Saturday, April 22, 2017

shifting sands and changing plans.

We have come so very far. Over 3,000 miles over 7 months time. It’s been fun and challenging and arduous. It’s been full of victories and full of setbacks. It’s been, in short, life.

Now, here we sit on the precipice of the next step. We are a mere 60 miles from the Bahamas and already our plans have morphed. The weather window had seemed favorable for a Friday crossing, and so we struck out at 5:30 am yesterday morning. Fozel was asleep below as we eased out of the anchorage and followed the daymarkers to the mouth of the inlet. It was choppier than I had anticipated. There wasn’t much traffic to speak of besides a few fishing rigs speeding past us, and a tug warning us of the impending arrival of a giant shipping vessel. We hugged the south side of the channel and crept out as she passed us on her port. And once we were out of her prop wash zone, we held our breath. I was behind the helm, gripping the wheel tighter than I meant to.

The tug captain had wished us luck in the four foot seas complete with white caps before the freighter had even made the mouth of the channel, but somehow I had thought four foot waves would be nothing. We just needed to get clear of the entrance to Lake Worth and see how it would feel for ourselves. The wind was coming a bit more from the east than we would have liked, and the waves were coming willy nilly. Sometimes rolling us from starboard to port and sometimes dipping Interlude’s bowsprit in the crest of a wave and then crashing spray across her decks. Everything below that wasn’t wedged in somewhere rolled and crashed to the cabin sole, somehow not even disturbing Fozel who was curled up in the very forward outboard corner of his berth.

Before long, it was too much. We hadn’t made it much beyond the last red buoy when the unending roller coaster of riding the trough of every other wave and then crashing awkwardly down onto the crest of the following one was too much to bear. Josh and I both knew it wasn’t a sustainable way to travel for the 12 hour trip. And so, we decided to be patient and wait. We have waited this long, what’s a few more days? Sometimes, the best laid plans aren’t meant to be. We motored back to the anchorage we had been tucked into and dropped the hook. And so, we will try another day. All signs point to Monday, but as with everything in life, changes are inevitable and often imminent. We’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

on the road again.

We spent some time in Vero Beach. There were a number of reasons for that.  We did a little bit of work on the boat, rebuilt the exhaust system, installed an outboard crane, replaced the dinghy.  We rested and recovered, from back injuries which lead to the installation of the outboard crane. We also just loved it there. The City Marina has a nice facility.  We met new friends that quickly became old friends. We visited with family that lives in the area. We waited for the right weather to head south.  

Yesterday was the day that we finally were able to pry ourselves free from the comfort and familiarity that we had grown to love. Shortly before 9 AM, we slipped the mooring line free and headed south.  It is easy to understand why that place has the nickname "Velcro Beach" among cruisers. This is typically the time of year that people are heading north, but we still have a month and half before hurricane season officially starts, so we are going to head over to the Bahamas and try our hand at exploring the Abacos.  

One of the main goals since we started dreaming about buying a boat and sailing off across the horizon has been to find clear water and white sandy beaches. The Bahamas promise that and more. As we sit in our second anchorage south of Vero Beach, rolling in the swells, it feels like we are travelers once more. Each day ahead will be a new destination until the water is clear and we find somewhere else that we love to set the anchor.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

parenting on board.

Having kids is challenging in the best of circumstances. But when you choose to sail away from your support system, consistent schedule of activities, all hell can break loose. On land, we had friends with whom we had playdates, story time at the library, free events going on at the park districts, swimming at the YMCA at least once a week, etc. Life revolved around a very organized schedule of activities. The weekends were always more flexible but we tried to balance being out having adventures with just chilling out after a week of busyness. Then, we uprooted this whole shebang and moved onto our boat. We spent hours on end on the go, day after day for several months. We left all our family and friends as well as our rote schedule. Now we are flexible based on what Josh’s needs are in terms of projects or repairs. The m.o. aboard Interlude has very much been divide and conquer since we’ve been living afloat. The demands of upkeep and repairs can get insurmountable and since that is Josh’s area of expertise, the corraling and entertaining of Fozel often falls to me. So, we sometimes go to the park. We sometimes go to the beach. We sometimes go on random walks or ride our bikes. We sometimes go to storytime at the Book Center. The biggest mistake I made was not taking the time to get plugged into the local kid scene though. Partly because I didn’t think we’d be here anywhere near this long. And partly because we didn’t have a car. The bus only gets you so many places and if it’s more than 3 stops away, forget about it with Fozel.

And now I’m kicking myself. It’s been a missed opportunity on all fronts. Sure, we’ve had wonderful mornings and afternoons at the beach or park or ice cream shop. I just feel like I’ve been letting him down in the socialization and education aspects. It’s a lot of responsibility making sure he’s getting enough exercise and mental stimulation, nourishing food, and rest. Add in making sure he’s getting socialized, educated and having enough attention/one-on-one time with us, and it can be overwhelming. The days just don’t seem long enough. I see that there are families that are doing this with multiple kids and it makes me want to go back home and give up. How?? Fozel’s needs alone are a full time job. And even there I feel like I’m failing him. I don’t know the solution of parenting, obviously. It’s hard any way you slice it. I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, which is my best. Teaching him, comforting him, playing with him, and most importantly, loving him.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


It’s been awhile since I updated the blog and surprise! We are still in Florida. In Vero Beach, to be exact. Since I last wrote we got the new dinghy, got it registered here in the state of Florida, we provisioned up again (we had begun to eat some of the meals I was going to prepare during our time in the Bahamas), Josh got the exhaust system fixed, the water pump switch fixed, and we even had a weather window that was looking good. We planned to leave the Tuesday before last. We wanted to pull into a slip for the final night before departure and were making plans to head to Lake Worth and cross on Thursday or Friday. Unfortunately, Josh injured his back hoisting the dinghy motor aboard (this always gets stowed on the back railing and the dinghy itself is stored on the forward deck upside down). He spent Monday in the ER finding out it was spasms and 2 bulging discs. Plans have been scrapped for now.

He had an MRI and xray on Tuesday and then will see a physical therapist on Thursday. Hopefully, the prognosis will be good and we can start again thinking about going to the Bahamas. It’s been a long time in the works and I would love to make it this season, even if only for a short while. I want to let Fozel run down the long powdery white deserted beaches and hunt shells while we swim in the bathwater warm surf. It just doesn’t feel right to come this far and be this close and not do it at least for a short while, right??

(See Fozel on the port side? Haha! We were playing outside on the deck with a tub full of water and cars and then it evolved into him letting them drive down the side and chasing them back toward the cockpit. He was very into it.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

indispensable things.

We met up with some power boating friends a few weeks ago (Hi Bill and Molly!) and got to talking about our indispensable items on the boat. They had very specific items they couldn’t live without but I hadn’t really given it that much thought. Once I did, I came up with a few things. In no particular order here they are:

Headlamps (especially with a red light function). Great for so many things. Our kitchen area is a bit dark so I pull one on as I prep and cook dinner. It’s particularly helpful for checking things in the oven as it doesn’t have an interior light. We use them when we check the anchor at night, when we crawl in bed to read, when we stand watch in the cockpit at night, and when we are walking through an unfamiliar marina after dark and especially when we are dinghying back to the boat after sundown.

Travel chargers (what you’d use in your car). When we are not plugged into a power source at a dock we use direct current. We use the multiple DC outlets (of which there are currently 6) to charge all our electronics except my laptop because Apple doesn’t make a DC charger (darn them!).

Reusable water bottles. This is a “duh” kind of thing but we don’t drink from open cups except at meal time or at the very least when we are at anchor. Too many opportunities for spills especially when you have a small person aboard. The Hydroflask brand is a favorite of ours. If you can get your hands on ice, they'll help you keep your drink cold for hours and hours and hours.

Travel mugs. We both have Hydroflasks and absolutely love them. We have coffee cup lids for them that snapped closed (making them all but impossible to spill even if you toss it in your messenger bag and tote it around all day). They keep coffee and tea and the like hot for an entire day. No joke. We’ve had hot liquids still be more than lukewarm 12 hours later. They’re pricey but worth the investment for us.

Aim and flame lighters. We don’t have a fancy brand we like or anything. We just use the cheapy ones from the dollar store. They make lighting the stove and oven less of a hair losing experience than using a cigarette lighter.

Wet wipes. I don’t know if I would have thought of buying them if we didn’t have a toddler. They’re great for quick wipe downs of him, any surface, and can clean spots out of clothes like a champion. I also love to toss a pack into my purse for any outing. They lower the ick factor in lots of situations.

Small skillet and small spatula (scraping type, not flipping). I’ve mentioned these before but they’ve become my staple. The skillet is from TJ Maxx and the spatula is by OXO. The skillet is nonstick and is perfect for eggs in the morning and heating up leftovers at lunch. Easy cleanup and compact. The spatula is the most reached for item in my silverware drawer hands down. It’s smallish but not tiny and is great for all kinds of cooking and baking.

Sunglasses. We live and die by daylight. So, polarized sunglasses are a must. They’re better at protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and they make visibility at sea 100 times better—especially when it comes to spotting dolphins!

Active Captain. It’s Yelp! for boater. You can find reviews of marinas, anchorages and hazards along the way. It integrates with Garmin BlueCharts mapping technology we use on the iPad seamlessly and has kept us off more shoals than we care to count. It’s truly crowdsourcing at it’s best.

Kindles. We are both pretty avid readers. Being able to carry thousands of books in one device that is extremely efficient in battery usage is a Godsend.

I’m a big believer in living as you would on land if you undergo a cruiser life. What I mean to say is that it’s not some giant camping trip and you should have the creature comforts that you would want on land to make you your most comfortable if possible. With that in mind, these are our most loved creature comforts:

Quick drying hair towel. I’ve had 2 of these for a decade. For a person with long hair, they cut my air drying time in half. I hate to travel without them on land or on water. They run about $20 and are well worth the money. They dry quickly on the lifelines and are slightly larger than the size of a hand towel.

Art supplies. Yes they take up space. But as a creative type, having them makes me happy. I brought paper, fancy pens, a lovely set of watercolors, nice colored pencils, adult coloring books, and of course papers of various types. Between Fozel and myself, we have been putting them through the paces and it’s great for me to have something to do with my hands that also helps me unwind.

Bialetti coffee maker. We love coffee and this little stove top number is one of our favorite items from home. It makes 1 thermos at a time, is 3 fairly small pieces to clean and frankly, is kind of cute to look at. I’ve stopped drinking coffee because I ran out of decaf and I thought I would just give it up but when I’m brewing Josh’s thermos every morning that heavenly smell wafting from the Bialetti makes me regret it!

Exercise gear. We both have all our exercise clothing plus I’ve gathered some essential exercise equipment I’m so glad I didn’t leave behind. A kettlebell, jump rope, ankle weights, a set of 5 pound hand weights, a suspension trainer and resistance bands go a long way to keep me sane. Have I mentioned how much I love working out?!

Crocs. Yes, they’re ugly as sin BUT they are comfortable, they breathe and they make the best boat shoes (in place of slippers). Josh and Lucas wear theirs out in public *gasp* but mine are strictly on board or in the marina. They double as shower shoes and get the job done for just kicking around above or below deck. We’ve absolutely lived in them since we left. Actually, we lived in them before we left and I can’t think of $20 better spent for our comfort.

Friday, February 17, 2017

toddler on board FAQs.

I figured by this point I might have encountered a few more questions about having a toddler on board than I have. Maybe it’s not as much of a mystery on how we do it as I might have thought. There are a few that keep popping up, and these are it as of now.

How does he do underway? The short answer is good. The majority of the traveling we’ve been doing has been motoring in protected waters. On those he is happy to play in the cockpit with toys or below deck doing various activities. Lately he’s partial to Water Wows and of course, any kind of vehicle. There have been a few times when he’s been seasick. Once on the passage from New York Harbor to Cape May, NJ and once on the Chesapeake on a very rough day. Luckily, his reaction is to just sleep. He doesn’t show any other symptoms besides lethargy. So we wait for calmer days and will continue to travel on those days whenever possible. We do anticipate some actual sailing across to the Bahamas and what we’ve done thus far is to do them as overnight passages and he sleeps like a dream during those times.

Where does he sleep? Fozel sleeps in the quarter berth at the bottom of the companionway on the starboard side. We fashioned a little gate with a mesh panel that we put in place after he’s asleep. It keeps him from rolling out of bed, or getting out of bed at all on his own. It is fastened permanently to the base of the bed and latches with two hook clips in each corner. It’s made out of heavy canvas and a very sturdy mesh. The major concern without the use of the panel would be that he might wake up and climb up the companionway without us hearing him. It’s a small boat, so I don’t anticipate that happening, but stranger things have happened.

What about potty training afloat? We are knee deep in it. It’s certainly more challenging than it was on land. Being able to throw soiled underwear directly into the washing machine was certainly a luxury I had taken for granted. He has a little potty seat that sits on top of the head and we are chugging along. We are to the point of only using diapers at nap and bedtime so that cuts down on waste significantly. Yay! And when we have accidents, we rinse in the sink after dumping the solids in the toilet. I expect he’ll be potty trained about the time all my hair goes gray.

What do you do with him all day? You name it. He is up for just about anything. We love the beach, the park, we take his balance bike to shore and he rides that, we take “hikes” (his word) around the neighborhoods wherever we are, paint, draw, color, play cars, play hide and seek, play pretend, do puzzles, do Water Wows, read, play with play doh, run errands and just about anything else you might do with a kid. We don’t do a ton of things that cost money because we are on a budget, but if it’s free and he might be into it and we can physically get there, we’ll try it.

Does he like the boat? Tricky question. At this age, it’s hard to say. He sometimes says “No go back to boat, momma.” Often it’s as much about not wanting to take a nap or go to bed as anything else. And sometimes, like after the holidays it was about not wanting to leave grandparents and aunts and uncles and being spoiled rotten. For now, he seems to like the boat 90% of the time and the other 10% is pretty much how I feel--sometimes you just don’t love it.

What’s your plan for schooling/will you give up the cruising lifestyle when he’s old enough for school? We have no certain plans for the next phase of Fozel’s schooling at this point. I want to begin researching homeschooling to find out what types of options we have and what the hoops we’ll have to jump through in order for it to be legal and official will be. From my limited knowledge, it sounds like there are plenty of teaching styles/curriculums to choose from and most states have a pretty straightforward hierarchy of regulations/rules to be complied with. I have not begun to research Illinois (because I’m assuming that since we are still technically legal residents of the state that we must follow their criteria—though I’m not even 100% sure about that). The short answer is that we’ll decide once we’ve weighed options and we get closer to that age. For now we do our best to do learning activities as part of our regular playtime. Fozel can name all the letters (capital and most lower case ones—some of them aren’t as obvious to him), knows his colors, and can count to 13. He loves to read and seems to just love to learn.

What’s the biggest challenge with having a toddler on board? Having him respect the rules we’ve put in place to keep him safe. This sort of steps on the next question, but we have strict guidelines for being above deck and at this age, his listening and reactions/responses are not always immediate or purposeful.

How do you keep him safe? Fozel has a life jacket that he wears anytime he is above deck. He wears it in the cockpit, he wears it on deck, and he wears it in the dinghy. The only place near water he doesn’t ALWAYS wear it is when we are on the dinghy dock. Sometimes we leave our life jackets in the dinghy rather than carry them with us on errands or to the park/beach/wherever because they’re bulky/awkward to carry in addition to all our other gear. When we are on the dinghy dock, he walks in the center of the dock only. He is also not allowed to be out of the cockpit alone. Beyond that, when we are underway (moving) and he is above deck, in or out of the cockpit, he also wears a harness/tether. The harness is worn under the life jacket (or as we all call it, boat coat) and has a tether that is attached to some solid point in the cockpit and the same for on deck. On the Erie Canal, Fozel wanted to help hold the ropes in the locks, so he would come with me on deck and I would clip his harness onto the grab rails nearby. The tether is 6 feet long so it doesn’t give him much room to move about, but he tolerates it. He is less a fan of the harness and calls it his “too tight”.

Did I miss any of your other burning questions? I’m happy to answer anything!