Deck the Halls (or should I say boat?)

I may have been a bit over-eager this year for the holiday season. These decorations were put up right after Thanksgiving:

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For all of our talk about minimalism, it seems a bit excessive, but NO RAGRETS.

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Plus, when your space is tiny, $30 worth of decorations goes a long way! Conor has been gone for a lot of holidays because of deployments, so I try to make December extra-special when he is home for it. We have a lot to celebrate this year, even though we can’t go home to Washington for Christmas.

I don’t think there is anything cozier than rocking gently on our decorated boat, while it is 40 degrees outside, drinking coffee, and listening to music. It gave me the motivation this week to finish the draft of my book! It’s finally complete at 91,500 words.

Hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving and enjoyed time with loved ones. Sorry for the super quick post this week, but stay tuned for an update about our v-berth soon!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Aren’t I Supposed to Relax on Vacation?

I can’t pinpoint when it happened—the moment the boat stopped being just a boat and became a member of the family. Maybe it was all my fretting during hurricane season, and the thought of how devastated I would be if we lost her. Maybe it was during our first solo expedition, and how she helped guide us safely across the water as we learned together. Instead of a mode of transportation or the vessel for our minimalist lifestyle, the boat has somehow evolved to become an equal partner on this adventure. We take care of her, and she takes care of us.

Leaving the boat for an extended period of time gives me anxiety. I think about her all the time when we’re away, even though I double-triple checked everything. Conor laughs and says I’m being paranoid. “It’s a boat, it will be fine for just a week without you!” I know he’s right. Our marina is protected, the dock lines are secure, anything electric (that is unnecessary) is off. But temperature and wind speeds are always on my mind as I check the weather back home for the latest updates.

I used to roll my eyes at blogs that would refer to their boats as ‘she’ and ‘her’. I feel the same way about people naming their cars. But a boat somehow becomes more over time. A boat has quirks and a personality that you get to know intimately while living aboard. You have to be in tune with her, and the consequences of not listening to what she’s saying could be disastrous and dangerous. I think that’s why I get so nervous leaving our boat alone—she could be yelling that something is wrong, but nobody is there to hear! Thankfully, we have some awesome liveaboard neighbors that I know will step in if there is an emergency while we are away. I just need to relax!

You’d think I would have seen this obsessiveness about the boat coming—just ask Scout, who has never been away from my side for more than three nights total since we adopted her over two years ago.

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Scout insists on being held like a toddler at every opportunity.

I am a self-professed crazy dog lady. She travels everywhere with us (hotels, planes, cars, boats, restaurants) and it never even occurs to us to leave her with a sitter. If my boat could shrink to 15lbs, you bet I’d pack her up and take her with us, too!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

 

4, 3, 2, 1.

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This is a difficult post for me to write, but I strive to always be transparent and honest on this blog about the ups and downs of our lives. We recently announced that we have a new crew member on the way. I have been asked a couple times over the last few months if we knew I was pregnant when we bought the boat, and what on earth we are planning to do with a newborn aboard.

Yes, we knew I was pregnant when we bought the boat. If you want the brutal truth, this is my 4th pregnancy, after 3 losses, 2 years of trying, and 1 round of fertility medication. It has been a long, hard road with no guarantees. Against all odds, the boat and the baby dream came together at the same time, and we are thrilled about it.

My first pregnancy was ectopic. For any woman, the chances of an ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube) are around 1/100—it is very rare but always life-threatening. Conor had just deployed two weeks earlier, so when I experienced stabbing pains in my right side, I drove myself to the ER in the middle of the night and found out the bad news. It was traumatic, to say the least.

After Conor came back from deployment, we were ecstatic to find out that we were expecting again. The immediate concern was the chance of another ectopic, because once you’ve had one, your chances are 1/6 for subsequent pregnancies. Early scans showed that the little bub was in the right place, so we announced to friends and family in person while we were back in Washington over the summer. After all, what were the chances that we would have two losses in a row? We traveled back to California, and I went in for another ultrasound at 9 weeks, only to see that the pregnancy stopped progressing. Conor was in the field for an exercise, and rushed home to be with me.

I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, meaning that my body hadn’t recognized that the pregnancy was no longer viable and was continuing to behave as though I was still pregnant, morning sickness and all. I had to be medically induced. Not so fun fact: missed miscarriages account for only 1% of pregnancies. We had rolled the dice, and lost again.

To say I was bitter and angry at this point would be an understatement. Conor and I were both young and healthy, with zero risk factors. I only got more discouraged as the months dragged on and I couldn’t get pregnant again. My due dates passed, and I found myself thinking of alternate timelines. “Oh, I would have a one-year-old right now. Oh, I should be six months pregnant by now.” Instead, we were back to square one. Behind square one, even, because now the naive excitement of pregnancy had been replaced with bad memories and disillusionment, a track record of failure. I envied and marveled anyone who had pregnancies with no losses. It seemed impossible to me.

Eight months later, I finally got a faint positive test, which was quickly followed by another miscarriage at 5 weeks. I told my doctor I had pretty much given up by this point. We were also about to leave California. She suggested a round of Clomid as a last-ditch effort. “It won’t necessarily help, but it won’t hurt anything, either.”

I guess the 4th pregnancy was the charm. Conor and I feel beyond lucky to be at this point.

I hope my story helps anyone else going through the unique pain that is pregnancy loss. It can feel so isolating, especially because it is still so taboo to discuss in society. Women feel like they have to be so hush-hush and secretive about it, and wait until they are past the first trimester to announce to people because “What if something happens?” Well shit, things do happen. And it sucks to try to handle it on your own so as to spare other people’s feelings on the matter. I want to let other women know that they are not alone. For friends and family who support these women in your life, here are some tips to follow (and what not to say) if someone you know experienced a loss or is struggling with infertility:

1) “At least you can get pregnant.” Oh, goodie! And I can also have multiple miscarriages in a row! Definitely a win for me.

2) “It will happen when you stop trying.” Ah, yes. The truly scientific explanation, backed up by empirical data. So helpful.

3) “It just wasn’t meant to be/ God’s will, etc.” Why would you assume anything about my religion and what I believe in? Stop trying to make yourself feel better by saying a general platitude.

4) “You still have time to try again.” Well, I wanted that baby. And now that baby is gone. Any subsequent pregnancies are not a replacement for the ones that I’ve lost. They were all unique.

5) “Maybe if you wouldn’t have done ____, everything would have worked out.” Don’t you dare blame the mother. She’s also probably already obsessed about this herself a million times.

Here’s what you can do:

Say that you’re sorry for their loss. Listen to them if they want to talk about it. If they named their little passenger, refer to the baby by name. Bring meals, chocolate, distractions, whatever, don’t just tell them, “I’m here for you.” Show them. I had friends drop off care packages, check in with me months after my losses to see how I was coping, weren’t afraid to bring it up in conversation, and sent cards for what would have been my due dates. Don’t shy away from it. The mothers haven’t forgotten.

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There is an event tonight (October 15th) to acknowledge pregnancy and infant loss. Everyone lights a candle at 7pm and keeps it burning for an hour, creating a wave of light all around the world through the all the timezones. We’ll light ours on the boat.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Goodbye NWC, Hello Gottschalk!

The time had come to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people at Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern. As much as we would have liked to stay there permanently, the daily 2 ½ hr round trip commute to Camp Lejeune for Conor just wasn’t sustainable. We had to wait until the middle of September for many reasons, mostly because Conor had so many field ops this summer that we didn’t have enough time to make the three day trip. The good news was that because we waited, Conor’s parents were able to fly out from Washington state and help us make the journey!

DAY 1:

We left our marina around 8am on Saturday, Sept 16. The bimini and headsail were back up (thanks for the scare, Hurricane Irma), the water and diesel tanks were filled, our fridge was stocked, and our course was plotted. We were as ready as we were ever going to be! Not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. This was our first big trip with a destination, not just going out to sail around the Neuse River in familiar territory.

We said our goodbyes and cast off, heading south to Oriental. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, with 8-10 knots of wind and not a cloud in sight. The trip was going to take around five hours, and we just had to get to our transient slip for the night before five, so we put up the sails and enjoyed the day. This was my in-laws’ first time on a sailboat, and I think they caught the bug 🙂

The wind and chop started picking up around noon, so we pulled in the sails and motored the rest of the way to our spot. It was an adorable little marina called Whittaker point, the dockhouse is below:

Whittaker

As you all know, docking completely stresses me out, but with four people instead of two, it made a world of difference! The transient slip ended up being $1.50 per foot, so around $60 for us to stay the night (with power hookup). Like staying in a hotel, only you get to sleep in your own bed!

DAY 2:

This was our longest travel day, about nine hours. We needed to motor along the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) for over 30 NM and make it to Swansboro by 5pm. This was our first time on the ICW, and although we prefer sailing to motoring, it was an awesome way to see the Carolina coastline. And let me say, traveling by boat for 9 hours is wayyyyy different than traveling by car. The time flies when there is so much to see! At one point we were surrounded by a pod of at least twenty dolphins enjoying their morning feed, even little baby ones! I caught this cute moment of my in-laws that morning:

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The channel markers were super easy to follow, though it did get a little tricky around Morehead City. There was a ton of boat traffic and giant shipyards we had to navigate around. The channel also gets pretty narrow in some spots, and you have to always have an eye on your depth meter and the nav system. We didn’t run into any problems until we were in sight of Casper’s Marina, the dock we were staying at for the night. It finally happened: we ran aground. Whoops! There is a saying among boaters that there are two types of people: sailors who have run aground, and sailors who lie about having run aground. It is an inevitable consequence of boating, and I, for one, will openly admit to it!

In our case, there was an unmarked shoal closer to the ICW channel markers than we knew about. As we were heading in, we got a radio call from Casper’s Marina telling us about it, but by then it was too late! We got stuck. BUT my amazing husband, the ‘boat whisperer’ got us free somehow with a combination of reversing and wiggling. Although it was a stressful five minutes, it is just one more boating experience we can check off the list.

DAY 3

The last day dawned early, because we needed to enter New River before the tide dipped too low. We left Casper’s at 6:30 am as the sun was coming up. Today was the day we would see our new home!

Thanks to our friend/previous owner of the boat, Bob, we knew that there were a few tricky spots to navigate through as we left the ICW and motored up New River.

Tricky spot 1: “You WILL run out of water if you don’t enter the intersection of New River and the ICW at high tide.” Yep, even though we made it to the junction with plenty of time to spare, I still nervously watched the meter drop to as little as .5 ft of water underneath our keel at one point! But we didn’t run aground, yay!

Tricky spot 2: Stone’s Bay: Just after going under the Snead’s Ferry Bridge, there is a giant shoal you have to go alllll the way around before going north. Know what else doesn’t help? 20-25 knot winds and massive chop on the water. It is really no wonder why we were the only boat out that day.

Surprise tricky spot: This one couldn’t have been planned for. The Onslow bridge decided to malfunction just as we got to it, and it wouldn’t open. Do you know how hard it is to try to keep a boat in one place while you wait? The channel was narrow, the current was pulling the boat forward, and the wind was NOT our friend. Again, Conor the hero did an AMAZING job as we waited an extra half an hour for the problem to be fixed and the bridge to open. I’m seriously in awe of his captain skills, and his calm under pressure. I need to practice my steering a bit more to get on his level.

After all of this, the feeling of arriving at Gottschalk Marina was indescribable. I felt SO proud of us and happy we made it in one piece. It is crazy to think that back in June we hardly had any idea what we were doing when we bought the boat. Now, we’ve completed a multi-day journey all on our own! The best thing we ever did was jump right into this with both feet, and be okay with being outside of our comfort zones. There is really no better teacher than experience.

And as we navigate this great adventure, we will also be adding another crew member soon 🙂

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Love,

Taylor and Conor

Nebraska to North Carolina

WE MADE IT! Not gonna lie, it has been a long few days. I’ll keep this short and to the point as we recover. Tip: If moving across the country, take more than 5 driving days to do it. Our days were intense, and the 14 hour drive from Nebraska to Knoxville, TN about did us in. Scout mutinied, and projectile vomited in the car and at 4am in the hotel room. Here was the good and the bad of the trip:

Highlights:

We surprised Conor’s sister in Omaha for her college graduation! The look on Ashley’s face when she saw us was priceless. We spent a lovely 2 days in Nebraska with my in-laws, and parted with tearful promises that they would visit us soon at Camp Lejeune.

Conor got two tattoos! On his feet (ouch!)

No speeding tickets or car crashes, and we are still speaking to each other 🙂

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Conor realizing just how much feet tattoos hurt

Lowlights:

Vomit. So much vomit.

The disturbing amount of religious billboards damning us to hell as we drove through middle America. Why do people pay money to advertise messages of hate and judgment?

Road food. I can only eat so many burgers, and I think we gained about 5 pounds each.

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Hello, Camp Lejeune!

 

But, despite it all, we are here. We have an appointment tomorrow with Mike Wood from Neptune Yachts to look at the boats! After everything it took to get this far, it will be surreal to climb aboard. Fun boat updates to come!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

80s Rock Anthems and Audiobooks

Drum roll please…WE ARE ON THE ROAD! After all those months of preparation, interim living, and tying up loose ends, we’ve finally left the Golden State. Conor and I packed up the car early on Monday morning and drove toward the rising sun. I promised myself that I would give an update every day, but failed on the first day (of course) so here is how the first TWO days of the trip have gone:

Day 1 was a long haul—San Clemente to Albuquerque (12 hrs)

Highlight: Stopping for lunch to visit my WONDERFUL great-aunt and great-uncle in Prescott, AZ. I hadn’t seen them in years, and they are very much my ‘grandparents’ in every sense of the word.

Lowlight: When Conor accidentally dumped an entire bowl full of wet dog food onto my lap. I don’t know who was less pleased, me or Scout.

 

Day 2 was Albuquerque to Colorado Springs (6 hours)

Highlight: Visiting the candy store in NM that supplied the blue ‘meth’ rock candy for Breaking Bad (see my badass self below) and walking around Old Town.

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Lowlight: It’s freaking freezing in Colorado. Like, there’s snow on the ground. In May. I don’t understand.

 

I almost forgot to thank our lovely California friends for a great send-off! We decided that instead of tearful goodbyes, we wanted to make it a happy ‘see you later’ event, so all of our friends joined us for an Open House at an outdoor bar. We had a steady stream of people coming by all day to drink a beer, wish us luck, and give us hugs! (Disclaimer—I may have cried a bit once it was over).

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Time for sleep before our next adventure tomorrow.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Rocking Our Gypsy Souls

I can’t believe we have less than 2 weeks left in California. Sometimes I think we’ve been so focused on our next duty station that we’ve forgotten to appreciate the last, incredible bits of now. This past month has been such a transition, and we’ve been completely distracted by the practical details. Taking a step back, I’m finally starting to get a wee bit nostalgic whenever I gaze out at the endless Pacific. The desire to be out there, surrounded by wild blue, has been driving our dream forward, and it seems almost wrong that we won’t sail our boat on this ocean for a LONG time. I am west coast, born and bred, and a piece of my heart will always be here. There is something about the Pacific that speaks to me, and I think Van Morrison sums it up best:

Hark, now hear the sailors cry

Smell the sea and feel the sky

Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

And when that foghorn blows I will be coming home…

One day we will be back and sail up to Washington. We just plan on having a lot of adventures between now and then.

 

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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The biggest Van Morrison fan (aka my mom) feeling zen at the ocean. One of my favorite pics of her. Our families will miss us, but they get it.