“How do you do this?!”

Twice in the past two weeks, we’ve had the pleasure of introducing Clarity to friends who are not boaters and who had never been aboard before. And they both respectfully and understandably asked, “How do you do this?!”

They were referring to the space down below. Sure, we have the aft cabin, the v-berth, the head, the galley, the salon. They are rooms, for lack of a better word, since they’re separated by doors. But the boat is 36-and-a-half feet long from stem to stern and 12-feet wide at its largest point. The entirety of the space is a little bigger than a decent walk-in closet.

The first summer that we had the boat, and Aaron told me he’d like to spend half-time (or more) aboard for the season, if I’m being honest, I had the exact same thought. How the heck am I going to do this?! And with a kid?!

But the more seasons we spend on Clarity, the bigger it seems down below, and also cozier. It just feels like home.

With this lifestyle, our living quarters aren’t limited to down below. We have meals in the cockpit. We run around on the bow and climb the topsides. We set up our wooden table, chairs and candles and create a living room on the dock.

And after awhile, quietly, I started to realize it. Lake Michigan is our backyard. Everywhere is our backyard.

We are a five-minute walk from a pool, a playground, a splash pad, a beach and the ice cream cooler in the ship’s store, to Claire’s delight. We hunt for caterpillars along the lakefront path and greet the ducks that pass by our slip.

We start up the engine and Claire’s big blue eyes light up as she says, “Are we going for a ride?!” We fill the sails with a course headed in no particular direction and spend an entire morning floating while Claire dunks herself in a bucket of lake water in the cockpit.

Every evening, Claire yells, “Mommy and Daddy: I found the sunset!” Along the lakefront, away from the concrete jungle, they are never the same, and they never disappoint.

Somewhere along the way, too, the question changes from how we do it, to why we do it.

We do it for the freedom. We do it because we can take off – just leave – toss lines- escape – whenever we want, and take our home with us.

And Aaron and I both work from the boat. We spread out our computers at the salon table, sometimes side by side. Aaron will head to the airport from Clarity for business trips and I’ll do calls with clients while walking the dock.

I do laundry, make meals, play hide-and-seek with Claire. We do life, but we do it on our terms, in a setting that speaks to our souls.

“How do you do this?” is a hard question to answer. I hope I’ve scratched the surface.

Off to the Races!

Family Shot

And he’s off! Aaron and the crew of Turning Point are just a few hours into the Race to Mackinac. It’s the 107th year for the race, and Aaron’s 10th running.

After toasting with some Champagne last night at the dock party at Chicago Yacht Club, one of the sponsors of the race, we headed back to Clarity so Aaron could get some solid sleep before managing shifts for two or three days with a crew of nine. Claire and I said our goodbyes this morning and dropped him off at the boat in a flurry of last-minute prep before they cast lines.

In addition to putting Aaron at a decade of Mac Race experience, this year is also a special one because, for the first time with Turning Point, he’s part of the driving team, which means he’ll be at the helm during his shifts. It’s a great honor, and one he’s worked hard for.

You can track the Turning Point crew throughout the race from your computer, or you can download the free YB Tracking app to your phone or tablet. Aaron’s boat is in the Beneteau 40.7 division, and the maps often load faster if you de-select most or all of the other divisions.

As he makes is way to a well-deserved rum drink at the Pink Pony on the island, Claire and I will be holding down the fort(s) here. I’m sure we will find plenty of our own trouble to get into :).

Sail fast, Turning Point!

A Perfect Weekend

Many times, Aaron and I have contemplated selling everything and sailing away – at least to a place where we can keep Clarity in the water year round. And while that’s still very much a consideration, when family comes to town and the weather stays favorable, summer in Chicago is magic.

See pics from our holiday weekend here!

This past Independence Day weekend, we had a full family crew on board Clarity. Aaron’s mother, Penny, and her husband Brian, were the first to arrive last Wednesday, driving in from Michigan. Then, on Friday, July 3, my brother, sister-in-law drove in from Indiana with my two nieces, and my mother also joined in the fun. We all convened at 31st Street, where we took a quick dip in the pool before casting lines.

Out on the lake, Aaron and I were able to show our families what we love so much about this life. We hoisted the sails and had our crew take turns at the helm. The girls snuggled up down below with toys and books, and the adults savored views of Buckingham Fountain, Navy Pier and the skyline that so few experience. After a few hours, we made it to the yacht club just in time to snag the last spot on the dock, then laid out a spread for dinner that deserved its own Zagat rating.

Aaron, Claire and I stayed on the boat at Columbia while our families got some rest to gear up for the 4th. A lazy morning on the dock led to bloody marys on the bow of the club ship with Penny and Brian, then the 10 of us came together again for a walk through Maggie Daley and Millennium parks. Before the fireworks crowds completely clogged the lakefront path, we made our way back to Clarity and shared wine and cheese while waiting for the sun to set. The club is the best place to watch the fireworks, which are set off from Navy Pier just north of the ship, and they did not disappoint.

Many thanks to Claire, the three of us slept in Sunday morning, then sailed the boat back to 31st Street for donuts on the dock with Penny and Brian. We spent a lovely day poolside – the fifth in a row with high temps and no rain! – before they, too, headed home to Michigan, and we were once again the three musketeers.

I forget sometimes how lucky we are to live in a place that allows us to indulge in our dream while still being close enough to share it with those we love. What a wonderful celebration of our freedom.