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We still had three months until our apartment lease ran out but, after learning of Stan and Chris’ four-year odyssey to get their own 52-foot Irwin, we were a bit discouraged. After touring their boat that night, we drove back to the apartment. I had work to do so Richard got on his laptop, and started searching for Irwins. We figured we might have to search out of state but we were willing to do that if it meant finding just the right floating home for our family.

It had only been about 45 minutes since we’d left Stan and Chris’ boat when Richard turned to me, and enthusiastically said, “Found one!” He immediately emailed the link to me and Brian. You’re not going to believe this but that boat was less than two miles from our apartment…and it was in our price range! I excitedly looked at pictures of the beautiful interior while Brian poured over the specs. Richard was still looking for others online so we’d have some comparisons.

The boat was absolutely gorgeous! But, I kept my glee in check, knowing from our previous experience that a nice layout, an “updated” kitchen, and pretty pillows in the master stateroom can hide some nasty goodies under the ¬†floorboards. On the surface, it appeared to have everything we were looking for, including all the latest electronics. It, quite honestly, seemed too good to be true.

The next day, a Friday, Brian called the broker who, coincidentally, was Gene Gammon, the exact same captain and broker who’d captained Stan and Chris’ Irwin from Texas to Florida! The same guy who worked for Irwin Yachts for years, who was friends was Ted Irwin, and who owns! We were once again awed by how small and close-knit this beautiful community really is! Down on the docks, it seems everybody knows everybody else and we love that about this town!

Gene was available to show us the boat that afternoon. So, Richard, Brian and I piled into the truck with Max and Mason and we drove a few blocks down the street to the Harborage Marina, where Gene was waiting for us. The exterior and interior were exactly like the pictures. Max (age 15) and Mason (age 10) had not been in a large sailboat before and THEY LOVED IT! They said they could definitely live on a sailboat. It was unanimous! I tried not to get my hopes up because I knew the survey could uncover any number of calamities but, I admit, I was already getting a bit excited.

Brian immediately opened up the engine area, and started poking around. Richard was in the cockpit, checking out the electronics. Max and Mason were still inside, imagining how they’d decorate their small rooms. I was poking around in the kitchen. There was a full-size refrigerator and, in the cabinets that were located in the small hallway between the master stateroom and the salon, there was a full-size deep freeze! That boat actually had more fridge and freezer space than our apartment and homes ever had!

The interior was stained a dark teak with maroon cushions on the settee’s. A small, custom coffee table with teak lattice for the top complemented the warm, roomy interior.

Large windows in the salon provided a great view of the surrounding marina. There were numerous hatches (for ventilation when traveling) and portholes, which provided tons of cheery sunlight. Everywhere I looked, I found something else to love about that boat!

We took several pictures and Brian wrote down some notes. We learned from Gene that the owner was a merchant marine, traveling for three weeks out of every four. He captained a 350-foot ship and he knew how to maintain a boat. He had multiple back-up systems and an overabundance of safety supplies and equipment. The boat was also full of more tools than you can imagine, along with tons of spare parts, all tucked away in the numerous cabinets and hidey-holes placed throughout the vessel. Also, everything was meticulously documented. Later, after reviewing the paperwork from some of their cruising, I knew I’d met my match with regards to organization and perfectionism! The owners documented EVERYTHING!

Gene also told us that the captain’s wife, Amanda (not her real name), was living on the boat while it was for sale. That explained the two bras I found folded up on one of the bunks. I thought that was odd at the time because I didn’t know anybody was living onboard. I knew whoever they belonged to might be embarrassed so I arranged them in a way where you couldn’t tell they were brassieres. Yeah, we chicks gotta watch out for each other. ūüėČ

Two days later, we scheduled a “second showing.” Gene was not available but Amanda agreed to meet us, answer all our questions, and start up the engines. Capt. Stan offered to come with us that day for his expert advice and he brought Chris along. While the men all poured over the boat, having their own mini-inspection, Amanda, Chris, and I sat in the salon, discussing far-less-technical matters about the boat. We asked her how far they’d traveled. They’d owned the boat for 10 years and they’d gone back and forth from Maine to the Caribbean and beyond several times. We asked her about the worst weather they’d been in. She told us a funny, albeit scary story that I will share in another post because it involves a major bowsprit repair.

Richard came below, and asked her some questions as well. We spent about two hours on the boat that day and, the longer we explored, the more we fell in love with her!

But, my caution remained. What would the survey reveal?



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Our liveaboard friend, Brian, knew a another couple on his dock in St. Pete who lived on a 52-foot sailboat, an Irwin.

Irwin Yachts was owned by Ted Irwin, who was also the designer. The boats have an excellent reputation. Ted Irwin was seven years old when he moved to the Tampa Bay area of Florida. He¬†started building boats when he was just 15 (in his backyard!). He built his very first commercial sailboat right here in St. Petersburg so he’s quite the legend around these parts! His bio is fascinating. You can read it RIGHT HERE.

Brian had explained our situation to Stan and Chris and they generously invited us to come tour their boat. The next day, Richard, Brian, and I all drove over to have a look.

Capt. Stan is a courageous local fireman who’s about to retire and his wife, Chris, is a schoolteacher. They’re heading out this summer for two years on the high seas. We’re so jealous!

Their boat is beautiful! The cockpit is large enough for entertaining, which is very important to us since everybody we know has already begged for a dinner and/or sailing invitation. (Brian warned us that would happen!) The boat is large, heavy, and sturdy. It has beautiful lines and is very well-maintained. Stan is not only quite handy but he’s also a genius when it comes to boats! Just last weekend, he chartered a boat to the Florida Keys for an owner.

We entered through the companionway. Once we reached the bottom of the steps, we were in a large salon. The kitchen had plenty of room, too! I was impressed! I looked at Richard, hoping he also thought the interior was large enough for a family of four. But, he and Stan were deep in discussion about fuel consumption. Once Richard heard you could travel hundreds of miles or more in that boat on one tank of fuel, he was “hooked” (are you getting tired of my nautical puns yet?). Motoryachts use tons of fuel, and traveling in them is very expensive. You’re also limited in your travels because you can only go as far as the farthest fueling dock. With a sailboat, if you run out of gas, you can still get home (though docking might be a bit tricky)!

We got to see the three staterooms and the two heads. There was ample storage and we learned they’d traveled extensively while living aboard with two children years ago. Their granddaughter frequently stays with them and they even have a pet cockatoo on board, who hung out on Stan’s shoulder the whole time, enjoying having his neck scratched. (Since I know you’re wondering, I’ll go ahead and mention it. No, Capt. Stan does NOT have a peg leg.)

Capt. Stan!

We had a long conversation and they patiently and enthusiastically answered all of our questions, as well as offered information we didn’t even know to ask about.

When Stan and Chris started shopping for a boat, it took them two years to figure out exactly what kind they wanted. And, it took them another two years to find it. They found their 52-foot Irwin in Texas and they hired a local captain and broker named Gene Gammon, who had previously worked for Irwin for years. Gene flew with them to Texas to pick up the boat, and helped them sail it through the¬†Gulf of Mexico, back to Florida. Not-so-coincidentally (this is a REALLY small town and the nautical community is deeply entwined), Gene Gammon is the owner of, ¬†which features¬†Ted Irwin’s bio that I linked to above. On that site, you can find tons of information on the history of Irwins and you can even buy copies of owners’ manuals and blueprints, which were originally printed long, long ago.

As we were leaving, we thanked Stan and Chris¬†profusely, and offered to take them out to dinner the following week. That became the first of many educational and entertaining dinners we would share with them! They’re a riot!

On the way back to the apartment, Richard said he could definitely live on a boat like that. I was ELATED! I was finally going to get the sailboat I’d been dreaming about! But, how long would it take us to find one?

Turns out, the boat of my dreams was closer than we could have ever imagined…



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After dinner out with our friend, Brian, who told us he was only paying $700 per month in dock fees to live on his boat, Richard and I had a long conversation that night. We were ruminating about our $2700 per month house payment vs. paying $700 per month in “rent.” In the previous 4 years, we’d spent more than $100K in repairs on that house, which we glumly called The Money Pit. Just when we thought all the¬†major repairs had come to an end, the seawall cracked. Estimates to fix it averaged around $50K. We knew, no matter how long we owned that house, that we’d never get that money back.

The question was obvious. What the heck were we doing? We’d owned three homes over the years, and lost tons of money on all of them. At least when you buy a boat, you KNOW ¬†up front that you’re never getting your money back on all the repairs you make!

If we moved onto a boat, we could reduce our monthly payment by $2000. Our electricity would be less, along with the water bill. Property taxes (excise taxes for boats) and insurance would be a fraction of what we were spending on that house. While our business was doing well, it made no sense to spend $2700 per month living by the water when we could LITERALLY live ON the water…on Tampa Bay (a dream come true!!!)…for only $700!

By noon the next day, Richard had contacted a realtor. And, within three months, we had sold the house. We took a huge loss on it because of the seawall…and because of all the money we’d already dumped into it. But, there was no use wallowing in that. We had done what was needed to stop the bleed. (Incidentally, a few months after we sold the house, a neighbor contacted me, letting me know it¬†had caught on fire!)

Around this time, Richard had expressed an interest in writing more books, and having someone else do the technical work on the website. I was working too many hours already so we decided to hire a new employee to help out. Coincidentally, at that same time, Brian’s employer in Tampa sold out to a foreign firm and the writing was on the wall for their employees. All those U.S. jobs would eventually be shipped overseas (and they have since laid off dozens!).

Brian is super-smart, and has¬†an excellent work ethic. Better still, he’s also a writer! He would be only two blocks away from our apartment in St. Pete. As our friend, and because of his in-depth knowledge about boats and engines, he was eager to help us start shopping for a boat. We quickly typed up an offer of employment before some other company could snatch him up. Knowing he would no longer need to commute to Tampa, and that he could work in his own “home office” (his boat), that he could throw away all his ties and slacks, and that he could travel whenever and wherever he wanted in his boat, as long as he had an Internet connection, he enthusiastically accepted.

In June, we moved into a high rise in St. Petersburg, which was also pretty expensive (but at least we didn’t have to pay for repairs!), and, with Brian’s expert advice, we started shopping for a boat.

I had my heart set on buying a big sailboat, with beautiful lines, massive sails, and a cozy cabin. But, where could we find an affordable, well-kept one that could comfortably house four people?

During our online shopping, we found numerous motor yachts that had plenty of interior space, many at affordable prices. We looked at a few, and were very interested in a 1985 Chris Craft. I still deeply desired a sailboat but Richard and the boys wanted more room.

We scheduled an initial walk-through of the Chris Craft, which was on the other coast of Florida. On the exterior, it looked great! It was nicely decorated and it looked like it was in really good condition. The broker offered me a list of “surveyors” he recommended but, after getting burned by three different home inspectors when buying our house, I declined.

Brian was very eager to assist and he found an amazing surveyor named John Banister, the owner of Suenos Azules Marine Surveying and Consulting. We hired John, and scheduled the survey and sea trial. And, that was when we learned that boat brokers can be just like slimy car salesmen.

Brian and John crawled all over that boat, inside and out, poking and prodding, calculating and inspecting. Brian also took notes and lots of photos. I was sitting in the salon with the broker and, each time Brian walked by, he’d subtly shake his head, letting me know things were not going well at all.

While the boat looked great on the outside, it had severe problems under the deck. Just before we departed for the sea trial, the broker’s mechanic was pouring some fluid into a tank near the engine. It was obvious the tank needed filling because of an ongoing leak. Some time between our first walk-through and the survey, they had painted the entire engine, a sure-sign they were trying to hide something. There were other leaks in the engine as well. It blew a gasket during the sea trial. Something overheated but the alarm didn’t go off. We assumed the broker or owner had disabled the alarm before the sea trial.

A fresh coat of paint can’t hide THAT leak!

I, myself, found an active termite infestation. There was a gray water leak that had soaked the carpet in one of the staterooms. Underneath, the carpet padding and wood were covered in black mold.  (That was a deal breaker right there!) Worse, under the floor, there were live wires in the flooded bilge.

Live wires in the flooded bilge under the stateroom with the soaked, moldy carpet.

That leak had been there quite awhile and the broker had to admit that he’d known about it all along. But, he hadn’t disclosed it. That broker, who I’ll call Don, was trying to say all the right things to save the sale but the day had devolved into a comedy of calamities. Gauges weren’t working. There was no way to know how many hours were on the engine because that gauge was dead, too. (Another¬†deal breaker!) There were electrical problems. The list went on, and on, and on. I think there were more broken things on the boat than working ones and it appeared they’d tried to cobble together quick-fixes before the survey (which would explain why they had delayed it several times over a period of six weeks).

Apparently, duct tape can NOT fix everything!

We were alerted by the surveyor that the natural ventilation vent from the generator compartment was venting¬†to the forward stateroom…which was to be our youngest son’s room. That was yet another deal breaker!

During the sea trial, Don crashed the boat not once, not twice, but three times! He smashed the swim platform when we were backing out of the slip. He then hit a large piling when returning. And, to further entertain us, Broker Don smashed the swim platform yet again after speeding up when we were all screaming for him to slow down! The platform was completely destroyed by the end of the day. Ever since that fateful day with Broker Don, whenever we see a boat being driven in a really stupid fashion, we say, “Oh, look! There’s Don!”

Late that afternoon, we told the surveyor he could stop working. Anything further would be a waste of everybody’s time. He’d already come to me, and whispered, “Do NOT buy this boat.”

We didn’t.

We notified the broker in writing the next day that we weren’t buying the boat for the listed price, nor a price significantly lower. He responded, “Well, how much WOULD you pay?” I told him the owner would have to PAY someone to take that lemon off HIS hands.

Sadly, we were only three months away from the end of our lease. Since it had taken us nine months to find that boat, we figured we’d have to just keep on hunting, perhaps even expanding our search outside of Florida. We’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d need to extend our lease¬†and we’d heard from other tenants that the rent was being raised by $500 per month!

There was really nothing we could do but press on. And, despite what Richard and the boys wanted, I still had my heart set on a sailboat…



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When I was deep into my divorce, Richard, a co-worker I’d known for two years (and also a VP of the company), asked me out. Before we were even dating, he became very protective of me after hearing about the police being called to my house numerous times. (My employer had also notified the police when my ex threatened to show up at my office one day.) I had recently been promoted to a management position, and was making good money, but car chases with my ex, and being on a first-name basis with officers at the police department, made me fear not only for my job, but for my life.

Richard, a long-time bachelor at age 30, was a classic romantic. So many young women flock to the bad boys. Richard had never been like that. He was a hard-working, kind, faithful, sweet man. My mother later said he was the polar opposite of my ex-husband. He even drove me to the courthouse on the day I had to apply for an order of protection against my ex.

Richard got along GREAT with my children! He was easy-going, soft-spoken, gentle, handsome, and so smart! He even loved video games and mac and cheese, which the children thought was so cool. And, he wanted to take care of all four of us…forever! I was HOOKED (ooooh! another pun!!!). My divorce was finalized a few months later and, because my ex wasn’t paying child support, I could move anywhere with the children. (My ex¬†later gave up his parental rights after owing more than $30K in child support and we haven’t heard from him in several years.)

Richard got an even better job in Massachusetts and we rented an apartment for a year. I was running a small online business by this time,, which had started as a hobby. With Richard’s help in the evenings, it grew quickly and, just a few months later, I was able to “hire” him away from his “real job.” We started house-hunting after reading that Maine was the “safest place to raise a child,” and started looking exclusively at waterfront homes there, which were very reasonably priced in that neck of the woods.

I, of course, HAD to live on the water. Salt water or brackish. It didn’t matter as long as it was MOVING water. I have always felt that living on moving water keeps me connected to the rest of humanity and the universe. Tides in. Tides out. The water continues to travel…all over the world! We are all connected by the currents of the sea. I crave that connection! If I don’t have that, I feel landlocked, disconnected, incomplete.

We bought a home on the banks of the mighty Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine, a huge, churning body of water teeming with wildlife, and connected to the Atlantic Ocean. The first week we lived there, seals were sunning themselves on the rocks below! I’d never seen a wild seal before! American Eagles soared during the warm months. In the winter, the river would ice over and, if you stood outside in the quiet of night, you could hear that living, breathing, violent river creak and moan with an intensity that was frightening. Imagine what a ghost or ghoul might sound like, moaning into the dark, cold night, his deep, rasping breaths and groans sending fog and shivers across the ice, upending small bergs as they try to dispel the frozen traffic jam built up for miles inland.

Of course, we eventually built two decks in the backyard to enjoy the view…and the creepy sounds!

It was a three-story house built in 1896 and we bought it from the original family after the matriarch died in the downstairs dining room. (We didn’t tell the children about that until years later.) Thirty-six hundred square feet ON the river. We paid $92,000 in the year 2000. Yeah, it was a steal!

This was our amazing view in the summer.

This was the Penobscot River in the winter. (Look behind Max.)

We did not buy a boat in Maine because, well, with snow on the ground more than half the year, it just didn’t make any sense. But, I enjoyed looking out of my “home office” window at that beautiful, tidal river day after day, and I loved sitting outdoors, watching it…when it was 30 degrees below zero.

During those years, we had two more children, Max and Mason, and took in another child who had nowhere else to go. We now had six children so the seven bedrooms were all full!

A few years later, we bought an RV, pulled the youngest kids out of school (our oldest son and the kiddo we took in were seniors in high school), and started homeschooling them. Back then, as now, family and friends called us nuts and even irresponsible. The word “hippies” came up more than once. But, we persisted. If our business and the kids’ online school could travel anywhere with an Internet connection, why couldn’t we?!

So, each year just after Christmas, before the blizzards buried the town, we’d hit the road with the younger kiddos and the business, heading south…toward my beloved ocean! Of course, my absolute FAVORITE campgrounds were the ocean-front ones. Each time I was near the ocean, my blood pressure would relax, my muscles would melt, and I’d be in my happy place.

We lived in Bangor for 10 years but, when the taxes began to eat away at our small business income, and when politics, a casino, and three new methadone clinics up there made it not-quite-the-same-small-town we’d once loved, we started thinking about moving. When our now-grown daughter (child #2 of 6) decided she and her boyfriend were going to start doing seasonal work on Florida, I knew she’d fall in love with the ocean down there and that we’d rarely see her again.

By that time, four of our kiddos were adults and two were still quite young. We took a vote. All but one of the children wanted to move south. Our son, Matt, was attending Columbia in New York and his girlfriend (who he later married) lived in Portland, Maine. We were sad he didn’t want to come down but he was working on a degree and it just wasn’t practical.

Again, we hunted for a waterfront home (an absolute necessity for my mental health!), this time to rent while we looked for a home to buy. We found a home in a quiet neighborhood in Florida on a brackish canal that had lots of alligators…so many that we couldn’t let the children play outside the pool screen area of the backyard!

One of our sons teasing a small gator.

So, we spent that year going to the beach or playing in the pool. It was a fun transitional year and, within 12 months, we’d found a home to buy on a saltwater canal just around the corner from Sarasota Bay. The day we closed on the house, there was a manatee swimming in our backyard!

The house was too expensive but I had my saltwater back again. We fished. We crabbed. We watched parades of boats going by each day. We honestly didn’t want to spend money on a boat. We figured we’d just wait until one of our kids bought one. And, our daughter and her boyfriend eventually did. We were content sitting in our backyard, watching fish jump and stingrays occasionally throw out one of their fins to say hello. And, the beach was only five minutes away.

Sadly, that house started to eat us alive. Despite numerous inspections by general, roof, and termite professionals, the house had many problems – electrical issues (it needed rewiring), roof (it rained indoors in several places two days after we moved in), and there were indeed termites. The infestation was so bad that we had to have the entire back wall of the house ripped out and rebuilt. Still, I LOVED having all the wildlife in the backyard!

Four years and $100K in repairs later, we learned the sea wall was cracking. That was going to be another $45K-$55K to replace. We couldn’t do it. We knew we’d never get that all money back no matter how long we owned the house.

During that time, a whacky friend of ours was dating a guy named Brian who worked a regular office job, but lived on a boat in Tampa Bay. The couple soon broke up and, after their parting, we chose Team Brian because, well, he was way cooler (and he wasn’t a nut-job).

On one night when we were all out to dinner, I casually asked Brian what the slip fees were for the marina he lived in, which overlooked beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and Tampa Bay. He replied, “Seven hundred a month.”

Richard looked at me. I looked at him. The seed had been planted…



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After we moved, we sold the Cal 25, and purchased a 30-foot Wellcraft. It was more than we could afford and I hated it. Aside from the fact that filling up the fuel tanks for a day out cost $300 (which we definitely could NOT afford), it was SO DAMN LOUD!!! I could no longer hear the wind beating my sails, or the constant, rhythmic, musical ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling of the rigging. I couldn’t enjoy…anything.

When I drove the Wellcraft (only twice), I wasn’t working with God’s beautiful elements to push my small craft along. I was relying on two large, loud, obnoxious, man-made motors. Because of the cost of fuel, we only took that boat out twice over several years. Later, my husband took the boat in for some repairs and we couldn’t afford the costs. We never got the boat back. They confiscated it to pay the bill. We did manage to pay off the loan but we never saw her again.

We then splurged (ha ha) on a 17-foot, beat up fishing boat. I think we paid $1700 for her. It was old and pretty ugly and she never had a name but she ran GREAT! We never had trouble with the VERY LOUD outboard, she was cheap to fill up, and trailering was super easy. We were back to spending every weekend on the water, as well as many weeknights. On that boat, two of our children caught IGFA junior world record fish. But, she was also loud and I was not able to enjoy the silent swoosh, swoosh of the wind pushing us through the swells. It just felt…wrong. But, I admit, the weekends and weeknights of fishing were¬†great for the children, who were living in a pretty traumatizing household by then.

After a few years of my husband going into (and back out of) Alcoholics Anonymous, along with a DUI arrest (he had more later, and served jail-time), our arguments rivaled the incessant screams of the outboard. Things got bad. Very bad. Law enforcement was called (several times). An order of protection was issued. And, the children and I had to go into hiding one night in a hotel while the police supervised¬†my husband packing up his stuff, and leaving the house for good. He piled everything into our fishing boat, and towed it away with his car. I never saw her again after that day. (He also took and hid my car, despite the fact that I had primary custody of the children, but that’s a whole ‘nuther book altogether.)



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My marriage, only a couple of years old, was having severe problems. My ex was an alcoholic and I’d find marijuana and occasionally cocaine in our tiny house. Despite my growing marital problems, I LOVED living on Galveston Bay in San Leon. No matter how bad a storm was brewing under our tiny roof, I could walk outside, onto the dock, sit over the water, and feel protected and happy once again.

I had left my office job after we moved and I spent several months at home with my baby. A neighbor, Mark, was an unemployed recovering alcoholic (no funny business went on Рhe was just a nice guy who was ALWAYS home). My baby and I would occasionally meet him outside to collect oysters, or fish from the long pier out front. Another neighbor attempted to teach me how to sailboard. I failed miserably. I kept running into the pier! My skin turned a deep, dark shade of brown that year and my hair was almost white. The stress from my marriage had caused me to lose a lot of weight. I hid the problems from my toddler as well as I could.

A couple of days a week, I’d pack my toddler up in his car seat, and drive to the local seafood market in Kemah, Texas where all the local fisherman sold their goods. We lived on shrimp and fresh fish back then and I still prefer seafood over all other proteins today.

Despite my horrible marriage, I was raised in the “you must stay married for the kids!” generation. After renting for awhile, we decided to try to buy a house. And, as much as I hated to let that bungalow go, I was pregnant again and it didn’t provide enough room for a growing family. We found a house in a nearby town that was just a few feet from a canal on Galveston Bay. (I HAD to be near the water!) It was in a nice neighborhood but it had been vacant for awhile. There was graffiti on the walls and a lone mattress in the living room. I’m soooo glad I didn’t own a black light back then…

I painted and repaired it as best I could and, while the house still needed a lot of work (the back room, an add-on, was literally caving in at the roof), I made it work.

Our backyard (1.2 acres) backed up into wetlands, which provided the children with opportunities to interact with a variety of critters. They loved catching frogs, and setting up squirrel traps. (They never managed to catch the latter, thank goodness!) We lived there for several years and I had another baby. Living there, the children and I experienced everything from crabs crawling sideways on our driveway, to a beautiful, huge osprey who returned to the same nest year after year, to several tropical storms (one of which flooded our house with only 2 inches of water, but which caused thousands in damage), to hurricanes (that were not as bad as that one tropical storm).

The tropical storms and hurricanes were easy to endure. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for three young children while their father’s drinking and drugging got worse was PURE HELL. It would take another five years for me to get up the courage to file for an order of protection, and for divorce.

NOTE: In these early writings, I refer to the children as “MY” children because my ex, their father, eventually gave up his parental rights. More on that later.



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Five years after that amazing day on the Catamaran, I was married and the mother of a toddler. I had found a tiny bungalow for rent that was located directly on Galveston Bay. Our tiny living room window overlooked the bay and I set up our tiny kitchen table in front of that window so I could sit there quietly, watching the water’s color and texture change with each passing day.

A few weeks later, we bought a very inexpensive Cal 25, a rather simple, heavy, sturdy boat with a fixed keel, a tiny sink, and a portable potty (that I always made my ex clean out). Her name was The Southern Cross and we kept her at a small nearby marina in San Leon, Texas. I think it was only $35 per month back then.

We literally knew nothing about sailing but the Cal was a gentle and forgiving vessel and she helped us learn the ropes (pun intended!). From that day forward, we spent every single weekend (weather permitting) and many nights after work sailing on Galveston Bay. We had impromptu races, we pulled each other behind the boat on boogie boards, we anchored and fished from her, we collected oysters, and, best of all, we saw amazing wildlife that we’d have never have been introduced to on land otherwise.



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I started dating a boy, Steve (not his real name), who was a daredevil and a juggler. He said his (alleged) overbearing, alcoholic father pushed him and his siblings to learn all about juggling, unicycles, and other circus tricks so they could perform at street fairs and such, earning extra money. He said he hated having his father tell him what to do…but he was very good what he did. He also owned a small catamaran and a small airplane. He was a daredevil and everything about his life was exciting. He was dangerous, handsome, funny, and passionate. And, that’s why I loved him.

The day he took me out on his Catamaran on Galveston Bay stands out as one of the most exciting experiences of my life. We zipped across the swells with only one hull in the water. We saw wild horses on Mustang Island. We tipped over several times, laughing, eager to right the boat so we could do it all over again!

Later, he took me flying in his plane (and he let me steer, which was and still is very illegal!) and, while that was cool, I much preferred sailing. Once, Steve flew his plane low over my home (buzzed me), briefly turned off his engines, and yelled out the window, “I LOVE YOU!” A neighbor reported him, using the identification numbers on the bottom of the plane, and, after an FAA investigation, he lost his pilot’s license for a year. His father was FURIOUS. Steve was far more fearful of his father than he was of the FAA.

To this day, I detest flying. I don’t like red tape, and delays, and sitting so close to strangers. Just not my thing. And, after one particularly bad experience on a commercial jet with very bad weather, I have avoided airplanes whenever possible. I’d much rather travel on the water!

POSTSCRIPT: Steve and I dated for several months, and planned to attend college together in Colorado someday. Time passed, other boys came and went. One caught my eye and I broke up with Steve (which I later deeply regretted Рhe loved me deeply, intensely, painfully Рand it would take another two decades for me to find that kind of deep love again). Steve took risks in life Рhuge ones. I heard he crashed his plane in a river once, and walked a mile for help with a broken back.

He later moved to Colorado without me and, a few years later, he went missing. Later, I heard they¬†found his body in a crack house. He’d been dead for awhile. He was only 33 years old. He hadn’t done drugs when I knew him but I’d heard from friends that he was getting into trouble. He was a passionate person who lived his short life to the fullest, seemingly tempting death at every turn. In the end, I believe his passionate, intense, deeply loving soul couldn’t deal with the pressures from his alcoholic father and, rather than continue to tempt death with his dangerous lifestyle, he finally ended the pain he’d been enduring for so long. I often still think about him and his poor mother.


MY VERY FIRST SAILING EXPERIENCE! Uncle Irwin said, “Figure It Out!”

If you’re just tuning in, CLICK HERE to start at the beginning! ¬†ūüôā

I was about 15 years old and my brother was 16 when our family was invited to my wealthy¬†and famous aunt and uncle’s lake house in Canada. Aunt Xenia and Uncle Irwin Miller had a summer home on Lake Rosseau in Windermere, Ontario. The details are a bit fuzzy after all these years but I remember there was a large summer house on the lake, with other beautiful homes tucked away in the pines.

The home was surrounded by woods, sprouting fresh raspberries that could be eaten right off the vine. Aunt Xenia took us outside for a foraging expedition and, for dessert that first night, she had the cook serve the raspberries in bowls of cream with sugar sprinkled on top, much like you’d eat cereal. I still eat raspberries that way to this day.

It was summer and the weather and surrounding scenery was literally postcard perfect. The next afternoon, Uncle Irwin took my brother and I down to the water’s edge. Two small sunfish-type sailboats bobbed in the soft breeze. He handed us each boxy, orange life vests, pointed at the boats, and said, “Figure it out!” He then walked back to the house.

That was a long time ago and my brother probably remembers things differently. What I remember is that he spent a lot more time in the water than I did! Neither one of us had ever sailed before but, to me anyway, it was pretty simple. You first had to step into the tiny sailboat without capsizing. Once you’d accomplished that, you had to untie the boat, put up the sail, and try to figure out how to move it forward. With the tiller in one hand, and the small line in the other, I wiggled my bottom, trying to get the boat into deeper water.

I quickly figured out that if I pulled the sail one way, I moved forward. If I let the sail flap in the wind, I went nowhere. If I pulled the sail another way, I took a swim. It only took one capsizing event for my brain to figure it all out. I happily spent the rest of the day zipping across the lake.

I would not sail again for another year or so. By then, I was dating a boy, Steve B. (not his real name), who was a daredevil…



Why are we doing this? Moving our family from a comfortable, suburban, water-front home to a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit¬†sailboat? Some have called us “irresponsible.” Others have called us crazy.¬†We’ve never conformed to a normal nuclear-family lifestyle so, honestly, what did they expect? We homeschool our children. We RV’d all over the country for several years. When we sold our RV, everybody finally thought we were settling down. Turning “normal,” they said.

Well, that non-nomadic lifestyle just didn’t sit well with us. We sold our house after just five years, moved into “a deluxe¬†apartment in the sky” (well, it was actually an 18th floor apartment overlooking Tampa¬†Bay), and started shopping for a floating home.

It’s been a long time in the making. And, here’s how it all began…

As far back as sixth grade, I’ve had a deep spiritual connection with the ocean. I attended beach retreats with Second Baptist Church on Padre Island in Texas each summer. Every morning before breakfast, we had quiet time on the beach, each of us spaced far apart, sitting on the sand, looking out over the water with our Bibles at hand. I didn’t do any reading. My Bible lay untouched on the sand. God wasn’t in those pages. He was out there in front of me, around me, everywhere I looked – sailing invisibly above¬†the mist kicked up by the gentle morning swells. He was in the footprints of the tiny terns that skittered along the shore, hunting for their breakfast. He was in the oranges, yellows, and reds of the sunrise, just peeking its head over the horizon, ready to burn my sandy skin later that afternoon. God was the sea. The sea was God. I’ve been spiritually connected to the ocean ever since, addicted you could say. Without the occasional binge, I have withdrawals. Depression. Emptiness. A disconnection from God.

When I was a teenager, having a license meant freedom to get my “fix.” My friends and I would drive the 90 minutes to Galveston every weekend we could, soaking up the sun, sometimes drinking beer we’d stolen from our parents, occasionally tanning topless in the dunes, and skinny dipping after dark. Yeah, I was quite a tart! God didn’t seem to mind. I was more at home on the sand, in the dunes, and in the saltwater, than anywhere else and those were the most carefree days of my life. I miss them. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be living on Galveston Bay just four years later…

Me with my dad, David Phillips, who died of cancer when I was five. We¬†were in Galveston, Texas. Brown sand. Browner water. ¬†I obviously didn’t like having a sandy, soggy bottom (and I still don’t!). Judging from my nip slip, courtesy of my awesome¬†Tarzan bathing suit, I was already working on having limited tan lines.¬†

NEXT:¬†MY VERY FIRST SAILING EXPERIENCE! Uncle Irwin said, “Figure It Out!”