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Author: Brittany McCardle

Our Newest Adventure + Finding Meaning in Suburbia

Our Newest Adventure + Finding Meaning in Suburbia

Three months ago I shared our family’s thoughts and feelings about moving back to land life after full-time cruising. We revealed that transitioning to life on land was harder than we had imagined even though we were only gone less than a year, and that we weren’t ready to say goodbye to cruising. Just two days after posting that, I learned we would be going on a completely different kind of adventure- I was pregnant!

Soon, our lives and dreams of travel would be put on hold while we attempted to simply survive the beating that morning sickness dealt me. For the first time, I sought the reprieve that drugs could offer. I lay hopelessly useless on the couch, day after day, night after night, while I somehow managed three children during the day and tried to eat whatever I could tolerate. My husband took over everything he could while working full time, and I almost never left the couch in our living room. Mike shopped for groceries, cooked, cleaned, took the girls out of the house, brought me food, and helped put the girls to bed when climbing the stairs was too exhausting (or nauseating) of a task.

After moving back to Texas, we doubted whether we could truly enjoy life in the suburbs again, but I soon began to appreciate that I wasn’t on a boat dealing with this difficulty. I became grateful that I could send my girls outside and not have to worry about life jackets, that we had access to a store five minutes away (and a car), and I was outrageously grateful that I didn’t have to pump my toilet thirty times in order to flush it properly. If that were the case, no one would have survived my three months of morning sickness. Guaranteed.

Getting IV fluids at 12 weeks pregnant

At one point I was incredibly sick, and I begged Mike not to leave my side. I told him I needed to see a doctor. As much as I cringed at the thought of getting into a car, I knew I couldn’t sleep on the bathroom floor forever. I needed help. We drove to our favorite doctor in the country and I received IV fluids, a shot of strong anti-nausea medication and anti-nausea pills to take home. For the first time, I had some hope. I was soon feeling much better than before; I began my second trimester and was well on my way to recovery.

Now that I’m nearing month five of my pregnancy and the white-knuckle grip of nausea is finally loosening its hold, Mike and I are able to revisit many of the conversations we had after we moved here. Conversations that are helping us understand more about how we function as a couple and why we grieved so much after leaving our boat.

Through it all we’ve realized one thing: we’re not ready to settle down for good. Although we appreciate all that we have here: convenience, family, familiarity, we also still hear the faint call of the unknown. We dream of open shores, the cry of gulls, lungs filled with delicious clean air. Even new places on land, not just the sea, are calling to us. But when? How? Where?

We don’t feel quite ready to spread our wings again and fly to somewhere new, yet neither do we feel confident about pushing our roots down deep here. Squarely in the middle. Like this nine month period anticipating the arrival of a new baby, we are, as a family, in a state of expectant stillness. Still because we’re staying in one place, but expectant because we’re not closing the door for future travels either. We know this time of waiting and growing can one day birth an exciting new vision.

I’m amazed at how we are not alone in this. Over the course of the last year, I have discovered many communities who are inspiring and encouraging people in their quest for lives outside of office cubicles and well manicured neighborhoods. Unknown to the majority, there is a thriving sub-culture of families who are either planning, preparing or executing dreams of travel and adventure.

What is this movement we seem to be a part of?

Hannah in The Berry Islands, Bahamas

Just look up phrases like Vanlife, Worldschoolers, Fulltimers, and DitchingSuburbia and you’ll find large followings of young couples and young families who are trading in 401 K’s, home equity, and PTA’s for a life of full time travel, minimalism and alternative education at the very point in their lives when society tells them they should be establishing roots and climbing the corporate ladder.

That was us. We had a home in the country and a rental property that was nearly paid off, and we traded it all in for a million intangible treasures- memories and life experiences that have radically changed us. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

So what now? How do we find meaning and purpose here in the suburbs of a large city while we wait for the right time to fly? For now, we are preparing for another precious baby to join our adventures while we enjoy the respite a city we’ve known for more than 20 years brings. My husband and I are ironing out wrinkles in our relationship, the kind that become painfully obvious when we’re being stretched during travel. We’re taking the time to define and redefine our values, and asking ourselves if we’re consciously living by them. And if not, why? And we’re evaluating how to make our dreams of travel work long-term financially, emotionally and practically. We’re grateful that we have this nest, this home, to come to everyday, where we can safely dream and prepare for whatever may lay ahead.

This is where we are now. Holding on to the things that we have loosely, dreaming, growing and expecting!

The painting of Gromit sits on our mantle

 

Follow Brittany’s day to day land life on Instagram @spreadingmytent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Stopped Cruising (And Why We Can’t Wait to Cruise Again)

Why We Stopped Cruising (And Why We Can’t Wait to Cruise Again)

I remember the moment I started feeling really weary. We had spent some time in the more isolated and beautiful Berry Islands, Bahamas and were pulling up anchor to travel just to the other side of the island. It was the shortest trip we’d had up until that point, only three hours motor sailing to reach the next anchorage, but it was the worse passage yet. The waves were choppy, and the wind was at an angle that made our trip less than comfortable. Two of our three girls actually got sick from the motion we were experiencing. It was an uncomfortable three hours.

When we finally arrived at Hawk’s Nest Cay, the spacious anchorage was nearly as choppy as our sail. Dropping anchor helped of course, but this particular anchorage had poor protection from the wind coming in from the east. We went to Hawk’s Nest Cay to station ourselves for our passage to Spanish Wells, Eluethera, a passage we were planning on making the next morning with a buddy boat, s/v Totem. But the waves and my girl’s sea sickness pulled me down for the count. “Clean up on Gromit!” was the running joke, but in reality it caused me a great deal of stress.

We had been through choppy passages before. Two of our four days across the Chesapeake were very rolly and no one got sick then. I was cold and thankful for the dock, but had plenty of spirit to keep going. Now in the Bahamas, I was begging for a break. What changed?

Making our way down the east coast in December. Cold, but ready for anything! A pre-crawling Haven lays down at my side

It could be that our once little bundle of baby joy had recently blossomed into a curious climbing toddler, and now a sea sick one at that. I could have been feeling weary because our fridge stopped working, and I wasn’t prepared to be sans fridge in a remote island of the Bahamas. Also, our oldest daughter was increasingly having a hard time being away from her friends and grandparents in Texas, and I was silently grieving that my mom and sisters were missing out on Haven’s first year. It could be that I had lost the vision that propelled us out on this grand adventure in the first place.

Our first time as a family on Gromit in Edgewater, MD

But I could have been feeling weary simply because I needed a break, and maybe every cruiser just does at some point.

Whatever the reason, I was ready to just stop moving. I was looking forward to spending an indefinite amount of time in Spanish Wells, but we decided to stay a couple more days in that agitated anchorage to gather rest before moving on. And I’m so glad we did. We met another amazing cruising family on s/v Gone Walkabout (are there any who aren’t amazing?) who played happily with our girls and carried our baby on hips across the beach. We exchanged stories and bread recipes and I felt refreshed.

The two weeks we spent in Spanish Wells were also the reprieve we needed, and continues to be one of our favorite cruising destinations, but I still didn’t feel ready to take on new shores. Even after our two weeks there, I was ready for a more substantial break. We decided to make our way to Texas for the Summer, but somewhere between Spanish Wells and Green Cove Springs, Florida, my husband accepted a job in Houston and our plans for a break morphed into moving back home.

Having a relaxing picnic near our dock in Spanish Wells, Eluethera

It was a whirlwind Summer. We fell in love with a house just two days after stepping foot on Texas soil and began a contract to buy it. Mike went back to work, and we had to acquire or purchase everything all over again just one year after selling it all. Forks, plates, glasses, beds, work clothes, shoes (can’t be barefoot here)- everything. And to top it all off, we put s/v Gromit up for sale, an inevitability, we assumed.

But what were we doing? Were we really going back to a house, a job and life in the suburbs?

We had a newfound appreciation for the many things we went without while cruising, like daily showers, freezers, and washing machines, but the truth was we were having a hard time adjusting to life on land. Did we just give up on cruising forever? Did we make the right choice for our family? Did we rush into these decisions? We were grieving the loss of cruising, and grieving hard. It’s true that I loved seeing my little ones run around the house, loved seeing Haven have spaces to safely play and do things she hadn’t before, but every day was bittersweet.

Mike and I started having a series of honest conversations about our decisions, our future, our desires and our boat. We talked about everything we would have done differently, the attitudes that carried our decisions, the way we function as a couple, and what we loved about cruising. We underwent the difficult process of recognizing the less than healthy ways we handled fatigue and stress. It wasn’t easy, but it was life giving and healing for us during our time of transition and reflection.

The conversations led us to recognize that we didn’t want to sell Gromit, and we didn’t want cruising to be a thing of the past. Yes, cruising with children is not easy, there are sacrifices to be made, but we were far from ready to make land life permanent. We took Gromit off the market and for the first time felt a wave of hopeful anticipation wash over us.

Haven at the helm

Part time cruising and full time cruising are no doubt unique in their challenges and rewards. We cruised full time for 8 months and reaped the benefits: we grew as people and as a family, we acquired new skills, visited wonderful places and met incredible people. Now we’re ready to continue the adventure as we cruise part time throughout the year. We’ll have a home base here in Texas, but will take trips out on Gromit, traveling the coast of Florida and even possibly making the passage to Texas one day.

We’re SO excited to say that we’re not done with cruising just yet! Our feet are on solid ground for now, but we’re dreaming of our next adventure out on those salty seas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning of Space: Thoughts From a Former Tiny Home Mom

The Meaning of Space: Thoughts From a Former Tiny Home Mom

Since leaving our home in the country to live and travel on our 47 foot sailboat, I realized I had left behind something in that 1200 square foot house that I didn’t know had a purpose in my life: empty space.

It was obvious we were giving up empty space when we moved out of our house and onto our boat. We were trading our open floor plan home for a boat just big enough for five people to eat, sleep, cook, play, and travel in. We were forced to drastically simplify, and as overwhelming as it often was, we loved it. Every item given, sold or tossed was like a window opening allowing fresh air to flood our life. After months of sorting through every item in our home, every paper, every cluttered drawer and corner, we finally drove off that early morning in November to begin life on our boat with all of our belongings in the back of our Chevy Suburban. It was liberating. We turned our attention from building a house to building faith and from gathering things to gathering memories. We drove off with hope, energy, a countryside before us and a sea calling us.

In our house on land, I thought the empty spaces that filled the hallways, the doorways, and the corners of the rooms were just holes that attracted the gathering of miscellaneous clutter. These holes I thought were useless, I filled with things that weren’t part of my daily life but somehow still could not give up. I could easily hide a stack of papers in the corner to be sorted later, a box of knick-knacks to put somewhere, someday. I could place them aside and not have to face them right away. I could let them sit in a dark corner, and I could live my life right beside them, while the empty space between me and it gave me room to process their importance, their place in my life. I thought the empty spaces were hindering my ability to live a peaceful life, and downsizing my belongings would reveal the life I desired. I didn’t realize that the material things that filled the spaces of my home were simply a tangible picture of my inner life. I didn’t realize that clearing the clutter was only the beginning of the real work that would begin in the soul.

Our days were busier than ever as we settled into the cabins of our boat. Eventually, the dust settled and we began to feel at home within those wooden walls. The slap of the line on the halyard during a storm, the creak of the line from the mooring ball rubbing against the hull, the rocking on a windy day. The sounds, the smells, the feel quickly became familiar, but the feel of the tiny space was harder to grow into, like a shoe that didn’t quite fit. It seemed we were always stubbing our toes on the ladder to the cockpit, bumping into each other in the hall and tripping over the winches on the deck. Even more painful was bumping into each other’s hurt feelings when emotions were running high.

Eight months have passed living life as a wife and mom inside a tiny space and traveling to unfamiliar places. In the last eight months I have tasted days on the salty sea where the sun was shining and the sapphire depths overwhelmed me with its beauty. I have tasted bitter tears on hard days when exhaustion reigned supreme and my strength to find good in the journey faltered. I have been near quiet shores where my spirit was renewed and I have been in the midst of storms that made me tremble. I have lived shoulder to shoulder with my husband, sharing every mundane moment and every high with him. We have brought our children in close and revealed a little bit more of the world to them. Through everything, I learned something. I learned what the empty space was for.

I learned the empty space around us cushions us from the emotional bumps and bruises we face in life. Big emotions take up space just like a couch or bed. They can be felt and touched. The empty space between bedrooms, in hallways, in closets and corners of the living room give us room, air to process the big emotions that tumble and flow throughout our days. Emotions like disappointment, grief, doubt, fear. The space around us provides places of retreat when emotions are hot, for the members of a family to be alone when the work of the soul requires solitude.

Living in a smaller family home is much more than living in fewer square feet. It is even more than relinquishing the material things in our life that hold no purpose or value. That is a crucial step, but not the most important. Living in a tiny home is challenging and rewarding not only because of the smaller space, but because at its core, it is an invitation to embark on the work of decluttering the soul, of laying bare the inner self. Living in a tiny home is an invitation to walk deeper into the emotional lives of our family.

That can be hard. It has been one of the most significant challenges for me on our journey. In the hallways and corners of my soul I stacked emotions, wounds and memories that took time and solitude for me to process. In the hallways of my heart I stored practices that I kept just for myself like journaling and listening to music alone. Living in a tiny space, the empty spaces I didn’t know I craved were gone. It often felt like my emotional skin was being rubbed raw against the people I loved the most, and unfortunately I too often took it out on them. As a hardcore introvert I needed solitude, but in a small space there were few places where I could be alone, where no little eyes could see me, ask me for a snack or to play. There wasn’t a consistent place where I could process, in solitude, the many emotions I encountered traveling, to let myself feel them, breathe them out, let the tears roll, or bask in a happy memory. Instead they piled up like derailed train cars creating emotional messes that eventually caused family tension. It often felt like I was putting out my emotional fires instead of having the space to naturally let them flow through me.

Now we’re transitioning to life on land and trading a transient lifestyle for one with roots. We’ve come back for many reasons, but not because living in a small family home was impossible. It was challenging, rewarding, liberating and sometimes exhausting. But I learned that living in a small space requires the work of daily inventory of the self. It requires that you ask for what you need and for what you want. It begs that the work of the soul, the spiritual life, be taken seriously. I learned that we actually do need space, but that that space doesn’t have to come in the form of a large spacious home. The space we need can be in the form of a plot of untouched land, or hiking trails, a place to walk and breathe and ponder. The space can be in the form of a barn, a lake, or even a closet. It can be unglamorous and empty, as long as it is a place where we are allowed to feel freely.

I wouldn’t trade anything for the eight months I spent living and traveling on a sailboat with my family. Living in a small space was worth every challenge, and even though we will soon be living in a not-so-small home, the education I received in those 47 feet will stay with me for a lifetime.

This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Minimalist Meg– “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.

Little Bungalow– “Less Space, More Happiness” : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.

600 Square Feet and a Baby– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn’t.)

Shelley Vanderbyl– “Five Things You Don’t Need in a Small Home” : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don’t need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life– “The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value“: Just because you’re a minimalist family doesn’t mean you aren’t sentimental.

The Justice Pirate– “What Small Home Living is Like” : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we “cope” and thrive despite it all 🙂

Fourth and West– “You Can’t Have it All” : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING– “The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home” : A smaller home is why we’re able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea– “The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom” : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn’t realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life– “The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family” : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper– “I Didn’t Know Tiny Living Was For Me” : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Family Pedals– “Location Trumps Size” : The truth is, it has been our home’s location–not size–that has determined our happiness in a given space.

Birch and Pine– “It’s Not Always Easy” : Living tiny often means defending your own life and choices: daily.

 

 

 

When One Adventure Ends and Another Begins

When One Adventure Ends and Another Begins

This week my thoughts flow toward the idea of transition. This week approaches the Biblical time of Shavuot, some may know as Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. It is a very important time of the Biblical year. Shavuot is the fourth of the seven Biblical feasts. It is represented by the main candle in the menorah and it signifies the center of the year, all activity flowing from it. It separates the spring feasts from the fall feasts, and because of this it marks an important time of change. It stands solidly each year as our doorway from one season into the next.

It is in this time we also find ourselves transitioning from one incredible season into another. So much has happened since we began the journey back up the coast of Florida from the Bahamas preparing to leave s/v Gromit for the Summer. We knew we wanted to spend the Summer on land with family and friends, but as we traveled back North to Green Cove Springs, Florida, we felt it was time for even greater changes.

We had about two solid weeks of travel (it took longer because in reality we didn’t travel everyday) to make it to the marina by the middle of May to pack and return to Houston by the end of May. It was a long few weeks. As we made our way to our destination, preparing to be on land again, the joy we once felt in cruising together, exploring the coast line, and seeing new places slowly began to fade. Our fridge dying in the Bahamas, while seemed possible to do without at first, now seemed unbearable. I longed to go to the store and get produce that would last more than two days in the hot cabin, but we didn’t want to fix the fridge just yet, knowing we would soon be visiting land. Our seven fans throughout the boat began to malfunction intermittedly. Haven, our one year old, was blossoming from babyhood to toddlerhood, but we were constantly relegating her to her crib because she loved to climb. It seemed it was all too easy for her to get into everything we owned, even with babyproofing, and she didn’t have the space she needed to explore freely. We were hot and tired and not sure what was next for us.

We started discussing options for a new season for us. Liveaboard and stay stationary? Being in one place at a marina would at least give us some stability and familiarity. Would Mike go to school and change careers? Which school and where? Would we live on land somewhere else for a while? We discussed every option you could think of. Through an interesting chain of events, Mike began talking with his former boss and co-worker, and decided to accept a job at the company he previously worked for, a job that he had about five years ago and really enjoyed.

At first I (Brittany) was really hesitant when Mike was discussing taking the job. I was looking forward to visiting family in Houston, but return to a job and house? Give up cruising? Stop traveling? It took some time to process what this transition would mean, and unfortunately, a lot of my hesitation stemmed from what others would think. Would they think we’re giving up? We couldn’t handle this life? Weren’t strong enough? Would they think we didn’t like it, were secretly unhappy and just putting on a show? In my heart I knew none of these things was the truth. I felt stronger than ever. We had traveled down the coast and across the Gulf Stream to another country, and back! We had faced challenges of many kinds, and had not given up. We had experienced the highs and lows cruising brought us. Without worrying about what anyone else might think of us, I had peace about this transition, knowing that God was simply bringing us into another season, a new time that didn’t involve the boat we had come to call home.

So here we are. We’re buying a house in a neighborhood with a backyard and monthly bills. Mike has a job and we’ve got the family car. We’re transitioning back to land life, and we’re actually really excited about this new season, about starting over. In fact, it was one reason we decided to say “yes!” and take the crazy leap to cruise in the first place- we always knew we could start over. And now that we are, we’ve learned that life is much more flexible than we once thought. You can go and sell everything and come back and land life will be here waiting if and when you want to come back.

But there’s one thing I won’t be able to do back on land. I won’t be able to fully express how much cruising and our boat s/v Gromit has meant to us. I know my landlubber friends and family will never understand, try as they may. I think our family has deemed us “back from the dead” or like the prodigal son returning from a wayward, rebellious journey. I think others may believe that we’re glad to be back because cruising wasn’t worth the effort. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And I know that only those salty, adventure loving sea lovers, all those wonderful cruisers and liveaboards we met on our travels can understand what I mean when I say it was worth it. Gromit will always hold a special place in our hearts. She kept us cozy and protected. She steadied the swell of the sea and carried us to our destination. She was our home.

As we neared the marina in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Mike pulled our dinghy up on the davits for the last time. We both felt that little painful stab of sadness when something life changing and amazing is coming to a close. We’ll never pile the kids in that dinghy again, see their smiles as the waves playfully splash over the bow. We’ll never pull up to a new port ready to taste land and see what adventure awaits. At least, not for now and maybe not in that boat again. We’re not ruling out cruising forever, but we’re committed to following God wherever His Spirit leads. It may lead us back to the sea one day, it may not. But for right now, we’re looking forward to all God has for us here.

For there is always a new adventure with God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

Spanish Wells was amazing, but our two weeks at the private dock was coming to an end and we had a decision to make: Keep going south (knowing that meant a longer return trip to Florida) or start heading back to the States.

Since the conception of this idea to go cruising in January of 2016, we have always sought to hear the still small voice of God and lean on any direction he was giving us at the time. You may think God doesn’t care about cruising plans or whether we go north or south, east or west. Many people think his guidance only matters if you are a missionary, traveling the world carrying Bibles in your backpack. But that is a perspective we do not share. Our goal isn’t to over spiritualize every little thing, but at the same time we don’t want to disregard the obvious presence of God in the details of our life. God definitely cares about the details, and we believe that means more than compulsory attendance to a religious service. It means more than dropping an offering in a basket, and it means more than trudging through an earthly life hoping to get to a heavenly one.

Like a tour guide, we know we can point out the presence of God to others wherever we happen to be. We believe God can direct us to people we are supposed to meet, conversations he wants us to have, a place he wants us to see, a city he wants us to pray for, an opportunity he wants us to take part in. We’ve seen God do amazing things in the smallest of circumstances, and we’ve seen God bring small things together in a really big way. It’s a life we would not want to have any other way. Because of this, we try not to have solid plans, plans that make it impossible for God to redirect us.

Getting ready to leave Spanish Wells, I (Brittany) began feeling uncharacteristically unsettled. As much as we loved the Bahamas, and even though we had plans to meet another cruising family, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that we shouldn’t continue our travels south. Mike and I prayed about it and waited to see how the next few days would unfold. Would we even have the weather windows to travel back to Florida? Would the other cruising family understand that we wanted to change our plans? (They did, of course). It turns out the week ahead of us held a wonderful weather window for traveling west. Very little wind and calm seas were the forecast, and we knew if we didn’t take that weather window, we would have no idea how long we would wait for another. We didn’t feel like waiting, so we decided to begin the four day journey back to Florida’s east coast.

Egg Island

Our first day leaving Spanish Wells was a short day, positioning ourselves off Egg Island to shorten the next day’s mileage. There we met another kid boat anchored near us and we invited them to Egg Island’s beach for the evening. The evening turned out to be a magical night (except for the incessant NO-SEE-UMS!) talking with the Mom and Dad on s/v Salt Shaker, hearing their stories and watching our kids play freely on this unpopulated island.

A tree swing, a sign of past cruising kids on the island

The mom on s/v Salt Shaker showing Haven the water

My husband, Mike, surprised me by making a little fire on the beach, something I told him I really wanted to do while cruising. We made very messy, but delicious s’mores on the beach using the half bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars I was saving especially for a night like this.

Everyone helped to make the fire

Each cruising family we meet is special!

The crew on s/v Salt Shaker brought a treat for us too, firecrackers!

Firecrackers!

A spontaneous gathering with another sweet cruising family, decadent s’mores, sparkling fireworks…all on empty beach with the sun sinking behind dense trees- every bit of this night was beautiful.

We didn’t plan this night, and that made it even more perfect. A perfect gift to us as our last time on shore in the Bahamas. The family on s/v Salt Shaker were also headed back to the States, their cruising journey coming to an end and their life on land resuming. A beautiful night for us all to remember. A perfect way to say good-bye to the Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

After a couple of weeks in the Berry’s, we were ready to make our crossing to an island in the far Bahamas called Eleuthera. We heard raving reviews of cruiser’s time spent in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and we were ready to find out for ourselves. We had moved around a lot in the Berry Islands, from anchoring outside of the island, to inside at Great Harbor Cay, then twice in Hawk’s Nest Cay that we were more than ready to stay solidly in one place.

Taking a walk in Spanish Wells, something we did everyday

Once in Spanish Wells, we rented a private dock and stayed for two weeks. The private dock was far cheaper than a marina dock fee and we could spend our two weeks easily getting on and off the boat to explore the island. Strong winds rolled through right after we arrived, so we were even more grateful about tying up to a secure dock. Even more perfect, the house directly in front of our dock housed a sweet local couple with a girl Marlee’s age and a boy a little younger than Hannah. We soon became friends with this generous family!

Hannah on the dock
The girls and their new playmate fishing in her backyard

With gorgeous turquoise waters gently rolling into crisp white beaches, bright flowers in front of candy-colored island homes, and the typical laid back island feel, Spanish Wells was the perfect place for us to take walks, play at the beach and just relax. But Spanish Wells also had the kind of grocery store that we were used to back in the States (albeit still more expensive), plus restaurants and ice cream shops as wells as shopping, so it didn’t feel like some other places in the Bahamas where resources are limited.

The water was captivating
Exploring the beach
Haven really began to enjoy being in water

We found the people to be friendly and accommodating. Their tight knit town has a strong belief in community and God, and the island holds three prominent churches despite having a population of only about 1600 people. There was an additional church on another part of the island for the Haitian community that resides there, and even a separate church for the Mennonite/Amish families that also live on the island. We loved being invited to The People’s Church services, meeting more people in the community and being able to get a feel for the life of the body of Christ there. Being able to visit and study God’s word with other believer’s around the world has been a dream that God began planting in my heart a few years ago. We have been able to visit a few different kinds of congregations along the east coast (a Messianic synagogue in Virginia, a budding home church, a Kingdom Hall in Florida) and two Baptist-style congregations in the Bahamas so far and they have all been interesting and eye opening experiences!

Other things that we did in Spanish Wells include a fun, local favorite on the island, an ice cream shop called Papa’s Scoops which only opens for three hours at night and only serves two flavors a night, each night boasting two different flavors. Their homemade ice cream was so good we went back several times enjoying flavors like Goombay Punch (a local soda), coconut and root beer.

Papa’s Scoops!
Goombay Punch and Vanilla ice cream

Probably one of our most favorite experiences though, was being invited to tour our friend’s (the husband who lived in the house in front of our dock) lobster boat. Spanish Wells is largely a fishing town, relying heavily on the revenue from catching lobster and crab. It was really neat being able to see first hand what many of the men in the town do for work. It was a wonderful “worldschooling” experience for the girls as well!

The local fishing boat we toured
Showing us around the deck
Peering down the hole where the lobsters at stored
Where the lobster’s are hung and kept frozen

We loved Spanish Wells, the people, the colors, the small-town community. Now to decide where to go from here…move on to South Eleuthera or head back to the States? We were torn, but felt God whispering the right direction to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

We made it! We motored into the crowded anchorage as the sun was getting low. We were relieved, excited, tired. All the work, planning, and preparation to be ready to leave the US, and now here we were ready to explore this chain of islands called the Bahamas. But the Bahamas would have to wait. As the forecast predicted, the next day brought strong winds with gusts in the 30 knot range. Not the worst we’ve experienced, but poor weather for island exploring. We decided at least to explore a jetty of nearby rocks and survey the anchorage by dinghy.

While we waited for the winds to stop howling, we passed the time getting together with the crew from s/v Banana and s/v Totem, whom we sailed with from Ft. Lauderdale.

Haven with Behan from s/v Totem

Finally, the winds quieted, the waves calmed and we decided to explore the island of Bimini. A small island, the north end where we anchored, is home to a large resort and casino, so it didn’t feel like we had traveled to an exotic little getaway. But it still had its treasures: the water being one of them. An array of blue, green, clear and turquoise jewel tones, the water absolutely beckons to all who have the privilege of seeing it.

The day before we planned to leave Bimini for The Berry Islands, we decided to take a day to walk around Alice Town and swim in the sparkling turquoise water. Our walk proved to be very interesting. The stark contrast between the resort section of the island where we happened to be anchored, and Alice Town was surprising and a little uncomfortable. On one side stood a towering resort; popular music flowed out of the casino, a beautiful fountain gushed in the middle of a pool. As we walked to the other side of the island, we walked through an arced entrance separating the resort section from the rest of the community.

Alice Town is beautiful in its own way. It has the flavor of a town straddling two worlds: it’s an easy jump from the United States, but it’s also it’s own country, with a distinct island culture.

We walked through the narrow streets, stopping for cars or golf carts driving by. The buildings were small, but colorful. The people were very friendly, smiling and waving to each passerby was very common. We stopped by a house with a bakery sign posted in the window. We opened the door and walked in to see a lady at her kitchen table, food simmering in the background. She greeted us and we bought a loaf of bread stored in a plastic tote under her window. As we left, she gave the girls a warm chocolate chip cookie, fresh from her oven. A very different experience for us- but wonderful and tasty too!

We heard their was a library nearby, something I was eager to see, but this was not the kind of library the girls and I were used to!

I was really glad we took the time to see more of the island before we continued on our journey. The Berry Islands was a long hop from Bimini, over 80 miles, but we were looking forward to an island more isolated from such a busy port.

Bimini was only the beginning of our sojourn, but I am really glad we got to experience this little island!

Our Gulf Stream Crossing

Our Gulf Stream Crossing

Sunrise on the ocean

Wednesday, March 22 was the day. The seas were forecasted to be calm, winds almost nonexistent. Our provisions were bought and stored in lockers, our belongings stowed securely, the engine check was complete and we were exhausted…but ready to embark on a new leg of our journey- to the Bahamas!

We set our alarm for 6:15 am, plenty of time to get ready for our 7am departure from Ft. Lauderdale to meet a bridge at its opening at 7:30am. Unfortunately, we awoke to the emerging sun and a dead cell phone at 6:55am! We scrambled, but were able to pull up anchor and leave the anchorage just a couple minutes past the hour. It was a sleepy cool, calm morning; a perfect day to cross the gulf stream.

The view from our cockpit
As we leave the inlet, heading out into the sea
The gulf stream is a current of fast moving, warm water in the ocean that flows north along the east coast of the United States. It flows at an average speed of three knots, and can be tricky to cross. Winds from the north can create large dangerous swells, winds from the east means your boat will be beating into the wind, both scenarios create a very uncomfortable ride and should be avoided. We wanted winds from the south or west, and we had a very light west wind, which was perfect. However, Thursday was forecasted to bring in high winds, so we had just one day to cross and find a protected anchorage to wait out the coming nasty weather. One day would be more than enough, since we were anticipating the trip to take us about 10-11 hours.
As we left the inlet and headed out into the ocean, the waves gently rocked our boat, a unique motion that we were becoming familiar with.
The sea
Mommy and the girls relaxing in the cockpit
s/v Totem up ahead
 So what do our passage days look like? I (Brittany) have come to really enjoy passage days, provided of course I have taken a little motion sickness medication. Passage days, whether on the ICW or the ocean are different from our normal days. Chores are put on pause, cooking is light, school is done only if the girls want to. Mostly we spend time in the cockpit, keeping Daddy company, excitedly looking at all the new scenery, keeping our eyes peeled for birds, fish and especially dolphins.
Passage days on the ocean are especially laid back. The motion medication makes Marlee and me drowsy, so I take time for a couple of short naps and the girls will usually sleep longer in the afternoon too. I like to spend most of my time in the cockpit, feeling the rush of the ocean breeze on my skin, watching the waves and documenting our adventures with my camera.
This trip, the girls were really excited to try out their new tethers and harnesses. The harnesses we bought, but we made their tethers out of very strong webbing. They loved being able to roam the cockpit without the bulkiness of a lifejacket, but still feeling secure.
Marlee, deep in thought, watching the sea
The harnesses wrap around their torso, and the tether is attached to a jackline running along the floor of the cockpit. The tether is attached to the harness in the middle of their chest with a strong, locking carabineer.
Hannah with her harness on
Our little monkeys
Besides having small toys out for them to play with in the cockpit, I’ll have play dough or coloring books ready to go on the table. I’ll also usually set up a movie for them on our computer during ocean passages, and they also love reading books on my Kindle.
Reading a book in my Kindle

On this trip we got a fun surprise! It was still morning, we were motoring and enjoying the sapphire blue water when we saw something flutter over our heads. At first we thought it was a butterfly, but then Mike spotted it, a tiny bird that landed on one of our lines!

Hello little bird

This adorable bird stayed on our stern for about a half an hour. We wondered where he had come from and what he was doing so far from land. But soon enough, we saw another little bird, just like himself, fly towards us and they flit and fluttered off together. We had fun the rest of the day making up stories about this cute little creature!

Soon we noticed we had lost speed; we were entering the gulf stream. Because we were going east, we anticipated that we would lose a little time in the gulf stream; its fast moving current would hinder our movement. But since our winds were from the west and very light, we didn’t have the large uncomfortable swells that would have formed in different conditions. It was a very pleasant ride.

Later we noticed that we were gaining speed once again and could assume that we were leaving the push of the gulf stream.

As we finally neared the island of Bimini in the Bahamas we raised a little yellow flag on our starboard spreader: our quarantine flag. This displays to all that we have just arrived and have not yet reported to customs to check in.

As we rounded the little island and began looking for our anchorage, we couldn’t believe the bright turquoise clear water! It was shades of light green, blue-green and clear turquoise. It was like looking at a swimming pool, and we could spy sea grass all the way at the bottom! The girls were exclaiming in delight over the bright sparkling sea.

It took us more than an hour that first evening, to find the perfect spot to drop anchor, but eventually we did and we could relax after a long day of travel. But we were here! We had made it to the Bahamas! We knew strong, high winds and rain were coming our way, but we hoped that soon we could experience all the treasures this island, and others could offer!

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Just a fraction of our total provisions

It’s crunch time! We’re making lists and checking them twice, and no we’re not getting ready for the Christmas holiday. We’re getting ready for our first jaunt out of the country and into Bahamian waters! That means for this family of five, we’re shopping and storing all kinds of food and other items to use while we are there. But why? Don’t they eat in the Bahamas? Don’t they have grocery stores? Yes!

It will take two days to arrive at our proposed first destination, Nassau, Bahamas. It’s always a good idea to have extra food on board for a passage, since it takes time to get where you are going and get acquainted with the nearby stores. But what we have heard and read about the Bahamas is that their food is expensive! We’ve heard cruiser horror stories of a single bell pepper costing $8.00, and a few meager vegetables costing as much as a entire cart full back home.

Friends of ours, a family of three cruising the Bahamas currently on their sailboat, s/v Sandflea, gave us some interesting advice. He said,

“Go to the store and don’t come out until you’ve spent $1,000.”

He warned us of small jars of peanut butter costing $9.00, a simple loaf of bread for $6.00 and a package of Oreos for $12.00! We’ve read especially that snack foods can be very expensive so we were told to be sure to bring your own with you. (Check out all the adventures of s/v Sandflea here!)

We’re planning on exploring the breathtaking islands in the far Bahamas first then possibly making our way back to the Abacos. We don’t want to rush, so we’re expecting to use up the remaining months of cruising season in the Bahamas (2-3 month trip) before finding a protected nook to wait out hurricane season, most likely on the east coast. So our food buying has been based around this number- at least 8 weeks of provisions.

We were able to make one trip to Sam’s with the help of a friend’s car
Getting it on board is not the easiest!

So what are we storing and where do we store it? Besides the non-food items like sunscreen, bug spray, motion sickness medicine (as well as a medical kit with bandages and other medicines), toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners, we are storing mostly non-perishable items plus some cold items in our freezer. Our freezer doesn’t truly freeze so we’re not stocking up on fresh meats. Our freezer is currently stocked with a ridiculous amount of cheese in all forms(shredded, bar, sliced), a little turkey sausage and butter (with a bag of ice on top). Our fridge holds the rest of the butter, lots of eggs, fresh vegetables and a little meat, as well as condiments.

For those who wants more detail, here are some amounts of things we have stowed:

Non-perishable:

  • 15 boxes of cereal (variety)
  • 3 boxes of pancake mix
  • 4 canisters quick oats
  • 2 bottles of honey
  • Peanut butter, 6 jars of crunchy and 5 of creamy
  • 3 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 Tetra paks of Almond milk
  • 29 cans of fruit (variety)
  • 5 large jars of unsweetened applesauce
  • 5 packages of raisins
  • 1 large bag of almonds
  • 2 large family size boxes of Ritz crackers plus a box of saltines
  • 9 cans of chicken breast in water
  • 19 cans of black beans
  • 16 cans of corn
  • 7 cans of baked beans

This doesn’t include staples like flour, sugar, rice, juice, other canned meats and vegetables, plus a few packages of cookies, graham crackers, dried fruit, chips, and granola bars.

Plus perishable items like:

 

  • 5 dozen eggs
  • 9 boxes of butter (4 sticks in each box)
  • 2 half gallon containers of cold Almond milk

We also have a large gear hammock stocked with fresh produce: a bag of apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, plus avocados, onions, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and spaghetti squash. In the fridge we keep carrots, sliced cantaloupe and broccoli.

You can quickly tell what is important to us! Peanut butter, butter, beans, fruit and cereal! Every family will have their own things that they like and want to have while cruising.

Counting, sorting…
I have the best helper!
Moving the rice into zip lock bags

So where do we store all this food? We have a good amount of storage on our boat, but it’s an art to learning where and how to store things safely and easy to get to.

Under the cushions on our settees, there are lids that open to deep lockers where we store almost all of our non-perishables. We have storage under both our settees on either side of our table.

One of our settees
The lockers where we store our food

We also have a tall locker in the “hallway” before entering the girl’s v-berth, where we store some food items, white vinegar and the many diapers and wipes we keep on board.

We are the rarer breed of cruiser in that we have two small children and an infant on board. That means a lot of diapers. We keep diapers for Haven (1 year old) Hannah (3 years old) for night and nap time and even for our oldest (6 years old) occasionally for nighttime.

On board we have stocked over 1,500 wipes, over 250 infant diapers and almost 60 pull-ups! I’m hoping this is enough!

 

 

It’s a lot of work: shopping, carrying bags back in the dinghy, wiping all cans clean of salt water and removing labels, stowing and keeping track of what’s on the boat. But it’s fun too! We’re gearing up for an experience, an adventure that we will remember forever!

{For those who want to know how we calculated how much food we needed, we used this spreadsheet here.}

Reflecting On Our Purpose Before We Leave the States

Reflecting On Our Purpose Before We Leave the States

 

Walking in Norfolk, Virginia

There have been a few stops along our journey cruising down the east coast of the United States, that my husband and I have paused long enough from traversing the constant challenges of this new way of being, to sit and stare at each other in amazement and ask “how did we get here?”

It was only one year ago. Only one year ago that the thought of sea, sand, salt and wind came into our hearts. The idea that God had more; more life existed just beyond the edge of our comfort zone. Just beyond the edge of the familiar. Something we couldn’t name, but only imagine. Something waiting for us to discover.

And now here we are. A family of sojourners on the sea.

Discovering the sea

Nearly five months in; just over 1,000 miles traveled and we’re still new and often clumsy, like toddlers learning how to walk. We’ve slowly made our way down Florida’s east coast, and now we’re preparing to leave the States for the first time as cruisers. Bahamas bound!

But what is our purpose here? What is the reason we call this boat home? What is the reason our sights are set on distant islands? Is it a selfish pursuit as some thought before we left? Is it dangerous as others claimed? Are we missionaries? Are we on a sabbatical? Are we running away from our responsibilities? We’ve heard it all.

The truth is, this wasn’t our dream. This wasn’t something we planned, or thought of, or dreamed about as the years of our life ticked by. I can’t explain it any other way than to say it was an idea birthed in us by God. An idea that sprouted and grew when it seemed leaving everything behind was against all common sense.

It was only 11 months from conception to reality. 11 months from hearing God whisper to unpacking boxes on a sailboat in Virginia.

Our little floating home

 

Our purpose at the beginning of this journey and our purpose now is to follow God wherever he may lead. To live our lives in reckless pursuit of the knowledge of God and to abandon our lives to what we discover in that pursuit. Living and traveling on a sailboat was the path God placed before us, and we followed. In doing so, we had to cling to our faith with each new step, and little by little, we saw evidence of God’s hand in the process. From the selling of our houses, to the finding of our boat, to the timing of our leaving, God was leading us deeper into trust in him, and expanding our vision of who he is.

Throughout the first few months planning this adventure, God spoke to me about Abraham. His story spoke loudly to me. God told him, “Go, and I will bless you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) God promised him a purpose for his going, an outcome Abraham could not fathom at the start of his journey. But he believed God and became God’s friend (James 2:23). But first he had to obey and go.

Abraham’s story is my story. It’s the story of all people who are willing to believe God. To believe God can and will do incredible things for those whose hearts will trust him.

For me (Brittany), time away from all that is familiar has forced me to draw my comfort from other places. It has forced me to look at my weaknesses and required me to accept the things that are difficult, but I cannot change. This isn’t easy. I can’t change the way some may feel about our decision. I can’t tell them when we’ll be back because I do not even know that myself. I can’t reassure them that we’ll never get hurt, either. Cruising is not always easy. But I am using this time to draw deeper into God’s word, and I know with certainty that my purpose is rooted in exactly that. The more I meditate on his truth, with the beauty of his creation all around me, I am filled with a single minded mission: to tell others the story that God is telling. His story is a story for all of us, and it is overwhelmingly good. It’s his story, his purpose that I am on a mission to discover- in his word and in this journey. And everyday he writes a little bit more: Another gorgeous sunrise. Another day when a stranger becomes a friend. Another port left, and another one reached.

A fellow sailor

It required faith to leave. It requires faith to remain. There is much ahead, but we can only take one step at a time.

So far, we have been rewarded with sunsets akin to wildfires, playful dolphins leaping right before us, friendly faces, humbling generosity from others, and moments when we knew the presence of God was with us. We are challenged and inspired to be a family that can work together better, traveling the emotional seas of raising children, being a wife or husband and maintaining our own identity and space with grace and love.

I look forward to the connections we will make with people, cruisers and locals, people who we are always on the lookout to encourage and tell God’s story to. Connections that encourage us too. Connections that could turn into life long friendships.

We are grateful to be on this path. It is one that we hope to be on for a long time. We pray often that God will direct our steps, and we are confident that he is doing just that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Some may be thinking, do you need to sail around the world to follow the call of God? Of course not. You must hear his voice for yourself, walking in relationship with your Creator. He could speak to you in an office cubicle, in a minivan, at school, or at your kitchen table.

But…

There is something wild about God. He lives in the deep places; the places only arrived at by faith. He isn’t far away, but he isn’t safe either. He often calls his people to follow him, where he is, to places mysterious, perhaps dangerous, but always full of wonder. That is where we want to go. To the unknown places where there is more of God to be revealed. More exquisite beauty, more people to connect with, more creatures to marvel at, and more of everything that God wants to share with us.

 

Thank you for following us on our journey! Connect with me on Instagram @familyatsea or on Facebook! Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!