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.


We’re finally prepped for the winter under our bubble.


This year, reaching fully wrapped has been a process. We were framed for weeks before we were wrapped.


We were wrapped for a month before the shrinkwrap was fully shrunk.


We just finished patching holes before they let in too much rain. Kinsley helped rehang our door.


I’m celebrating dry space to hang our coats and stash our boots.


The kids are celebrating access to a giant canvas.


Guess this means it can snow now.


Sometimes It’s Hard

There are three slides at our closest playground. On our very first trip, Kinsley, at two and a half, learned to climb up the twisty slide, following her brother. Last winter, boots and all, she mastered the tunnel slide that Owen now climbs on the outside of. And then there’s the metal slide.

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It’s tall and steep. The first time Kinsley slid down she flew right off the end and landed in a heap on the ground, more surprised than hurt. She wasn’t in too much of a rush to slide down again. Going up, that was different.

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Climbing up the slide was impossible, even for my monkey girl. She would start up, land on her belly, and come right back down. She would ask over and over again for someone to help her, but that wasn’t really what she wanted. She knew how to be at the top of the slide, go up the ladder. What she really wanted was to master the climb.

One bright shining morning, not too long ago, Kinsley climbed the slide. No fanfare, no celebration, just a small smile before she flew back down it and ran off to chase Owen.

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Sometimes, we set our sights on something hard. We fail over and over again. That’s ok. Hard doesn’t mean impossible. Not yet doesn’t mean never. If it’s worth it, make it happen.

Changing Seasons

There’s no doubt that fall has arrived, all the signs are here. The air is cooler, leaves are changing color, and the kids have picked apples and pumpkins. Shorts are packed and sweatshirts are daily wear. Halloween costumes are under construction.


Marina life has its own signs of fall.

The small boats departed the marina, the dock layouts changed, and the liveaboards are moving from farthest out to closest in. Owen and Kinsley love walking past their friends on the way to and from our boat each day.


During the summer, marina staff dashed around, helping catch and cast off boats, shepherding dock carts of supplies, greeting and cleaning. As fall closes in, the staff shrinks significantly. They settle onto the docks with larger projects, running winter water lines, replacing boards, and checking power.


The parking lot always has spaces free, even on the weekends. Returning to the marina in the middle of the weekend lacks the parking lottery stress of summer.


On Goblin the sails, solar panels, and dodger are down and packed off to storage. Oddly, prepping for shrinkwrap makes the boat feel so much larger. You step right into the cockpit without needing to duck around the boom or dodger. Sunlight floods the salon when we open the companionway. Unfortunately, no more dodger also means no more rain protection. Hopefully we’ll be framed and wrapped before too much more rain falls.


The heaters are in place, comforters are on the beds, and we’re prepared to snuggle down and enjoy the fall.


School Work

Ahh school. We didn’t pick an official starting day for this school year but then, we didn’t formally end last year either. Learning occurs all the time, more authentically when we are less formal about it.


Owen has focused his energy into programming this fall. He loved creating Scratch games last year and this fall he has expanded into html. If you’d like to see play of the games Owen’s been working on, the webpage he’s designing is HERE.


On our goal list this year is visiting all the branch libraries in the Boston Public Library system. Both Owen and Kinsley have record keeping cards, to rank various aspects of the libraries. They review the children’s section, picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, toys, ease of getting there, and bathroom quality before giving the library an overall ranking. Owen has plans to take the final data and present it in graph form.


Kinsley, inspired by our reading of Ramona the Pest, has insisted on having seatwork of her own. She tucks herself into a corner and cheerfully works through her own schoolwork. She knows all her letters and many of their sounds. Pesky b and d still mix her up from time to time but she’s determined. She has also decided that she wants to learn to read so that she can play more of Owen’s games. She has such ferocity when she decides on what she wants, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she teaches herself.


The rest of our days? We read piles and piles of books on every topic that catches our attention. We play games over and over, tweaking the rules to see if Owen’s ideas are better balanced than the game designers.


Owen tracks hurricanes, Kinsley colors stacks of pictures. Both kids build with legos for hours. We wander the city, Owen leads the way on subway expeditions, Kinsley starts conversations with seatmates on the subway.


We cook, we clean, work on the boat, we live our lives at our own pace, and we keep learning.


These Two

I looked through my pictures the other day and noticed something lovely, these two kids.


One of my very favorite evolutions since moving onto Goblin has been the relationship between Owen and Kinsley.


Had we continued along as we had been, Owen would be in fourth grade and Kinsley in preschool. They would have seen each other at breakfast and during drop off, maybe an hour total. Then, they would have been together for at most three hours between pick-up and bed. Throw in homework, errands, and other life complications and they wouldn’t have seen much of each other during the week.


Boat life? These two are within 30 feet of each other while we’re at home and often, not much farther than that while we’re out. They play together, read together, build together, argue together, and make up.


Out and about, they stick together. A whole park to explore? They’re rolling on the grass together like puppies. New playground? They climb the slides together. Visiting a friend’s house? They’re within arm’s reach of one another.


Sure, they can annoy one another at times, living 24/7 with anyone can get tiring. Seeing them watch out for each other, check in with one another, and enjoy being around one another is even better than we could have hoped for.


Still no regrets.

Local Wanderings, Maine, Squirrel Island

This was Alex and my fourth trip to the Squirrel Island, Owen’s third, and Kinsely’s first. Our first, adults only trip, was for the whole day. We ranged along the whole island, following the paths and boardwalks, filling the pockets of my cargo pants to overflowing with sea glass. It only took one trip for both of us to fall in love with this small, private island.

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In following years, little ones in tow, we stayed close to the ferry harbor, leaping waves and hunting for treasures. I’m counting the time until little legs are long enough for a longer explore.

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This year, with four kids and three adults, we braved the wind for our favorite adventure, sea glass hunting.

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The first beach was blown clean by the wind and the few pieces we found were more hunt than collection.

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From there our party headed inland and then across to a second beach, success! The beach felt like equal parts stone and glass. Ziplock bags came out, giggles and screeches filled the air, and treasures were scooped. After an initial burst of grab everything in reach, the kids, and adults, settled into a more discerning style. Everyone had priorities. Owen looked for larger pieces and tumbled bricks. Clara and Kinsley needed to find the prettiest, I looked for pottery and interesting colors or shapes.

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Tired and sandy, ferry paranoia set in, and we headed back early enough to be absolutely sure of catching the last boat home.

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Squirrel Island is home to private residences and some island resident community buildings. In exchange for having power run out to the island, visitors are allowed. You catch the Novelty ferry in Boothbay, allowing you to ride a roundtrip tour of the harbor or to disembark at Squirrel. I strongly recommend catching a morning ride out and packing a lunch. Bathrooms are available at the ferry dock. There are no motorized vehicles on the island which makes it a great place to let kids run. As long as they don’t take the ferry off island, you know they can’t be far.

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Shakedown, What Went Right

A big part of this trip was to find out what worked well for our family. We’ve been collecting advice for years, sorting through it for thoughts that matched our kids and situation, and building a list of ideas to try. Two weeks away from the dock, we now have a better sense of how we like to travel and of what works well for our family.

Short Slow Days
We had a mix of short and long days on this trip and by far, our family greatly prefered making less progress each day in exchange for the chance to see more along the way. Our eleven hour day to Edgecomb worked, we got where we were going, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as our five hour days with plenty of time to explore.

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Snack Basket
Each night, I filled a plastic basket with our cockpit snacks for the next day. I had thought I was only doing this for the first day, to smooth things along, but it turned out to be perfect. Owen and Kinsley knew they could grab whatever they wanted from it, whenever they wanted, no need to ask or wait for parents. We tended highly towards the dry and crunchy and my goal before our next longer trip is come up with some more variety to include.

Bending to the Whim of the Weather
We spent an extra day in Boothbay, even though it complicated our planned return and involved changing all of our mooring reservations. Absolutely the right decision. Kins and Owen are new to boat travel, we’re still working out the kinks of how Goblin sails, we’re going to tend towards the extra safe and comfortable for a while. If we’d had more time and flexibility, sailing with the wind rather than against it would have been lovely.

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Catching Moorings
After picking up the mooring in Boothbay despite miscommunications (he said “we’re fast” and I heard “go fast” oops), Alex and I sat down to talk through catching mooring balls. Even with the windscreen of the dodger open, it’s hard to hear one another with Alex at the bowsprit and myself at the wheel. We talked through how we prefer to set up, when I need to change the speed of the boat, and a limited set of words to use. After that, our pick-ups went from fine to quite nice and no stress. I love communication.

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Dramamine and Sea Bands
Some of our crew, not mentioning names, still gets a little seasick, and sometimes more than a little, depending on the seas. I’m thrilled to say that no one actually threw up, but there were green moments. Taking Dramamine before starting for the day, rather than waiting until underway, was a great help. We happened to have a pair of Sea Bands in the cabinet and those also made a noticeable difference. Add in some favorite ginger cookies and we all coped pretty well. I’ll be experimenting with cookie recipes often in the months to come, trying to find a homemade version that meets with approval from all aboard.

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Heading Ashore
Both Owen and Kinsley were amazing well behaved and contained while we were underway. They kept themselves entertained both with us and on their own. Lots of reading, sea glass sorting, studying charts, and watching for wildlife. That said, once we were stopped for the day, those two needed and deserved the chance to burn off their energy. Boat jobs were put off until later in the evening in favor of catching a ride to somewhere suitable for shenanigans. Leaping off the back of the boat for a swim was high on the list of acceptable energetic activities but will primarily be saved for water that doesn’t result in blue lipped children after a single leap.

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What went wrong? A couple of things.

Provisioning Improvements
The trip north had a distinct shortage of both ginger cookies and cucumbers. Lunches also need improvement as we tended to be very repetitious. The day I surprised the kids with mac and cheese mid sail was a big hit.

More Cockpit Entertainment
Since it can’t be said too many times, the kids were fantastic on this trip. That said, there’s only so many times I can sing Larry the Polar Bear to Kinsley before I need a break (it’s still stuck in my head, days later). Navigating, animal watching, and 20 questions were all popular activities, but there are times when the parental brains and hands are busy and I need to know that Owen and Kinsley will be busy for a while. Kinsley and her love of tiny pieces played well on the cockpit floor with her toy collection or with seaglass. Owen, book boy, mostly kept to himself. I’d like to have a stash of items or ideas for when the desperate need for distraction hits. Maybe tucked away with my own stash of emergency chocolate…

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Wren is the Wrong Dingy
It was known, before this trip, that Wren won’t be coming with us to points south. This trip reinforced for us that she’s a lovely sailing and rowing boat but not the right day to day dingy. We need something that’s easier to get in and out of when the water is rough, as well as something with a motor to make life easier when the wind and current are against us.

Not a bad list for us to work from. I like it when what went well greatly outweighs what went wrong.

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