Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Welcome to Paradise, Please Unclog our Toilet? (Auntie Chelsea is Here!)

Nothing says "welcome to boat life" quite like being asked to plunge out a clogged head...from the water

"Ask Chelsea to keep plunging and if she see's anything coming out" Scott yelled to me from our (very clogged) aft head. I was confused. She'd jumped into the water for a swim ten minutes earlier...but...plunging? I asked Scott what he was talking about.

"Well, she was going in the water anyway, I thought while she was in there she could try plunging from the thru hull while I pump to see if we could dislodge the clog." He shrugged.

"You what?!" I gasped. I looked over the rail and sure enough, there was my sister, under water, donning a mask, a snorkel and an oversized toilet plunger.

Welcome to paradise!

She popped her head up for air, chuckled as she removed the snorkel from her mouth and smiled, "This is really disgusting" she said matter of factly before replacing the snorkel mouthpiece and diving down to try again.

Long story short, it worked. There was corn. And quinoa. Among other things. It was revolting but necessary and she was up for the job (hashtag boatlife). While there have been jokes about staph infections and pink eye, Chelsea's come out of it unscathed. Maybe stronger. She didn't even complain.

We sure know how to initiate 'em.


Having my sister here is amazing. Obviously the above story is a testament to her sheer awesomeness as a boat guest and a person. Not only do I adore her to pieces, but she is a truly wonderful aunt to our girls. She gets down and dirty with them, truly plays with them and - because she is something of a big kid herself - genuinely enjoys getting to their level and just having fun. The squeals of delight from our girls indicate the feeling is mutual. 

Having her here is also a huge help. Having spent much of her early twenties as a nanny, she doesn't miss a beat with the girls. She scoops them up when they fall, changes diapers when they need them, and is quick to distract when tantrums are threatening. She is a salve to my soul and having her here makes life approximately 45% easier. If there was any way to convince her to move aboard and live with us full time I would do it, and while she would be keen ("I love your life!"), she has her own wonderful life to live (she's an incredibly talented illustrator, in case anyone is looking) and responsibilities back in Portland, OR.

Not only did she unclog our toilet, but she came down bearing loads of "gifts". Anyone traveling to a cruising boat will undoubtedly shepherd goodies from home for the crew, and this visit was no different. She brought clothes for our growing girls (okay, some for me too), more jammies and swimsuits for Isla (we are still in the jammie stage), and a new slew of products from one of our favorite supporters, SailorBags (giveaway to come soon!). Everything down here is ridiculously expensive so utilizing visitors to bring stuff from home is necessary and cost effective.


We're already half-way through her trip (sad face) and after spending a couple days enjoying Trellis Bay, are back in Virgin Gorda for a diving excursion (she's a bonafide mermaid and free-diver after living in the Bahamas for a year). She's soaking up family love, general island awesomeness and having a blast. We're enjoying the extra hands, the awesome company and, of course, a working toilet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cruising with Kids: The Ugly (and Poopy)

As I wrote the title for this post I realize we aren't really cruising with kids. We are cruising with babies. Which is really, really different for obvious reasons (not to mention the fact that we have two of them!). For example, people who cruise with kids (and for the purposes of this blog I am calling a "kid" a child over three) rarely have to clean up that child's poop in their cockpit. Poop, mind you, that's been smeared - Picasso style - by the pudgy hands of the children that made them.

And so I bring you the moments when cruising with kids, er, I mean babies, isn't so awesome.

The day started normal enough. The girls stirred from their nightly slumbers sometime between 6:15 and 6:45 am, at which point Scott and I did our best to pretend not to hear them in order to snag a couple more zzzzz's. This is much easier said than done on a 44 foot boat with doors as thick as cardboard.

"Maaaaaaaaamaaa!!" Isla whined in a semi-sleepy, but very much awake voice, "I'mmmmm aaaaaaawaaAAAAAaaaake. The suuuuuun is uuuuuuuuuup" she moaned as she stretched like a cat in her bunk. "I 'm doooone sleeeeeeepin'" she punctuated, sitting up.

Because I am a) still nursing multiple times a day (exhausting in an of itself)), b) wake up at least once a night to feed the twins, and c) (according to Scott) am not a "morning" person, Scott takes breakfast duty and tries to keep the littles quiet enough until 7:30 or (if I am *really* lucky) 8 so I can "sleep in". This gesture is sweet and much appreciated, but "sleeping in" with three children under three is pretty much impossible unless you have a soundproof bunker that can be locked from the inside and/or have taken a narcotic sleeping aid. Shrieking, squawking, laughing, banging and screaming ensue in various pitches and tones on our boat and when you are not more than fifteen feet from the source of those noises, you hear them loud and clear. So usually I just lay in bed feigning sleep until I smell the heavenly aroma of caffeine wafting through our boat, at which point I consider it "safe" to go in.

After the breakfast rigamarole we dropped our mooring ball and started the upwind sail just as I was getting the twins down for their 9am nap. Sailing with three little children, mind you, is not exactly fun (kudos to those families who make long passages with more than one baby, that is so not our bag - with one baby, it was fine - more than one? No thank you). In fact, the other day during a particularly rough moment when we all took a wave of saltwater to our faces while seated on the high side I believe I said, "I love living on a boat, but I hate sailing". And, at that moment, I did. "There it is!" Scott said with a menacing, almost maniacal chuckle. Because of this, we try to sail as much as possible while the twins are sleeping in their bunk because it is infinitely easier (and more pleasant). This is, at the very most, a two hour window. Most sails these days are three or four hours, leaving at least one or two hours where I am playing "whack-a-mole" and doing nothing more than desperately plying children with snacks (vanilla wafers are cheap and seem to do the trick) and making goofy faces while singing made-up songs in attempts stave off a mutiny in the form of multiple tantrums in surround sound (aka the tenth circle of hell).

We were sailing from Cooper's Island to Trellis Bay. Scott had originally wanted to sail all the way to Virgin Gorda, but after telling me it would take about five hours I demanded that we break it up and stop half way. After exiting the harbor into the strong headwinds and rough seas, he agreed. Yes, Trellis would do. There's a fantastic little art studio there and a small grocery store where I could replenish our meager provisions (for a fortune - grocery prices here are highway robbery, but that's another post all together). By all means this sail is easy. A strong, steroid ridden arm could probably throw a baseball between the two islands but being that we had unusually powerful winds "on the nose" meant that we had to make many tacks in order to get from A to B, essentially quadrupling the distance we needed to travel to our destination.

"How much longer?" I kept asking Scott, slightly agitated knowing that the babies would be up soon.

"I don't know, look at the chart" he replied, dryly.

We weren't making very good time and there were lots of squalls on the horizon. Squalls make me nervous these days what with all the babies on board and what not.

We pulled into Trellis Bay in perfect time for lunch, which - really - is the ideal time to arrive. Lunch can be served with ease, and in an hour it's nap time again. Things were going according to plan.

I fed the babies their pasta with marinara sauce and immediately realized why they eat Kraft macaroni and cheese 90% of the time. Sauce. Was. Everywhere. In their hair, dangling off their eyelashes, on their chests and, I later discovered, even in the confines of their diapers.

"Mama, the babies are really, really messy" Isla noted as she gobbled up a spoonful of pasta. She is nothing if not astute.

I decided that instead of trying to towel them off with wet wipes, I'd just hose them off and give them a shower on the back of the boat. I stripped each baby down to their birthday suits (something they thoroughly enjoy) and went down below to get fresh clothes and diapers for them.

When I came up both babies had laid fairly large, impressively stinky poop eggs in the cockpit and both were trying their hands at finger painting with them.

"Scott!" I yelled desperately "I need you!"

He swept into action removing the babies from the crime scene while I scooped up the poops with paper towels and flung them overboard. I grabbed more paper towels and spray cleaner with bleach, frantically disinfecting the entire area with visions of eColi and pinkeye dancing through my head. It was about that time that Isla woke up prematurely from her nap declaring she had wet the bed. It was also about this time that the decent squall I'd seen on the horizon blew threw with vigor, thoroughly drenching the boat and our cockpit and, in general, wreaking havoc for a solid eight minutes.

What's that they say? When it rains, it pours. Yes. Yes it does.

Scott went down below to change Isla and settle her back down, and I was left with the poopy (and still very sauce-y) babies.

I grabbed Haven and brought her to the aft deck to hose her off and clean her hands. Once I was convinced she was poop and sauce free, I replaced her in the cockpit and grabbed Mira to repeat the process.

I was just toweling off little Mira when I heard the dreaded "thud-silence-wail" sequence. All parents know that the pregnant pause before a scream usually indicates a pretty serious ouch, and I looked over and saw Haven on her back after having slipped on our wet cockpit while trying to summit the combings. Her eyes were wide and mouth agape for another split second before she started howling like a banshee (this child does *not* hold back) with a healthy amount of blood coming from her mouth.

"Haven's bleeding" I casually yelled down to Scott, giving him a little update on our goings ons. He was struggling with a full-blown tantruming Isla who felt that fifteen minutes was a perfectly acceptable nap and he is far more patient with that stuff than I. Fighting with a (seemingly) possessed three year old is on my list of the top five things that will drive me insane, so I was happier to be dealing with the upper deck issues. I will take blood over tantrums any day.

I put Mira down in the relative safety of the cockpit and scooped up Haven to assess her injuries. Luckily, I am not squeamish and blood doesn't bother me. I was pretty sure she was more scared than hurt, and I was right. Her bottom teeth had cut a bit of her top gum and although there was a lot of blood, it was nothing serious. I held her tight to calm her, let her suck on a wet, cold paper towel and once she was calm and happy again I finished the task at hand.

By the time everything was sorted out, it was time for the blessed second nap. I nursed the babies, tucked them into their bunks and retreated back to the cockpit where I wish I could say I kicked back with a nice, cold and highly potent adult beverage but we were plum out of alcohol, adding insult to injury. So I just closed my eyes and relished in the quiet.

Cruising with babies*. Where a day can go from fine to crappy (pun intended) in the blink of any eye.

But at least we always have a killer view. That's definitely good for something.

*I realize that you could replace "cruising" with "living"...on land or sea, three under three and parenting in general is always an adventure!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catching up: Daily Life

Sorry I have been so remiss about blogging. It's not easy to find time to write, particularly if we can't get a decent wifi signal on the boat and I need to go ashore to get online (we use a Rogue Wave wifi booster which works amazing when there are open signals, but these days most are password protected). As such, most of my "updating" has been via cellular data to our Facebook Page (point for smart phones!). Luckily, I have decent boat-based wifi at the moment, and instead of spending hours I do not have on all the wonderful individual posts I want to write, I'll just post a bunch of pictures and a mini-cram-style-missive to show you what we have been up to. A photo is worth a thousand words, right? This will be much more efficient I think, and it will get the point across. In the meantime, I will work on more detailed posts offline on a variety of subjects to post in the coming days and weeks.

So where are we now? Well, we made the upwind slog to Virgin Gorda from St. John. Winds have been unusually high these past few weeks - ranging from 20 to 30 knots every minute of every day - so it was indeed a "slog" taking us a rather pathetic three days of tacking back and forth to make this meager twenty-five mile "passage". We came here for Scott to race on the super yacht Parsifal.  Note that I said "super" and not "mega". Apparently there is a difference and though I cannot be sure, I think it amounts to another trifecta of zeros on a given bank account. It's not every day you get asked to crew on a 180 foot luxury sailboat and Scott could not pass up the opportunity, even if it did mean leaving me to be a single boat mom for five days. Though I gave him a hard time for abandoning me to go play both in truth and (mostly) in jest, I couldn't deny him this chance. Being former racing sailors has it's perks, that's for sure. We have so many sailing friends and several who work in the yachting industry that every now and then we get some opportunities to do things and meet people other people only dream of. I'll write more about the super yacht experience in a later post, but I must give a big shout out to our good buddy, Gonzo, for always thinking of us and inviting Scott to participate. It was pretty awesome, even from my vantage point from the deck of our boat. More to come...

As for other goings ons, we continue to get the opportunity to meet great blog followers and friends alike as this area is positively teeming with boating enthusiasts and blog readers. Paul and Sheryl Shard, of the television show Distant Shores, are here as well and got some great footage of our family to use in an upcoming episode for their show. That was fun and it was great to catch up with them again after seeing them at the Chicago Boat Show last year. We'll keep you posted on that interview and when it airs you can see for yourself if things are going as well as we allude to on this blog, or if it's all a ruse and we are teetering on the brink of insanity. Or maybe it's a little bit of both. You decide (wink).

Life on a boat continues with ups and downs and non-stop projects. We are always chasing up issues, from diaper blow outs and tantrums to battery problems and gear that has fallen into disrepair. Each morning before racing Scott fixed a new leak that would spring up. The first two were from faulty hoses from our sink faucets; easy, quick, fixes. The last leak, from our manual head pump (aka the way we flush our toilet), was more difficult. We are still dealing with it and while it's not bad enough to be considered urgent, it is a (pretty gross) nuisance to have seawater slowly trickling in from a blown seal on your toilet. Walking into a bathroom (or "head" as we call it) with a wet floor has always been one thing that has made my skin crawl. Even as a child I would tip toe into the stalls at the pools - their floors all slimy and wet - so disgusted at the thought that what I was stepping in might actually be pee and not pool water. As I even type that sentence my face is contorted into a disgusted grimace. Shudder. Not looking forward to the final fix as it will no doubt result in fecal matter getting on our skin. We'll just keep putting it off until we can't.

We have lots of fun stuff coming up to that does not involve poop or faulty hoses, not the least of which is the fact that many friends are coming to charter in the area (including AJ, who helped us out earlier this season) and my amazing, beautiful and crazy talented sister, Chelsea, who made a last minute decision to spend her spring break with us. Cannot wait for her arrival. And for all the goodies she will be bringing. Because if you ever visit people living on a cruising boat in the islands, you will be bringing them stuff from the homeland. Be warned.

So that is that. We are loving life and feel very much at home down here on our boat. I think we are past the "beta test" stage and I can say with resounding confidence that this is actually working, despite what most people - and even I, in my darkest moments - thought. Talk has now turned to how to make this viable in the long-term (aka operation "make money" in the islands), which is a complicated matter for sure. For now, we'll just keep on keeping on and letting the Universe guide us where she will. So far, so good. I'll let the pictures do the talking for now...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Haven and Mira turn ONE: Island Style

I am not a Pinterest worthy mother. Other than the fact that I do keep our living space pretty tidy, I am a terrible cook (the babies' eat mac and cheese more than I care to admit, but they are still nursing 4-5x a day so it’s okay, right…right?), I don’t dress our babies in super cute clothes with equally adorable hair-do's, and, as much as I wish they were, crafty DIY projects are simply not in my wheelhouse. Add to this the fact that 100% of our children's birthday parties - the mommy Pinterest-post mecca - have been totally thrown together last minute with almost zero thought. I'm a sort of haphazard mommy when it comes to stuff like this.

That said, the twin’s first birthday - like their big sister’s before them - was off the hook. 

Okay..."off the hook might" be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a fantastic little get together full of love, friends, fun and rum. One that will never be forgotten.

Earlier in the week several boats arrived for our friend Genevieve’s, 32nd birthday. (If you want to read about those shenanigans, check out >>>this post<<< spoiler alert: all the ladies jumped of the upper deck of the floating bar, Angel’s Rest). One of those arriving boats was the couple behind Where the Coconuts Grow, fellow bloggers we had grown to know and love online, but had never met in person. It was so great to finally meet Jody and Peter and make it official. Since they had made the upwind slog for Genevieve’s festivities, they of course stayed for the twins’ party as well. What a treat this was as Jody is a gifted photographer who took the most amazing shots of our day. If you want to see some of the absolutely beautiful pictures she took, please, please check out >>>her post<<<. We are forever indebted to her for capturing this special day so perfectly.

We also had the pleasure to meet some blog followers who just happened to be chartering in the area and dinghied over to say hi. What an awesome couple they turned out to be. As we chatted in our cockpit, Lauren and Brian mentioned that they wanted some upwind sailing experience with another hand on deck, which was odd since Scott needed a lift to Soper’s hole (upwind) where he had some day work as a captain. It was decided then and there that Scott would help them handle the boat and give them some pointers, and they’d drop him off where he could get to work. How’s that for serendipity? Brian and Lauren were, of course, invited to the twins birthday party the follow, so they turned around and made it back in time for the festivities. They were a wonderful and very natural addition to the party. Fast friends and fantastic soon-to-be full time cruisers.

And so our girls turned one in style, and in good company. 
Heading to the beach for the party 
Possibly my favorite picture EVER
Isla and her pals from s/v Necesse who, incidentally, were there when Isla turned one!

So now for the sappy bit...

Of course it’s cliche to mention how fast time has flown, but I don’t care. It feels like yesterday that I gave birth to these little monkeys.. This year has, without a doubt, been the fastest year of my life. I'd been warned that twins would do that. These babies are incredible and I can honestly say that our surprise "two-fer" has been the wildest, most amazing, ride of my life. Of course there were the very difficult days in the beginning when I wondered “why me?” but it has become clear that these babies, and twins in general, are a humongous blessing. To raise two babies at once is truly a magical experience. I mean, these two little monkeys kiss each other on command. You have not seen cute until you have seen two babies plant big wet kisses on each other when asked. It is beyond adorable. Watching their unique bond blossom is something else.

Speaking of 'blossoming', their personalities are coming in loud and clear. And what's more is the fact that the girls are night and day. Night. And. Day. Haven is wild eyed and happy. Easy to smile and flirt with anyone who will look her way, but just as quick to turn "off" and harumph in frustration if she doesn't get her way. She has the most insanely hilarious (maniacal?) giggle, which she lets out all day long to the joy of anyone in earshot. She is into EVERYTHING. She is truly the female “Denis the Menace” and definitely a “full on” little imp. And, yes, she is still very loud. Everything she does is with gusto, from smiling to screaming, and she is definitely not a “look before leap” kind of kid. Head first is her way. Everyone who meets her falls instantly in love since she is pretty much the Gerber Baby, but not before shaking their heads and laughing as they say “you will have your hands full with that one!". She is very physical and is mastering the large motor skills. She is walking like a pro and, much to our chagrin, there is no area on the boat that she cannot summit. She is a high octane bundle of love and energy and makes us laugh all day long. 

Sweet Mira is just as happy as her sister, but - like Isla before her - a little more discerning about handing out smiles. More mellow and quiet than Haven, she is thoughtful and pensive. She is also the best little snuggler around, and will nuzzle up to your neck and settle right in for a good long cuddle which, as any parent can attest, is pretty much the sweetest thing any baby can do. She is a full blown mimic and loves to try to dress herself, put on sunglasses and fake “read” by holding up a book and “talking". Her baby babble is very advanced, and when she talks it almost sounds like playing a record backward, which of course makes us wonder if perhaps she is a genius baby. She is still a little peanut (20% percentile) and not quite walking yet, but she creeps along furniture and can climb like a little monkey. She is quick to hand out kisses to everyone who asks and her gentle, sweet demeanor melts the heart of anyone who snuggles her. Her greatest joy is to make people laugh and if you giggle at something she does, she will repeat it over and over. She is small but mighty and I seriously could snuggle and kiss her all day long.

These two little fish are so happy and lovable that it takes everything I have not to eat them on a daily basis. That is how cute they are. I know that sounds weird and strangely cannibalistic, but it's true. Must. Eat. The. Babies.

As for me, well, as I mentioned a while back, I have been put to the test as a mother more times than I can count - and I have failed more times than I care to admit. But I have also excelled at times and I feel very proud of those successes. At the end of the day, we have three healthy, happy children who are loved with such hopeless abandon that, truly, nothing else really matters. It’s all about the love. #Thankyouuniverse.

So it was a very happy, very special first birthday party for Haven and Mira. Maybe even Pinterest worthy. We did it. We survived the first year with twins, and maybe even thrived here and there. What a trip. The future is bright for these little fish, that is for sure.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Sailing Swing

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

Such is life on a boat, right?

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

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

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

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