Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday to Our Isla

Today our sweet baby Isla turns two.  Can you believe it?  TWO!!  It's incredible how fast this year has flown by.   It seems like yesterday we were on the beach in the Bahamas celebrating her first.   I look at her now, especially in contrast to her itty bitty sisters and she looks so big.  So grown up.  Sometime in the past year she stopped being a baby and turned into a little girl.  I have no idea when it happened but it hit me the other day watching her play with her toys and sing to herself.  She seemed so independent, so...capable.

I absolutely love this age.  If I could bottle her up and keep her like this forever, I would be so tempted to do it.  The cuteness knows no bounds.  Her personality is in full-bloom, she's learning new things every day, talking up a storm, soaking up the world around her like a little sponge and cracking us up on a daily basis.

Isla is joy personified.  Literally. Walking, talking, giggling, cuddling, kissing and loving joy.  She is such a happy little person - I just hope and pray that we can maintain the level of happiness and self-confidence she possesses now for many more years to come.  She loves to laugh with gusto and she is a total sweetheart - so loving, gentle and kind.  What can I say?  She's awesome, and anyone who meets her agrees.  How my love continues to grow for her I have no clue (because is it possible to love her more?!) but it does.  Every day.  Amazing.

We had a little birthday party over the weekend for her.  Her best friend and cousin, Bryn, came over along with my brother and his wife - and we celebrated along with my sister, my mom and my dad.  Simple and perfect.  We decorated in a Minnie Mouse motif and daddy made her a Mickey Mouse birthday cake.  It looked pretty perfect, except when we tasted it we discovered he used vegetable oil that expired in 2009 which, in case you didn't know, makes a cake taste exactly like play-dough.  Whoopsie.  She got a few presents and upon opening each exclaimed "Oh my gosh, I don't believe it!"  Where she got that one we have no clue, but it was pretty hysterical.  We played pin the tail on the donkey, danced to her favorite CD and all in all, it was a pretty awesome second birthday.  She was stoked.

Happy birthday to the light of our lives.  Isla, you are SO loved.  You have no idea.
Turns out you cannot make your cake and eat it too (when it's made with rancid veggie oil)
Lots of laughs with this old classic! 
Isla and her cousin (and best pal) Bryn
Her new tricycle!
Sidewalk Chalk!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Notes from the Twin Trenches: Three Weeks In

Okay, so this whole "twin" thing isn't so bad.  We're finding our groove as a family o' five and I can actually come up for air (and put my boobs away) for periods of time here and there.  We're getting out of the house a bit more (I got my nails done and even got a facial this week!), the girls are sleeping longer stretches at night (three to four hours which, to me, is totally do-able; three hour watches is what we are used to on our boat), and I have not shed a tear of desperation in over a week.  These are all things to celebrate, people.  Of course, because I have actually written the words "finding our groove" everything is going to go haywire again but, whatever, we need to appreciate our victories over here while we can because with three kids, everything can go pear-shaped in an instant.

My two obsessions at the moment are the ERGObaby Performance Baby Carrier with infant insert and the clothing brand Kickee Pants.  I'll go over each to explain*.

We used the Ergo baby carrier with Isla a ton on the boat, it was infinitely more useful and more convenient to us than a stroller.  As most of you know, I started "wearing" the girls in a Moby wrap (which I still love) but I found it slightly impractical for two, not to mention the fact that wearing two babies at once will only be possible for a few more weeks before it renders me a Quasimodo-style hunchback.  So I ordered another Ergo carrier and Scott found a couple infant inserts on craigslist.  Now, we can comfortably and easily wear one baby at a time, or we can wear one baby each at once and still be hands-free to cook, clean or play with Isla.  The Ergo is much easier to get on than the Moby Wrap and the little infant inserts make nice, cozy cocoons to put the babies down in once they are settled and sleeping.  We've been using the heck out of our two carriers.  For us, they are a twin must have.  But again, I am a huge proponent of baby wearing, which you may or may not be.

My other (slightly impractical) obsession is the super soft, super adorable clothing brand Kickee Pants.  One of my best friends turned me onto this clothing line and I love it.  Unfortunately, they are pretty costly because they use only the best materials (eco-friendly bamboo) which result in the softest, coziest and most breathable baby clothes I have ever found.  So far, these are the only newborn outfits that our girls are not completely swimming in.  If you are looking for a sweet baby gift or want to splurge on an outfit or two for your little one - check them out.  I found some deals online and our girls are living in comfy Kickee pants these days.

Aside from breastfeeding twins (which is a considerable time suck...pun intended) I have also been working really hard tweaking the heck our of this blog.  You've probably already noticed the re-design, but I'd also like to invite you all to check out our new "pages" as well because I left no stone unturned in this design process.  Check out our new About page for our general story.  Or maybe you're new and want to see where we've been - if so, check out our Route page.  In addition, you can now find all our information regarding raising a baby on a boat on our Baby on Board page as well as answers to the more general questions we get on our FAQ's page.  I also answer the financial questions we typically get on our Cruising Kitty page, which includes other resources on cruising costs and budgets you might find helpful and I've re-formatted and added new pictures to our Boat page.  You can read about our latest additions on our newly designed Crew page and I have added a Twinsanity page which is pretty self explanatory since we have a whole new audience on that front.  I'll be adding more in the days and weeks to come as we negotiate the madness (and fun) of having twins.

So there we have it.  While my posts are more sporadic, rest assured we're doing great.  We manage to smile and laugh daily and we haven't left a stray baby anywhere yet.  It's "one day at a time" over here and we are totally okay with that.

Yikes! Babies are screaming and they need the boobs....gotta run!
Haven and Mira.  3 weeks young and rocking Kickee pants!
* We have no affiliation with Ergo or Kickee pants.  I just genuinely love both products.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Breastfeeding Twins: A Delicate Balance

Yesterday marked the first "official" day of spring.  Which also meant, as Scott pointed out, that yesterday was the spring equinox meaning the Earth's axis is "just so" and the suns rays are hitting the equator in such a way that you can easily balance an egg on a table...or something.  Of course we had to see this for ourselves and, whaddayaknow?  He was right.  Except he was not (which he admitted after the fact), the whole egg on the table thing is a myth - it's no easier to balance an egg on a table on the equinox as it is any other day - but still, it looks pretty cool to see an egg balancing on a table.

Speaking of balance, I have a baby for each boob.  How's that for balance?  All joking aside, I do have to say I am pretty proud of the fact that breastfeeding two little people is going so well (for now).  I'm not out of the woods yet, but my milk supply has met the demand and Haven and Mira are gaining weight as they should.  Don't get me wrong, breastfeeding two at once is not easy, is a colossal commitment and there have definitely been moments where I wondered "why am I doing this?" But then I focus on my goals and remember why I made this choice. (For mothers who choose to formula feed whether by choice or necessity,  fear not - here's a great account from one twin mom and her journey, for a different perspective).

I absolutely loved breastfeeding Isla and did so for sixteen months (stopping only when we discovered I was pregnant with twins).  In my experience, it's an amazing mother/baby bonding exercise and - let's be honest - you cannot beat the calorie burning factor (I have already shed 30 of the 50 pounds I gained) and, hey, it sure is nice to be able to fill out a top for a change.  Oh yeah, and it's really, really good for our babies.

So what does it take to establish breastfeeding for twins in the early weeks post delivery?  Well, I am no expert but have been successful thus far.  Aside from a lot of dedication and patience, here is what has worked for me and my girls:
  1. Initiate breastfeeding as quickly after the birth as possible.  I began nursing Haven and Mira within an hour of their delivery.  Of course there are always situations that arise which might prevent this from happening, but if you can - try to nurse your babies within three hours of birth.  They say the most important time to establish breastfeeding and milk supply are the first seventy-two hours after delivery, so do what you can to set that off on the right foot (that includes pumping if your babies are in the NICU).
  2. Room in with the baby at the hospital.  Again, this might not be possible for NICU babies (and that is okay, there are many, many success stories of women successfully breastfeeding NICU twins) but if you can, room in with the baby and do not opt to have the nurses take them to he nursery overnight.  As mentioned, the first seventy-two hours are critical to successful nursing and having your babies at your side, ready to nurse on demand (or every two hours at least) will help to establish that and greatly increase your chances for success.
  3. Begin tandem breastfeeding right from the start.  I was very fortunate  to give birth in a very pro-breastfeeding hospital.  Unless you tell them otherwise, it is assumed you will breastfeed and they do not supplement with formula, give pacifiers and lactation consultants are available at your disposal.  My lactation consultant advised I start tandem nursing from the get-go and I am thankful for it.  Now, my girls feed at the same time almost every time.  If only one wakes up hungry, I wake the other and feed them together.  This is a humongous time and sanity saver.
  4. Invest in a good twin nursing pillow.  I have the Double Blessing Nursing Pillow and it is, hands down, a lifesaver for me.  I brought it to the hospital with me as well and it makes positioning the babies and nursing two at once so much easier. (Side note: I nurse Haven and Mira with the football hold).
  5. Start tracking feedings/diapers/sleep times.  I bought a journal similar to this one, but after a few weeks I found it suuuuper annoying and was told about the Baby Connect App (for a smart phone) by another twin mom.  It is SO fantastic, totally user friendly and is completely customizable.  I keep track of each individual baby's feedings, pees and poops and when they sleep and wake.  This has been so helpful for me, especially for charting which baby was on what boob, when (I switch them every feeding to ensure a balance in the milk supply) and tracking diaper output, which is the only real way for a nursing mom to know if her baby/ies are getting enough to eat.  When you are nursing two at once it is incredibly easy to get confused (remember, you are sleep deprived and there are two of them) so just keep track of it.  Trust me.
  6. Feed every two hours, around the clock.  This is where things get tricky.  For the first few weeks, in order to establish milk supply, it was recommended to me to feed the girls every two hours no matter what.  Occasionally I have let them go three hours between feedings (mostly at night) - but the general schedule is to put them on the boobs every two hours.  It's a ton of work and doesn't leave a lot of "me" time in between, but hey, it's all for good reason, right?  In another week or two I will stretch this out a bit.
  7. Be prepared for pain, and a lot of it.  The hospital lactation consultant told me to "accept no pain" and, if I did feel pain, to re-position the baby/ies to ensure a proper latch.  Well, that is way easier said than done when you have a babe on each boob.  I am convinced that, no matter what, the first week or two of breastfeeding involves some pain.  For me, it was the same with Isla and after a couple of weeks my nipples "broke in" and got used to the constant stimulation.  Like breaking in a new pair of shoes, the first couple wears might result in a blister or two, but before you know it - your feet (and the shoes) will adjust and you will walk pain-free.  Yes, I just compared my twins to a pair of new shoes.  
  8. Have support.  This is incredibly important.  I would not be able to do this if not for Scott and my mom.  Because we have a toddler at home, the above schedule doesn't allow for too much time to tend to her.  Of course Isla and I have our special "us" times during the day, and story time at night is always reserved for her and I, but if you plan to nurse every two hours around the clock, you will NEED help on the home front to care for any other little ones. Luckily I almost always have my mom and Scott around to help divide and conquer.   It also helps to have someone be on call to get you water/food or the remote while you are nursing.  Not to mention when you start tandem breastfeeding, you will need help positioning the babies and ensuring proper latch, and it definitely helps if your partner can be on diaper duty so you can focus on feeding and getting into position (tandem nursing requires a tremendous amount of prep).
  9. Stay hydrated.  I chug water, coconut water, and Mother's Milk Tea like they are going out of style.  I also take Motherlove More Milk Plus, a (horrible tasting) herbal supplement which is supposed to aid and boost milk supply.  Whether or not it has helped me with my milk supply is hard to say, but it can't hurt.  Hydration, on the other hand, does effect milk supply so drink up.
  10. Co-sleep.  This is very controversial, I know - and many doctors and pediatricians do not advocate co-sleeping (of course, like anything, there are many advocates of this practice as well), but it is a personal decision and I went with my mommy instincts here and am glad for it.  It has worked for us, though my comfort is sacrificed (I dream about sleeping in the blessed supine position).  We do not plan on co-sleeping much longer, but for these first few weeks I have found it very beneficial.  I sleep more or less sitting up with our babies on their backs on the nursing pillow, ready to feed when the time arises.  It's much easier for all of us this way and we all get a little more sleep because of it.  
  11. Stay focused and positive.  I mentioned that there are times when you will want to throw in the towel and give up.  At times, you will feel frustrated, discouraged and maybe even angry.  There will be times when it will seem so much easier to have someone bottle feed while you get a few more zzzzzz's.  When your nipples will hurt so much you will wince and grimace in pain upon latching.  It DOES get better and it DOES get easier.  Try to remember that this will one day be a distant memory and this time in the trenches will be a thing of the past in a few weeks. 
Any other tips I have missed?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Additional Resources: If you are interested in more information on successfully breastfeeding twins, I highly recommend reading the book Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More by the La Leche League.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

(More) Notes from The (Twin) Trenches

I am sitting here in my "spot" on the couch with my two little muchkins snuggled around me sleeping soundly on my (awesome) twin nursing pillow.  I'm tired, but nowhere near as exhausted as I thought I'd be.  Of course, we are only in the first inning but, so far, we're doing pretty good:  Tandem nursing is going great, and Haven and Mira are gaining weight as they should be.  This morning I even managed to slap on some makeup, a cute outfit, and put both girls in the Moby Wrap for our first "public" outing to the grocery store.  The birth announcements went out.  I have managed to stay on top of thank you notes.  We've successfully packed all three kids into the car and made a trip to the pediatrician.  Isla is still in the running for sweetest big sister ever and has nothing but love for our new additions.  Scott and I are getting nighttime sleep in digestable 3-4 hour chunks.  Life is plugging along quite nicely, if not a bit robotic at the moment:  breastfeed, cuddle, put down for nap, try to steel a moment to myself, mash something edible in my mouth, guzzle water, love up on big sister, soothe agitated baby/babies, rinse, repeat.  A little groove is emerging.  I like grooves.


I have learned quite a bit these past ten days.  Namely, that the first couple weeks of having twins involve a lot of highs and lows and they swing wildly from one second to the next, exorcist-style.  One moment I'm all "I've totally got this, piece of cake, I. Am. Supermom!!!" and the next I'm all "How the f**k am I going to do this?!"  I know this is normal, but as much as I prepared for the birth and arrival of our twins (and, believe me, I prepared) I was not ready for the emotional roller coaster that supersizing your family automatically puts you on.  It's quite ride.  Whew.

Let me indulge you with a couple examples of what I am talking about...

Twin high moment of the week:  successfully "wearing" Haven and Mira in the Moby wrap.  I was on cloud nine.   Not only could I use both my hands to play with Isla, cook, use the computer or go on a walk - but I was giving our girls the benefits of baby wearing.  Oh yeah, life was pretty good when we figured this one out.  Still pretty stoked about it, actually.  This was a close second to when the pediatrician told us their weight gain was right on track (my indication that breastfeeding is going well).  Side note:  if you are a breastfeeding mom, you will become obsessed with poop, pee (better known as "diaper output") and weight gain - not necessarily in that order. (For baby wrapping instructions, check out this pdf - twin wearing towards the end.)

Twin low moment of the week:  last night, Isla strangely awoke at 1:00am from a nightmare screaming for mama but I was nursing the girls and couldn't go to her.  Of course Haven and Mira chose this precise moment to have little meltdowns themselves so Scott and I were quickly introduced to the horror that is children screaming in surround sound.  The whole ordeal was so utterly heartbreaking to me that I cried like a baby and threw myself a little pity party while slumped in bed nursing our girls.  It was all over within 25 minutes but still, it's a tough lesson for a parent to learn that they cannot be in two - let alone three - places at once.  Not to mention how quickly things can go from copacetic to chaotic in a household with multiple children.  It's impressive.  Sigh.  

And there are more examples of both.  So many more.

A huge part of the ups and downs no doubt have to do with the fact that Scott and I are in total limbo at the moment.  We went from living on our boat in the Caribbean with a pretty sweet and sustainable set up, to moving in with my parents during a particularly brutal winter and facing a relatively uncertain future.  We feel a bit out of place, a little out of sorts, and between the individual demands of three children under three, we're trying to figure out a "plan" for the future which is kind of impossible at the moment.  Pardon the cliche, but it's difficult to see the forest through the trees right now.

Of course all this is to be expected.  All of this is normal.  Anyone who's had one baby, let alone twins, is familiar with the wacky hormones that race through a woman's body post-pregnancy.  And anyone who has made a significant and semi-abrupt life adjustment understands the "culture shock" that comes with it.  This is life.  We've all been here in one way or another.

Yep, it's hard work.  Sure, there are moments when I wish we could just go back to the boat and pick up where we left off.  This wasn't part of our 'plan' -- but if we've learned anything this past three years it's that plans are written in sand and, sometimes, you just gotta go where the wind blows.  Our girls are awesome.  We are totally, utterly in love with them.  They are bringing our family so much joy.  Sometimes, it's the unexpected detours in life that take you somewhere pretty dang awesome -- so we'll just keep on cruisin'.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Notes From the (Twin) Trenches

We've now been home 48 hours with our twins.   Or has it been more?  Less?  Not so sure.  Our girls are four days old and we are in the stage that many twin parents liken to "survival mode" which sounds a bit dramatic if you ask me.  But I see where they are coming from -- two newborn infants in a house really stirs things up.

So how are we doing?  Overall, we're doing good.  Really good.  Our girls are healthy and big sister Isla is absolutely head over heels in love with them.  She has yet to show a single sign of jealousy or any indication of feeling displaced (*knocking on wood*) and this fact alone makes me so happy.  "Wanna see babies!" is the phrase of note around here and they've gotten more kisses from her than anyone else I think.  Because my delivery went so well and I didn't need any stitches, my recovery from birth has been a dream (though the post-delivery uterine contractions?...WOW.  Ouch) which makes life so much easier.   My incredible girlfriends have been making us meals, taking "cooking" off of my list of things to do and I have successfully established tandem breastfeeding (*knocking on wood, again*).  Scott has again proven to be the most supportive husband and daddy I could ever wish for, running out and about at all hours to get me everything from my favorite cookies to breast pump shields.  He even got me stool softeners.  Yeah.  I just went there.  Sorry.

We are also incredibly blessed to be living with my parents at this time.  My mom has made this transition so much easier with her help and care of Isla, and I honestly think that all the attention Isla gets from her is a very large part of why she's adjusting so well to being a big sister.  While the notion of the "boomerang child" (s/he who comes back to the nest in adulthood) is a relatively new phenomenon and one that gets it's fair share of scrutiny and judgement, I think I speak for all of us (my parents included) when I say it is really a gift for all involved.  We feel very lucky and super thankful to have ample family support right now.

Of course it's not all roses.  I am writing from what has become "my spot" on the couch, a spot that I am pretty certain will forever have my butt imprint on it from sitting here so much.  Because breastfeeding is so important to me, I have literally been parked in this same place for the bulk of most days with my boobs hanging out while I nurse two babies almost around the clock.  Glamorous, it is not.  National Geographic?  More like it.  I am grateful that visitors have been respectful and kept their distance.  Right now it's all about getting into a little groove, and it's going to take a while to get there.  But we'll get there.  I was told I would feel very much like a milk cow and that about sums it up.  I'm tired, I look like crap and while I have managed to take a shower daily and actually blow dry my hair, I still feel a whole new level of frumpy and gross.  In other words: I am not ready for my close-up, thankyouverymuch. Blech.  But, like everything baby, this wonky adjustment period will be over before we know it.

Nights are hard because I am nursing every two hours and since nursing two babies at once is such a production, I find it much easier to sleep sitting up with my nursing pillow around me and the girls sleeping on either side of me.  We all sleep better that way.  I would kill to lay down on my back, side or tummy and stretch out for an hour or two but it's just not in the cards right now.  So instead, I sleep propped up with a hilarious and very specific concoction of pillows, blankets and accouterments all around me.  It works.  The girls are getting awesome skin to skin bonding time, which is important and I'm getting a chest that could rival that of any Victoria's Secret model.  Point for breastfeeding.

So far I can say that being a mom of twins requires a tremendous amount of forethought, patience and preparation.  And it's pretty cool.

Kind of like sailing, actually.

So far, so good.  We've got this.

Haven Jane (left) and Mira Ann (they are fraternal in case you can't tell)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Welcome To The World Little Fish

They're heeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeerrre!!

Our beautiful angels Haven Jane ("Hay-vin" meaning: safe harbor, sea port) and Mira Ann ("Meer-uh" meaning: ocean in Sanskrit) joined our family on March 6, 2014 at 3:52 and 3:58 respectively.  Their incredible birth (thankfully) went as planned and without complication (no c-section).  They weighed in at 6lbs, 19.5" and 6lbs 9oz, 20", respectively, and are perfect and healthy in every way.  Of course we are biased about the "perfect" bit...but, hey, what can I say?

Life is good.  We are grateful.  The love is overflowing.

Words can't really do justice to all the emotions right now, and - honestly - I'm too punch drunk to try.

Big sister Isla is over the moon with her sisters and cannot stop kissing, cuddling and watching them.  We're all settling in and getting to know each other.  There is no doubt going to be a huge adjustment period these coming months but so far, we have no complaints and are taking this in stride.  One day at a time.

Thank you so much for all the support, well-wishes, prayers and kind words that so many of you have left us on our Facebook Page... we are lovin' all the love.  Much appreciated.

We'll post more when we can, but just wanted to share our little miracles with you as we know so many of you were so excited to "meet" them.
Baby "A": Haven Jane - born 3:52pm 6lbs, 19.5"
Baby "B": Mira Ann - born 3:58pm 6lbs 9oz, 20"
(check out Isla's birth announcement from two years ago)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

39 Weeks with Twins: Go Time

I love being pregnant.  It's incredible, magical, spiritual, ethereal and I embrace it as a gift; something to cherish and be thankful for.  That said, being just about thirty-nine weeks pregnant with twins can really weigh a woman down, pun intended.  It. Is. Exhausting.  But so worth it.  Our sweet Pisces girls will be born big and strong, and my body will have been the vessel that made them so.  Pretty awesome.  I'm proud of myself.  I'm proud of my body.  Truth be told, I'm going to really miss this belly.

We went to the doctors on Monday and, of course, they were shocked to see me.  "You're still pregnant?!?!" was the general greeting when I waddled in.  We all chuckled and laughed.  What can I say?  Babies like my womb.  Thirty-seven weeks is considered "full term" for twins and the average twins are delivered at thirty-five weeks, so I'm like a marathon twin mama over here.  Carrying twins to thirty-nine plus weeks is not unheard of, but it's certainly not the norm.  As good as the girls are doing and as good as I feel (relatively speaking of course, I have accepted a constant state of discomfort as my default these days), my doctors have decided it is time.  The eviction notice has been posted:  their deadline is 8am tomorrow morning.  If they have not made their entrance into the world on their own volition by then, I will be induced which is something I was hoping to avoid for a myriad of reasons, but it is what it is.  As long as the end result is two healthy girls, I'm cool with it.

That said, I've been doing what I can to coax them along.  I took an essential oil infused bath thinking water might entice our little fish out, but no dice.  I've eaten big meals, taken stairs two at a time, guzzled raspberry tea, chomped on pineapple, gotten pressure point massages, squatted to my hearts content, bounced on a birthing ball and tried just about everything else under the sun that is out there (except castor oil - not going there).  These girls ain't budging.  They're cozy in there.  It's cold out here.  The world is a pretty overwhelming place for newborns.  I get it.  

Yesterday I got acupuncture to help move things along.  It worked for Isla (who was ten days past forty weeks) and perhaps it will get her sisters moving.  One way or another, we're going to meet our angels - and it will be very soon.  It's so strange to go about my day today with the distinct knowledge that everything I am doing is for the last time as a mom of only one.  It's weird (and seems a little unnatural) to know precisely when your life is going to change drastically. We're excited.  Nervous.  Anxious.  And ready.  I think we are actually ready now. ready as you can ever be for twins, which kind of sounds like an oxymoron. 

We want to meet them and hold them and introduce them to their big sister.  We want to begin our life as a family of five.  Yikes.

Thank you all so much for the outpouring of love and support, it's been almost overwhelming and very touching.  I never anticipated that my womb would be so watched, but according to our growing Facebook Page  - my womb is all the rage!  Definitely didn't see that one coming. 

Anyway, it's go time.  We'll catch you on the flip side friends.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Making Money Living Your Dream: Earning While Cruising

Because money doesn't grow on trees...not even in the Caribbean.
What if you could make money while living your dream?  If that's not the ultimate "having your cake and eating it too" I don't know what is.  We hear from so many readers - fellow dreamers and gypsies - who are itching to take the great leap into living their dreams (be it on a boat or otherwise) and they want to know how to make it happen without winding up completely broke and penniless in the end.

And therein lies the conundrum:  How to break free but not break the bank?

We were honored to speak briefly at Strictly Sail on this very subject during a seminar given by our friends Paul and Sheryl Shard of Distant Shores and it inspired me to write more in-depth on this subject.  While we do not have the answers or the magic formula, we have met quite a few people in our travels who are making their dreams work for them so I thought I would share what we have learned with you.

To give you a little background, Scott and I were very lucky to be able to sustain our dream of living on a boat and cruising the Caribbean while still bringing in a regular income.  Scott, who is nothing if not determined, set his eyes on getting his captain's license a couple years ago and with a lot of hard work and even more luck (and a nice dose of serendipity thrown in for good measure), he landed a job as a relief captain on a 100 foot schooner for Island Windjammers, an American company based in Grenada (it's not common to go right to a captain's position after getting your license - but IWJ took a risk on Scott and it paid off).  He worked one month every three months and because living on a boat is significantly cheaper than living on land, we made more than enough money to live on and then some.  It was great.

Now, however, things have changed for us (what with operation "family supersize" and all) and we will have not one, but three young children with us.  One child is easy to handle as a single parent (or at least do-able) - but three?  Game changer.  The prospect of being alone on the boat for a month at a time as a single mom of three girls is not realistic (or safe) so we are currently exploring other avenues.  We will keep you posted on this front.

So what are some of the ways people make money while living their dreams?  Let's take a look...Keep in mind, the pros and cons I list are off the top of my head - if you have experience with making money any of these methods and have something to detract or add, we would love to hear your thoughts in our comments.  I have included links to cruisers (most of whom are personal friends) who are actually making money these methods as well, and I encourage you to check out their sites to learn more.  It is also important to note that many of these ways are not providing an actual "living" but merely "supplementing" the cruising kitty and adding a few bucks here and there.  But a drop in the bucket is better than nothing right?  Read on...
  1. Writing:  I am listing this one first as it seems to be the #1 way people think they will earn money while cruising.  While you certainly can make money writing articles for sailing magazines and such, you should also be realistic that you are probably not going to make a lot of money.  The writing world is very, very competitive and cruising is a very niche market with only so many publications so there isn't a ton of opportunity.  There are very few people who can actually sustain the cruising lifestyle with their writing, though it can be a way to supplement and make a few bucks here and there if you have talent.  Fatty Goodlander, one of the most successful and prolific cruising writers out there today, writes four hours every single day.  He's written a bunch of books and thousands of articles and makes no bones about the fact that they do not make a lot of money and live on the cheap (very happily, I might add).
    • Pros:  You can do it anywhere, inspiration is everywhere, almost zero startup cost/investment.
    • Cons:  Very competitive, pay out is small, time commitment is significant, reliable internet is necessary from time to time.
    • Example:  The infamous Fatty Goodlander

  2. Running/working for a business from your boat:  We have met a few people who successfully run businesses back home from their boats.  These folks work remotely by attending weekly conference calls via Skype and working online during the week, possibly flying back home with some regularity to show face.  Obviously, the nature of the business must be so that you are not needed face to face on a regular basis, but this is a viable option if your business or company allows, and if you have a great support team on the home front.  IT, web design, graphic design and other internet-based jobs lend themselves well to this sort of thing.  This does require adequate internet which is not something you always have while traveling abroad to remote places so this can be challenging.  If you go this route, you will most certainly need to invest in some sort of high-powered wifi booster to make sure you can connect when you need to and you will probably have to be based (or not far from) places with very strong internet signal (which will limit where you can cruise).
    • Pros:  You can do what you know, you have infrastructure on the home front, good money.
    • Cons:  You will rely on strong internet connection (many wifi hotspots in anchorages around the Caribbean are not strong enough to support Skype calls, FYI and are often painfully slow), and as such, you might be a slave to places with good wifi or have to rely on going ashore to connect.  Running a business remotely is not easy and requires significant organization and a reliable team on the "home front."
    • Example:  Our friends Tasha and Ryan of Turf to Surf

  3. Chartering your own boat:  This is when you take passengers on your boat for adventures/vacations.  This is a tremendous amount of work and requires that you invest in a boat adequate enough to hold both your crew and your passengers in private rooms or bunks.  It also requires that you hold a captain's license and anyone else who works on the boat alongside you must also carry their STCW certificate - both of which require a significant investment.
    • Pros:  Freedom of making your itinerary (you can cruise where you want), you are your own boss, you get to share your lifestyle with others which can be refreshing.
    • Cons:  Sharing your home with strangers, very competitive, slave to a schedule, incredibly hard work when passengers are aboard (you cook three meals a day, clean, and look after them), guests can be great or awful and you have to live on top of them for days or possibly weeks at a time.  I repeat:  this is very hard work - long days, long hours. You are in charge of paying for maintenance and repairs, insurance costs are high. 
    • Example: John and Amanda Neal of Mahina Expeditions

  4. Charter running another boat:  This is similar to above, but you work for an owner or charter company running someone else's boat.  People who work on mega-yachts are the most common workers in this category as are captains who work for charter companies.
    • Pros:  Good pay, you're still living on a boat in the islands, you get to share what you love with others, someone else is usually in charge of the booking, someone else is usually paying the maintenance/repair bills.
    • Cons:  Very grueling work schedule, very competitive, you are at the mercy of your boss/charter company, you do not cruise for you, but for others, very hard work (again, cooking, cleaning, boat maintenance), you are in the service industry and might have to deal with unruly guests.  You are married to the boat you work on so personal free time is compromised.  This type of work is probably not a possibility for cruising families.  You also need the requisite licenses to do this (captain's license, STCW, etc.) which, again, are a significant financial investment.
    • Example:  Our friends Mike and Rebecca of Zero to Cruising

  5. Delivery Captain:  We've met a bunch of cruisers who supplement the cruising kitty by delivering other people's boats from point A to point B for them.  This can be a very lucrative endeavor but involves a lot of offshore miles and many days at sea at a time.  It is far from glamorous but a good way to stockpile some cash relatively quickly.
    • Pros:  You can pick and chose what jobs you take, you get to sail other people's boats and someone else is footing the bill.
    • Cons:  Very competitive and not easy to get your name out there.  This is also risky business as you are sailing other people's boats and are therefore at the mercy of their maintenance and gear or lack there of (we once met a delivery captain who was supposed to take a boat from Florida to the VI's but refused based on the state of the vessel).  You often must adhere to strict schedules and deadlines which means sometimes sailing in less than ideal (or downright awful) conditions.  Significant time away from family.  You will often need to bring along at least one other paid crew member, which will cut into your earnings a bit.  
    • Example: Our friend Christopher (and family) of Wandering Dolphin

  6. Run an industry related business:  Cruisers are nothing if not innovative and we have met and heard of several that have found a niche or need and developed great products to sell to fellow cruisers.
    • Pros:  Good money, you are your own boss, working with like-minded folks in an world you know and love (boating/cruising), you can be a traveling salesmen and your audience is all around you.
    • Cons:  You are still running a business and this takes a lot of time and commitment.  You will probably need a person or team of people on land to help distribute and/or run customer service for you.  Depending on your business you must make a significant investment upfront to get it up and running.  You will still need to be "connected" a lot to fill orders, answer questions and ensure customers are happy.
    • Example: Rich from s/v Third Day, owner of Cruise RO Water and Power, Paul and Sheryl Shard of Distant Shores,  Mark and Liesbet, creators and distributors of The Wirie wifi booster

  7. Relief Captain:  working part time for a charter company or cruise company as the "relief" for the main captain (Scott's rotation was one month on, three off).  Again, this requires the captain's license and other relevant certificates and finding these kind of jobs is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
    • Pros:  Less rigorous work schedule, usually there is a little flexibility involved, decent pay.
    • Cons:  Difficult to find this work, time away from family, pauses in your own cruising for weeks or months on end, cruising on a deadline to ensure you get to your place of work.
    • Example:  Scott of Windtraveler (yeah, that's us!)

  8. Living off investments on land:  We have met many cruisers (and travelers) who either rent out their paid off land-based home and live off that income, or have several "income properties" that bring in a monthly sum and they live off the net income from those.  There are obvious costs (and risks) involved in being a hands-off landlord, but it can be done.  For the record, this is the next step for us and the avenue we are currently pursuing.
    • Pros: Can make some decent money and when you have the right formula (properties, partners, tenants), this can work very well for the vagabond lifestyle.
    • Cons:  Lots of investment up front, must have a reliable partner or management company to work with, at the mercy of tenants, risky business if tenants are unreliable or unruly, stressful being a landlord, requires semi-frequent returns to the home-front to check up and maintain properties.

  9. Blogging:  While there are a lot of people on the internet who make a living with their blogs, I have yet to meet a cruiser who makes a living this way.  Like writing, blogging is very competitive and making significant money requires much more traffic than many sailing blogs will ever get.  It is, however, a nice way to supplement the cruising kitty and bring in a few bucks  each month with things like affiliate links (ex. most cruising bloggers are Amazon Associates) and banner ads - but again, you must have traffic to get people to click on those links.  You can also save some good coin with sponsorships as we have. 
    • Pros:  If you enjoy blogging, this is very fun and rewarding.  You get to chronicle your adventure and help others embark on theirs, you make great relationships with other bloggers.  Check out my post Tips for Cruising Bloggers to learn more.
    • Cons:  Very competitive, financial gain nominal unless you have a LOT of traffic, requires many hours of work and time in front of the computer to do it well and be successful (I spend between 2-4 hours on this blog a day.) Takes a very long time (months or years) to ramp up and get a big audience, also relies on decent internet connection regularly.
    • Example:  Friends Behan of s/v Totem who blogs for bucks on Sailfeed, and Carolyn of The Boat Galley

  10. Online Trading:  Playing the stock market and making trades using an online trading site.  Pat Schulte of Bumfuzzle wrote a very detailed book, Live on the Margin, on how to do just this, you can check out my review here.
    • Pros:  Easy to set up and get started.  Possible high reward.
    • Cons:  Need some money to start up, signifiant risk involved, requires reliable internet regularly to check positions and manage portfolio.
    • Example:  Pat and Ali Schulte of Bumfuzzle

  11. Freelancing:  Using your skills in photography, web design, social media, marketing,  IT or something similar and freelancing as you go.
    • Pros:  You are in control of your income and the hours you work.  Can make decent money if your skill is in demand.
    • Cons:  Competitive, hard to find work, typically a feast or famine sort of gig, requires a lot of self promotion and possibly lots of time on the computer, oftentimes require reliable internet connection.
    • Example:  Taru Tuomi, amazing freelance photographer of World Tour Stories,  Mercedes Villa Lopez, freelance graphic designer cruising the South Pacific

  12. Cruising part time, working part time:  Not all cruisers are full time and sometimes going home during hurricane season offers a nice balance and can really keep you from getting "burned out" from the full-on live-aboard lifestyle.  Cruising part time and working part time offers a nice work/life balance if you can find a job that will allow for this kind of schedule.
    • Pros:  Nice work life balance.  Very sustainable if you find the right situation.
    • Cons:  You have to constantly take your boat in and out of commission, you must pay to store your boat somewhere as well as pay for some sort of "home base" on land, not easy to find jobs that are conducive to this type of schedule but they do exist (seasonal jobs probably offer the best bet).
    • Example:  Our former buddy boat George from Earthling Sailor

  13. Finding work along the way:  This sounds like a great way to go - just stopping and working along the way - but there are many complications that make this tricky, difficult, and potentially illegal.  Finding work in another country is not easy (especially if the countries you are traveling to are "developing" as most of the ones we visit are) and often requires very expensive and hard to obtain work permits.  If you decide to skirt the permits and work "under the table", you risk legal issues.  
    • Pros: You stop and really get to know a place, you make money as you need and cruise freely the rest of the time.
    • Cons:  Very difficult to find, requires you to stop cruising for significant lengths of time, possibly need to move off the boat and onto a land base for a while.
    • Example:  Our good friends Eben and Genevieve of Necesse who are currently working in the Dominican Republic

  14. Selling a trade: Some cruisers work from their boats as shipwrights, sailmakers, canvas workers, massage therapists, hairstylists and more.  This is a decent and relatively easy way to supplement, but cruisers are a famously thrifty bunch and more often than not you might find yourself trading goods instead of getting paid actual cash for your services.  Other services that are in high demand with cruisers:  marine electrician, diesel mechanic, marine refrigeration expert, and specialty guides (kitesurfing instructor, dive instructor, yoga instructor... etc).
    • Pros: You can do this from any anchorage anywhere you are, you will meet lots of other cruisers, your "clients" are literally all around you.
    • Cons:  Working "under the table" for cash in a foreign country might pose legal issues, cruisers - as a rule - are a pretty cheap group and might not be willing to pay for your services, must creatively advertise and market yourself. 

  15. Selling a craft:  there are so many cruisers with incredible artistic talents for handi-crafts. Nowadays, with online storefronts like Cafepress and Etsy it's pretty easy to set up your own shop where you can sell your goods and art.  We have met cruisers who sell their art, tee-shirts, jewelry, music, knitting and more.  The money is probably not so much that you can make a living, but it might be a nice supplement. 
    • Pros:  You can create art that you love, arts and crafts are a great way to pass time on a boat, can possibly sell your crafts to fellow cruisers while underway but you can also reach a wider audience with online storefronts like those mentioned above.
    • Cons:  You must carry supplies enough to meet the demand, shipping items from far-flung places might get tricky, you might need to have a partner on the home front to help manage orders if you can't manage it from afar, requires reliable internet, must have decent marketing skills to get the word out there as the craft market is pretty saturated.
    • Example: Former cruising buddy and nature artist Lara of Forest and Fin and friend and jewelry designer Melody of Maggie&Millie, Chris DiCroche - singer and songwriter of MondoVacilando.
The bottom line:  there are ways to make it happen, but it will take sacrifice, creativity and some good old fashioned perseverance.

Other informative posts by fellow bloggers on this same subject:

Earning Money While Cruising:  Lessons from the Pros (we contributed to this one)
Making Money While Cruising from our friends Paul and Sheryl at Distant Shores
Wireless Ideology a website dedicated to interviews with "Digital Nomads" (see our interview here)

Do you currently make money any of these ways?  I would love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons and realities of it!  Do you make money a different way?   How have you made your dream work for you?  Please share in the comments with any tips, tricks and insights.
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