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As I have mentioned in previous posts, we LOVE arts and crafts on our boat. Art supplies take up a pretty large portion of our SMALL storage space, but I believe it is worth it because they provide entertainment and learning for the girls.  Recently, the Pencil Grip Company asked our crew to do a review on one of their new products, Thin Stix.   These are an upgrade to their previous product called Kwik Stix, which I also reviewed here.  They are solid tempera paints that are used like a pen, produce bold colors, and dry quickly.

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There are a number of reasons that we like these paints and I find them a perfect alternative to paint, which can get pretty messy, especially when living in a small space on a sailboat that has pretty constant swaying when moving.  These paints are actually more like a marker in the way that you grip them so you can create more fine details in your pictures and they dry in 90 seconds.  This is such an added bonus since small hands want to handle their pictures very soon after they make them.  Now they only have to wait for a minute and half before heading out to hang them in their cabin!

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Not only are they easy to use, but they also can be stored away easily.  We store many of our crafts and art supplies in pencil cases and these fit nicely into one.  We just painted on paper this week, but they can also be used on other surfaces such as cardboard or wood.  And they are non-toxic so perfectly safe for little ones!

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The girls really enjoyed using them and liked how smoothly they slide over the paper.  Plus, you can mix the colors by sliding them over each other and they blend very nicely.  And I really liked that they were mess-free and clean up is very easy…just pop the top back on!

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The crew of All In definitely recommends Thin Stix, especially to other boating families, because of the easy clean up, easy storage in small spaces, and the vibrant colors.  Just remember to wear old clothes or an apron because they are not washable as with most paints.  Thin Stix are available in 6, 12, and 24 packs of assorted, neon, and metalix colors.

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If you would like to get a FREE set of Thin Stix to try out, enter the raffle below.  An entry will be drawn at random on 1/20/2017!!!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Let me preface this post by saying we try to pick the very best days to travel and limit our number of miles per day, so the girls can get off the boat and expel our their 3 and 4 year old energy.  However, we had somewhat of a “schedule” to meet this past week…..family coming to visit us in the Keys (Yay!!)…so we pushed our cruising boundaries a little more than usual and traveled off shore from Fort Lauderdale to Marathon in three days (no overnights).

The three travel days of between 40-50 miles a day and anywhere from 3-6 knots of speed to  Marathon was not an easy one and we find ourselves taking a deep breath and being extremely glad to NOT be traveling for awhile.  We left the Port Everglades Inlet early Tuesday morning and were immediately hit by some rocking waves.  Of course we had planned to depart on a calm day but you can never really predict mother nature.  While were were “supposed” to have 1-2 ft seas, we actually had 4-6 ft sea hitting us at about 4 second intervals.  This may be calm seas for some sailors of experience, but for our family it was rough….very rough.  All of us had taken our seasick medicine, as Leslie calls it, however it did not prevent the uncomfortable feeling that builds in your body from being slammed by waves every 4 seconds.  It actually gave me flash backs of labor and the intense contractions (or birthing waves) that build and get closer together….so very exhausting.  Anyways, by 9 o’clock, the girls cabin had been drenched with water from a leaky hatch gasket (added to the list of things to fix) as the nose of the boat was diving into the waves.  Our cabin was also a mess since Avery had gotten sick in it and it was all I could do to clean it up and try to maintain my composure.  It was a test for our family and we spent the rest of the day in the cockpit staring out at the ocean and the girls eventually fell asleep.  We reached our anchorage in No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne and were able to get off the boat and walk around a bit.  Lesson learned:  Keep the girls in the cockpit during rough seas….do NOT let them go downstairs.  Also, fix the leaky gasket.

We left No Name Harbor early the next morning….actually we thought it was early, but all the other boats around us had left at 3 am for a crossing to the Bahamas.  It is a an eerie feeling when you are one of the only boats left in the harbor at 6am!!  

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We departed with calm seas and had a nice sail until around noon when we experienced our first squall.  It came up fast with 35 knot winds and caused a grey out….we could not see the front of the boat.  But as quick as it came up, it also left.

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We anchored off Rodriquez Key that evening….we were all rather tired and cranky from being on the boat all day and still recovering from the previous day.  Whining and fighting increases when the girls are not able to run around and adult patience decreases.  Lesson Learned: Endurance. Sometimes you just have to keep pushing through long days to get to your destination.

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Day three of our traveling was much improved from the previous days.  We had beautiful weather, water, and wind!  However, the girls mood was not much improved…they were ready to be there.  They can only watch so many movies and I can only entertain them so much before we need to get off the boat.  

We arrived at Boot Key Harbor with much anticipation as to the amount of space that would be available to anchor.  It is packed which is both good and bad.  We are very excited about meeting and learning from other cruisers.  And of course finding some new playmates for the girls.  But, there is a waiting list for a mooring ball and the designated anchorage is full, so we are anchored in a nearby creek with our stern tied to the mangroves.  It’s not a bad spot, except for the no-see-ums.   Thankfully, a breeze will be picking up this weekend and we are hopeful this will clear out the bugs.

As mentioned above, these three days were trying and exhausting for our family, but I also think they were necessary and a good (maybe not good, but needed) experience.  We need to know how much we are capable of as a family unit.  We are now getting acquainted with our new surroundings (our home for the next month) and have already met some other cruising families.  We are all really excited about Papa and Gramma Julia’s visit in a couple days!!

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15665529_366772930357154_5997003313959999490_nThis has been a big year for our family. The first six months of 2016 were busy….getting our boat back to Beaufort from Little River, SC, selling our home, cleaning out our 1800 sq ft of living space and prepping our boat for a June 15th departure. While doing all of this, we continued working our jobs and raising our two girls. Finally, that day in June was upon us and we said goodbye to family and friends and took off on our adventure.  I am rather speechless when I begin to think about the last six months. It has been a time of challenges, excitement, fear, happiness, surprise, bonding, frustration, impatience, growth, tantrums, love, tears, beauty, laughter, kindness, and SO MANY MEMORIES.

I recently was looking through a cruising journal that we kept the first couple weeks after moving onto the boat and thought I would share our first five days….it seems to capture these weeks in just a few words….lots of issues, but also fun times with friends and family…..this pretty much sums up much off our cruising experience thus far.
June 15th-Coosaw River wind and current opposite, girls napped, storm when attempting to anchor
June 16th-Left abruptly in the AM, not a good way to wake up, head no longer works, first meal on boat rice and sausage, sink no longer draining-dishes piling up.
June 17th-cleaned and serviced head, no luck, order new toilet, storm in the afternoon-dingy breaks away from boat. Dive onto boat behind us to rescue dingy. Dingy tied tightly to our boat now.
June 18th-Day sail with Claire, Aaron, and Blake, pool, grilled out
June 19th-Jen visits, spent day at pool, ran around town trying to find parts to fix sink

The first two weeks only continued with fixing all the plumbing issues, but it all got fixed and we got on our way and then abruptly stopped only a week later with our grounding and bent rudder shaft in Shallotte, NC.  This also was fixed but it took three weeks off the boat, so we took a road trip through 8 states ending up in Vermont.

The one word that comes to mind that characterizes the remainder of July and August is HOT…..holy cow it was hot.  I am so glad we decided to get an AC unit a week before we left.  I’m pretty confident our cruising would have come to an end if not for the AC unit.   After cruising through the Dismal Swamp and into Norfolk we hit another little roadblock and had to get a new starter, but that too was fixed and we moved on into the Chesapeake.  This was a first real experience with bigger water and we loved that we were finally able to do some sailing, but the weather was spotty and we learned a lot about patience while being stuck for Hermine.

Finally, we made it to Annapolis, the farthest north we planned to go before heading back down south.  The upper Chesapeake was a lovely experience and we found a new appreciation for anchoring (something we now do all the time, with marina stops just being for reliable wifi connection to watch our beloved Clemson team).  After making it back down the Chesapeake waiting out some more weather, we zoomed down North Carolina only to be stopped again, this time by Hurricane Matthew.  Thankful that family was nearby, we were able to leave the boat in Southport and return to her untouched by the storm.  We were excited to get on the move again, but nature had other plans for us and we got stuck by flood waters near the Socastee Bridge in South Carolina.  Finally we made it back to Beaufort  in time for me to do a little consulting job and to take care of so much needed boat projects.  This was also a wonderful time to catch back up with friends and family.

We set sail from Beaufort the middle of November and completed our first overnight passage to St. Mary’s, GA and took part in the Cruisers Thanksgiving.  Then, we made our way down the Florida coast stopping in St. Augustine, Daytona, Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Palm Beach.  We spent Christmas in Palm Beach on Peanut Island with other cruising families before heading offshore to North Miami which is where we find ourselves now getting ready to watch our Tigers play.

What a year…a year I will never forget and cherish forever.  We were also able to share some of our life on Tiny House Blog, Inside a Traveler’s Walls, and most recently in the December issue of BoatUS.   All the unknowns, frustration, and challenges have been outweighed by the experiences and lessons we have learned and I am finally feeling settled into this new life and the pathless path we have chosen.  I have learned to let go and flow with current of our life and be thankful for the small things in life.  We are looking forward to where 2017 will take us.

Happy New Year from the Crew of All In and

GO TIGERS in the FIESTA BOWL!!!

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Our Christmas this year was very different from previous years….we’re on a boat away from family and friends in a warm tropical location.  We wanted to make sure to carry traditions that we will continue year after year, despite our location.   When we downsized onto the boat, I quite literally got rid of just about everything…..we have a couple boxes stored at my dad’s house.  So, when it came time to decorate the boat for Christmas, we made decorations out of things we had around the boat.  Everything we have used to decorate our boat has been made by us which makes it feel special in our small little home.  The stockings are made from paper and twine, the snowmen and elves from toilet paper rolls, the Christmas tree from drift wood, the ornaments from pasta noodles, popsicle sticks, and shells, the candy canes from pipe cleaners, and many more paper crafts also line the walls of the boat.  We broke out the glitter and it now covers everything on the boat….it may be a while before it’s gone for good.  

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Our elf, Carl, managed to make it on the boat, so he surprised us each morning in a new hiding spot and reported to Santa each night to update him on the location of the boat as it moved down the coast of Florida. The week started with a visit from Grampa and Gramma and it was very special to have some family time for the holidays.  We spent a day at Peanut Island with them and visited the South Florida Aquarium and Science Museum, went to the light show in downtown West Palm, swam in the hotel pool, decorated cookies, and rode the trolley around town.  We finally busted out our GoPro camera again and got a little video of our day to Peanut Island.grandcollage

After the grandparents headed back to South Carolina, we were all a little blue and unsure of what exactly we would be doing for Christmas.  Luckily, we were able to meet up with two other cruising families who were anchored just north of us on the waterway.  We weighed anchor on Christmas Eve and headed to the other anchorage closer to the sailing families.   

Santa visited our boat, hung up some extra lights, ate the cookies we made that day, and left a few presents.  Each girl got the gift they had asked for…..a train set and baby doll.  They were so excited when the woke up…..this was the first time they were old enough to really “understand” Christmas.  The reindeer ate the carrots we left on the deck and Santa took the letters they wrote to him.

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We spent Christmas on the beach enjoying the company of new friends, exchanging stories, and hearing lots of children’s laughter.  There were 7 kids in all between the ages of 8 months and 9 years old.  It was so refreshing to meet other families living a similar lifestyle as us, but our current plans will be taking us all on different routes……Abacos, Cuba, and the Keys.

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While this was definitely not our typical Christmas, nothing is really typical anymore.  We missed our family and friends, but it felt good to create some new traditions and memories with our family of four. All our Christmas decorations are now packed into a small box and stored away for next year.   Our sights are set on a couple of off-shore passages with the destination being Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, Fl.  We hope this will be a temporary home for a month or more until we decide our next destination.

 

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As our family navigates through cruising life, I believe we have a guardian angel looking down on us and guiding us through each challenge and success.  I do not believe the “chance” encounters we’ve had with complete strangers and good Samaritans are merely coincidences, but instead signs from above….

My mother passed away on August 9th, 2008 when she was 57 years old and I was 27 years old.  The day she called me in September of 2007 when she had just received the news of having a mass on her pancreas began a series of events that forever changed my life.  My life in Beaufort immediately came to a halt and I spent the next year on family medical leave traveling back and forth between Atlanta and Beaufort and essentially becoming my mother’s advocate at the hundreds of doctors appointments across the country…..searching and hoping for something that would extend her life.  Unfortunately no treatments exist for stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer….something that still surprises me to this day with all the money poured into cancer research and treatment.  My mother never gave up hope until the day she died and I never believed the end of her life was inevitable until that same day in August.  She was determined, compassionate, strong and hopeful which shined through during her battle with cancer and left a lasting effect on me.

I am forever grateful that I made the decision to put my life on hold (job and marriage) and spend this time with my mother.  I was with her when she died and spent the next years of my life in a fog of grief.  Waves of grief still pass over me, as I believe they always will, but the fog is gone and I gained some clarity to move forward in life with purpose.

This entire experience taught me a number of lessons.  For one….Life is short.  You never know what the future holds and you certainly do not control the future.  My mother taught me not only to dream, but to dream BIG and make your dreams a reality.  She loved to travel and she loved her family.  Her strength and encouragement is what guides me daily and I do not believe that I could have made this jump of faith without knowing she was with me….shining down from heaven and leading the way.  Material things and possessions do not matter because in the end only experiences and memories is what is left.

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I wish I could talk to her daily, hear her voice, and feel her embrace.  Instead I feel her embrace when the wind blows around me and I see glimpses of her in my children’s eyes.  

I also feel her presence in the complete strangers who have been so generous and kind to us as we have approached some tough situations, such as our grounding in Shallotte or the floods in Little River, SC.  I believe they have purposefully been placed within our path.  And most recently we crossed paths with one of mother’s old teaching buddies while in Vero Beach, Florida and I felt the comforting presence of my mom while we reminisced about her life.

We do not know where are cruising path will take us, as we continue to have issues along the way (yes, this is just part of boating).  However, one thing I always know, is no matter the path we take a special guardian angel not only is protecting us along the way, but also cheering us on.  I love you Mom.

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