Anniversaries. They are such wonderful markers of life’s bigger events and one can’t help but take stock upon transiting a milestone. Aboard Gratitude we have 2 such occasions occurring in March. The 18th anniversary of our marriage on the 22nd, and the 3rd anniversary of our purchase of Gratitude N6403. When I consider the past 18 years and reflect on some of the “bigger” events, accomplishments, and storms, I can only be filled with gratitude that I have had my very best friend by my side for all of it. What we have been able to achieve together and what I have been able to achieve because Alec was in my corner cheering me on is nothing short of amazing. To say that the past 18 years could only have happened in the confines of this marriage would be an understatement. And given my overwhelming gratitude for this privileged life we have been able to live, I thank God daily that He has put this beautiful soul in my life. Happy Anniversary my love.
3 years ago, we purchased Ocean Pearl and she was christened Gratitude. In the 3 years we have owned her, we have lived aboard exclusively and called her “home” for 2 ½ years. In that time, she has brought us to 12 countries, 13 islands, over 50 cities and introduced us to countless past civilizations. She has nurtured the souls of the 3 of us, and also, I hope, nurtured the souls of those dear ones who have visited or eaten aboard with us in that time. She has provided shelter from storms both on the water and tied safely to the dock, and she has been a place of refuge to ride out a pandemic, illness, celebration, and life.
Gratitude has born witness to the largest amount of growth either of us has ever experienced in the same amount of time, save perhaps the first months of parenthood.
Several years ago, a family member leveled the accusation “you’ve changed” at my husband as if it was an indictment. Upon hearing this, Alec came to me and asked me if I thought it was true. I nearly fell out of my chair, laughing because YES, of course I thought he had changed. But in what world is change bad? Usually change is the result of the work that we do internally and externally. How pitiful would life be if, after a decade, we had not changed? Thinking back over the past 18 years of our shared life together, we have both changed in both small ways and in enormous ones. All of the changes -while not always enjoyable, have resulted in the best possible life together. We have each become more like the “other” and we are bringing up a child together consistent with the highest values of each of us. But looking back, the greatest growth has occurred during the biggest trials. During a serious illness, after the birth of a child, a big move or change of job – all of those have resulted in a huge bump in the growth scale. Similar to those, we look back together over the past 2 years and see remarkable changes in the way we perceive the world and our role in it. Petty things which seemed important to us 5 years ago are completely inconsequential. The day- to- day decisions have changed, the way we eat and the clothes we wear (and more importantly the way we feel about both of those things) have all changed.
Our roles as parent, teacher, coach, mentor, as well as our roles of spouse, Captain, Mate, partner and chef have changed and sometimes several times. When we left Florida, I was the primary teacher, but Alec jumped in and helped as needed. During our first year with all of the “ups” and “downs” I hit a serious bump in the proverbial teaching road and Alec took over as primary teacher while I managed the admin side of things – deciding what would be taught and how to get it recorded to comply with Florida requirements.
A few months ago, however, I decided to give it another try, and I am absolutely loving teaching most days. Something that was truly a misery for me a year ago has turned into a favorite activity. Change…
I have tried to figure out exactly what has led to this newfound joy with teaching and I honestly have no idea if it is Jack, me, the material or my frame of mind. More likely it is a combination of all of these things. A friend suggested Kahn Academy for Math and that has been a true “Game changer”. Beyond that, I am really at a loss to explain it. Here are some experiments we have done together in the past month including building a barometer, an anemometer and an arm exhibiting the way muscles work together. We also made a cloud and rain. It has been a ton of fun in the “Gratitude Laboratory”.
So perhaps we should all embrace change in ourselves and in each other with more love and anticipation!
Gratitude has just returned from the Pozzallo Boat Yard in Pozzallo, Sicily where she underwent several boat projects which have been on the growing list of maintenance required.
Last year while in Lagos, Portugal, we had considered a trip to the yard (also known as the Spa) but we cancelled it due to the Covid pandemic and needing to live aboard rather than allowed to travel around. After another full summer of cruising, she was ready for some polish.
So, Gratitude was hauled out and got a full scrub and new paint on her bottom and prop. Also polished were the topsides which got a fresh coat of wax.
Also, on the list, this past summer our dryer quit and, anticipating a similar fate for the washer, we decided to replace them both. Based on recommendations from friends aboard other Nordhavn’s, we decided on the Mele ventless dryer and words can’t describe how much I love it. Now, if you are a regular reader you know that I prefer to hang laundry rather than consume the energy necessary to machine dry it but in Sicily we get huge wind-storms called Sirocco with 50 knots of wind blowing Sahara dust for a couple of days at a time. Frankly – there are just times when a machine dryer must be used.
And finally, we replaced our Vacuflush heads with Tecma heads. Though the heads were “working”, they were due for some needed yearly maintenance including changing some 6 seals on each of the 3 heads aboard- a job nobody on board was looking forward to. Additionally, we never loved that on an ocean -going vessel with double or triple redundancy on nearly every system aboard, we had a single point of failure possibility on our heads. Which is to say, should someone accidental flush the wrong thing, not only would their head stop working, the whole boat is down. Now I don’t know you, but if away from land by several days and you can’t flush your head, nor can anyone aboard, – that is the stuff of nightmares for me. So, we changed them- and we are thus far very happy with the result. More importantly, if we have a guest aboard who forgets and flushes the wrong thing, the rest of the heads are operational until a repair can be affected on the broken one.
The cushions on the exterior needed to be replaced so we took care of that while in Sicily and before going to the yard. We are so very pleased with the result, the photos are above and below.
One of the questions we get frequently from friends back home is about the cost of this little adventure of ours. In fact, I remember in the 5-7 years leading up to our departure fretting non-stop over how much living overseas was going to cost us and would we be able to afford it?
We have spent only a fraction of what staying at home would have cost us. The trip to the boat yard was mostly on par with what similar work would have cost in the US and the quality was at least as good if not better. The cushions were roughly ½ of what they would have cost at home. The dock prices for winter dockage is approximately 40 % of what we would be paying in Florida and the availability in the winter is better here. The summer dockage in the Med is similar to prices in the Northeast in the summer – which is to say – expensive, but throughout most of Europe the cost is much lower, and our overall dockage expenses are much lower than they were for the same periods at home. The cost of groceries, eating out, incidental expenses is much lower ,consistently, though in major cities such as London, Paris, Rome, or heavily touristic cities such as Portofino we have found prices similar to equivalent cities at home ie. Miami, New York, Los Angeles. In the more expensive cities, we have the added benefit of being “home” so we can pick and choose where we wish to spend our tourist dollars. Our transportation expenses are significantly lower given that we sold 2 cars and a truck. In nearly all cities we have been able to rely on very good public transportation. Covid has changed that in Sicily this year but due to a near standstill in tourist traffic, the cost of renting a car has been anywhere from between 30-100 Euro a month, less than the cost of the insurance on our cars at home.
The next most frequent question or concern has been “aren’t you worried that Jack won’t have any socialization?”. Anyone who reads our blog or follows us on Instagram can answer that question. Below we are sharing a classic American meal aboard Gratitude with our Italian friends and they celebrated their “Carnavale” and “Fathers day” with us. In addition, we have daily interaction with other friends and boat schooled families. So, nope, not worried about socialization. He is learning about other cultures and in the process becoming more empathetic and openminded.
We have met countless families living the same life we are, touring the same cities and enjoying the identical experiences, though living in a smaller boat or motor home with more modest means. Just as your hometown has a house for nearly every budget, so too does the vagabond lifestyle. If travelling the world and learning history while walking the cobbled stoned streets walked for hundreds of years appeals to you, please don’t let fear stop you. Get more information! If someone reading this wants specific information on the viability of moving overseas – Private message me and I would be happy to candidly discuss with you some options. I was just forwarded a piece written by an American mother of 2 who decided to move to Mazatlan and then to the Caribbean. She said, and I quote, “We had to leave America to find the American Dream”. This resonated with me so much I got goosebumps. I have included a link to the piece here.
And Finally, Covid Lockdown in Italy: Approximately 3 weeks ago we finalmente got the green light to move from citta to citta – which is to say we moved into the Yellow zone. We hit the ground running and without regard for school or project, we set off to discover some of what we came to Sicily to see! It has been a ton of fun exploring again but as this post is already longer than I would prefer, and because we are again headed to lockdown tomorrow, I will have more time to devote to sharing the past few weeks’ fun travel experiences with you. So, the “TRAVEL POST”, which is a favorite of mine and readers will have to wait until next week but Ill work hard to get it done because the past few weeks of freedom has been a BLAST! If you follow us on Instagram, you can already guess what is coming. Here are a few photos to get you ready! Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe erupting during our visit, Taormina, Agrigento and More!!!
And finally, I wrote a piece which was published in Ocean Navigator’s Ocean Voyager edition called Hiring an Agent. It is informative and useful if you anticipate or think you may need an agent in the future.
Thanks for reading!