Final Days

Pirate Princess Claire

Last night was our last night on Clarity as a family – definitely for the season, and possibly for forever – as Aaron and I will deliver her to the yard this weekend for winter storage.

On the face of it, it was not a particularly eventful day. We took advantage of the random 75-degree day to dig around at the beach one last time, have Claire run around up top wielding her feisty octopus kite, snuggle up for dinner down below as the sun was setting, and stretch out in the salon with pillows and blankets to watch a show together while Claire snoozed.

It was like any other day at the boat. It was perfect.

Though we still have one voyage left, it’s just not the same when it’s not the three of us. And with Claire’s toys moved off and no laundry waiting for me and the fridge nearly empty and the cubbies wiped down, well, now it’s just a boat. It seems like such an injustice to her, leaving her empty and alone in the cold. I hate this time of year.

As we continue to move forward with our “plan,” we will still push to sell Clarity this winter. But I can’t help but smile at the thought being able to splash her again come April. If she doesn’t find another owner, what an honor it would be, to fill her once again with laughter and love.

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She’s Officially For Sale!

Threenager!I found this while I was clicking through our cruise photos the other day, and it made me laugh! At the time, that day seemed so hard. Certainly, not every day in cruising life is paradise :).

The past few weeks have been filled with time at the boat, but not much “boat time,” as we’ve been preparing Clarity for selling. Hauling off extra gear we put on board for the long cruise, then hauling off more gear to take pictures, and then packing the rest for either a winter on the hard or (hopefully) a new adventure.

Oh, and did I mention the cleaning? I’ve found Cheerios, beads and Legos in nooks and crannies that I didn’t even know were there.

Throughout this process, I’ve been thinking back, not just on our cruise this summer, but on last year, and the year before. Our first summer aboard, Claire had just learned to walk. Aaron and I had never truly spent a month of uninterrupted time together. I’d never driven a boat, let alone captained one in gusty winds and three-foot waves while Aaron troubleshot our failing engine down below.

In so many ways, we became a family on this boat.

And as we put those final details in the online listing, and sorted through the pictures one more time to narrow the batch down to just those that truly show how special Clarity is, I couldn’t help but feel the pangs that have held us back when we’ve previously tried to move forward:

Do we really want to sell her? Is there anyone who will love this boat as much as we have?

But even as I tear up now, I know that we’re ready for the next chapter, wherever it takes us. And if I’m this attached to this boat, and this life, and these memories, I can’t even imagine how we will grow in the next one.

So, the listing is up. Clarity is officially for sale. As the season comes to a close, we are headed to the boat for one more family weekend before we deliver her to the yard for winter storage.

It could be the last time we ever sail her. I hope that it isn’t, and that it is.

To Sell Or Not To Sell

BreakfastWe’ve been back for only two weeks, and already, our cruise seems like ages ago. I’m always so surprised – and so disappointed – at how we just slip back into the daily routine, even if we are still splitting time between the condo and Clarity. The roots of what’s familiar, what’s expected, what’s known, grow like weeds.

I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve decided to sell Clarity.

For something bigger and more equipped for living aboard full time, and in places other than the Great Lakes. For a boat where the list of projects to reach living aboard longer isn’t so long that we lose motivation (though ongoing projects are a reality with any boat).

We are selling Clarity so that we are one big step closer to realizing our dream, in whatever form that takes, still to be determined (staying in the Great Lakes, sailing down the East Coast to the Caribbean, etc.). It’s time to actually take action toward something we’ve been talking about for years. Otherwise, those roots of what’s comfortable and what’s expected, will strangle us.

We’ve told friends and family about wanting to live this lifestyle more permanently for awhile now, and I’ve come to expect (understandable) reactions of surprise and confusion – I myself was more prone to this reaction five, even three years ago.  How will we work and make money, is another question I get – but more on that in another post. What’s shocked me the most, though, is how much concern is expressed about Claire not being in school.

It’s not that I don’t value what organized school provides – in fact, Claire started preschool just two days after we were back in Chicago, and she attends two to three mornings a week. She absolutely loves it, and I have no doubt that she’s learning so much, even just observing the other kids there.

CupsBut though I can value the school setting, why is it so hard for others to value non-traditional settings? Why has it become the expectation for kids to sit in a classroom and learn about adventures, rather than live them? Why are the parents thought to be not putting their children’s best interests at heart, when they’re committing to both being present, teaching and learning alongside them?

And why is it more important to socialize with the same classmates every day, rather than to introduce yourself to new people, in new places, with different cultures? Claire is our social ambassador, after all. She’s never come across a person (or puppy, for that matter), that isn’t immediately informed of her name and what special treat she’s had that day.

Again, I’m not discounting proper schooling – I already see the benefits for Claire! I just struggle sometimes as to why the definition of it is so concrete. We are blessed as a family to even be able to consider this lifestyle. Why would we let it pass by? And of course, if Claire was unhappy on the boat, we wouldn’t even be considering it. But unprompted by us, she asks to go back when we’re not there, and the pure joy that makes it so hard for her to not skip or run down the dock when we get there speaks for itself.

There’s no time like the present – when Claire is still at a young enough age where we feel confident that we can teach her the milestones that are included in the curriculum. And when she isn’t yet tethered to a schedule of whatever sports or hobbies or activities she’s involved in, because we want to give her those opportunities, too. (Whether or not she develops the passion for sailing that we have.)

So, wheels are in motion, so to speak. We’re decluttering and giving Clarity a deep clean, and I’m trying to write a listing that will do her justice and convey her importance to our family in between the lines of dimensions and specifications. It could take a year for her to sell, or it could take a few months. And if she doesn’t sell in a somewhat timely manner, we will likely go back to that long list of “must-haves for long-term cruising” and just commit to executing.

There’s an old Scottish proverb, “What may be done at any time will be done at no time.” It’s time to go do.

 

What Cruising Does To Marriage

The Happy CoupleOn our first morning back in Oak Park, I happened to run into our neighbor, Carol, who naturally asked about our trip. “You lived on the boat for more than a month straight?” she asked. “You must have a strong marriage.”

Her comment made me smile at first. Of course we do, I thought. But it stuck with me, and I started to reaffirm for myself how unusual our situation is. How challenging, and also how rewarding. Don’t get me wrong – we got into it a few times on this trip.  But we worked out our arguments quickly and were on to the next thing. And I always think Aaron and I end these trips stronger as a couple than we began them.

For most people, either one or both spouses does the daily grind, 9 to 5 (or later), Monday through Friday. For the first three years of our marriage, Aaron and I both did this. If you have kids, the evenings are then spent having dinner together, getting the kiddo(s) to bed, and collapsing for an hour or two before sawing logs. Similarly, weekends are devoted to family time. Talking strictly in terms of hours, you’re married more to your job than you are to your spouse or your family.

During these cruises, all day is family time. Every evening is together time. Weekdays and weekends run together. We are together All. The. Time. I will admit, the first summer we did a long cruise, this took adjusting and a lot of deep breaths. I’m used to my freedom, even with Claire, and so is Aaron. But this cruise, our third, we settled into it like a familiar routine.

A big part of it is shifting our mindsets. We’re not just husband and wife – we are captain and co-captain. We simply have to work together to sail the boat from one place to another (and manage Claire to boot). The dynamics change a bit when we toss lines: To a certain extent because he’s more experienced, Aaron becomes my boss. I know my role, have settled into my own responsibilities, and he tells me what additional things need to be done. I know that whatever he asks me to do, he’s asking to help us go faster, keep us safer, etc. That, in and of itself, took some settling in for us. But it works because we respect and trust one another. And when things do get a bit heated, we try to remind ourselves to extend each other some grace.

When we are in port, I think we’re also both mindful of allowing each other some space to breathe. I’ll encourage Aaron to head to the pub in the evening to get some time away, enjoy a pint and swap sailing stories with the locals. In the same vein, he will happily take Claire for a few hours so that I can peruse the shops and find a new favorite coffee shop. We both did that a bit on this cruise, but to be honest, it always amazes me how little either of us takes advantage of this. Sometimes, just knowing that we can is enough.

Another big part of the equation, too, is that Claire is always there. She’s a smart girl and she already picks up on a lot – even if no words are being exchanged, but there’s tension wafting in the air. Having someone else there, bearing witness, naturally makes you a lot more accountable for your actions. It’s not that we never have disagreements in front of Claire – that would be unrealistic. But when we do argue, it reminds us to take a deep breath and step back. And to show her that, though it happens, we love each other and we can resolve the issue.

Every year when we get back to 31st Street, instead of heading for the car as soon as the engine is off, we spend an extra night on the boat. We have a lazy morning the next day. We talk about the trip and we always, always, wish we had more time. More time to explore. More time to spend together. And that, I think, is a true testament, to our marriage, and our family.

Land, Ho! Milwaukee!

We did it! Clarity is cruising once again!

As many cruisers know, casting the first lines of the trip is often the hardest part – so much tethers us to land. There are so many reasons that we should stay in Chicago and do the daily grind. But as soon as the skyline is in our wake, I remember why we do this.

See pics from our weekend sails here!

On Saturday, we sailed with 10-15 knots out of the northeast and were able to fly both the jib and the main for six hours out of our eight-hour run. It was overcast and a bit chilly out there. I was also reminded as the waves kicked up (unforecasted) to occasional three-footers, that yep, I do get seasick. A few seasons under my belt helped me keep it in check, though, and overall, it was a great trip up to North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, just south of the Wisconsin border.

Sunday morning, a lovely couple saw our Columbia Yacht Club flag and invited us to the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club for their $5 breakfast (we get reciprocal rights with most yacht clubs). We swapped sailing tales over scrambled eggs and pancakes and they helped us cast lines late morning as we pointed north once again.

The plan was to make a quick run up to Racine; the wind was straight out of the north and on our nose, so we wouldn’t be able to sail anyway. But just before we put the blinker on to turn left into port, the wind shifted to the northeast and the fog started to lift. Claire was happy as a clam and we thought, let’s just keep going! We cut the engine, rolled out the sails, and five hours later, we tied up at Milwaukee Yacht Club.

We’ll be here for a few days, meeting up with friends and taking advantage of the high-speed Wi-Fi to knock out some work.

It’s hard to believe it was so hard to cast those lines back at 31st Street…

One More Before We Go

As far as long weekends go, this last one was pretty epic. Over the course of four days, we managed to pack in the definition of Chicago summer on the water. Gusty afternoon sails and kites dancing off the docks. Burying each other at the beach, cannonballs in the pool and unending ice cream rivers running down our chins.

Brats barbecued off the stern of Clarity, brunch on the bow of the club ship, and cocktails by candlelight. The soothing sound of water lapping against the paddle boards, and the deafening pound down below of a passing hail storm.

Warm morning breezes, sunny, sticky afternoons, and awe-inspiring sunsets…

This was our last full weekend in Chicago for awhile, as we leave this Saturday or Sunday to point north. First to Racine, then Milwaukee, then Port Washington, and then who knows? We’ll keep you posted along the way :).

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.

Weather Pending

Life at the boat has been pretty grand the last few weeks, despite this ridiculous weather. Last weekend, on Father’s Day, Aaron and Claire sailed the boat up to the club while I spent some quality time with my dad, and then Clarity had her first slumber party at the docks before the three of us sailed her back to 31st Street Harbor in the morning.

It was a great mix of quality time on the boat, at the club, and a little bit of time out on the water, though we’re hoping the latter increases if this rain and cold would ever leave for more than a few hours.

We’ve also been continuing to settle in to life juggling time at the boat and time back at the condo, including both of us working both places. In addition to his Talaske work, Aaron’s also been taking on more Clarity Marine Systems clients, and just did his first charter as a hired licensed captain this past week, which is extremely exciting. It took him a lot of studying, hard work and dedication to see that dream realized.

And, of course, throw into the scheduling dance that there are two homes to maintain and keep provisioned while managing a 3-year-old with no “off” switch (at least I haven’t found it yet), which means to-do lists never go away, they just multiply. Also, being at the boat is so exciting for Claire that the only time she has ever napped here aside from the first day of the season was during that short cruise last Sunday from the harbor to the club. Her Father’s Day gift to Aaron :).

As the 4th of July holiday rolls around next week, we can only hope that a new month brings more sunshine and less rain, more warm breezes and fewer days with temps in the 50s. And when those sunny, 80-degree days do make their rare appearances, we take full advantage.

Finally, A Family Sail!

DSCN1277

This weekend saw a lot of firsts for the Clarity family. First off, we cast lines on our first family sail for the season on Sunday evening! Sure, the mainsail still isn’t rigged, but despite crazy weather and crazy schedules, we were able to get this boat off the dock. I consider that a big win!

See more pics from our weekend here!

The first sail each year is an exciting one, for obvious reasons, and also because Claire’s experience changes so much in a year. She notices more, processes more, delights in more. In previous years, she’s been a busybody, not willing to sit for long while we’re underway and requiring a lot of maintenance (though generally happy). This Sunday was a preview to an amazing summer on the water. Claire was content sitting on the bow, watching the water slice by. She explored the boat with vigor, climbing the topsides like a jungle gym, all within the safety of the lifeline netting. And partway through the sail, she asked to go down below and happily read to herself in her cabin with the boat rocking as we motored back to the harbor.

We know they won’t always be this easy, but what a heartwarming introduction to the season!

This sail was also a big first for me because, somewhat proudly, yet also with a little bit of shame, I’ll admit that this was the first time I took the boat out of the slip myself (meaning I was at the helm while Aaron handled the lines), and the first time I docked it myself after we came in. I wish I had done this before, but to be honest, having control of a 37-foot vessel in such a confined space terrified me. It was time to bite the bullet, and now, it will get less and less daunting. And hey – I didn’t break anything!

Aaron also raced with Turning Point Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the National Offshore One-Design Regatta (affectionately referred to as the NOODs; insert obvious chuckles here). Claire, myself and my mom spent Saturday afternoon frolicking around the new Maggie Daley Park with seemingly everyone else in the world before meeting up with Aaron at the Chicago Yacht Club, which hosted the race. With Claire down for the night, I did some boat laundry while he settled in on the setee to watch the Hawks game. The poor guy was so exhausted that he passed out before the final buzzer.

Sunday morning saw an 8 a.m. call time for Aaron, but Claire and I tucked in for a lazy Sunday morning amidst some pretty impressive storms. I love how being down below during these always feels like you’re in the middle of a waterfall – though it’s loud, it’s surprisingly soothing. Once the clouds headed east, we hit the beach before picking up our wearied and worn sailor at the end of the three-day regatta. And as soon as we got back to Clarity, what did he want to do? Cast lines, of course! I swear, he’s part fish.

Weather Windows

Watermelon!If there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s the manic nature of Chicago weather.

After a lovely Memorial Day weekend moving aboard, the cold set in yet again, with highs in the 50s (and real-feel by the lake in the low 40s at night). We have heat on the boat, so it can be quite cozy at night, but even I have my limits :). Aaron also had quite a bit of work travel for Talaske the last few weeks, so all three of us were eager to get back to Clarity, our neglected mistress, this past Wednesday.

Thursday was a dream – partly sunny and high 70s. Aaron had meetings in the Loop, so Claire and I explored the new floating pool at our harbor, a short 10-minute walk from our slip (at toddler pace). Just add water and Claire is in heaven (I think she gets it from her dad), so the pool was pretty much her Disney World. She spent two hours – literally – splashing from one set of steps to the other. The umbrellas and cushioned lounge chairs on the deck beg for piña coladas and summer reads. And what does every toddler want after an enjoyably exhausting morning at the pool? To go again! – which we did in the late afternoon with Aaron.

Beginner BoardingBeach Babes

 

The temps dropped 40 degrees overnight, though, and the winds kicked up drastically, so alas, the hatches were secured, the heat was turned up, and snuggling ensued. Aaron also had Clarity Marine Systems clients to see in the harbors further north on Friday, so Claire and I spent a lovely hour or two at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. So many years I spent going to the zoo and the Green City Market – how did I miss this place?

Lincoln Park Conservatory Stroll

Claire On The Bridge

Saturday is forecasted to be slightly warmer, but still not (in my opinion) comfortable sailing weather, but Sunday, finally, the temperature should hit 80 again! With heavy thunderstorms, of course. Come on!!

The lack of sailing, while unfortunate, does open up some time for much-needed projects. Given that we are in an ongoing state of refit and restoration on Clarity, Aaron has a multitude going at any given time, and we’re working on quite a few together (more on those in another post). I have finished a few projects, though, that I’ll include here. The first was a cover for the base of our table. To open up the space in our salon, we often have the table out – but this leaves a hollow metal post on the floor that Claire just loves to throw things in. Important things. Like toys, or screws, or rings – creating a half-hour fishing expedition that Aaron has told me is not an enjoyable way to pass the time. So, over Memorial Day weekend, I took the measurements and sewed a cover while I was back in Oak Park. And it fit – thank goodness!

TableStandCoverCalculations

TableStandCover

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Claire into the aft cabin also created a few new projects. For one, there’s only one small drawer in the cabin, and while there is a closet, Claire-sized clothes aren’t really meant for hanging. Plus, if you’re familiar with boats, you know that the space in that closet is at strange angles and at weird slopes. So, using the measurements I took, I did some searching before I found a suitable solution at The Container Store. I still had to cut a few drawers off the bottom to fit the space, but I was able to repurpose one of them as additional toy storage to sit upright in the bottom of the closet, which was otherwise unusable space.

Claire's Closet

Claire's Closet With Bottom Storage

 

 

 

 

 

The aft cabin also has the added joy of being positioned just below the cockpit, which means that about half of the “bed” area has very low clearance – which I learned time and time again the hard way. Claire can navigate that space much more easily, though, and I needed to find a way to stow her toys while we were under way. Anything left on the shelf along the side goes flying across the cabin when the boat’s at a moderate heel. So, I found net storage system intended for cars that I thought would work well in the space. So far so good!

UnusedAftCabinSpace

Claire Toy Storage

Many more project updates to come. As for the rest of this weekend, Aaron’s racing in the Colors Regatta with Turning Point, and also just got hired Chicago Sailing out of Belmont Harbor as a charter captain and a U.S. Sailing instructor (woohoo!). So it seems, Clarity will need to wait just a few more days before we take to the sea. Maybe we should get that mainsail rigged…