The Boat That Started It All

Rainbows End in the Water2
Rainbows End anchored in New Zealand.

We bought our first sailboat, Rainbows End, in December 2012 when we were living in New Zealand. She’s a Raven 26 (one of 400 built during the 1970s and 1980s), popular among local boaters, and considered to be a real Kiwi classic.

Unlike Mollie McGhie, the main character in Murder at the Marina, my husband didn’t present Rainbows End to me as an anniversary present. It was actually my idea to buy a sailboat. I’m not sure who was more surprised by the suggestion – him or me.

Scott had sailed quite a bit in Europe and had fallen in love with the idea of buying a boat, selling everything we own, moving aboard, and heading off into the sunset. I took a little bit more convincing. We had charted boats a couple of times in New Zealand and were talking about doing our next charter in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.

When I did the sums, adding up airfare, car rental, and the charter costs, I realized that it would be more cost-effective to buy a small, relatively inexpensive boat in New Zealand. As a result, Rainbows End entered our lives as our “for now” boat. We decided to try out the cruising life in New Zealand and, if we both liked it, then look for our “forever” boat.

Although she was tiny (26 feet length, 8.9 feet beam), she was a great little starter boat. Sure, she didn’t have refrigeration, my husband had to sleep in the main cabin while I slept in the v-berth with the laundry (not enough room for both of us to sleep in the same spot), we didn’t have an oven, and there wasn’t any protection in the cockpit from the elements, but we loved her.

Rainbows End not only inspired us to buy another boat (a Moody 346 named Tickety Boo), but she also inspired me to write my cozy mystery series which follows the adventures of Mollie who is completely new to boats and sailing, much as I was back in 2012.

Rainbows End Inside
The interior of Rainbows End.

If you’re interested in reading more about Rainbows End and her specs, check out this post on our other blog, The Cynical Sailor.

Could you live on a small boat without refrigeration or oven?

USA, Writing

Writing Inspiration | Other-Worldly Landscapes

Blue Mesa3
Surreal colors on the Blue Mesa trail at the Petrified Forest National Park.

In addition to writing cozy mysteries, I also dabble in sci-fi and fantasy stories. It might seem like a strange combination of genres, but I love to read and write both. I’ve also managed to incorporate my love of sci-fi into my cozy mystery series in a humorous way with the occasional investigation of alien abductions and unexplained lights.

In 2014-2015, we traveled from the west coast to the east coast in the States in search of our next sailboat. Along the way, we visited some of our amazing National Parks where I discovered landscapes that seemed so surreal that at times I thought I was on another planet.

Yes, I have an overactive imagination. But if you saw these rock formations, wouldn’t you wonder if you had been transported someplace else?

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Hoodoos at Arches National Park

These remind me of an evil version of tribbles. You know, those cute furry things from Star Trek that reproduce like crazy?

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Cholla cacti in Joshua Tree National Park.

Aliens have definitely landed a spaceship here.

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Salt flats at Death Valley National Park

Traveling not only opens up one’s mind and broadens one’s perspective, it also sparks the imagination. I’ve got a million story ideas bubbling away just looking at these pictures.

What inspires your creative pursuits?



Tiny Living in a 13′ Travel Trailer

scamper collage january

When people find out we live on a 34-foot sailboat, which has around 350 square feet of living space, they’re often flabbergasted that we can live in such a tiny space without killing each other. Then I tell them that we used to live in a 13-foot Scamp travel trailer, which has around 65 square feet of living space, and they’re dumbstruck.

We bought our travel trailer when we moved back to the States from New Zealand in search of our next sailboat. Originally, we had been camping, but sleeping in a tent, especially during heavy rain and cold weather, got old quick. Getting a travel trailer made life so much more pleasant.

Sure, it’s tiny, but it’s adorable. Like this kitchen area — small, but it has everything you need including a fridge, stove, and sink.

Scamp Kitchen

The bathroom is teeny. But at least it has a bathroom, complete with a shower. So much nicer than having to get up in the middle of the night and walk to the nearest bathroom when nature calls.

Scamp Shower

It has a dining area, which also doubles as a sleeping area by folding the table down.

Scamp Table

The good thing about travel trailers is that the outdoors is an extension of your living space. We had great times sitting outside, barbecuing something for dinner, and enjoying the scenery.

Scamper at Flamingo

We really enjoyed our time living in our tiny travel trailer and exploring the States from the west coast to the east coast. And, more importantly, we managed to do it without killing each other.

Do you enjoy camping? Could you live in such a tiny space with another person?


Writing Inspiration | Coconuts

Coconut (800x450)

The marina we keep our boat at in southern Florida has lots of palm trees, which gives it a nice tropical feel. Coconuts fall down from the trees and lie waiting for people to grab them, cut them open, and enjoy the coconut milk and flesh. Some of the dogs at the marina like them too.

I didn’t really think much about the coconuts until Hurricane Matthew threatened the area in 2016. One of the things that the marina staff did to prepare for the potential hurricane was to lop the coconuts off of the trees so that they wouldn’t go flying off in strong winds and cause damage.

It got me thinking that coconuts can prove hazardous even in normal conditions. If you happen to be walking under one of the trees when one of the coconuts falls off, it could be painful, maybe even deadly.

Coconuts inspired the setting of my cozy mystery series, which is set in a fictional small town in Florida called Coconut Cove. It’s a popular tourist area, but the locals have to warn visitors to be careful of falling coconuts, and, every so often, a tourist gets hit by one.

I decided it would be fun to work in falling coconuts into the plot of the first book in the series, Murder at the Marina. Everyone thinks that the main character, Mollie McGhie, got hit by a coconut, but she’s not so sure.

Coconuts (800x285)

What inspires your creative pursuits?

Boat Life, New Zealand

Cruising in New Zealand

NZ Collage

When I told my husband, Scott, that I had a job offer in New Zealand, he was over the moon. Sure, the job offer was nice, but what he was really excited about was living in Auckland, otherwise known as the City of Sails.

During our time living in Scotland, Scott had become obsessed with sailing as a result of his time crewing on sailboats in the Mediterranean and racing in Scotland and Ireland. He had hatched a cunning plan to buy a sailboat, move aboard, and head off into the sunset. He just had one problem — convincing me that this was a good idea. What better place to win me over to the joys of sailing and cruising, he thought, than Auckland?

Turns out he was right. We chartered boats in the Bay of Islands for a couple of years, then I suggested that we buy our first sailboat, a Raven 26. Next thing you know, we moved aboard, cruised in New Zealand, decided that this was a great lifestyle, and eventually moved back to the States to buy a bigger boat.

My experiences learning how to sail (which is still very much a work in progress) and living aboard a boat in New Zealand are reflected to a degree in the main character of my cozy mystery series, Mollie McGhie. Mollie’s husband has a dream to buy a boat and go cruising, and then tries to convince her that it’s a good idea.

Have a look at the pictures below and you’ll get an idea of how wonderful sailing and cruising in New Zealand is. With scenery and anchorages like you find in New Zealand, is it any wonder that I decided full-time cruising was a good idea?

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Watching the sun go down at Peachgrove Bay, Mercury Islands.
Westhaven Skyline
Westhaven Marina in Auckland, where we kept our boat.
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Sunset at Te Kouma Harbour, Coromandel.
Paradise Bay
Our boat, Rainbows End, anchored at Paradise Bay, Urapukapuka Island.
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View from Mt. Hobson, Great Barrier Island.

If you want to read more about our adventures in New Zealand, check out this page on our other blog, The Cynical Sailor.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? Is it someplace you’d like to go to?


Writing Inspiration | Press-On Nails

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Sometimes, inspiration for my writing can come from most unlikely places. Like the time I was walking through Walmart, looking for moisturizer, when I stumbled across a display of press-on nails. I was mesmerized by all of the colors, patterns, and designs. For a few moments, I was tempted to buy some and add instant glamour to my life.

Then I remembered that I live on a sailboat. Boat life can be hard on your nails, especially when you’re in the midst of boat projects. Long nails and manicures aren’t all that practical for me. So, I put the sparkly nails back on the rack.

While I continued with my shopping, I thought about press-on nails and a wedding we attended many years ago. One woman started off the evening with long nails, but by the end of the evening, after one too many glasses of champagne, she had pulled them all off, scattering a few on the floor.

I tossed a couple of chocolate bars into my cart and wondered if I could somehow incorporate press-on nails into my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina Ideas kept running through my head — What if a press-on nail was found at a murder scene? Who would that implicate? What color would the nail be?

Before I knew it, I had the makings of a new scene fleshed out. I picked up a bag of spinach to counteract the chocolate bars, hit the check-out line, and headed back to the boat to get it all down on paper. Who knew grocery shopping could be so inspiring.

What inspires your creative pursuits?

Bahamas, Boat Life

Cruising in the Bahamas

Bahamas Collage

We’ve spent two seasons cruising in the beautiful waters of the Bahamas. There’s a reason why the Bahamian islands are such popular cruising grounds – friendly people, crystal blue water, wonderful sailing, and lots to explore (both on land and in the water).

The first time we cruised in the Bahamas was in May 2015, right after we bought our sailboat, Tickety Boo. We sailed her to the Abacos on a shake-down cruise to see how the equipment and systems were working and, more importantly, what wasn’t working. We returned in 2017, spending five months exploring more of the Bahamas including the Abacos, the Exumas, the Berries, Cat Island, and Eleuthera.

If you want to know why we loved our time in the Bahamas so much, all you have to do is check out these pictures. It’s a truly magical place.

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Exploring Hope Town, Abacos.
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Enjoying a chicken dinner at a local church fair in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.
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Visiting The Hermitage on Cat Island.
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Going for a hike on Stocking Island, Exumas.
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Feeding one of the swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot, Exumas.
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Taking our dinghy to shore and exploring one of the islands near Hoffman Cay, Berries.
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Watching locals racing at Black Point, Exumas.

Have you ever been to the Bahamas? If so, what did you enjoy the most?

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Boat Life

Naming Our Boat Tickety Boo

Tickety Boo Bow

Our boat has had four names in its lifetime – What a Day, Y-Knot, Moody Blue, and Tickety Boo. In some ways, it seems odd to change a boat’s name. After all, you wouldn’t adopt a child and change her name. You might change a baby’s name, but imagine saying to a seven-year-old child, “From this day forward, your new name is Esther. Start getting used to it! Now, sit up and eat your peas. They’re good for you.” 

Our boat is even older – 28 years old to be exact. She wasn’t too impressed by the fact that we changed her name – again. In fact, when we told her that we were going to change her name, suddenly equipment started breaking. I think it was her way of letting us know that she was struggling to embrace this whole name change nonsense. Even 28- year-old sailboats have been known to throw a temper tantrum from time to time.

We sat down with her and told what her new name meant. Tickety boo is one of our favorite New Zealand expressions. We love living in New Zealand and wanted a little Kiwi touch on our new boat. We explained that it’s a British expression meaning that “everything is all good.” Which is exactly what you want on a boat – for everything to be all good.

After that, she got on board with her new name.

Tickety Boo Definition

I’m not sure what the true origin of tickety boo is – there are a lot of different stories out there. It could have come from the Hindi expression, “Tikai Babu,” meaning “It’s alright, Sir” or it could be a shortened version of “That’s the ticket.” Whatever the origin, it’s got a nice meaning and it’s fun to say. Go on, say it aloud – tickety boo. Kind of makes you smile, doesn’t it?

When I tell people the name of our boat, I get one of two reactions – “Oh, how cute!” and “Wow, your husband must really love you to let you name your boat that.” Considering most Americans have never heard the expression, it certainly generates a lot of questions about what it means. A guaranteed conversation starter.

Had you heard the expression Tickety Boo before? What are your favorite boat names?

Boat Life

Our Boat | Tickety Boo

Tickety Boo Little Bahama Bank - Copy

We live on a Moody 346 sailboat, Tickety Boo, which we bought in April 2015. She’s 34-feet long with about 350 square feet of living space. That might seem like a really small space for two people to live in, but it’s a step up from our 13-foot Scamp travel trailer, which had about 65 square feet, and our first sailboat, which had about 250 square feet.

Let’s go for a little tour so you can get a feel for life aboard our sailboat.

Here’s the layout of our boat. She has five main living areas – a v-berth, an aft cabin, the saloon, the head, and the galley.

Moody 346 Layout

This is our main cabin, or saloon. It functions as our living room and dining room. It has a table which can fold out and seat six people. Our water tanks are stored under the settees.

Tickety Boo Saloon2

This is our kitchen, or galley. It can be a bit of a juggling act trying to find room to set things down when you’re doing food prep and cooking. When we’re out at sea, our stove gimbals so that our pots and pans don’t go flying everywhere. We have a small fridge (no freezer) which you access from the top of the counter. The microwave doesn’t work, so we use it for storage, as well as to protect our electrical devices during lightning storms.

Tickety Boo Galley

This is our bathroom, or head. If you want to take a shower, you pull out the faucet from the sink and shower right next to the toilet and sink. We don’t use the shower in our bathroom, preferring to bathe in the ocean or by using a solar shower in our cockpit.

Tickety Boo Head

This is our v-berth, which is the cabin at the pointy end of our boat. I like to think of it as our garage as we use it for storage, stowing stuff under the berth, on top of the berth, and in cupboards on either side of the berth.

Tidy V-Berth

This is our bedroom, or aft cabin. I love the fact that it has a decent size bed for a boat this size and a separate seating area.

Moody 346 Aft Cabin2Moody 346 Aft Cabin

Our cockpit is where we spend much of our time when we’re out cruising. The cabins down below can get quite hot, so we tend to relax in the cockpit and enjoy the cool sea breezes.

Moody Blue Cockpit

How big is your house? Could you live on a small sailboat?