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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swimming

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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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Mushrooms?

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1. So we have mushrooms growing on the boat. Not on purpose. As you can see there is a clear water leaking issue. I am pretty sure it’s not good to have mushrooms growing inside. I don’t want to ask Google though; I know the news will be bad. We are knee deep in that interesting time when you move into a new space that isn’t brand new. The gloss of your new place starts to fade and…. you know, you start to find little things like five mushrooms or a closet with damp clothes. The true stories start to flow.

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2. I am obsessed with the sky and changing weather. I never really knew that I was so into weather. There is something about the drama of the change that I enjoy. Almost every morning I start checking all of the windows at 6:30am to see what the morning light will bring. I have a zillion pictures of the same view only different light and weather. Perhaps I could make a coffee table book for weather nerds like myself, who like to look at the same view. Ha, sounds like a best seller.

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3. Seeing as how the mushrooms are thriving, my garden starts are coming along nicely. After looking around I realized I actually have a lot of space for a garden. I am going to have to be careful where I put pots on the boat seeing as how it’s wood and I don’t want to deal with rot. Turns out I am really enjoying designing gardens too.

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4. The girls have made themselves right at home in the marina. They chitchat with everyone. There are some dock repairs happening at the Port of Friday Harbor and there is a crane. Lyla has all sorts of questions about the project. As we were walking by one day, she stopped and looked at one of the guys and said “So how’s the project going?” in the very serious ‘I’m a Project Manager’ sort of way. He gave a vague answer and it’s probably better that he didn’t give details or she might start checking back in on progress.

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5. The crockpot has been saving us lately. We finally made a full menu for the week and that has helped. It’s amazing what a little organization can do. Who knew you could crock pot spaghetti squash, it’s a thousand times easier than cooking it in the oven and the results are the same.

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6. We are spending way more time interacting with each other on this boat. By being in such a small space we talk to each other more. There has been a considerable shift in the amount of quality conversation we have and it’s lovely. We also spend a lot more time laughing together, the simplicity of life has made us all lighten up a little bit. Don’t get me wrong though, not all moments are roses, if Sissy can’t find her keys, no one is happy.

Tiny Space = Tiny Toys

This past weekend we took the ferry to the mainland to do some grocery shopping and to get a toaster oven. I never thought I would be so excited to purchase such a simple appliance however it holds the promise of baked chicken and perhaps a pizza or two. Additionally, we make our own raw food for Charlie dog and he was starting to get some interesting meals so it was time to buy a few items in bulk for the pup.

As we were making our lists for things we needed to get, it started to dawn on us that we really couldn’t purchase that much because we didn’t have the room. A trip to Costco just didn’t make sense. Did we really need 87 fruit leathers on the boat? Where would we put all that toilet paper? Certainly not on the boat, the level of moisture would ruin it in no time. It appears when our Costco membership expires we won’t be renewing. This new lifestyle is causing us to make very conscious spending choices and ultimately saving ourselves a load of money. We are discovering we don’t need much day to day.

Living here on San Juan Island has its perks. Nothing is commercialized here. My kids have zero brand recognition. It’s lovely. They don’t know what a drive through is and they don’t have a special drink at Starbucks they must have. We don’t have television so there really is no way for them to know about all the marketing of brands to kids. A Barbie doll is something they saw once at the thrift store, but she had tattered hair and didn’t seem that interesting. They don’t know she has a castle or a convertible. That’s okay though, we don’t have the room. Barbie doesn’t need a castle; she really should downsize and be practical. Minimalist Barbie probably wouldn’t be a big hit at the holidays; she would have no extra accessories.

Before we left on our day trip, both girls asked if they could get a new toy off the island. We said yes, as there are very few times in a year we get them new things. We saved the trip to Target for last and the girls were buzzing with excitement. Once we got to the toy section, we each took one of the girls and started to wander the aisles. This is something we have NEVER done. It was fascinating. They didn’t want any of the toys. They all related to characters they didn’t know and nothing looked interesting to them. They each ended up with a tiny three dollar toy from some random bins and a small net to catch shrimp and kelp. They were happy as can be. The other intriguing part of the whole trip was the fact that they didn’t ask for anything. We didn’t see that coming. We were ready with all of our reasons why we couldn’t have everything they wanted. It seemed as though the simplicity of our current life has them wanting less. Lyla even mentioned that she could keep her tiny toy on the shelf next to her bed and it would fit perfect there. She knew she needed something small for her space.

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As soon as we got home, Lyla was out on the dock swishing her new net into the water catching kelp. She was thrilled. Sissy used her new faux key chain to lock everything up on our dock and “drive” the boat. The simplicity of it all was so nice. They wanted things that related to our space, not just anything to have something. It was one of the first concrete examples I have seen in our kids relating to our lifestyle change and it was a refreshing.