Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Reflections on a Life Forever Altered by her Wrath

We were supposed to fly back to Tortola yesterday. Our bags sit in my closet half-way packed with belongings and goodies we were bringing back to our beloved boat. This past weekend was supposed to be full of tearful goodbyes with friends and family. We should be on our boat right now, maybe getting ready for Isla's first day of kindergarten. She was so excited about her new shoes and uniform. Or maybe we'd be at the beach bar at this moment, hanging out with our friends and telling stories from our respective summers, enveloping in hugs, clinking drinks and lamenting how we'd forgotten it could be so damn hot. The post-summer reunions are always so nice...

This next season held so much promise; best business year yet, travel plans, family visits, rendezvous with new friends...there was so much we were looking forward to.

Irma took all that away from us.

It is hard to put into words how I am feeling. I don't even really think I know how I am feeling because the magnitude of the situation is, quite frankly, hard to grasp. It's surreal and, like so many of our friends, I feel numb. We are not unique in our position right now, not by a long shot. I'm often at a loss for words when people ask me about it. There's a constant little ache in my heart that I carry with me all day long and each time my brain reminds me that this is really happening, I get that a tiny sensation of free-falling in my belly. Life as we knew it is over, and we need to begin again. And while there is a glimmer of excitement in a clean slate and having the ability to "chose your own adventure" (this is how I am framing it for the girls), there is also a tremendous amount of pain and grief because - as most of you know - we really, really loved our life. Our boat, our community, our island...We didn't want it to change. There is no where else we'd rather be. But we don't always get what we want, and sometimes something unexpected happens that shakes your world to the core.

On September 6th, Hurricane Irma ripped across our little island showing no mercy. We were hit square on and - at one point as we abroad watched in horror - all of Tortola was visible in her eye. We held our breath. But we knew...we had seen the footage coming out of St. Maarten just hours earlier The devastation...we knew it was going to be beyond what any of us could possibly fathom...And she was. Her wrath was catastrophic. Biblical. Unimaginable. The scope of her destruction was beyond anyone's wildest dreams. I keep throwing around the unofficial statistic 90%. "90% of the houses are destroyed." "90% of the boats are destroyed." "90% of our island is destroyed." Ninety percent. Again, it's not an official number - but I can tell you it's close. It doesn't take a genius to scan the images and videos come to that ball park number. There is hardly a single palm frond left. She raked our island clean of all foliage. It looks like a nuclear bomb was dropped and friends on the ground are describing the scene as "post-apocalyptic".

She took our boat, she lies now at the muddy bottom of our marina. She took our business, stripping our boats from their hurricane hole and hurling them into a twisted pile of hundreds of others. She took the homes and businesses of many others and nearly all of our friends. She took beaches and trees and animals and landmarks. And she took lives. We are grateful and lucky to have been spared. Lucky to be alive...we know this, and we are grateful. But that doesn't mean we still cannot feel the pain of losing so much. It doesn't mean we don't grieve for the life that we knew and our uncertain future. We will be okay, we know that. And, yes, we still have each other. But we grieve. A death has still occurred. And, to be quite honest, I think I haven't even truly begin to process it. This is not the loss of a loved one - far greater to be sure - but it is a loss, and one that so many cannot even begin to fathom. But we are lucky, we had insurance and, hopefully, we will one day be able to recover our great losses.

In the wake of Irma, however, some magic has occurred. As it happens so often in times of crisis the layers of the onion peel away and people begin to see what is really important. Before Irma hit (and we became aware of her velocity and what it might mean for us) my friend went aboard s/v Legato to gather things off our boat, "What do you want?" She asked. I couldn't think of a single thing that I *needed* to get off because of real value. After Irma hit the only thing  I was concerned about was the safety of our friends. And now, instead of slipping into a depressed funk about what our future holds (I completely reserve the right to do this at a later date, fyi), I - along with most of my friends - am channelling my pain into efforts to help the BVI recover as quickly as it can.

People are pulling up their sleeves and coming together. On the ground, on the front lines and abroad, people are working tirelessly to help in any way they can. From fundraising to donating, from evacuating to offering services, from going to the front lines to getting word out to the media, everyone is doing their part and efforts large and small are being made by everyday people. More and more stories are coming out of people talking about how - despite the horror of their experience - it's been one of the most humbling and positive experiences they've ever been a part of. How grateful they are for their lives. How grateful they are for their friends. How, really, it's the simplest things that matter the most. How everyone came together to help one another. It's a lesson in humanity. Almost every message from those who have survived the greatest storm of the century is: Gratitude. For life, for neighbors, for each other. "It was the most horrific experience of our lives...but we are stronger for it".

The yin and yang of life. Just as our beautiful British Virgin Islands showed nature at her most perfect, Irma reminded us that she can be very, very ugly as well. She giveth and she taketh away.

Scott and I have started a relief fund to help rebuild our beloved British Virgin Islands. He is in Puerto Rico right now working with the amazing group >>>Sailors Helping<<< (set up by the amazing powerhouse of a duo behind Sail Me Om) - along with so many others - (Massive shout out to Puerto Rico and it's people for stepping up to the plate SO BIG for ALL the Virgin Islands and our friends from Three Sheets Sailing for their amazing work!) in an effort to find ways to get our islands back up and running as quickly as possible. And there are so many more I have not mentioned...The road is long, but we are not alone.

If you'd like to help the beautiful Islands that we called home, if you ever vacationed in the BVI and fell in love with it like we did - donate. No amount is too small. Please feel free to share if you are unable to contribute!


PLEASE HELP US HELP THE BVI COME BACK STRONGER THAN EVER:





#BVISTRONG #WEWILLREBUILD


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait: The Agony of Watching a Hurricane Barrel Down on Your Island


"What's the most stressful part of living on an island/running an island business/living on a boat?" We get this question a lot. And there are a host of answers to each but one answer crosses all divides is: being right smack dab in the middle of hurricane alley between the months of June and November every year. Our stress is compounded by the fact that both >>>our business<<< and our home are water based, and as such Scott and I currently own four boats in Tortola. There are more than a few people who would look at us and think to themselves (and possibly out loud) what a preposterous position to put ourselves in. And at this particular moment, we might agree.

***

There is currently a major hurricane barreling down on our little island. Her name is Irma and she is apparently a beast, slated to be a Cat 3 or 4 when she hits our area (for perspective, Katrina was a Cat 5). After a few days of nail-biting monitoring it seems, more than ever, that she will - at best - pass very close to our island, and - at worst - pass directly over us. My days have been a blur of checking weather sites for updates and new storm models with the hopes of positive news, and each day it becomes more and more clear that this storm poses a real threat to our island and island neighbors. People are flying out, stores are selling out of non-perishables and the departments of disaster management are urging people to PREPARE NOW. It's a big deal. And this waiting, this constant refreshing of the news feed to see if a new model shows promise of a turn away from us...it is agonizing. But like watching a train wreck, it is so hard turn away. "Stop watching!" they tell me but it's hard when we have so much at stake; our livelihood, our friends and our home are all there. And so I keep scanning my feed, hoping for positive news while channeling my inner meteorologist and every morning brings news that makes the sickening feeling in my belly deepen: this hurricane is not turning, her path is becoming more defined and our island is very likely in it.

Another agonizing element to this story is the fact that we are not there. Of course this is a blessing, as our most precious cargo is safe from Irma's wrath. However, if we were there, we could at least be doing something proactive to prepare and know we did our best to do what we could...instead we watch with a feeling of helplessness. We monitor the weather sites, we communicate and commiserate with other locals and we hope. Thankfully, we have some amazing friends, neighbors and employees working for us on the home front. Peter from >>>Where the Coconuts Grow<<< has been a lifesaver and is currently prepping our home, >>>s/v Legato<<<, and two of our >>>Aristocat Charters<<< catamarans as well as his own boat (read his wife and my good friend Jody's Hurricane Plan). With the help of our amazing employees Jorn and Brian, I am confident they are doing right by us. But they also have to prepare themselves, their homes and boats as well, and I feel very guilty adding to an already stressful workload for all of them. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for their efforts on our behalf...

Another element of this excruciating waiting game is the simple fact that hurricanes make a rather slow progression forward - about 15 mph to be exact - and that means we watch them for days and days and days before we know with good probability exactly where they will go... The silver lining to this is of course the ability to see them coming (most of the time) and give people ample time to prepare, the hard part is watching a hurricane march ominously toward your island at the pace of a healthy jogging human which, for the record, feels painfully slow. And then there is the fact that we have so much to lose there. The potential loss makes me sick to consider but it's hard not to; our home, our business - all are literal sitting ducks in the water. Yes, we are insured. Yes, these things can be replaced. But the thought of utter devastation - and losing most everything we own - breaks my heart, and even though it feels selfish to be so worried when we are our of harms way and other's will have it way worse than us, tears well up in my eyes at the thought of what could happen and what it means for us.

So we wait.

***

It is Sunday and it is looking like Irma will pass by or over our rock sometime Tuesday or Wednesday night. The next 48 hours will be crucial and determine with more precision where she will go but hurricanes - like all of mother nature's incredible forces - are wild and unpredictable. We will not have real answers until after she has left us in her wake. Hopefully, with as little damage as possible.

In the words of our Isla, who just a few hours ago looked into my worried eyes and said, "Don't worry mommy. If our stuff tips over it's okay, it's just stuff. The most important things are people." And she is right. Our wise, wonderful child.

Our thoughts are with all our island friends, neighbors, fellow boaters and everyone in Irma's path.

"The most important things are people." Stay safe, everyone. And a heartfelt "thank you" to our amazing >>>Windtraveler Community<<< for all the thoughts, vibes, and prayers. We appreciate your support more than you know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Update from the Blogosphere: How Island Life has Changed Us

I started this post about four weeks ago. It's funny how I always think that coming back to land for a visit will afford me more time to write. We are, after all, living with my mom and there are loads of sitters for me to use. However, it never quite works out like that and I really cannot put my finger on why. So, while the girls nap on this beautiful and sunny 80 degree day - I've popped over here to catch you up on a few things...

***

As you probably know by our >>>Facebook<<< and >>>Instagram<<< accounts, we are back stateside for a visit. It is wonderful and has been a nice change. It goes without saying that the proximity to friends and family is solid gold. It's also happens to be the best season to be here and the worst time to be there at the moment. Summer in the midwest is pretty clutch, and hurricane season in the Caribbean kind of sucks. The threat of nasty storms is imminent, it's hot as hell and things slow down considerably... Residents travel to places far and wide to stave off island fever and businesses close up for the summer or cut back hours. >>> Our business <<<, however, runs all year round which is why Scott stayed behind the first few weeks we were here to get our new staff up and running and focus on boat repair (both >>> our home boat <<< and our business boats needed a lot of work). After four weeks apart, he re-joined us for a well-deserved break.

The girls and I have been here almost two months now (Scott just nearly three weeks) and one fact has become glaringly clear: Island life has changed us. 

We are currently in the land of all. the. things. I could take the girls to any number of parks, pools, museums, events, indoor gymnasiums, theaters and splash pads. There are probably 100 places within a ten mile radius of us to fill our time. And while you'd think we'd come back and relish in all these activities that are not available to us back on Tortola, we - oddly enough - opt to spend most of our time in my mom's backyard, hanging with family and friends. We make mud pies, create obstacle courses, make fairy houses, and engage in the natural environment. Maybe I've set the "fun" bar really low, but some pots and pans with water in them can entertain our girls for HOURS. And - go ahead and call me lazy - if our kids are happy playing in the backyard, I'd certainly rather that than take them to an amusement park where I'm stressed, they're overstimulated, and sugar consumption is greatly amplified.

And this right here is the privilege of having a foot in both worlds: we get to fully enjoy the beauty of both land life and island life because the novelty of "different" doesn't quite wear off. For example, while - to some - the backyard might seem dull or boring (hence the desire for land parents to take their kids to other places for fun and stimulation which we would for sure do as well if we were full-time landlubbers), to our girls - it's a place of wonder, freedom and endless possibilities. And let me tell you, it is SO nice to be able to open the door and let our girls strip down and play in the water and mud without the threat of drowning. A beach might be a wonder to land-locked children, but to our girls this is a standard daily outing (one that, if I am to be honest, sometimes elicits whines of "Oh! Not the beach agaaain!"...I know -wince-, spoiled.) but the backyard? Complete with tire swing, room to run naked and a sprinkler? Now that is really something! It's wonderful to see our girls so wholly enjoying the simple pleasures I did as a child and the fact the backyard is easy, free and doesn't involve me having to pack a backpack of crap and loading and unloading three kids in a car? WIN.

Don't get me wrong...we have left the backyard from time to time...We've gone to pools and parks and friend's places, and we've done two trips to Northern Michigan where Scott's mom and stepdad live (side note: we are experts now at driving long distances with three kids! more on this to come...), and those trips were incredible. Aside from the fact that Michigan in the summer is absolute magic, seeing our girls genuinely form bonds with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins is something that is important to us and a big focus on these visits home. The driving time also allowed for one on one conversation to happen between Scott and I, something that is a bit of a rarity back on our island where he works so much and where we often pass like ships in the night. During these long drives (over 28 hours in total, egad!) back and forth, Scott and I started mapping out dreams and schemes for far-off future adventures (squeee!) and we made some plans for a great year ahead on our boat with lots island hopping to nearby places and slightly longer getaways to Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The possibilities for the year ahead are exciting and now that the twins are a more manageable age (well, kind of) and we've got a solidly awesome team helping to run our business so that Scott doesn't need to be working until 1am every night, travel is on the horizon. This excites us to no end.

*** 

So I apologize for the lack of communication. It drives me nuts when I go dark on here for too long. But the creative juices are beginning to flow and I can feel the writer's block starting to lift...In the meantime, we're enjoying what I am calling a "slow" summer. One where we don't rush from one place to the next, where we don't feel the pressure to fill every day with something or someone new, and one where we  (try!) keep stress as low as possible (because, lets face it, chaos reigns in a home with three small kiddos in it!)  As such, we'll just keep living life in the slow lane. On "island" time, as it were.

Which, for now, happens to be in my mom's back yard.
Our own little island, away from our rock.










Thursday, June 29, 2017

Island Life: The Good, Bad, and Quirky

The "idea" of living on an island evokes a bit of envy and turquoise tinted mental pictures for a lot of people. But just like most things, the 'idea' of something and the 'reality' of it can be very, very different. While I will be the first to tell you that I absolutely love my island home and island life in general, there's a lot more to it than beautiful beaches, tropical slushy rum drinks and cotton-candy colored sunsets (though we do have those things in spades!)...I've written before about >>> how to determine whether or not island life might be for you <<< , but just for fun, here' are some ways that island life on my rock is very different from life back stateside...


1) Lack of abundance: There are no malls, no big box stores, and our grocery stores pale in comparison to those back home. Finding affordable quinoa or natural peanut butter is very difficult and there is less of just about everything on a small island. We island mom's talk excitedly in dreamy, coveting tones about Whole Foods or Trader Joes the way other mom's might gush over that 50 Shades trilogy (...that I have not read). The prospect of shelves upon shelves of organic, wholesome goodness is that exciting for us. Clothes? Again, limited choices unless you dress like a 26 year old from San Diego (which I do). Household goods? Not many options for good, quality stuff but lots of plastic crap from China marked to about triple what it should cost. Life on our rock is expensive because of this but it's the price we pay because what we do we have an abundance of? Beaches, boats and bars. Not a bad trade.

2) Kids wear school uniforms: Here, every single school child wears a uniform. Period. IT. IS. AWESOME. Can someone please explain to me why the United States has not adopted this practice?!?! Dear GOD! Getting my kids dressed in decent, practical clothing is easily one of the most unpleasant parts of my day (they either want to wear completely ridiculous things like socks and leggings to the beach or underware on their head with a princess dress to dinner - which I let them most of the time - or they (Mira) want to wear the same exact ratty, dirty, threadbare thing every. single. day). I can only imagine that this fortitude and pension for 'style' gets more awful determined as we near the teen years (face palm) but, honestly, my uber independent daughters dress themselves and it drives me nuts. School uniforms save me just a little bit of headache and a hell of a lot more time on school days. Plus, they look pretty adorable. AMEN for school uniforms. I dread ever living somewhere without them.

3) Rules are more lax: I have seen numerous signs around Tortola that say you are not allowed to smoke in public places. I have also seen more smokers on this island than I have seen since my pre-smoking ban bar days in Chicago. There is a "strict" helmet law, yet only one out of every four motor scooter drivers is wearing a helmet. And good LORD do not start me on parking. A parking lot here looks like a mini glimpse into the collapse of society. Full-blown anarchy. Every man for himself. When it says "no parking", people will freely park. Even better, if you are parked in a perfectly legal spot, it is not unusual for someone to park right in front of you, blocking you in completely for anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. This incredibly selfish practice is not only commonplace, but pretty infuriating to all residents, and yet nothing is ever done about it. Why? I have yet to see a tow truck or a car ticketed for this. No consequences? Behavior remains the same. Sigh.

4) Livestock roams free: You will not see one single squirrel here on Tortola, but a drive to town or up on the ridge road will present you with a whole host of farm animals. Chickens run free all over the place, goats regularly hold up traffic, and driving by a cow lounging on the side of the road with her calf is no big deal. Donkeys and horses used to be the main mode of transport around here until fairly recent history so you will see plenty of those as well, though their physical states might make you shudder...which brings me to my next point...


5) Animal cruelty and brutality is everywhere: Treatment of animals here is atrocious. Period. I'm not one to hate on my rock, because I love it here so very much, but animal cruelty and abuse is rampant and if you are a true-blue animal lover, you will probably have your heart broken daily here. I don't even want to tell some of the stories I have heard but suffice it to say: it's really bad.

6) You can drink while driving: Yes, you read that correctly. While you technically cannot drive 'drunk' (see #3), driving with an open alcoholic bev in the car is totally acceptable. Do not talk on the phone or skimp on clicking your seat belt, but go ahead and fix yourself that rum and coke before you hit the road. Welcome to the land of the roadie my friends, it's a nice place to be.

7) Drivers and Roads are Insane: Let me preface this by saying that I have been pulled over for "driving with intent to kill" (no, I was not, it's actually a classification after going over the speed limit a certain amount), ticketed for "reckless driving" and I had my license suspended for a year. I spent many years weaving in and out of traffic in the city of Chicago where I gained some legit "aggressive driving" chops. My point in telling you all this? I AM NO GRANDMA BEHIND THE WHEEL. But here? I literally get road rage several times a day because the drivers here are the very worst I've ever experienced in all the world (and I've driven in Rome, Bangkok and East Africa, to name a few). They are careless and downright terrifying. They fly around blind corners at mock speeds, pass on narrow roads, and play chicken daily. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to avoid what would have been terrible accidents had it not been for me swerving out of the way or breaking suddenly. The roads are just as bad: barely wide enough for two cars to safely pass, featuring hair-pin turns that make your hair curl and hills that are so steep they make your feet and palms sweat. Island driving is not for the faint of heart.

8) Hitch Hiking is normal: Hitch hiking is not only normal, but the way many islanders rely on getting from point A to point B. For one, there is no public transportation here (gripe alert!), which is a real bummer. And secondly, cars are not affordable to everyone and many people don't know how to drive, so every drive on our rock will having you passing hitchhikers standing on the side of the road, casually pointing a finger in the direction they want to go. I have picked up children on their way to school, women on their way home from work, and men headed to their jobs. It's a fun way to get to know people and I've heard some incredible stories from hitchhikers. I also think it's showing my girls an important lesson in kindness, as more often than not they are in the car with me when I pick up people.

9) Village Mentality of Islanders: Living on our particular island is not unlike living in a small town. Most everyone knows one another in some, way, shape, or form and a trip to just about anywhere will have you running into someone you know. Being anonymous here is not really an option. Because of this, there is very much a "village" mentality when you live on a small island, we tend to stick together to help one another out. We are all in a similar boat (no pun intended) and whether it be mom's helping out other mom's or simply picking up a hitchhiker as described in #8, we are all part of this community and we all want to see it be the best it can be.

10) Kids are more free-range: I've talked about how I tend to >>> lean more in the direction of "free-range"<<<  as opposed to helicopter parent and I realize this is largely due to the fact that we live in a very safe community where this is easily done. Kids hitchhike to school, it's not unusual to see an older sibling caring for his or her baby sibling, and young kids running free on the beach with their parent keeping a safe distance is very, very normal. Our girls skinny dip regularly, kick off their shoes at every chance they get, and are full of bumps, scrapes and bruises from being outside every day. Our community is relatively small and we all know one another so there are many sets of eyes on our children. I feel really lucky to be able to give our kids the freedom they want and need and the ability to do this is a large reason we chose to live where we do. I've had a lot of conversations with other parents who child-rear in a similar way and agree that we live in a very special place where times are simpler, where kids can be kids, and where there is no need >>> or social pressure <<< to helicopter.

11) Very little to do outside of beaches, boats, and bars: A certain type of person might find themselves very bored living here full time (pretty much everyone >>> loves to vacation here <<<). There are not many restaurants, no winery tours, no theater district, no dance clubs, few coffee shops, no indoor play lands, no malls, no theme parks, no museums and - in general - outside of nature and outdoorsy stuff related to all things water, there's really not much to do here. Taking a stroll 'downtown' is not something that yields much of anything and if you don't enjoy beaches, boats, bars and water sports you might find this place a bit of a yawnfest. Many of us, however, chose to live here in spite of this and actually enjoy the sleepiness of our rock: there's less distraction and fewer things pulling us every which way. You can relax and unplug here. The focus is more on making simple fun with your community; picnics on the beach with friends, dinners at people's homes, and DIY parties...Though, not going to lie, I'd really love there to be a dance club here where I could go with my girlfriends!


Those are just a few of the ways living on my rock differs from living back on the mainland. Some are weird and funny, some are frustrating and sad, but it's all part of the reality of #islandlife.

If you'd like to see pretty pictures of life on our rock, feel free to follow us on:
 >>>Facebook <<< & >>> Instagram <<<

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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

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

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

Tips for decorating a boat:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Decorating a Boat: What's in our Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tools we use:

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at our saloon towards the kid's berths.

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

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

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

***

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

 "SAME SAME"

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

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

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

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

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

"... BUT DIFFERENT"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beach, Please: On Playing Goldilocks, Island Style

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


Thursday, June 15, 2017

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


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

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


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mobile Home For the Win: Life on a Boat


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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

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


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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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


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

That had to change...

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