Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Decorating a Boat (or Tiny Home): Putting the Fun in Function

I'm sure there are people out there who scoff at the idea of "decorating" a boat. Certainly the saltiest sailors of our time - Slocum, Mortissier, Johnston (all whom I love and admire) - cared very little about aesthetics when they were journeying... A boat, after all, is made to perform and safety and integrity should always remain top priorities. While I wish I had a little more of the rugged adventurist who could care less about fluffy things such as "decor" in me, I will say that I do not. I'm spontaneous and adventurous and up for a challenge, but I still love and crave certain creature comforts; namely I like the place I live to look nice and tidy and to feel inviting and homey.

When living on a boat or tiny home, however, the key is to enjoy these things while still being functional. Believe it or not, there are ways you can beautify your boat without spending hordes of money and sacrificing performance... Throw pillows, wall art, and rugs are the three easy ingredients and with a little planning, your boat can look nice and cohesive with minimal effort. I've written before about >>> making a boat a home <<< , but it's been a few years. Because >>> we have a new boat <<< now and my style has evolved, I have a few more tips and products to share for those fellow live-aboards and cruisers who, like me, prefer their boat to feel (and look!) like a 'home'.

Tips for decorating a boat:

1) Work with what you've got: This is stating the obvious, but there are certain things you cannot change on a boat. Where a mast is placed, how your saloon is laid out, and galley countertops are hard/impossible to change without doing major renovation. Work with what you have, at least to start. For example, our new boat has navy blue leather cushions throughout. We probably would not have chosen the 'nautical' navy blue ourselves, but re-covering all the cushions would have cost us a fortune. Instead, I worked them into our boat's color palette. Which brings me to my next tip...

2) Pick a color palette: This is the fun part! We love color! Check out these tips for picking a color scheme and then go generate one easily with this online tool. We chose a bright color palette that was largely dictated by colors in art we brought from our old boat and the navy blue of our cushions. Keeping the color scheme - whether it be muted and soft (beige, baby blue, gray), or colorful and bold (bright blue, green, turquoise) helps to keep the decor cohesive.

3) Incorporate pieces that coordinate but stand out: Large patterns on bedding and cushions are tough on a boat because they can make an already small space feel smaller, we really like sticking with our cushions/bedding being a solid, plain color and incorporating bold patterns in with our decor like pillows and rugs. Throw pillows and non-skid floor matts are a really easy way to bring color and patterns into a boat.

4) Utilize wall space: Because there is very little counter space on a boat, we have utilized wall space to decorate our boat with pictures, art, and decorative wall storage pouches to keep clutter at bay.

5) Look at the big picture: A boat is small and there isn't much separation from space to space so our whole boat is more or less decorated within our color palette. We use pillows, rugs, and photos to decorate our space which are easily swapped out and changed if we feel like redecorating. A lot of our pieces can also be switched from space to space if we feel like changing things up a little.

6) Don't forget functionality: Don't ever forget that a boat's purpose is to go sailing. This means that you must consider whether or not something really makes sense to bring aboard. For example, a vase in the center of the table is probably a bad idea, as it will most likely become a projectile when underway. We try to keep our boat as "sail ready" as possible so most of our decor is either secured to the boat or easily tucked away. We can be off the dock in no time, and that's how we like it.

Decorating a Boat: What's in our Arsenal

1) Art: Wall space is usually quite limited on a boat but where we do have it, we've added some art. For our wedding we were gifted a >>> Patrick Reid O'Brien <<< print and we loved it so much we brought it to our first boat, and it has been on every boat since. We have also added two more of his pieces. The art tells a story, the first depicts Chicago, where we met. The second, St. Joseph, Michigan, where we married. The third, Tortola, where we chose to settle. We don't have the "welcome friends' piece on this inspiration board, but it's similar to the pieces we do have (and I kind of want it!)

2) Scout Rump Roost Medium Bin: I am obsessed with all things Scout! We have four of >>> these bins <<< in our boat (both styles depicted on this inspiration board) and they are where our toys, spare linen, and the girls' dress up clothes live. They look super nice, fold flat, and - the best part - are water proof and sturdy enough to stand/sit on. Because space is at such a premium on a boat most - if not all - items should serve two purposes and these fit the bill perfectly.

3) Throw Pillows: I'm not sure if there is anything that causes more husband/wife discord than the number of pillows in a home, but in my experience, men see no point in these things. And, okay, they might be a tad superfluous but I love me some throw pillows and while Scott has put a strict moratorium on me buying any more, I think they really spruce up our boat and the girls love making forts with them all. Dual purpose! We got most of ours on from Amazon where they >>> have an awesome and very affordable selection <<<.

4) Gallery wall: This is my favorite feature of our new boat. I have always wanted a 'gallery wall' of family photos and we finally had the space for it on our Tayana. I mix and matched frames similar to >>> this set<<< ,and printed out some pictures. Everyone who comes aboard loves peeking at the pictures and I think it looks so nice and inviting as a main focal point in our boat.

5) Throw rugs: We have seven throw rugs on our boat. They make a huge difference in the look of our interior and I'm always on the hunt for >>> good ones<<<. Most of ours are indoor/outdoor rugs that are stain proof and easily cleaned, and we have non-skid mats underneath all so they don't slip. One thing that is tricky with rugs is that boat spaces are usually more narrow and don't fit regular sizes. What I do is measure the space where I want a rug to be, and then I go to Amazon and do a search for a rug of that dimension. It's worked well for me and you get more choices and styles. You could also have a rug cut down to size and bound by a professional.

6) Scout Hang Ten Bin: Another >>> Scout product we love <<<. We have about six of these in our boat and not only do they look nice, but they are sturdy and hold a lot. These bins are in our larger lockers to hold clothes and you will see one in the picture below in our bedroom holding my obscene multitude of trucker hats (the struggle is real).

7) Coordinating the galley: Because our saloon runs right into our galley, I've kept the decoration there in the same color palette. The pot holders, dish towels and most of our dinnerware coordinates with the other elements in our boat. These >>> magnetic nesting cooking utensils <<< were an awesome find because not only do they look nice, but the next together magnetically and take up zero drawer space.

7) Non skid mat: as I mentioned above, throw rugs are your friend. These >>> non-skid mats <<< are very durable, stain proof and have been on our boats from day one. The nice pattern is a big plus and they are small enough that they'd fit in just about any boat interior.

8) Turkish Towels: We love turkish towels on our boat and use them for the bath, beach and pool. We also use these >>> Turkish hand towels <<< for our dishes and they look nice to boot.

9) Wall organizers: I cannot stand clutter (hard to avoid with three kids but still...) and prefer a minimalist, airy and open feeling. We have four of these >>> wall organizers <<< in the girls' rooms and in both heads (bathrooms) affixed to the wall with industrial velcro and they look stylish and store things in an nice, organized way.

Tools we use:

1) Industrial Strength Velcro: We love this stuff on our boat and keep a >>> giant roll of it<<<. It is what we use to affix all our art and photos to the walls without having to drill holes into our boat.

2) Museum Putty: While we try to keep our counters clutter-free from projectiles that might go flying underway, we do have a few trinkets out here and there. >>> Museum Putty <<< makes sure they stay put.

3) Command strip anything: I love command strip hooks! We have three or four of >>> these hooks <<< behind every door and they hold towels, bags, hoodies and other stuff freeing up space in our cubbies and drawers and keeping clutter out of sight.


Those are our tips! What tips do you have for decorating a small space? Please share as we are always evolving over here and looking for new ideas. In the meantime, here is our space and what it looks like. I hope you enjoy!

Our bedroom. I love it so much. You can see our art (hung by velcro) as well as the "LOVE" adhesive above the bed

Here you see some more photos as well as bins I use to store my camera accessories as well as my trucker hats.

Our walk-thru galley. Everything still flows nicely to the back and front of the boat.

Another piece of art, velcroed to the wall. For the wire fruit basket we will have a hook drilled above it that a piece of bungee will attach to for rougher passages to ensure it doesn't fall over.

Another view of our saloon, the main living space in our boat.

Looking at our saloon towards the kid's berths.

The ottomon is more toy storage and I aboslutely love those super soft herringbone print pillows. There is a fiddle that goes across the book shelf so books do not fall out, but we remove it when we are docked so it's easier for the girls to get books out.

I could not resist the pinapple, it (along with the tiny fake plants) are super light and secured with museum putty. And who can resist putting out their shell horn for decor?
The gallery wall that I love so, so much. Pictures are also easy changed out. Again, secured with industrial velcro so no holes.

Looking forward to Isla's room. You see our newest piece of Patrick O'Brien art and some more rugs.
The twins's top bunk. They sleep up there together, by choice, despite having a bunk each. Their books are stored in bins.

Another view of their room. You can see a Scout bin on the bottom bunk for their stuffed animals.

Isla's room which is FULL of books! The super strong bungee running the length of the shelves prevents them from flying out when we heel over.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Our "Normal" Life Aboard a Sailboat in Paradise: "Same, Same, but Different"

Our family of five lives aboard our 48 foot sailboat in paradise. I'm not going to lie, it's pretty awesome and as far as I'm concerned, I would have it no other way (no joke, I thank the Universe daily). That said, our living situation - while most definitely not for everyone - might just resemble your life in more ways than you think. I've written before about how >>>this is our "normal"<<< and how every step of our life has been an natural progression and evolution to this point...but what I have not written about is the fact that despite living in a rather unconventional home on a small tropical island how very normal our lives actually are in some ways.


Yes, we live on a (relatively) small sailboat. However, we are no longer "cruising" as in "journeying to places far and wide" like we once were, which greatly changes things. Sure, we go out island hopping, daysailing and >>> spend weekends at anchor <<<. But we are no longer accumulating passport stamps or doing long passages. We have, for now, >>> 'settled' here in Tortola <<< to focus on growing >>> our business <<< and our bank account for the next adventure. What does this mean? It means we are a part of a community. That we have some very regular routines in our lives. We know the lay of the land and go about our day to day like many other families. When you put down "roots" or - in our case - tie yourself to a dock, it doesn't matter how unconventional your home might be, life falls into step in a very - dare I say - "normal" sort of way.


We live in a "neighborhood" - granted, it's floating - but it is still very much a neighborhood. We are part of a wonderful community that we love and rely on. I call upon my neighbors for milk, eggs and the occasional urgent babysitting gig just like you probably do. My girls go to a little school three mornings a week and we wake up, have breakfast, and frantically try to make it out of the door before 9am - usually with me looking like a hot mess and barking orders out like a drill sergeant - just like many moms. I do morning drop-off, get school notices, and participate in school activities like many other stay at home moms. Just like most parents, I relish in the few hours my girls are in school and I use the precious time to run errands like grocery shopping, cleaning, and general house-keeping. Every now and then I'll treat myself to a pedicure and If I'm really lucky, I carve out time to write and edit photos.

My husband goes to work every day, too. It can be stressful, frustrating and a burden that limits us, just like on land. He doesn't commute to an office or wear a suit and tie, but he works very hard and very long hours. Sometimes he is home for dinner, sometimes not. Sometimes he leaves at the crack of dawn to fix a broken boat, and sometimes we get to have breakfast together. Most days he is up until midnight or later on his computer, working. So while the backdrop is pretty and the perks of being our own bosses are many, he'll be the first to tell you that he is very much in the "daily grind", which kind of flies in the face of the whole "living an endless vacation" image.

We adhere to a loose little routine and while the potential for island adventure (boating, beaches, hikes...etc) is always there, a lot of our days I am spending time with the girls doing things they love like playing grocery, coloring and swimming. While Instagram might make our life seem like a never-ending tropic-ation, it is not. The scenery in our photos might look a bit different than yours, but I'm doing the same thing as many other stay at home moms, namely: taking my kids outside to play and burn off some energy while trying to keep my shit together. Some families go to children's museums or parks, we go to the beach. We see local children's theater (much more rudimentary than home, but still), birthday parties, and school sponsored events. Packing my three girls and whatever gear we need to 'x' activity into the car is just as big of a pain in the ass here as it is on land. Sigh.

Despite the fact that I lean toward the "un-busy" life with kids (go ahead, call me lazy but there is also some reasoning here) we go to dance classes, play dates and tennis lessons. I have a car to get me to and fro and maybe like yours, mine is a total disaster area of dried up food, random toys, sticky wrappers and crumpled up papers. We have a television and while we hugely limit tv time and have banned iPads for our kids, we watch cartoons and movies. Our boat looks like a toy store vomited when our girls are in full-blown play mode and I have to harp at them to clean it up. We do crafts and go to the park. I make dinner while my girls play in our 'living room', we try to eat as a family as much as we can. We get the girls ready for bed, brush their teeth, read them books and tuck them in. Each day of our life, with some variation here and there, has some predicability. Normalcy.

My point? While the keywords of our life, namely: sailboat, tropics... rightfully elicits thoughts of an exotic existence, of which there are definitely elements - there are also many attributes of our life that are normal, mundane and - well - just. plain. life.


There are, however, glaring differences between our life and a more traditional one. For starters, >>> we are expatriates <<< which means that we are visitors here and, technically, could be booted out on a moment's notice which is slightly unnerving. As Americans, we are also in the minority on our rock; both in terms of skin color and culture. Every day our girls see and interact with a whole host of nationalities, accents, and languages. Our girls understand Rastafarianism and can tell you that it's a religion, that they wear dreadlocks and that most are strict vegetarians. When Isla first started school and told me about her best friend, Danya, I wasn't sure who she was. "Which one is Danya?" I asked her. "Danya is the one with the curly hair" she said very matter of factly. I still had no idea who that was. Turns out, Danya is black. Never once did Isla mention that as something that set her apart, and still hasn't six months later.

As expatriates, we are also prone to >>> bureaucratic adventures <<< that citizens do not have to deal with. We wait in lines in customs, we sit for hours on end at the immigration office, and every year we need to ask for permission to stay here and have a multitude of forms stamped, signed and filled out (just so) to make it happen. Combined, it is a tremendous amount of time spent waiting and it can get very frustrating, but it's a small price to pay for the privilege of calling this place home. Island time is for real and the pace of life is S-L-O-W, not much gets done in a hurry here. If you are impatient, >>> island life probably would not be for you <<<.

As for our home, well >>> ours can move <<<, which is unique and pretty cool. At a moment's notice - work and weather permitting - we can untie the lines from our dock and set sail to a whole host of places. Normal Island is just 45 minutes, Virgin Gorda four hours, we can be in St. John in just over an hour, St. Thomas in two hours, Culebra (Puerto Rico) in a full day, and St. Maarten (Dutch West Indies) is an overnight away. And that's just a few of our options! Island life is best enjoyed from the water and we are very lucky to have a front row seat.

Our boat is very comfortable and homey, but compared to most homes it is most definitely "tiny". While I find the benefits of living smaller massive (less stuff, easy to clean, close sisterly bond, more time in nature...etc), it is very different from a home. We have no garage, no back yard, and space is always a compromise. We will never host a big birthday bash or large dinner party in our 'house' because there's simply not the room for it. Our girls have fewer toys and less indoor space than their peers and as a result, we are off the boat and running around outside most of the time. I would say our girls spend an average of at least four unstructured hours outside in nature per day. Squirrels are replaced with chickens, our "yard' is the beach, and we spend a lot of time in the water. Our girls have held starfish, collected conch shells, and seen an octopus in the wild.

Life on our rock is also a lot less convenient than life back home. We don't have any big box stores and from time to time the produce ship doesn't come in leaving or grocery stores barren. Options for just about everything you can imagine from clothing to household good to foodstuff are not only limited, but much more expensive than back home (I can pay $10 for a carton of strawberries). Choices for everything are fewer and it all requires a little more effort to get. Amazon prime doesn't deliver here and receiving mail and/or packages is costly and timely. Forget the instant gratification from hitting the "buy" button, we have to buy and then either wait for a ship to come in or a visitor to act as a sherpa for goodies. Basically, everything on an island takes more time. A lot more time.

Speeeeeaking of time, we have more of it. Life is a bit less rushed. There is less to do. Fewer directions to be pulled. When I go home it takes weeks and weeks to get together with all of my girlfriends. Here? Planning a get together is pretty easy because, frankly, most of us are available. Life on our rock is like living in a very small town....surrounded by water ;)

So while our life has some very obvious differences to a family that has taken a more traditional route, we also share some similarities. Our days aren't always exciting and full of fun and adventure. Some are normal days devoid of beautiful, beachy pictures and Insta-worthy moments. Some, of course, are moments that dreams are made of. For the most part, however, we live somewhere comfortably in the middle.
This is a view we are treated to pretty regularly, but in a lot of other ways, our life might look like yours.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beach, Please: On Playing Goldilocks, Island Style

It never ceases to amaze me how far away we can feel from it all on this island. Despite being a pretty primo travel destination with hundreds of thousands of people flocking here every year, the island remains deceivingly underdeveloped. We are big enough to get a decent haircut or a meal, but not too big that our streets are lined with big box stores or restaurant chains. This delicate balance of maintaining island "authenticity" and halting over-development is something that is pretty unique to the British Virgin Islands and is largely >>> why we chose this island <<< to settle on. Case in point: we can venture to to any number of absolutely pristine beaches - I'm talking jaw-droppingly beautiful shorelines that are the stuff magazine ads are made of - and more often than not we will find ourselves alone or with no more than a few others on a massive stretch of sand. No need to stake out a spot, pay for an umbrella and put down your blanket. The threat of anyone stealing your valuables while you swim is slim to none. And, no, you will not hear the Macarena blasting over a large speaker here... It's just you, me, and the sea, baby...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Just Do It: Saying "Yes" and Breaking out of the Comfort Zone

What do you get when ten women writers who live on different rocks, are total strangers, and have vastly different life stories become roommates in a villa in the middle of Old San Juan? An estrogen-charged "Real World" but with more mature characters who use big words, that's what!

Okay, just kidding. What you get is magic. Pure. Friggin'. Magic.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mobile Home For the Win: Life on a Boat

When you have young kids in tow, travel can be tricky. Throw in a set of three year old twins who have no shortage of "spunk" and are a healthy dose of "feral", and it gets even tricker. Simply >>>flying back to my mom's<<< stateside with my three creates an angst in me of epic proportions, and despite living a slightly more "simplified" life than most landlubbers, we still end up with heap tons of crap. And this here is probably the number one reason I love living on a boat: We can travel in our home. All that crap comes with us.

Granted, it still can be challenging to travel with tots on a boat (I mean, it's a boat), but it's still our home and, well, it certainly doesn't get much easier than that as far as travel prep goes. No packing lists necessary. No worrying about forgetting lovies, sound machines or the special "baby socks" that for some unknown reason must be worn every. single. day. No need to try and pare down the absolute essentials of our lives in duffle bags and backpacks, or pack the perfect spectrum of snacks that can be both nourishing and still used as effective bribing tools. We just untie the lines and go. Everything we could ever want or need is right here in our very own floating home. #mobilehomeFTW

There are negatives, of course. Boats are kind of bitchy at times. They are money pits. They can be confining and cluttered. They break a lot, yadda yadda yadda... Then there are the personal constraints: we are not able to travel very far at the moment, nor do we travel very fast, or very much for that matter...this is dictated by choice, of course...our current situation as >>>business owners<<< and parents of three small children keeps us tethered close but no matter what, the potential is there and that alone provides a wellspring for possibility. So while the trips to Europe, Africa and South East Asia that I am scheming in my head will have to wait, it's perfectly okay because we don't need to go very far from our slip to feel worlds away. Being situated here in the >>>British Virgin Islands<<< means we are literally surrounded by amazing places to explore in every single direction. Some are a day or two away, some no more than an hour. 

This past weekend our neighbors (fellow live-aboards) asked if we wanted to sail over to Peter Island with them. My plan for the afternoon had been to do a massive purge of kids' clothes and toys (I am forever tweaking, minimizing, and organizing over here)...so when Scott broached the subject of a daysail with me; a night at anchor sounded much, much better. Within a few moments we were off the dock and underway. Yep, it was that quick and simple. Just untie the lines, raise the sails, and set our home free.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Mother's Day Mini-Vacation in Maho Bay and a Nostalgic Awakening

"What do you want for mother's day?" Scott asked me while looking up from his computer. I was making breakfast, the girls were being their usual boisterous selves, and it took me about .02 seconds to reply, "Go to St. John for a night and have brunch in Cruz Bay!" St. John, while part of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), is a short sail from where we are, and with the blissful haze of our last >>>quick getaway<<< fresh on my mind I was thirsty for more...so thirsty, apparently, that one night away turned into four...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Getting off the Dock: A Recharge, a Refresher and a Water Commute to School

We have had our boat since December and have sailed her only once. Pretty pathetic, right? Thing is, >>>running a business<<< in the islands is a >>>heck of a lot of work<<< (even though the job comes with lots of perks!) and the months have been slipping past. With Scott managing >>>our company<<< and me managing our kids and home life, time flies by with zero effort and no lag. It's been go, go, go around here and we've had one heck of a busy high season with lots of fun stuff in the mix - but one thing we haven't been doing? Sailing.

That had to change...

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