June 5, 2017

Are You Settling In? Do you miss the boat?

Are You Settling In? 
Do you miss the boat?

We’re asked this a lot. And I think the questions mean something different to every person who asks. In some cases people assume that we’ve given up an indolent life of beaches and BBQ’s to embrace one where we need to get up everyday, on a schedule, and wear shoes (just like everyone else, sucker.) Other people are curious about how we’re navigating the changes in cultures and values, or settling into expensive urban living, or simply staying warm. Behind every question is a bit of ‘why on earth would you give that up?’ combined with ‘I knew you’d come back.’
At anchor on Raiatea
So, ya, we miss the boat. But maybe not for the reasons you might imagine.

Long ago, during one of our forays into shore life, we realized that separating our life into sailing and not sailing was a false divide. There are absolutely some big differences; we’re not floating, we’re not able to sail to windward and the neighbours we go to sleep next to are typically still there when we wake up. But the big things that we love about cruising; friendship, living simply, exploration and adventure aren’t boat dependent, they’re actually lifestyle choices.
Walking donkey's with the first female governor of St Helena
Over our 16-years onboard we’ve had lots of conversations, with a lot of different types of people, about what makes life aboard special. For many people it came down to the fact that living aboard is an uncomplicated way to live intentionally. Simply put, cruising is a lifestyle that emphasizes connection and shies away from consumerism. It’s just easier to spend time with your neighbours and not glorify consumption when 1) you and your neighbours have time for each other and 2) there’s nothing to actually buy (and nowhere to put it).
a few of the amazing friends cruising brought into our lives
Some of my most-loved cruising moments are the connections we’ve made with people we might not have ever met. We’ve had the chance to befriend a much wider circle of friends than we might otherwise have: how else could I have ended up with friends who range in age from teen-ish to 70ish and who come from almost every continent in the world? Another thing I grew to love were the spontaneous gatherings that came together organically. One of my recent favourites was an Easter celebration for the boat kids in La Cruz:

Spontaneous dinner out
saying goodbye to our special life

Because several families were around, one of the mums offered to boil some eggs while another said she’d bring homemade dyes. This doesn’t sound too atypical for Easter—but from that casual offer, a complete party came about. Without any back-and-forth, or planning. Me and another mum bought chocolate to hide along with the eggs and came up with a simple craft. The older kids helped the younger kids without prompting and everyone spent the afternoon playing together. I couldn’t help but think that a similar ‘land’ party would need to be shoe-horned into busy lives and would probably be made stressful with way too many details.

Being too busy is one of the markers of modern adulthood and it’s the lifestyle choice we most want to avoid. It’s also the hardest one to avoid—because being busy is so wrapped up with our sense of being successful. The perception is if you have too much any free time on your hands, clearly you aren’t living a full life. But the full life we just spent eight years nurturing emphasized the value of spontaneity. I love spur of the moment adventures and find having to plan to make a plan is a bit soul destroying.
even a haircut is an adventure while cruising
The weird thing though is no matter how little time we have for each other, North Americans seem to have plenty of time to shop. I recently read that the US has 23.5 square feet of retail space per person (the next highest was16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in AustraliaEurope is down in the 2 foot range). Living space in much of Africa is less than this.
so much of what we bought over the past eight years came with a story
Happily, unlike avoiding becoming too busy to spend time with old and new friends—not shopping is an easy one for us. Currently we’re living in a furnished sublet—surrounded by someone else’s stuff (which turns you off of acquiring things in a big way). We’re also broke. So this means we’ve been turning to thrift shops and craigslist for everything we need and I can honestly say—we’re hooked.
Alma told me how molas are made and talked parenting with me
the Sri Lankan fishermen danced and sang after trading for fish
 I think in part it comes back to connection. Most of the shopping we did around the world was for food. A lot of that happened in traditional markets, but even if it was in a grocery store we often shopped with friends and got to know the shop clerks. Buying from craigslist means we have to interact a little bit more than you do in a normal store (I’m sure were not the only people who have had a decade-long friendship come out of a craigslist purchase) and as science has told us, connection makes us happy.

So there’s lots to miss about the boat—also lots not to miss (don’t miss those boat chores and I love flush toilets, easy access showers & washing machines). But the aspects that make living aboard so special for me aren’t just boat-life things. They’re just a little easier for boat people.

May 12, 2017

Learning to Landlub--what happens after you move ashore

What strikes me first about life back on land is how far away nature seems. I now know the day and time but have lost track of the phase of the moon and the rhythm of the tides. I haven’t noticed the constellations yet and half-wonder if they failed to follow us home.

We tracked Orion around the globe. In Australia, the constellation was tipped on its head—and went by the un-majestic moniker, Saucepan. He regained his upright glory by the time we reached the Caribbean. But we’ve now been back in Vancouver almost two weeks and I’ve yet to catch a glimpse of the great hunter.

It could be because of the rain—which has so far punctuated but not overwhelmed the sun. But even the daily weather moods are lost to me. Where we live, the sky is filtered through a canopy of trees. It's no longer an endless vista, where we could see approaching changes long before they arrived.

We can’t hear the wind, or sense the shifts and changes that are more a part of a day’s natural cycle than the clock we all use. How right it felt to get up when the light brightened the hatch above our bed; to finish the laundry before the afternoon breeze set in; to shop or do school in the cool of the morning before we moved into the leisure that comes when the bright heat makes the day grow languid.

There’s much to adjust to here—but there’s also so much stress about things that just shouldn’t matter. It was remarkably easy to smile through the adventure of having our car towed. To change our plans—knowing that no plan should be rigid. I think the woman I paid the giant-ass fee to (so much for a new bed this month…) was surprised to have someone happy to deal with.

We’ve also been through more hoops than expected to get Maia back in school. But when the District Principal told me he bet I didn’t miss all the bureaucracy all I could think was how remarkably lucky we were to be in a place where so many people were invested in making sure my daughter received what she needed from the school—even if it did take three school board visits, two school visits, four phone calls and many, many hours…

There is so much to be captivated by now we’re back. We can take yoga classes on youtube, buy amazing new clothes at a second hand shop for almost nothing, there are FOUR gorgeous produce shops within a couple of blocks, there is still snow in the mountains and cherry blossoms in the trees. We’ve seen our families and Charlie the cat shows us each day how much he loves all his new space by racing from room to room meowing with enthusiam. Even at 4 am.

Houses are inefficient though. We have to be careful not to yell for each other now we’re spaced more than an arms span apart. And I end up walking from the fridge, to the sink, to the stove, to the table a long hallway away more than seems possible. And, of course, we can’t go to windward if the urge came to sail away.

May 9, 2017

Charlie the cat: Circumnavigator* extraordinaire

I’m not sure how many cats have sailed around the world—my guess is not that many. Even Charlie the cat gets a “*flew across the Pacific” added to his official circumnavigation certificate because of the way we opted to import him onto Australia.

But now that all of us (including Charlie!) are back home in Vancouver on solid land here’s a recap of having him aboard.

Usually people want to know if he’s still with us (yes!), what sailing with a cat is like, what documents he needs and how we manage to care for him. If pets aren’t your thing—skip this post. But if you wonder what it’s like to sail around the world from a feline perspective, read on.

Between Charlie and Travis the cat we’ve crossed two oceans, sailed over 40,000 miles and had pets on board in over 30 different countries. Which means we’ve been clearing cats in and out of countries and looking for (but not necessarily finding) cat food and kitty litter in a lot of interesting places.


Both our cats came aboard at young ages. We found Travis as a starving kitten in Mexico and he never really became a tame cat. He dove overboard to catch fish over 35 times (and required rescuing), sneaked out on deck during bad weather to catch flying fish, helped himself to our guest’s rum drinks, once stowed away on another boat for a holiday, broke into numerous boats, marred a good number of paint and varnish jobs and gave us the reputation of being the worst pet owners ever.

Charlie came aboard at a year old and completely redeemed our pet-raising credibility. He was nice to visitors, was a great night watch companion, didn’t realize he could actually get off the boat and roam the docks at marinas until our last stop in La Cruz, was never that fussy about food or had medical problems.

It may seem counter-intuitive—but for sailing cats, nervous home bodies may make the better companions.

Care and Feeding of Fluffy

Unlike North America—with its wide variety of pet food choices, cats in the rest of the world seem to subsist on Whiskas or Purina (and whatever they catch and kill for themselves). Charlie had a bad experience with a bag of Whiskas going moldy—so he mostly ate Purina.

A couple of times I tried to stock up on healthier (less filler) options—but be aware in the hot humid environment aboard a boat, even sealed bags of food don’t keep that well.

Charlie ate lots of fresh fish when it was available and, unlike 20-years ago when Travis was aboard, we found kitty litter often enough that we never ran out. Typically though we bought enough food and kitty litter to last until we would reach to a country where we knew we could get more.

One thing that did surprise us (which shouldn’t have) was how much more water Charlie drank. Especially when we had sailed into the Southern Hemisphere but some odd biological signal told Charlie it was time to grow his winter coat in October—he was really thirsty then.

Sea Sick Cats and Other Perils

In most respects Charlie is a great boat cat. He’s super cautious—so unlike Travis the cat we’ve never found him on the foredeck trying to catch flying fish while we were underway. And he only learned about visiting other boats when we got to La Cruz (bad kitty). He did catch a couple of bats over the years—which made us glad we kept his rabies up to date. But he never showed any interest in rum drinks or beating up our guests—including officials, which we think is good.

The only thing that Charlie the cat did that concerned us was get seasick on the first day of a passage. So when we head out—he doesn’t get breakfast. And if he looks sad and starts to pant or drool we get a rag handy. Other than that he’s pleasant to have around—he’s sweet and cuddly and moderately playful. For those who knew Travis—we think of Charlie as our reward for having given him a good home.

Clearing In to Foreign Countries

Charlie was micro chipped and given a big fat file of impressive looking paperwork when we imported him into Australia. We covered what was involved in bringing Charlie into Oz in another post—so this is more general. Most places don’t really care about Charlie. We don’t hide him away—but we only bring him up if we’re asked directly if we have a pet onboard. Then we pass along his paperwork for perusal.

One complication we’ve found is that while countries may want up to date medical records it’s hard to find places to take pets to get their vaccines updated without potentially exposing them to other pets with illnesses you don’t want to encounter. He did see vets in Australia and South Africa for updates. But for most countries just the volume and official-ness of the paper was enough and even though we got him his updated vaccines and a health certificate in Mexico neither the US nor Canada seemed concerned.

Shedding and General Hassle

Charlie was an excellent boat cat—and other than the Australia importation bit he was affordable to have aboard. For reasons known only the universe Charlie shed way more than the extremely fluffy Travis. Part of it may have been he never did manage to sort out his winter/summer coat schedule and seemed to always try and grow a winter coat at funny times. The result though was our boat often seemed hairy inside. But, if you like pets you learn to tolerate it.

We also found that it was pretty easy to find him pet sitters when we wanted to go places (lots of sailors crave kitty time). He does fairly well on his own for up to two nights. But in hotter weather is was important to have someone checking the boat’s temperature and making sure he had enough water.

For the record it turns out Charlie is also an excellent road tripper. He loved the hotel rooms on the trip up to Canada and was pretty patient with his box time. Let me know what else you like to know!

April 19, 2017

Travels with Charlie--preview

Packing up
By popular demand (Charlie was actually next on the list) this is a teaser for my next post.

April 18, 2017

An Only at Sea

Our cool Sarah Steenland comic--we're not done with boats, it's just time for a little landlubbing
Over the years we’ve had a lot of different questions come up—and for the next while I thought I’d try and reflect back on some of the big ones that we were asked about most often (between prepping the boat to sell, moving back to Canada, finding a place to live, going back to work, traveling to Ireland and getting Maia sorted for school—so bear with me). 

What’s it Like Having an Only Child on a Boat?

It used to surprise us but there are a LOT of only kids out here. In some ways it’s probably just a reflection in the rise in single families in general (20 percent of US households with children are one-child families) but it’s also easier to hit the traveling sweet-spot age-wise when you only have one child to take into consideration.

This means that through the years I’ve been fortunate enough to touch base with lots of one-child families. We’ve had the chance to compare notes on how our kids are doing, what challenges we face and what the positives are:
through the years Maia's become a more than capable crew

Do you have to constantly entertain your kid?

Maia was seven when we left and was an avid reader with a very busy imagination. She’d also already been an only child for a while ;) and was pretty awesome at entertaining herself. There were times when I would have rather read my book than read her another chapter of hers, and I may have played a few board games I might not have played otherwise, but I think this is on par for most parents. I don’t have the alternative to compare her to, but it seemed like she was pretty self-sufficient. (Plus Evan loved playing play-do with her ;)

Did she get lonely?

Lonely happens for almost everyone who is social and who sails. Sometimes we’ve been out of season, or just had the urge to do something different from the crowd—and there’s been no one to share it with. Usually we enjoy the time where we’re a family of three—but as Maia got older she felt the need to have friends around more often. Fortunately if you stick with common cruising routes it's not hard to find kids. With some planning it’s even possible to have long term friends. We're almost always with 'kid boats' in Mexico and crossed the Pacific in the company of a couple of dozen families. We were off-season in Indonesia so had a couple of months with only a few kids here and there, but crossed the Indian Ocean and explored South Africa in company. So in our eight years we planned our routes so we spent more time more time with other kid boats, than without.

What about shyness?

Maia is reserved by nature and it’s a constant effort for her to put herself out there. She’s also a bit introverted so she takes a while to warm up. But over time she’s learned she has to make an effort and that age and gender aren’t that big a factor. Currently in La Cruz there are about 20 kids from 5-17 and they roam around as big happy bunch. They split off into smaller groups more by interest than anything.
thanks to the wonder of the internet--this fabulous Fijian family is still in our lives
 What about meeting local folks?

One of the things we discovered is that as a small family is that we had a lot of opportunities open up to us. I think it's easier for a local family or person to make an invitation to a small family for dinner or a stay in their home or for another cruising family to take along one extra kid on a special outing. We often discovered people were happy to adopt the three of us (or just Maia) and Maia has stayed in contact with people she’s met from all over the world.

This year we plan to get the 'band' back together with a reunion with some of the best people in the world
 Do you think changing locations and intermittently hanging-out with other kids could make it hard to maintain long-term relationships?

I think it could—we do know kids who don't seem to bond really well—but these have often been kids in larger families who don't necessarily have the flexibility to change plans to nurture each child’s friendships. In Maia's case she still has some of the friends she made as an 8-year-old (now 15). Most friendships last a season or more—so 6-8 months and as she’s gotten older she’s used social media to stay in contact with the friends she really connected with. I think one of the tougher discoveries for her was realizing that some friendships just don’t last—even when you have geography in your favour.

 What are the best ages for an only afloat?

I’d say from the time they can read until they say they’re done—broad, I know. Last year I was certain we kept going too long—but seeing her and the other 15-17 year old boat kids this year, I think it was worth riding out her 13/14th year aboard. More importantly, she's happy she stuck it out. I think the transition from 12-15 is hard no matter where you are and in many ways being aboard gave her the freedom to grow-up at her own pace. Part of it though is we are currently with an incredible group of families and kids. There have been a good number of older teens and they are a remarkably happy, well-adjusted, socially conscious, super nice bunch. Being somewhere long enough for them to become  involved in the local community has also been a gift. They've been volunteering in a variety of things around town here.

How has cruising been for your family?

We've grown into a very close, happy, playful family and have learned to keep an eye on how each of us is doing (we’re not always happy and playful). It's always been a group decision to keep going from one year to the next. We love the times when there are fewer people around and have great memories of things just the three of us do. This contrasts nicely with when we're in bigger harbours with heaps of families because those become social whirlwinds. It's often a relief to go to sea just to have family time.

What else?

This all said—Maia is still an only child—and it's been pretty essential she develop solitary hobbies. Fortunately she’s had no problem with this. I actually think it's helped her thrive—she's shy and reserved by nature—but a childhood afloat is a pretty gentle and freeing one so I think she's much more outgoing because of it.

I'd also hazard the guess that Maia has had way more sleepovers, dinners with friends and hours of unstructured play time than your average North American kid. A typical day usually includes school to about 1 or 2pm and then the kids are gone until dinner, or longer.

March 27, 2017

Ceilydh is for sale !

Ceilydh is a well equipped and affordably priced 40 foot cruising catamaran. She's in great condition and is ready to help you to fulfill your sailing dreams. Asking price: 

$108,000 USD. 

Lots more photos and details here: http://ceilydh.wixsite.com/cat4sale

 After a successful 8 year, 31 country circumnavigation our growing teenage daughter is ready to finish high school on land. Built in Canada in 1987, the hull and deck are made with Klegecell PVC foam core and laminated with biaxial stitched/mat fiberglass. The vessel was extensively refitted and had a diesel engine and bridgedeck cabin and cockpit constructed from vacuum bagged Corecell foam core, triaxial stitched fiberglass, and epoxy resin. This was added in 2008.

Major equipment:  Yanmar 3GM30F 27 HP diesel in port hull, Tohtatsu 6 HP Sailpro (manoeuvring thruster motor) stbd hull. Quick Windlass, 45 Manson Boss anchor, A130 Spade Anchor, FX37 Fortress anchor. 550 watts solar panels. All self tailing winches. Spectra 16 GPH watermaker. Whirlpool gas instant water heater. Propane BBQ. Diesel heater. Iridium Go satphone/internet device. JRC radar. Two autopilots. 10’ RIB with 15 HP Yamaha outboard. Main, genoa, staysail, spinnaker. Harken furlers for genoa and staysail.

Located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico we'd like to sell her as an offshore purchase (just outside Mexican territorial waters). We're also willing to discuss a delivery to US west coast ports. Should you fly to Mexico and buy the boat, we'll defray the cost of travel up to $1000 USD, by deducting your expenses from the final purchase price.

We want you to start off with confidence and will provide up to three days of handover/instruction at the time of purchase. We look forward to hearing from you.

March 8, 2017

We need your help!

We have a paint job!

As we get ready to sell the boat, we're painting the entire outside and lots of the inside. It was frankly, time, especially for the exterior.

But our current hull wavy stripe paint scheme might not appeal to all potential buyers - so we are asking your help. Please email us or post in the comments section which is the hull stripe scheme you think would appeal to most buyers.

The bridgedeck cabin on our boat is a bit tall (I'm 6'-1") and has pretty good clearance above the water. The hulls are low and sleek. Which makes the cabin a bit bulky looking. So the best stripe scheme will help minimize this too.

- Evan

March 6, 2017

Passing the Baton—Puddlejump Fleet of 2017

One of the coolest aspects of being back in La Cruz has been having a chance to get to know the fleet of 2017 (plus a whole lot of other boats). Having made it the whole way round, and still smiling, gives us a perspective that a lot of the crews here don’t have yet. We didn’t fall off the edge, get swept up in storms, we weren’t captured by pirates and didn’t succumb to dragons.

And we managed to eat well, the whole way around.

As I mentioned before, in many ways, La Cruz is our ‘home’ port. We first spent an extended stay here in 1997 and over the years we’ve built up a little network of local friends and favourite things which make it clear that even when we don’t have a boat down here—we’ll still find our way back.

The kids thanking Cat for all the great things she puts together for them
burgee painting--to let other kids know there are children aboard
Our pivotal year here was 2011—the year we jumped. Between planning our Pacific Crossing with friends, buying way more stuff than we needed to, and prepping the boat (while stressing more than we should have) we attended seminars and parties which were coordinated by Mike and Cat (PV Mike and La Cruz Marina Cat).

The kids ran a taco restaurant for the day, for tips. Afterward they were able to donate a portion of their tips back to the community.
I’m not sure the fleet here (or the management at Marina Nayarit for that matter) has any idea of the incredible wealth of skills, knowledge, energy and generosity that Cat and Mike bring to the community. They are the sort of quietly giving people who are easy to take for granted—despite the fact that between them they volunteer to coordinate and run dozens of free puddlejump and WWS seminars and workshops—something we haven’t encountered in any marina outside of La Cruz.

Evan and Darrell on Wiz running a hand-on fibreglass workshop

Their enthusiasm for getting the annual fleet educated and ready to go is inspiring. Thanks to them--hundreds of sailors leave here each year a little more confident and a lot better educated. Thanks to them we’ve been lucky enough to share our knowledge and experiences in over a half-dozen talks and seminars over the past two months including Pacific Provisioning, Hands-on-Fibreglassing, Being a Kid on a Boat (Maia), Repairs in Exotic Locations, Travel Writing and Ocean Routing.

Dozens of people came out to hear me and Deb on Coastal Drifter talk about how we provision-she's organized, I'm not.
The experience has been a blast (though super labour intensive—it takes a long time to plan a two hour talk…). As a family we’ve been able to go back through our memories and really savour them—thinking about the highlights, the challenges and the successes. From the memories we've been able to build up talks of lessons learned and ideas we want to pass along.

While the talks have taken a lot of time away from prepping the boat for sale—something that we need to keep at the forefront of our planning if we're ever going to get home. And from my writing work—I have so many cool stories on the go right now that I fell quite divided up. It has been an absolute honour to be part of other people’s dreams—if only in a small way.

Maybe that’s what keeps Mike and Cat giving so much of their time and energy to the fleet year after year—that chance to help someone else make their dream come true.

As always--along with the work, there's lots of fun
For us—the past couple of months have been a chance to give back. We've had the opportunity pay forward all the small moments where people helped us meet our goals and fulfill our dreams: It's almost like saying thank-you in reverse.

It takes a village to get a boat across an ocean—and La Cruz is still one of the best villages we know.