Fall Rhythm

As fall approached, new activities and schedules all seemed to start at once. Suddenly we had places to be at specific times and I began to stress. We’ve made a conscious effort to avoid adding significant schedule commitments to our routine. Now, it felt like every day I needed to be at a different place at a different time. Once I took the time to write down our off boat commitments and our on boat interests, our week took on a rhythm while still leaving us plenty of flexibility. I know this schedule will change as we move into colder weather but for now, our routine is working.

Monday: park days or board games in the morning, gymnastics in the afternoon

Tuesday: baking in the morning, Central library Lego club and tween club in the afternoon

Wednesday: Owen attends Parts and Crafts, Kinsley museum day

Thursday: sword fighting and home school meet up in the morning, local library in the afternoon

Friday: handcrafts and projects in the morning, dinner with friends

Weekends: split between family fun and family work

We’re fitting in plenty of lazy days, Halloween fun, and soaking up of nice weather as well.


Our marina is a neighborhood within a neighborhood. When people ask where we live, I still pause slightly before answering. According to our mail, we live in Charlestown, a Boston neighborhood. According to my mind, our neighborhood is Constitution Marina itself. There are around one hundred boats with full time liveaboards here, including nearly a dozen kids.

When you all have to walk the same docks to leave the water, you can’t help but run into neighbors. We wave to some, stop and chat with others, and nod to many new faces of marina guests in the summer. We begin to learn one another’s schedules and who to expect to bump into when.

We’ve made friends in our funny floating neighborhood. Kinsley loves to chat with wonderful liveaboard who takes care of all the marina plantings. She and Kinsley talk about flowers and bees whenever they pass. We snip basil and chives from the herb boxes to spice up our summer meals. We’re close with many of the other parents, taking turns watching the kids along the Harbor Walk or in the pool and sharing birthdays.

On our way off the dock each day we check to see if the other kids are in the marina or not. Kinsley always announces which kids are out having fun, depending on the lifejackets clipped to the fence.

Over the winter, our neighborhood grows even closer. Liveaboard boats are clustered together, closest to the gates. Adults meet at the pool on Friday nights, after it has warmed up to hot tub temperature. The families then take over on Saturday mornings, to enjoy the bath temperature water. We leave our radios on during storms, just in case someone needs help.

I know there are extra adults around to help me out, just in case. I’ve watched other kids sleep so laundry can be finished late at night, other parents have busied my kids so boat jobs could be finished.

The marina organizes a turkey roast, holiday party, and spring potluck. There’s a facebook group and email list to keep us connected. These help organize open mike nights, borrowing tools, selling parts, and sharing of marine related news. We’ve joined together for birthdays, baby showers, and bon voyage celebrations.

Alex and I chose this marina for its location but we stay for the community.

A Day in the Life

There’s no such thing as a typical day in our life. Schedules vary according to season, homeschool routines, Alex’s work schedule, and our own ever changing whims. This is a fair representation of how we roll.

3:50 I wake up to meowing, and squawking. Peter has brought home a sparrow for Wendy to play with. Alex and I hop out of bed, he grabs a flashlight and I grab a yogurt container. Less than a minute later the bird is off the boat, we’ve practiced this routine too many times in the past month. Together we close the hatches to keep the mighty hunter on the boat for the rest of the night. I read for a while, trying to fall back to sleep.

6:00 I’ve finally drifted off to sleep when one of our neighbors fires up their engine, making an early start. Bow thrusters are noisy, especially when the sound is carried underwater.

6:15 Construction starts on the office building next door, I swear into my pillow about stupid cats and stupid people who won’t let me sleep.

7:05 “Mommy, wake up time!” Kinsley wakes up anywhere between 6 and 8 but has to wait until her clock says 7 before waking me up. We start the day with a snuggle on the couch. She moves on to breakfast and a show on the iPad, I head for tea and cereal.

7:45 Alex is up. I take five minute to hang up yesterday’s bathing suits and towels on the lines. There were thunderstorms last night so I didn’t hang anything up after our trip to the lake and there’s nowhere to hang sandy dripping towels inside without them being completely in the way. From there I head to the YMCA to swim. The down side of living at a dock, you might be surrounded by water but you don’t want to swim in it.

9:00 I return to the boat. Owen is awake and having breakfast and his show. Alex heads up the marina shower, Kinsley plays with her dollhouse. I fill the water tanks, we ran out last night and since it was raining and I had enough to make tea in the morning, procrastination won. I set the timer and fill the tanks for 7 minutes. The timer is needed because the tank has no window or gauge of any kind so it’s a bit of a guessing game to know when the tank full. Once that’s done, I wash the breakfast dishes.

9:30 Alex settles in to work, despite the rest of us chatting and moving in the main room of the boat.
More tea for me while I pack lunches for Owen, Kinsey and I. The kids begin playing with Owen’s potion kit. I’m told they are working on an invisibility potion. I pause lunch prep to help grind beetle eggs. Then the potion needs time to stew before they can complete the next steps.

10:00 Owen moves on to Khan Academy to work on some math skills. He’s determined to get 6th grade 100% completed but the program has updated and added some new skills so he has more work than expected. Kinsley pulls out her 100 numbers chart for a while and then switches to writing Kinsley’s Book About Cats. I alternate between one step of lunch prep and one page of taking dictation. The book is four pages long when it’s time to go.

10:20 Shoes and life jackets on, down the docks we go to the car. Owen has sword fighting this morning with a group of homeschool kids in Cambridge. It’s a 20 minute drive so I get us going 40 minutes ahead of time. It continues to amaze me how long it takes us to get from the boat to buckled in the car. I double check that we have everything before we head out, forgetting anything back on the boat leads to long mental debates to decide if the forgotten item is worth the walk back to the boat or not. Today we make it out without any mistakes.

11:00 Owen battles with five other kids while Kinsley and I work more on her book. We are up to eight pages. She’s trilled to share her work with some of the other parents and cheerfully explains that some parts are real but most of it is fiction. We picnic for lunch and then head up the hill to watch the end of Owen’s class.

12:30 Owen eats lunch in the car on the way to Trader Joe’s. Owen and Kinsley are helping run a lemonade and cookie stand in the afternoon and we have no eggs. The anticipation for cheese crackers means everyone is willing to add an errand on the way home.

1:00 Back at the marina I quickly decide against stopping at the office to pick up packages. A backpack, two bags, and two tired kids is more than enough for one load.

1:30 Quiet Time! Owen retreats to his room to read though his stack of library books while listening to an audio book… I still haven’t figured that one out. Kinsley brings her dollhouse to my bed. Alex keeps working in the main room. The boat has no doors so everyone can still hear and see one another but this set-up adds some distance. The main rule of quiet time is that I get an hour without having to answer questions. I grab a cup of tea and settle in the cockpit to read email and write. Peter naps on the refrigerator. It’s cool there, which reminds me to look into adding more insulation.

2:30 Quiet time is over and cookie baking begins. I pull the cushions off the couch to gather the baking ingredients, open the cabinet below the stove for a bowl and pan, and start the propane. To light the oven first I have to light the rightmost burner and leave it on for a minute or two. Only then can I turn on the pilot light, grab my sparker, and light the oven. It doesn’t hold temperature well so I try and be sure to let it preheat well before baking. Two enthusiastic kids are hard to fit in the kitchen at the same time so I divide the steps of the recipe to give them each a chance to help.

3:00 I stay in the kitchen swapping batches of cookies. Kinsley plays school on the floor of the main room, asking “teacher mommy” to give her alphabet lessons to study.

4:15 Cookies are done. It takes four batches at twice the normal baking time. The oven is only 13″ wide so that severely limits the size of each batch.

4:30 Life jackets back on, shoes optional this time, we head out of the marina for a lemonade and cookie stand with Thalia and Naomi, boat neighbors. Last year we managed to run a stand every Thursday but this summer has been busier for all of us. This is the first time all four of them have the change to go into business together this summer. The kids have some regular customers as well as a steady stream of businessmen and women heading to the trains and tourists traveling the Freedom Trail. Tonight, one of the marina liveaboards offers them a deal, will they accept a wooden box with unknown contents in exchange for a cookie? No question, these kids love surprises. It turns out to be full of coins, the kids are squeeing with excitement.

6:00 Back to the boat for dinner in the cockpit. It’s been hot this week so we’re having salads. No lettuce or dressing for Owen. No peppers for Kinsley and I. No tomato for Alex. Why do I keep thinking this is a quick easy meal?

6:45 We divide and conquer for stories. I read to Kinsley on my bed, we are most of the way through an adorable series called The Lighthouse Family. Owen puts away the dishes and cleans up his room so there’s room for him to sleep. Alex and Owen settle into the cockpit for their book, currently Jurassic Park. Kinsley is usually in bed by 7:30, Owen heads to his room around 8:00. She falls asleep right away most nights but will sometimes play with stuffed animals for a while before drifting off. Owen hangs out in his room and reads for a few hours before going to bed.

7:15 I answer three calls for the “very absolutely the last” hug of the night from Kinsley while I wash the dishes. I leave them stacked in the sink for the drying fairies to take care of before Owen puts them away in the morning.

8:00 Alex and I have tea and chocolate on our bed while watching an episode of West Wing before reading ourselves to sleep. The hatches and portlights are all open, the breezes are blowing, and hopefully everyone will sleep well.

Summer Aboard

Here on Goblin, we’re enjoying a quiet, low key summer.

We romped around New York City during a heat wave. Three days of sightseeing, balanced with lots of down time. As much as these two love to go out and about, they love their quiet play time just as much.

The tall ships came to Boston and docked in our neighborhood. The marina kids were far less impressed than the adults, though it made a good excuse to run around together.

For the most part, we’ve stayed close to home, riding out a mix of heat waves and September-like cold.

Two years living aboard and we are still loving it.

In Praise of Tiny Toys

Kinsley has always adored playing with small parts. Sorting screws, bolts, and other hardware, picking up pebbles when we go for a walk, pouring dried beans, the smaller the pieces the better.

Both my kids love Legos and they play with them very differently. Owen builds vehicles, the wilder the better. I’ve been introduced to planes that fly in air and water, all terrain vehicles with detachable spaceships, and motorcycles that ignore gravity. With the same toy, Kinsley rarely puts together more than a dozen bricks. The individual pieces become characters and props in elaborate stories about family and friends. A cube can be a car, a baby, or a birthday cake.

Small pieces, for Kinsley, are placeholders in her stories. She overflows with ideas and they pour out at playtime. Her toys argue, act stubborn, get into mischief, and sort themselves out again. They throw parties, adopt kittens, and grocery shop. I’ve watched her create a vet’s office, celebrate weddings, teach school, and explore islands with nothing more than a collection of pipe cleaners and tiny wooden blocks.

There are times, looking at her play, that I find myself thinking that I should buy her something more to play with, maybe Playmobil people and animals with their realistic accessories, toys that match the stories she tells. She has a few animals and they get regular play, maybe she needs more variety? Fortunately, I catch myself in time. She clearly doesn’t need more toys. Her small parts are changeable and open ended.

She can tell any story she wants. Why would I limit that?

Slow Spring

There are years when spring bursts upon us all at once. We move quickly from winter coats, long underwear, beef stew and electric blankets, right into shorts, popsicles, pools and gardens with barely time to catch our breath. This is not one of those years. A day or two of warmth followed by rain and gray. One more day of sun and three more cold gray days. We are doing our best to celebrate the little things, regardless of the weather.

Flowers and fresh herbs on the back deck.

Stories in the hammock.

Sun warmed cats.

Beautiful views.

Frog boots in puddles.

Flowers everywhere.

Hang in there, summer is coming.

Our summer bucket list.

Are you noticing the lack of Owen pictures too? He gets to ok which pictures I post and he hasn’t been in the mood to be photographed lately.

Game Time

Books and games, games and books. If we brought all the ones we love, Goblin would be riding a few inches lower in the water.

Owen, our resident game kid, had the tough job of deciding which games to bring aboard, which to tuck into storage, and which to give away. He sorted for which games could be packed down small, be fun even after playing them over and over, good for kids and adults to play together, and could be taught quickly to new friends. Not all the games fit all these criteria, but I think he managed a good mix. Together we unboxed the games and sorted them into ziplock bags. Card games are stored in plastic travel soap boxes.

Owen’s choice for games are listed below. He started some of these as young as age four but all are recommended for adults as well. Kinsley is starting into Blink, Spot-It, Carcassonne and Labrinth, hopefully we have another game lover in the making.

Card Games

A speed game, matching colors, shapes, and numbers. You can play once through the deck in less than two minutes or keep going until one player runs out of cards.

So many ways to play. We’ve played this as solitaire, a speed game, and taking turns.

You’ll be more than a little cross-eyed by the end of this one. The directions aren’t too clear but once you get the hang of it, this makes a great game to play solo or with a group.

Fun for the geeky crowd. We play with two players but it’s better with a group. There’s lots of reading involved and some of the humor is better kept away from the younger audience. This one requires more room to spread out than the other card games.

Board Games

The most sprawling of the games which made the cut onto the boat. You build the board with tiles as you play, most often we spread across the floor rather than trying to fit on the table.

Part maze, part scavenger hunt. We play this one both cooperatively and competitively. You can set the length of the game by deciding how many treasures to find, or challenge yourselves to find them all.

An old Ravensburger game that still gets lots of play. Players trade jewels, trying to match patterns with as few extra jewels as possible. The glass jewel pieces are irresistible.

Super easy to learn but allows you to build strategy over time. Although the board is larger than anything else in the game cabinet, it keeps the pieces from shifting around and is completely worth the space. As an added bonus, Kinsley uses the board and pieces to make pictures.

Our newest find and so very much fun. You gather jewels, build mines, and try to woo sponsors to win. The rules scale for two to five players and involves very little downtime.

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On the iPad
Living on land we had these games in a traditional format. The full games had so many pieces and they wouldn’t have tolerated boat movement well so we transitioned to electronic format. All three are European games and designed for older players. The rules take a while to learn and all three rely a good bit on random chance, rather than pure skill and strategy.

Ticket to Ride

Settlers of Catan

Rivals of Catan

I’m sure some of these will change over time, swapping one game out for another as space allows, but for now we’re keeping ourselves entertained.

Small Boat Project

Goblin came with a microwave. The thirty year old machine has sat, unused, hulking in the corner of the galley, taking up space since we moved aboard. I stored baking dishes and measuring cups in it but otherwise, it was a dead space corner of the kitchen.

One winter day, after greater than normal annoyance at my tiny kitchen, I grabbed a flashlight and a two foot screwdriver as a pry bar and set to work attempting to remove it. A small boat project, pull out an unused appliance, add a shelf, have a new storage area. Little did I know…

Have you ever wondered how many tools it takes to remove a thirty year old microwave that was installed before the cabinetry was finished? Ever wondered how many hours it would take to dismantle a microwave from the inside out? Ever wondered how much said microwave weighs?

This beast was screwed in place from below. How did someone get below? Good question. There’s no access to below now that both a freezer and a stove are in place. Turns out they screwed it to a piece of plywood and then glued the plywood into place.

Bit by bit, with more than a little swearing, brute force began to win.

For once, I thank the corrosive nature of salt air. The screws holding it to the plywood below were entirely rusted and gave way to a proper application of leverage.

It took a dock cart to carry the remains off the boat. At least thirty pounds of twisted metal and scrap.

Here’s what used to fill the inside of the microwave. I have just a bit more room now.

The space stayed mostly empty for a month as I debated between a shelf or one large basket. What do I want to keep in the space now, what might go in later, how can I take full advantage of my new four cubic feet of space? Final decision, shelf and baskets. Time for boat yoga.

And now, with a new shelf in place, My kitchen storage has increased by a third.

Conclusion, there is no such thing as a small boat project.


My kids don’t close doors.

We visited my parents mid winter and I found myself closing the door to their garage over and over. We visited friends, again the main door was wide open behind them. That was when it hit me, these kids don’t have any practice closing doors behind them.

Goblin has only one standard door, for the bathroom. The wood has always been a little swollen and it takes a lot of effort to close it tight so most often we just pull it to the door jam and leave it. You hear anyone coming, you hear anyone inside, there aren’t issues of being surprised. City doors, they all close automatically, a great many of them open automatically as well.

I like what open doors say about my kids. They don’t close themselves in and they don’t close the world out.

On Goblin, the deck is just as much a part of their home as below. Outside and inside are part of the same.

They dance with abandon and laugh themselves over backwards both tucked away below and out on the deck. Even in the middle of Boston with the busy Harborwalk just above us, our home is open. We know the weather and notice when it changes. In the summer, we look up through hatches and the companionways at the blue sky and the stars.

So, if my kids leave your front door wide open, please forgive them and enjoy the breeze.

I adore the variety of doors in our marina, so much personality.

Coming Out of Hibernation

I hate winter. No, that’s not exactly right. I hate having to get up and go out and get things done during the winter. The gray days and cold weather drag at me. If I could get away with doing nothing more than baking and snuggling under quilts with a good book, I might change my opinion of winter. Unfortunately, I have two kids who disagree with my plan for full hibernation.

I still have to shop for food. They insist we visit friends, make plans for museums and meet up with homeschool groups. By the time the kids are in bed at the end of the day, I’m exhausted, mentally and physically, from doing battle with my least favorite season. My energy to attack boat projects, even to think about them, ground to a halt as the dark and freezing weather set in.

Then, Mother Nature surprised us with a week of warm weather, bright sunny skies, temperatures reaching the high sixties, warm breezes and the first sprouts peeking out of the ground. With the warmth came action. I stripped and sanded more of the wood work in preparation for spring brightwork. It’s too bad the toe rail is covered by the shrinkwrap, stripping that will have to wait until shrinkwrap is down. I’m hoping to have all of last years varnish lightly sanded before we are unwrapped, allowing a new top coat to go on as quickly as possible.

Spring cleaning began. Kinsley has a new fascination with chores and has taken over sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting. She’s also in charge of cockpit organization on a much more intermittent basis. We hauled mattresses up on deck to air, I scrubbed and rinsed the bilge, scoured counters, and pulled the rugs out into the sun.

More importantly, we started dreaming aloud again. There’s plenty of talk about summer and sailing. Maine is highest on list. The hope is to spend more days out on the water, heading wherever the wind points us. The Southeast Coast of North America chart of our wall returned to receiving lots of attention.

And then winter reemerged. My blankets resumed their siren call, the oven beckoned, and I answered. Goblin and crew are still here, but we’re returning to hibernation for just a little longer.