Category Archives: boats

Minimalist Backpacking with a Toddler in SE Asia: the Extras

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Blogging from Thailand proved to be outside of my range of abilities (this time!).  Honestly, I was too busy walking around Krabi town, spending time with new friends, meeting Deaf Thais, getting sick in Bali, getting tattoos, and amusing my 2-year-old with subsequent treks to an intersection of stone elephants, a park filled with animal sculptures, and long tail boat rides to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.

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In the coming weeks, I plan to write more posts about the experiences we have had, but first I’d like to write a much belated continuation of my previous post about budgeting a trip to SE Asia with a toddler.  And the good thing about me writing this after our trip is that I can speak from everything we experienced throughout the entire 10-week-long journey.  


With any trip to the other side of the world, there are always extra expenses you do not foresee ahead of time when planning.  The easiest way to deal with this is to either have a lot of extra cash or credit cards with a few thousand dollars on them for emergencies.  I cannot stress this enough.  

When I traveled to India in my twenties, twice I changed my return flights and instead of being able to just change the flights, I had to buy new tickets and throw away my old ones.  That taught me to be prepared for something similar happening during any trip I take.  Traveling as a trio when you have a toddler old enough for his own plane ticket definitely adds to the necessity of enough funds at your disposal to fly straight home if something horrible happens.  Thankfully, we only had to throw away a couple hundred dollars worth of Air Asia flights, and purchase about $500 worth of new Air Asia flights during our trip.  

That wasn’t the only “extra” we faced though.  


So many extra expenses pop up while traveling, from boat rides you don’t plan but don’t wish to miss out on, to a lucky week at a gorgeous resort because you made a new friend, to a safer ride in a car with a child seat verses a public bus with no seat belts, to a suitcase you decide to buy at the end to hold the beautiful brass wok you found in Krabi town and all the wonderful fabrics and clothes you couldn’t resist buying from the markets.  

We completely went over budget with this trip, but I don’t regret anything.  And I know better now to plan for the “extras” as carefully as I planned for the essentials.  


One thing I learned from our fiasco with the Air Asia flights is: don’t buy them too far ahead of time (I mean before you arrive in SE Asia), especially if you have a toddler.  Anything can happen to change your plans, from volcanoes erupting to just feeling too tired and sick to venture to a new and unfamiliar country.  You might miss out on a random $10 USD ticket from Malaysia to Cambodia, but if you wait and buy the flights exactly when you are sure you want to take them, you’ll get to do exactly what you want and you’ll get that extra spontaneity that is so essential to traveling like this.  


For those of you who love numbers, I’d recommend an extra $1,000 USD for every 4 weeks you spend in SE Asia – just for those precious extras that you might never find nor get the chance to experience again.  Of course, you can decide to be content with the shells and corals you find on the beaches, but sometimes, taking that one extra long tail boat ride to a beach with caves and burning your bare feet on the docks because you forgot you might need shoes is worth every extra baht. 

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Recent Interview about Living on Boats and my Shipwreck

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I was interviewed recently about my experiences living on sailboats from 2009-2011, and the shipwreck I experienced with my partner in 2011 that changed our life and moved us into the woods for a while.

Please feel free to check it out HERE.

And Happy coming Solstice and other holidays!

my shipwreck, May 16th, 2011…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the shipwreck my family and I experienced two years ago yesterday, and I found the first email I sent to a fellow multihull sailor, on May 17, 2011.  I suppose it’s fitting that the email itself was written two years ago today, and I’d like to post it here.  For a matter of recording it publicly, for other people who have gone through shipwrecks, for all people who love living on boats and understand what it’s like, and lastly, for myself, to help me let go a little more, because I totally have NOT let go completely yet.  I’m still uncomfortable living on land, and I miss our boat every day.  I miss the sea every day.

I miss it so much, I ended up writing about the sea again in a YA novel I just finished, but this time I wrote about sailing, too, which has brought up the memories more vividly than usual.

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Here’s my email recollection of the shipwreck (the name of the friend I wrote to is omitted for privacy):

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…It’s really really bad.  Both her AMA keels were ripped out, one AMA has a whole chunk missing. The middle hull walls were moving as her floor flooded up to the seats we straddled as we pulled together the most important parts of our stuff.  Shes really broken apart.  Rob is pretty convinced she can’t be repaired.

Her whole structure collapsed under the waves pounding her and spinning her on the beach.  Our stuff was scattered along the shore like the remains of a too real shipwreck.  4 miles out on a shoal where the gps thought it should be 11 feet of water.  There were a thousand forewarnings and a thousand horrible and good reasons seemed to come together to make this happen.

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We are so in shock.

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We really didn’t mean to dream of a new boat and then NEED it so suddenly.  I know it wasn’t like no smoking just offed herself, though.  Inside, I feel she knew we loved her. She wanted to be ours.  But those waves just smashed her around us while we stood inside clenched and holding her while feeling each pound of That Great Mother shattering the world we made our home, where we planned to begin raising our son.

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I was doubtful a little about building a catamaran or even living on a boat forever, but this has shown me by that first step onto the cold hard beach, down from that butterfly of a boat that was broken, that maybe I am a sailor after all.

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But shipwrecks seemed so much more romantic before.  When I saw her keels laying hundreds of feet down that sandy beach, I saw them as body parts and no smoking was a person.  A creature that was broken partly because of our fears of a coming storm and our overlooking of our instincts.  Deep down, I knew that inlet couldn’t be trusted, but my fears of the storm and false thinking that we might reach it before dark made me say, let’s go.  We both had navigated Atlantic city twice, in fog and in rough waves, but WE also didn’t want to turn around, even just 10 miles or so…so hard to think of all the tiny things that made such loss happen.

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I’m wishing right now for a canal boat, ANY boat, to begin the baby raising. I can’t wait for years to float again…God, land is so hard.  So still it feels unnatural. Unfeeling. Uncradling.

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I’ve definitely learned that the ocean can be so fucking scary, but a boat was built for it, built to float…of course land is the hazard, not really the waves or the sea.  It’s the places where they meet that both protect and threaten our boats.  Like any place where two worlds meet, it should be approached with respect and caution, or left alone (especially if you cannot SEE it for what it IS).  We could never have avoided that beach…the fog left, the channel had markers that were not on the charts, and then as soon as we were past the breakers, going 8 knots just to maintain control, the fog came back and Rob shouted at me to go to the bow but our lights wouldn’t have shown us that shoal in time.

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I think you must understand how tragically awful this feels.  It was our home so briefly but a home we made right as we married, our first home together as husband and wife…so many dreams were in those hulls and now we are homeless, and I don’t think we can possibly go to Block Island without living on a boat there…so we’re stuck.  Literally shipwrecked on land…no idea where to go and piles of debts just following along like chains and anchors we can’t use any longer. What can we anchor now?  How do we find peace?

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Sorry I’m going on a bit, somehow I can only say all this to you right now…too devastated to talk to anyone who doesn’t really comprehend living inside a boat like this.  What it does to you and how it strips you of all you thought you were and shows you who you really ARE.

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I’m so sorry for your sickness, yuck and I do understand!  I grew to love vomiting on the boat cause I just lean over the side of the deck and the sea swallows it for me.  I guess she has finally gotten me back for all that vomit during my first trimester, huh? Ohhhhh.

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Every other thought in our heads is a broken dream and broken home right now. The moon shining overhead, just watching.  Illuminating the edges of these memories so they glow, but not in glory.

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Okay.  Must sleep. My stomach is flipping in circles and the baby either completely understands or doesn’t have a clue as to what is making mommy so completely freaked out and hurting so deeply.

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Wishing all sailors right now fair winds…and I’ll see you soon upon the waves.

the boat I am haunted by

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The 38′ wooden Piver trimaran that I bought and lived on for almost a year was called No Smoking.  She happened to be docked at the same marina where my partner and I lived aboard our first sailboat, Serenity, a 36′ wooden monohull.

We fell in love with the idea of living on a boat with more than one hull.

“Trimaran” and “catamaran” just sound so much grander than “monohull.”  They sound like promises, dreams, or flying carpets.

My partner, Rob, and I got married in September of 2010, just one month after we bought No Smoking.  A month later, in October, we left our current home (Block Island, RI) and sailed south, aiming for Florida and then the Bahamas.

Sailing, like writing, is a blind journey.  You can start off with an “outline” or a “plan,” but the ocean and the creative flow of the human mind, often throw the wildest obstacles into our paths.

I kept a blog of our sailing trip south HERE.

Read it with kindness, and I regret to inform you that as of now, it is still unfinished.  The end of that fateful journey was our beloved No Smoking shipwrecking onto a peninsula beach along the coast of New Jersey.  We were hurrying back to Block Island, and I was pregnant.  We took risks, but with sailing, like writing, there are always risks.  Our GPS and nautical charts weren’t up to date enough to show us that beach.

There’s a lot of reasons why we shipwrecked.  And the blame?  Was it the ocean?  The wind?  The shoaling?  Wrong information?  Rash decisions?  Yes to everything.  It was our fault as much as it was the fault of the sea, because sailing, like writing, is it’s own force, but we have to be responsible for ourselves, too.  Responsible for our mistakes.

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We now live in the bottom floor of a log cabin in the woods, which would have been my greatest fantasy as recently as five years ago.  But five years ago, I had not yet known what it was like to sleep in the cradle of the sea itself, feeling the sound the waves made as they slapped against our hulls.  I had not yet watched sunset after sunset (and a few sunrises) reflected in the shining waters around me.

The woods are still magical to me, but they’re not the same as the ocean.  When I am on the water, I miss trees, but they don’t haunt me.  The sea haunts me even when I’m cruising, because it just goes on seemingly forever, and inside the sea are creatures larger than our boat.  And they are always there – floating through the abyss, devouring plants or each other.  We sailed through the Gulf Stream for a while, where the bottom of the sea was thousands of feet below us.  My writer brain was perpetually, deliciously haunted by the animals I imagined (and often, too, by the possibility of the mythological—mermaids and selchies, gods and goddesses, sea dragons).

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Now, I sit by a window with a view of tall pines and maple trees, but inside my mind, I am remembering scenes like this:

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