Easy Living in the San Juan Islands

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Well we’ve made it six months on the boat.  I’m sure our congratulatory plaque is just being finished up.  I do have to say though; the living is easy these days.  Summer on a boat in the San Juan Islands is pretty beautiful and relaxed.  Life is simple which is allowing for way more time to do the things we love. 

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Don’t get me wrong though, it hasn’t all been sunny days on the deck around here.  An old wood boat needs lots of work and I’d love to say *we* have been busy but really it’s been Matt.  He’s done an amazing job organizing what needs to be done in what order and he is always asking people what they recommend.  We have had a steep learning curve but that is also what we wanted.  The challenge of something new is what keeps the days interesting.      

It has been so fascinating to live smack dab in the middle of a tourist destination.  Literally.  Boat loads of tourists arrive every day.  Some days I start to believe I am on vacation too.  Everyone is so friendly, it’s always cocktail hour and ice cream seems to be the official food of the marina.  It’s glorious at times.  Some days though, I dream of fall when the island slows down a bit.  Fall makes this place feel like a secret again.

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I never could have pictured what summer would be like for our girls.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew what they wouldn’t have such as a yard or a quiet neighborhood to roam.  In all honesty, I was a little nervous as to whether we were robbing our children of a certain kind of childhood.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This is where they belong.  They are masters at catching shrimp, their knowledge of boats is increasing rapidly, their playground is everywhere and socially they are growing leaps and bounds due to the insane number of people they talk with daily.  Lyla knows what dock has the best fishing (it’s totally G Dock) and Savannah has a solid handle on who has the fluffiest and nicest dogs.  It can be easy to want to recreate situations we had in childhood for our children but I can honestly say our girls are getting to draw the map for themselves.  This is all new to all of us.

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As for the boat, it has everything we need.  We have plenty of space and it’s a solid home for us.  We got this specific boat because of the size and space not because we loved classic wood boats.  We quickly learned though it’s a wood boat enthusiasts’ dream.  I may never get used to people stopping by and just staring at our boat.  We have learned a lot this way though.  It seems our boat might be one of two of this kind ever made with a hardtop.  I guess it was too difficult to ship so they stopped making them.  I find this so fascinating and continue to look for more info on the history of this style of boat.  We are always looking for similar boats to ours and when we find them we are quick to go talk with the owners to learn as much as we can.

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Matt has been hard at work patching all the spots where we think the leaks are coming from.  You need long stretches of dry warm weather to fix the spots so time is of the essence.  We can take as many guesses as possible this summer and then wait till the rains arrive and hope for the best.  I think we have a good handle on it though.  Matt also got one of the engines running and the other is not far behind.  We are in no hurry to take the boat out.  We see this as a long term process for us so we don’t want to rush.  Plus it’s our house- if something happens we really don’t have a lovely two-story to move into.  It’s our journey and it’s unfolding at the pace we need. 

Hands down this has been the scariest yet best decision we have ever made.  It has forced Matt and I to work together in new ways and allowed us to see our girls grow with us in this new experience.  We are going to be on the boat for a long while.  I often wonder why everyone isn’t living this way, but I also get it.  Taking a leap into the unknown is scary but let me tell you, it’s totally worth it.

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Children and Life Jackets

We are new to our marina neighborhood and with the warmer sunny days arriving, so are more people. More families are down at the marina as well, which means more small children. What I have also noticed is that many of these small children (five and under) aren’t wearing life jackets on the docks. It is making me crazy.

If we are being honest here, I must preface this by saying that I am kind of a fatalist when it comes to safety. I grew up watching a steady supply of Dateline and Rescue 911 and can spot danger anywhere. It’s both annoying and helpful at the same time.

Did you know that the number one cause for accident related deaths in children ages 1-4 is drowning? I didn’t. I found story after story about kids getting stuck under docks, boats and boat ramps. Not the most cheery afternoon reading let me tell you, but they represented the reality of children and water. The common denominator in all of those incidents was the absence of a life jacket. I can see how it happens though.

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We walk the docks no less than four times a day with our girls. Putting life jackets on and taking them off is a chore. It would be a thousand times easier to skip it and just hold their hand really tight and keep a close eye on them. However it seems something always happens between point A and B on the dock. We MUST look at a certain sea star, or we stop to talk with someone, or a seal pops up, or a dog passes on the dock that we MUST pat or a cool boat we haven’t seen before pulls in. All of these things cause distraction. This distraction allows for the one minute it takes a small child to fall into the water. Every single time I want to skip the life jacket I think about these things and we put them on.

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Most little kids naturally have a curiosity about water. There are interesting things to see and somehow the closer they get their cute little faces to the water the happier they are. One of the most maddening yet beautiful things I have discovered is the innocence kids have about water safety. They don’t know what can happen and even when we explain it in the most kid friendly age appropriate way, it still doesn’t register as a change in action.

When I see families walking the docks with small children not in life jackets, I seriously can’t stop watching them. It’s as though I must be ready at a moments notice to spring into action if their child falls in. No one picks the day a tragedy happens. The water is cold here and that coupled with even basic swimming skills in a little person without a life jacket can cause them to sink quickly. It’s a dreadful thought but it’s a reality. The Port of Friday Harbor even has FREE life jackets that you can borrow for your time on the docks or a boat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

So, if you have small children and frequent the marina I kindly ask you to put a life jacket on your child. It only takes one minute at the most and could save you a million moments of regret and heartache and could save a life. A wet, cold scared child with a life jacket on is way easier to deal with.