Friday, August 28, 2015

By the Skin of our Teeth: Getting Insured in Time for a Tropical Storm

I'm not sure how much time lapsed between us getting the letter telling us we were unceremoniously dropped by our insurance company and the first tropical storm of the season, but it wasn't a lot. That said, I did sort of drag my feet a bit on getting a new policy and, being that insurance falls under my field of "bases to cover", it was a pretty significant ball drop when I realized - as Hurricane Danny headed straight for our boat - that we were without coverage. I needed to fix it, and according to the severe weather tracker on, I had approximately seventy-two hours to do it.
Let me preface this story by telling you that this is NOT a post demystifying marine insurance. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm pretty sure that's impossible. Insurance and all it's various branches (tentacles?) is - to me - like alchemy, and comprehending an insurance policy (yawn-shudder-yawn) is only slightly easier than decoding the hieroglyphics on King Tut's sarcophagus. [If you are looking for a more comprehensive guide to boat insurance, here's a good start: Compare Boat Insurance and here is an AWESOME post written by the same Jody who save's us later in the story: What Marine Insurance Companies Don't Want You to Know]

What this post will teach you, however, is that it really pays to have very thorough friends and to complain to those friends via Facebook chat that "having an uninsured boat in the path of a hurricane really sucks".

For your enjoyment, I have included 'play-by-play' meme's made specifically for me during the time of this debacle (via chat) by my friend Peter who seriously knows how to make me laugh out loud.

So there we were, dropped by our insurance company because they "no longer cover live-aboards", when a little storm named Danny spun up in the Atlantic. I had been asking various companies for quotes prior to his arrival, and was given ranges anywhere from $2,500 (reasonable) to $5,000 per year (insane!). The caveat was that all of these policies required an insurance survey aged two years or less. The last survey done on our boat was "past it's prime", as it were, and a new one was going to cost us over $1,000. Gulp. "Is there any way we can get coverage without getting a new survey?" Scott asked me, visibly irritated at the notion of parting with a very large sum of money. I shook my head. "Not according to these various companies I've been talking to, no," I told him in defeat, gazing blankly at the glow of my inbox. Reluctantly, he lined up a surveyor to come and look at our boat on Tortola.

By now "tropical storm" Danny was a full-blown hurricane and projected to go over our boat on Monday morning (if there is one cool thing about hurricanes, it's that - most of the time - they give you some warning). Our coverage was hedging on one thing and one thing only: a new survey. "Scott, when is it going to happen?" I asked, doing nothing to mask my impatience. Turns out, lining up a  swift survey was easier said than done on Tortola during hurricane season. "Benson said he'd try to do it tomorrow (Thursday), if not Friday first thing" he replied. We were cutting it close. "The thing is" Scott added, "there's nothing we can do about it now, so we might as well just not worry about it." It's amazing how I can simultaneously love and hate him in a single instant. I mean, he had a point, but still...

I hopped on my computer to do a little work and started online chatting with my good friend and cruising buddy, Jody, of  Where the Coconuts Grow. One thing you must know about Jody that you may or may not pick up from her beautiful blog is that she is THOROUGH. The woman knows how to cross a "t" and dot an "i" unlike anyone I've ever known. When I told her of our debacle during our chat session, she started asking questions about the quotes we had gotten. Questions, of course, that I had no answers for. She mentioned things like "consequential damage" and "Lloyd's of London" and noted that our quotes had "crazy high deductibles." She then suggested I contact her guy, Kent, at the Pegasus Insurance Group, the company that they had just recently switched over to. "I want to say Pegasus would accept a survey that was 3-5 years old" she wrote me. Skeeeert. To modernize an old favorite, "$1K saved is $1K earned."

I emailed Kent immediately and went to bed hoping he'd get back to me ASAP. Our survey was scheduled first thing the following morning...

The next morning Scott let me sleep in, which turned out to be a bad thing since I didn't get to check my email to see that Kent had replied at 6:30am and that, yes, they would accept our old survey.

"Stop the surveyor!" I yelled as I ran out of the bedroom, hair a mess and sleep still in my eyes.

"What?" Scott looked at me like a crazy person.

"Jody's company....will accept our old survey!" keep in mind I had literally just rolled out of bed. (Have I mentioned I am not a morning person?)

Scott immediately sprang up grabbed his phone. "This would have been nice to know two hours ago" he grumbled as he dialed the number of our surveyor, "I hope we're not too late."
Long story short - we were late but not too late; the surveyor had been on our boat but, lucky for us, only for a bit. He said it was easy and not much trouble since we'd "put her away so meticulously" (there's really no other way when you store your boat in the hurricane box during storm season).

We were off the hook.

Later that afternoon, we got our new quote - with coverage binding the next day - from Pegasus. $2250 for the year with year-round coverage as live-aboards in the 'hurricane box.'

We were getting insured. And just in time for Hurricane Danny to fizzle out to nothing more than a little rain shower.

But his big sister Erika was following right in his path, and she allegedly packed a punch.
It's definitely unnerving at times to keep your boat in "Hurricane Alley" during storm season, but having insurance definitely helps us sleep a little better.

Huge thank you to Kent Urbine of Pegasus Insurance Group. He went above and beyond the call of duty for us and his customer service is exemplary. Also a huge thank you to Jody of Where the Coconuts Grow. She saved us a LOT of money. Definitely owe her a drink (or ten!) when we meet back up in the BVI's in November!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Some Press and a Video

Things have been plodding along up here. As I've written before, this break has been a nice change and we're grateful for the opportunity to be here. While it might not be a 'vacation' per se, it has provided us with enough downtime to get some work done. Scott has gotten a temporary gig as a captain for Chicago Sailboat Charters which is great experience, and I've been working on solidifying a few freelance writing jobs to temper my growing bikini addiction. I'm also s l o w l y chipping away at the mountain of email I have accumulated over the last twelve months of "acute inbox negligence". We're getting our ducks in a row for our return to Tortola (which will be in early October), I'm gearing up for a blog re-design and - shocker - there are still not enough hours in the day.

Since this visit, we've also enjoyed a little press here and there. All this news and media has been shared on our Facebook Page, but I know there are quite a lot of you who don't partake in social media, so to those of you for whom all this is "old news", sorry! The Daily Mail picked up our Bored Panda article, and then we had a story run about us in the Chicago Tribune. The aftermath has been...interesting. Aside from no fewer than ten pitches for a reality television show from various producers and production companies (no, we are not entertaining any such thing...see below re: video), an audition for a television commercial (that, we would do!),  and the Tribune article getting re-printed in papers across the country (hello new friends!), we've had a couple people stop us when we are out and about and say, "Wait a minute? Are you that family we read about in the paper that lives on a sailboat?" While I know that our lifestyle and what we have done thus far is hardly trailblazing when compared to the exploits of many of our fellow cruisers, I have to remember it is out of the ordinary in these parts. To have a little light shine on us in terms of attention has been nice, even if there are others who are far more adventurous (and possibly more deserving.) Note: two blogs of families currently inspiring and blowing my mind in equal parts are Salty Kisses and Anasazi Girl.

In addition to the press, we're going to be on TV! We had the great honor to be featured in a short video clip by our friends Paul and Sheryl Shard of the Distant Shores television show for their upcoming television episode on Cruising with Children. Interestingly enough, this also happens to coincide with the release of the much anticipated book Voyaging With Kids - A Guide to Family Life Afloat which promises to be the definitive manual on cruising as a family and is - in part -written by my good (bloggy) friend, Behan, of the excellent site Sailing Totem. If you get a copy, make sure to look for Isla in there as I believe they used (with permission of course) a couple of our photos.

Paul and Sheryl filmed this segment back in April (I think it was April?) when we were in Virgin Gorda. Check out the edited piece below. I really wish I would have thrown on some makeup or done my hair (face palm), but - hey - there's a reason I'm a Blogger and not a Vlogger. I was ridiculously nervous at the (very likely) prospect of sounding like an idiot and, in hindsight, there is so much more I could have said but I think it makes for an okay couple of minutes. Plus, you can hear my "real" voice and not just my "writing" voice which I am told is something that is surprising to people: "You have a Chicago accent!" "You don't sound like a cheerleader!" (double wince) and you can see, that - yes - Scott really does look like he belongs in Hollywood (swoon). If you are interested in purchasing any of the Distant Shores videos, they'll certainly whet your whistle as to what the cruising life entails. Enjoy!

Note: when I posted a link to the Chicago Tribune article (headline photo) many people commented "where is Scott?" Sadly, the paper chose that Scott-less photo out of the twenty-something I sent them. Also, we have hardly any (if any?) photos of the five of us sailing together. To remedy this in the future, I went against the urging of every single cell in my body and bought a selfie stick. I know. I kind of want to shoot me, too. But at least we can have a few more family photos, right?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Land Life vs. Boat Life: What is Easier with Kids?

"Are you finding it easier to be on land with the kids?" This is the #1 question we have been getting since being back on land for our hurricane season hiatus, and - shocking as this may be - it's not as simple an answer as one might think.

The obvious assumption is that, yes, life on land is so much easier. And in many ways it is. We have a nice house to spread out in, with all the amenities (from a stand-up shower to dishwasher) that we typically do without. We have the use of a car to take us from place to place with ease. And who can forget the abundance of babysitters around?! We can take a quick stroll down the street and roam the aisles of a well-stocked grocery store, we have no fewer than eight playgrounds within a mile of where we live, and, in general, everything - from showering to shopping - is much more convenient.

But is it easier? Not really.

I realize that this "epiphany" is largely due to the fact that our children are so young, and having three kids aged three and under is difficult in any scenario: land, sea or grocery store. When I first read that having a toddler and twins was the "Decathlon of Parenting" I laughed (and then cried. Hard.) But it's true. This is a full-on contact sport and requires Olympic-style energy (and strategy), for sure.

"Who knew living on land was so much work!" Scott lamented as we loaded the girls into our (borrowed) car to take them to the neighborhood pool. And while at first I thought he was joking, the look on his face told me he was serious. I laughed because it's true and it's something I had been ruminating on since our arrival back here. The simple fact of the matter is this: we have three little kids and even the menial things (like meals) are a lot of work. Schlepping those three toddlers from play dates to pools - between nap times and meal times no less - is, for lack of a better word, exhausting. It's always a production to get from A to B - and we travel pretty light for a family of five.

Being on land, we are suddenly faced with options. There are so many things to do here; splash parks, museums, kid gyms, pools, libraries... and while the litany of choices is a nice change of pace from our typical "beach or hike?" options, we still need to cart three small children and associated gear (i.e. snacks, diapers, a tumbler of wine for mama...etc.) to get there. While in theory all these extra ways to kill time seem so appealing, I am learning that life with toddlers doesn't necessarily get any easier with more options of things to do. Packing up three toddlers is not unlike herding cats, and more often than not I turn down invitations for playdates and such because it's just not worth the stress and rigamarole to get there. Our girls are just as happy taking a short walk to the neighborhood park as they are going to the zoo in the city. When left to my own devices (Scott is more ambitious than I when it comes to outings) I opt for the easy "lets just hop in the stroller and go around the block to the park" route. Go ahead and call me lazy. Guilty as charged.

Then there is the house...while living in a house is SO very nice on so many levels, it's also a lot more work to chase around three little ones in. First of all, there is the issue of tidying up. Long-time followers of this blog know that I am something of a "neat freak" (Scott calls it OCD but it's not that bad!) and let me tell you, cleaning a 44 foot boat is WAY easier (and quicker!) than cleaning a three bedroom house. There are infinite nooks and crannies for small toys to get lost (under beds and couches, behind dressers and drawers) and, in general, more 'stuff' to get into and mess up. A deep cleaning of our boat takes all of an hour, a deep cleaning of this house...well, I have no idea because I haven't had the time for it. Lesson here: more room is not always better, it's just more to mess up and get lost in.

Then their is the issue of toddler management. Added space means more places for the twins to get into trouble. The inside of a boat is more or less baby-proof with self-locking cupboards and everything being attached to the hull, not to mention the girls are never more than fifteen feet from my person. Our monkey twins are not only running in different directions these days (yes, running!), but constantly pulling chairs over themselves, climbing onto table tops and barreling from room to room while grabbing everything off the shelves. I've taken to closing every door in this one story open-concept house just so I can keep track of them and try to maintain some order. Even still, they're constantly rifling through drawers and getting into cupboards. They absolutely love to pull open the dishwasher (why aren't there locks on those things?) and more than once I've found one of the twins yielding a very sharp knife that they proudly pulled out of it. I finally understand why there's an entire industry dedicated to making sure babies don't die in their baby proofing homes. Again, more stuff equals more trouble for kids to get into.

So...being on land - for us - is definitely not easier, just...different.

When we go back to our boat, however, our girls will be a bit older and there will undoubtedly be another period of adjustment, frustration and difficulty as we find our footing again. Children grow quickly and we as parents have to change tacks constantly to stay ahead of the game. "If you don't bend, you break" is something Scott once told me that always echoes in my head (and, sadly, I don't always heed.) Parenthood - like childhood - is an ongoing evolution. Just when you've 'mastered' the art of dining out with your three little ones, they start walking and no longer want to sit still. Once you think you have baby-proofed your yard enough to kick back and relax, they learn to summit the fence. Just when you think you can take a shower while the kids play on the floor, they discover the craft drawer and decide to finger paint on the walls. Which brings me to another similarity between parenting and cruising: the second you think you've got it "figured out", life reminds you that you haven't. Sigh. Kids and boats are endless lessons in humility.

So while I do long for a tropical beach day with our girls and while I do complain about the production that is taking them in and out of the car, and while I do turn down 90% of the invitations we are given due to logistics - I also see the tremendous benefits our land-based hiatus has given us. We've been gifted with a back yard with a killer swing, room to run and play without the threat of drowning, friends at every corner, and - most important - proximity to family. It doesn't get much better than that.

So, while land life might not be the "vacation" we thought it might be, it's a welcome change. And one that we no doubt will miss tremendously head back down south. It might not be 'easier', but it comes with a lot of great perks.
Found this classic in someone's garbage. The fights over who's in the driver's seat are epic.
Our wooded back yard is FULL of interesting creatures for the girls to find. This here is a cicada. They love them.
Another perk of land life? Bath time!
Spending time with our land-based friends is another major perk.
As is spending time with my best girlfriends...some of whom have been my best friends since second grade!
Our preferred mode of transportation around here, the Valco Baby Tri-Mode Twin Stroller with "joey seat". It's a beast, but does the job of carting around three kids! (and here we squeezed in a fourth!)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Keep Your Head in the Game: The Importance of Visualization

Cheap umbrella strollers with simple stroller connectors were a well-thought solution for twin travel
"Wow, you sure think a lot." My mom and I taking the girls on a walk and I was verbally working out whether or not a collapsible wagon should or could replace our umbrella strollers (that we make into a double stroller with these great stroller connectors) when we head back to the boat in October. "I mean, the wagon is more practical," I started. "I would be able to cover more terrain and it'd be great for the beach and lugging more gear..." I paused, playing the scenario through in my head. "But then again, when I'm getting the girls off the boat and onto the dock, I do this one at a time, and grab the other from the boat after the first one is clipped in." I stalled, thinking further. "So if we do get a wagon, we'd need one that I can clip the girls into so that the one in the cart cannot get out while I'm going to the boat to load up the other one."

I have more thinking (and research) to do.
Would something like this make sense? Hmmm....
Scenarios like this one are constantly going through my head. If there is one thing that both cruising and children teach a person, it's the importance of staying one step ahead of the game. When it comes to kids and boats, things can go from hunky dory to hell in a matter of seconds, and the secret to preventing this (or at least making sure it happens with less frequency) is preparation. There's no way around it. You don't prepare, you're going to have problems. Period.

Bringing three toddlers to live on a 44 foot sailboat requires a tremendous amount of forethought. It's not a matter of just packing up the kids aboard and winging it (though no matter what there will be a trial and error "learn as you go" aspect). With fewer or no kids perhaps you can be more cavalier (we can tell you emphatically that cruising as a couple and cruising with only one young child is infinitely easier than cruising with three) - but given our experience of being outnumbered by babies, I am here to say that it is totally do-able, but requires planning. I am 100% positive that the last eight months on the boat would not have gone nearly as well if we hadn't prepared as thoroughly as we did. But, like anything cruising and parenting, no matter how much you prepare - you're going to get caught with your pants down once and a while. Shit happens. Mother Nature takes no orders and children cannot be programmed. Things don't always go to plan.

But - and this is a big one - having a plan will greatly lessen your chances of bedlam in both babies and boating, that is for certain.

"I have to think like this," I explained to my mom. "A professional athlete doesn't win a game by hitting the field and simply trying their best" I told her. "The most successful athletes are strategists - they envision a game before it's played, work out their moves, and visualize different scenarios and their reactions ahead of time." I realize I am far from a professional athlete, but this visualization process is something I remember from my days as a varsity runner and has helped us tremendously in our cruising life. Sure, my nighttime sleep might be compromised (these scenarios often play out when I am lying in bed) but things like infant dinghy seats and awesome twin v-berth bunks result from these sessions.
This awesome and innovative dinghy seat (we're patenting it!) was the result of LOTS of visualizing and planning
Take now, for example. Our girls are more mobile, curious and rambunctious than ever. Because of work commitments (more on this later), we are going to be based in a marina when we return down island (with weekly excursions to sail and anchor out). Docks frighten me WAY more than being at anchor or at sea with our girls and I know that I am going to have to be super vigilant about making sure they are safe. Which brings me to the current conundrum I am tirelessly thinking about and researching (aside from the wagon): what is the best and most practical floatation device that can keep our girls safe while running around a marina, but not so cumbersome that it makes them miserable and inhibits their ability to climb and play? While I think I may have found a solution (it's in the mail), I am open to suggestions. Either way, I have faith I that I will figure something out. Necessity is the mother of invention, which is yet another lesson brought to you by both boating and parenting.

If you are dreaming of doing something, anything, I say: start visualizing. Read books, blogs and articles that can help shape the accuracy of your mental picture. It's this imaginative blueprint that is the first step in making things happen; from the great ("Let's cross the Pacific!") to the mundane ("Let's get a collapsible wagon!"). Hopefully, for us, we start leaning more toward the "great" again...when our kids are a little older, that is. Visualizing crossing an ocean with three toddlers looks a lot like hell in my mind!

To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan... believe... act!

- Alfred A. Montapert

Friday, August 14, 2015

How Do We Parent? Our Attempts to Raise Bad-Ass Daughters (Finger's Crossed it Works!)

Meet Aqua Girl. Well, actually, she calls herself "Blast Off" but Scott and I have taken to calling her Aqua Girl for obvious reasons. She'll answer to either and, depending on her mood (note: she's three), she'll correct you as to what her preferred name is.

And *this* is what I love about watching a child grow. This picture right here. She did this all on her own and walked up to me and said, "You can call me Blast Off" and then rattled off a list of her super powers and started zipping around the boat, climbing like a monkey, running back and forth and making what I can only call "Superhero noises". The only direction I gave her for this photo was to give me a thumbs up, as Superhero's are wont to do.

This photo. I love it so much.


If I have one goal in life, it is to raise strong, happy and confident daughters which is a pretty tall order in today's world. We have been very intentional about how we bring up our girls; and our style is a hodge-podge of parenting philosophies (though I cringe at that term). We were not "intentional" about selecting these philosophies, they were more instinctual for us and after reading and learning about these various "styles", I find we actually do fit into a few. We're a little bit attachment parent, a healthy dose free-range parent, and a nice serving of slow parent.

What does that mean, exactly?

As far as "attachment parenting" goes - when our girls were younger we did a LOT of baby wearing. Isla was worn almost non-stop for the first four months of her life, and I loved "tandem wearing" the twins for at least as long. All our girls were/are breastfed exclusively, Isla until sixteen months (she self-weaned when I was pregnant with the twins) and Haven and Mira still nurse at almost eighteen months. In addition, fostering a close-knit family bond through intense bouts of family time and togetherness is paramount to us.

We fit into the "free range" style a bit as well. We let our girls explore freely and do our best not to scare them or hinder them from doing something adventurous unless it will result in being seriously hurt (note: falling off a couch does not count as "hurt" in our book). Yes, our girls have a lot of bumps and bruises as a result, but how else do kids learn their limits and the consequences of their actions? I am very honest with them and put a lot of trust in their natural instincts. When they are getting into a dangerous situation, I tell them about it and mince no words explaining the repercussions. Almost always they make the choice to back off and take a better route (believe me, just because they cannot speak does not mean they don't understand!) Our girls climb all over our boat and while we always keep a watchful eye, we do not hover. In turn, they gain confidence in their skills and physical abilities. I can only imagine the things people on boats next to us are thinking when they see our three year old climb the mast unassisted and slide up onto the boom to lay down!

In addition to our total encouragement of testing physical limits, we have a limited selection of toys, no television (though our three year old does play games on a iPad and will watch movies from time to time), and we read, a lot. There is no shortage of children's books on our boat and we read aloud to our girls as much as possible. As a result, they love "play time" with books surrounding them, even though none of them can read. Fostering a love of books and the ability to quietly self-entertain are huge priorities for us.

When it comes to "slow" parenting - we keep it simple. While I do not deny the benefit of extra-curricular activities for a growing child and mind, it is our belief that kids today are overbooked and it starts way too young. For us, not rushing to and fro makes for a less stressful environment (getting three kids from A to B is hard enough without having to adhere to a time!) When our girls are older I am sure they will be involved in extracurriculars, but at their current ages (three and eighteen months) - I find it more beneficial (and easier!!) to simply play with them and take them to places where their imaginations can run wild. Luckily, our lifestyle is such that we are at the beach every day - and I truly believe there are no better toys in the world than water and sand. We believe strongly in free play, being outside as much as possible and living life in the S.L.O.W lane.

The final piece of this puzzle is sleep. We are huge proponents of the importance of sleep and adhere to a pretty strict sleep and nap schedule for our children (we follow and highly recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) which does give our day some pretty rigid structure, flying in the face of many of the "philosophies" listed above. Sleep and routine are two things we feel are very important for growing children, so whatever "philosophy" that fits under, I guess we're a little bit of that as well. But I will say that life on a boat - which can be very unpredictable - is much, much easier (for us) when our children are on a schedule. And naps? Naps and early bedtimes are my sanity. I cannot even begin to tell you.


I understand that we are privileged to be able to raise our children this way. I recognize that not every parent can spend this kind of time with their kids. I also realize how lucky I am to have so many resources, from books to online parenting forums, to help guide me in my journey as a mother. I also know that not *every* parent wants to raise their kids in this way; bucking tradition and the way they were raised in search of something different. Some of my very best friends live "traditional" modern-day lives and are amazing mothers with amazing children.

Just as our "style" is a conglomeration of defined philosophies, so is that of every parent. We do our best with the time and resources available to us. I might not be the mom to host a Princess themed play-date for ten kids, cook the best organic and Pinterest worthy food (mac and cheese is a staple here -wince), or create the cutest DIY Halloween costumes for our girls...But I am the mom who initiates full-blown dance parties with her girls, reads stories in awesome voices (thank you theater degree!), belts out Taylor Swift with gusto and wholly lets her sixteen month old summit the ten foot rock wall at the park with nary a hand on her. And I think those things are pretty cool, too. Yin and yang.

So instead on focusing what our girls are not getting by living a less-traditional existence (dance lessons, soccer camp, regular play dates, etc.) I tend to look at the positives of our lifestyle; the connectedness with nature, a more simple existence, making do with less 'stuff', and (fingers crossed!) a tighter-knit sisterly and family bond...which to me makes this all worth it. As with everything in life, there is a trade off and there is no doubt our girls will miss out on some of the benefits a traditional life offers. But for us and our girls, bucking tradition and forging our own path - in life and parenting - is working just fine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When Worlds Collide: A Lesson in Perfect Timing

When Scott and I ventured "Up North" towards the mitten tip of Michigan, we had no other plans than to spend some quality time with his family. I mean, what else could we need? We weren't expecting to meet up with other friends, or swap stories with fellow bloggers and we certainly had no inclination to meet up with any members of my (Illinois-based) family during our trip. Fate, however, had other plans. Turns out, serendipity hitched a ride in our trunk on the way up.

Let me first apologize for the rambling nature of this post. I could very easily flush this out into at least three different posts. I would love so much to delve more into the subjects of Northern Michigan, the magic of serendipity, insta-bonds with fellow sister-bloggers and epiphanies had on the water's edge; but sadly, I don't have the time for that these days. This one rambling and rather disjointed post will have to do.

I digress...

Northern Michigan is amazing. There's really no other way to put it; it is natural beauty at it's best. The perfect combination of glistening fresh water lakes, sloping ridge lines, and lush woodland vegetation instantly win any visitor over. There's so much to do from boating to biking, from beaching to can easily fill and entire summer indulging in outdoor activities, visiting quaint harbor towns and taking in various points of interest. We love it. It's as simple as that. And the fact that we have family that lives smack dab in the heart of it all is pretty sweet. It's our home away from our home away from home. Wherever that is.

We were soaking it all in, thoroughly enjoying our time with Scott's family when I got a text from my cousin, Ben, telling me that he would soon be arriving in Elk Rapids with his wife and dog on their Grand Banks trawler. He wanted to know a) would we still be in the vicinity and b) could we meet up? The answer to both was a resounding YES. This was crazy on two levels: 1) What are the odds of randomly being within a half hour from my cousin who was on a shake down trip before he and his wife leave on their epic Great Loop journey? And 2) What are the odds of our schedules lining up and that they'd chose the very harbor (of which there are many!) where we happened to pick up our very first boat, Rasmus, almost six years earlier?

And that's not all serendipity had in store.

Earlier in the week we randomly ran into some of our best friends and their two adorable kids for a full day of on-the-water fun. We knew they would be "up north" for a bit on their family vacation, but we made no plans to get together and see one another. Imagine our surprise when we found out they were staying at the resort right next to Scott's mom's place, not even a ten minute walk away?

And the wonderful run-in's continued from there...

You might remember a while ago when I interviewed the awesome duo from Well, as it turns out, Jessie now lives not thirty minutes from Scott's mom, and she was keen on a meet-up as well. I was pretty sure we'd hit it off; I've dabbled in her blog for a while and not only his her writing stellar, but she and I seem to share a brain on many levels. We'd emailed back and forth a bunch since our interview, and I was so excited to finally meet her in person. Coordinating, however, was looking grim since she was working just about every evening and our days were pretty packed-up with kiddos and family. As it turns out, mother nature intervened with an epic Armegeddon-style storm that wreaked havoc on Northern Michigan, leaving thousands without power for days. The restaurant where Katie works was once such place. "I have the next few days off work!" she wrote me, "Let's meet up for dinner!"

And so we did. And it was wonderful.

The night was a blast; we drank, ate, laughed, told stories, and drank some more. Our world's collided in the best and most serendipitous of ways, and it was awesome.

As if that wasn't enough, on the drive home, my best friend texted that she and her family were in Holland, MI (which happens to be right on the way back to Chicago) and would we like to meet for a pit stop lunch? Despite wanting to get home as fast as possible (traveling in a car with three toddlers is like playing a game of catch with a grenade), we erred on the side of spontaneity and decided "what the hell". Lunch turned into an afternoon play date at the very same boat yard where we began our first shake down cruise as a family of five which then turned into another night spent at her family's wonderful lake house. The very same lake house I used to go to with her nearly every summer from age seven on. Vacation: extendo. Again, odds that our schedules would coincide like that? Who knows. But we took the detour and were better for it.

Being in Michigan - the family time, the serendipitous run-in's and everything in between - was utterly soul-lifting. Spending so much time outside, in nature, on and in the water with our girls completely drove home the fact that no matter where we 'settle down' it must be somewhere where we can get our toes wet in our very own back yard. Not 'near' or 'by' the water, but on the water...for us there is no other way. It's very obviously a reason why I love living on a boat so much, this direct proximity to water. It's effect on me is visceral. It is truly the elixir of life, and being able to gaze at it, swim in it, and play around it daily is a priority.
A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. ~Henry David Thoreau
They don't call it "Pure Michigan" for nothing, that's for certain.
Having our kids spend time with their beloved cousins was probably the best part of the trip.
Random run in with awesome friends? Bonus!
Water and sand, two of the world's best (and cheapest!) children's toys1
Our babies are right at home on the beach on the water. Add sand, water and sun for hours of entertainment.
We did a LOT of pontoon boating. Mira loved it.
Isla teaching Mira the finer points of sidewalk chalking, namely - not eating it.

We brought out Scotts' family's old CL16 and Scott was in HEAVEN. This little boat is SO fun.

Here's a (grainy and low quality) photo of that crazy storm. 90 mph winds, hail and general havok was wreaked.
This is Jessie. My soul-sista from another mister. Love her.
My cousin Ben and Jessie. "Look what I got for the trip, Britt!" he tell's me, "An old squeezebox!!" Hilarious and Awesome.
Loopers and Cruisers UNITE!
Boating down the river.
The water everywhere was calf-deep, natures perfect baby pool
On a mission, as usual.
Pure joy.
A rare picture of me and our three girls. It's impossible to love this much I think.
Our little beach babies. Nothing makes me happier than to see them playing together.
A final sunset with my bestest friend on the planet. Perfection in every way.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Who's Dream is this, Anyway?

"Wow, that woman is a real trooper." A zodiac had just passed our stern as Scott and I were in the middle of the (rather laborious) process of off-loading our three girls from our dinghy and onto the boat. I heard his comment clear as day. My first reaction was a little chuckle; our current situation is quite the head-turner. But I quickly realized that his impression was probably a bit skewed: That instead of calling me a 'trooper' because I was unloading three toddlers from our dinghy (because wouldn't that make Scott a trooper as well?), maybe he was calling me a trooper because he thought that perhaps I had been convinced to live on a boat by my husband, and I was a good wife (or 'trooper') to have gone along for the ride. Either way, I took it as a compliment - but if he did think I was simply riding the coattails of Scott's dream, he would be very, very wrong.

It's true, however, that the vast majority of cruising couples we meet on the water over the past five years are often driven, literally and figuratively, by the man. I'm not sure why this is, but the woman in the pair is more often than not a willing (or, in some unfortunate cases, unwilling) participant in her husband's dream. Of course this is not always the case and we've met many, many couple's for whom the dream has evolved into a 'shared' one, and even a few where the woman is the driving force behind it.

So who's dream is this, anyway?

For Scott and I, it is very much a shared one. For me, the "traveler" of our duo, I'd been talking about 'sailing around the world' since I was a pre-teen. To me, sailing was a means to live differently and travel as a lifestyle. Scott, the true "sailor" in our duo, had also been dreaming and scheming about a life afloat just as long. For him, however, it was more about being at sea, exploring new islands and the simple art of harnessing the wind. When we met and learned of this shared dream, I believe it was the very fuel that kick-started our relationship into orbit. I mean, how many people living in Chicago really, truly want to do what it takes to live and travel by sailboat? It's not many. We felt like we hit the jackpot with each other, and in many ways, we did. What we wanted to get out of the lifestyle might have been different, but the vessel to get us there was the same. So from day one of our relationship, almost everything we did revolved around making this 'dream' come true. The two of us leaving on a boat to sail off into the sunset surprised exactly no one in our lives. For our wedding we registered for winches, offshore medical kits and windlasses; Egyptian cotton bed sheets and the white picket fence were never in our sites.

And here we are.

We obviously didn't get very far around the world, in fact some critics argue we've hardly gone anywhere at all (despite the fact that we sailed from Chicago to Trinidad, done the "thorny path" twice, and sailed up and down the windwards and leewards a couple times clocking in over 10K nautical miles), but it doesn't matter. Many have sailed more, and many have sailed less. It's not about needing anyone else's approval or accolades, and it's certainly not a competition. For us, the past five years has been a metamorphosis of sorts. What started as a plan to "sail around the world" has become a dream to live a life less ordinary, with the focus on raising three healthy, happy and (dare I say) bad-ass daughters who are free-thinking world citizens. It's become less about the sailing to far-flung places, and more about cultivating a life that we enjoy and can feel proud of. It's really as simple as that. And, to be honest, I feel that in some teeny-tiny way, we are pioneers in our own right. There aren't many people who, given our same circumstances, would have the stick-to-it that we have.

There are times when I am more the driving force behind our dream, and times when Scott takes the helm - but the roots are always the same. We've never followed the pack - not as individuals and not as a couple - and while the path might be one that evolves and unfolds before us as we go, it is ours. Together.

And, yeah, we're troopers. I'll give us that.
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