Sunday, May 18, 2014

SAILING AWAY: Year One, Phase Two

Did you miss Phase One? It's right here: SAILING AWAY: Year One, Phase One

Finally our long-dreamed-of day arrived. We set out from Miami with a waypoint on Bimini. It was our first time to head east into the Atlantic, our first time to cross the storied Gulf Stream and our first time to sail to another country. What lay ahead? We couldn't think to dream… 

Miami to The Bahamas, Exumas, Eleuthera, Abacos

Parked in Paradise | Miami to Bimini | January 19, 2011 | More in my column
The boat rolled right and left, nose down, nose up, every which way in no particular pattern -- the only "pattern" that makes me seasick. And yes, I got nauseous. And then I threw up my ginger ale, right into the Gulf Stream. Take that!

Bimini to Staniel Cay, The Bahamas
Yay for turquoise water!!! With the Gulf Stream behind us, we felt grateful and lucky that Mother Ocean had treated us so kindly but had no idea how soon our luck would turn. We had one more hurdle before we reached uninterrupted paradise.

Photos of Bimini | Bimini | January 19, 2011 | More in my column
Tongue Lashing, our first butt-kicking | Nassau | January 22, 2011 | Nassau photos
Our Girl | Rose Island | January 31, 2011 | Rose Island photos
To the Exumas | to Highborne Cay | February 4, 2011 | Highborne photos
Normans Cay, The Happy Side | to Normans Cay | February 6, 2011 | Normans photos
Normans Underbelly | Normans Cay | February 8, 2011
The Reality of Dreaming | Warderick Wells | February 10, 2011 | More in my column
Fulfilled and Half Empty |  Staniel Cay | February 16, 2011 | Sights of Staniel & Big Majors photos

Sampson Cay to Long Island
The day after our kids left, our friends on Jessie Marie arrived, and we resumed the idyllic life of lolling in paradise, one island at a time.

The Gratitude Dance | to Sampson Cay | February 17, 2011 | photos
Three Sheets to the Wind | to Bell Island | February 20, 2011
Piping Hot | to Pipe Creek | February 23, 2011 | photos
OH SHEET | to Black Point | February 25, 2011 | More
Through Willie's Eyes | Black Point | February 28, 2011 | photos
Reward for a Job Done | Black Point | March 2, 2011 | More on blog | More in my column
Caving In | to Cave Cay | March 7, 2011
Cutting Into Deep Water | to Lee Stocking Island | March 9, 2011 | photos
A New Leaf | to Leaf Cay | March 10, 2011
Showers and Other Blessings | to Emerald Bay | March 10, 2011
Ode to Friendship | road trip to George Town | March 12, 2011 | More in my column
Stocking Islanders | Emerald Bay | March 13, 2011
Supermoon, Superdumb | to George Town | March 20, 2011
It's Not IKEA, Swedish Day onboard Cara Mia | George Town | March 21, 2011
Where North Meets South | George Town | March 21, 2011
Brought to You by the Color Blue | to Salt Pond, Long Island | March 26, 2011 | photos
Blue or Black | to Deans Blue Hole | March 27, 2011 | photos
Not for Tourists | Salt Pond, Long Island | March 29, 2011
Bitten | Salt Pond, Long Island | April 1, 2011 | photos
While We Are Waiting | Pratts Hill, Long Island | April 2, 2011 | photos

My Freediving Interlude at Deans Blue Hole
My journalism career had been long dormant when I visited Deans Blue Hole and heard people in wetsuits screaming BREATHE, BREATHE! The latent journalist in me screamed as well, and I wrote an article about Freediving for the New York Times -- and these posts in the blog:

The Rides | Long Island | April 10, 2011
Freediving: A Curious Sport | Long Island | April 13, 2011
The Women of Freediving, the most popular post on this blog | Long Island | April 17, 2011
Free of Freediving | Long Island | April 20, 2011
A Reminder to Breathe | my column about Freediving in Classic Yacht ezine

Long Island to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera
After crossing the Tropic of Cancer, we turned north on our way back to the U.S. coast -- but not without a lot of island hopping on the way.

Bahamian Wings | George Town | April 29, 2011
New Crew Member | George Town | May 2, 2011
Working Boat | to Emerald Bay | May 9, 2011
Introducing Warderick Wells | Warderick Wells, Exumas | May 8, 2011 | photos
Crossing to New Ground | to Rock Sound, Eleuthera | May 9, 2011 | photos
A Brush with Governor's Harbor | to Governor's Harbor | May 12, 2011
A Fish Tale | to Spanish Wells | May 14, 2011 | photos
Inside the Side Trip | Dunmore Town | May 16, 2011 | photos

The Abacos were our last island chain to conquer in The Bahamas. We sailed across the Tongue of the Ocean from Spanish Wells to Lynyrd Cay and then to revisit the first place we had dared to dream.

Better Than Hope | Hope Town | May 20, 2011 | photos
On Top of the World | Hope Town | May 24, 2011 | photos | More in my column
Island Hopping | Great Guana Cay | May 26, 2011
Another Hop | Green Turtle Cay | May 27, 2011
Barracudas Don't Wait | Spanish Cay | June 2, 2011
The Last Stop | Great Sale Cay | June 3, 2011
Can Water Be Sad? | Great Sale Cay | June 5, 2011
Time to Go! | Great Sale Cay | June 6, 2011

On June 7, we left Great Sale midmorning to face the Gulf Stream once again, this time east to west.

SAILING AWAY: Year One, Phase Three, coming soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

SAILING AWAY: Year One, Phase One

If you are here to dream a little dream of sailing, then I'm here to help! That is, after all, how my dream came to life:

Imagine :: Visualize :: Realize

This blog started with our launch, October 24, 2010, and sails along with us for three years. Since this is a blog, the sailing posts are scattered a bit willy nilly -- and in reverse order, so I've gathered them here in chronological order, starting with that hyper-emotional day we finally untied the lines, a day I had dreamed of a bagillion times.

And if you're interested in how we arranged our lives to go sailing, there's a whole other blog for that, called ploddingTOparadise

SAILING AWAY: Year One, Phase One

Down the ICW, Manteo NC to Miami FL

DAY ONE: Our New World | Manteo NC to Engelhard NC | October 24, 2010
This morning we left Manteo on four hours of sleep, nervous, fidgety and lacking faith in ourselves and the GPS. Chip and the GPS performed flawlessly. I sat on the life jackets and wept.

Engelhard NC to Beaufort SC
After breaking those final land ties, we struggled to find our new footing. The unrelenting demands of life underway were harder and more exhilarating than we had imagined.

Momentum | Engelhard NC to Oriental NC | October 25, 2010
People on the Edge | Oriental NC | October 26, 2010
Weather or Not | to Beaufort NC | October 27, 2010
Changing Rhythm | Beaufort NC | October 28, 2010
Cara Mia: Population 2  | Beaufort NC | October 28, 2010 | More in my column
Pleasant Surprises | to Swansboro NC | October 30, 2010
Get There When I Get There | to Wrightsville Beach NC | October 31, 2010 | More in my column
A Sense of Belonging | to Carolina Beach NC | November 1, 2010
Open Water | to Southport NC | November 2, 2010
A Close Shave | to North Myrtle Beach SC | November 3, 2010
Never Alone | to Georgetown SC | November 4, 2010
Skinny Waters | to Price Creek SC | November 6, 2010
Into the City | to Charleston | November 7, 2010
Ode to Charleston | Charleston | November 7, 2010
Ghostly Stowaway | to Alligator Creek SC | November 10, 2010
Ghosting into Beaufort | Beaufort SC | November 11, 2010
A Day in the Life | Jacksonville road trip | November 13, 2010
Ebb and Flow | Beaufort SC | November 17, 2010

Isle of Hope GA to Vero Beach FL
As we headed south, trying but failing to outrun a super-cold winter, the days grew shorter, the temperatures dropped, the tides turned epic and new friends appeared at every turn.

New State of Mind | to Isle of Hope GA | November 19, 2010
ICW::SURVIVAL | my ICW adventure game
Through the Gate of Hell | to Wahoo River GA | November 20, 2010
The Science of Pink | to Darien River GA | November 21, 2010
Not One Single Time | to Brickhill River GA | November 22, 2010 | More in my column
Beauty Without Words | to Cumberland Island GA | November 23, 2010
Into the Masts | to St. Mary's GA | November 26, 2010
What a Drag | to Fernandina FL | November 27, 2010
Skidding Among Friends | to St. Augustine FL | November 28, 2010
Reconnecting | R&R in St. Augustine FL | November 29, 2010
Recalibrating | St. Augustine | December 2, 2010
Use the Time | St. Augustine | December 3, 2010
Things I Should NOT Do | St. Augustine | December 3, 2010
Return to Sanity | Daytona FL | December 5, 2010
Daytona Speedaway | Titusville FL | December 7, 2010
Popsicle Watch | Melbourne FL | December 8, 2010
Inspiration in Vero | Vero Beach FL | December 10, 2010
Happy Drifting | Vero Beach FL | December 12, 2010
Filling the Bilge | Vero Beach FL | December 18, 2010

Stuart FL to Miami FL
Once we left Vero Beach, the Gulf Stream became our focus, a challenge we had dreaded for years but one that would deliver us -- finally -- to paradise. We concentrated on preparing the boat and ourselves to make the big hop from Miami to Bimini.

Southbound Again | to Stuart FL | December 20, 2010
A Bridge Half Open | to Lake Worth FL | December 21, 2010
Clear Blue Water, our first ocean passage | to Miami FL | December 23, 2010
The Missing Link, losing a dear friend | Coconut Grove FL | December 24, 2010
Happy, Happy Sorrow | Coconut Grove FL | December 25, 2010 | More in a tribute
CARA MIA Christmas | Coconut Grove FL | December 26, 2010
Listing, chore list before going offshore | Coconut Grove FL | December 31, 2010
2011 + 51 | Coconut Grove FL | January 1, 2011
A YES Day! | Coconut Grove FL | January 6, 2011
Open the Window! | Coconut Grove FL | January 13, 2011
Lost and Lost | Coconut Grove Fl | January 14, 2011
Are We Leaving? | Coconut Grove FL | January 18, 2011

And the answer was, YES, WE DID! We set sail from Miami on January 19, 2011, for our first ocean passage, across the Gulf Stream to Bimini.

Read about it here: YEAR ONE, PHASE TWO

Thursday, May 15, 2014


St. Helena, CA

All this time, I've thought I was looking at tiny grape clusters. Wrong. I might have flunked Botany, but I didn't even take it, so I've got some catching up to do.

Grapes are hermaphroditic (who knew?), having both male and female sex organs, discreetly covered by those green caps, the grapevine's version of a fig leaf.

So small, a ladybug can't even hide under them.
At bloom the green caps, called calyptra, throw discretion to the wind, break open and expose the organs, which is what happened in our neighborhood this week.

Since the clusters are so close together, neither birds nor bees are necessary to carry the pollen between the buds. They just rub against each other. Once the party's over, the flowers begin to transform themselves into grape berries.

Apparently this is a critical phase in development and various weather and temperature issues can adversely affect the whole way-hey-hey process. So far, so good. Think fertilizing thoughts.

Today, I'm grateful for: red.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


St. Helena, CA

Our just enough bathroom is now complete. For a minute there it wasn't, but now it is.

We bought your basic bathroom supplies, a short list:

1 shower curtain
2 bath towels
1 hand towel
1 bathmat

Then, I was showering yesterday, bending over to get my Dr. Bronner's soap for the fourth time, when I thought, "I should buy one of those soap dispensers that stick to the wall, just push the button. No more bending over."

Fortunately another part of my brain spoke up, "Hold on a minute. You're actually going to drive to a store, spend money on a big piece of plastic, add another thing to the list of things you own, just so you don't have to bend over?"

"Umm, maybe not."

Bending, a first world problem.

Things I didn't buy today: soap dispenser.

Today, I'm grateful for: flowers from my front yard.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


LivFun magazine, Spring 2014
Is there really such a thing as the adventurous spirit? If so, are adventurers born that way, or do we learn it somewhere along the way? And how does the adventurous spirit manifest as we age?

When I accepted this assignment from LivFun magazine, I didn't know the answer to any of these questions, an adventure in itself -- and, as it turns out, the answers I found took me by surprise.

Read it here, or LOW BANDWIDTH, and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


St. Helena, CA

The Napa Valley, only 30 miles long, lies in the embrace of the Mayacamas Mountains to the west, and the Vaca Mountains to the east. At its southernmost tip, just above Vallejo, the valley is five miles wide, large enough to contain the city of Napa with a population of almost 77,000. As the valley meanders northwest, the mountains begin to crowd in, and the valley narrows.

Up north here in St. Helena, population 5,909, the valley's so snug that the mountains are in spitting distance on both sides. Something about a valley tucked between mountains summons a primal sense of safety from whatever enemy lurks on the other side.

For the grapevines, that enemy is the scorching heat of the Central Valley to the east and the cooler marine influences to the west, and the mountains serve as a time-honored barrier to keep them at bay. For the humans, this means stunningly beautiful 360º vistas with our crowning peak, St. Helena, just to the north. The valley's charm is not lost on the clouds. Many mornings, they try to creep down the mountains and dwell among us, and who could blame them?

Millions of years of grinding tectonic plates and robust volcanic activity have left the Napa Valley with a diverse topography and a wide variety of climatic conditions, all things that happen to make grapes extremely happy. 

Once again, grapes and I seem to have a lot in common.

Today, I'm grateful for: the fruit of the vine.

MORE: wine country

Monday, May 5, 2014


St. Helena, CA

Our walk home from the grocery store.
In a mass-production world, it's easy to forget that the wine in my glass comes from an agricultural product that bears fruit only once a year. Wine is a finite resource, a fact brought home to me when I look at a map of world wine regions showing just how few places on the globe are grape-friendly. Grapevines are finicky things, picky about something wine folks call "terroir," the soil, climate, topography, hours of sunlight and amount of rainfall, among other things. And, unlike Jimmy Buffett, they don't like changes in latitude. Grapevines will thrive only in a narrow band of latitudes in the northern and southern hemispheres, between the 30th and 50th parallels.

Because of this essential confluence of conditions necessary for grapevines to be happy, wine producing regions are relatively rare and rarefied for me until now, seemingly mythical before I came and decidedly magical once I did. Grapes have amazing taste in terroir. Check out this curb appeal.

Looking down into Napa Valley from Mount St. Helena.
Driving through Napa Valley is gawk worthy -- and not just for its beauty. It's like a music fan driving past Sting's house, then Paul McCartney's, and Dave Matthews next door -- and Bruce Springsteen up the hill. Oh, and there's the entrance to Prince's palace! Whoa, Lyle Lovett and Jay-Z are neighbors? Who knew? 

Napa Valley claims some of the most famous wine producers in the world, all jammed into a scant 67 square miles. 

And us? We're nestled in a little hamlet called St. Helena (rhymes with Catalina) in the dead center of Napa Valley. Our wee cottage is across the street from Beringer, walking distance to Charles Krug, one of the oldest producers in Napa. We are within a few-miles of Duckhorn, Louis Martini, Rombauer, Quintessa, Mumm Napa, Stag's Leap, Heitz, Nichol & Nichol, St. Supery, Grgich, Silver Oak, Cakebread, Turnbull, it just goes on and on. And so will I. More to come!

St. Helena, the big red mark in the center of Napa Valley.

Today, I'm grateful for: the privilege of watching grapevines at work.

MORE ABOUT wine country | triumphal entry | blooming |

Saturday, May 3, 2014


St. Helena, CA

I didn't buy this!
After the excruciating process of liquidating a house full of stuff, I came away with a different perspective about owning things. They weigh me down, limit my mobility and sap my energy. If I own something, I have to make space for it in my daily world, clean it and care for it. Eventually, I will have to transport it, which is a burden for me, find a new home for it, which transfers the burden to someone else, or dispose of it, which is a burden to my planet.

My first post this week was about the rules for buying things when I must. Today I'm adding my strategies for resisting the urge to buy more things to weigh me down -- even the really awesome ones.

1. Shop with a list.

When I go shopping, especially to big stores, I go armed with a list of what I need, then try hard to stick to the list. Sometimes, I go out with a razor focus, such as this month's "36-inch drop leaf table." I've been shopping for weeks with that single-item list. Eventually, I'll find that perfect table for our small space, but until then, I can look at fabulous things that I don't have to buy. #I_win

2. Return things.

Sometimes the store's magic dust wears off on the way home, and that fabulous thing loses its fabulousness. I like returning things, because it makes me feel like someone is giving me free money, which is obviously not true but works in my favor. Some stores are better than others about returns, but I rarely have issues. Receipts go into a slot in our expand-o file, and then get cleared out every few months.

3. Think of stores as museums.

As full-time travelers for the last four years, we had continuous exposure to money-sucking opportunities. I learned to think of the stores as museums: Look but don't take. It's oddly empowering and takes away the "what should I buy" stress. I simply savor the colors, feel the textures (a museum where you can touch!) and enjoy the ride.

4. Take a picture, it doesn't last as long.

On my laptop, I have a folder of photos called "Things I Didn't Buy," which includes that orange bench at the top of this post. I don't even like that bench any more, even though I almost bought it -- ON SALE. Taking a photo satisfied my immediate need for possession, which soon passed. Here are a few more of the things I didn't buy, although I still like these:

5. Buddy up with a friendly bad cop.

Sometimes I need an intervention to knock me out of the buying spiral, a simple reminder to think again. Chip and I play the bad cop for each other, a simple nudge or "yes, it fits, but is it fabulous?" Beware of the good cop, good cop syndrome, where you shop with someone who encourages you to buy indiscriminately. Take your good cop buddy to lunch, not Macy's.

6. Go on a fact-finding mission.

When we settled here in St. Helena, we went on a major scouting excursion to familiarize ourselves with area stores. Now, when we need something, we can make a strategic strike without wasting time or exposing ourselves to unnecessary temptations.

7. Don't buy more storage space.

It's a scientific fact that empty space (a vacuum) wants to be filled. If I had bought that bench at the top, I would have put things inside it. That's the same reason we rented a tiny house and why we didn't buy a dresser for the bedroom, but instead bought a small rack with just enough space for the clothes we already have. No more buying things that hold more things!

8. If I want a souvenir, I get something tiny.

Size truly doesn't matter when it comes to souvenirs. You're buying a memory trigger. It's what it represents that matters.

After our first cruising season, crossing the Gulf Stream twice, I saw this ring in Charleston. The mesmerizing blue of the Gulf Stream is immortalized in this stone, and wearing it transports me to that glorious water without having to worry about impending weather or yakking over the rail.

9. Rethink gift exchanges.

We've revisited the whole premise of gift-giving. For our own birthdays we plan a luxurious dinner date, splurging on a decadent restaurant. It's a delicious treat for both of us -- and we don't have to take it home (except maybe a few extra pounds). For others, we give things that are consumable or expendable, like brownies or homemade limoncello or flying wish papers (LOVE THESE).

10. Savor the open space.

An expanse of open floor or a nearly empty shelf. Acknowledging and appreciating open space makes me want to keep it open: no fabric or plants covering the view out my windows, no floor-to-ceiling pictures cluttering up my walls. My eyes crave open space, an uncluttered gaze. It's how I find my muse.

Today, I'm grateful for: every blooming thing.

NEXT WEEK: It's all about wine country!

More about: downsizing | living small

Friday, May 2, 2014


St. Helena, CA

How do you get rid of a house full of stuff? When we started back in 2008, we seriously had no idea. Our 5-year plan to sell everything and go sailing was 2 years from fruition, and 1400-square-feet of stuff stood between us and the water. My problem was that I didn't know anyone who had gone sailing or who planned to go sailing. Back then, there were very few blogs, and the few sailing blogs that were out there started with "we threw the lines and sailed away."

So, as I faced the gargantuan task, I had two goals:
  1. To mindfully dispose of a 4-bedroom house full of belongings, a thriving business, a too-small sailboat and two cars.
  2. To log the process for those who came after me.
Thus began my old blog,

Since that blog has 394 posts and was not exclusively about downsizing, I've compiled the downsizing posts here in chronological order to make it easier for those coming after. 

PHASE ONE: Getting the house ready to sell.

Going Off the Grid -- The first post from a wide-eyed, hopeful me, who had no idea how much work lay ahead.
Two Steps Back -- A cringe-worthy TO DO list -- even now that it's done.
Do You Need a Stapler on a Boat? -- Puzzling over what to keep for a life I knew nothing about.
Some Days -- The stress of downsizing and other first world problems.
Blame It On August -- My kingdom for a cardboard box. @#!#@
Wind In Our Sails -- Making real progress.
A Long Trip -- The emotional toll of going through all my stuff.
Lonely at the Edge -- When nobody shares your vision.
Taking Measure -- Marking progress.
Step 842 -- Reality and other epiphanies.
Salon Refusé -- When downsizing hurts.
Running Toward Empty -- A banjo and a pasta maker, the bizarre dregs of a life.
Who's Watching My TV Tonight? -- The first garage sale.
The Sad, Sad Measuring Cup -- Blindsided by emotion, the happy/sad realization that life is a one-way trip.
The Incredibleness of Being Light -- The beauty of being clutter free.
Junking the Junk -- The last $#&*# garage sale and a mammoth trip to Goodwill.
The Last Can in the Pantry -- Saving the hardest for last.
A Time in September -- The gut-wrenching stress of dissolving a life.
Stir It Up -- Bad economic news but progress on the downsizing.
Messy Curtains & Missing Flyers -- How do you measure waiting?
Random Objects -- The things I chose to keep.

PHASE TWO: Final downsizing after house sold.

Getting Things in Line -- Organizing the move.
Tammy's Shopping Channel -- The great Facebook giveaway, my stuff goes nationwide.
Clearing House -- Selling furniture on Craigslist.
Shrink, Shrink Not -- Big progress in getting small

PHASE THREE: Transition from land to boat

Training Ground -- Camping in a small apartment.
You've Got Mail -- Figuring out how to handle mail.
Finding Focus -- More paring down: Books
Between a Rock and the Water -- Ill-equipped for land and sea.
On the Move -- The short list of belongings and a final move on land.
Let It Go, Girl -- A sad, sad requiem for a tiny spoon.

PHASE FOUR: Moving onboard

Just Enough -- Moving onboard -- a real boat is smaller than a fictional boat!
The Price of Playing -- Emotional freefall.
Galley Ho! -- Downsizing from a full kitchen to a wee galley.
The Last Load -- Hallelujah, the last stuff goes onboard!
Car-Pay Diem -- SOLD! Car number one.

On October 22, 2010, we handed over the keys to our last land possession: a car. Two days later, we sailed away on our 38' boat with everything we owned in the world onboard, yet again wide-eyed and hopeful with no idea what lay ahead.

MORE ABOUT: downsizing | living small