Monday, June 30, 2014

12 12 12

Back to work for me and Hans.

I’m mentally bracing myself for this week. Hans starts residency on July 1st (that’s tomorrow!) with a month of 12 hour shifts, 5 days a week. So that’s not too bad: a 60 hour work week with a day off here and there. Except when a patient comes in at the end of his shift and his 12 hour shift turns into a 14 hour shift. And except when he has to work 5 12s in a row and then needs at least one day to recuperate. Easy for me to understand, but not easy for the girls to let him sleep instead of playing with them.

I have two different challenges: free time for me and small boat projects.

In addition to the two hours in the middle of the day I usually get when both the girls nap, I’m trying to carve out some time while the girls are both awake to relax. Hans’s 12 hour shifts are also 12 hour shifts for me. Matilda wakes up at 5:45 every morning. Freja goes to bed around 8pm. The other day they both played in portable bathtubs on the back deck and I sat in the shade and read my book. On Friday morning while Matilda was napping, Freja and I sat on the back deck and ate peach cobbler and drank cappuccinos. Not too shabby. Right now Freja is napping and Matilda is just waking up. I hear her in the vee-berth, but she’s happy and singing and talking, so I’ll let her play alone for a few more minutes.

A few small projects need to get done to modify our liveaboard life to living in the hot Florida sun.

Transportation: I just bought a used bike trailer off craigslist so I can tow the girls behind the bike instead of taking the bus. Riding the bike will be hot, but walking and then waiting for the bus in full sun is hotter. We’ll go on our inaugural trip this morning.

Projects: These are all things I can do by myself, but it’s hard to get stuff done on the boat and take care of the girls at the same time. The minute I start working on something, Matilda invariably falls and starts crying or Freja desperately needs to change her t-shirt or get a drink of water.

  • Screens for the hatches. In preparation for the trip down the ICW, we put no-see-um netting over the big hatches. It turned out to successfully keep out the no-see-ums and any breeze. Since I’m happy to keep the a/c turned off, we need some bigger gauge screening to keep the flies and mosquitos out.
  • Fans for the hatches. The tandem project is to mount box fans inside the hatches so we can get even more breeze, but a bug-free breeze.
  • Shade. We have a small tarp over the foredeck, shading the vee-berth, but I’d like to get a much bigger tarp to shade the entire foredeck and potentially keep it dry so we can keep the hatches open during rain.
  • Dinghy. Pull the dinghy up out of the water, clean, deflate tubes.

Nothing really big, but necessary. The biggest challenge is having Hans back at work instead of on vacation like he has been for the past couple months. I have to get used to solo parenting again, during the days at least. It’s nice to get the girls on a schedule and they appreciate routine, but, like most parents, the days are looong but the weeks, months, and years are short.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The evolution of a dress

I have a New Year's Eve dress. It's like "the little black dress" but much, much more than that.

It's little, but it's not black. Yes, it is gold sequins.

Here I am on New Year's, 2007 at Culebra, Puerto Rico.

 The next year I was in Vermont wearing my dress with thick black tights, heavy winter boots, and a red, ankle length wool coat. (Can't find the photo.)

The following year I was at a friend's house in northern Pennsylvania where there wasn't a party, but we joked that my dress brought the party. (Again, can't find the photo.) I certainly turned a few heads when we stopped for gas outside of Scranton, PA on the drive north.

And then the following year I was very pregnant and couldn't wear the dress.

And the following year we stayed home with baby Freja. But I should have worn the dress.

And then the following year we were in Sweden and I was pregnant again and couldn't wear the dress.

And last year we stayed home with Freja, baby Matilda, and my mom. But I should have worn the dress.

The other day, as I was cleaning out my clothes lockers and getting rid of heavy wool sweaters and long underwear and wool socks (good riddance!), Freja found the dress. Her eyes got wide: "mamma, what is thiiiis?"

She promptly put it on and wore it for hours, spinning and dancing and having a ball.

Reuse, repurpose. The gold party dress is now Freja's every day dress-up dress. Because every day is a party when she wears it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Turn on the tap, plug in the electronics

After living at anchor for four weeks on a boat that is designed and set-up to be tied to a dock, it feels downright luxurious to be at a marina. Unlimited electricity and unlimited fresh water.  

But it's going to my head. I'm washing dishes three times a day, and I hate washing dishes. I open the fridge with abandon, sometimes standing in front of the cool breeze for more than a minute. I'm washing clothes and diapers. I'm taking showers aboard. Hans has thoroughly washed the outside of the boat. The girls are taking baths. We have fans running on high, strategically placed for comfortable sleeping.

Yet it's not as if we were really roughing it when we were cruising down the ICW. We were simply using as little fresh water and electricity as possible since they were both finite.

Power: Our batteries are not high-end house banks designed to slowly discharge and then recharge. Pretty much as soon as we turned the engines off their voltage dropped. We don't have solar panels or wind turbines like most cruising boats have, so we were reliant on our engines or generator to give us power. If we stayed somewhere for more than a day, we had to run the generator, which we discovered was wholly inefficient at charging the batteries and then developed a pesky fuel issue which would cause it to surge and stall every 30 minutes. We never ran out of power, per se, and our engine(s) always started up in the morning, but the fridge would often turn itself off during the night when the battery voltage got too low leaving puddles of water in the vegetable drawer from the defrosting freezer.

Water: we carry a lot of water, but a lot of water is never enough with two adults and two kids. We didn't resort to washing dishes in salt water and rinsing with a fresh water spray bottle like we did on Whisper, but we did turn the water off while washing our hands and we shampooed in saltwater and rinsed, very quickly, in freshwater.

Swimming with Freja at anchor near the northern entrance to the Pungo Canal in NC.
The water was beautifully fresh and clean. But further down south, when we hit the saltwater,
a freshwater rinse was not an option after every swim.
Partly because we had to save the freshwater to clean this little face.
It takes a lot of water to wash off all that ketchup! 

I'm finding myself swinging on a water and power pendulum. At anchor I stood in front of the fridge and strategically planned my grab: what do I want and where is it? Now I wander down to the fridge open it up, root around, looking for something to eat, eventually closing the door after a minute or so. I let Freja was her hands alone, knowing full well that the water is just pouring out of the tap. I've been washing laundry in our little machine. (Though I'm back to using cloth diapers on Matilda which means more water usage but less plastics in the landfills.)

I love living aboard because it really makes me think about my impact on the environment. I know where my power comes from and how much I am using at one time. I know how much water a shower takes and how full I can fill the sink when I wash dishes. Now that we've been at the dock for almost a week, it's time for me to level out that water/power pendulum and be a little more conscious of my environmental impact while not feeling like I'm dirty and living in the dark. I don't want to go back to days at anchor when I was washing dishes in a mere puddle of water, but I also know some ways in which I can cut back and use less.

This pendulum also makes me think forward to future cruising days. How can we outfit a boat so we're not camping and not obsessively thinking about our power draw and water usage? On Whisper we prided ourselves on making 60 gallons of water last for almost 3 weeks, yet we wondered why no one wanted to come over for sundowners. (Hint: I think it's safe to say that we were rather stinky and salty!) On our next cruising boat, we'll have to find a comfortable and environmentally friendly middle ground between how we have lived at anchor and how we live at the dock. And we'll find the answer both in boat systems and in personal habits.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Last few days southbound, in photos

Here are a few pictures from our last days southbound. I suppose if I were a more dedicated blogger I would have snapped some pics as we entered the marina in Jacksonville, or at least taken a few photos by now, but, nope. We turned the camera off two days before we arrived. At any rate, enjoy this handful of photos. Cumberland Island was definitely a big highlight of the trip.

Hanging out at a waterfront restaurant in Beaufort, SC.

This girl LOVES ketchup.

Just south of the Savannah River the sky turned black. We were only a couple miles from our anchorage but thought it would be prudent to stop and wait for the storm to pass. We dropped the hook and watched amazing clouds.
And that was it. We didn't even get a drop of rain.

Hey shrimp boat, come back! Hans jumped in the dinghy and bought 5 pounds of shrimp from the captain, for $20. The scooped them up off the boat floor and dropped them into a plastic bag for us.

Amazing. The freshest shrimp I've ever eaten.

I didn't bring very many new toys on our trip, figuring what we had would keep the girls entertained.
Luckily, I had a few birthday presents and other toys and games stashed away that they hadn't seen yet.
Case in point: dress-up. We had such a fun evening at anchor off St. Catharine's Sound in Georgia.

Full moon.

Since she's lived aboard a boat from 3 days old, I'm not surprised that Freja has awesome balance,
but it's still pretty cool to watch her in action.

5 pictures above: Jekyll Island.
We found awesome live oaks to play around and on, a new friend
(that's Freja making her "aw, babies are sooo cute" face), and some live music to dance to.

Cumberland Island, the path to the beach. No filters, no editing on these two pictures.
Not because I'm an amazing photographer, simply because the landscape was incredible.

Ketchup. I need more ketchup!
At anchor off Cumberland Island.

And this was the first time we dragged anchor, ever. Fast moving current, strong gusty winds from 3 different squalls, and suddenly we were slowly drifting backwards. Not a pleasant feeling. Glad we were on the boat.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Freja keeps watch on the bow.

Boaters, especially cruisers, like redundancy. Two fuel filters, two Phillips head screwdrivers, solar panel and wind turbine, electric start engine that also has a hand crank, pressure water and foot pump. On sailboats, sails and an engine. And, as sailors cruising on a powerboat, two engines. 

Thanks goodness for redundancy. 

A couple days ago as we were nearing Charleston, SC, our starboard engine sputtered and died. We motored into our anchorage on one engine, checked the obvious (impeller, fuel filters), and, finding no obvious answers, shut the engine compartment and poured a couple stiff drinks. 

A couple hours later, Hans got the engine to start up by cleaning the battery terminals and banging, yes, literally banging, on the starter with a wrench. But it made a horrible, loud, clanking, clanging sound. We quickly shut off the engine and called a mechanic near Beaufort, SC. 

Motoring south the next day, Sunday, I only could think of the worst. Total, catastrophic engine failure. Perhaps because it was Sunday, or perhaps because I was steering the boat through beautiful, winding rivers and creeks that connected to the ocean, my thoughts became introspective. 

I wanted to pray for good news from the mechanic. I wanted to pray that it would be a simple fix that we didn’t see because we don’t know very much about gasoline engines. But I couldn’t. I’ve always been uneasy with praying for things and I’ve always been uneasy when people use the phrase “I’ve/you’ve been blessed.” I don’t think there is a God that bestows favors or grants prayers to specific people. For if that were the case, then what about all the starving children in Ethiopia? Do they not pray hard enough? Are they not blessed?

I found myself then praying for the strength and the grace to deal with whatever verdict the mechanic offered. Because that, I find, is one of the most valuable things about religion: offering a moment to stop, think, (think critically), examine, and observe, about how I can live better on this planet. I’m not necessarily praying to a single God, and I”m not necessarily praying. What I am doing, however, is taking a minute from every busy day to reflect and be introspective, and, in that regard, work towards living a better life. Is Jesus a fictional character? Is the Bible a bunch of stories? Perhaps. But these stories provide a path to follow; a leader to follow; an inspiration to live life more gently, less selfishly, and more gracefully with myself, my family, and the people around me.

A few days later and many miles of running our boat on just one engine to get to Jacksonville, and I’m feeling much calmer. The boat runs fine on one engine, perhaps we’re even saving some money on gas, and we’ll get there. 

Thank goodness for redundancy. 

An engine rebuild is not in our plans and we’ll have to revise and come up with something new once we get settled in Jacksonville, but that’s no big deal. We’re all happy and healthy. We’re still out cruising on the boat every day, anchoring in beautiful wetlands only accessible by boat; life is pretty good, even with just one functioning engine. 

Crossing our fingers that our one engine keeps on chugging as we enter the notoriously shallow and shoal-ridden waters of the Georgia ICW.

Hi shrimp boat!

Here we go, in between the green and the red with a strong moving current.
Keep on chugging port engine, keep on chugging.

Hans (and Freja) drive the boat through the channel at Jekyll Island.
Yes, that is a mud bank off our starboard side; there was an identical one to port.
It was shallow and skinny with a fast current.
Keep on chugging port engine.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Probably my favorite anchorage between Philadelphia and Ft. Lauderdale: Price Creek, just north of Charleston.
(Yes, we're in Jacksonville, but we've previously sailed to Ft. Lauderdale.)

I feel like we’re floating on our own private island, drifting down a lazy river steadily, slowly southbound. Even though we pass other boaters and often share beaches with other people, I feel like we’re on a solitary trip. Whenever it’s my turn to steer the boat I find myself reaching for Hans’s phone for a quick check-in with Facebook. I send text messages and make phone calls to family. I feel this need to stay connected and to make human contact on a daily basis. 

Partly because we’re on this trip south all alone. Every day we pass a handful of cruisers, all going north. We’re on the reverse snowbird commute and we’re doing it alone. We have the camaraderie of the cruising boaters, simply by virtue of being out on the water for longer than a weekend, but we’re going against the grain and seem to be missing out on the community atmosphere. 

But it’s also different because now we’re a “kid boat.” We’ve seen a couple other “kid boats,” all going north, but not in the same anchorage. Whereas on Whisper when we would just dinghy over to another boat to chat and share some sundowners, this time sundowners happen right around the witching hour. Even if we wanted to take our rum drinks for a dinghy ride, the girls (especially Matilda) would not be interested in joining in the expedition. 

I perpetually wonder about my Facebook addiction. Can I not let go of Facebook for a few weeks and just be with my family and in the present because I need the additional human interaction, the larger community? Or is Facebook doing a really good job tapping into our love for instant gratification? Maybe I just haven’t been unplugged for long enough.

somewhere between Georgetown, SC and Charleston, SC, we got attacked by horseflies.
Killing them with the fly swatter became the #1 competition.

I popped my head through the forward hatch one afternoon to check on the girls,
suspecting they may have woken up from them naps.
Yup. Binky obsession? Yes.

I'm biased, but, wow, she is cute.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From condos to a wild river

I don’t know if the Waccamaw River is technically wild, but it certainly feels like it is. Winding, coffee brown in color, thirty feet deep, and lined with trees with roots that reach into the water, it’s hard to believe that we are just a few miles from the tourist haven of Myrtle Beach. 

We started our morning anchored near the Little River Inlet which is on the border of North and South Carolina. The small village of Calabash is up the creek and a few shrimp boats and local fishing boats passed us at anchor; from a distance we watched ferries, go-fast powerboats, and mini-cruise ships shuttle passengers to the beaches that line the pristine inlet.

I remember this part of the waterway from our trip south on Whisper. The first stretch from Little River to the where the ICW meets the Waccamaw River is lined with condos, golf courses, strip malls, and new residential subdivisions. It is straight, narrow, and uninspiring. The houses are big boxes stuck in the middle of fields with no trees or shade to speak of; I shudder at their energy inefficiency. 

One mile of this kind of scenery is one too many for me; the Myrtle Beach portion of the ICW is nearly thirty miles and, no surprise to me, I was completely uninspired to take a single photo on that stretch of waterway. We were unlucky and had the current against us the entire way. Once through the Socastee Bridge at mile marker 370 we turned into the Waccamaw River.

It was a totally different world. The concrete development gave way to a swampy, jungle-like atmosphere with trees growing straight out of the water and spanish moss hanging from the branches. Osprey yelled at us from their nests high up in the trees. The river winds and turns for miles. Small creeks branch off and we saw an occasional dock and fishing camp. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Around 3PM we turned right and motored up Thoroughfare Creek, dropped the anchor in front of a sandy bluff, and joined some local residents at the small beach to enjoy the fresh, cool water. People were fishing, wakeboarding, and tubing, and other people were simply sitting at the water’s edge enjoying the scenery. 

The sky turned gray then black around 7PM, the remaining boats left, and the skies opened up. It was perhaps the most dramatic thunderstorm we have ever been in on a boat: winds gusting to over 60mph, sheets of rain, thunder, lightning. Matilda slept in the  vee-berth, Freja and I read books and sang in the aft cabin, and Hans ran around on the deck getting soaked and making sure our anchor didn’t drag. 

storm clouds over the sandy beach we had been happily playing at just an hour earlier

It’s never much fun to be on a boat in a thunder and lightning storm. At a marina it never bothers me because there are always taller boats or buildings for the lightning to hit. But out in the middle of nowhere, at anchor off a creek off the Waccamaw River, it was a little unsettling. The storm has passed and the peepers and frogs have taken its place. We’re at anchor on our boat in a place you can reach only by boat and, despite the storm (or perhaps because of it. After all, what is cruising if not reinforcing your self-sufficiency and forcing you to be just a little more tough), I’m reminded why we liveaboard and why we’re out cruising.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Boating. Really boating.

at anchor near Calabash, NC

This four week trip from Philadelphia to Jacksonville is making the entire five years of living aboard Rhumb Line 100% worth it. It’s not that the trip is exciting beyond compare or that living aboard at our dock in Philadelphia was terrible. Far from it. While we are, of course, having fun, it’s more than that. 

What makes this trip so great is the fact that we’re finally going cruising again. Ever since we landed in Philadelphia five years ago, we’ve sat on the back deck of our boat and looked at the same condos and the same restaurant and talked about our cruising dreams. Now we’re finally doing it. We untied the dock lines, waved goodbye to our fabulous boat neighbors and friends, and set off into the sunrise. It's only a short cruise and we're not stopping at any exotic ports, but we're still cruising.

As an added benefit to the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, this boat, our floating home, is doing what it should be doing. It’s not staying put in a marina, day in and day out. It’s moving; it’s being anchored; it’s being docked. We’re using all the systems; we’re updating some of them. We’re using the boat. And the reward for us: instead of seeing the same old scene again and again, we see different scenery every day.

It’s a good feeling.


morning music

Hans and Freja fishing before bedtime.
Anchored on Thoroughfare Creek, just north of Georgetown, SC.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A day in the life

Day 11 - Gales Creek off the Pamlico River to Morehead City, NC
Mile Marker 160  to Mile Marker 205

For posterity sake, I thought I’d document a random day of our journey from sun-up to sundown. Today was a shorter day on the water with the engines running and a little different because we’re tied up at a dock instead of at anchor, but it’s a random day afloat on our trip from Philadelphia to Jacksonville.

Our current strategy for successful days are to start the day very early so we get the anchor down in the early afternoon. That way the entire day isn’t spent motoring and we have time in the afternoon when the girls wake up from their naps to go ashore and run around or stay on the boat and swim off the back. It means no lounging around in the morning for Hans and I have to make and bring him breakfast while underway.

0615: Matilda wakes up and starts yelling “mamma, mamma, mamma.” I get her and bring her to bed to nurse. Hans gets up; puts the kettle on to boil water for tea and coffee; he gets dressed; checks the oil in the engines; adds some oil to the port engine; makes coffee; goes outside and yells. The cockpit and back deck are covered with swarms of mosquitos and what looks like mosquito eggs. Yuck.

While Hans is doing all that, I get dressed; Freja wakes up; I put Matilda in bed with Freja and put the gate up. They play for a few minutes while I make tea and oatmeal.

0650: Hans starts the engines and weighs anchor.

0700: I’m sitting at the galley table with the girls eating breakfast when the boat starts make “s” curves. I run up the galley steps then the companionway steps (I’ve given up my squats regime and have no need for a Stairmaster!). Hans turned the autopilot on and it responded by sending us far to starboard. So now the autopilot is on the fritz.

0730: We’re done with breakfast but I’m keeping the girls in their highchairs (Phil & Ted’s clip-on style) because we’re now out at the junction of the Pamlico Sound and Neuse River and it’s rather rolly. It’s safer and more comfortable to keep the girls seated but more work for me. While Hans hand steers the boat through swell and chop, I sing, help Freja put puzzles together, and we all make birthday cakes out of playdough.

0800: Our course is now more downwind so we’re running with the wind and sea. Much calmer. I change Matilda’s diaper and bring her into the main cabin to play. Freja proceeds to have a 20 minute tantrum because she wants me to keep doing puzzles with her. I explain that I need to play with Matilda because it is too rolly to leave Matilda alone. Apparently that wasn’t acceptable and Freja kicks and screams for awhile.

Partly because she has been sick and partly because I think the drone of the engines is tiring for her, Freja has been very demanding for the past many days. She wants one-on-one attention all the time and hasn't been playing by herself very much. That’s fine when Matilda is sleeping but challenging when Matilda is also awake and even more challenging when Hans needs my help with docking or anchor or navigating.

0844: Matilda nurses on the couch; meanwhile Freja makes me dinner out of matchbox cars. Matilda naps in the vee-berth; Freja and I paint each other’s faces. Hans mentions that he is a little concerned about he oil pressure in the port engine. The gauge is jumping around a little and he had to add oil this morning. Need to keep a close eye on it.

0903: We switch - Hans plays with Freja, I steer.

1005: Leaving the Neuse River and entering the Adams Creek Canal to Beaufort. I pass a tug and barge to starboard and get a little concerned the tug is hogging the channel and forcing me outside. Hans assures me that the captain will change course. I have images of the 2011 Duck Boat disaster in Philadelphia. 

Freja comes outside for a few minutes and joins in the fly/mosquito swatting game.

2nd breakfast: yogurt, o’s, Robins and coffee.

1100: Matilda awake. Snacks.

1145: Freja down for nap. Passed Mile marker 200.

1240: Morehead City. We tried anchoring three times but couldn’t get the anchor to hold. We bought a 45 pound CQR in Annapolis. It’s heavy enough but perhaps the design isn’t good in sand or whatever the bottom is here. Or maybe the bottom is just not good. And with impeccable timing, it was during this whole anchoring debacle that Matilda decided, for the first time ever, that she needed Hans over me. She was squirming and whining and crying in my arms and only wanted Hans to hold her.

1300: Hans weighed anchor and motored over to a different spot. I put Matilda down for her nap.

1322: We decided to move to the dock at the Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant. $25 plus dinner. Darn. We have to eat out. Twist my arm….
Freja woke up as we pulled the anchor up from our last anchoring attempt.

1345: At dock. Lunch aboard: sweet potato quesadillas. I cleaned the galley and the aft head; Hans did more cleaning on the back deck and cockpit/bridge deck in an attempt to get rid of the mosquitos. Freja happily played with playdough, etc.

1525: Matilda still napping. Freja and I walked around town and checked out a couple shops. Freja complained that she was too tired to walk. Too tired? Maybe landsick!

1604: Hans and Freja went for a walk to look for milk and bread; Matilda still napping. Marathon nap.

checking out the day's catch off a sport fishing boat

1615: Matilda awake. Happy but snot in her eyes. She has a snack of PB&J. Hans and Freja explore down the dock looking for a bird that flew under the dock.

1620 - 1830: dinner at the Sanitary Fish Market

18:30: back to the boat; Freja and Hans to the ATM

1850: Matilda in bed.

1950: Freja in bed. Tea, hang out, read. Hans goes across the street to play pool.

2035: Kristen to bed. Early cruiser’s bedtime since I’m fighting a cold.

2230: Hans home and to bed.