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Month: February 2017

Marlee’s Mermaid Birthday Party

Marlee’s Mermaid Birthday Party

Monday was a big day for our oldest, Marlee. On Monday she turned 6 years old! For several weeks prior to February 27, she had told us what she wanted for her birthday: a mermaid doll. What could be more perfect than a mermaid birthday for a little girl on a boat?

Since it’s not always easy or feasible to run to a store the night before a birthday for balloons or a cake, I tend to plan our families birthdays and holidays a couple months in advance. I want to make sure that no matter where we are, I’ll have a few goodies to make a certain day extra special. I had already bought both girls a little mermaid doll (one for the birthday girl and one for Hannah, to play with her sister) a couple months in advance, but what else could go with a mermaid themed party? I didn’t want to spend a lot, but I wanted it to be special. Here’s what I came up with, with plenty of help from Pinterest and Google!

I already had sparkly mesh ribbon in my sewing supplies, so I cut a runner for our table. I laid out some shells (we have so many!) and a silver beaded necklace on top. I put the girls presents in colored paper bags with colored tissue paper. I finished setting the table with small clear glasses and purple striped party straws plus pink polka dot napkins. I hung up a small string of Christmas lights (battery powered) in the cabin and voila! A mermaid themed party all ready for her to see when she woke up!

Happy Birthday Marlee!

For her birthday breakfast, I added metallic blue and purple sprinkles to the pancake batter and cut up a carton of strawberries. Even though I keep cake mix and frosting on hand, I don’t tend to make it for our birthdays because there’s just not enough of us to eat a whole cake (even one made in an 8×8 pan). So we are creative in finding something to put a candle in. Marlee’s birthday pancakes were the perfect fit for her number 6 birthday candle.

She adored her blue mermaid doll! I also tucked in her bag a package of gum, sparkly blue and purple nail polish and the My Little Pony doll she got in the mail from her grandma.

Marlee’s birthday day was  all planned out. We needed to go to a few stores, so we took a ride to a dinghy dock attached to a restaurant. We split up to go to a couple of stores then met back at the restaurant for lunch.

The dinghy ride

Of course, their new dolls had to join us for the fun! By the time we were both done shopping, we were starving. The restaurant served fresh seafood and also burgers, hoagies, hot dogs and fries. It was a popular place.

The inside of the restaurant

We had one more surprise for Marlee before going home. Just a few minutes walk from the restaurant was Funderdome, an indoor playground for the whole family. The girls were thrilled!

 

Since it was a Monday afternoon, we practically had the place to ourselves. There was a section for older kids and a designated play area for children three and under. Perfect for little Haven! It really was a treat for the whole family!

 

We went back to the boat ready to rest, but I still had a few more surprises up my sleeve. For dinner we had “Mermaid macaroni and cheese” with tropical fruit and “ocean juice” (blue Gatorade).

Marlee just loved her mermaid birthday and goodies. We loved being able to lavish on her, our beautiful, bright and curious 6 year old!

 

Hopping Down Florida’s East Coast + Living the Slow Life

Hopping Down Florida’s East Coast + Living the Slow Life

Cruising with our friends on m/v Wanderer

We left Fort Matanzas, taking one day at a time, and made our way south down Florida’s east coast, relishing the slow life. We anchored for one night in Daytona, then stopped for a day in Titusville, a quick rest in Melbourne then on to Vero Beach.

Stretching our legs on land

In Titusville, we were close to the Kennedy Space Center and debated paying to go visit, but with two adults, three kids, two cab rides and food- the price for an outing with the family quickly became cost prohibitive, so we did what we are learning to do best- find what’s free.

After stopping in Titusville for a few groceries and some frozen yogurt, our next stop was Vero Beach. The town touted a free public bus system, a beautiful beach, parks and fun playgrounds. We couldn’t wait to explore.

The first afternoon we arrived, we went straight to the beach. We were so pleased to find it was only a short walk through a neighborhood to get to the beach front. Upscale shops and restaurants lined the beach front streets. The water was sparkling deep turquoise and blue. The sound of the waves was absolutely intoxicating. We had finally found the beach! Coming down the east coast of the United States, this was only the second time we had visited a real beach- the last was in Virginia! It had been way too long since we had a large expanse of shore to run, walk and play. To really feel our feet sink in the sand and tickle our toes. To breathe in such fresh ocean air. There is nothing like it.

The beach!!

We knew right away we really liked this little beach town. Almost everything we needed was a 10- 15 minute walk away, which we have found is rare. Most communities here in the US aren’t made for people who need or want to walk. Upon coming into a port town, we’d look up the nearest grocery store or market. Typically they would be about a mile away, sometimes less, but sometimes even more than that. Since we don’t have a car, that’s at least one hour of walking there, then an hour of walking back, while carrying groceries back too. It became a frustrating reality: most places were just too far away to walk.

But walking is something I have grown to love. Really love. When putting my two feet to the earth, one in front of the other, finding my way to the nearest store or park, I realize I am free. I am free in a way all the drivers I pass can never be. I am not above them or above the traffic, I am beneath it. I can slip by all the noise, the lights, the lines of cars, waiting, waiting, and I can go when everyone else must stop. I can be slow when everyone else must be fast. I can notice the trees, the flowers, the rocks under my feet as I go past. I don’t miss them the way the cars do. I can hear the birds overhead, notice the cracks in the old brick building, feel the wind across my face. I get to know a place this way. I get to feel it. I get to walk across it, being fully present.

I don’t think I’ll ever want a car again.

A tree we found walking through a neighborhood

Every other day, after doing chores on the boat, we’d slather everyone with sunscreen, load up our backpack with hats, water and snacks and zip to the dock in our dinghy ready to walk to the beach. One day we stopped at a little pizzeria near the beach. A perfect afternoon!

Dancing!

Marlee’s sand castle
Being buried

We live a slow, unhurried life dictated by only two things: our desires God has put in us and the weather. Some people have told me that’s a little too much freedom. We don’t know where we’ll be next week or what we’ll be doing. We don’t have a schedule, no one to meet, no deadline. We’ve had to remind ourselves of this as we’ve traveled. We’ve had to remind ourselves to relax, take a breath, and not to rush. But switching to this frame of mind instead of the one we came from, the one most people encounter, takes a little practice. Learning to lean on God, our instincts, and the changing winds does not come naturally.

Sometimes I worry that the slowness is really just aimlessness. Do we really know where we’re going? Stopping for a few extra days (or weeks) in one place always feels a little scary. Will we ever pull up anchor? But in time I’m learning how to really enjoy each moment for what it is. Staying still, traveling, stormy winds, calm seas, having fun or washing laundry. And I’m still learning.

The slower life is not always the easier life either. Pulling up anchor in the middle of the night, waking up to stormy winds blowing your belongings off the deck, groceries soaked by the salt spray as you dinghy back to the boat…it’s all part of it.

But braving the challenges and relaxing into this slower way of life has been more than worth it.

The sunrise one morning over Riverside Park

 

 

 

 

Repairing a Caframo Bora 3 Speed Fan

Repairing a Caframo Bora 3 Speed Fan

In the world of cruising boats, Caframo fans seem to be praised as the most efficient fans out there, however they seem to have short life spans.  We have four such fans on our boat, and when we moved aboard none of them worked.  I’m mechanically inclined but no engineer by any means, however at $60/each I was compelled to at least take one apart and see if I could fix it.  What harm could it do?

Well, I managed to fix all of them!  The culprit seems to be in the circuit board. Perhaps when the bearings rust a little bit, it puts too much load on , and it fries.  Removing the circuit board and bypassing it with a manual switch worked for all of them.

  1. Unscrew the four screws holding the cage on the back, and with an 8 mm ratchet loosen the nut that holds the fan to the motor shaft.  It only needs about 1/4 turn and the fan will come off the shaft.
  2. Unscrew the two screws that hold the motor to the housing (only one visible in picture), and the two screws that hold the cable to the housing.
  3. Pull the motor out; the circuit board is soldered to the motor.  With a soldering gun heat up the solder one side at a time to soften it, and pry the board off the motor.  Go ahead and clip and strip the positive and negative leads on the cable.  You can discard the black plastic spacer that is behind the circuit board.
    Clearly the problem here is with the circuit board!
  4. Re-attach the fan to the shaft. This helps stabilize the motor while you are soldering, and allows you to test the leads to make sure the fan is blowing the right direction.  Connect the + and – leads to each of the motor terminals, with power applied, air should be blowing towards the wire.  Solder them in place or if you have the right connectors you can use them.
  5. If the motor sounds bad when you applied power, try some PB blaster on the bearings up and a follow up with a drop of oil.  They are easy to get to with the circuit board out of the way and the fan off of the shaft.
  6. Since we discarded the circuit board the grey button just rattles around inside of the housing.  Before re-assembling glue it in place to stop this.
  7. Re-assemble the fan and place a switch on the + side to switch the fan on and off.  This takes away the multi-speed capabilities of the fan, but its simple and I could do it with parts found locally.  You could order a rheostat ($10-15) if you want variable speed, but for us this would have meant ordering parts and coming up with a housing to mount it inside of, it’s also more expensive!
  8. Turn it on, pop open a cold drink and enjoy saving $60!

 

 

Cost of Cruising: Our January 2017 Budget

Cost of Cruising: Our January 2017 Budget

It is halfway through February, but I am finally finishing this post on how our budget fared in January. In January we decidedly changed one thing about our budget: we would stop docking at marinas! We spent too much on marina fees in December, and we knew we could not keep that up. Since January 1st, we have not stayed at one marina or even a mooring field. We have been very happy with this decision and we know it has saved us money and caused us to learn how to live on a boat more sustainably.

Our beautiful view at anchor

Our month of January was mostly spent anchored in St. Augustine, Florida. It was the longest we had stayed in one place, and we also had the ability to pick up packages from a friend’s marina, so we were taking advantage of that and ordering things we needed while we were there. We were also in St. Augustine recertifying our life raft, so January was a “big” month for expenses, unfortunately. Three things to keep in mind for our budget: 1) We put aside about $10,000 to spend on major expenses, like the life raft, to get us started in this lifestyle. We finished spending that amount in January. 2) We jumped into living aboard and traveling right away instead of working and outfitting the boat while on land, as many do, so our budget reflects that, and 3) We are a family of five with growing children!

Ready to explore downtown St. Augustine

We are hoping that we can learn how to live off of less than what we are right now. I’ll be honest, I’m sure we’ve spent more than we sometimes needed to, just because this is all so new for us! We are learning what we need and what we don’t need, and how to get by without things that we were used to.

Here’s how we did:

All amounts are in US dollars.

Dock fees $10.00 – This was for one day to tie up our dinghy at the municipal dinghy dock in St. Augustine. This fee also allowed us access to showers and laundry facilities. (We still had to pay for the laundry machines).

The art district

Groceries $1,085.31 – We had access to a car in St. Augustine, so we made a trip and spent a few hundred dollars more on extra provisions.

Laundry $44.25 – Laundry was a little more expensive there.

Cell phone $84.72 – This is for one phone plus unlimited data.

Eating out/Entertainment $105.47 – This is slightly higher than what we normally spend, but still good in my book. We did not pay for one museum in St. Augustine (and there are many!) so we were pleased with the fun things we did that didn’t cost anything. It would have been easy to spend a lot of money there, but we are glad we didn’t.

Couldn’t pass up Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar!

Gas/Diesel $319.09 – We have motored on the same tank of gas since North Carolina, and finally refilled our tank in Florida. The gas is for our generator and dinghy engine.

Hosting service for our websites $12.74

Medical insurance $0 – Right now we are in between and are deciding what to do for insurance coverage.

Boat parts and maintenance $516.63 – We worked on a few boat projects and maintenance issues.

Misc items $173.75 – pillows, water jugs, cleaning products, matches and lighters, extra dental care items, a couple of clothing items and a present for a friend plus a few other random items falls into this category.

Total = $2,351.96

 

*Not included in this total is the recertification of our life raft which cost about $930 (still cheaper than buying a new one). And roughly $1,000 on items we felt would be necessary and fun for our lifestyle on a boat! This includes a stand-up paddle board, stinger suits and a climbing harness for the girls, flippers, a wet suit and snorkel gear for Mike, more natural sunscreen, spare parts for the boat, and an amazing wagon for walking with the girls and carrying provisions back to the boat.

We love our wagon!

Stayed tuned for our February budget soon!

 

 

 

Note To Self: Do Not Drop Stuff In The Bilge!

Note To Self: Do Not Drop Stuff In The Bilge!

The day before we left St Augustine, I was checking and topping off the oil.  I’m not sure why I did this, but I set the oil fill cap on top of the engine.  Shortly thereafter, I bumped into it and knocked it off the engine!

Fortunately it landed on a wiring harness, but in the process of fishing it off of there, it slipped down into the bilge.  If you remember from this post, the bilge is approximately 3 feet deep and sits directly below the engine.

Pretty much everything important falls into the impossible to reach zone.

Knowing this part could not be retrieved with a magnet this time (it’s plastic), I decided I would just buy another one (and a couple of spares!)  Apparently I have the unicorn of oil fill caps, because it’s practically impossible to find, and if found is about $60 (!!!)  We came up with a makeshift solution that worked for a week or so, but I knew we’d have to do something soon.

The oldest trick in the book – “Aluminum foil oil cap”.

In the end I was able to retrieve it with a simple fishing net, but not without some more awkward positions!

Bilge diving, again.
The elusive oil fill cap!

 

On The “Road” Again! (And The Question We Keep Asking)

On The “Road” Again! (And The Question We Keep Asking)

Goodbye St. Augustine

After nearly a month, we finally left St. Augustine behind, ready to continue further south and venture into new areas. We didn’t intend on staying in St. Augustine for that long. It was the longest we had stayed anywhere since traveling. By the third week, I was feeling the drive to go.  The slow draw to remain comfortable was feeling very uncomfortable and my wandering heart was ready to say goodbye. St. Augustine wasn’t the place for us and we both knew it.

The main impetus to our delay was the recertification of our life raft. Our boat came with a life raft, a piece of emergency safety equipment intended to use if our boat sinks, but its recertification date had long expired and it needed to be updated. Getting it recertified meant that we could know, for a certainty, that it would work when we needed it, and that the provisions included with it were fresh. This is a huge expense, but a necessary one.

When you think of a life raft, most likely you’re thinking of a large yellow inflatable inner tube, the kind you might see in movies like Captain Ron, but true life rafts are nothing like those. In fact, they are quite impressive! It has a tent to keep the sun and rain off, stabilizers around the bottom, a door that can roll up or close and drinkable water on board. This one can hold six adults, so it would be plenty of room for our family.

A picture of the life raft we have on board, fully opened

It took a couple of weeks and a long drive into Jacksonville, but we finally got our life raft, updated and ready to attach to our deck in case of an emergency. Hopefully, we will never have to use it, but we have peace of mind knowing that it is there.

One of the best treasures we found in St. Augustine was not a particular place, but people! Erica and Scott and their two children had become good friends, so when they asked if we would like to travel with them south at the end of the month we said yes! Unfortunately, the day we were to leave was the beginning of another cold snap, but that day finally came for us to pull up anchor and follow m/v Wanderer down the ICW. Our first stop: Fort Matanzas. (Follow Erica and Scott “The Boat Fam” on IG @theboatfam and YouTube!)

Hello m/v Wanderer

It felt good to be moving again. It felt good to feel the power of the engine and the movement of the boat through the calm water. It felt good to gather my girls in the cockpit and help them with their school workbooks while we ate snacks and watched for dolphins. It felt good to help Mike at the helm, watching the horizon in front of me, feeling the wind in my face and seeing the changing landscape pass by me. It felt good to be traveling. And by the afternoon, we were at our destination- an anchorage near a hundreds-of-years-old fort.

Fort Matanzas is on an island and is part of the National Park Service. From their website, “Coastal Florida was a major field of conflict as European nations fought for control in the New World. As part of this struggle, Fort Matanzas guarded St. Augustine’s southern river approach…” We were looking forward to visiting this monument, but sadly the ferry service taking visitors to the fort was closed when we arrived. Even though we could have easily driven our dinghy to where the fort was, that was actually a violation, since you could not step foot on the island without being accompanied by a park ranger!

Instead, we stopped with our friends to a nearby sandy shoreline and explored.

Fort Matanzas

Easy does it!
Light is good for the soul

It was cold but the sun had finally shown brightly. The light was warm and refreshing. The beach was open and inviting. The children ran and inhaled fresh salty air. It was good for everyone, and a great first day of traveling after having been still for so long.

Wild and free!

Where will our journey lead us?

In the morning, we’ll pull up anchor and set out again. We’ve come so far now, and as we head farther south, this question keeps coming to the surface of our hearts: where will our journey lead us? Where is God directing us and why? There is so much goodness in God’s natural world, so many wonderful people we’ve met so far, but there is more our hearts long for. We long to be fully saturated in the will of God, and to help others know the wonderful truth about him. We long to glorify God by finishing the work he has for us to do.

We don’t want to waste this time he’s given us. There is too much at stake. Since our moving aboard in November, we have learned one thing: we are not content to be tourists. We have been given this beautiful gift of time and travel, and we want to know that we have spread the knowledge of him around the landscape of this earth like a fragrant aroma slowly spreading itself throughout a whole house. But how will that be accomplished? What form will that take?

As our journey continues, so does the shaping of our desires. As the miles keep passing, so does the time that we know is so short. As our days are filled, so are our hearts in his word. And so we ask…

Where will our journey lead us?