Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baby, Baby From the Sea...

So, I have mentioned the awesomeness of my sister before, right?  Well - here is her latest stroke of genius in the form of a poem she wrote for our little baby last night.  I think it's brilliant.  Look out folks, she is the female Shel Silverstein (with a hint of Dr. Seuss)!  This baby is soooo lucky to have an auntie like her.

Baby baby from the sea,
I cannot wait to meet you
And though you’ll swim among the fish
Dry land is where I'll greet you

You curl and croon in your watery bed
With no haste to wake up
You’re warm in there and quite well fed
Your eyes are tightly shut

But baby baby from the sea
Id love to see your face
And hold your tiny hand in mine
And share my sweet embrace

I think of what you’ll look like
When you make your great debut
With tight blond curls or maybe brown
And eyes two oceans blue

See baby baby from the sea
I wonder of you often
And think of who you’ll grow to be
Knowing well that I’ll be smitten

So brave you’ve made it on that sea
9 months within your arbor
dizzy with curiosity
as you make your way to harbor

so baby baby from the sea
just know that when you’re ready
you have the love of family
to get those sea legs steady

by Chelsea Stephen

41 weeks today and no sign of baby - but she is happy, healthy, and mama feels fantastic so we'll just wait!  Tick, tock, tick tock...

Brittany & Scott

Friday, March 23, 2012


“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.”
~Albert Schweitzer~

Happy Friday to everyone!...nope, still no baby yet.  Don't rely on a lack of a blog post to indicate the arrival of our little sailor!  If you want to stay in touch, get real-time updates and see more 'baby belly' pictures, please join us over on Facebook where we are posting daily.  That is where we'll make the first announcements, post the first pictures and reveal the name of our baby girl!

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's D-Day

Belly love at 39 weeks!
Well, today is our "official" due date....however we are well aware that babies come on their own sweet time.  She might still be 10 days away for all we know!  The fact that this lil' sea monkey spent just about her entire life in utero in the Caribbean might just mean she is on "island time".  We're okay with that.  I've got plenty of things to keep me busy and while I stopped jogging last week, I've taking up walking 5 1/2 miles a day to keep fit and help gravity do it's thing.  We shall see!

A gift for our baby from some very dear friends!
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sharing the Dream: Do You Have What it Takes?

This morning I awoke at, not because of labor, just because.  I'm chalking it up to "pregnancy induced insomnia".  Instead of just laying in bed blinking into the darkness and waking up Scott, I decided to use the time to get back to a few blog followers who had taken the time to write incredibly heartfelt and inspiring letters of thanks to us.  Reading their thoughtful notes and stories got me to thinking how utterly cool it is that we get to share our dreams with (and in turn inspire) each other, because it goes both ways you know!

In addition, this past weekend Scott and I got to meet up with a young couple who follow our blog and are on their way to turning their dream of living aboard and cruising the world into a reality.  It was so great to talk with them and see the excitement on their faces, hear the anticipation in their voices, listen to their "plan" and offer them our support (and solicited advice).  This encounter coupled with the emails I mentioned got me to thinking about dreams and making dreams come true.  All these people had something in common: they are making their dreams come true.  But why?  What makes them the types of people that will take a leap of faith?  What sets them apart from so many others who just don't seem to have what it takes?  Scott and I hear from and meet a lot of people that say they want to do what we are doing, but many never will.  This is a fact.  I'm not trying to be negative but statistically speaking, more people talk the talk than walk the walk, that's just life.  These three couples are different.  I can feel it.  They will fulfill their dreams, but why?

Here's what I think sets apart the dreamers who dream from the dreamers that do:

  1. They are young.  This does not mean that older people are doomed - not at all.  In fact, most of our cruising friends are aged 60 and older, our age bracket is in the vast minority which is proof positive that living a dream isn't age related.  But these particular couples are young and hungry.  They have not been over-burdened with responsibility and have the energy to attack their dreams with vigor.  They've all enjoyed a moderate level of success in their lives and they have learned that it doesn't make them "happy".  They are of the generation that doesn't mind change. Our generation has seen the economic bubble burst and we watched with mouths agape as relatives and loved ones who spent their lives working for "the man" got screwed.  Sure, older generations might call us spoiled and privileged (because let's face it, comparatively speaking, we are) - it doesn't mean we're stupid.  We watched and we learned.   Life isn't about stockpiling away for later, life is about RIGHT NOW. 
  2. They are not afraid to leave their jobs.  This is a big one and it sure is a luxury.  Each of these couples have made good livings up until now and they have learned that life is not about driving around the latest BMW and upgrading the kitchen counter tops to granite.  They don't find satisfaction in those things and they have learned that they don't need to "keep up with the Jones'" to be happy.  In fact, they all want to get the heck out of the way of those pesky Jones'.  Good riddance!  They know that no change is permanent and that it's far better to regret what you did than what you did not.
  3. They truly understand and believe that "less is more".  A lot of people can get behind this mantra in theory, but it becomes more challenging in practice.  I am the perfect example! On the boat I can be a minimalist (because I don't have a choice), but get me back stateside and I have to restrain myself from getting caught up in our "more, more, more" culture.  Despite being in different stages of planning, all of these couples took immediate steps to downsize, de-clutter and truly simplify their lives.  Times are changing and people are starting to wake up to the idea that a life well lived is not measured by 'stuff' but by experiences.
  4. They've Invested in their Dreams.  All three of these couples have sailboats.  They don't have their full time cruising boats yet, but they bought small day sailers to "get their feet wet" so to speak...and they USE them (this is key!  Lots of people have boats they never use).  Two of the couples bought simple boats under 25 feet for less than $2K to bang around in and get started.  One couple doesn't even know how to sail yet, but they're figuring it out and fast.  There is no better way to learn than to dive in head first and start tinkering around.  And no better way to do it than on a boat that cost a thousand bucks.  No harm, no foul.  The sailing part is simple, it's the dreaming bit that is hard for so many.  The fact that each of these couples have made investments in their cruising dreams shows major commitment and dreams need commitment to come true!
  5. They are a team.  All three of these couples are teams in the truest sense.  Not only do they have deep love and respect for each other, but each individual is on board with their respective "plans".  Like I mentioned in an earlier post, this type of unity and partnership makes the transition from land to sea much easier and makes life once you are out there MUCH more pleasant.
  6. They have can-do attitudes.  It is a LOT easier to make excuses as to why a dream "can't" happen.    I have heard a million excuses as to why people aren't living the lives they want to.  Some are ridiculous, some are legit.  If you expect to live your dream without making sacrifices, you are in for an unpleasant surprise.  Perhaps you'll have to give up that nice salary or the "prestige" from your esteemed career; you might not be able to spend as much time with family and friends and you might have to deal with the social flack that (sometimes) comes with going against the grain.  Are you okay with that?  These particular folks don't care.  None of them mentioned a single excuse when outlining their plans for us.  They are realistic about what lies ahead - the good, the bad and the ugly - and they see any road blocks in their way as opportunities to gain knowledge, and momentum instead of reasons to stop and turn around.  This "attitude" cannot be taught, but it is essential in making a dream come true whether it be starting a business or sailing around the world.
  7. They don't care what anyone else says.  There are plenty of people out there who want to squash your dream.  Some will do it intentionally out of jealousy, some will unknowingly do it out of care or concern for you.  Either way, you will hear a lot of reasons why you are crazy/insane/irresponsible/nuts.  Trust us - we hear it every single day from people who simply cannot believe we are moving back to our boat with a 6 month old.  Most people's intentions are not bad - they just cannot think outside the box.  It's human nature to see the world from our own individual vantage points and if you are doing something that someone else simply doesn't get, they're probably going to try and make you question it.  The couples I am talking about know this, deal with it and move along.  Some naysayers will come around with time, some never will - but what matters is that you don't let them change your mind.
  8. They have passion.  Passion is defined as "strong and barely controllable emotion".  You've either got it, or you don't.  Passion is a trait that is definitely found unanimously among the "doers" of the world.  If you yourself are not passionate - you should surround yourself with passionate people because passion, while not "teachable" is contagious.  Passionate folks are easy to find; they are determined, articulate and positive, they laugh loud and smile a lot, they talk with animation and excitement and they seem to ignite at the sheer beauty of life.   They are often self-motivated and confident and they are happy.  The doers have passion in spades and believe it or not, it carries them far.
What would you add to the list?  What do you think sets apart those who do from those who don't?

"Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true" 
~ Anonymous

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Days Till She's Due!

Our little sea monkey is "technically" two days away from her due date...Scott is so excited he actually didn't get any sleep last night thinking she was on her way!  Mama is feeling great and staying just as active as ever, walking five miles a day to keep healthy and strong for labor and baby girl.  The weather up here could not be better - in fact, this past week has been downright hot (in the mid 80's!) and we've had to bring out the summer clothes two months early!  Life is good and we are happy as can be as we wait for our little sailor girl to make her debut.

Will she be early, late or right on time?  We shall see!!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, March 16, 2012

Neglected Boats

Every anchorage has at least one, usually more...they sit on the water rotting away, usually listing from one side to the other...the waterline is typically black and full of barnacles, the gelcote pitted and bubbling, and rust has overtaken the fittings.  The deck more often than not has been pillaged; halyards removed, sails gone, hardware stripped.  They are sad, decrepit, and lonely.  They are neglected boats.

One of the biggest fallacies to befall cruisers everywhere is the notion that we are all rich.  Like, filthy rich.  While there are definitely cruisers that fit this description, the vast majority do not.  To be completely honest, an anchorage is not unlike a trailer park.  We as cruisers get slightly more credit and respect because of the innate romance of the sea, the reality that we get to "park" in exotic, beautiful locations and the fact that it requires a significant amount of skill and tenacity to get where we are going.  Scott and I have made the comparison more than once, usually when greeted by the toothless grin of an old timer who has become so accustomed to the "laid back" cruising life he considers ill-fitting, threadbare boxer shorts with suspenders "clothes".  The images you see in Tommy Bahama, Polo and Land's End Catalogues do not paint a realistic picture of the average-Joe full-time cruiser and I can honestly say we have never uncorked a single bottle of champagne on our boat*.  Rum? Yes.  Champagne?  Nope.

Neglected boats are proof positive that not all cruisers are bottomless pits of money.  While not all cruisers maintain their boats to "pristine" standards, the neglected boats are often obvious and abandoned.  They always make me wonder - what happened to the owner (death? illness? bankruptcy? divorce?)?  How long as this boat been sitting here (in many cases it is years)?  What must it be like down below? (Water damage, rats, rotting food?).  Boats signify dreams to me and these sad boats are somehow symbolic of a dream gone awry.  At some point someone loved that boat that is slowly falling claim to the wind, sun and sea and for some reason, it has been forgotten and abandoned.  Because these boats are more often than not at anchor (which is free and 'owned' by no one) they will be allowed to sit and rot away year after year after year before they either sink, drag into another boat or someone comes to their rescue... whenever I see these boats I wish I knew their stories...

Brittany & Scott

*I tell a lie!  We did uncork one bottle before we left Chicago at our going away party.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From Dream to Reality: Our Timeline

A lot of people ask us how long it took us to turn our dream into reality...while the beginning stages of this "journey" are well chronicled deep within the bowels of this blog, I figured I'd sum it up for those of you who are planning/dreaming/scheming a similar adventure.

First of all, this life was both of our dreams.  I can't recall for sure, but I'm pretty certain our intentions of living a gypsy life at sea came up during our very first conversation.  I mention this because I think it's important.  Neither of us had to spend any time convincing the other that this is what we should do.  I hear from a lot people (men, mostly) who have been dreaming of a life at sea who's partners are either flat out against it or reluctant participants.  Scott and I lucked out when we found each other and we knew it.  Almost the instant we got together in August of 2007, this plan of "sailing around the world" was hatched and steps were taken to turn this dream into a reality.

The first year was spent talking about the plan, mostly.  After all - we were in a new relationship and while we both had the underlying feeling that we were in it for the long haul, we took it slow.  Things didn't really get kicked into high gear until mid-2008 when we got really serious about each other and this "plan" of ours and started looking for boats.  This is usually an incredibly exciting and equally daunting part of the process for wannabe cruisers.  Many people spend years looking for the "right" boat - fortunately for us, we didn't have that much time.  We opted to look for boats in our immediate area (namely, the Great Lakes) so that we didn't have to spend time or money flying from coast to coast looking for a boat.  Surely there had to be something in our neck of the woods, right?  They say the first boat you buy is the easiest because you don't know what want and what to look for and we found this to be true.  Blissful ignorance!  I did a lot of online research and poured through piles of sailing books and magazines and the picture became a little more clear for us when Scott and I came up with a very specific list of things we thought we wanted in our future boat.  That list, combined with the fact that we had both a location and a budget to further define our parameters helped narrow our search considerably.

I started looking online for boats in late 2008 and we found our Rasmus in the beginning May of 2009 and she was surveyed by the end of that same month.  We bought her in June and sailed her to Chicago in July.  That's about a seven month turn around which, from what I've gathered from other cruiser's, is pretty dang fast.  Again - Scott and I lucked out.  The stars were aligned and, despite being totally green in the whole "boat buying" thing, we found ourselves a fantastic cruising boat.

Once we bought our boat in July of 2009 we knew there was no turning back.  We set a 'tentative' departure date of August 2010 to shove off via the Erie Canal and started making lists.  Lots and lots of lists;  what needed to be replaced, what needed to be fixed, books we needed to read, items we needed to get...  Our life was (and still is) measured by project lists that seem to grow and shrink daily with the Dow Jones.  We had just over a year to prepare our boat for hard-core live-aboard cruising and we had a lot to do.  We didn't do much (if any) real work on her that summer, and that winter we hauled her out and started work.  I'm not going to break down everything we did, as that is all documented on our refit page but suffice it to say we did a LOT.

Because getting out of dodge sooner rather than later was our #1 priority, we opted to hire out help to refit our boat in order to save time.  While DIY'ing is fantastic (we actually did a lot of this as well), it will take you a lot longer to get to the starting line especially if you are learning as you go.   We enlisted the expertise of C&E Marine Group to help us with our boat electronics and we hired Rentner Marine to install our new Yanmar engine as well as install our new Edson chain and cable steering.  These were probably two of the smartest decisions we made.  Both of these companies proved worth their weight in GOLD and not only did they do incredible work to our boat, we learned a TON working alongside them.  To this day we call and talk to them if we have questions or need advice and, after working together for nearly a year, are happy to call them our friends.

Our boat was "splashed" in July where Scott and I continued to work on her just about every spare hour we had.  Oh yeah, we also got married.  I quit my job in August to work on the boat full time and Scott followed suit in early September.  We worked on Rasmus like crazy having passed our August deadline and set a new one.  We knew we had to leave by the end of September or else we would have been forced to take the Mississippi River down south - something we both did not want to do.  We were burning the midnight oil working from 8am till after midnight most days in a desperate attempt to beat the clock.

On September 28th, 2010 - Scott and I left the dock for the last time, and have sailed over 5,000 nautical miles since.

So, while both Scott and I had been dreaming of sailing around the world since our early teens, we really went from "dream to reality" in under three years.  Not too shabby!

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turtles of Bequia

If you ever find yourself on the delightful little Caribbean island of Bequia, you must make the side trip to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.  Founded in 1995 by skin diving fisherman Orton King - the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary has but one goal:  to conserve the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle.

Under threat from hunting for it's meat, eggs and exquisite shell - hawksbill turtle populations worldwide are dwindling at an alarming rate.  Enter Orton "Brother" King.  Mr. King's journey to conservation began modestly by collecting a few small hatchlings and attempting to rear them in a plastic tub.  Since those successful humble beginnings, he has released over 2,000 turtles back into the ocean.

The turtle sanctuary now has it's own free-standing building with about fifteen salt water ponds inside.  "Brother" King collects and rears the sea turtles during the most vulnerable years of their live (0-3) and for the first six months, feeds them a diet of canned tuna fish before graduating to small fish.  When the turtles mature to about three years of age, he marks them by drilling a small hole in the back of their shell, and releases them back into the wild.  Divers and snorkelers throughout the Grenadines have spotted King's turtles, proof positive his efforts are not in vain.
Orton King (pictured in Red) explaining his efforts to a couple turtle enthusiasts.
Some facts about the Hawksbill Turtle:

  • Hawksbill turtles are "smaller" than most sea turtles.  Their shells reach 45 inches and their maximum weight is about 150 pounds.
  • They are found in tropical waters throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • They are normally found near healthy reefs as opposed to deep, vast ocean stretches.
  • Hawksbill's are omnivorous and feed on sponges, small fish, marine algea, mollusks, jellyfish and crustaceans.
  • While their hard shells protect them from most predators, they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, octopus and humans.  Human impact is currently their greatest threat.
  • Like other turtles, Hawksbills make incredible oceanic migrations travelling thousands of miles each year.  It is believed they use the earth's magnetic pull to navigate the world's oceans.
  • While they breathe air, they can spend hours underwater at a time.
  • Adult females return to land to lay their eggs, most of the time they return to the very same beach they were hatched from.
  • The average life span of the hawksbill sea turtle is 30-50 years.
A 'salt pond' which is housing a few dozen baby hawksbill's.
A nearly mature Hawksbill, this one liked her neck rubbed.
Sea turtles are magnificent creatures and, like their friends the dolphin, they bring instant joy to anyone who is able to see them in the wild.  If you find yourself in Bequia, be sure to make a quick stop a the Old Hegg Turtle sanctuary and help support these incredible creature's survival in the world's oceans. 

Brittany & Scott

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as the sunny spring day. 
~ W. Earl Hall

It's official.  Spring has sprung up here!  "Unseasonably mild" has been the name of the game this entire winter and Scott and I have experienced but one little snow storm since we've been home in February. It has been...lovely.  The sun has been shining, temperatures have been in the 60's and I for one am grateful.  

I don't think there is a more invigorating time than spring.  People everywhere seem to let out a collective sigh of relief as they fling open their windows, open their front doors and stretch out their weary limbs in the spring day sun.  Smiles are bigger, eyes are brighter, friendly greetings are offered just a little more readily... Every day brings a new sprout, a new flower, a visual change in the life.  It's a time of awakening, of renewal, of hope and of growth.  This particular spring is extra special to us because it is bringing with it the best gift of all; our baby.  Our little springtime sailor girl is officially less than 10 days away from her due date.  In the meantime, it's business as usual as we wait patiently (and excitedly!) for when she's good and ready to join us on the outside.

Brittany & Scott

Friday, March 09, 2012

It's a Cruising World

We love Cruising World Magazine and truly think it's the best cruising publication out there today...

Sure, they feature us in their blog section which is a total honor (and makes me giddy) - but we've been touting that mag since long before we started working with them.  I still get a little awe struck when I see our posts on their site or when they feature us by name, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw our post on "You Might be a Full-Time Cruiser If..." featured in their latest newsletter:

If you are a voyager and can't get publications or if you simply want test drive the magazine - CW Reckonings is a great way to try it out and have access to great articles, resources and information for the cruising sailor who doesn't have a mailing address.  If you'd like to receive the dispatches, you can sign up here.

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Planning Ahead

We've been getting a lot of emails lately about our 'plans'...
It seems our shore-side sabbatical has led some of you to wonder if we're actually going back to our boat so instead of typing this out a bunch of times in separate emails, I figured I'd turn to the blog...

The short answer to your question is yes, we are definitely returning to our boat!

One of the wonderful things about being a young couple with no debt and no land-locked responsibilities (like a mortgage or 'careers') means we are free to dream and roam as we please.  This simple fact allows our minds to wander freely and Scott and I have spent many a night wondering about the places we want to cruise and where we're going to end up in the "future".  Some scenarios have us opening a sandwich shop in some sleepy little harbor town, some have us starting a little marina/hostel for fellow travelers and cruisers on some beautiful off-the-beaten-path island, others have us coming home and spending half the year cruising and the other half living near family and friends and others still revolve around sailing and starting a seasonal charter business from our own boat.  All of these are just ideas we roll around in our heads - after all, dreaming and scheming are two of the things we do best...

Anyway - as for our "short term" plans, we do have them.  For now, we are going to stay here in the Chicagoland area until September.  We are living with my wonderful parents and saving money - Scott has gotten a temporary "real" engineering job and is actually enjoying using and sharpening his Solidworks skills.  He's heading back down to Grenada in July for five weeks to captain Diamant and then he'll return to me and our little girl and we'll start gearing up to head back to the boat.

On September 15th we will return to Trinidad and to Rasmus to begin prepping her for another cruising season.  My mom and dad are going to come with us to help out - my mom will help me with the baby, and my dad will help Scott prep the boat.  We have a few projects we'd like to tackle but the main stuff will be to paint the bottom and perhaps beef up our solar/wind power.  Once our "to-do" list is complete we'll be ready to cruise again in November or thereabouts.

We plan to spend next season (November '12-June '13) cruising the Windwards and Leewards again, probably going no further north than St. Maarten, and then taking our sweet time hitting all the islands we missed on our way down.  Staying in the Caribbean will allow us to cruise comfortably with our daughter (no need to do long, overnights if we don't have/want to) and will allow us to be near Grenada where Scott will have to go for his one or two rotations next season as a Captain for Island Windjammers.

From there - we're not 100% sure, but we're really, really liking the idea of the San Blas Islands of Panama.  We're not fans of sitting in one location for months and months through another hurricane season and the San Blas Islands offer year-round cruising and are touted as some of the most untouched and beautiful islands in the ocean.  From there we will be in prime location to go through the Panama Canal or we might spend a few years simply circumnavigating the Caribbean and hitting up Cuba, Jamaica and the Caymans (we do plan on having more children - Scott has actually made a timeline for us with prospective "dates" - so more bambinos will certainly effect our plans as well!).

The only other thing that might effect these plans is the fact that we are currently "kicking tires" and looking for a larger boat.  We are currently in talks with an owner in Central America with a boat that would be a great fit for us and would allow us plenty of room to grow as a family while still offering us the comfort and stability we are used to in our little beauty.  What makes this even more cool is the fact that they, in turn, are interested in our boat so this could be a win/win situation.  It's still very early, but if this does work out - obviously these plans will change.  We're not going to disclose any more about this - but rest assured, we'll keep you posted as things develop.

So there you have it!  Our "plans" as they are now...while they are (always) subject to change - rest assured, the ocean hasn't seen the last of us!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Ways Cruising Can Prepare you for Parenthood

It's no big secret that Scott and I are going to be adding to our crew of two in the next couple of weeks (due date is March 21st) and I have been doing my due diligence to "prepare" for parenthood by reading TONS of books and websites on everything from natural child birth to sleep scheduling, from organic baby food making to cloth diapering and just about everything in between.  Before you shake your head and chuckle as you tell me "You have no idea what you are in for" and "No book will prepare for parenthood" and all that good stuff, please know I am aware of that.  If I had a nickel for each time someone told me either of those two things I would be well on my way to retirement...

All my life I have used books (and more recently, websites and blogs) as a way to educate myself and set realistic expectations for what might lie ahead.  When I moved to Africa, for example, I read a TON about life in East Africa, both novels and autobiographies alike and when I got there - it was exactly as I had expected and more.  I was prepared for the awe-dropping beauty, the hugeness of the sky, the bohemian expats, the heartbreaking poverty, the freedom of mind and soul, and the complexity of life as a minority foreigner.  Of course there was a learning curve, but I had painted a very realistic picture of what my life would look like before I went, and while that picture became more focused, crisp and clear as my life unfolded there, it was a pretty good start.  The same holds true with our sailing journey.  Before we left I read tons of books, magazines and websites devoted to world cruising and again, while the picture has been adjusted, tweaked and enhanced,  I feel my research helped me to formulate a very realistic picture of what life would be like.

While I did write a semi-prophetic post about what babies and boats have in common a long while back - here's a slightly different take.  Here are the

Top 10 ways that (I think) Cruising Can Prepare You for Parenthood:
  1. Patience is a virtue.  Life at sea can be trying, to say the least.  Things break, weather doesn't cooperate, and "island time" is no joke.  Cruising takes a tremendous amount of patience and, from what we read and are told, so does parenthood. 
  2. Flexibility is incredibly important. We can all finish the quote "The best laid plans..." and nothing is more true when living on a boat.  Scott and I didn't even know we were going to spend last hurricane season in Grenada until about two months before we got there.  Sometimes, despite wanting to meet up with friends at point "A", it might behove you to adjust your sails and go to point "B" instead.  The ability to change tacks - both literally and metaphorically - will make your life at sea much more pleasant.  We think the same probably holds true for parenthood.
  3. Use good judgement and know that what's best for someone else might not be what's best for you.  When we were outfitting our boat, we got a LOT of unsolicited advice from people who had very strong opinions about what we needed and what we didn't.  While we appreciated the insight of others, we took some advice and left some on the sidelines.  If we had listened to everyone, we would still be at the dock.  If you are planning to go cruising, follow your gut and know that what worked for someone might not work for you.  We are getting lots of advice these days on everything from birth to college planning and it feels very similar to when we were prepping to leave with our boat.  Plenty of people are completely shocked by the fact that we are going to raise our baby on a boat and have very strong opinions on what we "should" do.  That's okay.  It's not for them...but it is for us.
  4. Have clear-cut goals and objectives.  While it is very important to be flexible with your cruising plans, it is equally important to have plans to be flexible with.  Do you want to sail around the world?  Circumnavigate the Caribbean?  Island hop for a few months in the Bahamas?  Cruise the San Juans?  Knowing where you want to go will hugely effect how you outfit for your journey because each of those above scenarios require different levels of preparation.  While your plans might change in the middle - it's important to have a direction to head in first.  Scott and I have talked extensively about what kind of parents we want to be, and we think this will help us navigate these new waters.
  5. Be willing to make sacrifices.  If you want to leave your land life behind and lead the life aquatic be prepared to make a LOT of sacrifices.  I know I talk about it all the time, but there is a definite yin and yang to life and it doesn't stop at the seashore.  That paradisiacal backdrop comes with a price - and you need to be willing to give up certain things (they are different for everyone) if you want it.  We understand that our life is going to need some adjusting the minute our little girl makes her debut and we're 100% okay with that.
  6. You must work as a team.  One thing that every single person who cruises with Scott and I say is how great of a team we are.  It's funny because we don't really notice how well we work together because it's so effortless for us.  Where I am weak, he is strong and visa versa so there is a very natural balance between us.  While teamwork is essential for a successful cruising relationship, we're guessing there is no place where teamwork is more important than in parenthood.
  7. What you put in, is what you'll get out.  Scott and I put a lot of TLC into our boat.   We LOVE our boat.  We spent over a year outfitting her and we are very diligent about maintaining and fixing her systems.  Not a week goes by without someone commenting on how beautiful she is and how well she is cared for.  This doesn't just "happen" - you have to work to make your boat great.  It's up to you to keep your boat in pristine shape and performing well.  Without your care and attention, your boat will quickly fall into disrepair and it can potentially make your life very, very difficult.  The effects of neglect in any given area might not be apparent right away, but rest assured - they will show up and torture you.  Just like a teen in high school with daddy issues.
  8. Communication is key.  When you are living on a small boat twenty-four hours a day seven days a week with another person, it can get...intense.  I know a lot of couples who simple could not do it.  Communication is essential to a couple who is cruising and we have heard many stories of happy couples that became very un-happy couples while at sea because of communication breakdowns.  You must listen to each other's fears, expectations, desires and wishes to make sure you remain on the same page.  From what we're hearing from the trenches, parenthood requires the same.
  9. Know that mistakes will be made, and that is okay.  Nobody is perfect.  We all do the best we can with what we've got.  Scott and I made a LOT of mistakes in the beginning, luckily they have started to taper off as we become more experienced but rest assured - there are still plenty of mistakes to be made!  We learn from mistakes.  We should be grateful for them.  It is inevitable that we're going to screw up from time to time in this whole child-rearing thing, and we accept that.
  10. It's all about LOVE.  If you want to live on a boat - you've gotta love it.  Period.  You cannot go into a life at sea half-assed because it just won't work.  If you don't love cruising and you are not 100% committed, you will find yourself disillusioned and disappointed.  It is not an easy life, it's a ton of work, there will be a lot of surprises and you will make a lot of sacrifices but if love is your main motivator - it's going to be the most rewarding thing you'll do.  Lot's of people say the same about parenthood.
So there you have it.  While I understand our lives are in for the biggest paradigm shift EVER, I think that having thrived through one huge metamorphosis already, we'll navigate and flourish through this one as well.  We cannot wait for the adventures to continue!

Brittany & Scott 

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Big Bellied Woman...

"A ship under sail and a big bellied woman are the handsomest two things that can be seen common"
~ Ben Franklin ~

It is insane how excited we are to meet our little sailor-girl.  She should be making her entrance into this beautiful world any time this month...


Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Cruiser's Net

A sense of community is something that most people on both land and sea strive for...The feeling of belonging to something larger than ourselves is a natural desire that drives many of us.  After all, we are social creatures and the instinct to group together is as basic as the good ole "fight or flight" response.  On land, this desire manifests itself in things like organized religion, political factions, book clubs, yoga organizations, and ethnic groups (to name a few).  At sea, the most obvious manifestation of this basic human need is (drum roll please...) the Cruiser's Net.

We first came across a Cruiser's Net in the floating utopia that is Georgetown, Bahamas.  We had never heard of such a thing before but when our friend's told us to tune in, we did.  As many of you may (or may not) know - the primary form of communication for people who live on boats is their VHF radio.  A "net" refers to any marine radio "program" that has a predetermined time and channel to which anyone in range can tune in.  It is much like a radio show, however in addition to simply listening you can actively participate by making announcements, asking questions, offering goods and services or introducing yourself.  While there are "nets" that connect boats while underway crossing oceans, most are all held in port at anchorages and harbors.  They are all over the world and can range in size from large (with a hundred or more participants) or small (less than twenty).  Some of these "nets" are incredibly organized and regimented with designated announcers and protocol, while others are loose, casual and more ad hoc.  They can last anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour and cover a litany of topics.  Usually, your cruising guide will tip you off to a local net if it's a large one, but if not - you can always ask a fellow cruiser if a "net" exists and what days/time it does so.

The net in Georgetown, Bahamas, for example, was one of the very large and organized nets and was run by a fellow who went by the zany moniker "Rockin' Ron".  Every morning at 7:00 am (I *think*, don't quote me on that) you could tune in to channel 68 and hear the announcements of the day, complete with slightly exaggerated and often amusing radio voices.  While not all nets are daily and as organized as this, most cover several categories: 
  • New arrivals - this is where new arrivals to the anchorage announce themselves by saying something like "Hi, we're Brittany and Scott of Rasmus".  For many this is a great section because it's how you know if friends on boats you know or have heard of through the grapevine (or the internet, such as via a blog) and wanted to connect with have arrived. 
  • Weather - this is usually done by a designated person who is either an amateur meteorologist or someone who will relay what they hear from a professional meteorologist like Chris Parker.  While we have found that relying solely on the weather from a cruiser's net is not advisable, it's still a nice service and good to cross check with whatever weather source you use.
  • General announcements - these include announcements for things like organized bus trips to grocery stores and yacht chandleries, social outings, card games, hikes, pot-locks, dog shows (yes, there was a dog show when we were in Georgetown!) and more...
  • Goods/services to trade or needed items - while I should mention it is illegal to sell any goods or services from your boat without proper documentation and duty paid (though many do in a "hush hush" manner), it is legal to trade.  People offer everything from haircuts to charts to boat parts.  This is how we found a replacement dinghy and motor for the one we lost and it is also where we announced (in Trinidad) that we had food to give away and thankfully gave it all to a cruiser in need who had tuned in.  You can also announce here if you are in need of something and see if anyone might have it.
  • Maintenance questions/issues - if you have a question or problem regarding anything "boat" (from your masthead to your keel bolts) this is where you can pose your query and almost always there is someone in the anchorage has experience with your particular problem and will offer to help.
  • Departures - this is where people say their goodbyes and tell where they are going, and sometimes little flotillas can emerge from this section.   
  • Miscellaneous - this is for any straggler announcements or any queries that don't fit into one of the above categories.  Sometimes people will give a riddle, an inspirational quote or relay a hot national or local news story in this category.
About 15 minutes before each net commences, you can tune in to another designated channel and let the controller know if you have something particular to announce or share.  If you miss this because you oversleep due to too much rum the night before (cough, cough) but have something to say, it's easy to chime in while the net is underway.  The host will announce what category he/she is moving to ("...and now onto gggeeeeeeneral announcements..."), make the announcements that he/she knows of and then ask if there is anything else from any other boats.  It is at this point you will get on the radio and say your boat name.  Once the host acknowledges you with a "Go ahead (insert your boat name here)" you are free to say your piece.

It's very important when making an announcement or asking a question to first say your boat name VERY slowly and clearly because this is how people will find you after the net.  When Scott and I would listen, we listened in with a pen and paper and wrote down anything that pertained to us whether it was something we were interested in doing (and the name of the boat organizing it if it required an RSVP) to a part we needed (and, again, the name of the boat who had it).  When the net finishes - the floodgates open and it is at this time that someone will hail you if they have what you are looking for or want what you offered or visa versa.  From there, you change channels and make the necessary arrangements.  All in all, the whole thing is pretty neat.

While Scott and I have admittedly been bad "netters" the past two years and rarely (if ever) participate or chime in, we have decided that next season we're going to make more of an effort to tune in regularly when they are available because they really are a great source of information, resources and - best of all - potential new friends.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Mail at Sea...

As usual, being home has opened up a flood gate of questions for Scott and I from friends, family and strangers alike.  One question we got recently was about mail.  Namely, if and how we get it when we're at sea...

Obviously, when we are living on the boat Scott and I don't have a mailing address.  Before we left Scott and I had our mail forwarded to my parents house.  It should be noted that we receive little to no essential mail so my lovely mother sorts through and throws out the junk and the catalogs -and saves the rest for us.  If it looks important or urgent (i.e. a bill), she will open it and let us know what it is.  She also has access to our bank account so in the rare event that a bill comes to the house (or we get a paycheck which actually does happen!) she can either take out or deposit money as needed (It should be noted that most of the very few bills we get come to us and are paid online).  While this system works well for us, we realize not everyone has a) the luxury of wonderful parents who will accept the (mostly) junk mail from their adult child and her husband, b) might not want to forward their mail to another friend or family member or c) might be a little more 'important' and have more of a need to see their mail/bills more regularly and in a more organized/professional you folks, I introduce: Mail Forwarding Services.

Many cruisers we know enlist the services of a mail forwarding company to assist them with handling their land-based paper trail.  While I have no experience with these companies and cannot suggest a specific one - doing a simple Google search for "Mail forwarding services for cruisers" will get you off to a good start.  Most of these companies will do the following for a monthly fee (anywhere between $30-$40 per month):
  1. Provide you with a land-based 'address' - usually a PO Box which is assigned to only you.
  2. Sort out the obvious "junk" mail and toss it out for you
  3. Scan the envelopes of the "other" mail and put it online where you can log in and see it.  
  4. From there you can select what you would like done with it: toss it, authorize them to open and scan it for you, or physically forward it to you.
Most companies offer additional bells and whistles on an a la carte basis like holding mail for you, shredding mail, bill payment services and more.  If you do need to receive any mail, once you are in port or know you will be somewhere for a little while, oftentimes a marina or chandlery will offer you their address as a "ship-to" location for any mail you would like forwarded.  It should be noted that if the company does need to forward mail for you, it will not come cheap so make sure it's important - you won't be needing that Pottery Barn catalog where you're going!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Wisdom of Dr. Seuss

"You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own and you know what you know.
And you are the one who'll decide where to go." 
~Dr. Seuss

Don't overcomplicate it.  It really can be that simple.

Brittany & Scott
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