Pura Vida, Baby!

Today, I realized that it has been over two weeks since I updated the blog (gulp!)–time just got away from me!

These last few weeks I’ve focused on friends, community, and building a wonderful support network on side of the country. Conor was gone in 29 Palms for three weeks this August for an exercise (and just got back yesterday!), so that meant plenty of time for me to connect with friends, both old and new.

I’ve already made so many friends at our marina, people of all ages and at different stages in life: retired cruisers, veterans, parents with young children, and even fellow writers. Marina life is never lonely, and I always have to plan for 10-15 min extra time to get anywhere, as people always want to stop and chat on the docks. The staff always checks on me to see how I’m doing, and everyone is there to offer help/support/guidance. It really feels like a family. We all came together to celebrate Dawn this month, who has worked for NWC Marina for 25 years. Close to 100 people showed up, even people who no longer have boats at the marina but who just wanted to express their gratitude.

Scout and I also went on a road trip to Charleston, SC for my friend Bekah’s baby shower. We studied abroad in Costa Rica together almost six years ago and have kept in contact ever since. While we hung out over the weekend, it honestly felt like no time had passed since we were college students living the ‘Pura Vida’ life on the beach.

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From beach babes (circa 2011)…
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…to BABY!

I am SO excited for Bekah and her husband, and to meet ‘Little Man’ soon. I really believe that unique circumstances can forge unbreakable bonds between people, much like in the liveaboard community. We are all on an adventure together!

The craziest part was being in a house for the first time in months—everything felt so spacious and open. I woke up a couple of times in the night, wondering where the hell I was, why nothing was rocking, and why there was so much space above my head. I wondered if the boat would feel small when I returned from the weekend, and if I would have any regrets about our choice.

Not at all. Instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of returning ‘home’ after being away from the boat for the first time since we bought it. Any other way of life simply isn’t for me at the moment, which I was pretty sure of when we bought the boat, but now is beyond a doubt.

I will say, though, that home doesn’t feel complete unless Conor is here with me. Time away from your spouse is hard, whether it is for a 6 month deployment or just a summer exercise. I wish that we could set sail already and leave ‘grown-up’ responsibilities and time apart behind, but we still have to wait a few years for that.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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À La Commode!

Our boat was nearly perfect when we bought it. Minus a few changes here and there (like the lifeline nets), we really didn’t have much to do to customize it for our needs. Except for one thing: the toilet.

A good old-fashioned ‘cruising toilet’ occupied our only head. That meant a manual pump and a smell that, no matter how hard we tried, permeated the bathroom. The previous owners had installed a freshwater spray nozzle that they used to fill the bowl instead of intaking river water when they flushed, but for a variety of reasons it was creating a vacuum and causing backflow issues.

So glamorous, I know.

While that system may have worked for them as primarily weekend sailors, it did not suit our needs as full-time liveaboards. Flushing with saltwater (like a real cruiser) might have worked, but the Neuse River water is pretty gross (hence the smell). Because we will be sticking with river and coastal sailing for a while as long as Conor is stationed here, we decided it was worth it to upgrade.

Here it is:

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The little black button on the side is the electric flush

This electric toilet is a closed system, which means it draws fresh water from one of our 3 holding tanks. Plus, it flushes with the push of a button! We had it professionally installed, and though it was expensive, I don’t have to worry about a plumbing malfunction flooding our boat (gag!).

Never in my life did I think I would be so excited about a toilet, much less write an entire blog post about one. But this little beauty is going to make a world of difference with our day-to-day comfort living aboard. Yes, we might have some regrets down the line when we go long-term cruising, because it uses precious fresh water and electricity. However, we do have a watermaker, solar panels, and a wind generator for a reason!

For now, a customized bathroom is the ice cream on top of the best boat ever.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Putting Up Lifeline Nets

This post could also be titled: “How one weekend turned into three”, and is all about how we made a project a lot more complicated than it had to be. But the great news is now we don’t have to worry about any precious cargo falling off the boat!

We knew when we bought our boat that lifeline netting was a must. It basically turns your boat into a giant playpen and gives an extra level of security if you have pets or children aboard (though they should always be supervised while on deck regardless, even at the dock). It doesn’t look pretty, but it is functional.

We asked one of our neighbors how long it took to put up his netting, and he told us 22 hours. We naively thought that he was exaggerating. Nope. Turns out, this project is meticulous, time consuming, and an all-around pain in the butt, especially outside in the summer heat. So we thought we’d do it a different way, and ended up paying the price. Lesson learned: never try to take a shortcut.

We bought two packages of 50ft lifeline netting ($50 ea) and dacron line for securing the bottom of the net to the boat. For the top of the net, we had the genius idea of using zip ties instead of running line through the diamonds, which would have kept everything much neater and less tangled. We ran the first 50ft section from gate to gate, around the bow of the boat (and had some to spare). Here’s what we ended up with the first weekend:

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Freshly zip tied around the bow
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Zip tied net with tails trimmed. Looked neat and tidy, right?

The zip ties were helpful in holding everything in place while we measured out the netting and secured the bottom, but we shouldn’t have assumed they would hold forever. We used white zip ties, which we soon found out had about a three month shelf life outside, because the UV rays from the sun would break them down. Talk about a safety issue! So we had to run the line through the top AFTER everything was already secured to the stanchions. Then once the line was through, we had to go back and snip off every single zip tie (without accidentally cutting the net!). We also ran another line through the middle of the net for extra security. That was weekend #2. Here’s what it looked like:

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Netting with dacron line wrapped around the center lifeline and through the top diamonds

Weekend #3 (this past weekend) Conor finally finished the stern of the boat. Our second 50ft piece wrapped around the back, and was trickier because of the extreme height changes and the catbird seats. Instead of stretching the net horizontally, it needed to be stretched vertically. He also had to figure out a way to tie the bottom of the net to the gates, while still making them easy to open. The solution: carabiners! He tied a loop knot at the bottom of the dacron line at the gates and hooked them to a carabiner to be easily slipped on and off when we unlocked the gate. Like this:

 

This is the lifeline netting wrapped around the catbird seat:

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Oh, and we also found out that you should replace your lifeline netting every two years. We’re vowing to do this right the first time around in 2019! At least we learned from our mistakes. If you’re putting up your own netting, feel free to ask us a question!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Our very scruffy puppy is happy with the results!

Itty Bitty Living Space

Even before realizing that I wanted to live on a boat, I was obsessed with tiny houses. It takes creativity and adaptability to make the most out of a non-traditional home, and I just love seeing the different ways that people utilize small spaces. Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters–I’m a creep. I just love touring inside people’s houses!

In the spirit of HGTV, here is a little glimpse inside the creative space-savers that we have on our Catalina 380.

We’ll start with the galley. In this picture, there is a full pantry, a fridge/freezer, all of our pots and pans, a set of 12 plates and 6 bowls, 4 glasses, 4 coffee mugs, cooking and baking utensils, a full set of knives, and whatever else I forgot to list. Looks pretty tidy, no? I’ll show you the tricks (moving counter-clockwise)!

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Under the sink we have our knives, cutting boards, a salad spinner, two saucepans, a big pot, a casserole dish, and 2 baking pans in the back. Our cast iron skillets hang out in the oven when not in use. The not-so-fun part is that this cabinet shares space with the A/C pipe (that silver thing) and our water pump (on the left)

kitchen 1 Moving back up, underneath the blue mat to the right of the oven is our hidden pantry:

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It is deeper than it looks, and there is a second half underneath the false bottom! Great for storing canned goods and stuff you don’t need to access everyday. Tadaa!!

 

Kettle goes in the microwave when neither one is in use. Sometimes you gotta get creative! This thing does NOT fit in any cupboard.

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Underneath our microwave and top cabinets, there are little hidey-hole, shallow spaces that are perfect for things like measuring cups, cheese graters, blender bottoms, etc.

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Moving on to the other side of the oven underneath the second blue mat: our fridge/freezer space. You can access it from the top or the front. Our little fridge also has the same magic floor as our pantry, and is much bigger than it looks!

 

Now for the table/settee area. I love love love our table. It has a handy silverware drawer attached right underneath it! Handy, right?

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The best part: the table drops down to make a comfy bed to watch TV on! (Anyone else pumped that Game of Thrones is back??) We just throw the extra cushion on top.

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Behind both of our couches, we also have some storage cubbies. I usually use them for extra supplies, like paper towels, cleaning stuff, toilet paper, etc.

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Back into our bedroom, we have two VERY deep cabinets on either side of our bed. Scout sleeps on top of one on Conor’s side. Great for holding extra tools or paperwork.

 

In addition to our closets (2 in our bedroom, and 1 in the v-berth), we also have these sliding door cabinets on both sides of our cabin. Just like having a dresser, only more compact!

 

In our tiny shower, there is a surprisingly large waterproof locker. Conor plans on putting his scuba gear in there eventually.

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Lastly, up in the cockpit, we have two GIANT lockers underneath our bench seats. These are the reason the ceiling is so low in our room! It is hard to tell from the photos, but they are so deep I can literally stand up inside them. Inside this one there is boat cleaning supplies, two umbrella chairs, a bbq, and 6 adult lifejackets. The other one holds extra lines, fenders, flares, etc.

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One thing we’ve learned about boat life is that there is a place for everything, and everything needs to be in its place. I hope you liked the photo tour! If you have any space-saving tips, please share them with us.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Staying Fit

There are 400 steps from the marina parking lot to our boat. Our slip is the very last one. Scout is walked 3-4x daily, with each potty trip clocking in around 1,800 steps round trip. Hauling groceries requires loading up a dock cart and trying to take a week’s worth of food onto the boat without going back for round 2. Laundry requires 3 trips up and down the docks: one to load up the wash, one to switch it to the dryer, and one to load it up and bring it back onboard. We also like to shower at the marina locker room most of the time. Trash and recycling is also all the way down at the dockmaster’s office. Tired yet?

Day-to-day living on a sailboat also necessitates a certain amount of agility. Ducking under the bimini while stepping on and off the boat (holding a squirming dog), climbing up and down the ladder steps into the cabin, body contortions to avoid hitting our head in our bedroom, trips to and from the cockpit to turn the gas on/off while cooking…eventually it becomes automatic. Our bi-weekly yoga classes and weightlifting schedule also keep us limber for our lifestyle. Not to mention the actual sailing part: arms, meet winch workout.

The goal on my Fitbit is 10,000 steps each day, but since living on our boat, I usually clock between 12,000 and 15,000 without even trying. I’m walking the docks in all kinds of weather, because life goes on regardless of how freaking hot or humid or stormy it gets. Is it kind of a pain? Yes, sometimes. But our bodies are made to move, and staying active keeps us healthy. So while some days I yearn for the ease of pulling my car into a garage and taking my bags 10 (covered) steps inside, I know this is better for me in the long run. Take my word for it: boat life will get you in great shape!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Wake Up and SAIL!

After waiting around for what seemed like forever, we FINALLY had a break in the weather on Thursday. And you know what that meant, right? WE WENT SAILING!

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Scout was so excited!

Words cannot describe how awesome it was to wake up with the sun shining and a perfect 5-8 mph breeze. Even more incredible was the fact that within 30 minutes, we were off the dock. We’ve gotten pretty quick at stowing stuff away that might turn into a flying projectile while we are underway. From waking up to out on the water in under an hour—definitely a perk of living on our boat.

We didn’t have a destination in mind, we just wanted to get out and see if we remembered everything from our lessons with Mark a few weeks ago. We were pleased to discover that it felt like no time had passed. I’m really glad we waited for a good weather window, though, because we were able to feel very safe and in control of our vessel the whole time. It did wonders for our confidence. Conor does better at the helm than I do (still over-correcting when I steer) but I enjoy trimming the sails and running the lines more anyway. Not the typical setup for a husband/wife team, but we make it work, and I think we are settling into a good rhythm together.

We did some upwind and downwind sailing on the Neuse River for most of the day, and headed back to the marina a little after 3pm. After being so relaxed for most of the day, it was time for the part I dreaded—docking. It is one thing to dock when a professional is standing over your shoulder giving you directions, but quite another when you’re trying it on your own. We have one of the trickiest slips in the marina, and you have to do a 3 point turn while surrounded by boats on all sides. To top it off, the wind is always pushing us the opposite way that we want to go. Long story short, we ended up doing a rather hair-raising 280 degree turn by mistake, but thank god we didn’t hit anything. We went back in our slip just fine with a little more experience under our belts and the knowledge of what not to do next time. The first one was always going to be the worst one, but we had to get it over with, like ripping off a bandaid.

But getting out on the water felt so good, and we can’t wait to do it again. It felt like freedom. Everything we needed was right there with us, and the water let us go in any direction. I’m hoping we can escape again in the next couple of days, but the forecast is looking pretty poopy. Might have to be patient for a little while longer. In the meantime, we’ve been super busy with boat projects while Conor has been on leave, including putting up our lifeline net around the boat! I’ll let you know how that’s going on my next post.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Um, isn’t it supposed to be summer?

One Month In

We’ve been living on our boat for over a month! I can’t believe it has been that long already. Also, I can’t believe we are already partway through July. Where did June go?? I wanted to do a quick breakdown of what we love/dislike so far (off the top of our heads). Conor is on leave for a few weeks, so it was a good time to make him brainstorm 🙂

What We Love So Far

Conor:

  • The feeling of walking on the docks to the boat after a long day at work (I mean, look at that view)
  • Sleeping on the boat
  • It is easy to determine what stuff is important when you have a small space
  • Sailing your house is pretty cool

Taylor:

  • The sense of community at the marina. Everyone looks out for each other
  • Writing up in the cockpit. My office has a view!
  • Sailing (duh)
  • Quality time with Conor (We’re always less than 10 ft from each other!)
  • Personalizing the boat and making it ours

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What We Dislike So Far

Conor:

  • Our toilet. It’s a manual pump. We hate it. It is being replaced soon.
  • Learning to become “spatially aware” (aka not smacking his head on everything in the aft cabin)
  • Fixing stuff. Boat systems are different than house systems. It’s a learning curve. Google is our friend.

Taylor:

  • Laundry. Hauling 2 bags of dirty clothes down the docks in the hot sun to pay $5 per load is nobody’s idea of a good time.
  • Scout’s potty situation. We can’t just let her out in the backyard anymore to do her business! Leash+walks is the new reality.
  • Our toilet.
  • I hate docking/undocking the boat. When will it stop giving me such anxiety??

 

In other news, we will be taking the boat out on our first solo sail in the next couple of days! Weather permitting, though, we’ve had some terrible rain and thunderstorms over the past two weeks. It looks like there will be a break in the weather on Thursday and Saturday, so stay tuned for a (probably) eventful update!

Love,

Taylor and Conor