How do you live on a sailboat? (July 2017)

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The house is for sale and we are all on the boat.  We still have our two cars with us for frequent, necessary errands.  We have some items in storage in OH (photos, kid projects, tools and some furniture Steve has made over the years).  But we, and the articles that we will use in our day-to-day life, are all here.  Yay!  That’s it, right?  Easy Peasy.

Unfortunately, in all of the excitement of making the move to the boat (in the beginning of July), there are some details that we hadn’t fully thought through.  Things like… HEAT.  HUMIDITY.  BUGS.  Are those the first things you think of when you imagine Georgia in the summertime?  Why oh why didn’t we think this through a bit more you might (rightly) ask?

To be honest, with all of the thinking, planning, executing, lack of sleep, stress and giddiness just to get to this point, we glossed over a few, minor details.

Let’s go back a bit to explain how we ended up here…sweating bullets in Georgia.

When we purchased our boat in November 2016, it was docked in Ft. Lauderdale, FL .  For insurance purposes, we decided to move it north of the Florida/Georgia state line before June, 2017 for hurricane season.  Brunswick, GA is one of the locations with a marina that is north of this insurance requirement.  It fit our needs.  So here we are.

We had grand notions of moving onto the boat mid-June.  (This notion was quickly shattered thanks to an emergency hospital visit in OH mentioned in the previous blog post.)  Once moved onto the boat, we guesstimated that we would finish up some projects over 2-3 weeks, then set off on some day trips.  Maybe even some overnights up the East Coast.  Hahahaha.  How very optimistic of us.

It turns out that even if you are happy about moving onto a 53′ sailboat with your family of 4 and a small dog, there are adjustments.  Despite not having a lot of “stuff” to put away, it needed to go somewhere.  Somewhere on a boat means hoisting up beds and settees (couches) to store items in the space underneath.  Lifting up hatches in the floors and under the table.  Crawling over settees and beds to reach more lockers and cubbies.  Once you think you know where something will live, you realize that another item should be there instead and so it gets moved.  Again.  For the fifth time.

All of this stowing, organizing and rethinking how much we thought we “needed” on the boat happened along with figuring out how to live life on the boat.  Cooking on the galley stove, shopping and storing food for a family of 4 (with a glorified dorm fridge and a drop in freezer that’s under the seat at the table).  Prodding individuals to make trips off the boat, up the ramp and to the bathhouse to use the bathroom and shower (we don’t go on the boat when at dock).  Providing shade with awnings to help cool the boat in the blazing sun along with the luxurious assistance of air conditioning.  Encouraging sisters to share a room and sleeping space with opposing thoughts on organizational standards.

In addition to the routine living every day, don’t forget the boat projects.  And the other projects.  And those projects too, don’t forget about those.   All of this coincides with the heat, humidity and bugs outside.  (I think I’ll hide inside with the air conditioning and find projects that need attention there, thank you very much.)

Despite the demands and the newness of it all, it felt right.  It was challenging.  There was problem solving to be done.  There were disagreements and new skills developing for each of us.  There were board games and reading and family fun.  The girls had their imaginary play with stuffies and “solid” figures.  We walked the dog, we laughed, we were together.

These were memories made.

-KJ (and the SV TouRai crew)

Sweet Dave-the-girl-dog loving life on the boat.fullsizeoutput_6692
Playing Ticket to Ride, one of our favorite family games.fullsizeoutput_6d04
Tougy giving the electric keyboard a go.IMG_6278
Nurai giving Dave a lesson on how to dig a hole in the sand.fullsizeoutput_66a2
Calico critters making use of objects around the boat for daily adventures. fullsizeoutput_6690
What else might one use the companionway steps leading in and out of the boat for besides a home for the calico critters?fullsizeoutput_668f
KJ’s first true boat project…replacing the SeaGull water filter for the drinking water.  Everything in a boat is in a tight space!IMG_6205

 

All Aboard! (June 2017)

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The house is (almost) empty.  The car and minivan are packed.  The bicycles are loaded onto the back of the car.  Half of our human crew are minutes from driving away, viewing our home in the rear view mirror.

This is the town where Steve spent the majority of his childhood.  This is where we intentionally (though hastily) moved our family five years ago from Maine.  For community.  For neighborhood.  For riding bikes to school and the summer swim team with friends.  For…”Mayberry”.

Though we loved most everything about living in Maine (ticks the primary exception), our move to Terrace Park was right for our family at the time.  With our oldest about to start kindergarten, the allure of friends across the street and neighborhood playdates was strong.

The friendly and safe community that we immersed ourselves in provided the elementary school foundation that we hoped for.  We were home.  We were here for the long haul.  Like the strong, majestic trees throughout the neighborhood, we were setting down long reaching roots.  Or so we thought.

It turns out, we are movers.  For those who know us, or at least for those who know Steve, this is probably obvious.  This statement likely elicits a chuckle, a smile and knowing nod.

Despite the fact that we have moved and changed gears every 4-6 years since getting married 17 years ago, each place we’ve called home has been, in our minds, where we would stay.  Involved in the community.  Committed to work.  Enjoying our home and property.  Investing in our children and family.

Why then, has this family in the photo above sold almost all of their possessions and packed up what remains into 2 cars to drive to a new home on the ocean?

We are movers.  We crave change.  We hope for adventure.  We long for different cultures and languages.

We want less…”stuff”.  Fewer spaces to clean.  Fewer commitments that capture and drain time and energy.

We want more…time together.   More experiences together.  More learning about ourselves and our world.

Steve has been an adventurer since his late teens.  Moving from town to town, job to job, country to country.  Acquiring skills, knowledge and experiences that continue to be a constant and reassuring resource to our family adventure.

Our talk of adventure, travel and cultural experiences has been an undercurrent in our relationship since the very beginning.  It was important to us, at some point, to invest in experiences in the world with our children.

Despite these conversations early on, we had become entrenched in life.  It happened so quickly.  So quietly.

School.  Work.  Homework.  Riding bicycles.  Swim team.  Soccer teams.  Art enrichment.  Music lessons.  Playdates with friends.  Volunteering.  Volunteering.  Volunteering.

With our oldest quickly moving towards middle school, we realized that if we wanted to have the experiences we discussed early on, we needed to change tracks.  We needed to fully commit and make this dream happen.  If we didn’t make a conscious decision to do it now, it was easy to see how we could look back in 5 years, kids solidly in high school and preparing for college, and wonder “where did the time go?”

So, we made the decision.  We made the commitment to make this happen.  To give it a shot.  Even if it didn’t work out how we envisioned it, we didn’t want to look back and say “why didn’t we try?”

Was it easy?  The decision…actually yes.  Once the idea of sailing came up again, the dream had a form.

The reality of making it all happen.  No!

It took time.  SO. MUCH.TIME!  And energy!!!  All in all, it took about 18 months from the time we started talking about the possibility of changing gears, to this moment you see in the photo above.

Though you see smiles in this photo, there is so much more behind them.  Excitement.  Exhaustion.  Stress.  Strain.  Questioning.  A recent emergency hospitalization we thought might derail all of our plans.

Was it worth it?

This post comes 13 months after the photo above was taken and we can say, “YES”!

Though it hasn’t been all sunshine and snorkeling, and though much about this first year hasn’t looked at all as we envisioned it, we have had an incredibly intense year of learning on many fronts and we would do it again.

Downsizing.  Living in a small space.  Living at dock.  Living at anchor.  Conserving water and electricity.  Driving a dinghy.  Provisioning.  Learning boat systems.  Projects.  Projects.  Projects.  Cooking on a boat.  Boat schooling.  Motoring.  Sailing.  Stowing.  Being cold.  Being hot.  Being dirty.  Being tired.  Making friends.  Exploring new places.  Learning more about each other.  Snorkeling with sea turtles.  Fearing and learning about sharks.  Surrounded by gorgeous blue/green waters.  Finding a new, wonderful and interesting community.

We are finally at a place in our journey where we are beginning to find pockets of time to reflect back on this first year.  We hope to continue this journey back in time to share with you some of our first year afloat.  We hope that following along gives you a sense of both the adventure and the mundane of our lives.

Maybe, just maybe, it will give you some inspiration to rekindle a flame for something adventurous you have dreamed of.

-KJ (and the SV TouRai crew)

Tougy and Steve about to hop in the car to drive into the proverbial sunset.

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Nurai and Dave-the-girl-dog settled in for the drive to the boat with KJ about a week later.

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A beach day soon after we were all living on the boat together.

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The ambulance drive to the hospital for KJ mere days before the planned departure to the boat.  Luckily the small bowel obstruction was treated medically.  We are hopeful this was a once in a lifetime experience!

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Preparing for Never

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Yesterday here in Cincinnati, we spent the afternoon at Tristate Scuba reviewing various marine hazards, bites, stings and treatments before heading to their pool and running through a number of safety scenarios.

Everyone jumped in with long pants and fleece pullovers and felt what it was like to swim fully clothed.  We then had the girls swim a length of the pool in their clothes to a life sling(U-shaped float) that they had to position on themselves so that they were floating on their backs.  From there we had them take their heavy clothes off while swimming and practice trapping air in their clothes as floatation.

The grand finale of the afternoon was deploying our old life raft and practicing climbing in and out and investigating what was packed inside and talking about what was there, how to use it, and what else we might want to have with us if we had to leave the boat.  It was educational for us all, and hopefully it will remove some of the anxiety should we ever have to use any of these techniques in a real situation.

Our old Zodiac was issued in 2003 and repacked in 2007, but was long since out of date and so we replaced it this spring with a 6 person offshore raft from Winslow.  With any luck we will only ever see if when it comes time to repack it in 3 years.  The zodiac had a fair bit of mildew and several items packed inside were ruined long ago by water intrusion.  Our new raft packs much lighter and smaller and allows us to keep it in a drier place while still being easily accessible and launch able.

Overall it was a very worthwhile way to spend an afternoon, and one that, should we ever find ourselves in need of using such skills, will make that stressful time more manageable.

 

The Letting Go

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As we shuffle the last of our possessions about, I am amazed at how far we’ve come.  Not even two years ago we were spread wide across two states.

Here in Cincinnati we had our house and, a few miles away, a 6,000 sq.ft warehouse/studio full of photography equipment, woodworking machinery, shelves of hand tools and timber framing tools, hundreds of board feet of lumber, sea kayaks, a canoe, snowshoes, skis, bikes, a half dozen tents and totes full of camping, climbing, and sailing gear.  Honestly I can’t even imagine how I filled it, but I did.

Back in Maine, where we lived from 2000-2012, we still owned a farmhouse on 36 acres.  On the farm we had tractors, sailboats, trailers, a yurt, and a barn full of things that never made the move to Ohio.

In roughly a week, everything that we own will either be with us on the boat or in this 150 Sq.Ft. storage unit.  The bulk of the things in storage are furniture I made for the kids over the years, and some of the tools I used to create them, together with a dozen or so totes of books and photos and family memories and keepsakes we couldn’t part with.  Still to move in are a leather couch and chair and possibly our bed, but that is it, that’s all that remains.

Getting from there to here has not been a simple process.  Then, I would never have imagined we would be here.  For all that was required emotionally in coming to terms with downsizing, the physical process of shedding such accumulation has been harder still.

For the warehouse we brought in an online estate sale company who handled everything and we walked away from most everything we had been holding on to.  Next we sold the farm in Maine, and sold out boats and yurt, then we began on the house and a 300 sq.ft storage unit we rented after the warehouse was gone.

What I wouldn’t have imagined at the onset was the feeling of utter liberation I would feel each time something left.  At this point, we are basically creating piles and either donating them to various charities or simply putting them out and inviting neighbors to come take whatever they want.

I know that many of the things we are giving away have value, but after more than a year of estate sales, Ebay, and listing items for sale on various websites and yahoo groups, the value to me that comes from not owning them any longer outweighs the money I might get.  I just want it gone and I don’t want it taking up space in my mind or activities.  I can’t wait to be on the boat in part because it will mean that this long drawn out phase is over.  It is an odd reality.

Until I began to rid myself of my possessions, I hadn’t realized how much they weighed me down.   The dollars I spend finding places for them to sit, the moving them from place to place, the worry that something might happen to them – all these things required energy, both physically and emotionally, and without them, I feel so much freer.

While not quite a hoarder, I have moved about, and stored in various places, boxes of things I haven’t used in years, even decades.  Everything had a story and, as my mind is particularly wired to do, I could recall very specific things about people, places, and events from all points of my life.

As a life long sentimental soul, at some point in this ‘purge’ journey, I took on a ruthless, detached stance with regard to the items I had accumulated.  I think it was necessary at first to start filling that first box of construction trash bags, but it continues and I have found it personally freeing.

It is not quite over, but we are a good bit further towards a minimalist’s existence than I imagined possible.  From here, I not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I also embrace and welcome the transition to the other side.

 

 

Inertia

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The hardest part of creating a blog is building that initial inertia to get things rolling.  My mind wanders to all the various ways I could choose to begin, and with paralyzing uncertainty, my fingers stumble about in a disjointed attempt to justify their actions.  I try and imagine what questions a would be reader would want answered while at the same time I remind myself that perhaps the best approach is to write as if I am the audience.

The quandary is born mostly in creating the backstory.  Once we are all on the same page, I can write of events and explorations in real time and with confidence that we all know the preceding chapter, therefore allowing me to focus on the present.  For now however, I need to put us all on equal footing so that we are all headed in the same direction at the same speed.  Admittedly, that task is daunting and requires that I set a tone, a cadence, and a perspective from which to launch into the here and now.

Some of the things I feel need a little pen time include: Why sailing?  Are you qualified?  Why now?  What happens after?  What about the kids education, friends, and activities?  Are you sure?

Additionally I want to shed light upon several significant steps along the build up to this journey, such as the shedding of possessions, the longing for simplicity, the need for quality family space and time, and the firm belief that growth and understanding are fundamental outcomes derived from travel.

I am confident that this blog will find its groove before too long, but recognize that it may feel a bit haphazard in the meantime.  Stick with it and I will do my best to power through this awkward phase.  After years of “what if”, a short period of “well maybe”, and now a year of “why not”, we are ready for “no turning back now”.  Welcome aboard.

T-20

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Incredible to think that we are 20 days away from our stated goal of being out of our house and moving onto the boat on 15 June.  There is so much to do between now and then, and yet, perhaps without basis, I find myself oddly at ease.

Initially we had set our minds towards ridding ourselves of all of our possessions save for what fit in our 5×8 cargo trailer that we would leave somewhere for our return.  Gone would be cars, beds, furniture, tools, and other such things that one accumulates over decades.

A month or so ago, we relaxed that stance a bit such that we will now have a 10×10 storage space so that we can hold onto the furniture that I made over the years as well as more of my tools that I know I will only seek to repurchase upon our eventual re-entry, for woodworking tools lie at the core of my being.  This new found luxury of 100 sq. ft. has simplified our move out substantially, though even still we have piles of things to regime over the coming weeks.

The girls finish school next Wednesday and then they will have two weeks to spend time with their friends in a mess of sleepovers, pool parties, play dates and other such things.  Leaving behind such an inclusive community of friends will be difficult, perhaps more so for Tougy than for Nurai, but also for Kjersten and I.

So how did we get here?  Truthfully, I am a bit surprised that we are here, though at the same time it feels wholly appropriate.  I won’t pretend that Kjersten and I haven’t had moments of doubt and elements of second guessing, but on the whole we feel prepared and confident that this is the right progression for our family.

This past fall, as a trial run of sorts, we pulled the girls out of school, loaded up the car and took to the road for 8 weeks of tent camping in 18 national parks in the Western US and Canada.  All the while we were discovering how our family functioned with homeschooling, the absence of the bulk of modern creature comforts, and the withdrawal from the day to day social interactions, and I must say, that on all accounts we felt as though we were happier on the road than than we have felt in the months since.

I think that more than anything, what the fall showed us is that we are a family who enjoys spending time together.  In our 8 weeks on the road, we were together as the four of us 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, whether it be in the same car or tent, or out on a hike or trail.  We ate together, every meal, we discovered new things and new places together every day and we all finished the day in the same small tent piled upon one another for warmth on most nights.

School was a challenge at first, but by the second month we really felt as though we found our groove.  For the fall trip we endeavored to keep up with their classmates using the same texts and general coursework that they were doing at home, and although math proved the most difficult to keep up with on the road, much of that was because of a lack of warm spaces in which to teach more so than the subject matter.  I really do feel as though teaching on the boat will be much simpler.

For the upcoming school year, we will no longer be working through our local public school but rather, have enrolled the girls in an independent school located in Vermont called Oak Meadow.  We received the girls’ text books and materials for 3rd and 5th grade a couple weeks ago and both KJ and I are excited to work with the program.  Reality will be what is is, but for now we are excitedly optimistic.

Pre-Boarding

Welcome to our new blog where we will be sharing our journey as a family of four (plus Dave) living aboard our sailboat TouRai.  We hope that this site serves multiple purposes and expect that its function will evolve over time.

Initially I hope that this site provides a way for friends and family to learn more about our intentions, motivations, hopes, and apprehensions as we transition from what would seem a ‘normal’ lifestyle to this new one aboard a boat.  In doing so, I hope that you will continue to follow along as we jump aboard in mid June and begin to explore our new normal.

As we get going, I hope that you will continue to follow our blog and I hope to grow our readership to include those people we meet along our journey and others considering making a change in their own life.  We have learned a lot from other families who have move aboard before us and we hope, in time, that we can develop into a one of those blogs that offer a glimpse of what lies ahead to families and individuals seeking their own change.

Much like our experience with our previous blog which followed the adoption of our two daughters who were born in Kazakhstan, this new blog will feature, photos, videos, and stories about more than just the highlights.  We hope to convey the highs and lows of our new reality.

Over time I hope that Kjersten, Tougy, and Nurai will all contribute posts so that you can see a bit of how we all will invariable see the journey differently and feel compelled to write from differing points of view and with attention to different aspects of our life on a boat, but I suspect that much of the writing will initially be done by me, Steve.

So with that brief intro, let’s get on with it…