Finding Our Sea Legs

CaptainClaireAs we speak (or, I write), Claire is sleeping, my tea is steeping, and all I hear are the soft and soothing sounds of the boat tugging gently on the dock lines.

We’ve made it through the first two weeks! As a family, we’ve spent six days on the boat (with a few stops to Oak Park sprinkled in). We’ve taken Clarity out for a short motor cruise, a lovely afternoon sail with friends and over for a sleepover at the Columbia Yacht Club docks.

Here at 31st Street, we hosted a lovely Memorial Day BBQ with close friends, made countless trips to the park and spent so many hours pushing Claire in the swings that I’m pretty sure her name is etched in.

These first few weeks instantly reminded me of everything I love about this life – and also reminded me of some of the challenges as we find our routine. For example, Claire has yet to succumb to napping on the boat. (How can you possibly nap when a duck could be swimming by right outside your cabin at any moment?!) The silver lining is that she goes down pretty easily at night, for the most part.

I’ve also been reminded that the confined quarters combined with my propensity for clumsiness creates a beautiful bouquet of bruises on my legs.

Sailing, however, will be a whole different ball game this season – in amazing ways and tough ones, too. That first trip out, strapping Claire into her harness and heading out past the break wall, we weren’t sure what to expect (she’s double her age now and a real little walking talking person). But Claire was mesmerized – by the boat slicing through the water, boaters waving as they passed by, the breeze on her face and her delight in the always-dependable double-horn of the lighthouse.

She wants to be a part of everything – which gets tricky when she tries to climb back and grab the wheel while Aaron’s driving, or asks (not quite politely) for me to pick her up right when I’m about to blow the jib sheet for a tack. A word to the wise for those who plan to go boating with a toddler – don’t hesitate to throw Cheerios at the problem.

We’ll find our groove, though – after all, Aaron and I are remembering so many things from last year, but given that she’s only 2 years old, Claire doesn’t really remember. She’s learning fresh! And the best part is that through all of these experiences, we grow as a family.

For now, I’m going to sit back, revel in the quiet, snuggle up in our cabin with a good book and drift off. I must conserve my energy for tomorrow’s adventures.

Home Sweet Home


After six months of a relentless Chicago winter that I’m not convinced is gone for good, s/v Clarity is finally back home, bobbing away in Chicago’s 31st Street Harbor. And with her audible sigh of peace (I swear I heard it!) came the rewarding task of making her truly our second home for the next six months.

Aaron spent multiple weekends in the yard the last two months digging away at the endless punch list of boat projects (a list that never disappears, just changes) – having hatches (windows) that don’t leak when it rains is a nice perk, for example – and was able to sail Clarity from Skyway Yacht Works to our harbor a couple of weeks ago. Once she was tied off, I took over, cleaning out the winter grime from top to bottom, in every nook and cranny, so that I felt at ease when Claire inevitably ate Cheerios off the floor or hid her animals in one of the storage bins underneath the setee.

Then, it was a matter of transferring in clothes for the three of us that could accommodate a temperature fluctuation of 50 degrees (we’ve worn fleeces and sweats one night with space heaters running, only to be sweating in tank tops the next). And setting up Claire’s room, of course. We currently have her in the roomier V-berth at the front (or bow) of the boat while Aaron and I contend with limited overhead space in the aft cabin. But the setup allows us to use the galley and the head (bathroom) without disturbing her while she’s sleeping.

I wasn’t sure if Claire would still fit in the Phil & Ted’s travel crib we used last year, which allowed us to secure her safely from all sides both at dock and at sea – but it looks like we’ll be able to get at least a few months more out of it before crafting another solution. Of course, no toddler cabin is complete without toys, stuffed animals and Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book, all about a gaggle of animals’ nighttime routine before falling asleep at sea.

And then there was the initial provisioning for meals and endless snack demands (from both Claire and Aaron). This is not only about making sure you have the right food but also making sure you store it appropriately. For example, getting rid of as much cardboard packaging as possible is key, as the boat is by nature a moist environment. The fridge is deep and top-loading, so repacking items in stackable Tupperware makes it easier to get to what you need quickly while underway. This year, we’ve added an item to our repertoire – a Keurig. Oh, the difficult life we lead…

Still, the true test of whether or not we’re ready will be the first couple of weeks at the boat. After all, Claire was just a little more than a year old at the start of the season last year – walking, but not running, climbing, but not so dangerously, and with a small vocabulary consisting mostly of animal noises. She is a completely different crew member now – bursting with energy, determined to do anything and everything, and a chatterbox that won’t hesitate to tell you what she wants.

I can’t wait to see what this season will bring. And to chronicle it here.