Wind (?) on the open water

This is Ardent, she was our floating home for a week in the San Juan Islands. She really was a great boat for our first time living aboard.

We got to the spend the week on a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m pretty deliberate about saying we spent a week on a sailboat, because to say we sailed for a week would be a bit of an overstatement!  In typical Lever fashion….we were lacking wind or when we had it, it was coming from the wrong the direction.  That’s were I keep coming back to when I go to start this blog post, the wind.

I think a lot of people who have never sailed have this idea that you’re on a sailboat, raise the sails and go!  Right? Wrong.  There really is a very small window where the wind is in your favor.  Too little wind and sails won’t pull the boat.  Too much wind and it can be dangerous.  If the wind is coming head on, you can’t really sail.  So, the window of wind is narrow.  The window does get larger as you get more experience sailing because you can sail in heavier winds. But still, conditions do need to be just right to be able to sail.

We did have one day with some great wind. After we got up and had some coffee, we raised the anchor and motored out of our anchorage, once the wind was in a good spot, we raised mainsail and headed out toward our next anchorage.  Initially there were a few things that we needed reminders about, she gave us some reminders.  Like, watch your heading when the wind is directly behind you.  You will jibe and you need to be prepared for it.  Even though the boom was well overhead, accidental jibes are unnerving.  But it only happened once, after that, I watched the heading and if we were going to change headings, we tightened up the main-sheet and made sure the boom didn’t swing wildly across the boat.

After a while, we altered our course toward the new anchorage.  In doing so, it put the wind nicely on our port side, it was a great beam reach and just with some minor tweaks to the sheet and the headings, we sailed along. We averaged about 5 knots the whole way.  There was something magical about it.  No motor, just the wind pulling us along.  I just stood at the helm and watched the sail to make sure things were set just so.  The confidence boost for all of was real.  We sailed.  On our own.  I know that we still have a lot to learn, but it sure felt good to know that we had learned and could sail.

The next several days when we changed anchorages, the wind wasn’t as cooperative.  As we were motoring up toward our next destination, the wind came up, but right at our nose.  So, even though the wind speeds were good, they just were the wrong direction, completely.  It gave us a whole new perspective for Sailing Nahoa when they ended up having to motor from Thailand to the Maldives.  I can’t even really imagine running the engines that long.  Our few hours of motoring left me wanting to raise the sails just for the silence.

On our last day we headed out of our anchorage and had maybe, maybe 3 knots of wind.  So, it’s time to keep on motoring.  After about a couple of hours of motoring, we passed an island, and all of the sudden from the starboard side probably 25 knots of wind us.  At first, we were all excited, hey let’s put out the sails, even half the main would be nice, just to be sailing.  Then I looked at the wind map on PredictWind.  Not more than half a mile down the channel the wind would drop back down to 3 knots and we’d be firing up the engine again.  And it was right.  All of the sudden, after ten minutes of being blasted by Wyoming level winds, it was gone.  I was glad we kept on motoring.

We were really shooting to get back to the marina by about 4:30. That way we’d have time to fuel up, pump out, and get our boat back to her slip before the marina help left.  So, when we had some decent wind in the bay, even going the right direction, I knew that it would probably slow us down, so I made the decision to keep motoring on to try and make the time we needed to get the help we needed getting into the slip.   In the end, even motoring, we didn’t make it back on time.  If my navigation skills and timing had been a bit better, we might have been able to sail a bit more and make the time. It was ok though, it was an important lesson about wind, time, and navigation.

Overall, the week was a great week.  We had a wonderful time and learned a lot.  I know that chartering is different from owning because you don’t have to do the boat projects, but we still learned a lot.  I’ll share more in the coming weeks.  We have a lot going on right now, but there will be more about the overall trip and the changes that we are making right now.

Certified…or Certifiable Sailors!

We wrapped up our American Sailing Association 101 and 103 courses, with the Victoria Sailing School, a couple of weeks ago.  What this entailed was taking our last practical lesson, which was on a J/30, so it was about eight feet longer than the other boats we’ve been on and taking our two tests.

First the sailing lesson.  We had some wind, not a lot, but just enough to get the boat moving without the aid of the motor.  The mainsail and the jib were out and had beautiful form.  They were pulling the boat along nicely, not fast at all, while I wasn’t clocking it, I wouldn’t guess we were going more than about 3 or 4 knots.  Just enough to know that we were sailing.  It was actually a great end to these practical lessons, and at least for me, it gave me more of sense of desire to have the wind be my engine.

This final lesson was not so much about learning new skills, but rather about applying the skills already learned in a new setting.  It was about practice and being able to put those skills to the test.  I will say, it was a little bit of a challenge at first for two reasons.  One, we hadn’t been on a boat since October.  Sailing is like anything else.  You need to use the skills to keep them fresh.  I learned that when trying to tie a cleat hitch…I still need to practice that some more.

The second thing that really made the application of the sailing skills a little challenging was the new systems.  The jib was on a furler, so it unrolled as opposed to being hoisted.  The winches were self-tailing two speed winches meaning you locked your line into the winch and then you ‘pull’ at a couple of different speeds.  We had an inboard diesel as opposed to an outboard four-stroke.  The reality was though, that even though many systems were new to us, once we got the sails up, we were just sailing.  We needed some reminding, but we got the boat moving under the power of the wind.

Enjoying the light breeze…

Then it was time to take the tests.  Each course had its own test, each was 100 questions.  We spent a lot of time reviewing the videos and our notes.  Really trying to make sure that we didn’t need to retake the test.  It was a little nerve wracking to say the least.  If you don’t get an 80% or better you don’t pass.  One of the things I thought I would struggle with was the diagrams of the boat.  I can identify the transom, the battens, the bowsprit on an actual boat.  But, put it into a 2D diagram, you have to make sure that you are able to figure out exactly where the line is pointing to, or you’re going to identify the wrong part and get the question wrong.

We sat down, each of us with a pen in hand, and started down the road of the test.  The studying, reviewing, and yes cramming, paid off.  As we each were answering questions, I think we all had the same basic thought of, “This isn’t too bad” going through our heads.  There was obviously, some second guessing about what some of the questions were asking, and even a few things that I just was at a loss for, but eventually I figured out what was being asked.  But overall, when I left, I felt pretty confident.  I think the key thing that I took away from the testing is something that the owner of the school said, which was, “You can pass this test, and you most likely will, but the key thing is to be able to apply it on the water.”

He’s right.  I could identify on paper, the proper route for a boat to go through a channel, but when I am faced with that situation later this summer…can I do it?  I think so, but until you are faced with it, you don’t really know.  Really this is true of a lot of things life, being able to see things on paper is one thing.  Being able to handle the situation in real life is another. 

It was exciting though the next day when he emailed us our results and we all passed with flying colors.  I was pretty excited, now we are just waiting for the little seals to go in our log books that shows we passed.  So…now that we have passed the basic keelboat and basic coastal cruising courses, what’s next?  Next is the ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising course.  This certification allows you to charter boats and stay relatively close to land.  You learn about passage making, provisioning, knots, etc.  The basics of being able to handle a boat on your own.  We have a few weeks until that course.  I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes and how we applied our 101 and 103 skills to the largest boat yet…

Learning to Dive

Me after getting open water certified!

After I wrote about our experience scuba diving, I said I would write a bit about the training.  It’s been a minute or two since I said I would do that, so I’m getting to it.  Now that the school year is out, and even though I still have work to do, I have a little more time.

First off.  If you are thinking about doing any scuba certification, from open water certified to any of the more advanced certifications that are offered, I can’t recommend Cozumel Diving Academy enough.  I’m not getting paid to say this, I’m just saying that the Cozumel Diving Academy was amazing.  The instructors are patient, dive masters are friendly, and they make everything a great experience…and of course being part of the second largest reef system in the world….it’s a great location too.

Learning to dive requires you to learn to control breathing, be able to clear out your mask of water, switching breathing regulators, ascending while only exhaling, being able to read a compass, among other things.  It really isn’t too bad to learn to dive…I think for most people.  For me it was a real challenge, because we were in about 12 to 15 feet of water and needed to kneel on the ocean floor.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Except, we were close enough to the shore that the waves kept moving me back and forth, and I guess I got motion sickness.  Our two days of confined water dives were pretty rough for me because of the motion sickness. 

On the first day, we surfaced from one of the training sessions, I looked at everyone said, “I don’t feel so good” and then proceed to share my lunch or breakfast with the fish and birds.  It was pretty challenging.  I don’t know if it was the motion or if it was the frequent changing of the regulators and me potentially swallowing a fair amount of seawater, or maybe both that caused me to be so generous with the native wildlife, but we had to cut day one short because I couldn’t keep going.

Day two…got a bit better.  I was still in the sharing mood, in a couple of exercises, I looked at the instructor and said, hang on….hurled…and got back to it.  We had to change tanks, and we had 6 more skills to finish up.  If we didn’t finish those, we couldn’t move onto the open water dives the next day.  Meaning, finish up the dives from the shore, or you don’t get to go on the boat and see the really cool stuff.  So after some ‘encouragement’ from Sandy, I got up, got my tank ready and we headed back out.

One of the skills we had to learn was to surface from about 30’ of depth while only exhaling. If you inhaled, go back to the bottom and start over.  It was a challenge and I only had to do it twice, but I did it.  Let me tell you, when you hit the surface after only exhaling for that long, a deep long inhale is amazing.  After doing this, I’m in awe of the free divers who go 200 meters with no air, other than what they got at the surface.  I really don’t know how they do that.

After that we only had our open water dives left to complete.  For the last two open water dives, we took a boat out to a part of the reef where the water was about 60 feet deep.  The last skill we had to demonstrate was removing our mask underwater, putting it back on, and clearing the mask.  Once we did that, really it was time to practice our skills with some actual dives along the reef.  First though, we had to get in the water.  I was really expecting that we would just step off the back of the boat and jump in the water.  No.  The dive master for that trip as we approached our dive site informed us that we would be rolling off the side of the boat.  What?!  How do I?!  Just get up there, put your hand on your regulator and your mask and fall backwards.  There wasn’t a lot of choice again, so I did it.  Inflated my bcd some and swam over to my instructor where we got ready to submerge. 

On the way down, I tried to remember, just equalize early and often and it will be ok.  And it was.  It was beyond ok, as I said in my post about diving, it wasn’t just ok, it was truly amazing.  Like many things in life, if you want something you have to push through some difficult times to get it.  Things don’t just get handed to you.  I was truly expecting scuba training to be much easier for me than it was.  Honestly, learning the skills wasn’t hard, it was getting through some of the environment that was challenging and difficult.  Once I figured out how to clear my regulator, I was good…I just needed to not swallow so much salt water in the process.

I’m looking forward to our next diving adventure, even though I don’t know when that will happen.  It might not be until next year, but I’m excited to carry around the certified open water diver card from PADI and know that I can now go scuba diving.

Scuba diving

Once we decided that we would set sail, we all agreed that for both practical and pleasure purposes, scuba would be a good skill to have. There will always be under the boat work to do, such as scraping growth off of the hull or maybe even untangling line from a propeller. Beyond that, it seems unfathomable to be in some parts of the world without seeing the undersea world as well. So we did some research and traveled to Cozumel to earn our open water certification in order to scuba dive.

I will write more about the process of getting open water certified later. There really is a lot to write about from this whole adventure, but for now, suffice it to say that we are all three PADI open water certified. This means that we can dive to depths of about 60 feet and have demonstrated the necessary skills to deal with some emergencies, like running out of air. We know we need more experience before we attempt too much on our own, but now we are at a place where we can gain that experience.

Diving is like nothing I’ve experienced before. You are 20, 30, 50 feet below the surface of the ocean and it’s a world that is teeming with life. From sea slugs to Eagle Rays to seemingly countless types of fish. It truly is an amazing world and when you are below the surface, everything above just melts away.

Seeing firsthand the types of life that are below the surface, that you might have only been previously aware of from episodes of Jacques Cousteau brings on a flood of emotions and awe that is indescribable. There really is nothing like it. As we drifted in the current at 50 feet, I saw a coral that had something under it spitting put sand,I tried to get closer to see it, but passed by a little too quickly to really get a chance. The disappointment at missing out on this was short lived because as I drifted on, I glanced under a rock shelf to spot a lobster poking its head out, as moved on past the lobster, I looked up to see an Eagle Ray flying effortlessly through the water.

I didn’t get to see it, but Matthew saw a couple of sea turtles. He said it was amazing, that one of the turtles was huge. Of course, size and distance are distorted underwater. But he was in awe of the turtle. It was also amazing, we saw a shark one day…after we saw the shark and surfaced, I asked our Divemaster, what do you typically do when you see a shark? He said, “Just what we did, watch them go by.” I felt a little silly asking that question, but as I reflected, when we go backpacking there are definite things you do if you see a bear. But really the first thing you do, is just watch and keep your distance.

All of our dives were limited to about an hour or less. This was dictated by both air consumption and safety. But even in that short amount of time, it was awe inspiring. We plan to get some other dive trips in this year, we’ve already started researching other locations, prices, etc. With all of our other plans, needing to save some money, potentially move to a rental, etc. Getting dive trips in will be challenging, but life is short. And I know these will be the things that I remember as I age.

I am also going to put an unpaid plug in for the Cozumel Dive Academy. Phillip has done an amazing job at hiring and training dive masters and instructors. If you have a desire to learn to scuba dive and you can get to Cozumel, visit the Cozumel Dive Academy. It’s well worth the time and money.

Money is a renewable resource…Time is not — Ben from Sailing Nahoa

I’ve actually tried about five different versions of this post.  It’s about money.  One of the more common questions I get is, “How can you afford to live like that?”  I understand at the heart of the question is, how can you afford not to work.  As I’ve written the previous versions of this, I done the research on what other cruisers spend on all of the costs.  I’ve done breakdowns on what I think it will cost us based on this research. We will have an income stream, it won’t be a lot, but we will have one.  At the end of the day, Matt and Amy of Sailing Yacht Florence (here’s the blog link to Sailing Yacht Florence) caused me to realize, you can cruise the world on as much or as little as you want.

So let’s lay out a couple of differences here.  Nick and Megan O’Kelly recently did a video where they highlighted their costs, they are on a 41 foot catamaran, it’s just the two of the them.  They spend about $67,000 a year.  That includes boat insurance, health insurance, maintenance, food, mooring/marina fees, etc.  They also have been spending most of their time in the Bahamas and the East Coast of the US.  In their video, they also highlighted that they know of people who spend over $200,000 a year.  That’s quite the range.  But, jumping back to Matt and Amy, they spend $17,000 a year on average for the same basic expenses, except they are on a 37’ monohull. 

So, when I am asked, how do I think we can afford this on the small income stream I know we will have, we can.  It’s going to mean that I’m going to have to go up the mast and check out the rigging myself.  It’s going to mean that as much as I hate plumbing, Sandy and I will be fixing the toilets ourselves.  Next fall we will be taking a diesel engine maintenance course for marine diesel engines.  Are there times when we will have to call in the experts and shell out some money for expert help repairing something, yeah without a doubt, but the reality is, if the watermaker breaks in the middle of the Pacific, there’s only going to be the three of us anyway. 

We also aren’t doing this so we can live in marinas.  Without a doubt, we will need to be in marinas from time to time, but our goal is to find a nice quiet anchorage, and drop anchor.  As we have looked at boats, we are targeting a price range that will enable us to avoid a boat mortgage.  When you ditch the house, and know that you are going to be ‘camping’ in a sense, think about the expenses that go away.  Drop the car payment, car insurance, water bill, utilities, mortgage.  Yes, some of that is going to be replaced with different internet bill, still going to have a phone bill, going to have to have boat insurance and boat maintenance costs (generally average about 10% of the value of your boat per year).  But the reality is, expenses can drop quite a bit. 

When we first came up with this dream, we were watching a documentary on Amazon about a woman who married a man, had several kids, etc.  And they had circumnavigated the world three times before settling down in Hawaii for a bit.  At one point, before they settled down, she was filling out a US Census survey form (this was back in the 60s), and the form asked, does your house have electricity, No.  Does your house have running water, No.  How many bedrooms does your house have, 2.  She commented that when she filled out the form, it made her look like one of the poorest people on the planet, but yet, they were the happiest they’d ever been.   They’d shared vodka with Russian scientists in Antarctica, hunted wild goats on uninhabited islands in the South Pacific, swam with dolphins and whales.  They felt like the richest people on the planet, yet all they had was a boat. 

Matt and Amy in their video about costs basically said the same thing.  They don’t have much, they don’t even have an outboard motor for their dinghy, but yet, they have had fresh Mahi Mahi from the Indian Ocean.  Currently are exploring South Africa and got their with minimal cost. So, how do I think we can afford to do this?  When you change your life like this, you start to figure out what the essentials are and that’s what you spend your money on.  You can spend what you have, but keeping up with the Jones’ is not really a thing on a month long crossing of the Pacific.  I think doing that, you’ve probably surpassed the Jones’ anyway. 

Change to change

On March 18, 2020, early afternoon, I was riding my bike home from work.  Schools were out because the Coronavirus had just hit our area.  As I crested the final hill home, I saw that there had been an accident at the next major intersection.  As I got closer, it kind of looked like our car was involved, but I couldn’t quite tell.  So, I decided I would ride closer to see, if wasn’t our car, I’d keep going around the block.  No biggie.  There reached a point where I could see my Spartan Race sticker on the back of the car that had been hit.  I dropped my bike into the yard of the nearest house and ran to the intersection to see if my wife was ok.  She was shaken, hit by the airbag, but otherwise uninjured.

As a result of that accident, we ended up needing to buy a new car.  Like most people, we financed a car.  It was one we could afford and it was a pretty nice car.  We took it into the mountains, drove it across the state more than once, it was a great car. 

Fast forward to our decision to sell everything and buy a boat.  We want a certain level of savings before we hit the high seas and we’ve been working to get there.  We diligently send money off to save every month, but it’s not as much as we’d like.  So, we started looking at expenses and where can we cut to be able to save more.  Cars kept coming up.  They probably have been our biggest expense lately.  So…what to do?  As we talked about what to do, the one thing that kept coming up is that if nothing changes, nothing will change.  If we didn’t do something different to increase our savings, we weren’t going to hit that goal of savings so we can set sail.

So, we changed something.  We sold that car, made enough on it that we could buy something pretty reliable outright and payoff one of the other cars.  It wasn’t an easy decision.  In fact, it was downright hard.  The car was comfortable.  It could take us most anywhere.  There was room in it for all of us…dogs and kids and us.  But it was also expensive.  Not really in gas, but insurance, car payments.  It ate up a lot of money, money that could be going to a boat. 

So, pretty quick here, what we send to savings will increase.  We’ll be back on the path that we want to be on.  Like I said, it wasn’t an easy decision.  It was pretty tough, but again, if we didn’t do something different, four years from now, we’d still be saving. 

As I write this and think about it, that’s true for a lot of things.  Physical health, relationships, life in general.  If you want things to change, you need to do something different.  We want to make a change in how we live life, and we have an amount that we think we can use to take care of us as we sail.  We needed to do things differently to get to that number.  For the time being that means that we needed to sacrifice some creature comforts to get where we want to go.

This also ties into some of what I believe about goal setting.  You have an end goal, but you also have lots and lots of little goals along the way.  And you have to take steps to reach each individual little goal.  Until pretty soon, the big goal is achieved.

So, the big goal is a sailboat.  Part of that is having enough in savings to take care of emergencies, repairs, etc.  What’s a step to get there, scale back on the lifestyle.  Find other ways to do what you want to do, so that you can still reach your goal.  Ultimately it means changing things.  Because if we don’t change things…then nothing is going to change.

Food Changes…

Making changes involves a lot flashy big exciting things, but it also involves a lot of little mundane run of the mill stuff.  I’ve struggled to come up with topics lately to write about, but as I was out on a short hike, I was thinking about some of the changes that we have been making lately, that are…well…a little basic…but still changes in our lives.

Years ago, we started buying a side a beef twice a year.  We ended up getting a second stand up freezer for this and kept things pretty well stocked.  The beef is incredible.  No doubt about it.  I love it.  The steaks are well marbled, they have great flavor.  We’ve really enjoyed it.  I think at the end of the day, it probably cost as much as going to the grocery store, I don’t know that we really saved anything, but it’s good meat.

As we are paring down our possessions, one of the things we sold was one of the freezers.  Additionally, we’ve decided not to order that side of beef.  Right about now would be the time to do it.  We’re getting low on ground beef, the steaks are mostly gone, all of the roasts are gone.  We’ve started to shift to less beef in our daily meals, to more meatless meals, chicken, or fish-based meals.  It’s forced me to get creative in cooking…trying to find new recipes, new ways of cooking.

Once we get to the boat, how we get food is going to change a bit.  We won’t have two standup freezers and an extra fridge freezer.  We might, depending on the boat, be able to get a small chest freezer (Sailing Nahoa has one on their boat) to keep some extra stuff to freeze, but we aren’t going to all that space.  Grocery shopping will change in that we will probably be buying more items that will store for longer periods of time.  Obviously, once we go to cross the Pacific or the Atlantic, we’ll need weeks of food (it’s about three weeks to a month to cross the Pacific), but fresh fruits and veggies don’t last weeks, so we’ll need to eat those fresh fruits and vegetables that go have a shorter shelf life first and then move on to root vegetables, which of course last longer.

It has been interesting as we’ve slowly changed eating.  I’ve found some vegetarian meals that I really enjoy (check out these roasted tomatillo black bean tacos).  I don’t know that I ever thought I’d enjoy a straight vegetable meal, but I’m pushing myself and us to think about other foods.  That’s going to be an absolute necessity as we go to new countries too…beets might not be available ☹.  But there’s going to be something new that we’ve never been exposed to and will love even more than what we are used to eating here at home. 

As I’ve watched several of our “friends” on YouTube, I’ve also noticed that people to varying degrees try to live off the ocean too.  The Wayward Life has taken this to an amazing level.  They pickle kelp, pick wild onions off the coast of British Columbia, catch salmon.  Of course they go to grocery stores too, but they try to minimize that as well.  The Wynns don’t do it quite as much, but I noticed the other day they will harvest things like sea lettuce to make their salads, I don’t know how much else they do, but they do try it seems like.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good grilled ribeye, but I no longer try to plan that into the menu even monthly.  In fact, rather than spending a good chunk of change on a side of beef, I was ecstatic when I found grouper at a local grocery store and was able to make fish tacos out of grouper…sure it was caught, frozen, and shipped, but still I don’t remember the last time I had grouper!  I know some folks have gone from hardcore meat and potatoes to vegetarian overnight and I say, good for you.  Changing food in our family is a slow process but it’s happening.  I’ll share some recipes coming up.  Most will likely be reblogged, but I’ll still share some.  There aren’t a lot of recipes that I have created myself.  Will some of them that I share be with us on the boat?  I don’t know, but knowing that changes are happening gives me some feelings of hope from moving forward.


Let me start by apologizing for not having anything new lately.  Two things here.  One, between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a busy time, as most of you can imagine.  So there hasn’t been a lot of time to write.  Two, there hasn’t really been a lot going on in terms of getting ready.   We’ve been living the day-to-day life, going to work, doing some Christmas shopping, trying to figure out what we ‘need’ for Christmas.  No exciting sailing lessons, scuba won’t happen until the Spring.  I’ll share with you where we are going to go for that after Christmas, it’s a little bit of a surprise for our son.  We’ve been looking at boats, watching our favorite YouTubers.  Watching our ASA 101 lessons again so that this spring we can go take that test and get our 101 and 103 certifications.  I’ve been playing with the camera we got this summer, trying to build my photography skills.

               Christmas is right around the corner and we’ve being doing our own style of Advent.  It’s morphed over the years, but the last several years we’ve saved shoe boxes and filled them with candy, gift cards, announcements of big things that we will do over the remainder of the break.  We rotate who gets to open the boxes.  This year we added a bit of funny stuff too, like boxes of Jiffy Cornbread along with some candy.  In some of the boxes that were gift cards, we added bags of rocks, just to give them some heft.  The first “box of rocks” that was opened generated a bit of surprise…and maybe a little disappointment until the giftcard was discovered in the tissue paper.

               Advent over the years has morphed.  When our oldest struggled with the anticipation of Christmas, my wife had the brilliant idea of hanging snowflakes around the house.  Each snowflake had a family activity for the evening, something for him to look forward too.  It made the Christmas season a bit easier, not a lot, but just a bit.  Enough that we were all able to enjoy it, for the most part.  From there it turned into small gifts, and eventually into what I just described.  I think one year we bought an Advent calendar from Starbucks and put the activities in each of the little tins that made up the calendar.

               As I write this, we are four days from Christmas.  There are four boxes left under the tree and every day, there’s a bit of excitement around the house as we all joke that it’s our day to open the advent box.  It’s a bit of fun and it’s a tradition that we have held onto over the years.  It might have changed, but even when we are celebrating Christmas on boat, whether it be in the Caribbean or Norway, I’m sure we’ll have something along these lines that we do to celebrate the season.  The surface of the tradition will change, but the tradition of having something to mark the days to Christmas won’t change.

               There are a few other traditions that we will keep too.  Christmas breakfast no doubt.  I tried once to do something different, it didn’t go well for me.  It didn’t feel like Christmas when I had a different breakfast.  For as long as I can remember, we had a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole for breakfast on Christmas.  Always with cheddar cheese.  One year I made it with pepper jack…it wasn’t the same.  So, we went back to the way it was the next year.  It became such a tradition for the boys that the first time I made it when it wasn’t Christmas, they both looked at me and said, “Why are we having this?  It’s not Christmas.” 

               As I think back over the years, we’ve created a lot of fun experiences with our traditions.  One that was always a lot of fun was to marathon the Lord of the Rings Trilogy over the course of a day and a half.  Usually, I would get up and do some baking in the middle of it, with some help from the boys.  But they loved to sit there watch the adventure of Frodo and Sam.   

               Traditions help us mark time and days of importance.  The surface of the tradition might change, but the meaning and the underlying substance will remain the same.  Change happens it’s a function of life.  Traditions help us cope with change, even when the change is self imposed.


I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write this week.  It’s been busy, and I’ve been struggling a little bit to develop a topic.  Really, with sailing season in the Rockies over till the spring, work is limiting travel, etc. about all we are left with is selling things in terms of getting ready.  I’ve already written a lot about selling stuff, so no need to expand on how that’s going.  However, having said that, we did sell a couch and love seat.  Honestly, it was time for it to go anyway.  It was worn out and time for a new home.  So we moved the other couch set we have to replace that one.  When we did that, it left a big open space in the basement…which our youngest promptly claimed as his bedroom!  Why not let him have it?

So that leaves an empty room…it also prompted the need for a dresser, so my chest of drawers was emptied and moved downstairs.  That leaves a giant open spot in our bedroom.  Just an empty wall.  Those empty spaces have made things a little more real about where we are headed.  It has prompted some fear too about what we are planning.  I mean seriously…living on a boat!  What the hell?!  Who does that!  Who quits their job and travels the world with half of the income that you’ve been accustomed to bringing in? 

After all, we have a good life, we really do.  A nice house, good job.  Kids are happy.  By most standards of any culture created by the agricultural revolution we are in a good spot.  We have a lot of incentive not to change what we are doing.

Fear can be a good thing.  Fear helps to keep us safe.  In his book, The Gift of Fear (this link will take you to Amazon), Gavin De Becker talks about how fear can be used to keep us safe from dangerous situations.  When you have that feeling in your gut as you approach your car, or something just doesn’t feel right when you are talking to someone, your gut or sense of fear is trying to tell you something in order to keep you safe.  Much of his work is about safety from violence, but at the same time, there are some aspects of it that can be extended beyond just violence.

 Fear can keep us safe from a variety of things.  Climbing too high on a rock without any safety gear, driving too fast on the highway, walking up to a strange dog in the neighborhood.  But at the same time, those signals of fear can also keep us from moving out of our comfort zone too.  I remember when I signed up for my first Spartan Race, the waiver basically says you are doing this knowing full well that you could get injured or even killed in the race.  I had heard stories about Tough Mudders, and people drowning in the mud pit.  There was some genuine fear as I headed into the race for the first time.  Even when I was in the race, there was an obstacle that was cargo netting draped over two container boxes stacked on top of each other.  I was afraid when I looked at the climb and across to the next set of container boxes. 

But I pushed through that fear to accomplish finishing the race.  Was it in record time?  No.  But I finished and I did something outside of my comfort zone.  What I learned from that is that I could let fear keep me comfortable and safe.  Or I could push myself, face the fear, knowing that I was reasonably ready for the race and that while I had heard horror stories, there were things that I could do to prevent those from happening to me.

I try to remember this when I look at those empty spaces in the house.  We are taking steps to keep safe when we move aboard.  We are taking sailing lessons.  We are learning how to operate a sailboat, and what safe conditions are.  When we move aboard, we will likely hire a sailing coach for a period of time to help us learn the ins and outs of life on the ocean.  Much of the fear that I am experiencing is really about the unknown.  There’s a lot of unknown.  I know the path that the traditional life holds.  You can pretty well predict what’s going to happen.  Sure, there are some unknowns, but overall, there are some safe bets.  The house gets paid off.   We retire. The kids get jobs.  Maybe there are grandkids, maybe not.  There are some pretty safe bets.  Some of those will happen regardless of what we do, living on a boat or living in a house.

 But there are some things, I can about guarantee that will never happen if we live in a house.  Swimming with blue whales probably won’t happen.  Sure, we could plan a trip to Tonga and do that, but the expense of getting there makes it a pretty safe bet that we wouldn’t get there.  Rounding Cape Horn will never happen if we are living in house.  Will it happen if we are in a sailboat? I actually don’t know, but there’s a better chance that it will.  Scenery changing routinely probably isn’t going happen either.  You know what else won’t happen living on a boat?  The comfortable routines of going to work, coming home and watching the evening news, then reading a book or playing a game on my phone.  Those kinds of things are comfortable, there is comfort in the routines of our day to day lives.  I think a lot of making this change to is about facing the fear of doing something that isn’t typical, that doesn’t contain the every day routines. 

Fear can be good.  It can keep us safe. But it can also be limiting.  Fear can keep us from having experiences that broaden our horizons and perspectives.  I want to see new things and I want my kids to have some different perspectives on the world.  Facing fear is the only way to make that happen.

It’s all about perspective…

Sailing season in Colorado is over.  The weather has been beautiful, but boats need repair and you just never know when snow is going to fly, so November is the end of sailing. We have one lesson left in the 101/103 series, but we’ll get to finish up in the spring.  In the meantime, we will review for the written tests that we will be able to take in March.

Last week, we headed out to a local state park to walk around and take some pictures.  While we were there, I took a picture of the reservoir, which had a fair amount of small waves being whipped up by the wind.  In Wyoming wind is almost a constant, okay, not really, but the wind does blow a lot here.  As we were walking around the wind had a bit of a chill in it.  After a little bit, we decided we wanted to get out of the wind and headed out of the park. 

Is it the ocean, a reservoir, a pond? It all depends on your perspective I guess!

The experience got me to thinking a bit about perspective.  On a Friday afternoon, we wanted out of the wind.  It was getting unpleasant, not terrible but unpleasant.  Then I thought about the days that we went sailing and the topic of discussion was invariably how much wind would there be.  Are we looking at 5 knots, 10 knots, 15?  How much is there going to be, and I hope we get some good wind. 

Now you know from my previous posts that many of those days we learned a lot, even if there was minimal wind.  We did have some good wind a couple of times, but more would’ve been nice.  Our perspective on those days was that wind was good, because of our activity.  Friday night, wind wasn’t so great walking by the water.  We would’ve liked a little less.

Your perspective can be driven by your circumstances.  You can look at things one way because of your circumstances, it’s pretty easy to do.  But you can also make choices about perspectives, of course there are some limitations there, but in reality, if you want to put a positive spin on something, there’s a way to find it.  You can have a positive outlook on less than desirable circumstances and still try to make changes.  You can be in the middle of squall in the ocean, work to get out of the squall, and still appreciate that you are on the ocean.  You can have a rough time at work, look for a new job, and still appreciate that you are employed.  Remaining positive about current circumstances is not mutually exclusive from changing those circumstances.

We appreciated wind when we were sailing…we also appreciated the learning when we didn’t have wind and still hoped for a change in the wind.  Just like Friday night, we appreciated being in each other’s company and still wanted to get out of the wind.  It is funny though, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be wishing for wind…just not too much!