Saturday, February 06, 2016

I Smell a Rat: Rodents and Boats Don't Mix

We have a rat on our boat. At least we think it's just one, I guess we can't really be sure. We've been told it's a "small" one, a "juvenile" to be exact. Not that this minor detail makes me sleep any better at night, because it does not. A rat is a rat in my book (I mean, the word itself is disgusting enough to make me gag), and in my boat - they are not only not welcome, but really, really bad news.

The first sign of trouble was when our lovely neighbor was packing up his boat to go home . "Hey there..." he seemed apprehensive and I got the sense bad news was coming. "I feel like I need to tell you..." he paused. "We have a rat or a mouse on board." He made a "sorry to be the bearer of bad news" face and I thanked him for the warning and bid him adieu. Rats are not an issue at this marina, there are marina cats everywhere and if a rat is found on a boat here - it's often brought from another place. Call me naive, but armed with this knowledge and a little of the "it won't happen to me" mentality, I didn't really consider his rat might become our rat. Unfortunately for us, that is precisely what happened.


For the record, I keep a very clean boat. All food is double bagged or in airtight containers. I wipe all counters with antibacterial surface spray multiple times a day. Floors are cleaned every couple days. I hand vacuum after every meal. I diffuse essential oil like a boss. Dishes are done immediately. No food is left out on counter. I have been told by more than a few people that I have OCD tendencies...Having three toddlers, however, means that no matter how hard I try to keep messes at bay, there's always a little morsel or two left up in the cockpit after any given outing. A nibble of cracker here, a piece of popcorn there... No doubt these little snacks are what lured our neighboring rat aboard, thus turning him into a resident. This is very, very bad for a plethora of reasons.

Not only do rats carry disease and are, in general, the physical manifestations of all things disgusting - they wreak a tremendous amount of havoc where they reside. They can destroy an astounding amount of property in a very short time. They have been known to critically damage infrastructure (by eating their way through integral pieces), sink boats (by chewing through essential hoses), and even start fires (by gnawing on wires, causing them to short). Yep. Despite what most people (who haven't had the pleasure of dealing with rats) think, a rodent's greatest weapon is not their significant 'ick factor', but their teeth. You see, one fun factoid about rats is that their beveled incisors, open-rooted and highly specialized for 'gnawing', never stop growing and in order to prevent themselves from getting 'long in the tooth' (literally), they must continuously chew and brux in order to keep their length at bay. What do they chew on you ask? Well, anything. Plastic hose, wire, and leather are all fair game. Just take a look at what our resident rat did to my favorite pair of (discontinued, formerly Grecian-style) sandals in a single evening:

This was literally my favorite pair of "fancy" sandals. Gone. This means war!

"I hear something," I whispered in a hushed tone to Scott. It was three a.m. and I was reading in bed, waving the white flat to my insomnia when I heard the distinct clicking sound of something chewing. "It's the ****ing rat!" I gasped as I grabbed his arm and finally shook him awake. "He's in our shoe cubby!" I said, laying completely still and horrified. This was the very first we'd heard of our rat. Sure, we'd seen signs. A few droppings under floorboards, a roll of paper towel with nibble marks and, the most peculiar, a half-eaten Mr. Clean magic eraser. All of these items lived at the bottom of the cupboard where we keep our garbage and it was, up until this moment, the only place we'd seen any real signs of a rat or mouse aboard. No indication whatsoever in our main living area, upper cabinetry or where we keep our food... a small relief for sure. After consideration, however, it's most unsettling because our rat resides out of sight in the under belly of our boat where pretty much all the important systems, hoses and wires that keep our boat working and floating *also* live. Suuuuper.

The next morning Scott emptied out our shoe cubby and we discovered that our rat does indeed love shoes. He ruined no fewer than four pairs. We cleaned out the locker, disinfected and Scott reconfigured our array of mouse traps because, prior to the shoe incident, we were pretty sure it was a mouse (which now seems so much less disgusting) and not a rat. I posted the shoe pic to our Facebook Page (to temper all the beautiful pictures of paradise I post!) and not only did our fans pretty much confirm the work was that of a rat, but that the traps we had set were not going to get him. Awesome.

Later that morning, I was walking down the dock with the girls, reeling from our morning of shoe destruction, when I noticed a man in dark shades walking down the dock with what appeared to be a rat trap in his had. Of course I stopped him. "Hi," I started, awkwardly. "Is that a rat trap you have?" I asked, hopeful. He looked at me, "Are you from the boat Asante?" He had the cool confidence of someone who eradicates vermin for a living. Confused, I replied that I was. "These are for you then, I hear you have a rat aboard. Bring me to the boat and let's see what we're dealing with."

I walked him down the dock, still confused at how he knew about our issue. "Did my husband call you?" I asked. "No, Brendan called me and told me to come down." Later that day I would see Brendan, the awesome marina manager here, and he would confirm that he saw my Facebook post and immediately called his guy to come help. I thanked him profusely, "It's what we do" he said with a smile (have I mentioned how much I love it here at Nanny Cay?). Anyway, I digress...

He came aboard, and after looking under a few floorboards and at some droppings gave his diagnosis: "You have a rat. But it's a small rat. A juvenile. And it's just one. Not a big problem..." he replaced a floorboard and started unwrapping the giant glue traps, "We will get him. We just need to be patient." I replied that I wasn't so sure how patient I could be, I mean - were my kids going to get diseased from this thing? "Only about one in a few hundred rats are actually diseased. If you get bit, that's bad - but as long as he's not in your food and contaminating what you're fine." He placed the glue traps strategically in a few areas we knew our rat had been, placed a glob of peanut butter in the big snap trap and stuck it in the bottom of garbage locker, aka "ground zero". He showed me how to work it, reminded me that it could break my finger, and said he'd check back in a few days.

That was a few days ago.


We still have not caught our rat. I've now moved from peanut butter to hard salami, which he appears to enjoy because he's been GETTING IT OUT OF THE TRAP. So I know he's still here despite the fact that I have not heard him or seen any signs of him since the shoe incident. But knowing he's here, living underneath us, and being all-too-aware of the damage that he is no doubt causing horrifies me. What if he chews through a thru-hull hose? What if he gnaws a hole in our propane line? So much about this keeps me awake at night. All the disinfecting of our bilge that has to happen, the fear of actually seeing him during my nightly bathroom break, the fact that we will probably be discovering his destruction for weeks and months to is. awful. The mind reels, and it's no fun.

But we'll get him, of that I am sure. If we could deal with (and successfully eradicate) cockroaches, we can deal with this stowaway. There's simply no other option.

Any ideas, tips and tricks are welcome! Stay tuned....
The kids thoroughly enjoy checking the traps.
The grab a flashlight and demand, "Mouse! Mouse!" because they want see it. #parentsoftheyear

Monday, February 01, 2016

When You Don't Feel Like Enough: Pitfalls in Parenting

"My wife was so impressed with you and your kids, she wondered if maybe we yell too much at ours. Yours were so well behaved and you were so relaxed." I had just grabbed a beer at the beach bar and didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the comment from our new (temporary) boat neighbor who had witnessed my bathtime/dinnertime/bedtime routine a couple hours earlier with his wife. "THANK YOU." I exclaimed as I thew my arms around him in an over-zealous burst of gratitude. "You have NO idea how much that means to me!" I took a swig of my beer. "I assure you," I continued. "If you would have been aboard last week, your wife would have been saying exactly the opposite." We all had a good chuckle over this and they continued admonishing me with praise for my calm demeanor, our well-behaved girls, our quiet boat... The kudos felt great of course, but what made me feel like singing from the mountaintops while slow-spinning was the fact that there was a moment in time when another mother (of four, no less!) looked at me and thought that I. Had it. Together. 

Because - for the record - I do not. (Have we forgotten the time the cops were called on me?)

I have been that mom before. The mom silently watching another; wondering why her kids are so well behaved when mine are crazy, or how it's possible she looks so put together when I can barely manage to brush my teeth, or how she disciplines without ever seeming to yell when I feel very much 'on the verge', or how she cooks great meals with wholesome ingredients when my kids live off mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets... I've been that mom who has quietly measured myself against another and feels that I am, for sure, falling short. Don't get me wrong, I have my good days too - lots of them in fact - but I have three toddlers under four and roll solo most of the time which means I am often pushed to my limits of sleep, tolerance, patience, energy, time... So when it became clear that I was the mom being watched and that my kids were the ones being admired for good behavior, well, it made me want to do a 'happy dance' because that's a sort of unicorn moment in parenting right there. It also made me think, though, that maybe the moms I have admired before: the ones who's kids are angels, the one who looks like she stepped off a movie set at 10am, and/or the mother who feeds her kids organic home-cooked everything - maybe she, too, shines in some moments and tarnishes in others. Maybe we're all more similar than I thought. Maybe it just depends on when, where, and how you catch us.

For example, just three nights prior to this man's very timely confession to me, I had Googled the following while laying awake in bed at 2am: "Am I screwing up my kids?" (Not completely) "Are my kids normal?" (Yes) "Is hitting common with three siblings close in age?" (Yes) "Why is my two year old so loud?" (She's "spirited") "How can I stop my kids screaming?" (!?!?) and, finally, "Am I a terrible parent?" (No). Suffice it to say, I was having a rough day for a host of reasons. Hot tears ran down my cheeks as I silently sobbed under the eerie spotlight of my iPhone. I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I felt like a failure. And I wanted answers. The day or two leading up to these tell-tale searches were chalk full of tantrums, fits, fights, screaming, hitting, back-talk, biting, tears, attitude, and whining. And that was just the girls. Me? I was doing an alarming amount of "clenched teeth talking", yelling, loosing my s***, and a few times, I even burst into tears right along with them. I was stressed. My kids were stressed. We were feeding off each other and it was positively monstrous. I was 100% certain I was a failure.

Luckily most days I don't feel like a "failure" but there are many days when I don't feel like enough. When I feel like I've dropped the ball and fallen short in areas. Most days my tank is empty by nightfall: I don't have enough time to do the things I love like writing and photography. I don't have the drive to answer the mountain of email in my neglected inbox. I lack the initiative (and the quiet time) to call the people I love and have meaningful conversations with them. I have zero energy to engage with my husband when he comes home from work. To cook food. To run errands. To market myself. To respond to inquires. To help with our business. To shower...the list goes on. Some days, I feel like I'm on autopilot, going through the motions, a shell of myself and who I want to be. And those days suck. BUT... the beauty (and one of the many gifts) of being a parent (because being a parent is an incredible gift, don't get me wrong) is that life goes on and each day is another to begin anew. After the "weekend from hell", the girls and I re-calibrated. I altered my routine. Avoided situations that caused me stress. We (Isla and I) talked about our issues. Apologized for mistakes. Hugged tears away. The demons that seemed to posses our boat jumped ship. Things got better. Much, much better. 

And I was lucky enough to have someone bear witness to it. 

The fact that a fellow parent got the impression that I had it "together" and that my kids were "great" and that I was doing something right, almost made my cry with joy because a lot of the time I'm all, "What the f*** is happening!?!" and that kind of recognition feels really, really good. But more importantly, their acknowledgment made me realize that the next time I look longingly at another mother who appears to have it all together, maybe just maybe, she doesn't. And that is totally okay. And very refreshing.

So next time you see a mom with her kids sitting quietly at a restaurant, or playing nicely at the park, or - hell - next time you see a mom doing anything that qualifies as being "good" or even "okay" in your book, go ahead and tell her. You might just make her week. You might just make her feel like enough.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Importance of Getting off the Dock and out of my Comfort Zone

I had no idea how much I missed floating free on the water. Getting "off the dock" is a phrase anyone who owns a boat is familiar with. The dock, with all it's amenities, conveniences and plusses, comes with a host of negatives - not the least of which is tethering your boat to shore. When you are "on the dock" you are, presumably, not "out there" (insert outstretched arms indicating the great wide open). So, when Scott got three day's off in a row and asked if I wanted to sail over to Norman Island and anchor out for the night, I cannot even believe I thought twice.

Turns out, I had no idea what I needed.

When you live on a boat in a marina, particularly with toddlers, sometimes anything that requires a little more of your already depleted energy (like untying dock lines, prepping the boat for sailing, and related things) seems like too much. I mean, we're so happy here. We have a little routine, the girls have fun every day...Why did we need to leave? "Umm....I don't know...." I answered lazily when Scott posed the question of a day sail. "Seems like it would be a lot of work for just one night out?" I added in a sort of question/statement. Scott is familiar with this not-so-great side of me. The side that, instead of leaping in head first with an excited, "Sure!" sits back and thinks about all the 'what if's'; making a list of reasons why 'xyz' is actually not a good idea. It's not one of my better traits. I could totally justify my line of thinking: Why rock the boat when we were so comfy and happy right where we were? No sooner had I had that thought when it dawned on me that this was precisely why we needed to go. Because - and pardon the cliche - life happens outside the comfort zone. If I've learned anything, I've learned that.

"Let's go" Scott said.

Pushing my reluctance aside once and for all I replied with a firm, "Okay."


It was a perfect sailing day, as it so often is down here. The breeze was fresh, the waves gentle, and the sun beaming. I cannot adequately explain how or why it happens, but anyone who loves sailing knows the feeling: once we raised the sails and shut off the engine, I felt my heart and soul lighten. Being out on the water, sailing with my girls in this incredible paradise we are so lucky to call 'home' just about made me burst with gratitude. Isla took her spot on the bow, standing quietly and keeping watch. She has always been an old soul and sailing with her is a pleasure, she just takes it all in as she gazes at the water in silence, looking for turtles and dolphins and anything else that might catch her imagination. I took my seat next to her on the cabin top; wind ripping through my hair, sun warming up my skin and thought to myself, "this is bliss". I turned around to Scott who was driving. "Thank you," I said. "I totally needed this." He smiled, the twins seated contentedly next to him snacking on popcorn. We had a near-perfect sail with all the girls happily awake, enjoying the scenery and sitting on deck with me, giggling and waving to boats on the horizon.

We grabbed a mooring ball at the Bight at Norman Island, put the girls down for a nap, and I came back on deck to take in our surroundings. It was, literally and metaphorically, a breath of fresh air. Being surrounded by water instead of other boats and docks was bliss. Just as catching the wind in your sails does something to lighten your soul, so does simply floating peacefully at anchor. The world is quieter. The boat feels bigger. Your senses perk up. You breathe a little easier. It is instantly soothing and relaxing and creates a sort of paradigm shift in the mind where you feel incredibly free. Scott got to doing a few boat chores before laying down for a nap, while I grabbed my book and basked in the cockpit. It felt positively wonderful to be in the breeze, something that is sorely lacking on our buttoned-up boat in the marina. At the dock we spend precious little time in our beloved cockpit. For one, it's so hot and secondly, being so close to our neighbors makes relaxing in the cockpit slightly awkward. At anchor? Different story. Our cockpit is our living room and I absolutely love it. I pushed open all our hatches, unzipped our dodger window, and aired out the boat with sunshine and fresh breeze.

The girls woke up from their naps and played happily on deck. Scott and Isla inflated our Airis Paddle Boards and we loaded the kids up - me with the twins, Scott with Isla - and paddled ashore to the beautiful beach. Sadly, we don't have any photos of this excursion because I didn't want to take my good camera on the paddle board, but we rowed to the beach where the girls played happily in the sand and Scott and I enjoyed some afternoon cocktails. We met up with some blog followers and island friends that work on Norman, lingering beach side until the sun started slipping down the horizon and it was time to head home for dinner and bed.


The next morning, the girls were up with the sun and ready to play on deck again. Giggles, squeals of joy and belly laughs ensued and, again, I thanked Scott for pushing me outside my comfort zone. Work was calling, however, and after a morning paddle and beach excursion, we needed to set our sails for home. We sailed back in a building breeze; grateful, rested and rejuvenated from our 'mini-vacation' off the dock. I didn't know it at the time, but I needed that little time away so very badly. It would have been so easy for me to convince Scott to stay back and pass on this opportunity. And it would have been fine. We would have had a nice day. We would have had fun. But it would not have re-charged my batteries, filled me to the brim with gratitude, and inspired me quite like our trip to Norman did. Nope. Getting out of my comfort zone was imperative and refreshing. It's a lesson that I, no doubt, will have to learn over and over again, but next time I won't need nearly as much convincing. I am sure of that.

“Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of comfort zone your biggest challenge.” 
- Manoj Arora

Isla took her spot here and sat here for the entire 1.5 hour sail over.
Luckily it was calm enough that the girls could explore on deck underway.
Me and my girls. Mira was not thrilled at this point, but you can't win em all, right?
Pouty face.
Isla and Haven sat up here most of the way.
Sailing sisters.
Sisters, sharing a secret and a giggle, as they should.
We're working a lot on sharing these days. I was happy to catch this moment.
View from the aft deck.
Mira, our little steadfast observer.

My happy little wild haired Fraggle.
Sailing = snacking.
Daddy and Mira
Always polishing. It's impossible to stay on top of. Sigh.

Paddle board time!

Mira, testing out her balance.
The girls are SO happy climbing and playing on deck.
Daddy kisses
Our little peanut.
Watching these two interact is amazing. Being a mom to twins is definitely a gift.
All three of our little treasures!! This was unposed - they just did this on their own. Love.
If you were wondering if our kids had any personality...
Happy and free.
Her favorite spot to climb up to.

Sunrise exploration.
Good morning sun!

Sailing home. Thoughtful and contemplative.
Haven, driving with daddy.
All these photos are taken with my Canon EOS Rebel T5 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Digital SLR with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens (50mm) or Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens (wide angle) lenses. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Afternoon Away in Cane Garden Bay

We don't get out much these days. And by "out" I mean out of this marina, which I now affectionately refer to as "the village" (after the movie by the same name). With Scott putting in twelve-plus hour days, seven days a week, and me being on my own with the girls most of that time - "unsupported" outings beyond the gates of Nanny Cay are, more often than not, more trouble than they are worth. When Scott got a rare day off, however, we decided on an afternoon to one of our favorite places here on Tortola (and quite possibly the one where we hatched the idea to base ourselves here over rum drinks and a killer sunset), Cane Garden Bay.

The last time we were here I was laying on our paddle board at the shoreline while Isla played in the sand at my feet, when a pretty woman strolling along the beach approached us. I noticed her earlier, walking along the water, intermittently digging her toes through sand as if she was doing some sort of beach-combing. "Have you ever heard of coquinas?" She gently asked Isla. I sat up and we replied we had not. The woman, who I later learned was Liza, then proceeded to dig her foot in the wet, soft sand near the water's edge, and picked up a small clam-like shell. "This is a coquina" she told us. She dropped it back to the sand at which point it quickly burrowed out of sight. Both Isla and I were mesmerized. "Cane Garden Bay is the only beach in the BVI's where I have found them" she said. She then told us of her childhood in Florida where she'd dig for coquinas for hours, collecting them by the bucketful, a hobby that has continued into adulthood. She pointed out her boat and told me she was a fellow cruiser, and we've been friends ever since.

Not only did I gain a new friend that day, but a new beach hobby. Digging for coquinas at Cane Garden Bay is pretty much what we do now at Cane Garden Bay. And, believe me, it's addicting in a therapeutic, calming sort of way. Excavating at the waterline, unearthing one, and scooping it up before either a) a wave gently laps it away or b) it buries itself further into the sand over and over and over again is quite the 'thrill'. Fun for the whole family. So the day that we escaped Nanny Cay and hit up "Cane" (as it is known by locals) was no different. The surf was 'up' because a north swell had been running the few days prior making what is usually a very calm and serene beach more or less un-swimmable for toddlers but decent for coquina hunting. Accompanied by our friends, the Sunkissed Soeters, we hit the beach. The kids lined the surf, digging in the sand and plopping coquinas into buckets while the parents indulged in a little day drinking. More than a couple times the kids were drenched by a rogue breaking wave, but it didn't deter them enough to stop unearthing the clammy treasures.

We chatted with fellow beach goers. Witnessed a beautiful beach wedding. Collected (and set free!) bucket loads of coquinas and ended the day with a casual beach-side dinner with our friends to celebrate a very successful start to our new business. With full bellies we taxied home salty, sandy and happy from a day of fun in the sun. As the high season winds down and Scott and I begin to get a better handle on what sort of staff we need and improve our time management, we hope to have more family outings like this in the future. For now, we'll take 'em when we get 'em.
First order of business, refreshments! 
Stormer and Isla busy digging for coquinas.
Luuck and baby Rio
Mira comes over to check out a coquina. 
Isla couldn't get enough. Here's also a shot of a wave coming in. Usually this bay is flat calm.
The coquina! 
Adding some sand to the bucket to make a "home" for their coquinas. 
Daddy and Mira
Haven loves nothing more than tea parties on the beach!
The kids got front row for the sunset show, always a main event at CGB.
It never disappoints here. 
Two buddies, taking it in. And Isla seemingly getting a little fresh.
These two are "monkey see, monkey do" - one twin squats to pee, the other mimics (neither did, fyi)
Isla playing as the sun begins to set.
The celebration group. Fun day for all!
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