Friday, November 30, 2007

Staged Entry

Where We've Been
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I've been asked many times to describe the process of becoming a liveaboard, cruising family. I don't think there is a “typical” path though there do appear to be commonalities in the families with whom I have compared notes. The rule of thumb is that from the moment you truly make the decision, the average time to cut the lines is roughly five years. That's a long time. Most of the delay stems from financial challenges. Others relate to family or getting the boat ready. Some of it is simple fear.

I always thought of myself as a “balls to the wall” sort of individual. Once I decide to do something, I pitch myself into the project with complete abandon, holding nothing back. My sanity is sometimes called into question but never my enthusiasm or energy.

Yet, looking back on the arc of our progress from upper middle class yuppiedom to full time liveaboard hippies, I can see that we haven't done this with my characteristic abandon. Rather, the story is one of singular steps, each monumental in its own right and adding up to enormous change. Really, this is a lot like going to Mars with the family, jettisoning a large chunk of something at each phase.

So let's take a brief walk through Conger history:

January 2005 – My husband has a mid-life crisis four months after achieving all of his life's ambitions. He decides to run away and asks if I would like to come with him. I agree enthusiastically, but I recommend that we take a house and the children with us. We compromise on a boat.

Summer 2005 – I have no idea how to sail. I've never spent more than three days consecutively on a boat, and then it was roughly the size of a mid-town hotel. It strikes me as a reasonably good idea to take a few sailing classes.

August 2005 – We buy s/v Don Quixote. I once documented how perfectly wrong we were in both our selection and purchase process. Let's suffice it to say simply that we bought the boat sight unseen with no previous experience of the model or craft from an advertisement on the Internet. We'd never even sailed a catamaran ourselves.

September 2005 – I quit my job of nearly seven years and dropped out. The next six months are a perfect blur. I swear I do not remember them. It is quite possible I did nothing but read romance novels and browse Froogle the entire time. The bank records indicate that during that time I actually had several lucrative documentation contracts and completely reconstructed my husband's accounts payable system. This I do not remember.

June 2006 – I remove the girls from their ridiculously expensive private school. This made sense from a sheer opportunity cost perspective. I purchased a packaged curriculum and started my journey towards throwing away everything I've ever heard and believed about “school.”

July 2006 – Contemplated killing Jaime.

August 2006 – Contemplated burying her with Mera and Aeron.

October 2006 – Threw away the Calvert curriculum and started over, this time with the help of the Seattle Homeschool Resource Center, some serious mood elevators, and some unschooling friends.

Summer 2007 – The summer of 2007 saw us accomplishing several major feats. First, Jaime and I managed to travel for week with the boat sans DrC, proving that we could dock and sail the boat without breaking anything. We also made several extended, multi-week sojourns on the boat, proving that we could do so without killing each other. At this point, I was feeling fairly confident that the boat was ready for coastal cruising, although I wouldn't want to try to try an offshore passage with her. Unfortunately, to get to San Francisco we need to make an offshore passage, so there's a bit more work to do.

September 2007 – We finally sell DrC's practice and can build a realistic and reliable schedule for the rest of our lives. Granted, the contract commits him to working through April, but who wants to cruise in the Pacific Northwest in the middle of winter anyway? No worries, we'll just move onto the boat and pretend we're Seattle tourists.

November 30, 2007 – Which brings us to today. Today is DrC's last day as a solo practitioner working for Eye Craft, PLLC. We move all his charts, our server, and a few select pieces of equipment to the offices of Evergreen Eye Center. We're living on the boat more or less full time now. Less only because the heater broke a few weeks ago and I can stand the freezing cold only for about five days at a time before I cry Uncle and run to the heated basement to thaw out in the hot tub of our former backyard.

Where We're Going
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Now looking forward:
April 2008 – DrC stops working. Completely.
May 2008 – We leave Seattle. Mor or less ppermanently. We head north initially into the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands, then Desolation Sound, the Queen Charlottes and back around the west side of Vancouver Island.
August 2008 – Return to the south Puget Sound for a few weeks of outfitting and provisioning. Then we turn south.
November 2008 – Pick up the Baja Haha and that's the last of the cold weather for a pretty long time.

There you go. Simple, right? Now you try it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Redux - The Marine Tax

Toast Note: During NaNoWriMo, I'm posting introductions to some of my favorite cruising and cool stuff web sites as well as backlinks to my personal favorites from the Toast Floats archive. x

We have all said it... ruefully but truthfully. Everything associated with boating is mind numbingly expensive. My name for this insanity is The Marine Tax. Reduxing this one is particularly relevant after just learning that the $325 water pump for our heater from the chandlery is available at the BMW dealership by a different name for $125. ARGH.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Subscribe to THIS - The Green Life

Any sailor that is not also a bit of an enviro fantatic is quite literally missing the point. Sailing and the cruising life are probably the most perfect living lesson for how to reduce your environmental footprint yet invented. Did you know the average American uses 200 gallons of fresh water per day? Did you know that Don Quixote's water tank for 5 people for 4 days is only 80 gallons? Tell me you don't learn really quickly how to do more with less when you live on a boat.

Yet, you can always learn more. The conservation movement offers sailors endless ideas for how to make our boat lives simpler and more environmentally sensitive. There are products available to us now thanks to the efforts of the E.U. to reduce carbon use that were not available a mere ten years ago.

To keep up with all these changes and ideas, I subscribe to a daily blog sponsored by the Sierra Club called The Green Life. It mixes proselytizing of The Environmental Movement with generally useful tips on how to decrease water and power use, find less caustic products to clean our stuff and selves, and where to find the latest in green tech. And while some is not applicable to our lives, much we already “do even more with considerably less”, about once a week I get a great tip that I turn around and apply on our boat. Example? This Oct 16 tip on how to replace chemical mothballs with pungent herbs.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cruising Blog - Mahina Expeditions

No list of excellent cruising blogs would be complete without Mahina Expeditions. Their web site is, of course, primarily devoted to their commercial endeavors – books, seminars, and cruising expeditions. However, you can learn a great deal about 'round the world cruising by perusing both the current expedition travel log as well as entries from past trips.

A bit of a disclaimer on this one. I owe Amanda a great deal. She has been both a source of great motivation (e.g. repeatedly kicking me in the pants) as well as important introductions which have provided me with an entree into the sail magazine publishing world. Nevertheless, I read her log because I enjoy it... though you can pretty much write me off these Nordic destinations after reading about their most recent trip.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Redux - A Failure of Saltiness

Toast Note: During NaNoWriMo, I'm posting introductions to some of my favorite cruising and cool stuff web sites as well as backlinks to my personal favorites from the Toast Floats archive. See you in December!

Another theme I find myself returning to again and again is the issue of woman and sailing. The boating world is full of happy men and indulgent, if sometimes miserable, women. It is a rarity and a pleasure to find fellow female cruisers who take a delight in all things nautical. Yet the misogyny rampant in the style of advertising, the ambiance of boat shows, and the endless pounds of dragged aboard spouse literature makes me want to scream.

Women can find this life absolutely wonderful. It can be liberating, challenging, and fascinating. Ultimately, I think women have more to gain by getting on board and sailing away then men do. It is perhaps my own personal mantra. You can. You will. You just have to want it badly enough.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Subscribe to THIS - The Daily Giz Wiz

Granted, the Daily Giz Wiz is not a web site. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that if you subscribe to no other podcasts, sign up at least for Leo Laporte and Dick D. Bartola's irreverent and enjoyable daily show. Dick is known as “Mad's Maddest Writer” and has been doing the gadget gig circuit on T.V. and radio for years. Leo is basically the patriarch of the Web 2.0 crowd... it seems like nearly everyone one of this whipper snapper entrepreneurs worked for Leo at one time or another.

Each show they pick a gadget and, theoretically, discuss it. They spend considerably more time listening to jingles, poking fun at one another, and generally diving down rat holes. The energy is contagious, and occasionally – believe it or not – they introduce a gadget that I in turn recommend to my readers as a tech tip. Example? Wallies Peel and Stick Chalkboards.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just When NaNoWriMo is Getting Me Down

This morning we are trapped on the boat. The winds are howling at 40 knots, gusting to 60, and it is just frankly plain safer to stay indoors till the front passes in a few hours than try to move my offspring off boat, down the dock, and into warmer pastures. I thought I would use this time to craft prose and catch up on my lagging NaNoWriMo count.

But alas, it was not to be. First, I alphabetized my homeschool supplies. Then I registered domains under my children's names. Somehow in the process I started searching for all things Conger Clan related on Google to see where we are popping up.

And I stumbled on this: Toast Floats. It is a piece of fan fiction... someone writing most eloquently about a Toast I barely recognize. But Kei reminded me of two important points.

First, not only can I write, but there are people who enjoy reading it that do not consist of my family and best friends. Second, you never know when something you say or do will touch someone's life. I barely remember the conversation to which he alludes, and while it sounds very much like what I would say, I am certain that at the time I never expected it to be memorialized many years later.

Be careful how you to treat people. That's the message. Your strength is preserved, your kindness reciprocated, and your hate multiplied in all the worst ways. So thanks to Mr. Gowda, I am now off to actually get more work done with renewed energy and frozen feet. Thank you, Kei.

However, if DrC doesn't fix the heater soon, I will memorialize his ass on the bottom of my foot.

Redux - Boat Proofing the Child

Toast Note: During NaNoWriMo, I'm posting introductions to some of my favorite cruising and cool stuff web sites as well as backlinks to my personal favorites from the Toast Floats archive. See you in December!

Early in this blog, I published a flurry of rather snarky and defensive articles about making the boat safe for the children. There's no doubt these were in response to needlessly helpful friends and bystanders pointing out that boat life was no way to raise a child. After considering the subject at some consirable length, I've come to the conclusion that there is a kernel of truth in their comments.

There really is no way to create a safe and sane home on a boat for small children. Their very human-animal-cub nature makes it impossible. Instead, the key is to protect the boat from the children. After two years of living with them on s/v Don Quixote, I'm positive my poor boat needs a great deal more help surviving my girls than vice versa. For more details on how to protect the boat...

There is No Door Knob Cover for a Boat
Things That Go Boom in the Night
Rounding Up This Round of Safety Talks

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cruising Blog - Dos Gatos

Dos Gatos is the companion blog to the excellent podcast “Podcastaway: the sporadic blog of the cruising catamaran Dos Gatos.” Martin's relaxed style provides an enjoyable window into cruising life in the Pacific. He details ports of call, weather and sea conditions, and goes into some considerable detail on good places to dive. I'll admit that I prefer the podcast, but then I love podcasts in general. The blog, though, supplies more details as well as includes many fine photos to enhance the story of their travels.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Subscribe to THIS -

I have a hero, and his name is Merlin Mann. He's roughly my age. He's not sexy, but I think he's hot. He's not an academic, but I swear he's brilliant. He's not a comic, but his stuff makes me laugh out loud – frequently. Best of all, his stuff is just plan useful.

Merlin's primary web site is This site caters to the geek in many of us while still offering helpful life hacks and useful productivity tips to the average worker bee. Merlin is something of a cult figure in the world of Getting Things Done and life hacking. His blog routinely yields small insights and ideas to make your life just a bit less frustrating. And if that isn't sufficient incentive, he's a brand new parent. That should make for loads of entertaining tips on surviving babies.

Cruising Blog - Tad-n-Tina

The first summer after Dr C and I decided to dive off the deep end and go on a long cruise with the family, I enrolled in a sailing course with the San Juan Sailing school. As a side note, they do a great job and I highly recommend that school if you live in the Pacific Northwest. On the second weekend, I met a friendly couple - Tad and Tina - who were just learning to sail together. We exhanged stories, and I swear they didn't say anything about becoming cruisers. I think I'd remember that.

Yet, here we are vicariously living through the s/v Imagine as she sails south from Neah Bay to Mexico. It's been delightful previewing the ports of call, weather and provisioning obstacles, and culinary delights we will experience when we head south ourselves next fall. I particularly enjoy Tina's style and her choice of subject matter and photo selection. I'm looking forward to seeing if they kick around the Sea of Cortez or head straight down the coastline. If they say up there, we might actually catch up next year!

Redux - (Wo)man Overboard

Toast Note: During NaNoWriMo, I'm posting introductions to some of my favorite cruising and cool stuff web sites as well as backlinks to my personal favorites from the Toast Floats archive. See you in December!

The one article I keep trying to get published in a magazine somewhere is (Wo)man Overboard. I don't know why this one appeals to me so much. It's the least fictional and probably the most functionally useful piece for a sailing magazine that I've written to date. On the other hand, who really wants to hear about an idiot tyro slipping on her ass and getting rescued by her kids?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cruising Blog - The Excellent Adventure

My friends tell me I have "monohull" envy. Maybe it's just that there are so many of them, and so few of us. So it was a relief to stumble on The Excellent Adventure, a cruising blog about a family living on a 47' Lagoon catamaran.

Laureen and her family are roughly a year behind Dr C and I in the prep and leave timeline. On the other hand, they don't seem to have any plans on returning, and Laureen is years beyond me in the environmental, spiritual, and zen thing. We're considering combining our blogs sometime in the future into a single site for folks interested in the cruising family life. She's an amazing person, inspiring to me in ways I find difficult to describe.

Laureen also blogs about homeschooling at Life Without School.