Sep 3, 2015

5 Simple Steps To Start Turning Your Dreams Into Goals

   What is it that you dream of doing? Have you sat down and thought about what it is you can do to make that dream a reality? I mean not just sit there and fantasize about it, but sit down and go through the steps you would need to go through to go from where you are now to what you want to achieve? Do those steps seems feasible? Do they seem insurmountable? Take it down a notch. What is it that you can do today to get you that one step closer to your dream? Sometimes its the smallest things, the baby steps, that need to be taken or done to get you that itty bit closer. Once you add all those itty bitties together you may surprise yourself at how far you have come.

Here are a few simple steps that you can do to help you start moving in the right direction.

1)Start fantasizing about it, daily. Join those instagram and Facebook feeds that motivate you to get closer to your goal. Be it sailing forums and pinterest cooking instructions, whatever your interests are, having them in your face on a daily basis will keep that dream alive, remind you what it is that you are working towards, and keep you motivated to move forward with it. Also seeing other people do it and making it their reality may lessen your fear of taking the big leap towards your dream.

Back before we started sailing instagram didn’t exist (man that makes me feel real old!) but I would follow people on Facebook that were travelling the world. My dream totally was not to end up living on a boat, that was an unexpected surprise. It was to travel the world with my love (who turned out to be Eben) and find a warm and tropical destination to live in. To motivate myself I would buy travel magazines on a regular basis, watch where other travellers were going via facebook, and connect myself with as many nomadic people as possible. Listening to stories over drinks or reading about them in magazines only made my desire for travel burn stronger.

2) Break it down, for real. Following your passion may not be as HUGE of a risk as it may seem. If you sit down and write out what it is you are truly after, and the steps you feel you have to take to get there, it may make the whole thing more realistic for you. This way it is no longer the dream that you hide in the back of your mind for some special day, it is a goal that you are working towards and know the specific steps you need to start taking to move towards that. Get out your notepad (or iPad) and start writing.

I remember many times siting down with a piece of paper and writing pros and cons to an option. I would do this a lot, for a job offer, or a travel destination, or personal decisions. This may seem completely juvenile and silly, but seeing it on paper helped me visualize it. And many motivational speakers, coaches, yogis, etc will tell you that visualization is everything. Having the words written down on paper made it all more real to me, turned them into goals, and helped me make clear decisions on which direction I wanted to see myself go in.

3) Finances. Sadly enough, money is a real factor in a lot of our dreams. Whether we need the nest egg, or to be able to sustain, or just have enough money to comfortable start down that path, the money thing is always there and it is real. So decide “How much money is it that you think you need?”. Do your research, be realistic about it, and then add a 0 or two to that. Often the dream takes more $ than you originally expected.

When I was in college I found my way to travel. I worked full-time while going to school full-time. The amount of money that I could put away during the school year was enough to allow me to go backpacking in central america every summer. As a solo traveler that was easy enough. Once I finished university I started “living to travel”. I would find myself a job somewhere foreign and make enough money to pay for the plane ticket (like when I taught rock climbing in Malaysia, or TEFL in Thailand, or worked in a Cafe in New Zealand, or a Montessori school in Japan). Once I arrived I already had a job, and housing (which came included in these jobs). I would work out my contract and repeat the process with the next destination. 

Doing this with a family is a bit scarier, you have more people that depend on you, so you want to make your financials a bit more stable. You need to ask yourself “How Can We Afford This”, and see what it is you are willing to do to get yourself there.

4) Be prepared to take a few steps backwards. Not every dream can be realized overnight. The unexpected can pop up and set you back a crazy amount of time. You have to mentally prepare for that to happen, because IT WILL.

The plan for Eben and I to spend a few years traveling together was thwarted by the amazing surprise that we were pregnant with Arias after only 3 months of marriage. Small step backyards for the sailing dream. So we put it off for a year, and once she was 9 months old we started that plan again. All was looking good until we had my Maiden Voyage from Hell. Another step backwards for the travel dream. Here we had dropped it all in the hopes of sailing for a few years, and after one horrible trip we were ready to throw in the towel and never look at sailing again! But thankfully for us, we never let those step backwards stop our progress in moving forward with our dream. And look at us now, 5 years living aboard.

5) Ask yourself how much you want to risk. Unless you are extremely well funded and can comfortably have a backup plan A, B, and C, you have to ask yourself how far you are willing to go to attain your fantasy. You can either commit to it 100%, or not, which is totally ok. All you have to do in the 2nd case is come up with a plan B, one you would be comfortable with, where you get close to your dream without having to put too much on the line.

We held on for a long time to a “backup plan”, a house in Canada, just in case the sailing didn’t turn out to be something we loved. In the end we sold that house, three years into sailing, because that thing was causing us nothing but headaches and we realized that we should’ve just gone all in from the start and been able to enjoy those first couple of years stress free. But it was our Plan B, our just in case, and it gave me comfort. Now we have it all on the line, and are quite comfortable with that. We know where are finances are and are watching them closely, but we don’t let that distract us too much from the fact that we have managed to live our dream for this long and feel extremely fortunate for it.

I am not saying that if you do these five steps your dreams will come true, its not quite that easy. But these steps will get you moving in the right direction, whatever your right direction may be. And if for nothing else, it may get your brain going as to what your dream may be…and that’s a start.

Sep 1, 2015

Keeping Kids Safe In Rough Weather

  We err on the side of extreme caution when choosing our sailing weather windows. We have kids onboard, why push it?! And we have me onboard, so why push it?! (Yes, after five years of sailing I still don’t consider myself a sailor, I just like being able to move my home from beautiful point A to beautiful point B, the sailing I like less.) So we go when its calm, not too calm, because we have learned that that doesn’t work well either, but we choose wisely. 

   Over time we have come up with a few tricks that have helped us make the trips more enjoyable. When doing longer passages we actually prefer to sail at night, that way the kids are sleeping and Eben feels less stressed out. We also try and plan shorter hops during nap time for that same reason. We have also come to realize that keeping everyone in the cockpit while sailing is best, that way we can avoid seasickness and we can also keep our kids close at hand and under our supervision. There are also clear rules for the girls while we sail: 1) no going on deck, 2) only walk in the cockpit with parental assistance, 3) bums on the seats at all other times. Our girls were raised with these rules and don’t question them, just like a land kid knows not to dart off into the middle of the street, our girls know how to behave while underway.

   But random unexpected squalls do happen. And that’s when people wonder, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE IN ROUGH WEATHER? Having everyone in the cockpit helps a lot. I can have my eyes on the girls, while my hands are free to help Eben sail the boat. (This has actually only started working now that the girls are a bit older. Before I would be sitting on the floor holding the girls and Eben would be stuck single-handing. Which is why in those days we always took on a third adult to help us with longer crossings.) In the few instances when the weather has gotten bad we get the girls to sit on the cockpit floor, away from the splash of the waves, away from the rain, and away from being able to see the rock of the boat. Keeping them calm is key. I have been known to sing lullabies to them in rougher stints. We have full body newt suits to keep the girls dry and west marine life jackets to keep them floating. There is also children’s dramamine, which we will give to the girls on longer passages to help keep their tummies settled, because our little ones do get seasick in larger seas, which doesn’t help anyones morale. 

   Our children are excellent readers of body language too. They can tell when mama and papa are a little more tense (ie stressed when the weather unexpectedly turns on us) and know that in those moments they REALLY have to listen to what we say; and they do.

   Thankfully for us, in the last 5 years I can only think of 4 times when the weather got shitty quick. And 3 of those were squalls that came and went in under 20 minutes. (The other we got rocked by some waves all night long, ugh. But that time we had Jaala onboard to help Eben, so my only duty was take care of the kids.) Also, in all of those cases we had land in sight. So it is definitely not like we were out in the open ocean getting attacked by the white squall, even in our moments of “stress” we were not in fatal danger. The stress is more so from wondering, “What kind of damage will this do to our home?” and “When is this going to pass?”. 

   Over time we have learned what we feel comfortable with, how to sail, and how to keep ourselves safe. We are happy with our precautionary measures, but will continue to take every step to avoid getting in to those situations in the first place! 

Just so you know we undid the zipper once she fell asleep down below because we were worried she would get way too hot!

Full Body Rain Suits

Aug 28, 2015

Tying Into The Mangroves For A Storm

   When we heard the storms (first Danny then Erika) were projected to hit right where our boat was floating we decided it was time to make the mangroves of Benner Bay, USVI, our new temporary home. Although driving your boat into a bunch of mucky branches, surrounded by some seriously murky waters doesn’t sound too appealing, it does have it’s advantages. We chose the mangroves as our storm “safe zone” because we liked the idea of having our boat in the water, liked the wind coverage we got from them, liked that we had friends’ around to weather the storm with, and liked the strong root systems and flexible branches that the mangroves provide to tie into. The idea of mangroves is having 50 anchors in 50 spots nearby. Unless you have 9 anchors onboard, I would suggest mangroves. This was our first time tying into the mangroves (we are no experts) and Eben went with what made sense, and a few quick peeks of what other boats around us were doing.

   Tropical Storm Erika passed overhead late last night. She was a gusty one but our boat did not break free from the spot we had placed her in. Eben stood watch to make sure. We were asked to share our mangrove techniques since Erika is still blowing strong and making her way up the island chain towards the states. We are no experts but we can tell you what worked for us, if you are questioning yourself.

FIRST OFF…WHEN CHOOSING A SPOT: Almost as important a how your boat will fit in, you want to take a close look at how the other boats around are tied up, because they are as much of a danger as the storm itself. The last thing you want is to be fending other boats in the middle of a storm.  Also the least favourable spot is on an outward bend, because you want to have at least a 45 degree angle on your lines to have equal tension. (You should see the engineering diagram Eben just drew me about angles and radius! It was almost too much for my brain, so I will trust that he was right!)

To Go Bow Or Stern In?
   Our preference, and the most ideal position, would have been bow in to the mangroves, with our bow pointing in the predominant wind direction. This way your rudder is not being pushed into the ground with every gust and surge. But all those sweet spots were already taken. So we had to back into the bush, that was the only option. The benefit of being stern to is if something on your boat breaks free you end up in the mangroves instead of into another boat, the downside is if someone else breaks loose they are floating towards you (that is if you have your stern in the mangroves with predominant winds on your nose). Even stern to, the theory still lands that you want your nose into the wind as much as possible. So that is what we did. 

   Eben had gone through the mangroves ahead of time and checked the depths here and there.  But if you don’t have the time to do this you can keep in the back of your mind that most mangroves are rooted in mud, so you can even drive in or back in until you hit bottom and then move forward or backwards by two feet until you are off the ground and use that as your “spot”.

Anchors, How Many Do You Have On Hand?
   There is a big difference on how you set your anchors depending on how many you have. We originally had two out, until our friend Dare mentioned to us, “What’s the point of having a perfectly good anchor sitting on deck”. We set our third out that afternoon! 

   Depending on your amount of anchors, the configuration will be different. We have 3: main anchor (Mantus for us) straight into the wind, or if you are nose in you will have your main going straight off your stern, and the 2 other anchors no more than 45 degrees off of that. If you have anchors of equal size then it doesn’t matter which goes first, but if you have them in differing sizes you want to put the strongest one in the predominant spot. For our main we dropped it from the sailboat and then backed down on it, sending our rear into the mangroves. Then we hoped in a secondary boat and set the other two. 

   **We have a “long time salt” (Dave from s/v Mist) who recommended to us for severe weather you can use a car tire as an anchor snubber to reduce the stress on your anchors and lines. (Of course if you have snubber use that, but if not this technique could be handy.) We didn’t do this this time, weather was bad enough to warrant it. But he suggested to do so because after several hurricanes and boats getting shipwrecked he said he would go diving and find anchors fully set with the line tied to a windlass that was now on the bottom of the ocean.** 

Anchor chain to tire, line from sailboat to tire. The tire takes the impact.

   **2nd note: Never trust just your windlass, always use a 2nd spot on your boat to “anchor” your line. i.e. tie to your cleat and then to your winches, they are well grounded and give you a backup in case your cleat rips out.**

Used our winches as "secondary anchor" for our lines.

Lines, Ropes, ETC. What You Use To Tie Up.
   Let me start by saying that Eben is a packrat. Extra ropes are one of the things that he has the hardest time parting with and I am always on his case to just throw them out. In the instance of a Tropical Storm coming our way he made sure I recognized how handy it was to have all those extra ropes he had stowed onboard! My bad. 

   Brand new lines would be safest and ideal. The older the line the more UV damage it may have, and the more stresses it has gone through. You must find your personal balance of Your Safety vs Your wallet.

Glad we had enough lines to create this spiderweb.

   To tie in to the mangroves you want to have 4-6 lines of good length (I will give an equation later for that length). With 4 lines you want 2 tied off at midship (one on each side) going out at about 45 degrees and tying in to the mangroves, and 2 more coming off your stern or bow (which ever you have driven into the mangroves) crossing each other and going into the bush. If you have an other 2 lines on hand use them as well and tie them off your mangrove end shooting off 45 degrees into the mangroves as well.

Our stern lines crossing and into the mangroves.

   We have a 41ft boat and used 3 strand, 3/4inch line (because that is what we had on hand). You need the line to do the length of your boat (either from midship or mangrove end) into the mangroves with 10-20ft of length left on the one end to tie into the mangroves, and 3-5ft on the bitter end after you have cleated off to your boat. The extra on the boat side is to ensure that you can loosen or tighten your lines as the surge comes in or out.  To tie off in the mangroves we found the “knuckles” of the tree (a large branch where lots of little ones split off from there), wrap your line around it twice so it doesn’t slide around and tie it with a bowline knot. Eben, who is extra precautious did the double wrap, then a half hitch, then a bowline knot.

Tying in to the mangroves.

   equation for line length =  5ft to hitch to boat + length of boat + distance to mangroves + 15ft to tie off to branches.

Loose lines vs tight line
   This depends on if you plan to stay on your boat during the storm or if it will be left unattended. If the tidal change isn't huge, which it isn't in most of the Caribbean, and you will be on your boat to monitor, we would recommend to err on the side of tight. This gives less time for the boat to gain speed in any one direction and cause high impact on the one rope. Ropes snap easier when pulled quickly. Pretty sure that’s true, haha. You will also be around to make any adjustments to them if need be. If your boat will be unattended then your lines should be loose side, to be able to deal with the incoming surge. 

   We also put chafe guards. They didn’t do much but they are to prevent unnecessary wear, which in the end saves us money. Eben had made our chafe guards out of old fireman’s hose (they have to throw it out regularly to keep up with regulations). Just make sure that they are not completely sealed at the ends to let rain water flow in freely to help reduce heat and lines melting. Same goes for water hoses.

chafe guards.

Couldn't quite get the 45 degree angle because the boats were packed in there so close, so we did what we could.

Don’t Get Lazy
   There is nothing better than being prepared a full day in advanced. If you really want to be prepped “properly” for the storm, make sure its all done well in advance, because it will take longer to do than expected; it always does on boats. Get your spot set, lines tied, anchors set, and then tie everything on deck down, take down all canvas, sails, and anything that would cause extra windage. Stow all extra stuff below. For larger items, like your dinghy and SUP, find somewhere on land to keep them or tie them into the mangroves too. Also keep in mind that prepping does not only mean your stuff. Prep your mind for all possible scenarios. Eben says “ Assume that any one line breaks what is your boat going to do? What are you going to do? Play the scene out in your head and try and predict what will happen. Have a plan for that. Befriend those around you, you may need a helping hand, or an extra anchor.” 

And to wrap up, help everyone you can before the storm, something about  getting good Juju!

Aug 26, 2015

5 Days To Build A Dodger

   This hurricane season has been extremely productive for us. Eben has some sort of fire under his   because he is starting, AND FINISHING, all sorts of amazing things that have been on our “to do” list forever. The biggest one yet, and one that makes me extremely proud, is the dodger he just spent 5 days making. Eben sewed our bimini years back. And we have always wanted a dodger, and have been carting around all the materials to make it for the last three years. Yes that’s right, we had huge rolls of strataglass and "sea hawk" sunbrella just sitting in the vberth, taking up space, begging to be made into something. Finally, last week, the time came to get’er’done. So with a little motivation, and some help from friends’ that offered us dock space and an air-conditioned room to do the sewing in, this project has been completed. 

Here are the 3 vague and not-so-easy steps to making a dodger! (this being written by the person that had nothing to do with making it!)

   1) Make the frame. Eben took it upon himself to find the stainless and bend it, by hand, to make the shape of our dodger-to-be. With good measuring, and some pieces of wood taped to our beefy bimini structure, he started bending metal, little by little, with nothing to help him but his own strength. (and sometimes me standing on the opposite end of the post!) Getting angles right when bending pipes by hand can be tricky. But after a lot of back and forth he got it. Once the shape and angle was to our liking, we had to decide how we wanted it to sit. That meant, a lot of looking at it from different angles and simply seeing if it was appealing to the eye. We didn’t want the thing to stand straight up looking like a wall of glass, but didn’t want it to be too low either to get in the way of our visibility. We spent a lot of time dinghying around looking at other peoples' dodgers (trying not to look too dodgy as we starred into peoples cockpits!)

One of those moments when he needed my weight to hold down the opposite end of the pole.

More measuring.

Checking out different angles.

  2) Make a pattern. With a plastic “painters’ drop cloth” Eben made the pattern for where the Strataglass and material would sit. Then the real cutting had to begin. Of course there was triple measuring that happened in between, because at the price that Strataglass costs per foot, you do not want to make a simple mistake. Once the first cut was made, it was on. From there I did not see my husband for three days. He literally spent from morning until late night (almost 2am one night) in that air-conditioned room, folded over our Sailrite, sewing away.

   Every now and again he would appear back at the boat, to take a few more measurements, try things on for fit, and then take off again. The girls and I would stop in and give him encouragements and kisses before taking off on some sort of “land adventure”. I think we were having a little more fun than him, but he was being way more productive.

   3) Attach it to the boat. He had to bring the thing back to the boat and install all the common-sense fasteners to our hull and the bottom of the dodger, so that he could stretch it down taught, and attach it to our boat. That took another day of work. About an hour per fastener, which he said went way faster thanks to the hot knife he used. He said that without that tool he would have added countless hours to this project. The reason it took so long is that he had to do them one by one. It looked something like, pull dodger taught, make mark of where to install fastener, install fastener, pull dodger taught and make mark where to cut hole in dodger to attach other half of fastener, install fastener, connect the two together, and move on to the next.

   In the end, the dodger he made is a thing of beauty. It gives our cockpit a whole new feel. A feel of, more money? More luxury? More comfort. That’s what it is. More comfort. We ride in style now, without the salt water splashing in our hair and without the worry that our daughters are going to get soaked by the squall we see on the horizon. The dodger looks like it was done by a pro (it was, Eben is a pro) and gives our boat a whole new feel.

   If you want any more specific details about making your own dodger feel free to contact us, as well as stay tuned for the interview that Sailrite has requested to do with Eben on his dodger building.