Boat Life, Writing

The Writing Process | Alien Abduction

Alien Attack
Alien attacking our sailboat and trying to abduct us.

Okay, that blog post title might be a bit misleading. My writing process doesn’t involve being abducted by aliens, at least I think it doesn’t. If I had been abducted by aliens, would I even remember? Would they have erased my memories?

But my writing process does involve research about alien abduction, as it figures into a sub-plot of my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina.

To be honest, all that I knew about alien abduction came from watching The X-Files and that was a very long time ago, so I did a bit of internet research on the signs that someone has been abducted.

It was actually quite fascinating. I could actually check a number of items off of the list — like insomnia, seeing bright lights, and unexplained bruises — which had me a bit worried. Maybe I had been abducted.

Actually, my bruises can probably be easily explained. People who live on boats call them boat bites. Whether you’re working on boat projects or just trying to maneuver around the cramped spaces you find on boats, you’ll often end up banging into something. If you bruise easily, like I do, then you’ll end up with a lot of boat bites.

The bright lights are probably easily explained as well. We have a hatch over our bed which the moon shines through not to mention the big security light in the marina’s parking lot.

And the insomnia . . . well, that’s just probably a reflection of getting older. {Sigh}

Have you ever been abducted by aliens? Would you remember if you had been?

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A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

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Boat Life, Writing

The Writing Process | My Office

Edits Boat (800x449)
Working on a draft of my cozy mystery at anchor.

Yes, I’m pretty darn lucky. I live on a sailboat and get to work on my writing while sitting in beautiful anchorages.

When we’re at anchor, one of my favorite places to work is in the cockpit of our boat. I can watch what’s going on while getting some words down on paper.

There are two downsides of writing outside — being distracted by dolphins and the glare on my computer screen. Yeah, I know, dolphins are never a downside. They’re one of the coolest parts of cruising on a sailboat. And I guess I shouldn’t really complain about the sun. That’s what feeds our solar panels and provides energy to power things like my laptop.

Depending on solar power (or a generator when the sun isn’t shining) is a quirk of having my writing office on our sailboat. If you write on land (or you’re connected to shore power at a marina), you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to charge your laptop. Electricity is plentiful and always available.

At anchor, we have to watch very carefully how many amps our equipment is drawing. Too much demand and too little supply could mean that we drain our batteries, which would be a very bad thing.

But it’s these little quirks of living on a sailboat that makes it so interesting and such a great place to write.

Where do you work on your creative projects?

Boat Life, New Zealand

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?

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?

Peach Bay NZ (800x533)
Watching the sun go down at Peachgrove Bay, Mercury Islands.
Westhaven Skyline
Westhaven Marina in Auckland, where we kept our boat.
Sunset Te Kouma.JPG
Sunset at Te Kouma Harbour, Coromandel.
Paradise Bay
Our boat, Rainbows End, anchored at Paradise Bay, Urapukapuka Island.
Mt Hobson Walk 22
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?

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.

Hope Town View (800x533)
Exploring Hope Town, Abacos.
St Lukes Fair2 (800x533)
Enjoying a chicken dinner at a local church fair in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.
Hermitage2 (800x520)
Visiting The Hermitage on Cat Island.
Stocking Island3 (800x533)
Going for a hike on Stocking Island, Exumas.
Piggy Carrots (800x413)
Feeding one of the swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot, Exumas.
Dinghy (800x534)
Taking our dinghy to shore and exploring one of the islands near Hoffman Cay, Berries.
Black Point Sailboat (800x533)
Watching locals racing at Black Point, Exumas.

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

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?