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.

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.


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!


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.

Race, Cruise, Repeat


One of the benefits of balancing cruising with maintaining a home base is that Aaron still gets to race. This past Saturday, he sailed with Turning Point in the Colors Regatta. While he and the rest of the crew were busy tacking and trimming and hiking and executing all of those adrenaline-pumping maneuvers that make racing such a high, Claire and I met some friends and paid a visit to her favorite animals at the Brookfield Zoo. After three rides around the carousel, some kangaroo watching and giraffe heckling, and a lot of goose and peacock chasing, she passed out for three hours back at our condo in Oak Park – catching up on those missed afternoon naps from the last few days.

Then, it was off to celebrate a successful day on the water with Aaron and his crew. Columbia Yacht Club, which hosts the Colors Regatta, threw a lovely party with live music, and Claire never misses an opportunity to show off her dance moves.

Sunday, we switched to cruising mode and took the boat out with a great friend who didn’t mind at all when Claire demanded that she make sunglasses and mustaches out of Play-Doh.


We also came up with some new verses for “The Wheels on the Bus”:

     The sails on the boat go up and down, up and down, up and down…

     The hatches on the boat go open and close, open and close, open and close…

     The wheel on the boat goes round and round, round and round, round and round…

     The wind in the sails goes swoosh swoosh swoosh, swoosh swoosh swoosh, swoosh swoosh swoosh…

The conditions were perfect – a steady 10-15 knots out of the south to southeast – so we had the main and jib flying and left a lovely little wake in our path. Naturally, as you can take the sailor out of the race but can’t take the race out of the sailor, Aaron found some boats to chase.

Before the winds kicked up too much, we docked the boat and I took over the galley, making brats and couscous for dinner while Aaron took Claire up top to romp around on the bow.

All in all, it was a jam-packed few days that ended with, well, just about the best view in the city, in my opinion. To fall asleep and wake up to this…what a dream.