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Author: Raising Vikings

The Great Dismal Swamp

The Great Dismal Swamp

Started in 1793 and opened in 1805, the Great Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest continually operating man-made canal in the United States, closed only in 2016 due to storm damage, and re-opened just a few weeks ago in honor of our arrival, or so we’d like to think.

Envisioned by George Washington as far back as 1763, and dug mostly by local slaves over a 12-year period, the canal is covered in history as thick as the green duckweed that covers its waters.

End history lesson. Begin blog.

After a rough day on the Chesapeake we made it to the Deep Creek lock on the north end of the canal just in time (to the minute) for the last opening of the day.

The lock keeper, Robert, absolutely made our day with his hospitality–directing us to the free dock just past the lock, and giving us a menu for a pizza place that delivers directly to your boat. Cruisers take note: huge portions, reasonable prices, and did I mention they deliver to your boat?!?

“Some Californians, a Virginian, and a French-Canadian walk into a lock keeper’s station…” No, it’s not the opening line to a joke, but the start of a new day for us. There were two other boats that were our lock-mates, so to speak, and Robert invited us all over for coffee and pastries in the morning. He couldn’t have been more hospitable without offering a back rub and a hot bath (hint hint, Robert). Seriously though, what an amazing way to start our ICW adventure south… hot coffee and breakfast with new friends.

The water of the swamp looks disgusting. It is a Coca-Cola brown with a thick layer of green duckweed that covers the water for miles. But, as our informative host Robert pointed out, the water of the Great Dismal Swamp is actually some of the purest on earth due to the tannic acid from the trees and filtering from the peat. Not quite enticement enough to drink it, though.

On the cold and drizzly day when we passed through, the swamp definitely lived up to its name: dismal…but in the best possible sense. The leaves were changing color, and the overcast skies and rain only added to the ambience. Trees and bushes lining the dirt banks reached out into the canal toward our boat, and the thick green duckweed that covers the surface of the water parted as our boat sliced through it. It was nothing short of enchanting.

After exiting the canal through the southern lock our new friends on Mango III started having engine problems. They had sucked bark and duckweed into their raw water intake which clogged and overheated the engine.

We immediately rafted the two boats together, using our boat for propulsion and steering. Mary Jane took the helm and deftly guided us downstream for miles with the assistance of Terry and the boys as her crew of lookouts.

Meanwhile, Howard and I replaced his impeller, cleaned out his filter, and struggled in vain to find and remove the blockage.

Our new “catamaran” crept along under a starry sky for hours as we talked, laughed, and were entertained by Terry’s magic tricks.

After negotiating a hair-raising passage through a dark and narrow railway bridge, and an even more hair-raising double-wide docking in Elizabeth City, we let out a collective sigh of relief, said goodnight to our friends, and crawled into our beds wondering what adventures the new day would bring.

Nomads

Nomads

7 November 2017, somewhere in the Chesapeake.

During yesterday’s history lesson we were discussing how early tribes were hunters and gatherers before the development of agriculture which eventually led to the rise of towns and cities.

I know! The kind of conversation every teenager dreams of, right?!?

Anyway, while describing what it means to be nomadic, it dawned on us… “We are nomadic!”

Now, we may not be following the migration of the nearest herd of caribou, but we do travel from place to place without a zip code to call our own. We’re nomads.

What a strange feeling. Not bad, not good…just odd.

Everywhere we go we are both visitors and residents at the same time. For example, we literally lived in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (albeit briefly), in October. And we just left our waterfront home in Annapolis a couple days ago. Although technically I suppose it was our waterfront home that just left Annapolis, but you get the point.

So, as our little floating home sails through the Chesapeake on this chilly November morning following other tribes on their southbound migrations, I find myself fantasizing about what it will be like to take up residence in the Bahamas for a while.

Dogs On A Boat

Dogs On A Boat

They’re furry. They’re cute. And they poop. Every day. Twice.

No, I’m not talking about our boys, though the description still works. I’m talking about boat dogs.Our extra crew members, Brodie and Ollie, are not only adorable, but also help make our boat feel like a home. When at port, they remain the most photographed members of our crew by passers-by, and at sea they—well, let’s face it, they don’t do much, being dogs and all.

They are learning to adjust to life at sea. They each have a life jacket that they wear when we are underway, and they are slowly learning to go pee on a little grass pad on the deck. Emphasis on the word slowly.

There have been many a cold morning when I stand on deck with the dogs urging them to “go potty!” on the pad, every fiber of my being willing them to pee, too often unsuccessfully. As the saying should go, a watched dog never pees.

Is it a challenge having dogs on board? Absolutely. Ollie is my early morning alarm clock, even on the rare day I could sleep in. Brodie barks at birds; he barks at other boats; he even barks at buoys. All of which number in the hundreds along the ICW.

Then there is the matter of where to take them for exercise.

While at dock it’s as easy as living on land—you just take them for a walk. At anchor, however, it means a dinghy ride to shore, IF you have the luxury of a convenient beach or town nearby.

They have chewed up things, peed on things, fallen overboard, and brought home sand, mud, and stickers in their fur. Still talking about the dogs, not the kids.

Traveling to a foreign country only complicated matters, as there are tests to be done and paperwork to fill out, all within a fairly restrictive timeframe.

Is this why pirates had parrots as pets? I can’t imagine Blackbeard or Henry Morgan standing around on deck in the wee hours of the morning trying to cajole a dog to “go potty”.

Having said all of that…the dogs are wonderful! They are our little furry family members.

They snuggle up next to us at night and entertain us with their hilarious personalities. They alert us of visitors while at anchor, and can make a long watch at the helm feel a bit less lonely.

They are ridiculously fun to have on board, adding so much to the cruising experience that we can’t imagine doing it without them! Who wants a pet that squawks “pieces of eight!” all the time, anyway?

Night Watch

Night Watch

3 November 2017. Delaware Bay.

4:30am departure. Tired. Very tired.

Cool, but not cold. Okay, cold, but not too cold. My hot coffee helps.It’s quiet. The sky is eerily light over the dark water. An occasional wispy cloud veils the full moon on my port beam.What is this strange and magical world I find myself in? That I have chosen for myself? For my family? Do people know this is out here? Would they choose it if they did?

Maybe we’re just the right kind of crazy for this…believing that the wonder and adventure of it all somehow outweighs all of the hard work, frustration, and inconvenience.

Today…this morning…the wonder wins out. Maybe tomorrow the–

Hold on! Is that cargo ship moving?!? I’ve been watching its lights for a while now, but I thought it was anchored. I think it’s moving…and bearing down on me! Wait–no….false alarm. It’s anchored.

Where was I? Wonder…? Magical morning…? Nope, it’s gone. My musings drowned in a flood of adrenaline.

Shoot! The engine just died. Gurk. Now what?

This engine and I have been having some personal issues lately, but I thought we resolved them yesterday. I guess I won’t sew on my mechanic’s merit badge yet.

Wish I knew more about diesel engines. Or any engines, for that matter. Wish I took auto shop in high school. Wish my high school had auto shop.

Happy thoughts not working…engine still won’t start. Mentally swearing at it doesn’t seem to be working either.

Okay…it’s running again. Well done me. I apparently nursed the engine back to life with happy thoughts and inaudible expletives. Who knew I had such a rare and useful talent?

Wow! The moon is orange as it dips below the horizon. Beautiful! Stunning! Is that a “moonset?” Could I be the first person to come up with that term? Surely not. I should google that later. Just in case.Alarm going off…just my phone telling me it’s time for me to stretch a bit. I try to move around every half hour or so to keep the blood moving…don’t want to topple over like grooms at weddings who lock their knees.

Why are they called “grooms” anyway? Were women back in the day marrying a lot of men who took care of horses? I should google that later, too.

Sun is up now. Coffee finally kicking in. Rational mind taking over once again. At least until my next night watch…

Heading South?

Heading South?

As November approached, the cold bite in the air told us in no uncertain terms that we had overstayed our welcome in New York and it was time to leave before foul weather closed in around us and blocked off our retreat to the south.

On our last morning in Port Washington, we filled our water tanks, dumped garbage, fueled up, and began to motor out of Manhasset Bay.

Two minutes into our great southern migration smoke started billowing from the engine compartment and the heat alarm began screaming at me.

Let’s recap.

Smoke billowing.

Engine overheating.

Alarm screaming.

Did I mention me peeing my pants?

We immediately shut down the engine and hooked onto a very conveniently located mooring ball in order to assess the situation.

Now I am no expert mechanic, but after some thorough research and deep contemplation I deduced that something was wrong with the engine.

All joking aside, fixing a diesel engine isn’t my strong suit…but it’s going to be…along with maintaining and repairing electrical systems, marine toilets (aka, heads), sails, rigging, and innumerable other things which cruisers need to learn to do or go broke paying someone else to do.

In the case of our overheating engine the culprit was a burned out impeller in the raw water pump, which would come back to haunt us later (Ooo! Foreshadowing!). For now, though, I fixed the engine and was the hero to…well, no one on board, really, except perhaps myself.

So, what caused the impeller to burn out? I’m glad you asked.

I am ashamed to admit that I committed the cardinal sin of boating by forgetting to open the seacock. Yes, that is a real thing—I don’t make these nautical words up!

Basically, the engine is cooled by pumping seawater into, and back out of, the boat. No seawater getting in means a really hot engine. Bad juju. In our case we caught it in time to save the engine, but not the poor little impeller who died a horrible death.

Moral of my tale? Don’t forget the seacock! And don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done, like diesel repair. We’re all pretty amazing creatures, and far more capable and creative than we often believe.

So, how did it come back to haunt us? I’m glad you asked that, too. But you’ll have to wait for a couple of posts to find out. Cliffhanger!

In the meantime, we left Port Washington and motored down the East River. The engine repair caused a delay just long enough to ensure that we had a very strong current raging against us all the way past Manhattan to Great Kills harbor on Staten Island where we tucked in for several days to ride out a storm.

Start Spreading The News

Start Spreading The News

I can’t quite describe the feeling I had as I stood behind the wheel of our sailboat guiding our family into New York Harbor at night. It was…well…indescribable, and unforgettable.

We were awestruck by the lights of the city, the Statue of Liberty, as well as the frequent near death experiences as every vessel in New York, from ferries to freighters, all tried to run us down. I imagined the conversations at their helms, “Hey Tony, 100 points for the sailboat full of Californians!”

We slid in behind Lady Liberty to one of the coolest anchorages ever. We were so close it felt like we could throw a rock and hit her hindquarters. We resisted the temptation.

With the shifting currents and strong winds, I was afraid that our anchor would drag in the night–but the view of the city was worth the anxiety. Absolutely stunning!

In the morning, after “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” some more, we motored up the Hudson River to the 79th Street Basin, where we could tie up to a mooring ball for a few days. Unfortunately, their mooring balls are closed for repairs, so we had to anchor out. In telling this tale later to other cruisers we were told, “79th Street?!? No one anchors at 79th Street!” The tides and currents often conspired to make the long dinghy ride to shore more than a little hair-raising.

We wandered around Manhattan’s Upper West Side and found some amazing and authentic NY pizza in some little hole-in-the-wall whose name I can’t remember.

We spent a day exploring Central Park, playing a family football game near a tree whose fruit smells like vomit (the Ginko tree, Google it!), and getting somewhat lost-ish on the miles of trails that crisscross the park.

I, of course, tried to teach the kids about the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, but since the name didn’t stick around long enough to inspire the Frank Sinatra song, I doubt if the lesson will stick around either.

After a couple of sleep deprived nights at 79th Street we moved onto a mooring ball in Port Washington, Long Island. Great town, secure mooring, but expensive train ride into the city (with six people everything is expensive!).

Speaking of costly things, Manhattan transient dock fees run $4/foot per night. Way too much for cruisers on a budget! In hindsight, we would have stayed in Great Kills Harbor, Staten Island, or in Sheepshead Bay on the back side of Coney Island. Live and learn.

In Manhattan, we toured Chinatown, walked on the Brooklyn Bridge, rode the subway, viewed the 9/11 memorial, and took selfies in Times Square. Yep, all the touristy stuff. It was great.

But as all good things have their end, so did our New York experience. The cold weather was sneaking up on us like an icy ninja, and we were ready to turn our helm southward toward warm weather and new adventures.

Cruising Through Mordor

Cruising Through Mordor

Riddle me this, Batman… What do nuclear power plants, Hessians, Ferris wheels, and water towers have in common?

If you guessed New Jersey, you’re right! You also happen to be freakishly good at this game. Scary good.

Let me ‘splain, Lucy…

Having bid farewell to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, we crossed through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal and popped out on the Delaware River. Had we been over 200 years earlier, and quite a bit upstream, we may have seen our old pal General Washington crossing said river to kick the snot out of a bunch of Hessian mercenaries hanging out in Trenton. But we weren’t upstream, and we live in 2017, so the only thing we saw was a giant nuclear power plant looming over the horizon like Mount Doom rising from the plains of Mordor. It’s a bit handy for navigation–and for power, I suppose–but otherwise it was a dreary beginning to a dreary day of slogging downstream against the wind and tides.After stopping for the night in Lewes, Delaware, we rounded Cape May and headed up the coast of New Jersey. Having never seen the Jersey shore, nor the reality show by the same name, I didn’t know quite what to expect. 

I now know that the Atlantic coast of New Jersey has two distinguishing features: Ferris wheels and water towers. And not much else. Now, I can understand the water towers, but what’s with the Ferris wheels?!? There are just so many!As we spent the day sailing north, the kids found time to do a little boat school when not sprawled out on deck like a pack of drunken sailors. With one hand on the wheel, the other clutching the iPad, and legs spread to handle the boat’s pitching and rolling, I read to the boys and taught them their daily history lesson. Call me crazy, but I consider myself incredibly blessed to be able to teach my own children. And to do it while sailing the world? Bonus!We saw Atlantic City from miles away, its high-rise buildings and Ferris wheel being hard to miss. While this east coast Las Vegas was not on my “must see” list (don’t be offended, Atlantic City, I’m not fond of Vegas, either), it turned out that it wasn’t so bad. Now, we didn’t actually go into Atlantic City, but we squeezed past a dredging barge into a peaceful little lagoon to anchor for the night. So, ironically, my Atlantic City memories are ones of tranquil slumber, dreaming of Hessians riding Ferris wheels. 

Maybe.

What A Drag

What A Drag

Heading north up the East Coast in late October, we weren’t unaware that cold weather would eventually find us. Even so, the first icy winds and driving rain of the season felt like a swift kick to the nether regions.Our shorts and T-shirts of just a few days before gave way to sweatshirts and long pants. We even fired up our propane heater for the first time just to take the edge off.After one particularly long, strenuous day of sailing up the Chesapeake, we settled into a picturesque anchorage in Maryland for the night, happily climbing into our cozy bed feeling utterly spent. Suddenly we were ripped out of a deep sleep by the air-raid-like wail of my anchor alarm…our anchor was dragging! 

Half naked, half awake, and more than half terrified I flew up through the companionway to assess the situation. The situation sucked. Howling wind, stinging rain, and bitter cold greeted me in the cockpit. It was just past 1 AM, and our boat was being blown slowly across the bay while the anchor struggled valiantly, and unsuccessfully, to hang on.

Mary Jane and I started the engine to keep us in place, threw on some warm clothes, then hauled up the anchor (by hand, since our windlass is less than functional). After about a half hour we were able to reset the anchor and we wearily crawled into bed for some much needed sleep.

“BOO-WEE! BOO-WEE! BOO-WEE!!!” 

“Again?!? Are you kidding me?!?” I muttered, as the anchor alarm destroyed another REM cycle. Clothes on. Engine on. Anchor up. Rain pelting. Muscles burning. Teeth chattering.

It became clear that we needed a new anchorage. The problem was that the nearest one was two hours away through rough weather. Time to Viking-up.

After two miserable hours of pounding through waves and rain, we tucked ourselves into a protected anchorage up the Sassafras River. As the first light of the new day played upon the blissfully calm waters, I slid into bed for the best sleep I’ve had in ages.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast…

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast…

After the bustle of city life in D.C., it was nice to be out on the water and moving again, heading down the Potomac on our way to New York.

The anticipation of spending a week in NYC made it a little tricky to shake off the “are we there yet” mentality and just enjoy the journey, but we were able to slow the pace down a bit–anchoring early most days, kayaking when possible, and playing games around the table. 
Our eventual need for food, water, and clean underwear forced us ashore at Solomons Island, Maryland, a charming little town whose sea of masts bear witness to the Chesapeake’s claim of being a sailor’s paradise. 

At Solomons Island (aka, Solomons) we “splurged” by getting a slip at a marina for a couple days. Now at first glance this may not seem like a big deal, but for us it meant easy access to laundry, an unlimited water supply (you’d be surprised how quickly our tanks run dry), unlimited electricity (charged devices and video games!), wifi, long and hot showers, and groceries and boat supplies just a short bike ride away. The lap of luxury after days at anchor!

Not to mention the fact that being at a marina makes it so much easier for Mary Jane and I to escape the kids for a couple of hours, even if our “hot date” was just a bike ride to pick up boat parts. I really know how to romance a girl, right?

The downside of a marina? Money. Cruising with four boys and two dogs means cruising on a budget, and cruising on a budget means that being able to buy food and fuel always trumps the convenience of being at a slip. 

Upon reflection, it’s easy to see how much different our lives have become…

For the first month or so this lifestyle felt a bit like a perpetual vacation, just a lot more work. Every day was an exciting new adventure. But, like all new things, the novelty soon wore off and the ups and downs of the cruising life became our new normal.
There are moments when the clogged toilet, overheating engine, and cold, damp weather make you shake your head and think, “Why did we choose this again?!?” 

And then you have an evening when you are sitting in the cockpit with the family laughing and eating barbecued something, the boat lying snugly at anchor in an idyllic cove while the sun sets majestically into the water, and you look at each other and say, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” and, “How can we keep doing this forever?”

This is cruising.

The Vikings Take On Washington

The Vikings Take On Washington

Visiting a big city with your family by boat is a completely different experience than visiting by any other means of transportation.

As cruisers, we find that the normal travel concerns of airports, hotels, restaurants, and rental cars are being replaced by questions like, “Where is the nearest grocery store? Is there a dinghy dock nearby?” and the all-important, “Where can we take the dogs to poop?”

Thankfully, Washington is a fairly cruiser-friendly town. Safeway was a mere two blocks away, we had access to showers and laundry, and the dogs had a newly renovated waterfront to, ah…attend to their business.


There is a Metro station nearby, which we rode once, for the experience, but our main mode of transportation, besides our feet, was the city bike share program. Like many big cities, Washington has a fleet of bikes that are available to rent, taking a bicycle from one station and dropping it off at another. The only drawback is that you can only have a bike out for 30 minutes at a time before finding another station and switching it out for another bike or parking it.

This worked brilliantly for our family, with all six of us pedaling hilariously from museum to monument while furiously ringing our little bells to avoid collisions with the ubiquitous tourists and often frantically trying to find the next bike station before our always-too-short 30 minutes ran out. I rode with my cell phone in one hand, partly to capture photos and video, and partly to keep a timer running and to locate nearby stations in time. 

Me: “Turn left at the statue! Only five minutes left! Don’t hit the hot dog guy!! Comedy gold.


Provisioning (cruiser-speak for shopping for food and supplies) was easily accomplished at our local Safeway. Our only problem was that we shopped like we were living in the suburbs with our Suburban in the parking lot (read we bought way too much). But with four growing Vikings aboard, how could we not?

We decided to wheel the full shopping cart back to the dinghy when, by some unseen magic, the right front wheel of the shopping cart locked up leaving us immobile smack in the middle of the store entrance/exit. Luckily, we were able to find a benevolent Safeway employee who removed the curse from the cart and sent us on our way, providing we would agree to bring back the cart after we had unloaded.

The anchorage was great, if you don’t mind helicopters (police, Coast Guard, presidential) buzzing by just above your mast tip every hour or so. You get used to it…sort of. 

Most of the monuments, museums, and memorials in D.C. are free, or for a “suggested donation,” which is amazing, since the plunder our Vikings bring home is in the form of memories and experiences, not gold. That’s great and all, but try paying for dinner with memories and you’ll get all sorts of funny looks.

As a whole, our family thought the Lincoln memorial was inspiring, and we were all a bit overwhelmed by the Holocaust memorial…amazing, but heavy. And I’m a bit embarrassed to say, by I MAY have teared up a bit while viewing the Declaration of Independence. Maybe.

But I’ve got to say that our hands-down favorite was the Air and Space Museum. I mean, it’s the Wright’s Flyer! I could have spent an entire day in their exhibit on navigation alone! So cool. 

Our week in Washington D.C. was so much fun. It was interesting, inspiring, and exhausting…and we were all ready to leave by the end of our time there–ready to take on the Big Apple next!

Washington DC or Bust!

Washington DC or Bust!

Cruising on a tight schedule feels a bit like going against the very principle of cruising. I mean, if I wanted to be stressed out about getting places on time I would’ve stayed on land, right? It would be like giving up your home to move your family into an RV then spending every day in rush-hour traffic.  

And yet that is the situation in which we found ourselves after unexpected hurricane delays forced us to motor north as quickly as possible in order to meet Samuel and Simon flying in from the West Coast. 

Our typical day consisted of getting up before dawn, making coffee, pulling up the anchor, then motoring for 14-18 hours before finding a new anchorage, dropping the hook, and getting a few hours sleep. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.


Tedious? Yes. Exhausting? Yep. Ultimately successful? Barely. 

We picked up a mooring ball in Washington less than 24 hours before the boys’ flight came in. Now, I realize that “less than 24 hours” may not seem like cutting it close–I mean we weren’t exactly speeding across town or sprinting through the airport–but with potential weather problems or engine failure it sure felt that way.

Even with the overly hectic pace, the trip up was beautiful and we had some fun adventures along the way. We passed through our first lock ever while in the Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal. We saw a monkey in a diaper in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, of all places (the monkey was in the diaper, not us, in case that was a bit ambiguous). And we found some of our favorite anchorages to date: Buck Island, North Carolina; Mobjack Bay/East River, Virginia; and Point Lookout/Smith Creek, Maryland…all stunning and serene.


The highlight of my trip had to be seeing George Washington’s lifelong home, Mount Vernon, as we approached from the water. I happen to be a history nerd and a fan of our first president, and to be sailing (motoring) through his old stomping grounds filled me with emotion, if I’m honest.


Even just being on the Potomac itself felt somehow historically sacred. It wasn’t hard to imagine Native American villages scattered along its banks, or John Wilkes Booth rowing across its waters to elude capture after assassinating Lincoln, or John Quincy Adams skinny-dipping in it’s waters daily during his presidency. Okay, I tried not to actually imagine the last one, but you get the point.

A break from our travels will be nice. We will replace motoring with museums, and quiet anchorages for a bustling city. Looking forward to the change for a bit.

Dodging Hurricanes and Heading North

Dodging Hurricanes and Heading North

Almost immediately after we had packed up our California home and journeyed across the country (more on that later) to our new floating home in Daytona Beach, Hurricane Irma grew to monstrous size and decided to pay us a visit. Reported as the strongest Atlantic storm in recorded history, Irma ripped a path of destruction through the very Caribbean islands that we plan on visiting in a few months before setting her sights on Florida.

It didn’t take us more than a couple of seconds to decide to head north, while leaving the boat as prepared for a storm as we could make it (triple dock lines, removed sails, prayer, etc). We were among the lucky ones that had a car, so we headed north to stay with family. HUGE THANKS to all of our friends at Halifax Harbor Marina. We made fast friends and felt right at home among you all on H dock!

Now, we’re from Northern California–the land of earthquakes. They strike without warning and either you’re okay, or your not. Like ripping off a band-aid. We’re not used to hurricanes, though, which slowly stalk you from across an ocean like some kind of zombie horde–always moving, never resting, unpredictable, bent on your destruction. They take a bit of getting used to, and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to get used to them.

So, as I was saying, we fled north. We drove through the night and imposed ourselves for a week (two adults, four kids, and two dogs) upon Mary Jane’s aunt and cousin. The hospitality was so amazing that it was hard to leave. 

The kids plugged away on boat school, including trips to a battleship, a Civil War era fort, and an aquarium. And, of course, a late night excursion to the Waffle House, which scores low on the educational and nutritious scale, but high on the fun and tasty.
                    

After an incredible “hurricane party” with Mary Jane’s family, we nervously went back to our boat to see how badly she was damaged. Thankfully, she didn’t have a scratch! Three sweltering days of working in the Daytona heat and we were ready to get moving, heading north to get as far away from the hurricane zone as we could.

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) stretches up the east coast, allowing for travel along the coast when conditions in the ocean prove unfavorable. It’s beautiful, often boring, and sometimes dangerous--especially at night (which we attempted several times though each time we did we told each other, “never again!”)   Poorly charted buoys, floating logs, obnoxious power boaters, and road hog tugboats are just a few of the things you might encounter. Not to mention dolphins, flamingos, and the occasional renegade pack of jet skis racing up behind you like a chase scene from a James Bond movie.

After a few days of monotonous motoring (Ugh…why can’t we sail yet?!?) up the ICW we found that we had we had Hurricane Maria on our tail, so we ducked up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington, North Carolina, and spent another few days with MJ’s family waiting out yet another hurricane.

Our hearts are broken for all of the loss of life and property due to these storms. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other smaller islands have been absolutely devastated, not to mention the damage to Florida and other U.S. states. We passed countless broken docks, damaged homes, and boats that had been sunk or thrown upon the shore. 


We pray for all who have been affected and hope that we can find some small way to serve those in need along our journey.

For now, we are getting used to boat life little by little while relentlessly motoring north. We are enjoying spectacular sunrises, and even more spectacular sunsets, while learning to embrace a lifestyle in which the journey is as important–no, more important–than the destination.


Why Vikings?!?

Why Vikings?!?

“Why ‘Raising Vikings?’ Didn’t the Vikings raid, murder and pillage?”

So the conversation often begins.

Okay, well…yes, that’s a bit true. I can’t deny that the Vikings were fairly well known for their less-than-gentlemanly  behavior as they dominated much of Europe in the two centuries leading up to AD 1000.

One could argue that they were only doing what everyone else was trying to do to each other, but they were just much, much better at it. But that is beside the point.

Besides our strong Scandinavian heritage, the true inspiration behind our name is that by all accounts the Vikings were also phenomenal adventurers and traders. They used their secret weapon, the longship, not only as a vehicle from which to launch amphibious invasions, but also as a means to explore the far reaches of the known world…and beyond.

The Norse during the Viking Age traveled far and wide, encountering and engaging diverse cultures from the indigenous tribes in North America to the Byzantine Empire in the Med. They interacted and traded with people far different from themselves (when they weren’t killing them), during an era when staying close to home and doing what had always been done was the norm.

We want our kids to be raised in a culture of adventure. We want them to break free of what is deemed “normal” for teenagers in the West, and experience a way of life that is filled with excitement, wonder, and  learning. We want them to experience people far different than themselves, eat new foods, speak foreign tongues, and immerse themselves in a way of life that has no idea who the Joneses are, nor any concept of needing to keep up with them.

We want our kids to learn to love all people, and to learn to serve others without thought of what they will get in return. We will use our small sailboat-home to accomplish these ends during this short season of life before they are adults and off a-Viking on their own.

We are raising adventurers. Raising explorers. Raising learners. Raising Vikings.

We are a family of 7 from California embarking on a journey of discovery and adventure aboard our 50′ ketch, Elska. For us, it is time to make a change. A big change.  A change to the very core of our lifestyle, that we might live more fully and engage our planet in ways we never could from the comfort of our suburban home.

Like the Norse explorers of old, we are casting off from the safety of our “home fjord” and comfortable village for a grand adventure of experiencing new lands and cultures, taking hold of the treasures of life while our kids are young and while we are young at heart.