Cruising Life: The Things We Brought (and Didn't)

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When we were preparing for this adventure (destination: unknown; length of time away: unknown) we were not exactly sure what to bring or how to pack. We read blogs on "Best Clothes to Bring" and "How to Minimalize Your Life if You're Living on a Sailboat," but we were really just making guesses. 

Now that we're on month 6 of full-time sailing and cruising, here are our notes! 

Things We’re Thankful We Brought: 

 Canvas bags will make your food and supply runs far easier (and cheaper). 

Canvas bags will make your food and supply runs far easier (and cheaper). 

FOR LIFE-

  • Cash. The “cash is king” rule definitely applies to travel. It isn’t easy to find banks and withdraw cash, so having it available - in many different dominations - is best. 
  • Clothing with SPF. This is a serious help if you’re having a day when you don’t want to be sticky from sunscreen but still need protection. Also, this sun is brutal. Sometimes you need both.
  • Back-up sheets and blankets. You can’t do a lot of laundry out here, so having backups will save you when you’re craving clean (free of sunscreen, sweat and salt) sheets.
  • Back-up Deodorant, Toothpaste, Contact Solution. That stuff is pricey outside of the U.S. 
  • A stocked medical and medicine kit. You’ll get cuts and bruises and you’ll get sinus infections and illnesses. Having rubbing alcohol, creams, and basic medicines will come in handy. And Calamine lotion because the mosquitos are as plentiful as the flies. 
  • An Epi-pen. You never know when you’ll randomly pick up a shell-fish allergy while eating a lobster in the Bahamas. 
  • Back-up sunglasses. We brought around 4 pair for each of us, and on the daily we either cannot find them (or cannot find the pair we had on yesterday), so we go to our back-up pile. Because you absolutely have to have them - no question.
  • Canvas bags for markets and grocery store visits. Most stores in the Caribbean have banned plastic (YAY!) so having multiple canvas bags protects the environment and will make your grocery runs easier. 
  • Back-up tools and boat parts. If you think it won't break: it will. Be prepared and be ready to improvise. 
  • Each other. We wouldn't want to be doing any of this without each other. 
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FOR EATING / DRINKING-

  • A plastic pitcher to chill water in. When you have spent all day in the sun, you crave cold water and the water coming from you water tanks isn’t going to cut it.
  • A pressure cooker (for the propane stove). It fixes rice - which we eat a lot of - very quickly and efficiently.
  • A French Press. The most energy-efficient way to make coffee on a boat.
  • Sharp knives. For making delicious meals and cutting through fresh island fruits. 
  • An embarrassing large amount of rice, quinoa and cous cous. Grains you can stock up on and they last forever! They're expensive on island, so purchase them (a lot of them) when you have the chance.
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FOR FUN-

  • Hammocks. They’re awesome. 
  • Books, and lots of them. We had an entire library onboard and we are so thankful because a lot of time is spent reading. 
  • iPad with a Netflix account. We can download movies and shows whenever we have wifi and watch on our iPad later. 
  • A large map to track our progress. It helps to see that we’re actually moving. 
  • Yoga mats. On beautiful islands or on the bow of our boat, we use these things constantly! 
  • A nice camera. We are so thankful to have a camera (that does photography and video) to capture all of the fun we are having. 
  • Boards (surf & paddle). Because these make for the best and most relaxing morning workouts. 
  • Boat cards. You absolutely must have these! You meet so many people in passing and then you want to link up with them later, so passing over a boat card is the best way to track people down and start friendships. 

FOR NAVIGATION-

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  • Navionics
  • Bad Elf
  • Garmin InReach

Things We Wish We Had Brought More Of: 

  • Packages of Crystal Lite to flavor water that doesn’t always taste delightful. Plus, you get tired of drinking just water. 
  • Cleaning Vinegar. This is impossible to find on islands. 
  • Shampoo and Conditioner. While you can find it, it’s expensive on islands. 
  • Tea Tree Oil. We use this for cleaners and to prevent mold (also use vinegar). 
  • Castile Soap. You can create shampoos, laundry soap and dish soap from this and it’s easier on the environment. This is nearly impossible to find (in liquid form) on islands. 
  • American chocolate treats. They’re pricey on islands. 
  • Sternos to burn. They keep away the flies. 
  • Lighters. To start the propane stove, grill, and sternos. 
  • Luci lights. These solar-powered, blowup lights are awesome. But they go bad or blow away easier than we’d like. 
  • Throw-away shoes. Your shoes get worn out fast from sun and salt exposure, as well as hiking, sand, seashell and reef walking. So, having shoes that you can toss when they’re worn out and have some backups available is great! 
  • Hard drives. In the cruising community, they pass around hard drives for movies, navigational charts and music. You need a few terabytes worth of storage. 
  • Turkish towels. These dry faster, and they are lighter (thus taking up less space) when folding them and putting them in closets. 
  • Cotton dresses (for Sheena); Khaki shorts (for Ryan). They are our island go-tos! 
  • Disinfecting wipes. These make cleaning easy on a moving boat.

Things We Brought Too Much Of: 

 Bringing back-up tools and boat parts is crucial to your cruising success. 

Bringing back-up tools and boat parts is crucial to your cruising success. 

  • Clothes. We aren’t kidding when we say you basically wear the same outfit every day (bathing suit). 
  • Plates and glasses. You really don’t need a mass amount of these. Maybe some for you and a few for guests. 
  • Glass jars. Let’s be honest, no one is canning food on this boat. 
  • Strawberry Pop-Tarts. We are really wishing we had bought the variety pack. 

Thank you all for following our journey. We are learning as we g(r)o(w) and having an absolute blast. 

 

 

Luperón: The Black Cow

We paid our bill quickly. Passed over $1,000 pesos with little fanfare and jumped on our motorcycle. 

"Did that guy just say the Dominican Republic MAFIA is looking for him?" Ryan asked. Revving up the motorcycle while I adjusted our bag and wrapped my arms around his waist. 

"Yes," I confirmed. We needed to leave. Pronto. 

Ryan pressed the gas on the motorcycle and in a cloud of dust, we were gone from the restaurant. We rode through the Dominican Republic night where it becomes chilly quickly as the sun disappears behind the mountains. The stars begin to emerge, the warm breeze starts to nip first at your arms and then down your body; the hum of bugs increases and you can hear families laughing inside of their homes or outside on their porches, beers in their hands. 

Then, without warning, motorcycle lights appear behind us.

"What is that?" I ask, looking behind us. But really, I was asking who is that?!

The lights drew closer and closer as we navigated around curves in the road. 

"They're getting closer," I said, my fear growing. Had the mafia seen us talking to that man? Ryan sped up. 

But the lights just came closer. Every time I looked back to gauge their closeness, I was blinded by the lights that were - confirmed - very close to us now

"They're following us!" I said, now at full alert. Then, suddenly, the lights cut off to the left and the motorcycle was right beside us! 

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"BLACK COWS!" Yelled the voice. "BLACK COWS!" 

"It's Cliff," Ryan said, which immediately dissipated my fear. It was a sailing friend from the local marina wanting to warn us about black cows that like to sit in the middle of the roads at night to soak up the warmth left over from the sun. 

We both pulled into the marina, safely. 

"Cliff! We thought you were the MAFIA," I said, laughing but half serious.

This story serves as a metaphor of our experience of Luperón. When we first announced our intentions to travel here, we were met with a lot of fear from others. 

"You need to be careful." 

"The customs people will come onto your boat." 

"Have bribes of alcohol and money ready." 

"That place is full of corruption. You should avoid it." 

It is easy to swallow all of these things and fill yourself full of fear. But Luperón has been a place full of beauty, kindhearted, well-meaning people who just want to warn you about black cows. This includes the locals. They want to help you, and they have sat there patiently while I flip through my English-to-Spanish dictionary just to say one word. They have filled our bellies full of delicious food, helped us purchase the largest vegetables we've ever seen, given us directions when we've been confused, and helped us navigate and enjoy their country step by step.

The fear I experienced was all in my head. I had built it up and turned an innocent guy into a gun-toting mafia man. This is what we do when we don't understand a country, a person, a theory, a project. We create and then nourish our and each others' fear so that it grows before we even give it an opportunity to show us it's not that at all. 

Upon arrival to Luperón:

  • We checked in with immigration ($4,000 pesos)
  • Customs ($30 American dollars)
  • The office of Agriculture ($10 American dollars)
  • The Navy ($0)
  • Purchased a Dominican Republic SIM card ($100 pesos) and data ($492.20 pesos) so we could tell our families we had arrived safely
  • Exchanged $200 American dollars into pesos
  • Purchased an English-to-Spanish dictionary ($200 pesos)

Then, we ordered a personal pizza ($150 pesos) and a Presidenté, clanked our cups and celebrated our arrival to a new, unexplored-by-us country. 

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We hadn't met any friends yet, but we knew they'd come. Everyone we saw waved and smiled at us with a happy "Hola!" or "Buen dia!" We hadn't met Craig (who would rent us the motorcycle for $10/day) or Cliff (who would hand us a brochure that provided us with information about free clinics, a chiropractor, a dentist, WiFi, and, of course, warn us about black cows). We hadn't met Anna or dined at her excellent restaurant, Las Velas. We hadn't met Hercules, the cutest puppy in the entire world. We hadn't met all of the sailing families who were here as well, doing exactly what we're doing. 

But on this first day, we simply celebrated this beautiful country with these lovely people. 

*  *  *  *  *

Next up on the blog: Sheena sees the Dominican Republic chiropractor! 

 

An Observation: Water v. Land Living

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Out here, people are very passionate about living on their boats. So passionate, in fact, that I feel obligated to provide an argument for living on land! That being said, however, the journalist in me has noticed a few differences in life on land and life on the water. Observations that are too powerful to ignore. 

Time passes differently

On the water, or more specifically surrounded by nature, your bodies recalibrate to follow the sun and moon cycles. Each day, you wake up at sunrise and each night, you fall asleep not long after finishing dinner. Just the other day, a cruiser came on the radio and said, “Goodnight, Georgetown. Goodnight, Harbor.” It was 8:18pm, and we fell asleep soon after. 

I’ve spent the last 3 months pondering and noticing this change in my own body. It’s something undeniable. Previously, waking up at 5:00 am felt like a punishment. It certainly never felt like a gift, and it certainly never came with feelings with excitement or wonder for the day. 

Now, I won’t deny, this may be partly due to personal fault (a wrong mentality) or a systemic problem: I previously woke up to work. For money. Only to come home to “live life” that was unspoken for, unscheduled, not mandated for a few hours, only to sleep and do it all again. Or a mental fault with the systemic circumstances. Perhaps, I just couldn’t “get my mind right” with the system. Perhaps, I couldn’t find my personal flow in the required system based on performance, attractiveness and social acceptability. 

But out on the water, life isn't based on performance, attractiveness or social acceptability. Life is based on survival, exploring and adventure. 

The conclusion I’ve drawn is that my body shifted its waking hours because my purpose behind being awake has shifted. During the daylight hours, I am physically active, creatively producing, socially active with others, that when it’s time for the sun to disappear, I feel that my life has been lived. I didn’t have to “put it off” until after work or on the weekend. Thus, I sleep. 

Money leaves us differently

Before, I spent a lot of money on a lot of stuff I didn’t need (another pair of shoes or pants or the latest and greatest of whatever). Now, we spend money only on food that we make ourselves (eating out is too expensive), fuel, cell service and country-entry fees. Sure, we have bills too - insurance, school loans, Netflix - but our bills are far fewer. We no longer have a water bill, a utilities bill, a cable bill, an internet bill, an electricity bill. Those are all gone. We fill our water tanks at marinas; we create our own power with our solar panels; we throw away our trash at the designated areas. 

But the biggest change here is in the impulse to spend: it's not part of us anymore. Since we don't have a physical address, Amazon no longer applies to our temptations. We don't need anymore new clothes or gadgets. There aren't malls or movie theaters to spend our money in. There is very little temptation because nature doesn't demand money from us. 

We source and make our own food

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Prepackaged meals in the islands are ridiculously expensive. This is mostly because the stores on the islands associate prepackaged meals with Americans and the convenience the Americans have become accustomed to. Due to the high prices, we have said goodbye to prepackaged meals and purchase only local vegetables, grains (rice, quinoa, pasta) and fruits. For our protein, we catch fish or search for conch. 

I had never genuinely sourced my food. I previously went to a grocery store, saw a thing, put it in my cart, and purchased. But out here, the prices encourage you to prepare your own meals, which also requires of you to search for and find your own food. When you’ve looked your food, literally, in the eyes, it changes food for you. When you’ve pulled your food straight from trees, it changes food for you. When you get bruises or sunburn or cuts or dirty from securing your own food, it changes food for you. You suddenly become acutely aware of your food’s life force, and the transfer of energy from food to body. It is far more special after you’ve spent a day in the hot sun searching for you meal, then simply pulling a plastic sheet off of a prepackaged meal to throw in a microwave. (We don’t even have a microwave, so all convenient eating is not even an option). 

We are more community oriented

When you’re living in a boat community, there is something called “Cruisers Net” each morning. This special 1 hour of your day happens every morning at 8:00 am while you’re sipping your coffee or finishing your yoga. During the net, a very special thing happens. 

First, community announcements: This is the time of the net where anyone throwing an event or offering a class (for free) announces their occasion. Just today, for example, there is a dinghy race, a class on Greek mythology, a conch horn class, water aerobics and yoga. 

Second, “boaters in need:” This section is where a very special question is put out to the community. “Any boaters in need?” Following the question, each boat will list what they’re in need of or what they’re seeking. It can be various things such as: knowledge (needing to know where to dispose used oil), tools (ranging from very specific items to general generators), advice (for the boat, on the weather, in life), help (physical assistance, emotional support), medical consultations (dermatology, vets, ophthalmologists, physical therapists). 

Third, buy-sell-trade-giveaway: This time is a moment to put out to the community what you have that you no longer need, or what you have that you’re “in excess of.” Again, this ends up including knowledge, tools, advice, help, or special skills. 

Fourth, thought of the day: Any motivational quotes or funny jokes or inspirational stories are welcomed here. 

We once put a request out to the community for assistance on our diesel engine. Within 30 minutes following the conclusion of the net, we had 3 people at our boat helping us. The charge? I took photographs of their children surfing. 

You start to feel yourself growing closer to your neighbors (who actually change every time the wind changes). There’s an air of helpfulness, togetherness, positive vibes. There’s a comforting feeling of knowing that every day you’ll be asked, “What do you need?” and know that you’ll receive a response. 

What would happen, on land, if we connected with our neighborhoods at the same time every morning before heading off to start our days? 

We create more

With more unclaimed time in our days, our creativity has flourished. I write every day, Ryan draws, and we’re both learning how to play the ukulele. This special energy - visiting us more frequently now - is something we honor. If inspiration visits, we serve as a vehicle for its expression.

As a result, our communication and our own expression within our relationship has changed, deepened, grown. 

Our stress has changed

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Now, I don’t want to suggest here that we live entirely stress-free: we don’t. But our stresses are different, more oriented around life-and-death scenarios instead of “Have we done a good job?” “Did we impress the right group of people?” “Am I wearing the right thing?” Our stresses are more about safety concerns, which can easily be prevented by proper research and planning, thus limiting our stresses to… very few! 

We are offering more

We are far more giving when it comes to our time, energy and skill sets. I believe this is because, out here, there is no “vibe of business.” People aren’t trying to sell you on anything. We are all just here on this planet trying to survive on the water, together. Without the vibes of business, people are far more giving. 

Classes are offered every day, skills are exchanged every day, tools, items, supplies are spread among the masses every day. What we have too much of, someone may need. What we need, someone may be offering. Eventually, the needs and wants and offerings settle into the flow of the day. This is entirely refreshing! Money is only used when it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s not the first thought or priority on anyone’s radar. 

Nature is our gym

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We don't have to schedule time to "go to the gym" or "workout." When your time is spent out in nature, our gym is: snorkeling, swimming, running, yoga, surfing, hiking, walking, climbing, pulling sails, sand traveling. We have a life full of opportunities to move, use our muscles, apply gravity against our bones. It's beautiful, it's challenging and it's free. It fits seamlessly into our days and our ways because we aren't being asked to sit down in a chair for 8+ hours a day, and sit down in our cars for 2+ hours of commuting each day. 

These observations are true. I have been watching them grow and expand in the last 6 months of living on a boat and the last 3 months of actual cruising on blue water. 

There are certain aspects of living on land that we miss and look forward to when we visit home or stay at a friend’s home. But they are mostly convenience related. (Though, I will mention here that nearness to our families is something we miss deeply and cannot be fixed by living on the water). 

But behaviorally, life is different. The expectations, the requirements, the conversations, the vibes are all different. 

It’s a different flow, a different rhythm, and a different way to move through the hours of our lives. 

This comes down to lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What kind of boundaries do you set on your time and your energy and your skill set? What are those things worth to you? 

You can certainly create a lifestyle on land that feels empowering and good for you! But I am learning to ask the questions of WHY? 

Why is life on land the way it is? Why does it "have to be that way?" Can we create something that is kinder, more well-sourced, healthier, happier and easier to maintain? 

This life is showing me that it's possible.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga for Kids [Island Style]

 Teaching Philosophy of Yoga at Chat & Chill in Georgetown, Bahamas [3/5/2018]

Teaching Philosophy of Yoga at Chat & Chill in Georgetown, Bahamas [3/5/2018]

When Ryan and I made it to George Town, Bahamas, we found a community of sailing families living on their boats. Over 300 boats had dropped anchors and they enjoy daily and evening activities together. After subbing a morning yoga class, I was asked by local homeschooling (well, boatschooling) parents to teach the philosophy of yoga to children ages 6-14. 

At 2:00 in the afternoon, the kids and I gathered together under the shade of the trees to learn about Pantanjali's 8 limbs of yoga. 

YAMA [self-restraint] 

In life, we all have the option and power to choose where our energy is going. We want our energy to flow into work, into people and into emotions that uplift us and affirm our life, instead of work, people or emotions that drain us. Yamas include lessons such as non-violence and truthfulness. 

Activity for the kids: Each child received a cup of 10 small seashells. We asked them to identify, as a group, 4 life actions, decisions or emotions that make them feel good, and 4 life actions, decisions or emotions that make them feel gloomy or sad. In this particular class, they chose: 1) Reading a book, 2) Eating food 3) Dancing 4) Sailing. Their negatives were: 1) Fighting with a sibling or parent, 2) Lying 3) Cheating 4) Stealing. We created a cup for each, leaving us with 8 empty cups. 

“Now, you each have 10 shells,” I explained. “I want you to put a shell in each cup that you have experienced or done - good or bad.” 

Soon, each cup was full of shells. I went through each cup. 

“Our cup of fighting with our siblings or parents is pretty full,” I said. “Does that make us feel good?” The kids shook their heads no. 

“But I see our dancing cup is pretty full too,” I said. “Does that make us feel good?” The kids faces lit up with smiles as they shook their heads yes. 

“Now, when we’re trying to understand YAMA, we have to understand that we have the power to direct our energy into the good, life-giving things or the sad, life-draining things. Where do we want to put our seashells?” 

The kids quickly moved the shells from the 4 life-draining cups to the 4 life-giving cups. 

“Add a little extra to the eating food cup,” one kid said, and we all laughed. 

Lessons: Choose the life-giving people, actions, emotions. This will affirm your life instead of slowly leading to the depletion of you.  

NIYAMA [fixed observance] 

The easiest way to understand NIYAMA, is to intimately understand ritual, self-discipline or routine. It is the process of trusting the process. 

Activity for the kids: On a piece of paper, we wrote down a goal we are hoping to achieve. Some of them wrote down: “I want to learn how to do a back flip,” “I want to learn how to surf,” and “I want to drive the dinghy.” 

After we had our hopes and dreams out on paper, we wrote down who we would need to become and a routine we would need to adopt in order to achieve that goal. 

“For example,” I explained, “If you want to learn how to do a back flip, you may need to strengthen your arms, increase flexibility in your back, seek out a teacher who can teach you about momentum, and then practice your exercises every day.” 

Understanding NIYAMA leads to understanding yourself more: what you have inside of you, the grit it takes to focus your mind, attention and body on a ritual or routine that leads to your eventual freedom. 

ASANA [postures] 

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This is the limb most recognized as yoga. It is the limb of physical postures, usually called “stretches” when discussed colloquially. But ASANAS are so much more than that. We made sure to discuss that each ASANA has a purpose, a deeper meaning, and a series of steps to increasing the challenge. 

Activity for kids: Have them find a place at their mat. Leading them through asanas, explain the body benefits of the posture and explain the different options of increasing the challenge. 

“Now, you have to listen to your body before accepting the challenge,” I explain. “If you feel ready to try, and take on a ‘I-can-do’ attitude, then slowly, you can try to increase the intensity and take on the challenge.” 

ASANAS reveals to students their ability to decide for their own bodies and their ability to listen to their bodies. 

PRANAYAMA [breath of life] 

One of the most challenging of the limbs, pranayama is almost one of the most life-giving limbs. Prana means “life force” or “breath sustaining the body” and ayama means “to extend or draw out.” Extending or drawing out your life force is possible through your breath. 

Activity for kids: We stuck our arms straight outward from our body, in the shape of a T. We made tiny, fast circles with the arms forward and then backward - increasing the rate of the heart. Then we stopped! 

“Feel your heartbeat,” I said, out of breath myself. “Is it beating fast and speedy?” A few exasperated yeses came from the crowd. 

“Now, let’s sit down.” They sat down on their mats, hands still on their hearts. 

I led them through breath exercises (like square breathing): inhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts. 

After every breath exercises, we felt our hearts. 

“Do you feel it slowing down? Our heart races sometimes - often when we’re angry or frustrated. But we can slow down our breath and calm our bodies and minds. Just like how you did right now! What’s the secret?” 

“Your breath!” They answered. 

PRATYAHARA [withdrawal] 

We often try to do too much, but every now and then a withdrawal of overloading our senses is necessary. Pratyahara is oftentimes explained as a turtle withdrawing into his shell (with the turtles shell representing the mind, and the turtle’s limbs representing the senses). 

In simple terms, pratyahara means withdrawing from foods that are wrong for you, impressions  (sensations of sounds, touch, sight, taste and smell) that are wrong for you, and people or associations that are wrong for you. The idea of this withdrawal of what is wrong for you, you can find peace and you are not easily disrupted or disturbed by the environment around you. 

Activity for kids: Each child placed both hands, palms down, on the table. Sitting up nice and straight, we asked for them to close their eyes and observe the world around them. What did they hear? Smell? Feel? Was there someone or something upsetting them? We asked them to imagine whatever was “offensive” to them as moving further and further away from them.

“Like a turtle pulling into his shell, imagine these things moving away from you and out of your current senses,” I said. 

Then we talked about what foods, impressions or associations were not good for them right now. We had this discussion with the parents included. 

DHARANA [concentration] 

In this world, we are encouraged to multitask. People are who are “good” at multitasking seem to be praised, sending a silent message that multitaskers are sought after and preferred. 

But DHARANA shares with us a different tone: It invites us to focus our attention on NOT multitasking. It invites us to spend quiet, uninterrupted time for ourselves. 

Activity for the kids: Each child was given a mandala drawing with markers and colored pencils. 

“Now the challenge is that you cannot talk! If you need a different color, you have to find a way to exchange or retrieve the color without talking,” I explained. “We are only focused on our drawing. We aren’t worrying about words or communication or anyone else’s drawing right now. Just think about your piece of art.” 

The children silently colored in their mandala drawings without saying a single word. They pleasantly shared, giving and taking, taking what they needed, passing what they didn’t. But, in complete silence, the children colored. 

DHYANA [awareness] 

Life passes by pretty quickly without us even realizing it! Our children and our parents grow older, college is over too quickly, the calendar year speeds by. But we rarely stop to realize we’re alive; to watch the passage of time. 

Activity for the kids: We grabbed a conch shell and filled it with sand. Then, we stuck a stick of incense (sandalwood) into the sand and lit it. 

“The challenge here is to not move, not talk, not look away. Sit and recognize your life, your breath, the passage of time as it burns down,” I said. 

The children sat in stillness and in silence watching as the incense burned down further and further. As they watched, I talked about awareness. The word dhyana comes from the Sanskrit word “dhyai” which means “to think of.” In this challenge, we did just that: sat there, watching, and thinking.

SAMADHI [wholeness, enlightenment] 

This limb can be frustrating because it can feel unachievable. But, when explaining SAMADHI to children, we explained it as “fullness” or “feeling full.” Full of happy, full of contentment, full of love, full of food, full of joy, full of encouragement. 

Activity for the kids: They took a permanent marker, and wrote down the name of something or someone they love on each one of the seashells and put them back into their cup. 

“Write down something or someone who helps fill you up with happiness,” I said, as they wrote or drew pictures of all of the things or people who make them feel their fullest. 

Mama. Dad. Brothers and sisters. Grandparents. Music. Sailing. Dancing. Pets. Waves. Beaches. Books. 

Their seashells were filling up faster and faster, and their smiles got bigger and bigger. This is SAMADHI. Feeling enlightened. Feeling uplifted. Feeling full. 

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There, in the shade of giant trees on the sand with our bare feet, we explored the 8 limbs of yoga. At the end, we said, “Namaste” and shared a group hug. 

To register for Sheena's Curriculum that Cruises lessons, e-mail us: seaslifeforgood@gmail.com

The Art of Laundry

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I never much loved doing laundry. I never much hated it either, but I could also think of other more special things to do with my time. 

When we moved onto Seas Life, I was so concerned about other things (Google searches: How do boats sink? Can you die of sunburn? Best-lasting vegetables on a sailboat. What to include in your homemade First Aid kit) that “how-to laundry” never crossed my mind. 

I learned, however, - like I’ve done most things - by waiting until the moment that I needed laundry arose. And not long after that laundry turned into an art. 

The rules are pretty simple, and they aren’t what surprised me. What caught me off guard was how my attitude, approach and mentality to laundry changed. 

First, the rules: 

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  1. If you want your clothes to dry in any considerable amount of time, use fresh water. 
  2. Since fresh water is limited on a sailing vessel, wait for rain storms and put out as many buckets, pans, jugs, bowls, cups that you can. 
  3. During the rain storm, hang up as many dirty clothes as you can, so the rain can rinse them. If you don’t have time to do this step, no worries. Carry on to step no. 4.
  4. After the rainstorm, pour your rain water into your manual washing machine. 
  5. Pour in nature-friendly detergent
  6. Manually crank the washing machine to toss the clothes around, removing dirt, salt, sunscreen and sweat. 
  7. Pour rain water into another bowl near by and rinse each item with fresh water before hanging to dry. 
  8. Hang the clothes to dry during a high wind, high sunshine day. Use at least two clothespins for each item to prevent the wind from stealing your favorite clothes. 
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Pretty simple once you’re aware of the upcoming weather. Occasional glances toward the sky reveals your laundry schedule - or, at least, your capturing-fresh-water-for-laundry schedule. 

But as I’ve gone through this routine, I’ve become surprised at how… beautiful it can be. 

The first change I noticed was how special it felt to provide and have fresh, clean-smelling, soft-feeling clothes for my loved one and myself. Spending long days in the sun smothered in sunscreen and sweat and salt water, you become accustomed to your natural musk and mix of grainy and slimy residue on your skin and clothes. But to provide clean clothes free of musk, oily sunscreen and environment, feels nice. It’s a reminder that something like clean sheets or towels, T-shirts or sundresses are still sacred. 

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The second impulse that changed was my attitude toward the process. When, in my mind, I re-oriented my mindset from a required task to a precious opportunity provided by nature, I feel almost excited about it. (Don’t you dare tell Ryan or allow him to read this). When nature provides the fresh water, it’s as if a gift has fallen from the sky. Then, when using it to wash my clothes, I feel the blessing transfer from the skies, through my hands, to my clothes, through each thread of my clothes. I feel gratitude. 

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After immersing the clothes in the fresh rain water (feeling it seep through each finger as I press the cloth downward), I have to squeeze each item free of suds and water. Before right now in my life (I’m 32 years old), I’ve never had to squeeze a single item of my clothes for the purpose of laundry. Sure, I’ve squeezed a towel free of chlorine-filled water or a bathing suit free of the ocean, but I’ve never had to squeeze anything from my washing machine or dryer. Now, I squeeze each time, one by one, as if meeting them closely for the first time. I see how their seams are sewn differently. I feel how each shirt, made of different materials, feels and reacts with the soapy water. I see how the colors bleed or fade or stain. 

Next, they have to be hung to dry by the wind. Taking each piece, I pin them as they flop back and forth to the lifelines on our boat. One pin. Flop flop flop flop. Second pin. Flop. Secured, I take a second to ensure the weight of the garment doesn’t outweigh its pin set up. If it seems off balance (or if it’s one of my most favorite clothing items), I add another pin in the center, for security. 

Then you listen. You can hear the clothes flopping in the wind. You can smell the fresh soap suds blended with the salty air. 

And you wait for them to dry in the sun, thankful for the rainstorm that made this happen. Thankful for the clean clothes. Thankful for the time to appreciate something as seemingly mundane as laundry. 

Until you see storm clouds rolling in. Then you scurry to do it all again. 

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Mrs. B's Coconut Bread

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Rumor has it that Black Point, Exuma, Bahamas has an elderly woman who bakes the most delectable coconut bread. The next rumor that immediately follows this well-accepted fact is, “it makes the best French toast. I kid you not, it’s the best thing you’ll ever taste,” a sailor told us, swirling his drink around. 

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Ryan and I lock up the dinghy and climb out next to a small beach where children are splashing and playing. There are no parents around watching them, they are just enjoying the sun’s rays, dodging the local sharks that swim nearby, and laughing. So much laughing. 

Their skin shines and their smiles uplift us as they wave when we pass. 

“Follow the road,” a Bahamian man with a drill in his hand motions. He is working on what appears will be, in the future, a small restaurant or bar for cruisers like ourselves. We follow the road and find a hand-painted sign pointing us toward the restaurants, one church, one police station and one school. 

On our way down the path, we stop when we hear music and see the locals outside dancing. This is where we meeting Officer Right. 

“How is your visit? This is your home,” he tells us right away. After removing my book bag for a rest, he opens up to us a little more. 

“I’ve lived here my entire life. I was born in that small, teal house right there,” He said pointing a finger. That small house is 400, maybe 500 square feet, and includes a set of bunk beds, a rug, and a kitchen area. 

After being born, he went to school on the island until he was 15, then transferred to Nassau for high school. 

“Then, it was 39 years in law enforcement,” he said proudly. He pulled from the small house a piece of rectangle drywall on which he had mounted quarter-round trim that he had angled the corners at 45 degrees to make a frame. Within the frame was a picture of himself and his wife, his work photo, and medals from every promotion he had received. 

“All the way up to chief,” he said proudly. Now, retired, he says with a laugh, he “gets money to sit here.” But he isn’t really just sitting here. He speaks at the very small local school, “to try to get these little guys to see what they can be one day,” he said. The little boy standing beside me looked at all of his medals with awe. 

“Isn’t that really cool?” I ask him. He nods his head and whispers, “Yes.” 

A group of children run by in their flip-flops and on bicycles and Officer Right yells, “Hey now! It’s good English I want to hear!” 

Officer Right shows us the home is working on building. He is waiting for windows to be shipped from China, he said. He started this home years ago but had to stop all construction to put his children through college in the United States. He will resume construction now that they are graduated and working. The windows should arrive in April, and he plans to have the home completed by June. 

Black Point has maybe 400 people living on the island (and many goats, chickens, and roosters). 

A quick walk through their cemetery overlooking the Exuma Sound has only 4 headstones, but Officer Right told us that if you own a home in Black Point, you own a home in Nassau, so possibly that applies to cemetery space to? 

We continue onward down the street, and two of our sailing friends come popping out of the local restaurant. 

“Hey guys!” She said. “We’re in here. And if you’re looking for the bread, it’s right there.” 

Now, let me pause here to describe our surroundings. There’s a restaurant, it’s nice but not by any means fancy or elaborate - it lost electricity while we were in the middle of eating our conch salad, and when the small children come in, they help themselves to juices and fruits hiding behind the bar. 

Next door lives the mother of the restaurant owner. It’s a small, white home. 

“You just walk in,” we’re told. 

So, I grab some cash and walk toward the home of the mother of the restaurant owner who makes the most delectable coconut bread. 

I feel bad just walking in, so I politely knock. 

“Yes?” I hear a voice from inside. I push open the door and poke my head through. 

A linoleum walkway leads to a den with a couch and table and a small kitchen. Mrs. B is there with a small girl, peeking at me from behind the counter. I can only see her eyes. 

Mrs. B hops off her paint can that she uses to lift her high enough to knead the bread on her countertop and comes over. 

“I hear you make the best bread,” I said. 

She smiled. “I do.” 

“I would love to buy some coconut bread from you!” 

“$7.00,” she said, grabbing a loaf still warm from the oven and passing it to me. 

I said hello to the little girl, who said, “Hi” back and then hid behind the counter again. 

“Thank you so much! I’ve heard wonderful things. Your house is beautiful.” 

“Thank you, we love it.” I look around at her small kitchen, and one other room. There is possibly a bedroom somewhere, but I cannot see it. She has frames of photographs, a knitted blanket, and everything looks to be in place. 

“Thank you for the bread,” I said. Gathering up my stuff. 

“It is the best,” she said, turning her back to me to return to her bread making. 

On our way back to Seas Life, we are invited to church. 

Mrs. B had asked when we told her we were going to church, "Do you play an instrument? Do you sing?" 

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“Be prepared to say a little something about yourself,” a local tells us. “And dress nicely and not up.” 

We thanked them for their kindness and generosity. Officer Right tells us there is no crime here, so we don’t need to worry. 

“39 years in law enforcement, and there was nothing for me to do. There is no crime here. We all know and love each other,” he said. 

Looking around, I see the children running and playing with no adult supervision. However, when they cross the path of an adult, the adult will shout out some quality life advice: “Hey, be nice to her!” “Share your bicycle!” “Proper English!” “Be careful!” 

We carry our loaf of bread back to the boat with the aim to make French toast with our coffee in the morning. As the sun starts to fade, the children scurry back to their homes, into the arms of their mothers. 

Make Your Own: Seashell, Driftwood Wind Chime

Take the time. Use the effort. Create the moment. 

 Taking the time to make things special,  makes things special. 

Taking the time to make things special, makes things special. 

It is incredibly easy to be lazy. It’s such a seductive force. On a boat, it’s even more seductive. There are many reasons for this: 

It’s easier to not do a thing. For example, it’s easier to not make the cake or cook the fancy, involved dinner. Why? We don’t have an oven or dish washer. 

It’s easier to stay inside and not go somewhere. Why? We don’t have a car. We’d have to drop the dinghy and go in and lock up the dinghy and then walk miles. 

It’s easier to not shower because then we have to go to a marina to fill up the fresh water. 

It’s easier to not do a lot of things. Laziness feels good, especially when you’re being rocked by the waves. 

But we’ve committed to taking the time, using the effort, creating the moment. And we never regret that. 

How to Make Your Own Seashell, Driftwood Wind Chime

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What you’ll need: 

  • Seashells you love
  • Drift wood
  • Fishing line (10-20 lbs monofilament)
  • Drill
  • Drill bit (5/64)

Seek out and collect all shells that make you fall in love. We’re talking about the shells that grab your attention, make you lose your breath. The ones you hold in your hand in awe at its beauty. The shells that make you wonder: Where have you come from? What have you been through? Take them home with you. 

Holding each shell between your pointer finger and thumb, dip them in fresh water. Relieving it of scratchy sand, dust, dirt. As you do this, think of what you’re washing away; what no longer serves the shell. Imagine the things in your life that you’re washing away, becoming relieved of. 

Using a drill with a small drill bit (size 5/64), apply equal pressure across the drill and press into the shell. Slowly, a hole will appear in the shell. The drill pushing aside small flakes of the shell. 

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Prepare the bottom holder shell. Choose a larger shell to serve as the base. Run the fishing line through it, and tie 3-4 tight knots to create stability. 

Creating a stop knot. Next, create a stop knot so that they shell won’t slip downward on its line. It is held in its place by a knot. We suggest tying the knot 3-4 times until its big enough to not slip through the hole. 

Slide the shell on the line. Choose a sell to slide on the line and all the way down to the stop knot. Check to make sure the stop knot won’t slip through the hole. If it does, remove the shell, tight another knot on the stop knot and try the shell again. 

Loop around the shell once. Once you feel good about the shell resting on its stop knot, take the bitter end (the free end) of the fishing line, and loop it around the back of the shell and back through the hole on the inside of the shell. This will help the shell maintain balance and stay upright. Pull the line all the way through. 

Repeat the process: Create a stop knot, slide on a shell, loop the line around keeping about 1-2 inches between each stop knot and shell. 

Once you have a full line of shells you’re ready to attach them to the driftwood. 

Drill a small hole from the top and all the way through the drift wood. You’ll need as many holes as you want lines of shells hanging down. For our chime, we had 5 lines. 

Bring the fishing line through the drift wood holes - from bottom to top. 

Loop it around the drift wood 3 times. 

Tie 3 half-hitch knots. 

Now your wind chime is almost done! Next up, is creating the hanger. 

Tie fishing line to both ends of the drift wood, long enough so it will be an upside-down V. Then hang it wherever feels perfect! 

We had a blast spending our morning sipping coffee and making our wind chime, made of objects we found and collected with our own hands. 

Did it take awhile? Sure. Was it somewhat messy? Sure. Was it worth it? 

Every single second. 

 Our completed seashell, driftwood wind chime! 

Our completed seashell, driftwood wind chime! 

The Secrets to a Good Life from The Three Stooges

Here in Palm Beach, FL, you run into a lot of retirees. People who say, "I've paid my dues and I wanted warmth and I wanted beers at noon surrounded by palm trees and blondes!" 

This particular night, Ryan and I were headed out to dinner with his family. As we pulled the dinghy up to the dock, the live music spreading through the air and the lights around the palm trees reflecting a glow on the waves. 

There was an art market and artisans were standing behind tables full of their work. Retirees pulled pieces of bread out of brown paper bags and tossed them to the large, plentiful fish below. 

I found myself on a park bench with three gentlemen, all over the age of 85. 

"Have you heard heard of Moe, Larry and Curly?" He said, squinting his eyes at me.

"Of course! The Three Stooges!"

The men looked at each other and said, "She knows..." and I felt good passing their first test. "You can stay," the man said. I had earned my place on the bench and for the rest of this post, I will identify each man as either Moe, Larry or Curly since I never actually got their real names. 

One man was a psychiatrist originally from Arizona (Moe), the second was an engineer from Long Island (Larry) who designed Boeing 707 airplanes, the third (Curly) was an alligator hunter. They were open books and endless flirts. Moe apologized for being improper and proceeded to tell me a joke: 

"A woman and man have been together for awhile," he started. His friends rolled their eyes. Clearly, they've heard this before. He continues: "They get comfortable with each other, and he finally asks, 'OK, we've been together for awhile. How many people have you slept with?' The woman says, 'Just one! Just you! Everyone else I was awake for.'" 

We all start laughing. He adds, "I bet you'll tell someone else that!" Pointing at me, his finger shaking from age, from laughter. (He was right. I told Ryan not long after leaving the bench, and now I'm telling you!) 

After we get through a few more jokes, all fractionally less funny than his biggest hit told above, we get to the real stuff. 

Life. Work. Love. Loss. Retirement. Age. 

Larry starts it by saying, "We would give anything to be your age again." 

"Really?" I asked. "A lot of people my age think we're doing life wrong most of the time..." 

"That's how life works. You spend most of it thinking you're doing it all wrong," Curly said, showing me a photo of his wiener dog in front of a sign that said, "Don't Feed the Alligators." He laughed at that photo hysterically, remembering his years of fighting alligators for work to support his family.

"You aren't doing it wrong," Moe said. They're obviously accustomed to tagging in on conversations with each other. 

"Look at you guys," I said. "Accomplished! In Florida!"

"Flirting with a pretty girl..." Larry added, and winked at me.

"Thank you," I said. "But really. What are the secrets?" 

I recorded their secrets, and here they are for you: 

You have to get over your heart breaks. You have to move on. "I've made a lot of mistakes," Larry said. "Yeah, the major one being your wife," Moe added. Larry laughed and nodded in agreement. "But you have to forgive yourself, accept that we all make mistakes and just... move on. Let it go. Life keeps moving and you need to do the same." 

Work. But don't work too much. "Some of my best friends I met while designing airplanes," Larry said. "Good men. Smart men. But I always wanted to go home. Time there was special." 

Stop, immediately, doubting yourself. "Listen, darling," Curly started with a seriousness in his tone. "If you don't hear anything else, you hear this: Stop doubting the choices you're making. They're your choices. They're yours to make. Make 'em, and make 'em, bold." 

Laugh. A lot and often. And with friends. "These guys right here," Moe said, pointing at Larry and Curly. "I meet them here on this bench every Friday. It's how we meet girls." "Me more than the other two," Larry added. "You have to find some people to laugh with. Even if it's silly stuff."

Study what you're interested in. Study long and hard and never stop learning. Larry (the psychiatrist) was holding a newspaper in his hand. "Do you read?" He asked me. I laughed a little, mistaking the question for "Can you read?" "Yes, I read," I answered. He asked me where I went to school and what I studied. "Journalism, English, Education," I answered, complete with my schools. He told me about one of his cases where a patient had multiple personality disorder. "One second he was a preacher, then he looked down, became silent, and when he looked up again, he was a gangster rapper," Larry said. "I had to do a lot of research to help him. Research helps you make better decisions." 

Eat good foods. It was time for me to leave. The little plastic identifier in my hand was telling me that a table was open for us. The men saw it flashing and buzzing. "You're going to eat," Curly said. "Good. Eat good food any time you can." 

And with that, I curtsied (I don't know why; I felt it was the right thing to do in front of Moe, Larry and Curly). 

Moe called out, "Baby, you’re not worth a million bucks."

"I'm not?!" I said. Immediately falling into that self-doubt they warned me against.

"You’re priceless!” 

I smiled and walked off to dinner. I won't forget you Moe, Larry and Curly! And, in honor of them, I drank straight out of a coconut the next day, confidently, joyously, happily! 

  "You make sure you're enjoying life, little lady. You make sure." - Moe, Palm Beach, FL. 2018.

"You make sure you're enjoying life, little lady. You make sure." - Moe, Palm Beach, FL. 2018.

Q & A: Living on a Boat!

 We moved on to Seas Life, a 43-foot Catamaran, in June 2017 based out of Norfolk, VA. Watch a video of  how it all started! 

We moved on to Seas Life, a 43-foot Catamaran, in June 2017 based out of Norfolk, VA. Watch a video of how it all started! 

Below are questions we received from you guys! We hope we've answered them with enough detail, but if you're wanting to know more about this lifestyle, buying a boat, or living on a boat, send us an e-mail: seaslifeforgood@gmail.com. 

How much do you love it? 

Ryan: LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! Even when others might think it sucks, I love it. I often sit and stare aimlessly into the water and think of how lucky I feel to be here now doing this; how beautiful our surrounding world is. Back on land, my life was rushed, but out here, it’s different, calm, serene.

Sheena: There are pros and cons to everything in life (exactly the same way as living in a home on land!) It is hard to put a single number or word on it because it is more like a room full of knobs that increase and decrease depending on the circumstances. But mostly, I love traveling and not having to report to a 9-5 job that stresses me out every day. I love having the freedom! That is an incredible part of this that land just doesn’t seem to grant you. It’s very expensive to live on land! It’s far cheaper to live on the water, fish and shop for local foods, and maintain your dry goods and the clothes that you have instead of being always tempted to buy more, more, more. I also love that this life provided me time and space to put all of my energy toward my own business. It made me a better entrepreneur. I needed this sheltered time. 

What are some of the challenges of getting to a new port? 

Ryan: Weather always wins. Stay and wait for windows or the challenges will arise. Pick a line of travel that won’t rock and break things in the boat or on the boat, especially when you know you have at least 12 more hours of beating into it.

Sheena: To save money, we anchor (you can anchor anywhere in the water for free!) When we’re coming into a new port, you have to be aware of your surroundings: look for the proper markers, stay in the channel, monitor the tide and the currents and the winds and the depth of the water. Once you find a safe anchorage, you have to make sure you have enough anchor chain out so that you won’t drag (this is one aspect of physics behind sailing). You also have to make sure you have enough room around you so that your boat can shift with the changes of winds and tides without hitting any other boats. 

How do you meet people?

Ryan: I talk to everyone.

Sheena: The sailing community is an incredibly kind folk! They will dinghy right up to your boat for a good conversation which usually means someone is being invited to dinner! We also meet people every time we go on land: in yoga classes, in ballet classes, at stores, in restaurants. 

We meet a lot of people through Instagram! Whenever we’re in the same port, we connect for meals or good talks, and then we continue to chat with them even when we go our separate ways. Technology has made it very easy to stay connected to family and friends. 

Do you ever tire of it? 

Ryan: Not yet! 

Sheena: Yeah, sure! I also tired of living on land, driving the same roads, to the same buildings day in and day out. Mostly, I get frustrated or tired of living on a boat when it rains. Everything feels wet, everything. And I really don’t like to be cold and have wet feet. So that means I put towels down on the floors, but that’s annoying to me too. I also get tired of bad weather when we’re off shore. That gets pretty old, very fast. But I’ve learned that chaos subsides and safe harbors and clear weather are just around the corner - you just have to wait it out. 

Do you ever feel stir-crazy? 

Ryan: When I do, I get out! I explore on the dinghy, got snorkeling, fish, look for lobsters. 

Sheena: Yes! I know when my body starts craving movement (which, for me, is often). Then I find a local ballet or yoga class. I also do yoga on the bow of the boat. Stretching helps release pent-up energy. We also go on walks or long bike rides to expend energy. Swimming also helps. But, similar to that feeling of needing to get out of the house, I have that feeling too, and I just do what I would have done on land: I get out of the “house!” 

How much of your future do you want to invest like this?

Ryan: Continue to explore until it loses its luster. 

Sheena: For as long as it’s fun! A rule that I apply to everything in my life. 

What are your plans for emergencies?

Ryan: Try to avoid it at all costs. Stay rested and think before acting. We carry an EPIRB (which would alert safety and rescue personnel of our exact location should we need it), a personal MOB AIS (which is warn by driver when other is sleeping). We have also practiced Man-Overboard Drills and each of us knows how to drive the boat to safety or call for assistance. 

Sheena: For cuts, bruises, allergic reactions, illness, broken bones, we have an entire closet full of plastic bins labeled for each potential occurrence. The cuts bin, for example, has everything we would need to stop bleeding, clean the wound and protect the wound. Each bin has everything we would need to take care of something right away. If it’s something terrible, we would do what we could with what we have and make a call for more help. Out on the ocean, your options are: 1) Calling the Coast Guard for assistance, 2) Subscribing to a commercial provider for help - which includes a helicopter with medically-trained crew coming to retrieve you, should you need that kind of emergency attention. 3) Taking care of it yourself and changing your direction to find the closest port where you could visit a medical doctor. 

How much time between your dream of living aboard and actually moving onto the boat?

Ryan: This is my seventh boat in life and each one got a little bit bigger. I’ve dreamed about it for a decade, lived aboard a Hunter 30’ and a 1969 Bristol 40’ for two years each. This boat was purchased almost two years ago and it took us 1.5 years of full-time work to get her into shape. Many would have stayed to fix more, but we decided we would get more work done with southern weather. Boat projects never end. Now, we just do them in warmer temps! We just re-caulked and re-bedded a salon window last week!

Sheena: Living aboard was never my dream. It was Ryan’s dream, and it became something I’d like “to try on for size,” so to say. It was 1.5 years of work, about 4 months of living aboard while we prepared to leave and now we’ve been sailing for 2 months. 

I want to move onto a boat! Any advice on what I should be doing? 

Ryan: Go scout marinas and talk to everyone. Tell them your plans and dreams and there will be others who will help you. There will be some that might not react the way you are hoping, but don’t stop. There are so many boats just sitting there wasting away, waiting for the right dreamer. Since we have lived on the water and frequent marinas, we hear about incredible deals on boats. Put yourself into the world, and it’ll happen.

Sheena: I agree with Ryan on this. Immersing yourself in the world you want to be in is the first step to making something happen. You’ll meet people along the way who will help you, encourage you, connect you to others, and the next thing you know, your dream is your reality! It works just like magic. 

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Is it hard to keep a smaller space decluttered?

Ryan: Keeping spaces decluttered is a personal challenge for me in life, yes. But living on a boat requires me to find a home for everything, which helps me personally.

Sheena: No, it is the same as keeping a home clean. We knew when we were moving to a smaller place that we needed lesser things. We did a lot of yard sale-ing, donating and finding places for our belongings. But our boat still feels full and feels cluttered mostly after passages when we have little time to put things back in their home. After a passage, we always have to have a deep-cleaning session to get everything back in its home, dry and clean. 

How did you decide to live without “stuff?” Heirlooms? 

Ryan: We kept many things we needed and then found homes for the ones we didn’t need in this chapter. Sheena has a bit more measurable approach. 

Sheena: 

  • For clothes, I had a rule: If I hadn’t worn it in the last 6 months, I didn’t love it that much! So I donated it or passed it along to girlfriends. I also followed the rule of: You don’t need 10 versions of the same thing. I didn’t need the same pair of pants in every available color. I kept my favorite, and got rid of the rest. 
  • For shoes, I got rid of everything that was too worn for keeping (I tend to hang on to things from elementary school because my feet stopped growing then). I kept only what I felt I’d need: comfortable shoes + some dress shoes just in case I wanted to dress up and feel fancy. If I’m being honest, I’m barefoot most of the time. 
  • For furniture, I kept a lot of it in my home that is rented out. Anything they didn’t want, I placed with friends for good keeping. 
  • For books, I kept the ones I adore or haven’t read and I donated the rest to the public library. Now, I exchange books. When I’m finished reading one, I leave it in a book exchange which they have at marinas, or I pass it along to another sailor. 
  • For heirlooms, I left them with my mother for safe keeping. 
  • For my car, I left it with my mother. I removed the license plates (de-activated them) and changed my car insurance to “storage only.” 

Do you have a storage space or totally downsize? 

Ryan: No storage space. It’s pretty liberating to know that every personal possession I own is floating within 43’ length overall. 

Sheena: We did not pay to have a storage space. We figured, how much is X (item) worth? Is it worth it to pay X amount monthly just to keep it? Or would you rather just buy it new, later? We decided against the storage space and we use only what we have on the boat! 

What are the daily chores? 

Ryan: Lately, the engines have been working beautifully, so I have been soft scrubbing and waxing about 5’x5’ sections. Yesterday, I dove the bottom and wiped one hull clean of last two months of growth, and cleaned the daggerboard holes of the oysters that had grown up there before we get our new daggerboards installed. There are ALWAYS 50+ things broken on a boat. I do all safety projects first, right when I notice them, and all others get thrown into a laundry bin of tasks. When the right time presents itself, I tackle one task at a time. For example, yesterday’s soft scrubbing before a predicted rain storm to give the boat a natural fresh-water rinse. 

Sheena:

(Boat specific)

  • Picking things up and putting them in their homes (they may have fallen throughout the night due to boat wake or strong winds). 
  • Open the windows for fresh air to fill the boat (preventing mold)
  • Making sure we have enough fresh water to last us
  • Making sure our batteries are charged

(Life oriented) 

  • Eat daily
  • Tea daily
  • Write daily 
  • Read daily
  • Stretch daily
  • Check my e-mails
  • Check my social media outlets
  • Create content (blogs, vlogs, images) 
 Ryan has his 50-ton Merchant Mariners Captain's License, and Seas Life is his 7th boat!

Ryan has his 50-ton Merchant Mariners Captain's License, and Seas Life is his 7th boat!

What tasks need to be done daily or weekly and are not just a part of life? 

Ryan: Boat stuff. I always check engines (oil, radiator fluid and sail drive fluid) and give the boat an overall look. When we are close to land, we try to take out the trash (and poo paper) every day. 

Sheena: Trash removal (which requires us taking it in the dinghy to a place that will accept it). Grocery shopping for fresh vegetables and meat. Checking for mold and spraying vinegar on it, if found. Sometimes, fuel replenishment (for the generator, dinghy or boat). 

How do you get past your own mental hangups about diverting from the norm like this? 

Ryan: Keeping focused on what makes me tick (being out in nature, being in control of our own vessel, moving with the wind, feeling alive). I worked really hard to make what makes me happiest actually happen. I stayed focused on that.

Sheena: This is such a hard one! It’s something we deal with differently and daily. For me, it was really difficult. I cried a lot because I felt like I was letting everyone down. But then I realized that I cannot live for other people’s hopes and dreams for me. I have to discover, design and find my own. I stayed focused on the journey, the potential for self-discovery, the gift of undisturbed time. Every time I started to feel unsure, I would pray or meditate and I kept hearing, “Go. This journey will be good for you.” Suddenly, “the norm” had no further power over me. I was meant to create a new norm for me. 

How do you get past everyone else’s mental hangups about diverting from the norm like this? 

Ryan: Those who truly love me have continued to support my decisions in life and in sailing. Life is too short and there is too much life to be lived to worry about things beyond my control, like how other people think or make mental judgments. Peace, Love and Happiness is the norm I intend to spread in 2018. 

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Sheena: I remind myself that I only get one life. I remind myself that people who worry about me are doing it from a place of love, they’re just showing it the only way they know how. I remind myself that life is fluid and what I am doing now, and what I am doing later, and what I’ll do after that may never look like “the norm” to others, but it will feel good and be good for me. 

Do you ever feel scared? Of unsafe waves, of shocks, sting rays, pods of big fish knocking you over, of pirates (the Somali kind)? 

Ryan: Sure, to loose fear would be a death wish. We try our best to educate ourselves and make solid choices.

Sheena: Surprisingly, I felt more scared before we lived on the boat and before we started sailing. The fear, as it turns out, was mostly all in my head. There are real things to consider, however. Before we head out to the open ocean, we check and re-check weather, winds, radar. If it’s not safe or predicting rough conditions, then we stay where we are! “There’s no shame in living to sail another day,” a sailor once told me. And it’s true! We make very conservative decisions when it comes to everything: weather, safety, where we anchor the boat, when we’re swimming and snorkeling. We use buddy systems and technology and anything we can use to help us stay the safest we can! 

How long did it take you to physiologically adjust to the differences between living on the water and living on land? 

Ryan: Overnight! I love being on the water, either surfing, wake boarding, on boat, anything! I love it.

Sheena: For me, it wasn’t a problem and I give credit to my dance training for that! I think I trained my inner ear early on to be used to a lot of movement! 

What do you miss most on land, and what do you not miss at all? 

Ryan: I could live on a boat like this forever. I love to skateboard and it requires a dinghy ride into land to skateboard, but I love dinghy rides too so still loving living on the boat!

Sheena: First, I miss my family and friends. I see them posting on social media all of the get-togethers and events, and I miss being there. But I know I’ll see them again soon! I miss little conveniences like the ease of just plugging things in to charge them, having a freezer with an ice maker, fire places. I miss being in a dance studio every day, surrounded by people I know and love. I also miss taking really long showers and not having to worry about water... (but we should be worried about water, even on land!) 

I do NOT miss the underlying hurry and rush that you feel on land - when you’re working a job, balancing a social life, running errands in tons of traffic, answering to someone else, feeling like a slave to a to-do list or calendar. 

What extra steps are required when living on a boat? 

Ryan: Every time you go to the store, you have to take everything out of the cardboard. Cardboard may have roach eggs in it, and we don’t want roaches on the boat. Re-filling our fresh water since there isn’t an endless supply. Monitoring your batteries because if your power runs out, you have to wait for more sun or use the generator. You’re always asking yourself, “What’s working? What’s not working?” 

Sheena: Anytime you need to go anywhere, it requires a dinghy ride, which can be fun unless it’s cold and raining. Then, it’s a little much. 

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In order to use the outlets to charge my lap top, I have to turn on an inverter which converts the energy from the batteries (charged by the solar panels) into 120 volts. 

You can’t flush your toilet paper, so you have to take out the “poo paper” with the trash. 

You have to pre-download all of your Netflix, podcasts, Amazon videos because you don't have wifi out here in the ocean (sometimes, you don't even have cell service)! If you forget to download while you have high-speed internet, you won't forget again after your first passage without any of that! 

Any behavior changes since living on a boat? 

Ryan: More conscientious of my usage of everything - power, water, trash. You have a better understanding of what you’re putting out there in the world.

Sheena: How I use water has changed a lot! Now, I don’t leave the water running while I’m doing dishes, brushing my teeth or even showering. I turn it off during all of the “in between” moments. For example, I get my hair wet and then turn the water off. Put in my shampoo and scrub. Then, I turn the water on to rinse. I turn it back off to put in the conditioner and rub it in. Then, I turn the water back on. So, a single shower will have me turning the water on and off 6-10 times! But during those “in between” moments, we aren’t wasting fresh water. 

 Sheena offers  Wellness Life Coaching  and Private Yoga sessions to the sailing community and beyond! 

Sheena offers Wellness Life Coaching and Private Yoga sessions to the sailing community and beyond! 

I started meditating more. Being surrounded by nature and actually having the time to just sit still and… be. No one is there to fuss at you or tell you that you’re supposed to be doing something else. You can just… be. 

I changed all of our cleaning products to organic, eco-friendly products

How do you make money? 

Ryan: We have a small overhead, so we try to keep our spending to a minimum. We are always looking for new ways to make money. 

Sheena: We work when and where and how we can. From freelance writing, to wellness coaching sessions and private yoga classes, we make money working digitally and also face-to-face with people in the community. 

Honoring Sacrifice in Nature & Our Lives

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Along our travels, we’ve come across many mangrove trees. We have adventured deep into the thick of them, their twists reaching and expanding. The red mangrove trees are strong and skinny branches that run in myriad directions. They are an important part of ecosystems because they serve as water filters and prevent erosion. Sailors often use the branches of mangrove trees  - that run deep below the surface and into the earth - as a place to tie off their sailboats knowing that mangroves have survived through ages of storms and violent winds. 

But I think the most beautiful part of a red mangrove tree is a scientific but poetic fact about the species: they are salt excluders. While surrounded by salt water, they desire for salt to be kept out of their systems. For survival, the mangroves have what is called a sacrificial leaf. Any salt that does make its way into its system is pushed to the sacrificial leaves where that leaf, when full to the brim of salt, turns yellow, falls off and dies in order to save the rest of the system.

When I remember our time leading up to leaving the dock, I think of everything that we went through that required a metaphorical sacrificial leaf in order to achieve our overall dreams. 

There were things he imagined would happen and things I imagined would happen. Those things didn’t happen. There were realities that both of us had a difficult time accepting. There were objects that I had spent time and money investing in that weren’t reasonable on a boat, that I had to give away or sell (when I wasn’t ready to) or that broke the first time we went out sailing in rough seas. There is time spent away from loved ones that both of us will never get back. 

We had to ask ourselves questions. Questions that we often run into throughout life: 

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What is more important? The entire dream or this specific thing you’re hung up on? 

The love, the bond of the partnership or this specific thing you’re hung up on?

Why is the dream important? 

Why is this person important? 

What matters here? 

What will matter here years from now? What will remain?

These moments, these conversations were not easy. I imagined how the mangrove feels selecting its sacrificial leaf, having to decide what has to go in order for all else to survive. 

In sailing, capacity reveals how much a boat can handle. A boat captain should never take an overloaded boat - either with people or with gear - on the water because it will swamp or capsize. 

As living beings, we too have capacities: how much we can hold, carry around, take on while still staying afloat as happy, functioning, joyful human beings. 

When a boat hits their capacity, when the mangrove intakes too much salt, when a human spirit is taking on too much to hold, everything and everyone is in danger. The boat starts to capsize, the mangrove starts to wither and the person starts to withdrawal. It is nature; a natural process and system to keep us safe, thriving and loved. 

You still have to pause, however, and honor the sacrificial leaf, both in nature and in life. You have to pause and honor the person doing the sacrificing. Something was, in fact, lost and there is no saying that one sacrifice is “more worthy” than another. Sacrifice is sacrifice. The salt stings. The loss reverberates. The fall is not something you feel just once. 

Recognizing and honoring the sacrificial leaf and the good it did for the whole helps to heal the heart. Knowing that human hearts are not the only living species to sacrifice relieves the sting. We are one with nature experiencing similar processes and systems. 

Love wins. It is in love and in nature that we sacrifice, and it is in love and in nature that we heal. 

Today as I passed the mangroves, I honored the sacrificial leaves of their own and our own. I noticed and I felt it as I pushed my bicycle by its twists and turns of branches. My boyfriend looked over, hand extended, ready to help me into the dinghy. I glanced back at the mangroves and back at him, and I realized: we’re all in this together. 

Healthy & Ocean-safe Cleaning

Our ocean is an incredible, living, inhaling and exhaling being. She reacts and she strives to move forward even though humans are doing so many terrible things to her: packaging peanuts, straws, all types of plastic, fuels, garbage are thrown into her on a minute-by-minute basis. 

Dive beneath her beautiful water line and see you the creatures living within her, but you also see the damage being done to her. Corals are bleaching, fish are dying, plastics are wrapped around innocent animals. 

It is heartbreaking. 

Living on a boat immediately put into perspective for me the amount of damage one human being can do within just a few minutes. A simple 30-minute cleaning routine can wreak havoc on our water systems and the animals living within them. Everything flows back to the sea. Plastic doesn’t disappear. What your purchase, matters. 

These facts rolled around in my mind with so much force and weight that I began researching, learning and changing how I clean and how I purchase. I want products that are safe for my body and for our waters, and I want products that clean whatever I’m intending to clean. 

I am not an expert on this; I'm just a human being wanting to make changes for the better. In summary what I learned is that all actions have a reaction, just like all products have a response when placed into our environment. What's important to know is the ingredients and the biodegradability of your products. The time it takes to break down is what you're looking at. The longer it takes, the longer the products sit in our environment which means it has more time to do more damage like getting wrapped around a sea turtle or pelican.

Biodegradability can feel like a vague term, but it means (and the definition the Federal Trade Commission endorses) is the product's ability to “completely break down and return to nature.” For marketers in the United States to use the term biodegradable on their products it must mean that it will break down and return to nature in a “reasonable amount of time.” 

Then, you want to know what is breaking down and the results of that breakdown. Sometimes when a product starts to break down, it produces more toxins. This is where reading your ingredients will come into play. 

Another factor is being aware of how much of the product is being used and how much is being directed into a particular place. For example: A single home soap’s suds will break down in their individual backyard but if the suds are added with everyone else's suds in the same city and everything is thrown into a sewer line and then onto our beaches, then there would be too much soap for the microorganisms to biodegrade. Build up occurs. 

So, your individual power lies in: 

  • Choosing products that label their ingredients
  • Recognizing the ingredients as natural (preventing toxic breakdowns)
  • Knowing your consumption: how much of it you're using and putting out; where you are throwing it out
  • Purchasing products that break down faster and easier

When you’re looking into products, you want to: 

  • Look at the label for the ingredients.
  • If there are a lot of ingredients you do not recognize, then do not purchase the product. 
  • Purchase products that list ingredients you recognize as natural. 
  • Purchase products that are packaged in bioplastic (plastics derived from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch or microbiota). 

Here is where it’s important to know and use your own power: You decide what you purchase and what will go into our water systems or end up in our landfills. You decide. Cutting back on products full of synthetic chemicals or packaged in petroleum-based plastic will make a difference, even though you’re just one person or one family! It starts to add up! 

Here is what we use and why we use it: Please keep in mind I am not asserting that this is the only way or this is "what you should be doing." This post is meant to heighten awareness of what we're using and why! 

For cleaning our home (table tops, toilets, shelves, stove, cleaning up messes): 

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We use Thieves household cleaner + fresh water mix: Thieves is a mixture of clove, rosemary and vinegar. Not only does it make our boat smell of lemon and cinnamon but it simultaneously helps boost a lowered immune system in whomever is cleaning and it won’t harm us or the environment. 

Note: If you're looking to open an account to purchase Thieves home cleaner or an air diffuser for clean air, e-mail us at SheenaJeffers@gmail.com. 

 

 

For cleaning our clothes: 

We use soap nuts: Soap nuts are a sustainable natural resource that come from sapindus trees. The dried fruit produces “soap” (saponin). They are hypoallergenic, free of synthetic chemicals, fillers, toxins, dyes and perfumes, and imported only from Fair Trade suppliers. 

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For cleansing our air and preventing / removing mold: 

We use a homemade Tea Tree blend. Tea Tree oil is an antifungal and antibacterial. It has the power to kill all types of molds, but is harmless to humans and animals. We also keep with us white vinegar to clean and prevent any mold that appears. 

Diffusing Tea Tree oils also prevents airborne mold. 

Note: If you're looking to open an account to purchase an air diffuser for clean air, e-mail us at SheenaJeffers@gmail.com. 

 

Recipe for Spray: 

  1. 4 ounces water.
  2. 4 ounces vodka.
  3. 12 to 24 drops of essential oil.
  4. Measuring cup.
  5. Funnel.
  6. Spray bottle.
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For holding and disposing of our trash: 

We use Commit to Green bags made of plant starch - instead of plastic - and it will decompose within 180 days (instead of 1,000 years that it takes a single plastic bag to decompose). 

For washing our dishes: 

2 cups of liquid castile soap, a few drops of essential oils, 1/2 cup of water. 

It feels good to know what products we’re using and also how we are effecting the environment. It’s far more real to us now to make choices, to ask questions, to purchase only what we know will not harm the environment to its max degree. 

As an individual, you can make a big impact by making simple changes. Our oceans and our air will clear, and we will leave a cleaner, safer, more stable environment for future generations. 

Journey to the Bahamas

“I’ll never get this stain out of here,” I said, under my breath. The bell on the glass door rings. 

“Hello,” an old man said, his arms full of clothes needed laundered. “Do you work here?” 

“No,” I answered. “But I’ve been in here for a few hours so, I like to think I’ve gathered some knowledge.” 

“I’ll take it.” He dropped his laundry on the table and started sorting darks from lights while I examined the impossible coffee stain. 

Finally, I give up and toss it in the washing machine. Again. 

“Do you live here? in New Smyrna?” I look over and now he’s stuffing his clothes into a washing machine that’s a little too small for his load (and there were larger, other options) but I didn’t say anything. 

“I don’t,” I said. “We are passing through. We live on our sailboat.” 

“Sailors?” He said with a lightness, as if remembering his days on the water.

“I like sailors: good people. I once lived on a boat; we used to race all around Cuba and back.”

“Really?” I pulled up a chair as he poured in his laundry detergent. “We left our jobs to sail and travel a bit.” 

“Good,” he said, without hesitation or needing to know any further information from me. “You only live once.” 

“And knowing that fact,” I continued, “made it feel nearly impossible to want to spend my days working in an office for someone else.” 

“Yes. Impossible. Down right criminal. I’m glad you got out while you’re young.” 

With that, he told me he’s going to take his old bones to the gym and he’d be back in a half hour to check on his laundry. With his hand on his hat, he nodded, like I imagine a cowboy who herds cattle would do out west. 

He leaves me to my thoughts and the incessant hum of the machines working all around me to clear the dirt and warm the fabrics. 

My memory travels a few weeks back.

December 18, 2017

We step outside of the airport into the warm island air. It’s my thirty-second birthday and I was just wished a happy day by the woman who stamped my passport. 

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“Thank you for choosing the Bahamas,” she said, plopped the stamp down and granted me 30 days in her country.

I close my passport book, smile and move onward.

Outside, we find Bahamians hustling for work. Do you want a taxi? Do you need a bus? Can we carry your luggage? Have you ever been to the Fish Fry?

We were on the search for a taxi cab to Hurricane Hole (and, no, we’ve never eaten at the Fish Fry). 

Armed with prior knowledge, a tip from a friend who knows, we knew the cab ride to Hurricane Hole should cost us less than $50, so when a cab driver wearing a winter hat complete with a puffy ball on top said, “Hurricane Hole: $43,” we handed him our bags and jumped into his Toyota minivan. 

Once inside and revved up, there were clinks and clanks. Enough to cause my eyes to widen. 

 Hurricane Hole in Nassau, Bahamas.

Hurricane Hole in Nassau, Bahamas.

He turned to us, shrugged and said, “It needs some parts.” 

Then, he immediately kicked it into gear and sped off through the night on winding streets. 

“Where are you from?” He asked, jerking around sharp corners in his part-needing minivan. 

“Virginia. Here to visit the Exumas for awhile,” we say. 

“Good show. Good show.”

We talk about the islands and the quickly-approaching holidays: Boxing Day, Christmas, New Years. 

“I’ll play you Junkanoo,” he said, after telling us about the upcoming Boxing Day parade where the 1,000-member band was expected to play from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. His speakers scratch out music full of drums, horns and human voices. 

“I don’t celebrate Christmas,” he said. He explains it’s only him and his son. 

“I have another son on the island, but, you know…” his voice trails off to silence. 

We didn’t know, but we didn’t ask. 

Suddenly, the van lurches. 

“Our new Prime Minister wouldn’t have hit that hole,” he said, laughing. 

The Prime Minister is new - since May - our driver tells us. How is he doing? 

“Too early to tell,” he said, matter-of-factly. Junkanoo plays in the background. 

We arrived at a toll and our driver starts to reach for money. 

“American influence,” he said, peeved that the toll attendant was sitting in a window on the left and his drivers seat was on the right. 

“I have to get out of the car to walk around,” he explained. “Don’t think I’m leaving you.” 

Placing the car in park, he walked around to pay the $2.00. When he returned, he explained to us the Bahamian to American dollar exchange rate. 

 Making dinner on SAMORU II

Making dinner on SAMORU II

“It’s dollar to dollar, and everyone accepts American,” he said. 

When we arrive at Hurricane Hole, he passed our bags over and we wander to the glass door. A Bahamian woman working the night shift buzzes the door open. 

“Good evening,” she said, with a smile. There is a large Christmas tree covered in fluorescent pink flowers. 

“Good evening,” we said. “We are looking for the sailing vessel SAMORU II.” 

“All the way around, and then down the dock,” she explained and then points. “It’s that boat right there.” 

We thanked her and pulled our luggage, making our way to the 52-foot Catamaran that we will call home for the next 7 days. 

 

The Spirit of Traveling: Charleston, SC

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore new territory acquired by the United States, the Louisiana Territory. He wrote to them of their mission for their travels: 

"The object of your mission," he wrote, "is to explore... the soil and face of the country; its flora, fauna, and minerals; its climate; and its Indian inhabitants, including their numbers, their relations with other tribes, their languages and traditions, diseases and remedies, laws and customs and articles of commerce they may need or furnish. It will be useful to acquire what knowledge you can of the state of morality, religion, and information among them..." 

I carry this spirit and this discipline with me.

As I sit here, both hands around my coffee mug, resting in a sun beam that streaks across this breakfast nook, I relish everything I'm feeling now. I know in two hours, I'll be back out on the open ocean, in 40-degree temperatures, rocking with the wind and waves. 

But before I go, I'd like to address you, Charleston, South Carolina, in an effort to never forget our experiences here. 

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We pulled into Charleston Harbor on Monday, December 4, 2017, as the sun started to slip from the sky. Anchored, we rested. We awoke on Tuesday to your exuberance, and with a plan, we started to lower the dinghy. We had supplies that needed purchasing, electronics that needed charging, and e-mails that needed wifi for sending. 

We find a beach close to a coffee shop to beach and lock up the dinghy. Charleston passersby offered to help us pull the dinghy up further the sand. 

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We tucked into the artisan bakery, Bar Normandy, for a day full of one latté, a yogurt parfait and reliable internet. I downloaded 6 movies on Netflix and sent 50 e-mails, all while overhearing 22-year-old women chatter about how their boyfriends "clearly have raging alcohol problems, but they're nice all of the other times, so..." 

After finishing all of our wifi connected-dependent work, we headed back to Seas Life where we prepared for dinner with Ryan's college friend and his family. A beautiful night, we were able to shed our layers and enjoy the breeze. 

The next day, we fuel up. And this is where, standing on the dock, connected to 120-volt power, I upload I very first YouTube video

And that's when the cold front rolled in. 

Thursday, we woke up to a 45-degree boat. The temperatures in Charleston had dropped, unexpectedly, 30 degrees. We purchase a propane heater and gorge on Chinese food for warmth. 

We decide to continue heading south, so we make our way under the Wappoo Bridge 30 minutes before the workers were to head home and find ourselves in the middle of the harsh weather on the ICW

Cold and tired, a friend saves the day. He calls to say, "I live on the ICW and I have a boat dock!" The best words we could have heard. 

Pulling into the dock around 7:00pm, we spend the next 3 days and nights with this incredible couple. The wife, Nickie Stone, is an editorial photographer using techniques dating back to the Civil War, so we sat statuesquely still as the camera soaked in our image. 

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We had breakfast with a dear family friend of mine who said the kindest thing about my grandfather. "He is my best friend. He has always been my best friend since the first day I met him," he said, almost with tears in his eyes (definitely tears in mine). 

We attended an artists market where Ryan purchased me my birthday gifts: a beautiful, hand-crafted ring, bracelet, candle, clothing by a Charleston designer, plant hanger for Seas Life, and a hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. We danced the night away by fires in barrels. 

As the sun crept into our bedroom the next day, we knew it was time to carry on. But here's what I'm taking with me: 

Charleston, you are a sight to be seen, a state not to be ignored. Everything is an occasion that requires the best of dress, attitudes, and manners. But deep underneath, you are raw with high expectations and steeped in successful ventures. You get what you want, and you enjoy it. From your muddy backroads to your paved streets, you feel southern. From your strictly conservative churches, your whispers, your threats, your welcomes, you can feel the history here today - still breathing, still squirming, still very much present and alive. 

Your earth is muddy and clings to your feet. Your oysters burrow. Your coffees have a hint of sour, and your sugar cane is rich. Your people are kind - always offering to help but also ready to cut your throat, should the proper reason arise (but nobody wants that, now do we?)

Your trees command attention, but even if they didn't command my attention would receive it anyway. They're stunning in their goodly size, their unpredictable twists and turns; clearly, they follow no rules. And then your Spanish moss that drapes your branches. Even your tress dress for formal occasions. 

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We met so many wonderful people will full hearts. The 91-year-old man who told us three blonde jokes only after approaching me to tell me he hopes to not offend. Memorizing jokes is how he stays young, he tells us. His 88-year-old wife (a brunette, if you're wondering) sipped her coffee and smiled, watching her flirt of a husband do his thing. As I twisted my red hair in my hand, he lightly touched it and said, "Look at that..." as if in awe. 

The chef at Bar Normandy who tossed mushrooms in garlic and spoke of his dreams to be a sailboat chef one day. 

The waitress who kindly asks, "How you doing, peanut?" to every customer. And she'll explain to you that they don't have a liquor license but she can put some sake in your Bloody Mary to make a Bloody Ninja. 

The woman who passed me the quartz crystal and told me to take it home along with a nugget of wisdom that it takes quartz millions of years to become a thing. 

The old ladies of Charleston who dress up in full-on button-down dresses and heels, dripping with gold jewelry around their necks and wrists. 

Your buildings dating back to the 1700-1800s still stand tall though struggling with termite problems. 

Your arts are noticeable and feel-able; they're a part of your city's main vein. 

You are a place of beauty, irony, hypocrisy, intelligence, money, and nourishment. You sit, loving your people in a dark but welcoming way. There is something very macabre about you, South Carolina, but that doesn't stop your beauty. 

Thank you for having us, feeding us, resting us, re-fueling and re-provisioning us. We won't forget you anytime soon. 

Between the fight & the comfort

Weather, not unlike life, is famously unpredictable. Out there on the water, the conditions can get brutal, fast! The winds grow in their tantrums. The rain, from an annoying persistent mist to a relentless downpour, can soak you - bone deep - in a matter of seconds. The temperatures can drop out, leaving your fingers and toes numb with a cold that creeps up and burrows down at the same time. 

As sailors, you push through. You pull on layers, you grab your foul-weather gear, and you bite down for the fight. 

  Seas Life rafted up in the ICW after a long, rainy passage. 

Seas Life rafted up in the ICW after a long, rainy passage. 

Traveling from Charleston to Wadmalaw Island, we had constant rain, wind and temperatures hovering in the low 40s, but we were in a snaky part of the Inter-coastal Waterway (ICW). So, there we were: standing in the weather; Ryan was at the helm, and I was moving a light beam across the water searching for markers in the darkness of the night. Rain drops illuminated the light beam making it difficult to spot the reflective markers. 

After 2 hours of weather, your body grows weary and your patience wanes. You yearn for creature comforts. This is when friends of sailors become lifesavers. 

We docked the boat, threw off our wet foulies, and ran inside to the comforts of their home. We needed refuge. We needed warmth. 

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Within minutes, I had a substantial glass of pinot noir and a hot shower sliding down my goose-bumped, frozen skin. You feel yourself exhale. You feel yourself melt. You feel yourself re-calibrate and re-acclimate. You exhale. 

The comfort of your creature comforts is amplified after wrestling with harsh conditions. But after you feel human again, and a little less like a swamp monster, you start to let you mind sink deeper. 

Weather is part of the life fight. Comforts are part of the perks. But freedom is what lies between the fight and the release. Freedom to travel beyond perceived comfort zones, expectations, jobs, city / country lines. It is this freedom that feels good and lasts, long after the warmth of the shower has worn off, long after the freeze of the cold has dissipated. 

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You look around yourself and you find yourself in the middle of deep, deep gratitude. Thankful for friends who understand that a hot shower, a glass of wine, a warm meal of beans and rice, and a freshly-made bed with a washing machine to provide fresh laundry is an absolute blessing. Thankful for the hot coffee in the cup that will send steam into the air the next morning as you watch the sunrise over the ICW (where you left your fight hours ago). Thankful for the free day that stretches before you; a blank canvas; a day pregnant with unknown potential and opportunities. Thankful for your loved one; a hand to squeeze to remind each other, "I'm still here with you." 

You stop and notice the universal comforts for us all: shelter from the rage, hot coffee and showers, clean towels and sheets, good wine full of notes and conversations full of themes, a shared table topped with food, closeness even far away from friends and family. 

In life, not just in sailing, you'll encounter a fight that strips you down to a rawness, to a shaking mess of personality inconsistencies and neediness, and you'll find comfort in small things or big things, expensive things or warm things. But remember, that between the fight and the comfort is the life that you live. It's the precedent you set for yourself and others. It's the marker that you're searching for. It's the hours you spend, the people you hug, the revelations you experience. 

And afterwards, you'll feel the glow and you'll know: This is right. This is good. And here I am. 

 

Our Earth Provides

Thomas Merton wrote, “It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives.”

  Dolphins visiting Seas Life on the Atlantic Ocean (December 2017)

Dolphins visiting Seas Life on the Atlantic Ocean (December 2017)

This morning I woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee and walked outside to water our plants. Surrounded by the tiny ebbs and flows of water splashing against the bottom of the boat, gently moving it with the sway of the swell, I watered our plants (with a tomato so vibrantly red, it’s about to drop), basil, mint, squash, cucumbers and lettuce. 

Then I sat down with my cup of coffee and listened, deeply, as the breeze twisted through our sea glass wind chime ever so gently; the high pitch clinks created an unpredictable rhythm of its own. Before, I had never given nature so much of a… pause in my life. So much credit. I simply hadn’t noticed it before. Not in this way. 

I had never before noticed nature’s keen intuition. It’s impeccable way of providing, rocking, supplying, serving, re-grouping, re-claiming. It’s pulse and breath as it expands and contracts. It’s playful, stubborn and tricky ways like when the current wants to push you one way but the wind decides to move the other all while the moon is commanding the tide to do whatever it’s going to do too. 

I seem to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity better sitting out here on the water. Which is weird, because I’ve never sat and pondered the laws of physics before. But sitting here knowing events that occur at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another makes far more sense when I’m sitting rocking on a sailboat watching life and nature (accelerating and non-accelerating observers, as Einstein would label them) move all around me. I wonder what they think I’m doing? I wonder how they’re experiencing the time and flow of my story, of their story, of nature’s story? 

When I first started to wrap my head around this whole “sailing life,” I struggled. I had so many hesitations, questions and concerns. How do you make money? But you can’t just do that! What about insurances? What about careers? What about futures? What will we do to make money? How will we have food and stable shelter and create a life and SURVIVE? 

Then one day, a sailor said to me while casually popping pistachio shells from the nut, “You need to stop worrying. Work will appear. Food will appear. Friends will appear. Purpose will appear.” 

I realized something suddenly. Was I under the impression that I was in full control of all those things (work, food, friends, purpose) on land? Had I bought and swallowed the idea that the only way to exist is to be an employee for an employer and buy my food from available stores, buy my insurances and repeat my days?

I started to see my fears stemmed from lack of trust in the world around me and in nature. Deep-rooted trust issues. I never assume that someone will “take care” of me or “handle things” for me. That was always my job, my responsibility. But in sailing, “taking care” and “handling things” look different. (I’ll discuss this later, but back to my realization first). 

I realized that society had taught me to fear and fear greatly. The world of people had convinced me that I somehow have control of this thing called life as long as I stay stable, stay in line, do what I’m told, pay my bills, buy the insurances, and wait. 

But what was I waiting on? If you ask Geico, I was waiting on a possible flood / fire / horrific car accident. If you ask my health insurance, I was waiting on a pestering cold or a heart-wrenching diagnosis. If you ask my career, I was waiting for an employer to recognize my potential and talents and have the ability to promote me. If you ask my love life, I was waiting for a marriage proposal. If you ask my school loans, they’re just waiting for me to pay them (while secretly celebrating that I can’t pay them all off at once). If you ask my mortgage, it feels the same way as my school loans. 

All of this waiting… and for what? Life is actually happening now. 

As I started to put the pieces together, I stumbled upon this Bible verse one morning: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" [Matthew 6:25-34]

Then it hit me: I needed to trust in that, that is larger than myself. ASAP.

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Since my life change (and mindset change), I have seen plentiful fish, bodies full of hearty meat, being pulled from the ocean. This meat sustains us, fuels us, provides nourishment for us. 

I have seen work come in different forms as we've monetized our blog, pushed for freelance writing contracts, and thought of new innovative streams of income. 

I have seen new ways to experience friendships and family. Ways where I have more time to spend quality moments with them. 

I have experienced a freedom I never thought possible to achieve. A freedom where my days are blessed to be open, creative and spread in various unanticipated directions. This is a blessing, and I wake up every day whispering, "thank you" to the universe. 

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It has been 4 months since I left the stability of a full-time job and threw myself into a whirlwind of having to trust everything and everyone around me. This hasn't been an easy transition and it has required of me to conjure up different parts of myself, unknown to me before. 

It has demanded of me to have confidence in myself; not allow others to bring me down or convince me that I'm not worthy. 

I never expected these lessons to come from living on the water, but I now recall my last doctor appointment with my functional medicine doctor. She said, "You become what surrounds you. You're becoming water full of waves." 

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This phrase repeats itself to me. How lovely it is to become a body of water - fluid, flexible, ever-changing, persistent and self-sustaining. How strong it is to live full of waves - transitive, powerful, influential, responsive. 

If there is anything I've learned here (living on the Chesapeake Bay for 5 months and now living on the Atlantic Ocean), it is that we have a big, beautiful world out there that wants to love us, care for us, share with us and test us. If you listen, nature speaks. If you ask, your answer will appear. If you trust, your whole world will open up. If you believe, you will be amazed. 

 

 

Night Watch

Night watch: the time of your sailing day right after you’ve eaten dinner so you want to snuggle up in bed and sleep, but alas, you have a moving boat in moving waters with obstacles like other boats, ship wrecks, buoys and land, so you cannot sleep. You must do what’s called NIGHT WATCH. 

For us, in the Atlantic Ocean at the beginning of December, this means wearing 6+ top layers (undershirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, vests, scarves and foul-weather gear jacket) and 3+ bottom layers (long Johns/yoga pants, pants and then foul-weather gear pants) and sitting outside navigating the boat around any potential dangers. Through the entire night. 

 This is our good fortune plant keeping us safe on Night Watches! 

This is our good fortune plant keeping us safe on Night Watches! 

When you’re on a NIGHT WATCH in December in the Atlantic Ocean you will… 

Start off feeling good. You’re layered up and awake. For this particular story, your night watch starts at 10:30 PM and will end at 3:00 AM.

At 10:30 PM, you’re warm and enjoying the dancing beams of light that the moon shines on the water. 

Around 11:00 PM, you’ll check all of the navigational tools: You’ll check your position, your waypoints, the depth of the water. You’ll check your speed, and your distance. You’ll zoom in closely on your AIS to see if there are any boats coming your way that would require an alteration of your course. Once these have all checked out, you’ll go sit back down. 

For about an hour, with intermittent checking of navigational tools, you’ll try to read. Using a headlamp and moon beams, you’ll move the book at funny angles so you can get through the next paragraph. 

When this gets frustrating and you notice that the headlamp really messes with your human night vision capabilities, you’ll put the book down and stretch a little (while trying to compensate for the waves that are tossing your body left and right or front and back or, really, whatever way the waves want to toss you). 

That stretch will feel good, send warmth through your body and you’re feeling focused again! 

Now it’s 12:30 AM. The temperature has dropped but you’re still good, just noticing a slight chill in your fingers. 

You’ll look at the stars and planets, naming each one made-up names because you can’t remember their real names. Except for Mars. Everyone can remember Mars. 

Around 12:45 AM, the Coast Guard will come on the radio and give a report of everything you should be worried about. This particular night, it’s a floating log that’s 17 - 18 feet long. How it became a floating missile for any passing vessels, they do not know. But they’ll provide you the coordinates and basically wish you good luck. 

Now, you’re running to check your longitudes and latitudes! Because what if, I MEAN WHAT IF, that log was right in front of your boat?! And the Coast Guard waited until 12:45 AM to tell you about it when it would’ve been helpful information to have at midnight or 10:30 PM when your watch started for that matter! 

At 12:50 AM, you’ll calm down when you realize you’re nowhere near this floating log. Your heart rate will lower. 

Around 1:00 AM, you’re starting to feel cold and bored. You ask yourself why you didn’t pre-download “Stranger Things” on your iPad because that would be perfect right about now (except for the whole screens messing with your night vision thing). 

At 1:15 AM, you’ll go inside to make hot chocolate or tea. Mostly because you’re now freezing (you’ve been outside in low temperatures for 3 hours with the wind smacking your face) but also because you’re getting a little bored and making a hot beverage will break things up a bit. 

Around 1:20 AM, the waves will make your tea pot slip around on the stove, so you’ll have to make sure to hold it there over the flames. This will feel good and warm your soul. 

By 1:35 AM, you’re back outside with your hot beverage. You’ll wrap your hands around it for awhile because it feels warm and welcoming. You’ll watch the steam rise from the cup as it hits the cold Atlantic winds. You’ll try your darnedest to not let the waves spill it all over you because then you’d be a weird mix of freezing, boiling and sticky. 

At 2:00 AM, dolphins show up and you will - mark my words, you will - have a long, philosophical and existential conversation with them. They’ll listen, but they’ll also be jumping in and out of the water even when you’ve asked them to stop doing that and just listen. 

They’ll be fed up around 2:20 AM because you’ve asked them a lot of tough questions and they want time to think some things through. 

You’ll start to think about trying to read again around 2:25 AM. But, no. 

You’ll start to think you’re hearing your cell phone text-message sound notification, but, no. You don’t have cell service. Then, you let that hard fact sink in. You'll immediately want the dolphins to come back. 

You have only a few minutes left on your watch. These will move the absolute slowest. Slower than any minute has ever moved before. And yes, slower than watching the clock tick to your 5:00 PM quitting time at your 9-to-5. You’ll dose a little, drifting in and out of sleep but every noise yanks you back to the reality that you’re on a floating boat that could hit something any second and you shouldn’t be dosing off! 

Eventually, it will be 3:00 AM. You will go inside and wake up your sleeping partner with hot chocolate ready for them because all you want to do is jump into those blankets and close your eyes. 

 

The Days Before We Left the Dock

They say that the hardest part of leaving the dock is leaving the dock. During our preparations to leave - and the hustled chaos that came with that - we accomplished more in 5 days than we've probably ever accomplished! 

Vehicles: 

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  • Drive Sheena's car to her family's in Richmond for safe keeping. (As a joke, they put it on Craig's List for $20k).
  • Clean out Sheena's car and decide what we're keeping and what we're getting rid of. 
  • Remove license plates from all vehicles. 
  • Change car insurance from full coverage to storage. 
  • Return license plates to DMV or deactivate them.
  • Clean out Ryan's Land Rover. 
  • Sell Land Rover. 
  • Hand over all keys to family members who are keeping our beloved cars safe. 

Comfort Family, Friends & Say Our "See You Laters": 

This one was the hardest. They love us! So they naturally worry for our safety. We found ourselves explaining not only our intended trip (Charleston, SC -> Florida -> Bahamas -> Central America) but also the sailing lifestyle in general. We explained about our MapShare and how they could follow us every minute (since that is literally the interval of time GPS points are dropped from our Garmin InReach) and they started to feel a little better. We celebrated my 32nd birthday, even though it's not until December 18, but we had a delicious meal and family time felt good. I left my mom with a book that is incredibly inspiring! 

We also had meals with our friends - lunches, coffees, quick catch ups before we headed out. These were nuggets of time, but very special to us. 

Provisioning: 

Provisioning is the process of securing all food you may need for your passage. We stocked up at Sam's Club and left with a $450+ grocery bill! But we are now adequately stocked with cereals, rice, pastas, granola bars, and other easily-storable dry foods. The other foods (meats, vegetables) we will scoop up from markets as we make stops. 

Our dear friend came by to help us go through all of the groceries, properly store them, and secure them down for sailing. 

Mail Forwarding: 

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We left pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes for our mail to be forwarded to our family representatives, who will then open our mail, digitize it by taking a scanned image of it, and forward it to us! We also officially and temporarily forwarded all mail through the USPS. 

Never-ending Lists: 

We had 4 very-long lists going at all times: 1) Boat repairs 2) To-do list 3) To-buy list 4) To follow-up with list. These lists were extensive; sometimes, multiple bullet points would be under one heading! It felt overwhelming most days and we saw the repercussions of that manifest in our sleep. 

But the lists were checked off! The families were hugged! The mail was forwarded! The supplies were purchased, put away and secured! And then... it was time to leave the dock! 

How to Contact Seas Life

We want to stay in touch with you all as we venture out into this beautiful world! 

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Here's how you can stay close: 

1. Make sure we have your contact e-mail here! This way, we can send you our updates. 

2. Visit our blog often for plans, images and videos of our travels. 

3. Follow our Instagram @seaslifeforgood for InstaStories and photos. 

4. Follow our MapShare! Here is the link: https://share.garmin.com/SVSeasLife! From this MapShare you can see where we are based on our GPS coordinates and you can send us a message! Note: Sending us an e-mail to seaslifeforgood@gmail.com would be better, but if it's really important, you can send us a message through our MapShare! Simply click "Send Message." 

5. E-mail seaslifeforgood@gmail.com.  

6. Listen to our Seas Life Podcast of stories, interviews, laughs and lessons learned. 

7. Follow our Seas Life YouTube channel of day-to-day happenings aboard Seas Life! 

8. OR, if none of the above work, you can always send us messages in bottles. Simply place your letter in a bottle and "deposit in any ocean." 

 Bottle created by Bill Layne, Sheena's step-father. 

Bottle created by Bill Layne, Sheena's step-father. 

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!