she stays very clear of the windlass). Typically, when the sun is shining overhead as it usually does in these parts, it's easy to find a nice sandy spot by the color of the water. On this day, however, it was overcast making identifying the bottom difficult at best and, we later learned, the bottom of this bay is sort of famous for being a mixed bag.

It was about 4pm when we arrived which meant the babies would be squawking and wanting some dinner in an hour. No biggie, we had time. We found a spot we thought looked good, I dropped the anchor, letting our our initial 3 or 4:1 scope, snubbing the chain and giving Scott the hand signal for "okay to back down". Under normal circumstances, this process takes all of five or seven minutes. Scott backs down, the anchor holds fast and when we are sure we are secure, we let out a bit more scope (5:1) and snub off our line for good.

This time, however, when Scott backed down, the anchor just skipped along the bottom. It'd grab for a second, and then start skipping along some more. I gave Scott the signal for "skipping across the bottom" (which is basically me making a wavy motion with my hand, very official), and then told him we needed to go for it again. Luckily, we have a windlass (which is a mechanical drum to raise and lower the chain) so the process of re-anchoring is no where near as laborious an effort as it is for some (Note: we LOVE our windlass). Up she came. We motored around some more. Scott and I discussed where to try next. And we got into position. I dropped the anchor, let out the scope, Scott backed down, the anchor once again skipped happily along the bottom.

Okay. Deep breath. No biggie. Third times a charm, right?

Wrong. Skippy McSkipperton again.

By now the babies were starting to pipe up and the fig newtons were doing nothing to quell them. Isla, too, was growing impatient because she had seen her buddies on the beach and was demanding in a whiny voice to go "RIGHT NOOOOOW" to be with her friends. Have you ever tried to reason with a toddler? It's not effective and utterly frustrating. "Mommy and daddy need to anchor, honey" I told her in a very strained but calm voice, "We can't go to the beach until we anchor so mommy needs you to be a very good and quiet girl right now and sit still." She did not get the memo and maintained her position of defiance. I ignored as best I could and tried to focus on finding a new spot.

"Did you see any sand," Scott yelled up to me, the annoyance starting to find it's way into his voice.

"Not really, it looks a little scoured out and rocky," I yelled back doing nothing to hide my frustration.

By now our buddy Eben had paddle boarded over to give us his two cents on the matter. We tried to anchor closer to our friends at his suggestion, the logic being it worked for them, surely it would work for us? Eben had seen sand down there when he scoped out the area the other day. Anchor down, scope out, back down. Skipskipskipskipskipskipskip.

Okay. This was getting ridiculous.

It was now about 4:45 and the babies, still strapped in their seats, were pitching epic fits. Isla was non-stop whining about going to the damn beach and Scott and I were at each other's throats.

"What if we try over there?" I asked him pointing to a spot in between a couple boats closer to shore.

"Because over THERE we are too close to that other boat and those ROCKS, BRITTANY," Scott seethed.

Haven had kicked it up a notch and was now wailing. Have I mentioned how loud this child is? She is very, VERY loud. 

"Well, then, SCOTT, do YOU have any OTHER ideas?" I retorted. I went below, grabbed a baby carrier and strapped Haven to my chest doing the frantic mommy bounce to try and quiet her. It worked, for a while.

Back up on to the bow I went where we tried - and failed - yet again. 

Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.

By now, the beach was full of onlookers, fellow boaters were watching from their cockpits and I think even a few snorkelers had popped their heads out of the water to see what the heck this stupid boat that was motoring all over the place was doing.

Babies were wailing. Isla was whining. Mommy and Daddy were beyond frustrated. The stress level was high.

"I'm going to get you one of those marriage saver headsets" Scott threatened, "this is NOT working."

I cringed. No! Not the headset thingies!! (Sorry to those folks who love them, they just give me flashbacks to my days as a sales clerk at Old Navy. Note: we *will* have those dreaded things by the end of the season.)

To say we were humiliated would be a huge understatement. 

Finally, after another heated exchange between Scott and myself about where the hell to anchor, he put the boat into gear and zoomed - and I mean zoomed - to a completely different area of the anchorage and yelled, "DROP IT."

I did, but not without saying a little prayer first.

The anchor fell, I paid out the chain, and we backed down. 

I held my breath.

Pleaseholdpleaseholdpleaseholdpleasehold...

He revved up the engine a little more and a little more in reverse.

Pleaseholdpleaseholdpleaseholdpleasehold...

It held! 

We were secure!!

Scott turned off the engine and jumped in the water to check and make sure our anchor was set. It was. I got the babies their dinner. Isla got a cookie. All was right in the world. Almost instantly, the mood on our boat returned to happy. Scott and I had a little chuckle about what a ridiculous drill that was and, within five minutes, it was almost as if the whole thing never happened.

We still needed those drinks though. BAD.

Such is the bipolar cruising life. One minute your loving it. The next, you are cursing it. And then you are loving it again. Love, curse, love, curse. And so it goes. Sigh.

Like golf or tennis, sailing is a game that can never be mastered - so it's best you remember that lest you find yourself getting a humility check in some tropical paradise too. Sometimes these views come at a price.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Salt Life

We are certainly finding our groove around here. Of course we have our moments, as any parent does, but over all - life on the boat is going really well. I might even dare to say better than expected (there were tongue-in-cheek bets happening back home about how quickly we'd purchase our return tickets...the earliest - three weeks, longest - five weeks).  A huge part of our "success" is the fact that we have two full-time, hands-on parents aboard and the second component (and I know I sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating) is the simple fact of where we are.

The US and British Virgin Islands (USVI and BVI, respectively) - albeit a bit expensive - are truly a wonderful place to cruise with a young family. There are so, so, SO many places to sail just an hour or two away and, to us, those short hops are key. Having sailed from Florida to Grenada and back up to St. Maarten (approximately 5K nautical miles in total) with one baby, I can say that these little leisure sails in these comparatively calm and protected waters - which cater more to families than the islands further south - are infinitely easier. Lately we've been doing our "passages" (if you can call them that) while the babies sleep which makes sailing all the more pleasant (and easy) for us, and the babies seem to even sleep better underway; the natural and gentle motion of the boat lulling them into a cozy slumber. Win/win.

The last week found us reconnecting and enjoying time with our old friends on s/v Necesse. We first met them in Georgetown, Bahamas in 2011 and then again in Georgetown in 2013. They have two adorable daughters, one of whom is only a week younger than Isla (you might remember them from my "Bahama Mama" post) and even though two years has gone by, it's almost like no time has passed at all and it's wonderful to see our kids to play together again. We have missed them and their company tremendously and this reunion was a long time coming. I have mentioned before "kid boats" like to find each other and stick together, and the wonderful Necesse family is no exception. This, coupled with the simple fact that the seeds of friendship are sown and grown at warp speed out here made for a very happy reunion. We plan to stick together as long as possible.

We've also been able to meet up with even more fantastic blog followers. Scott was clearing back into the BVI when one of them said, "Welcome back" and introduced himself (nice to now know you Brand) and then another lovely couple recognized Scott and offered him a ride in their rental car from Nanny Cay to Soper's Hole (he was going to ride his bike) - all within three hours of each other! Big shout outs to our new friends Adam and Kelci (thank you for the Painkillers and awesome company for two evenings) and the crew of s/v Pixie Dust (thank you for the ride) - it's truly incredible to see, in person, the far reaches of what began as a simple little blog of my musings written from my office cubicle. Sometimes it kind of blows my mind. The world is small, my friends. Very, very small. And the vast majority of people are really, really good. It's a nice reminder.

In other news...Scott - always on the hunt for a way to make a buck and add to the cruising kitty - has secured a couple days of work acting as captain for a sea trial for a boat that we met back in Norman's a couple weeks ago. They're selling their boat but cannot be here for the trial with the new owners, and Scott offered his services. Having a captain's license and being a solid person with an eye for opportunity can get you places in these parts. We have some very neat and exciting things brewing that *might* just keep us here for the long haul (we are currently living on savings at the moment and need to work again soon-ish) but we are going to have to wait until we know for sure what's happening before we divulge. In the meantime, we're going to continue island hopping and simply enjoying this beautiful salty life; the good, the bad and everything in between.

As usual, we'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Feeling of Calm

"And right now there is a very unique weather phenomenon happening in the Virgins..." we were listening to Chris Parker giving his morning weather report on our single sideband radio, a report which unfortunately coincides with breakfast time meaning picking up the whole thing between baby screams and toddler demands is near impossible.

"Momma! More yogurt please"
"....cold front.....creating a dam effect..."
(Various baby screeches and yelps looking for more food)
"....significant northerly swell..."
"Momma! More yogurt!!"
(more baby screeches)
"...and now for the Mona Passage..."

And that was about all I got. Something about a weather phenomenon, demands for yogurt and significant swell. I got the yogurt and the report for our area had ended.

***

I've written a few times about rolly anchorages. At best they are uncomfortable, at worst they are unbearable. They are, without a doubt, one of the negative aspects of living on a boat and cruising because no matter what, you will experience them at some time or another.  The past three days found us smack in the middle of the "unique weather phenomenon" Chris spoke of which just so happened to make our northerly exposed anchorage somewhere between uncomfortable and untenable. We, along with our buddy boat Necesse, had already moved once (from Caneel to Hawksnest Bay) in anticipation of the weather and subsequent wacky swell. Unfortunately for us, the anchorage that would have provided the best coverage was completely full (many other boats were also in search of calm), meaning we had to take the next best which, as it turned out, wasn't good at all.

"We need to move first thing in the morning" I said to Scott at 2:30am when the rolling began to peak. Our boat was rocking back and forth aggressively, so much so that laying in bed actually required effort and core strength. I could hear the books falling off our shelves and the contents in our cupboards kept threatening to bust out of their containment. Of course being a mom meant the only thing I was really concerned about was the kids and their precious sleep. Isla was stirring and complaining that her belly hurt, and upon the next roll which produced a particularly loud clanking noise from somewhere (we didn't have time to investigate) the babies started to wail.

Crap.

Up to the v-berth I went to calm them and nurse them back to sleep.  All was quiet for a brief moment when all of a sudden I heard the loudest, most terrifying banging noise coming from the bottom of the boat, followed by a shuddering thud. "What the..." Every subsequent roll I brought a BANG followed by a reverberation. My heart started beating double time. "Holy ***, we've broken from our mooring and run aground!" I thought. With the babies on each boob I yelled, very loudly and slightly panicked, to Scott. I didn't hear him.

BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.

The babies were full-blown screaming now, terrified. I frantically put them back in their bunk and rushed on deck to see what was going on.

"Scott! What is happening?" I panicked.

"I tried to lower the centerboard to slow down the roll" he said back as he labored to crank it back up.

PHEW.

BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. 

Babies screamed in surround.

BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. 

We needed to move.

Unfortunately it was 3am meaning that moving was really not an option for us. I got the babies back to sleep, calmed Isla and got her back down and Scott got the centerboard up so the rolling no longer produced the horrible vibrations and noises. Exhausted and slightly nauseous, I retreated back to our bunk until daylight. Sleep evaded me the rest of the night.

***

By daylight our buddy boat had dropped her mooring in search of a calmer anchorage and we followed suit minutes later. The swell had gained size and momentum during the night and motoring into it as we exited the harbor turned our boats into aggressive hobby horses (broncos?). Because we had left in such a hurry, we didn't have time to properly prepare. It was raining. The boat was uncomfortable and stuff was everywhere. I had the kiddos down below, hungry and tired, and all three wailing and wanting to be held by mommy. Scott tried to settle our boat in the wind and waves and I worked on calming the kiddos. To say this little passage was "unpleasant" would be a very large understatement. Thankfully, it was short. 

Thirty minutes later we were in Francis Bay. The new anchorage was better, but still not great. I was exhausted and could feel the familiar "tired headache" kicking in. Scott got to work making fresh waffles for all of us and our friends came over for a couple hours of playtime and breakfast. By noon it became apparent that our new home was going to be just as bad as the previous one and once we heard that the swell was only going to get worse, we dropped our mooring again - the third time in two days - in search for a calm bay and a good nights' sleep.

After a beautiful two hour sail while the kids were all napping (so much nicer to sail while they sleep!) we finally dropped the hook on the other side of the island - the only area where we were certain to find protection from the dreaded roll - and found our calm in Hansen Bay. It was blissful and beautiful. Not a wave, ripple or roll in sight.

I don't think I have ever appreciated a flat anchorage, and a good nights' sleep, so much as I did yesterday.

The feeling of calm. Siigh.





Monday, February 09, 2015

Our Sleeping Arrangements on the Boat: Getting Creative with Minimal Space

My children's sleep is a big deal for me. Truth be told, prior to moving onto the boat, questions regarding their sleep, namely: where would they sleep, was the one thing I...well...lost sleep over. You see, we have a two cabin (aka "bedroom") boat and with five people including a toddler and infant twins, that means we had to get a little creative with our arrangements.

Isla's Bunk:

The aft cabin was taken by Scott and I, the twins had been assigned to the v-berth...but what about Isla? Where would she sleep?

The obvious option was for her to share our cabin with us, but that was not ideal for a lot of fairly obvious reasons. The other option was to have her sleep in the main salon, but that was also not ideal as it is our main living space and would confine us to cockpit as soon as she went to bed. There had to be another option. I kept returning to the pictures of our boat and tried to envision other options when suddenly it hit me: the walk through!

Because our boat is a center cockpit/aft cabin design, we have a small hallway of sorts with a workbench in it. It's where Scott keeps all his tools and is the unofficial "work area" of our boat when Scott get's in project mode (which translates to some point every day, love my handy man!) I looked again at the pictures and my mind's eye got to work...yes...it could happen...a lee cloth here, a small mattress there, a fan there...yes, YES! Isla could, in fact, have her own little space.

When we got down to the boat I tweaked the design. I decided a lee cloth would be too cumbersome and a lee board would better fit the bill, as it would be more rigid and easier to deploy and break down. Prior to flying down we ordered a child's sized Therm-A-Rest online which we thought would fit perfectly. It did. We then got a piece of wood cut to the length of the berth (this would be the lee board) and Scott installed brackets for it on either side so it could slide in and out easily. He also installed some mast steps along the leading edge of the bunk so she could climb up and down on her own. Because the control panel with all our switches also lives in this space, I sewed a cover (reinforced with phifertex in the middle to add stiffness) and installed some snaps around the edges (love this Pres-N-Snap tool) so that she didn't kick on or off any switches in the night. We cleared out our belongings from the shelves so Isla could a place for her special things and, voila! A perfect child's bunk was born!

In practice, this design has worked awesome. Minus the initial protest about sleeping in a completely new place, Isla now loves her bunk and prefers it to sleeping anywhere else. She climbs in and out like a little monkey and sleeps soundly all night most nights (sometimes the twins do wake her), but we do have to be very mindful if we are in the salon or galley while she is sleeping, as loud noises will wake her. Nevertheless, she has a special place to call her own on the boat which is fantastic in my book.

The Twin Bunk:

Designing the twin bunk took many, many hours in my head. We knew immediately that they would be sleeping in the v-berth, but sadly - the bed that worked so well for Isla would not work for two babies, and there was not enough room up there for two of those beds. We needed to come up with something different. What made matters even more complicated is the fact that we need access to our anchor locker pretty regularly, so whatever bunk we made needed to be easy to set up and break down should we need to get in there quickly (we almost always need to "knock down" our chain pile if we let out more than 130 feet of rode).

I struggled with whether or not to just corral the entire v-berth into a giant play pen with a big lee cloth across the front, but then I figured that would not be an efficient use of space, not to mention there are lights and a fan up there that the little fingers would surely find and destroy. Finally, I decided on what I think was the best solution and that was to have the entire port side of the berth partitioned off for them. This would allow for plenty of room for both babies to sleep, and allow the entire starboard side for diaper changes, a nursing area, or another sleep zone if for some reason I needed to be in there during a rough period (sickness, teething..etc).

I got to work designing, all the while running my ideas by Scott. Together we perfected the design by adding two half-moon zipper openings and a small divider in the middle to keep the babies separate. The local sailmaker at the Nanny Cay Marina brought our idea to life. To install we used a wooden shower curtain rod (very strong, but light) held in place by two metal curtain brackets, the entire lee cloth has grommets all around which then attach to the bulk heads and bottom of the bunk with strong bungee that Scott cut to size.  This allows for a very strong, secure fit and also allows for the shower rod to be sort of spring loaded which means taking it down is a breeze.

In practice, our design works great - minus the divider bit. Haven scaled that thing in an instant and it became clear that the girls would have to learn to sleep together. They have (phew). If I were to re-design it, I wouldn't make it so high (we went overkill on height to make sure no one could climb out) because it's hard to peek over the top, which is nice to be able to do (I love looking at sleeping babies!) I would also have only one half-moon zipper opening as opposed to two because now, without the divider, the second opening goes unused. Other than that, it's perfect. They love it and sleep great - which is all this sleep crazy mama can ask for!

To ensure a good night's rest, we also have these battery operated sound machines for both areas to help dampen any noise (boats are notoriously noisy with their clanging halyards and squeaky floorboards!) They work great and while they do eat up batteries, we run our generator enough when we are making water to be able to use rechargables so that we're not contributing batteries to the landfills.

So there you have it...

On a boat, creativity and thinking outside the box are key...Especially when trying to put to sleep three under three. Wink. (Sorry, couldn't help myself there.)

How have other boat mama's and papa's contained their little ones aboard? Share in the comments if you wish!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Daily Life with Three Under Three...On a Boat

I sit here in our salon with a warm breeze blowing over me. Golden sunlight peeks through the hatches and shadows move about as our boat rocks gently in the breeze. The coffee is on and the smell of it steaming up from our Aeropress fills the cabin. The twins are asleep. Scott and Isla are at the park just around the corner here from where we are in Soper's Hole. Paul Simon sings quietly in the background. All is calm and quiet. It is - in a word - blissful. This moment is blissful. If there is one thing that life with three children under three has taught me it's that we need to savor in the moments, particularly those filed under the hashtag: BLISS (Because, believe me, it can all go to hell in a hand basket in an instant. Snap.)

We're now on day three of living 'off the dock'. Already we're falling into some little routines that are proving to make life easier, because - I am not going to lie - life on a boat with three very small children is NOT easy. I sort of wish that we could have someone come aboard and film a whole day with us and then make a time-lapse video of it. It would certainly be interesting. You would see that it is non stop and completely exhausting. We rarely stop moving. Then again, do any parents ever stop? Land or sea being a parent is work, that is for sure. It's awesome, of course - but it takes complete and utter team work for us to live on a boat and there is no way this would work if we were not two very energetic and very involved parents. The plus side of this pace is that I should be the size I was in high school in a few weeks. So there's that...

I digress.

Here's what our little routine is looking like these days:
  • Between 3-4:00 am: Babies are crying. I nurse them, half asleep. Putting them back into their bunk without dropping one is an effort. Walk back to the aft cabin like a cat burglar - any creaking floor board might wake up Isla who is sleeping in the walk-through. I know where to step to make no sound. I am Katherine Zeta-Jones a la Entrapment. Back to sleep for me.
  • 5:00 am: Isla is stirring. Crap. Wants kisses from mommy. I groggily oblige and Isla falls back to sleep, thank God (Note: if  this delicate situation is not handled perfectly, a tantrum can occur. Tantrums at 5:00 am are the worst.)
  • 6:30/7:00 am: Everyone up for the day (Note: this is one of two *very* hectic times on our boat). Babies diapers get changed and they are let loose. I make our bed and convert Isla's bunk back into a functional walk-through/work area. Scott starts breakfast. Where is the coffee????
  • 7/7:30am: Breakfast for the crew. Waffles, pancakes, bagels or something similar accompanied by some fruit or yogurt (Note: very wise of us to hold off on moving back to the boat until the twins could feed themselves!) This takes place down below as Haven enjoys "screaming" when she wants more food. It is exceptionally loud. She will be an opera singer, for sure. (Note: Many of you have asked us about the seats we use for the twins, we use these seats for them. They are awesome. Great for keeping Haven and Mira contained underway, and great for mealtimes. Easy to clean and store and cheap to boot.)
  • 8:00 am: Clean up from breakfast and either a) playtime in the boat or b) a "walk" in the dinghy (Note: the dinghy ride around the anchorage is our equivalent of a morning walk these days - the babies love it and we get to explore a little.)
  • 9:00 am: Haven and Mira down for their morning nap. Siiiigggh.
  • 9:15-10:30 am: Laundry that was soaking overnight in our bucket outside is agitated, rinsed and hung out to dry. Boat is re-organized after playtime. I begin to meal plan for the day and begin to prepare both lunch and dinner (Note: meal times are the bane of my existence. Ugh.) Isla and daddy swim, play or go ashore.
  • 10:30/11:00 am: Babies are up from their nap. Diapers changed. All kids lathered in SPF 50 sunscreen. Screaming usually ensues for a hot five.
  • 11:00 am: Possible dinghy ride or short shore excursion. Usually play time on the boat in the cockpit with toys.
  • 12:00 pm: Lunch time for the crew. Something simple, tuna salad sandwiches, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas...etc. We eat on deck where food can fly freely and squeals and screams can echo through the anchorage without disturbing too many people. Twin babies eating = mess of epic proportions and lots of noise.
  • 12:30 pm: Clean up from lunch time, babies play before their afternoon nap.
  • 1:00 pm: Haven and Mira nurse and down for their afternoon nap. Siiiggghh.
  • 1:30 pm: Isla down for her nap (Note: this involves bribery and coaxing of epic proportions.) 
  • 1:30-2:30 pm: PEACE REIGNS AND ALL IS BLISS. 
  • 2:30 pm: Babies up from their nap. Diapers changed. Playtime. We try desperately to keep them quiet so they (cough, cough, Haven) don't wake Isla. 
  • 2:30 pm: While babies play Scott and I prepare for the afternoon shore excursion by packing up the beach bag with a few toys, towels, snacks, strollers and/or anything else we might need depending on what we do or where we go. We try to be as prepared as possible so that right when Isla wakes up, we can go - time is of the essence!
  • 3:00 pm: Isla up. We round up the troupes, put them all in their life jackets and load everyone and everything into the dinghy. This is - at the bare minimum - a ten minute endeavor, and that is with all the preparation we did an hour earlier. If any particular child has a meltdown (usually Isla these days), tack on another ten minutes.
  • 3:30 pm: At shore. Walk. Park. Beach. Swim. Whatever the area offers. 
  • 5:00 pm: Head back to boat. (Note: Deep breaths as we prepare for the *second* incredibly hectic period on our boat.)
  • 5:10 pm: Babies eat dinner. I start the dinner for Scott, Isla and I. I fill the baby inflatable tub with water. Fill our laundry bucket with soap and water. Who says I can't be in two places at once?!
  • 5:30 pm: Babies have bath in their inflatable bath tub at the back of the boat and their clothes go into the laundry bucket. They now try to climb out of said tub so this is a game of "keep slippery baby in the bath" - they enjoy it immensely. I do not. Whack. A. Mole. Towel off. Hand baby to Scott. Towel off, bring other baby down below. Fresh diapers and jammies. 
  • 5:45 pm: Isla is coaxed into the bath and I quickly wash her down and get her dressed. If her hair needs washing, screams will ensue throughout the anchorage. (Note: why are we not past this yet?!?) Isla's clothes go in laundry bucket. (Note: she has worn nothing but jammies and swim suits since we have arrived down here. She refuses all other clothes. Not a battle I care to fight. Note to grandmas: send more swim suits and jammies.)
  • 5:55 pm: Nurse the twins and put them into bed. They play quietly together for a bit and then fall asleep. Unless Haven jumps on Mira, at which point screaming ensues for a bit. Then sleep.
  • 6:00 pm: Twins down for the night. Life is considerably more quiet. Siiiigggh. Can someone please deliver me a stiff drink? Oh wait...more to do!...
  • 6:15 pm: I jump off back of the boat and shower. My clothes go into laundry bucket. Bliss moment. Sun is setting. Air is cooling.
  • 6:30/7:00 pm: Dinner for Scott, Isla and I. We talk about our day. Namely: "Holy crap. We are doing this."
  • 7:15 pm: Clean up from dinner (Note: being something of a neat freak means I spend a decent amount of time cleaning, but a little goes a long way. Order is key to life with three.)
  • 7:30 pm: Isla story time and bed time. This is a difficult part of our day and usually involves bribing of some sort.
  • 8:00 pm: PEACE REIGNS AND ALL IS BLISS.
  • 8:30 pm: Scott and I sit in the cockpit. Enjoy a drink. And, if I have the energy and the internet bandwidth, I will try to answer email or write a blog post (Note: sorry to everyone who has written us in the past months, I can no longer keep up with emails anymore - I know this sounds like a humble brag or whatever, but I don't know how else to let everyone know that it's just too much for me right now. I appreciate them all so...Sorry!)
  • 9:00 pm: I head to bed, read a bit and fall asleep, but not before saying a little prayer that the kids all sleep well and don't wake up too much in the night!
  • Rinse. 
  • Repeat.
It's pretty wonderful - but exhausting, and these are the days that we don't sail. Sailing with the three of them is another challenge all together and definitely not easy, but can be a lot of fun (another post on sailing to come). I do have to give us a pat on the back at our foresight on not doing any long sails with the three littles. One to two hour sails are wonderful and, if they do get hectic, it's manageable because it's only an hour or so. There is no way we'd attempt any long passages with these three kids this young. Later? For sure. Now? Hell no. But right here, right now the British and US Virgin Islands are the perfect training ground for our fledgling crew. I am so proud of all the preparation we put into this journey - all our forethought and planning, from the toys we brought to our various innovations (like the dinghy seat - more on this!), have paid off in spades and, so far, we are really enjoying life aboard with our kids. Most of the time (wink.) 

As I said before, there are certainly moments where life is two or three times more exhausting than it would be on land, but then we remember that this period is so short, so fleeting and that to be able to spend so much time with them, doing something so wonderful - will pay off great dividends one day. Soon - before we know it - our girls will be less dependent, and more manageable and life will get easier. It will still be challenging, of course, that is life with children - but in new and different ways. To us, the huge benefit of bringing babies on boats early is the simple fact that by the time they are two or three, they are old salts. We hardly worry at all about Isla on the boat. She knows how to climb around, knows how to maneuver, has exceptional balance and understands the dangers around her. And she's not even three! We keep reminding ourselves that having our twins start so young will mean they will be much easier in a year. We knew this wasn't going to be easy, and having those realistic expectations has been hugely helpful in this adjustment period. 

Because spare time is such a precious commodity around here, I will not be blogging as regularly as I was last time we cruised (my goal is two posts a week, max), so if you want to keep closer tabs on us - please check out our Facebook Page. It's much easier to post pictures and updates real-time over there.

More to come. I have so much to write about. I'm inspired like crazy out here. Sigh, if only I had the internet bandwidth and the time. 

LOVE.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It Gets Worse Before it Gets Better: First Day on the Boat or "What a Difference a Day Makes"

I felt the panic rising inside me. My chest started to tighten and I couldn't seem to catch my breath. It was about 99 degrees inside our boat, the babies were fussy, hot and tired and we'd just had about $1000 worth of provisions delivered to our cockpit. "Overwhelmed" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what I was feeling at that moment.

"Oh my god. I don't think I can do this" I said to Scott as our already tiny living space closed around me with cans, boxes and bushels of food all over the place. Tears welled up in my eyes as I surveyed our boat. Where did we store all this stuff before? What was our method? Where should I start? The babies were in their new bunk, screaming their heads off and refusing sleep, and ten boxes of provisions were sitting in our cockpit under the hot sun, needing to be stored, immediately. Because we had completely emptied our boat before we left her on the hard, we needed everything in the way of foodstuff - from spices to condiments to staples - and the thought of putting it all away, without much of a plan and accompanied by screaming babies and the unrelenting midday heat of the tropical sun, put me over the edge. "We've made a huge mistake" I said, finally breaking down into tears. "This is not going to work" I sobbed. I was totally and completely overwhelmed. Frozen. Stuck. Helpless. "Go" Scott ordered me. "Go, now. Take a walk." So I did. I left Scott alone in our ungodly hot boat with ten boxes of food to store, a loopy toddler and two screaming babies. It was not my finest hour.

***

As a parent, there is only one thing that can truly send me over the edge and that is sleep. My babies' lack of sleep, in particular. To me, sleep is as vital as water and food to a growing child, so when my children aren't sleeping well - I get very stressed out. When we moved aboard that afternoon last Saturday and our exhausted, sweaty babies began to scream in protest when I put them down for their usual (and typically, easy) 1pm nap - I got nervous. Would they ever learn to sleep on the boat? Would my former good sleepers return to the dreaded days of waking up every two hours? Already it was clear that the divider we'd had sewn into their bunk was useless - Haven climbed right over it and onto Mira the second we put them on their respective sides. It looked like they'd have to learn to sleep in one bed, together, again - something they hand't done since they were two or three months old. Would they smother each other? Would they kick each other awake? Was this *ever* going to work? All of these questions, combined with my other achilles heels; disorder and provisioning (and an already weakened emotional state due to my mom leaving earlier that morning), turned out to be the trifecta that would literally send me over the edge "anxiety attack" style. 

It gets worse before it get's better...

When I returned to the boat from my walk, Scott popped his head out of the hatch, "They're asleep!" he said with a smile, knowing full well that armed with this knowledge, my worry would diminish and my mood would improve considerably. It did. Suddenly, the provisions were not so daunting. I snapped out of my mental fog and got down to it. We had provisioned online (very useful if you are on Tortola, no extra charge and delivery is free) so we had the master list of what was ordered and needed to check off each item to make sure we got what we paid for. Isla played quietly in her new bunk with our iPad and Scott and I got to work storing everything. An hour later we were finished. The boat was put back together, order was restored, and the babies were getting up from their nap. All was well.

Until nightfall...

At bedtime, chaos reigned once again. Isla has entered - with a vengeance I might add - the "trying threes" (we sort of bypassed the "terrible twos" but the tantrums seem to have been gathering steam during this dormant period) and, as such, she is now prone to outbursts of epic proportions over things like 'what color crocs to wear', 'which jammy top to put on' and 'when and where to sleep'. Getting her into her new bunk was a total disaster. She was not having it and because she hadn't napped that day (she sleeps in the walkway of our boat so there was no way she'd have been able to sleep as we stored all those provisions) she was particularly vociferous. "Should we just book our return flights now?" Scott asked me, defeated, between her scream surges. "Probably" I said, exhausted, as I went back to her to try and calm her. This was not looking good for us and, after she finally passed out from exhaustion, I left the boat again that night to sit on the beach and cry. I was certain we'd made a colossal mistake.

What a difference a day makes...

When we all woke up the next morning, well-rested and happy, suddenly everything seemed a lot better. The babies didn't wake up every two hours in the night like I'd predicted and Isla slept the whole night without incident in her new bed. My worry of being up all hours tending to wailing children was all for naught and the reminder that, yes, children are adaptable and do adjust, gave me a new perspective on our situation. Namely: We were going to be okay. 

***

We've been living on our boat at the dock now for five days and I can honestly tell you each and every day has gotten a little better, and a lot easier. We are finding our groove and it feels so good. We're slowly perfecting how and where we stow things. We're developing little routines that make our lives a little easier. We've done away with the twin bunk divider and now Haven and Mira sleep together without issue. Isla loves her little walk-through bed and (mostly) goes to bed without protest. All three wake up happy and seem to have absolutely no issue that our living space has gotten significantly and incrementally smaller over the past month. They are happy and loving life.

We've really enjoyed our time at the Nanny Cay Marina and our kids have become the marina darlings, with all the staff from the waiters to the bartenders fawning over them. It's so fun and wonderful to see. Isla runs down the docks like she owns the place with a big smile, giving fist bumps to the gardeners and marina workers. I follow behind with the twins in their tandem shark stroller and rare is the passerby that doesn't stop to gawk at them. While the girls and I are out and about, Scott works on the boat, fixing this and that, trying to get us as ready as possible so that when we are anchored out and away from the ease of mainland we have fewer issues. We are leaving today and while we are sad to leave, we'll be back for sure. This place and the community here have begun to feel like a home of sorts but we're anxious to start our life off the dock. There will be more changes and adjustments once "out there" of course, but we'll figure it out. All in good time.

I'm not going to lie: it's not easy brining three babies on a boat and it is certainly not for the weak of heart. "You are brave" is a phrase I hear daily around here when people hear our story, but they always follow it with, "How amazing for your family." There are moments in every day where we look at each other in exhaustion and say, "this is really hard" but you know what? Being a parent anywhere is hard. So, to us, it might as well be on a boat in paradise.

So far, life is good. Really good.

We're doing this, it is working and we're going to be okay.

We might even thrive.



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