Monday, November 12, 2012

Projects, and Worst Case Scenario(s) - Three have already happened!

Before we moved on board, I might have had a few ideas about some of the worst case scenarios of living aboard. I might have had a few great ideas about how to prevent them, and what we would do if they happened.

We have had no home but the boat for exactly one week now, and a few 'worst case scenarios' have already occurred. I wonder what week 2 holds!?!

On  Week 1, Day 1, I got the stomach flu/food poisoning. The effects of being very ill are magnified in a very small space, with a marine toilet, and we learned in 24 hours about an entirely uncomfortable and unpleasant level of intimacy. The positive side, however, is that I was never more than 10 steps away from the bathroom! And getting the pump out scheduled on a day's notice worked!

On Week 1, Day 2, after spending 24 hours in bed, I discovered a previously undiscovered, but oobvious recurring leak, dumping moisture and dew directly into our bed. This was on top of Rob already feeling that the number of projects were piling up, and my inability to help was weighing on him. Saying to him "by the way,  I am headed to work, but I just noticed that we have a leak you need to fix" was not a great start to the day. That said, he is my hero, and upon my return, the bed was dry, the leak repaired, and the rotten wood removed from the cabin walls. I am lucky to have such a handy captain.

On Week 2, Day 1, A (age 4.5) fell into the water trying to do something her brother R (Age 7.5) was doing above decks. Dad was below decks, and flew up above decks upon hearing the splash, and pleas for help from brother R. A was hanging on the dock edge, and not even crying, so crisis averted, but nerve -wracking nonetheless. We have netting up, so this really goes to making sure that the RULES for safety are understood and adhered to at all times. Mandatory life jackets when above deck even in the slip? Maybe so.

I think the lesson for me is that walking through worst case scenarios as a family and having a plan for how we will prevent, or deal with them is a good idea. Do fellow cruisers/live aboard people have a list we should consider? Here are mine for while we are living in the slip..
  1. Falling in
  2. Severe Cold Spell - too cold, despite the heating sources we have.
  3. Fire
  4. Propane leak
  5. Leaks/Moisture/Water
Our goal for moving on board was to take on boat projects and expedite our readiness, and without a doubt that is happening. On top of taking care of the kids, and managing the day to day tasks of laundry, food, dishes, etc, Rob's projects this week included:
  • Rebuilding the table in the main salon, so that we have more room for living, while still having a homework table, art table and dinner table.
  • Adding storage and hooks in kids cabin, bathroom
  • Installing a much deeper and more efficient galley sink
  • Researching and purchasing our home entertainment solution, ordering wi-fi and phone service, etc.
  • Reorganization of storage to create a 'cat house' for Charlie, and get the litter box off the salon floor.
  • Dealing with the anchor chain and testing windlass.
  • And I re-did the netting on the lifelines on one side of the boat.
Up next,
  • Finish the netting
  • Re-do Propane tanks - moving them to the Rail, and rerouting Propane lines to the kitchen so we can really start cooking on board.
  • V-berth divider so kids can't kick each other at night :)
  • Re-organize storage unit to get bikes in for winter
  • Keep purging clothes (mom and kids)
  • Organize galley storage
  • Organize Dock Boxes
  • Re-cover Dinghy, get Dinghy motor working.
  • Create 'outdoor' living space in cockpit for winter with Isinglass installation and cozy blankets and lights.
  • Complete headliner installation
What other projects should we be taking on? What else really helps with 'liveability'?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What a month this has been!
We have broken and fixed a washing machine at the house, and broken and fixed electricity and toilet on boat, and we seem to have all systems in wokring order!

We have finally cleared our home of 1300 square feet of furnishings, clothes and C*AP, and our 1300 square feet of even more CR** in storage, basement and garage.

We have lifted, and moved and muscled our way through washing machines, furniture, boxes of records, amp's and guitars,. table saws, beds, linens, toys.

We have lent out, given away, garage sale'd, craigslisted, curb alerted and urban ore'd trasured art, exercise equipment, beds and dressers, toy bins and clothes and books, electronics and computers...

We have 'de-stuffed' our lives.

All that we own fits into a 10 X 5 space in the basement, a 10 X 8 storage unit, and our 40 foot sailboat.

Our bodies are sore and bruised, and we haven't quite found a place for everything on board that needs to be stowed, so we are still probably a few weeks out from actually being able to leave the slip, but we have made this move, and our last day sleeping in the house was last weekend.

Our kids have started new schools, successfully, and actually don't even complain about leaving behind toys and clothes. They get that we are gaining something special - a level of connection and intimacy that serves us, for now, and gives us the opportunity to really count on one another, and to connect as a family.

And, on Sunday night when we moved in, we were greeted by this gorgeous sunset as we returned to our Marina. The sky took my breath away,and I knew that we were going to love this life on a boat, here in Alameda, and eventually when we head out on our voyage.

This morning, headed back to the boat after forgetting something for work, I was blown away by the tranquility and peacefulness of living on the water as I looked down the ramp towards 'home'. Still waters, blue skies, birds and ducks chirping and quacking happily, and friendly neighbors working on their vessels of all shapes and sizes.

And, man oh man, I am so GLAD that we are almost done moving, packing and selling and we can start enjoying all this wide open space, and a trip to the spa!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

recent rob

so today was a trial. i awoke after a nice night's sleep and shortly after that todays' adventures began with casa de smoko. ok, bad spanish aside, we were presented with a cabin full of electrical smoke due to running the microwave, the space heater, the water heater, and the battery charger all at once which burnt the wires before popping the breaker. after a flashlight and some poking around let me know our morning was not going to go smoothly i walked to the local deli for coffee. later on that very same day i was informed by the honey-pot man that our head was clogged and could not be emptied. color me monday morning. so here we are back ashore, able to poop in peace, and readying for tomorrow. the new head tank is on the way and the electrician is coming in the morning. i suppose all these problems were lying in wait but why oh why do they pop up when wanted least? on a warmer note the shower situation is coming along quote nicely. hot and sudsy mornings are no longer a distant dream. happy me. laundry services are still a peak to be scaled but living in a marina and waking up to ducks and salty breezes are definitely a plus.

-recent rob returning to 16

Closet Space!

We have lived on the boat for a few weeks, mid-week, and back to Oakland for weekends. For me, the convenience and proximity of the on board shower is far superior to the locker rooms, so for the time being, I have decided that I will keep all of my work and casual clothes on the boat, and get ready in the morning on the boat.  Luckily, our closets were pretty small at home, so it's been a pretty smooth transition.

In such a small space, one thing that I love is that we ALL wake up at the same time, and we all get ready together. Rob puts on some Ozomatli to get us moving, and tries to figure out coffee (We have resorted to Starbucks Via for the time being - not too bad!). I jump in the on board shower after handing the kids their clothes to get ready under the covers, and we turn on the space heater to begin to warm up a bit. Rob jumps in after me, and then we all eat breakfast together, head up the companionway steps and off to work and school - pretty simple!

The process of separating the clothes to keep, and those for good will was fast, and relatively painless. 3 big bags of my clothes were off to the goodwill, and just 2 laundry bags of clothes came back to the boat. I have one small locker, and two small canvas baskets for socks and underwear, one large canvas basket for sweaters, tanks and PJ's, and one plastic bin for casual pants, and one plastic bin for t - shirts...I know, a whole bin for t-shirts!??!! you should have seen how many I gave away!

All of my clothes on board
The one ratty and torn old t-shirt from my high school leadership program and a dingy college sweatshirt finally had to go, but a few select others were lovingly migrated to the boat - from college dorm rooms and UCSB Halloween T-shirts made by Eric, to the well worn pub t-shirts from backpacking in Europe, to  the many awesome Chili Cook Off T-Shirts..they have traveled from southern California, to Europe, to San Francisco, back to the east bay and now onto the boat - maybe they will find new homes one day in South America and the Caribbean?

When Rob and I bought our first home, we wanted it to be filled with original art we love - and it was! But, most of that art has had to find a new home for the duration of our journey, as it is far too large for the boat.

I was so happy to come home to the boat last week and find a piece of art from my amazing friend Keith Hollander gracing the front door of my closet. It was made for this space. Amazing!

Oil Painting on Wooden Door, Keith Hollander

We also picked up art from Aaliyah's Auntie Marlene, and it will join us for the voyage as a reminder of our patchwork quilt family at home.

It feels great to be shedding the possessions that don't give us joy, and finding homes for our treasures that cannot join us in the space, while making room for small beauties in our space- making it our special den of happiness.

Here's to living small!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

recent rob

well, we're nearly a week into our new floating abode. here are the things worth noting and some that aren't; it turns out that an easy morning shower, and by easy i mean hot and with room to move left and right, is as important as the very caffeine that soon follows. coffee has also turned into an elusive animal. it seems our AC power system cannot handle the amp pull needed by the power hungry electric kettle. shortly after plugging in the ravenous appliance the boy was heard to say "dad, i smell smoke!". ok, one option down and a few to go. yes, this boat life, as of recent, is a few steps up from pitching tents and toasting our buns, both hot dog and otherwise, over a roaring fire. luckily that potential fire was superseded by rae's keen sniffer. so on we press in this latest style of glamping, (glamorous camping, thanks A.T.) until we iron out the obvious, and not so obvious, wrinkles which would also require high amp pull and a new breaker in the power panel. 

the sleeping arrangements are going smoother than the coffee quest and the get-dressed-eat breakfast-get out the door routine is coming together at it's own pace. 

i brought the bikes down mid-week in hopes of a ride with rae and aaliyah but someone else had other plans, hopefully with their own kids, and removed them 8 hours post placement. what?! pirates already? and in alameda no less. i'll look at it as less to weigh the hull down. glass half full right? even if there are leeches in the water.

recent rob returning to 16.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


so today the piano went. man! two years with kids will take it's toll on a sherman & clay upright. still i'm finding massive hair balls eeking their way into daylight though the dog went on hiatus to grampas' two weeks ago. still piling things into pseudo categories which seem to be ever subordinating. give/street, give/good, give/friends, give/family, and don't even get me started on the sell pile. believe it or not there's a multitude of trash categories as well. who knew? you single guys out there would treat it all as the give/sell/trade/trash/burn pile. believe me, sometimes a sprinkling of fluid and a match seem a very attractive alternative. still we soldier on. to keep or to store? i'm reminded of george carlins' line; "think about it, an entire industry built on keeping an eye on your stuff". it's the greatest scam ever concocted. i'll rent you my garage and when you forget about your crap i'll sell it. money money money. 

-returning to ch 16

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recent Rob

so this morning i'm wandering around our sellable-stuff strewn house wondering what else i can organize into some pile. punctuated by moments of fear, that we're making a huge mistake, my time is spent packing, entertaining kids, and attempting to understand what life will be like. then i catch myself hyper ventilating and realize that we're not re-inventing the wheel or moving into a cave on an Amish farm, we're just downsizing. i think it's the fact that this has been a conscious choice and that if it were being thrust upon us by an external source, such as a large corporation going through a round of lay-offs, we'd have the luxury of being able to blame something. i sound like a spoiled jack-ass don't i? thousands of people have been forced to go through this without the payoff of feeling superior for creating less waste, using less energy, or consuming less product. who are we to be afraid? still......., we are. 

i very much look forward to our family becoming a more cohesive and loving bunch who are learning that what really turns us on is each other and the world around us. learning to make friends in foreign ports, providing a helping hand, and being a resource for positivity and transformation are all goals shannon and i share and i THINK we both realize that, as newly self-minted "global individuals", this will all take lots of practice and rigor to achieve. it's overly easy to sit at this keyboard and arm-chair prospect about our future. but each day we take a step towards our designed life and that is what's counting right now. 

-returning to ch.16

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why? Part 1: Alzheimer's Disease


There are a lot of reasons for one to set off on a  voyage like this - to escape the grind, to relax and check out, to have a great adventure, to see the world. We want to do all of those things, but there are a few other reasons that are even more important to us than those. 

My reasons began in the year 2000, when my mom began showing signs of early onset Alzheimer's. I remember noticing her first signs when she was under 50, so my parents were still quite young. My Dad had spent nearly 30 years working so hard to save up a nice secure nest egg so that one day they could retire early at age 55, take off on the Harley, and have a grand adventure. 

That never happened. Instead they spent nearly $1,000,000 over the next 10 years for my mom's care, without the benefit of Social Security, Long Term Care Insurance, Medi-Cal or any other support network other than my parent's life savings.

A lot of sailors plan to cruise when they retire. I feel like waiting until that 'someday' comes is a true gamble. All we have is now. There are no guarantees, even if you don't have early onset Alzheimer's in your family, or cancer, or .... We will never have enough money, enough time, enough stability in our careers, and we will never feel 100% ready to leave behind our beloved friends and family, for any period of time.

When my Mom was diagnosed, my whole idea of how life was going to go was shattered. At the time, I felt helpless, sad, scared, angry and alone. No one I knew had an ill parent, and finding my way through all of that pain was a tough journey. 

My mom had always said that everything happens for a reason, and I searched for that reason. and I found a few. 

1. As a family, we fight!
Alongside my father, my sister, Rob and my community, we dedicated ourselves to fighting for future generations, and raising funds to combat this disease, and support caregivers. 

We are stronger for it, and the difference we make is concrete. We have power, in the face of tragedy, and we put our energy into this fight, rather than into our own sorrow.

Our family has raised nearly $200,000 in the past 10 years, through the Memory Walk and our annual Chili Cook Off (today), through the Memories in the Making event, and the Reason to Hope event. My father and sister have gone to Washington to advocate for increased funding for research, and these efforts have made a difference.

My sister works for the association, and runs a support group for other families dealing with early onset Alzheimer's disease. 

If you would like to support our cause, and Help Me Raise Funds to End Alzheimer's Disease, any and all support is greatly appreciated.

2. I learned young that Your life is NOW!

In the famous words of the worlds greatest rock star, Jon Bon Jovi, 

It's My Life
It's Now or Never
I Ain't Gonna Live Forever
I Just Want To Live While I'm alive
It's My Life

This deep understanding of the importance of being true to myself, of
living a life I love, and of making a difference on this planet while I am here, has guiding so many choices in my life.

I married who I loved, despite the fact that many people had pretty grave concerns about the artist I chose.

I quit plenty of good paying jobs, without a clear next steps, when the atmosphere became toxic or unsatisfying.

We adopted children some considered at risk, and focused on their talents, not their past or the unknown consequences of that past that may show up some day in the future.

And we are going to go cruise Latin America and the Caribbean in our 40's, with our kids, volunteering our time, talents and our hearts to making a difference, and being present to the miracle of community, life, our planet, nature, and humanity.

These are the profound motivators for my decision to pursue this dream with all of my attention, NOW.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fears and Hopes

These past few days have been very tumultuous. The kids are on edge, Rob is overwhelmed, and I am out of the house all day, and not much help. The last big moves for both of the kids were when they joined our family  - January 12, 2008 for R, and January 12, 2010 for A. And those were not exactly stress free moves. Lots of loss, and that time too, they both left their prior homes with only what they could carry. A especially is just a ball of tears - crying at the drop of a hat, and sad sad sad.

Me and A on charter in SW Florida, July 2012
Amazing to believe that less than 5 years ago at age 3, R had 1 pair of PJ's, one jacket, 1 hat, 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 5 pair socks, 3 books, and one stuffed animal, some spiderman christmas lights, and a few power ranger action figures, and 3 movies. And now, we are asking him to have just about that much on the boat. And A did not even have that. She came with one sweatsuit, the clothes on her back, and some little boy PJ's, and a ratty old coat. And now, the toy bins, closets, drawers and garage are filled to overflowing with books, toys, clothes, equipment, mementos, treasures...stuff.
R on one of our first visits

I have been asking the family about hopes and fears, and thought I would document a few.

R is most excited about living on the boat and playing wii, playing with the guys, and being close to Mommy. And, he says "it is going to be a snap for me to clean up my room." While snapping.

A is most excited about spending time with Mommy, and sleeping in the v-berth. It's like a cave.

Daddy Rob is most excited about it being easy to clean. He is looking forward to the sounds of nature, watching the sunset every night, and getting projects done on the boat.

I am most excited about the process of eliminating stuff from our lives, living and cooking and eating on such a small scale, and living more of an outdoor life, with bikes, kayaks, and walking.

R is most nervous about being too close to A. I share this fear.

A is most nervous about giving away some of her toys. I think this will dissolve quickly she really plays with her brother, and books, and dolls, and not much else.

Rob is most nervous about the kids tormenting him MORE because they are bored. I am worried about that too.

I am nervous about us deciding that this is not the boat we want..and that what we do want is going to be too expensive. I am most nervous about Rob hating the grind of dishes, laundry and repairs, and feeling like there is more to do, not less, as we move aboard, and being GRUMPY because of it. Andof my clothes and towel smelling moldy (will someone tell me if I don't notice, please?) I am nervous that A will stay sad.

And, I am excited about the new dialogs that will open up, and the resolution on the other side of all of the conflicts. How we will grow closer and sort it out through our love for one another, and our commitment to this vision for our family.

Wish us luck, and thanks for reading.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Journey Begins, with so many questions!

Shannon and Rob, the kids, R & A, and Charlie the Cat, have begun our grand family adventure.

We are moving from our 1400 sq ft house in Oakland onto our 1974 40 ft Challenger, a sloop rigged sailing vessel, Amazing Grace, in preparation for our grand

S/V Amazing Grace
Rob and I will both be posting to this blog, as this is without a doubt the strangest thing we have ever done, and our minds are reeling!

Many years ago, before becoming parents, Rob and I took time to sit down with a bottle of wine, near a river, and we designed our life. We created a mission statement for our life, deciding then that we wanted our life to be about Living a Life of Adventure, and Making a Difference.

This declaration has pointed the way through many decisions- our choice to adopt children through foster care when we were ready to become parents, many job changes for me, new hobbies, volunteer work, and some incredible adventures along the way. In almost all cases, the choices have been exciting, and somewhat scary. But this will prove to be our greatest adventure yet. And, it is wrought with the most questions!

What will it take to have 2 probably spoiled children and 2 definitely spoiled parents shed all of our cherished belongings save 1 relatively small box of personal affects each, and move aboard our boat while continuing to work and go to school here in Alameda, CA? What will we learn about ourselves, our society, our kids? and what truly makes us happy? How much whining will we have to endure before the kids settle in to the new routine? How much will they endure from us?

What will it take to save our funds, and live a simple life, in preparation for a 3 year voyage to Latin America and the Caribbean as a volunteering family? How will it be for my children to go without, when they are used to having so much? and for me and Rob too? My Son R, age 7, said " I don't want to move onto the boat - I won't be like everyone else!" This is so true, and he is so astute. Is it fair to ask him to be so different? How will he adjust? How will this experience shape and define him and his sister A, age 4? How will I maintain my work life,   in a professional environment, with my clothes in the trunk of my car? When our family feuds, will every single person at the Marina hear us and be horrified? and, last but not least, where will the cat poop?

And while this is still a few years off, once we throw off the dock lines, how will we be tested? What dangers and adventures lie ahead? While technology enables us to stay in touch, how will our community change and evolve while we are living aboard in foreign lands? Will they be 'here' when we get back?

How will we take care of our children's educational needs? healthcare needs?Our financial needs? Our needs for our friends and family? How will we find reputable NGO's in Mexico, Costa Rica, Galapagos, Haiti or elsewhere that are looking for a family of 4 to come volunteer? How will we ever leave these communities where we hope to become like family, and truly connected to those we serve.

How will we ever reintroduce ourselves into the normal day to day of life in the Bay Area upon our return?

I know we will have many adventures, and many funny stories. I know we will be tested, and scared, and on many occasions we will want to give up and come home, call it a day! Come back to a life of 9-5, big backyards, plentiful organic produce and fresh meats, freeways, A/C, dishwashers and washing machines, 401K's and retirement funds, and all that comes with the comforts of western, middle class life.

This blog will the place where we document our inquiry, and begin to answer these questions, and questions that we have not yet asked. It will serve as our family record, the place where we share this journey, and perhaps a place that inspires others to live their life's mission, to be their full selves, and to be different.

We invite you to join us in the journey, and share our observations, and insights, as well as resources you think might help us as we raise the main, and start this latest adventure.

With excitement and a considerable amount of anxiety,