Monthly Archives: February 2013


Take Two has gone viral, and not in a good way.  On the eve of a long-planned family vacation, the unthinkable happened: a stomach virus.  With half the crew already affected and the other half sure to follow, we had no choice but to cancel the trip.  It’s a huge bummer, but like I always say, a day spent on the bathroom floor is best spent at home.

Doctor Mom thinks she has the bug identified and of course there is no option but to let it run its course.  I like to play the “where did we get this” game.  I’m not looking to blame anyone for our misfortunes.  I just want to know who to avoid in the future.

One of the possibilities that I had to consider was that we got it from Take Two’s water supply.  This was easily ruled out, but it doesn’t seem all that unlikely.  Many people are shocked to learn that we drink Boot Key Harbor.  Yes, we really do.  No, we really don’t think that was it.

Apparently some cruisers only make water in lagoons of clear gin.  We don’t have that luxury.  Our water usage is such that we have to put water in the tanks daily, and ferrying it from shore in jugs isn’t practical.  So unless we’re tied to a dock we’re running the watermaker, and unfortunately the water under the boat isn’t always as clean as we could wish.

Although it sounds unsavory, I haven’t read anything that leads me to think it is unwise.  The watermaker is intended to remove salt, and those parts are smaller than most bacteria and viruses.  Our water is probably cleaner than city water.  In fact, I think the only health risk with drinking reverse-osmosis water is that it is effectively demineralized.  Like drinking distilled water.

In any case, a little extra caution couldn’t hurt.  Who knows what could be lurking in our tanks?  So I’m planning to equip Take Two’s drinking water tap with a WaterFixer ultraviolet water sterilizer.  It will cost $400, take 24Ah/day @ 12VDC, and need a $20 bulb replacement every year.  That’s a small price to pay if it helps avoid this kind of misery.  



“I must know.” –Buttercup
“Get used to disappointment.” –Westley, from The Princess Bride

I have a bag of lemon drops in my “junk” drawer in the galley. These are no ordinary sweets; they are symbolic and sacred. We’ve all heard the proverb, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” If any of our children receives a hard knock or has an unpleasant task ahead and takes it with a good attitude, I hand out a lemon drop as a reminder that although we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can choose our response.  Disappointment is part of life on planet earth. The sooner children learn to accept this and move on, the better. Flexibility is a trait that can be cultivated when plans change.

Today we were supposed to get on an airplane in Ft. Lauderdale and fly to Boston, and then drive to Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine for a week of snow fun. Our children have never seen real snow (the oldest were babies when it last snowed in Atlanta and don’t remember it), so this was to be a real treat—we were looking forward to skiing, skating, sledding, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmen, snowball fights, snow angels, and hot cocoa in the lodge with snowy vistas out the window. Two days ago, one of our children came down with a stomach bug which is passing like wildfire through our family of seven, making a quick recovery impossible. Because these were reward tickets from Jay’s work travel, they were not easily re-booked. In short, we had to cancel our trip.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel sad and disappointed. Aside from the loss of our snow vacation, we were to stay with my best friend from college in Maine, and now I won’t get to see her and her family. We were planning to go see Old Ironsides (the U.S.S. Constitution), which is moored in Boston Harbor, and had done a mini-unit-study in preparation and now that’s for naught, too.  Our illness is having a detrimental impact on my mother-in-law’s plans, as well. She had come to spend a quiet ten days here cat- and boat-sitting for us, and now she’s stuck here with a sick family, afraid to go home and expose Jay’s dad, a CPA in the throes of tax season, to what we have.

But after shedding my initial tears of disappointment, I reminded myself, and the children, that everything happens for a reason. We may not be privy to the reason, but we remain thankful in all circumstances. That’s part of our family code, based on the belief that God knows what’s best and can see things we can’t see. Remembering that helps us to let go of our expectations and look forward to what He has for us instead. I don’t yet know what it is, but it seems that we are to be here and not there for some reason. That, in part, is why I always say, “Lord willing” about any of our plans. I’m not being cynical, just realistic. If our sailing life has taught us anything, it is that you go when the weather is good, and you stay when it’s not. And weather, like other plans, can change very quickly, so you have to be alert and prepared for anything. That’s the adventure part of our life.

What adventure will this unexpected “lemon” bring us? How are we going to turn it into lemonade? I’ll keep you posted… 

Don’t Just Survive—THRIVE!

Have you ever shopped at the pink shack at one end of town only to find that you (literally) missed the boat and they’re all out of eggs and butter, then hiked over to the other end to the blue shack to find that all they have left is a limited selection of canned goods and some frozen mystery meat? Unless you’ve been to Staniel Cay in the Bahamas, chances are that you just got in your car and went to the local grocery and found whatever you needed. But if you do relate to the island shopping experience, you just accept that it’s part of the “adventure” and you’ll be substituting canned for fresh ‘till the boat comes in. For the landlubbers, all it takes to mimic the island grocery is a flood, hurricane or a big snowstorm—the shelves are wiped clean in just a few hours and won’t be restocked for many days. Unless you store large amounts of whole grains or canned goods, you’re going to be up a creek without breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Unless you are a serious “Prepper,” you have only a few days’ worth of few stored in your home, and what you have is probably frozen, dried or canned. I recently discovered that a friend of mine here in the Keys has a pantry full of freeze dried whole foods and when she brought some samples to Homeschool PE, I was amazed at the taste and freshness of food that has a shelf life of 25 years (unopened)! Amanda showed me the Shelf Reliance catalogue full of THRIVE Foods and when I found out she actually sells it, I decided to host a party in the marina so the other boaters around here could share my excitement at finding “the missing link” in our provisioning chain.

We carry about 200 pounds of grain on Take Two, which we grind in small batches (Oat Groats, 7-Grain Mix, Hard Red/White Wheat Berries for bread, and Soft Wheat Berries for pancakes, tortillas, and other baking). When we take long trips, we cram the freezer full of quality meats, and the auxiliary fridge full of dairy items and fresh produce and the canned goods locker full of beans, fruits and veggies. In addition, we carry dried fruits, beans, milk, pasta and rice. It doesn’t take long for things like eggs and milk to run out, and fresh produce doesn’t make it past week two. And boy, do I hate eating out of cans. Aside from sodium content, taste, and nutrient loss, there’s the worry of toxins in the cans or can linings themselves. And then you have cans filling up the trash. So how do we make sure we get good protein and enough fruits and veggies for long-term travel? That was a real problem, until now! We just put together a big Shelf Reliance order so we can try a little of everything, then slowly replace all our canned goods with freeze-dried THRIVE food.

The party at the Tiki was a great success. We sampled food straight from the cans—freeze dried strawberries, pineapple, bananas, sweet corn and vanilla yogurt bites. We served some easy recipes using freeze-dried ingredients, like spinach dip and chicken salad. We even cooked up a warm dish (wild rice with mushrooms and chicken) and served a dessert (granola dessert bar with berry compote). The products are well-labeled, color-coded, and easy to use. But it’s the taste that sells—one bite and you’re hooked. I have done some experiments on my own and discovered that freeze dried eggs make a great mayonnaise (who knew?) and work well as a substitute in recipes when you run out of the real thing. I made some crepes this morning for breakfast that were a revelation!

Whether, like Amanda, you live in a place with seasonal storms and “one road in and one road out,” or, like me, you live on a boat and need to carry your own grocery store with you, or maybe you love to camp and want to pack convenient and easy meals—I think you too might get excited about THRIVE foods. Right now, since I had the party this past week, if you want to give freeze dried a try, you can take advantage of event pricing until the end of February. I would encourage you to go to the website and take a look at the catalogue. If you like what you see, you can order by calling Amanda (use the Contact Us form to request her #) and just mention that Tanya sent you her way.

Why just survive when you can THRIVE? Ten reasons to give it a try:

1. Lightweight and Easy to Store
2. Long Shelf Life
3. Whole Foods with Unadulterated Ingredients
4. Nutrient Retention
5. Great, Fresh Taste
6. No Toxic Can-Linings
7. Convenient and Easy to Use in Recipes
8. Shop From Home and Ship to Your Door
9. Cost Effectiveness and Reduced Waste
10. Go Shopping In Your Own Pantry for Fresh-Tasting Ingredients like Meat, Produce, and Dairy (Never run out of eggs again!)

Sleeping Under the Stars

Ever since we moved aboard Take Two and de-cluttered our lives, birthdays are less about stuff and more about making a memory. Instead of asking the kids, “What do you want?” we ask, “What do you want to do?” Sam just turned six, and what he really wanted was a repeat of his fourth birthday, which we spent in the Bahamas, jumping and diving off of Take Two into beautiful warm water with friends we had made there. We told him it would be “weather dependent,” but we knew it was too cold and windy right now in the Keys for a wet birthday. Instead, we surprised him with a camping birthday weekend with his cousins.

Birthday Camping

The last time I went camping with my brother, he was Sam’s age, and we were sleeping in my dad’s old army tents in Rocky Mountain National Park. Now my brother and his wife have seven kids and two tents, a collection of cast iron pans, two large coolers, and a propane camp stove to boot. They are real campers. We, on the other hand, never go camping and had to borrow our friends’ tent, inflate some air mattresses, and set up camp in their backyard (they live in a state park). We pitched tents on a Friday afternoon and tried to figure out what the sleeping arrangements should be. I had assumed there would be very little sleeping going on, so we planned for maximum fun: all the kids (minus the babies and toddlers) in one tent. That’s the eight biggest kids, plus two of our friends’ kids, for a total of ten.

The birthday dawned sunny and bright, with the first of the kids making noise around 6 am. It was going to be a long day. We took the kids on a field trip to Pigeon Key—we thought we could wear them out by making them walk the last two miles of the old Seven-Mile Bridge, but, as it turns out, kids don’t wear out, but moms and dads do. At sunset, we gave away glowing bracelets and let the hooligans run wild in the dark. I think they were playing Cops and Robbers, but it sounded more like Cowboys and Indians. When everyone got hungry, we passed out roasting sticks and hot dogs. Nothing better than a meal cooked over an open fire. We then gathered around and set six marshmallows ablaze to sing Happy Birthday to Sam. And then the S’more factory went into high gear, with children roasting marshmallows faster than I could assemble graham crackers and chocolate. Yum…

Birthday Fire

After they were done around the fire, we sent "tired" kiddos into their tent. Backlit by the battery-powered lantern, you could see the silhouettes bouncing around like molecules of hot gas caught inside a balloon. It looked like the tent might explode at any moment. At some point, Sam escaped from a leak in the tent and came to sit with us, periodically placing logs on the fire and generally messing about with burning sticks. He has the makings of a pyromaniac, that one. He’s a wild child, full of life and exuberance and boundless energy. He’s a lot like Tigger, and I’m sometimes like Rabbit—while I’d like to remove some bounce, I would be lost without him.

Birthday Bouncing

As the fire burned low and the kids began to grow quiet, the grownups drank the last of their drinks, ate the last of the S’mores, rocked all the babies to sleep, and solved all the world’s problems by firelight. It was a birthday we’ll never forget.

Lying awake under the stars (slapping at No-see-ums which had snuck into our tent), I realized that the reason why we never go camping, aside from the fact that it’s uncomfortable and our tents are in storage, is that our regular life aboard contains enough of the Outdoor Adventure to sustain us through all the mundane parts of life like work, school, and chores. We have access to wide open spaces, the occasional deserted island where we can light a bonfire out of driftwood, kayaking, hiking, swimming, and a change in surroundings whenever we get the itch for something new. We don’t need to go camping to sleep out under the stars because there’s a hatch over each bed, giving us a nightly panorama of the cosmos. You might think we would become bored by this, but the constant change Nature provides keeps amazing us and infusing our normal lives with a sense of wonder.

Re-Inventing the Wheel

Any fool can go to the store and buy frozen waffles and make a perfectly good breakfast. But it takes a special kind of fool to make my recipe. First, you grind the grain and stir it into the batter. While you’re whisking that up, preheat the old-fashioned cast iron waffle pans (being careful not to burn yourself). Finally, cook up one waffle at a time, oiling the waffle irons between waffles, or else you end up with waffle crumbs for breakfast.  By the time everyone had gotten an egg, a piece of bacon and a pile of waffle crumbs this morning, I could have gone to the store, bought waffles, fixed breakfast and done the dishes. But what would be the fun of that?

We recently watched Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away make fire with sticks and coconut coir. His hands were bleeding by the time he got his first flames to ignite. He does a victory dance around the bonfire on the beach of the deserted island and boasts loudly to the stars about his creation. After his rescue, he picks up a lighter and clicks the button a few times with an ironic smile on his face. It’s so much more rewarding to do things the hard way.

We have the technology to make our lives easy—to get from point A to B at mind-boggling speeds, to feed our families with little or no effort, to do our most loathsome chores for us, and to entertain ourselves in all the hours we have left over after not hunting and foraging, sewing our own clothes and hand-washing our dishes. Unfortunately, without a little pain and suffering, we don’t seem to appreciate these fruits easily gathered, and without hard work we can’t enjoy that which should be rewarding. We end up with too much stuff and too much debt, leaving us feeling trapped and depressed. What should make our lives easy makes things more complicated, and, ironically, though harder, the simple life beckons.

Herein lies the dilemma of the Neo-Pioneer. A generation of young people has sprung up who are tired of resting on their laurels or on the accomplishments of others and want to try things the hard way. But where to begin? And once begun, where to stop? Some folks we know have left the citified life and are trying their hand at farming, others move out of the fancy house and into an RV or boat to try the simple life of a nomad, and many have opted to home-school their children, grow their own veggies, treat illnesses with herbs instead of antibiotics, read books instead of watching TV, make bread, build things with their hands, and in other ways learn the art of self-sufficiency.

Unfortunately, while many of us have degrees in Political Science or English or other Humanities, we have no earthly idea how to make something as easy as granola from scratch, let alone how to raise a chicken or fix a broken motor. I speak for myself, but many others as well, when I say that I’m getting an education just trying to teach my children these new old-fashioned skills. We’re learning together, a process that involves a lot of time and energy and varying amounts of pain on the way to that glorious sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes I go too far, finding an extreme while looking for balance. The things I do for my family often end up looking more like punishment. While I admire the purist who lives in a tent or a cabin of hand-hewn logs, eating only what he gathers or grows, or the sailor who lives by wind and stars alone and eats the fish he catches, I am also thankful for things like engines and electronic charts and grocery stores. I love my blender and vacuum sealer, and can’t imagine life before cell phones and computers. The trick, of course, is to find the place in the middle—somewhere between old-fashioned and new-fangled. And each pioneer has to find that place for himself. A glutton for punishment, I will keep trying to do things the hard way, asking the tough questions (Can a goat live on a boat? Should I sprout the grain before I grind it? Can Jay brew his own beer?) and writing about my experiments. For the next few weeks, at least, I’ll be making pancakes instead of waffles.