Gratitude & 5AM Wakeup Calls

/ˈɡrætɪˌtjuːd/ meaning good will, thankfulness, appreciation. 

This Thanksgiving - our second owning Seas Life - we are in an entirely different place in life. Our first Thanksgiving, we had only been dating for 6 months and we were in DEEP on boat projects. We were also at the very beginning of our individual processes on what Seas Life (the boat and the life meaning within the boat's name) would mean to each of us. Our second Thanksgiving, we've now been dating for 1 year and 6 months, and we now live full time on the boat and we're planning to venture out of sea in less than 10 days. 

Whoa. What one year can do and be! 

As we indulged on sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pies and sweet tea, we thought about what we're thankful for: 

  • For each other and our love that has kept us together during trying times. Being in love is a gift that we treasure every day. As they say, our cup truly runneth over. 
  • For our parents who raised us to be who we are today. All of the lessons we learned along the way that taught us to live out loud, understand finances, and how to make our dreams come true.
  • For our families who love and support us. Without their endless love and support, we wouldn't be where we are today. 
  • For Seas Life: our home, our shelter, our traveling wonder. You have come so far and you will go so far! For that, we are thankful. 
  • For our educations at colleges that helped develop our skills and thinking. From our years at ECU, VCU and ODU, we are thankful for the professors and friends we met along the way. 
  • For the sailing community for their openheartedness and willingness to help us learn this world. From old salts to new friends (some of whom are old salts), we love your wisdom, your stories and your inspiration. 
  • For our friends for traveling along on this journey with us either digitally or by actually coming aboard Seas Life for an evening of fun! 
Thanksgiving 2017 in Richmond, VA

Thanksgiving 2017 in Richmond, VA

But we didn't stay in our turkey comas long. As soon as the hugs were all distributed, it was back to work on plans for traveling since we're 6 days away from "take off!" 

For the last two weeks, Ryan has been waking up at 5AM, ready to go! The last time I saw him wake up with such energy was back during his 14-hour days of working on the boat when he first bought it. His focus and determination have returned in full force as we approach our date for cruising. 

I switched my car insurance from day-to-day driver to "storage," removed my plates and returned them to the DMV since I won't be driving. 

I had book exchanges with my girlfriends to switch up our book library. 

Ryan has stocked up on backup parts, tools, and lines. 

We will soon be provisioning. 

You can follow along on our podcast or on our Instagram! 

Sending you love and good vibes from Seas Life! 

After a decade of dreaming... it's go time!

The air is chilled, so that means: It's go time!

Photo taken 1 year ago when we were just beginning our rehabilitation of Seas Life.

Photo taken 1 year ago when we were just beginning our rehabilitation of Seas Life.

For almost a decade, Ryan has been planning this dream. I only came into the story 1.5 years ago. And for 1.5 years, we have been preparing the boat (fixing what's broken, updating what's old, cleaning what was dirty). And now, it's November and we both know what that means: It's not time to be afraid. It's time to make this dream happen!

Preparing to leave everything we've known has hit both us in different ways. We have each had our own emotional overloads of stress, anxiety, sadness, excitement, joy, anticipation and fear. We have both had our fair amount of frustrations, misunderstandings and miscommunications over this trip, our feelings and fears about it. There are many decisions to make, and these decisions aren't all as lighthearted as "Do we want the blue comforter or the navy comforter?" Some of these decisions have been expensive and life determining. Most of these decisions have been outside of one of our comfort zones. But day by day, decision by decision, we are getting closer. 

Our general approach and process: 

JOBS- Are all of our jobs prepared for this trip? Have we closed out any accounts or matters that were pending? Have we had the meetings to prepare our teams for our departure? Do they feel empowered and informed and ready? 

MONEY- Have we paid all of our pending parking tickets? Did we create a feasible budget? Did we put enough aside for savings? 

PROPERTY- Have we sold or planned where our cars will remain during the trip? Have we secured someone to care for our beach condominium? 

DOCTORS- Have we completed all of our annual appointments? Have we secured all annual and necessary prescriptions that we may need? 

INSURANCES- Have we secured and paid for all insurance necessary to travel? Have we turned off any insurances we won't need because they're no longer applicable while traveling?

FAMILY- Have we made all efforts to keep our families updated? Have we shown them how they can track our progress and educate them on how to contact us? Are they aware of their role?

MAIL- Have we designated an address and person to receive and open our mail to forward to us? 

SUPPLIES- Have we purchased backup parts for the boat? Have we purchased and properly stored medicines, Band-Aids, creams, toothpastes, cleaning products?

PROVISIONING- Have we purchased enough dry foods to last long periods offshore? 

Through all of the preparation, we have stayed true to our goals and missions: To explore unknown places in the safest most efficient and affordable way possible. 

If you want to hear more about our preparations, check out our podcast episode! 

P.S. We will keep everyone updated as our plans & ways to contact us shift and change in the next few weeks! 

Preparing to Cruise

Counting down the days! Checking off each day as we get closer. 

Counting down the days! Checking off each day as we get closer. 

Cruising. This lifestyle is unknown by most, but still embraced by many. It means you move around when and where you want to and you figure out how to make money along the way. You make adjustments based on the needs of your family, the boat or your finances. 

To some friends and family, this concept doesn't make sense. It didn't make sense for me for the longest time either (though for Ryan, this has always been the dream). For me, I'm only a quarter there in my understanding. I still have yet to trust life and the world enough, but cruisers tell me that will come. 

While reading, The Cruising Woman's Advisor by Diana Jessie, I read a quote that summed up how I've been feeling about this whole experience. 

"For me, cruising is the simple life. I live on a boat instead of living in a house or in an apartment. My possessions are few, and my living space is smaller than what you'd find in a typical mobile home. I do not spend hours cleaning, talking on the phone, or watching television. I share every day - in fact, nearly every minute - with my husband in this same space. We live day to day, planning what we want to do and where we want to go each day. It is rare that we use the phrase 'I have to..." unless I am writing or the weather is bad." - Diana Jessie

The more I think about this lifestyle, the more I ask myself: What held me back before? My immediately responses were: Job, Perceptions, Money, Family, Responsibility, What I'm "supposed" to be doing.

So I broke each of those items down. Trying to understand this lifestyle has required that I have a relentless and vigorous conversation with myself about my life and the structure I live within. I asked myself some key questions: 

  1. [JOB:] Are you overjoyed on Sunday to return to the work you are slated to do on Monday? I call this "The Sunday Test." If I was feeling anxious, or blah, or dreading Monday on Sunday around dusk, I didn't pass "The Sunday Test." This meant I was in a job that I wasn't completely passionate about. I was in a job simply because it was a job. Poet John O'Donohue said it best: "We spend over one-third of our lives actually in the workplace, and one of the loneliest things you can find is somebody who is in the wrong kind of work, who shouldn’t be doing what they are doing but should be doing something else and haven’t the courage to get up and leave it and make a new possibility for themselves. But it’s lovely when you find someone at work who’s doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift." 
  2. [JOB:] Does your job allow you the funds and time you need to travel, experience life and live life to your fullest? If the answer to this is no, and you're failing "The Sunday Test," then why continue in that job? Why give that job the power to hold you back?
  3. [PERCEPTIONS:] What are you afraid of? We all experience fear. But fear is one of the most powerful tentacles holding you back in life. I wrote down what I was afraid of: Not having enough, abandonment, not being good enough, not being "worth it." These are all insecurities that are placed within us at an early age. For example, we are told to get jobs not to be innovative and work for yourself. We are told by banks we must have consistent salaries, monthly payments coming out and in. We aren't told that you don't have to make money every day, you just have to make money, occasionally and whenever! We aren't told to be adventurous, instead we told to find safety and security. I was afraid to be bold, live bold, make bold decisions. Once I realized that fear was the thing holding me back from living boldly, I cut fear's power away from my decision-making process. 
  4. [FAMILY:] What about family and friends? I am excited about the fact that this life gives me more freedom to see family and friends. I no longer have a required time away from my family, as mandated by an institution. I have time to schedule and spend with my family in closer quarters and under less strict conditions. We design what our time together will look like, feel like, be like. 
  5. [MONEY:] Money, I have found, comes and it goes. It goes and it comes. I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to do anything without my job. I was wrong. There are so many skills I have that are needed in various parts of the world! And there are many different forms of "money." Money can appear as products, food, shelter. Money can appear as time, energy, effort. I had become so entirely married to this idea that money only came in one form: as a direct deposit into my account. But this just isn't true. 
  6. [RESPONSIBILITY:] I felt compelled to do certain things like have life insurance, a retirement plan, bountiful health insurance. The more I learned about this life the more I realized you don't have to do it the way you're told. You can still have all of those things, but you can pay them upfront for the year or transition money to and from projects. You can make healthy financial decisions without it being the set formula you're sold. 

After having these realizations, I ask myself, then, Sheena, what should you be doing? 

Photo by Stellar Exposures

Photo by Stellar Exposures

I've come to settle peacefully on the following list: mindfully approaching how I love, how I listen, what I create, whom I'm uplifting, how I move through this world, what, how and where I'm affecting change, where and how I'm spending my energy and talents.

Because I only live one time, and I want that time to be FULL. Of love, of life, of beauty, of challenge, of growth, of friendship, of laughs, of different types of work, of adventure, of personal freedom. For me, that means living boldly and reminding fear who is making the decisions. 

But I still have so much to learn. I have yet to trust that there are opportunities out there in the world to make money. I have yet to have full faith in my own skills and abilities (I still feel like I need validation or approval in the form of an employer). I am still scared that I won't be able to do this. 

The only way I'll ever find the answers to any of these constant thoughts is to try. So, I try. 

Healthy Sunshine Protection

Living on a sailboat and serving as First Mate of Seas Life means this redhead is out in the sun. A lot. That can be a wonderful thing, but it comes with a lot of risk. 

Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Redheads have a mutation to the MC1R gene causing red hair and light skin (also a stronger immune system). But "pheomelanin, the pigment found in the skin of red- and blond-haired individuals, provides less protection against sun damage than eumelanin, the predominant pigment in people with dark hair and dark skin" according to research by the National Institute of Health (Yikes!)

Needless to say, sun protection becomes critically important for this full-time, sailboat-living redhead. I need sunscreen on from the moment I pour my morning coffee to the moment I'm slipping into bed. That is a lot of sunscreen! That is a lot for my skin! When the amount of sunscreen increased, and the amount of time I was wearing sunscreen increased, I started to worry about what I was putting on my skin. I dove into extensive research to find the right products that would protect my skin but also not pollute my skin with chemicals. 

Here's what I've learned. Here's what to pay attention to. Here's what to know. 

Understanding Sunshine: 

When you feel the sun warming your skin, you're experiencing two different waves: UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B). UVA is the long wave, and UVB is the short wave on the light spectrum. What does this mean? 

UVA waves are 320-400 nanometers (nm, or billionths of a meter). UVB waves are 290 to 320 nm. UVA rays are more prevalent and because they're longer waves, they penetrate the skin deeper. 

UVB waves are what cause redness and burning in our skin. They're in full force 10AM - 4PM. 

So we need protection against UVA and UVB rays to stay safe from the sun! Enter Sunscreen! 

Broad-spectrum sunscreen prevents UVA and UVB rays from harming your skin. But what chemicals are placed in our sunscreen to achieve this magic? (Read below). And are these chemicals the only way to prevent sun damage? (No). 

Sunscreen Chemicals: 

When we're thinking of sunscreen chemicals, you want to understand how and why they are used and why they exist. The most popular sunscreens on the market contain chemicals because they make sunscreen convenient and also they look better. But that does not make them safe. What exactly are we talking about here? 

The Federal Drug Administration has approved 17 active ingredients that reflect the sun rays back at the sun instead of allowing the rays into your skin (these ingredients are like reflective mirrors). These ingredients are split into two descriptions: chemical absorbers or physical filters. You get to choose which ones you'd like to put on your body. 

Chemical Absorbers: 

Oxybenzone: Check the ingredients of your sunscreen for oxybenzone (or benzonephenone-3). This chemical is used because it goes on your skin colorless or clear; it rubs in conveniently fast and provides UV coverage. Sounds perfect, right? That's why this chemical is found in every commercial sunscreen (looking at you Aveeno, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, NO-AD). But oxybenzone's easy-absorb and clear convenience comes with a high price: It easily absorbs into your skin cells and hormones. This chemical disrupts your endocrine system, the system that pushes products and hormones directly into your blood. This chemical when placed on your skin (which, by the way, is rated 8 on the Environmental Working Group toxicity scale) is easily absorbed into your blood. (Note: EWG is an organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.) Oxybenzone is linked to early puberty in girls, male infertility and skin cancer. It is also found in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and cosmetics as a photostabilizer.

Octinoxate: This chemical usually goes hand-in-hand with oxybenzone. It's added for extra UVB protection and it does protect your skin from burning. But it's a man-made chemical and when it's absorbed by the body it travels to your urine, blood and breast milk. Also, when you jump in the water with these sunscreen, it doesn't go away. The chemicals fall into the water and drop to the bottom of the water, destroying the life beneath the water's surface. 

Take-away here: I realized I didn't want to exchange my health just because I want clear sunscreen that rubs in quickly. I threw away all of my sunscreen that contained this chemical. 

After researching chemical options, I noticed they were placed in our sunscreen because we like convenience and we're a vain population, we want to look good. These chemicals made sunscreen convenient, fast-absorbing and clear. But what we didn't know is that it causes early puberty, problems with having children, and major environmental damage. 

I decided to research physical filters. 

Physical Filters: 

Remember the iconic lifeguard image? A cute guy with a bright white stripe of lotion across his nose? Those are physical filters. Where chemical absorbers take the sun and absorb the rays (soak it up like a sponge), physical filters reflect, scatter and block the sun rays. 

But they do this by being white, which may not be attractive because you see it sitting on your skin. 

The FDA has approved two physical filters: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These are naturally-occurring minerals in our world. 

Titanium Dioxide: This has the distinct, white pigment. It reflects sun rays back up, and it doesn't degrade when exposed to the sun. 

Zinc Oxide: Protects against UVA and UVB sun rays. 

While you may not enjoy the white hue these minerals leave on your skin, they are natural minerals! And they do exactly the job you need them to do! 

Understanding Nanoparticles: 

When you're using minerals, they have to be milled from solid particles to small, fine particles. This brings up nanoparticles. 

A nanoparticles "is a small object that behaves as a whole unit in terms of its transport and properties" (Ananya Mandal, MD). Imagine finding a mineral in nature. You have to crush it down in order to use it. But these fine particles of mineral still behave like the giant chunk you originally found. 

You will find when using natural sunscreen there is NANO or NON-NANO Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide: they are talking about how fine they ground the mineral down. Some people worry that the finer the particle, the more likely it will be absorbed by the skin because finer particles can penetrate the skin's surface. Then you're right back to the concern of chemical absorbers. 

But according to the EWG, these concerns are nothing to worry about. They're all ground into fine particles to work, but preliminary scientific research has shown no evidence that zinc or titanium can soak in below the dermal layer.

Your Power Here: 

The power to decide what you buy and what you put on your skin is yours!

You can choose: Chemical absorbers (man-made, environmentally harmful, and slightly less effective) or physical filters (naturally-occurring, but come with the white hue). 

You can choose: Nano or Non-nano particles (how fine the minerals are ground). 

Where that leaves me: 

After extensive research, I threw all of my sunscreen away and started again. Here's what I choose for my body: I choose physical filters because I want naturally-occurring minerals. I use dark-colored clothing, sunglasses and hats to also block sun rays. 

Product Options: (My unsponsored, honest opinion of what I personally use for my FACE & for my BODY)

I use Mad Hippie products. They're all about chemical-free physical filters! And they throw in naturally photoprotective oils like red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil & carrot seed oil, plus vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic acid which protects, naturally, against photoaging. Their sunscreen is free of nanoparticles, Parabens, PABA, Petroleum, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone & UV Chemical Absorbers. (Count me in!)

They also have a fantastic serum that protects pre-sun exposure and heals post-sun exposure.

For my body, I use Kabana.  Chemical-free, Non-nano, Broad-spectrum. (Count me in!)

It is important to me to know what I'm putting on my body for hours and hours of days and months. I want my body to thrive, naturally! 

Overnight Journeys

As a sailing couple, we learn more about patience and communication each and every day! Photo by: Stellar Exposures

As a sailing couple, we learn more about patience and communication each and every day! Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Traveling From: Norfolk, VA

Bound for: Cape Charles, VA

Nautical Miles:

Work can get frustrating, life can get hard. And we had fallen into a bit of a routine rut. So, we wanted to venture out: have some talks, meet some people, drink some fancy mixed drinks! 

Saturday morning, we poured our coffee and prepared the boat for an overnight stay in Cape Charles, Virginia. We knew they were having the Experimental Film Festival and this was a great opportunity to sail to a great party! 

We left the dock around 9:30 AM, set the sails and experienced a beautiful sail across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore: we saw dolphins, and fish jump clear out of the water. I found a shaded nook and dove into my book, while Ryan steered singing to Jimmy Buffett. 

We arrived in Cape Charles around 2:30 PM. After securing the boat and taking some refreshing boat showers, we slipped on our evening clothes, poured ourselves a few drinks and sat outside on the trampoline talking with guests walking down the pier. 

The evening was full of friendship (new and old), laughter, fun, adventure, lobster rolls and oysters, and dancing to a live band by the edge of the water. 

Overnight journeys bring you these 5 very special things: 

  • Time away. Re-charging our batteries is underrated in this world. A quick getaway can reboot a tired spirit in no time. You don't have to travel far to capture the feeling of relaxation and rest. Sometimes, a simple journey across the bay is all you need to shed the irritations and responsibilities and feel free! 
  • Connection. When you have a collection of untouched, unspoken-for hours with your friends or family, your ability to be present for them and for yourself expands and increases. You'll notice yourself listening better, understanding more, and stressing less. You feel yourself lean into and relax into your friendships and family relationships in a supported, cocooned way: there is no one yanking at your time and energy. 
  • Revitalization. The definition of revitalization is "to give new life to." A short adventure away refills what your job, or your schedule, or your responsibilities have started to drain. Every now and then, we need a new life and we need someone or something to "give it." Investing in a short getaway will give you just that: a new energy, a new focus, a new drive, a new approach. 
  • Quiet. In a noisy world - when our phones ding constantly and notifications pile up - it's nice to feel quiet. It's nice to have a moment to lie down on the trampoline over the water and see the stars, hear the water running beneath you, and feel quiet
  • Newness. A short adventure can open your world up in many different ways, even if you're traveling to a familiar city or town. But there are always unexpected, pleasant surprises along a sail! A dolphin pod swimming along, a fish jumping, a live musician playing, a refreshing jump into the Chesapeake Bay for a swim in 30+ feet deep of water! 

In life, we need time away, connection, revitalization, quiet and newness. But we forget to make time for these precious commodities. Seas Life reminds us to remember these things. It reminds us to invest in these things so that we may be better human beings, and the best versions of ourselves. 

Journey onward! 

Ahoy, from Seas Life!

Seas Life, 2017

Seas Life, 2017

How we ended up in our boat packed with everything we own, including a dehydrated and stressed out tomato plant named Herbenito, is a story of trust, transition, and trying. 

In the summer of 2016, Ryan purchased a 1999 Catana Catamaran and announced he wanted to live aboard. This thrust us into a year of complicated boat repairs, selling a home, renting out a condo, registering for sailing lessons, ridding ourselves of everything we had been hoarding, and moving onto a boat that we now call home. 

How do you do that? How do you uproot your entire life to build a new one? How do you wave adieu to land dwelling habits, mentalities and philosophies and embrace nautical history, trends and proverbs? 

1. Embrace - and remember - who you are. We all have different backgrounds and experiences which imprinted within us different skillsets, likes and dislikes. When you're making a big transition, it can feel like you're losing yourself but remembering who you are and what you bring to the table is critical to the success of any transition. When Ryan and I decided to take on this journey, he came to the table with: sailing experience, skills as a DIY handyman, boat knowledge, water knowledge, optimism. I came to the table with: classical dance experience, a yoga and life-coaching certification, journalism degree, social media savvy, realism. Together, this gave us options and challenges. Some days our passions and our skillsets aligned nicely and played well together. What he lacked in disorganization, I made up for with my OCD. What he dreamed about, I brought to it realistic groundwork. And some days, our differences worked against each other; his optimism would sometimes crash headfirst with my realism. His confidence in this dream would sometimes lose patience with my overwhelming worries about it. But embracing and remembering who we both are (both for ourselves and for each other) pulled us through the transition. 

2. Decide what your goals are and decide on a plan to make them happen. In order to make a big move in Chess, you have to move the right pieces. This is how we approached our transition. We sat down and listed all of the variables and all details associated with those variables. He owned a home. I own a beach condo. Finances had to be shifted in order to secure the boat and pay off the boat. One of us had to focus solely on working on the boat while the other maintained a full-time job. He set a maintenance/re-fitting schedule for the boat while I brought extra hands and woman-power to the track progress, clean up, assess goals. Big moves were made when he sold his home, moved into my condo, then, with thoughtful planning, rented out my condo in order to carefully move all pieces to their places: finances, property, paperwork. All pieces were approached strategically. 

3. Communicate every step of the way. A sailing-couple, once strangers, now dear friends, told us a story about their adventures to Key West. She said she was captured by a piece of art she stumbled across there of two waves. The artist said, “We call this two waves because it represents two different forces, like two different people, traveling their own unique paths but headed in the same direction.” We remind each other of this story often. As individuals, we both experience life at different paces, at different comfort levels, with different anxieties. While we may not always be perfectly in sync, we are traveling in the same direction. Communication is what helps us know where we each are currently and where we’re headed.

4. Be prepared for the naysayers. Choosing to live a different way than the default way of life is shocking to both the people planning the change but also to friends and family. It isn't easy. Well-established systems aren't set up to empower you to make unique changes, so there is fear associated with alternate living. People told us we were “walking away from everything” (instead of being curious of what we were walking toward). People assumed I was “giving up dancing. And how could I do such a thing?” I was even asked, “Why did I even go to graduate school?” Naysayers are powerful and can be extremely influential, especially those naysayers inside of your own head telling you things like: “You aren’t capable of doing this,” “What if this is a huge mistake?” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” If you let the naysayers, both external and internal, get to you, you will definitely fold, walk away, quit. But if you’re prepared for them and understand their agenda (which isn’t always bad; sometimes, they’re trying to protect you), then you can move forward with the naysayings

5. Be kind to yourself, to others, to ideas. My mantras for meditations lately have been three simple words that I repeat over and over again: open, love, acceptance. When you're going through huge transitions such as giving up your home, your possessions, your comforts like reliable wifi and being able to flush toilet paper in the actual toilet, you start to feel it in your body. The stress levels rise, the anxieties spread throughout your mind and body, and your communication blurs, emotions flare, and now you’re a tight knot of unhappiness and queasiness. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to adjust. Be kind to your friends and families. Give them time to adjust to your new way of living. Be kind to yourself and each other when introducing new ideas or processes. Everything takes an adjustment period and that is OK. 

So, here we are. The beginning of a life-changing adventure and living on Seas Life full time: a sailing realtor & an in-training sailing ballerina. Our stories here won’t always be pretty or calming, but we love to share our growth as sailors, as a couple, as human beings. Thank you for being here with us! 

 

Sheena & Ryan, 2017. Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Sheena & Ryan, 2017. Photo by: Stellar Exposures