A beginner's guide to working full-time while cruising.

It’s been almost exactly two months since we set sail away from New York and some days it feels like we left two years ago. We have quickly found a routine for working and play, just as we did on land. And we’ve slowly eked a path up the east coast to Maine, bay by beautiful bay. 

A few nights ago, as I sat in the cockpit of the Scallywag, waiting for meteors to streak the sky, I felt deeply appreciative of the luck and persistence, as well the ability to work from anywhere, that got us here, under a carpet of stars in Boothbay Harbor, with our dog obsessively licking my arm. (Way to kill the romance, Honey.)

Sometimes when I wake up I can’t imagine what our old life feels like anymore. This new one has surprises and challenges for us every day, both personally and professionally. As I’ve calibrated to life as a full-time cruiser, I’ve also had to make some significant adjustments to how I work. 

I thought I’d share what works for me and how I manage my business so that it might help anyone else out there that’s wondering if they can hack it professionally while sailing. 

A remote working preamble

I’m not new to remote working. In fact, I'm somewhat of an expert in it. Part of what I do for a living is help advise other companies on how to structure and manage remote teams. In years combined, I’ve traveled while working in some form for the majority of my career — from my apartment in LA and from tea houses in Iraq. On my best days, I’m an easygoing and flexible person, which makes working in a different place every day fun, if not always easy.

But working while traveling isn’t for everyone. As a manager, I’ve run remote teams throughout my career, including growing a remote editorial team of 4 to more than 50 people, and saw all kinds of ways that working by yourself from weird locations can wig people out. I also became an expert what kind of behaviors created great remote professional relationships and what didn’t. I'm also pulling together a list of further reading that I'll post separately. 

Get into a groove before you go

While this work style isn’t different for me, I am a new small business owner. Three months before we set sail, I opened my own company, which was the culmination of content strategy work I’d been doing for years. So while we were prepping the boat for launch, I was also locking down contracts, incorporating the business, setting up its digital infrastructure, contracting freelancers and delivering actual work regularly. 

To put it lightly, I don’t recommend that timeline. For those three months, I worked 14-hour days and then went home to boat work. Sometimes I worked in the middle of the boat work, asking Jon to stop sanding something so I could jump on a conference call. 

When we had to go on the hard for a couple of weeks and our boat was on blocks in a signal dead zone, I had to commute to a coffee shop by climbing down a ladder with my laptop and walking 20 minutes just to check email. I thought I was going to die. Don’t be like me. Give yourself more time to get your boat and business ducks in a row before you leave. 

Change one thing at a time

There’s an old piece of advice that says you should never move, get a new job and get married at the same time. Funny enough, Jon and I did just that when we moved to New York, and we survived. But the principle remains true. While those last three months before taking off were murder, our overall timeline for cruising was unintentionally a much longer one. We bought our boat three years ago, without knowing how to sail it. In that time we’ve almost always lived on it half the week, and spent plenty of time learning how to operate and care for it. 

Lifestyle-wise, splitting our time between boat and land was a luxury of our apartment’s amazing rent control, but the idea of easing into things is one that I think can be applied universally. Eleven months ago, we moved onto the boat full-time, worked out the kinks of full-time life aboard when the boat was forcibly docked until spring, and had a chance to play around with alternative sources of power and internet while having access to electricity and wifi close by. 

Even the dog had a chance to settle in and figure things out. 

By the time we shoved off, the only things we really had to nail down were our pace and our routine, as well as what life was like primarily at anchor or mooring ball. 

A photo posted by Sail Me Om (@sailmeom) on

Consolidate your schedule and your days

Even before leaving and as soon as you do, start thinking about setting blocks of time for work and calls. It helps to hold days adjacent to the weekend in particular, so that you can have time to catch up between sailing days. Set your calendar availability accordingly, so that you know you’ll be truly “off” when you’re out sailing, and that you won’t have to put out any last-minute fires. It can help to put an away message up for particularly long sails or for weekends when you’ll be more likely to be off the grid. Don't feel guilty about not always being immediately available. I’ve found that as both manager and managed, being clear about your availability and doing your work accordingly is way more important than the number of hours you’re perceived as being available. 

Plan your work around your internet connection

This goes for daily work, and the type of work you do. When I started my business, I moved the focus of my work away from daily people management even though I loved it, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be as hands-on with employees as I am when in one place. The people I do hire as contractors are mostly people I’ve worked with before and have a proven track record of reliability and autonomy. I pay them more so that I can set them free and not worry. That’s a really valuable investment in itself. 

Professionally, I pick clients and contracts that have predictable timelines for turnaround (so no more breaking news work), and while I prefer to do video chats instead of conference calls, I’ve found that video is almost impossible to support without advanced planning. So choose your communication methods wisely. 

Blocking chunks of time for work and sailing will allow you to get to a strong internet connection for things like file transfers and heavier usage tasks, like video calls or video editing. I like to plan these things for the morning, so that I have a chance to work a little more loosely in the afternoon, but also most coffee shops are open early and can close as early as 3 pm. That coincides nicely with my energy low periods, so if I work 7:30-3, basically all my work is done and I can get a change of pace when I can't stare at a screen any longer. 

This sometimes means you have to choose to drop anchor in more populated locales than you'd like, so you can be sure to get a signal. Hardcore cruisers might scoff at this, and it's true, I've mourned the deserted islands we haven't been able to hang out on for days on end. But to us, being able to cruise and dropping anchor in a slightly busier port to get work done is way better than staying home. So we save off the grid cruising for weekends. 

Learn the coffee shop circuit

The digital nomad’s coffee shop usually isn’t the trendiest one on the block. You’ll need open tables, open wifi, and open wall sockets, so that you’re not constantly draining your boat battery. Picking one a bit farther from the main drag and ordering a large order early in the day with a generous tip will ensure that you’ll be able to sit for hours undisturbed. If you're on calls, avoid cafes that specialize in smoothies and other blended drinks. Seriously. Starbucks, with its Google internet and Frappuccinos, is a blessing and a curse. 

When arriving at a new place, I always check the internet connection on my phone while waiting in line, so that I don’t end up ordering a full breakfast for goodwill credit and end up without a connection. 

Perfect your mobile office

Invest in your gear. It is the difference between work-life happiness or not. I’ll get into this in a later post, but my must-haves are a super fast, souped up computer, noise-cancelling headphones as well as headphones that cancel background noise for calls (Apple’s seem to be the best at this), an a/c and d/c charger for my laptop, a waterproof phone case with an extra battery built in so that I get twice the normal battery life, and extra internet via iPhone tether and separate hotspot. When coffee shop wifi clunks out during a conference call, I’ve swapped onto a backup method seamlessly enough that no one even notices. 

Transportation is important too. We have foldable bikes that pack up so small I can ride to a coffee shop and tuck my bike under the table while I work so I don't ever worry about it getting stolen. Being able to carry my "car", and my "office" with basically no hassle in and out of a cafe makes me feel like a real badass. 

Have backup internet

Aboard Scallywag, both our phones have enabled tethered hotspots, we have a Verizon hotspot, a wifi booster to make any open signal stronger and a cell booster to get better reception. We cycle through all of these on a daily basis. Internet needs are different for everyone, but I highly recommend this kind of system if you have to make sure you're always connected. Even then, you have to pick your ports carefully, the more off the grid you go.

Our friend Kim takes care of business at the wheel while I practice awkward hand gestures.

Be wildly reliable

This goes without saying but I’m saying it. Working remotely does not give you license to be less professional. Once, I had a newly hired employee that decided her first three weeks of work at a remote company should also be when she took a three-week road trip across the U.S. Her job lasted two weeks before I fired her. This is also why, when managing teams, I put a ban on moving cities during the first two months of employment for my employees at the distributed company I managed them at. If anything, you have to work twice as hard and communicate twice as well to achieve the same result while working remotely.

Luckily, If people trust you, you’ll be surprised at how overwhelmingly supportive they will be of your unusual lifestyle. But you have to build that trust. If you do it well, your cruising life will become its own marketing tool. Every professional call I have starts with the person on the other end asking where I am and how I work on a boat. I’ve gotten business referrals from people in back in New York talking about us pulling this off. If you do it well, this lifestyle will do you well.

Apply your hourly rate to your own time

I’ve met a lot of cruisers who go out of their way to save money by investing huge amounts of their own time or inconvenience. But there’s a break even point where, when focused on your work instead of your schemes, you’ll make more money by picking the more expensive or easier path. If it’s a choice between a mooring with a strong internet signal or a free anchorage way across the bay with none, it makes more sense for us to pick the more expensive option because we have more time and ability to work effectively, and our hourly rates are higher than the cost of a daily mooring ball. This applies too, though less often, with boat work. We fix almost everything ourselves, but we will invest in someone to teach us something new or do a menial task for us if it will take us an insane amount of hours to do it ourselves. It is more cost effective for us to spend that time working our real jobs to pay for someone else's help and have money left over. 

Have “a guy”

Following that principle, sometimes, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, you just need someone to handle stuff for you. I employ regular contractors, for the most part, so there aren't many moments where I don't have the time to handle my own work, but I do have go-to contractors I know can turn things around in short notice, and one amazing guy who can do preliminary brainstorms for my business or research how to handle mail delivery on a boat, without qualm. I have an apartment manager who handles any issues in our apartment back in LA and friends I pay to jump in, in a jiffy, if I don’t have the time for a quick-turnaround data analysis. Figure out which things in your life are most vulnerable to last-minute needs and know who your people are to turn to before you go, both professionally and at home. This'll save you from ruining your day or your plans and make sure that your clients and your crew stays happy with you. 

While we're at it, get used to the fact that you will need help professionally and personally but as mentioned above, if their hourly rate is lower than yours, it makes sense for your sanity and pocketbook to ask for help every once in a while, even if the help you need is more personal errand than professional. 

Set expectations with your crew

There’s nothing more stressful than trying to finish work on a trip while everyone’s waiting for you to go do the fun stuff, right? That’s what cruising while working is like all the time, if your crew doesn’t understand how you need to work to be effective.

Share your schedules, have open and frank conversations when things are working or they’re not — for example, I get super anxious if Jon wants to sail to a new destination before a block of conference calls later in the day, because I like to make sure I have a strong cell connection and a quiet place to talk. After a few close calls, I asked that we always have several hours between our estimated time of arrival and those calls, so that I’m never trying to do work on the run.

Jon and I are often asked if we drive each other crazy, since we work and live all in the same small space. The answer is, thankfully, no, but that’s because over time we’ve developed tactics like this for being able to be alone, together, especially while working. 

Like on the high seas, respect your crews’ requests or concerns when they voice them. 

Find time for reflection

Let it be said that cruising and working is not a working vacation. It’s exhausting, especially in the beginning as you’re figuring everything out. It’s easy to pack every single day with something to do — emailing, fixing things on the boat, sightseeing — and in our case, several weeks can go by without us taking the time to pause and consider what it is we’re doing with our lives and appreciate it. 

Reflection can come in a variety of ways — a blog, a logbook, a conversation of highs and lows over dinner, but make space to keep a record of your journey and your thoughts, and don’t let that fall to the least important thing on your list. Years from now, you’ll thank yourself for it. 

Do you have a strategy or tip for how you handle working remotely, or have a question? I'd love to hear more. 


We're leaving New York for a life of remote work and sailing adventures.

Throughout the spring, you may have seen a few sprigs of big changes aboard The Scallywag. We hauled the boat out for upgrades, quit our jobs, we went notably quiet on our blog. 

And now, in the throes of early summer, our plan is ready to meet the full light of day: We’re casting off the lines to become full-time sailors. 

While our decision may seem out of the blue, the preparation and intention behind it have taken months of deliberate work. More importantly, it’s taken a hundred conversations between Jon and myself about what we love to do, and what we want our lives to look like now and as we grow older. 

Before moving to New York two years ago, Jon and I worked remotely for five years. Sometimes running a business together, sometimes working separately. This wasn’t gig economy work, but rather traditional companies that were trying a new format of working. And it worked. I completely and emotionally bought into this idea and lifestyle. It felt natural to us to pace our days and weeks around the work we needed to do and the life we wanted to live rather than a more traditional schedule. 

While working this way, we lived by the flexibility to travel while getting things done. We rarely ever took vacations, but instead set up in coffee shops while we were on the move, sometimes so flawlessly that the only way our coworkers would know was by the change in background when we video chatted. 

Without jobs that tied us to a place, we kept having the same conversation: where did we want to live, and what kind of people would that make us? Were we LA people? San Francisco people? Would we fit in better on the East Coast or somewhere in South America? As all our friends started to settle down, finding the answer seemed more urgent, and that’s when we bought a boat. We had a home that could take us anywhere. 

Fast forward three years and we found ourselves living in New York, an amazing city where we could be anything, but only in one place. As we hit the two-year mark of residency, we were once again itching for change and we took interviews for jobs we could have only imagined being recruited for. But each time, we came home to each other and asked ourselves… then what? We have that awesome job and... then what? 

The paradox of choice is a weird, wonderful and very “now” problem to have. 

As a woman who wants to have kids someday, I found this indecision particularly challenging. Smarter women than I have told me the key to great work-life balance is to lock down baller job a couple of years before having kids so that you have deeper job security for your maternity leave. But a really big part of my heart wanted to build a flexible career that kids could be warmly welcomed into, rather than interrupt. I wanted to start that career before it was 9-months-urgent and continue it after, on my own time. 

So the answer, for us, continues to be to pursue careers that don’t have geographic limits. It’s never been a better time to go that route — most places finally have the infrastructure to support digital nomadism and the speed with which things are changing is breathtaking. Five years ago, I got my first smartphone — in Iraq. During a recent trip to Myanmar, we learned that though the internet essentially didn’t exist there year ago, there are now more people connected via smartphones than there are houses wired to an electrical grid

And on a recent vacation to the French Caribbean, we found pockets of internet where fellow boaters said nothing had existed just months ago. 

The ability to work anywhere, and work well, is here — even if it takes extra time and inconvenience to figure it out. 

This is the freedom that today’s technology provides, and yet to embrace it can still make you an implausible hire and a weirdo. 

So, we’re ready to be weirdos. 

We’ve launched businesses (his, mine) that allow us to do the work we love while we travel, with the assumption that there will be frequent trips to metro hubs to see our clients face to face. We’ve outfitted our boat with solar panels, a wind generator, cell and wifi boosters, we’ve upped our data across multiple networks. And we’ve hungrily read the stories of people who have gone before us to figure out just how much we can pull off without risking our sanity and quality of work. 

Our plan is to sail back to California, the long way. First north, perhaps as far as Nova Scotia, then south to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal. We don’t have a set itinerary or time span, though we think it’ll take about a year. We’re excited to explore parts of this continent and its surrounding isles we’ve never seen before, to take it slow and to make lots of mistakes as full-time cruisers. 

(Our first, for example, was to set a hard date for leaving, which we promptly blew after having a camera crew see us off. ::Facepalm::)

That’s our plan. Subject to lots and lots of changes. By this time next week, we should be somewhere in the Long Island Sound, with many more stories to come. 


A couple's guide to living aboard a boat in winter.

So many of you have asked about what it's been like for us, and our marriage, to move aboard a boat in the middle of winter.

We've been toying with ways to show it to you best, and luckily our friend David Freid dropped in after a particularly big snowstorm to film a short doc about what it's been like for us. 

Freid is an old friend who, in a former life, traveled the world with us when Jon and I ran a nonprofit in conflict zones together. (THAT was good training for living on a boat, to be sure.) He's seen us at our best and our worst, so we were delighted to have him barge in on our tiny space.

A few of behind-the-scenes extra features: Jon MAY have actually been still drunk or hungover while filming those outdoor shots... The term drunken sailor doesn't come from nowhere. Also, I have so few clothes on the boat that I realized I had accidentally ran out of clean pants the day of filming.

I had to make an emergency ferry run to the mall across the river. I called Freid in a panic as he was driving over, yelling "Stall the crew, I have no pants!" That will probably make it into the bloopers at a later time. #boatlife.

By the way, all the work that Freid does for MEL is gorgeous. I've been jealously watching him globe trotting for the last six months shooting things, and they're delicious to watch.

Last time he stayed on the boat, he slept in the captain's berth and had dreams he'd been buried alive in a coffin, so maybe if we offer him a spot in the main cabin with a double bed-sized berth, he'll come back and film again in the summer when the boat (and our coupledom) looks a little more enviable. 

And hooray! Our story has already been featured on Tiny House Blog, one of my favorite small living publications. It was so fun to stumble across my husband's face while surfing the interwebs. 

A playlist of the best songs for sailing, according to sailors.

Music choices while sailing, like boats, are oddly personal. One woman's earworm is another woman's beloved ditty. So it's always interesting to see what fellow sailors blast when they're aboard. 

I wrote awhile back about my favorite songs for sailing, and was delighted a few days ago when one of my favorite sailing groups sounded off on what they love to listen to. 

It's a diverse list that I thought was worth sharing, whether you're regularly onboard or not. As of today, we're snowed in and definitely not going anywhere, so I appreciated trying on some tunes that I was either unfamiliar with or hadn't heard in a long time, while I waited out the storm. 

Since I was listening to all of them anyway, I pulled them together in a Spotify playlist for others to enjoy as well. I've set the list to be collaborative and If you think I'm missing something perfect, please add it in or message me in the comments and I'll add it for you. 

Here you go! Enjoy responsibly, with rum, whiskey or coconut water in hand. Also, if you'd like to add to it, here's the link in Spotify.

We live aboard a boat during the winter, with snow, ice and no running water.

If you're confused about how we live on a boat through a proper snowy winter, you're not the only one. It's the single-most asked question I get as a liveaboard, with some variations on the theme, including how we heat the boat (space heaters), whether we're at risk of floating away when it storms (no), and if we have to pee or shower outside (oh hell no, we're not heathens.) 

Still, when you're land-bound, it's hard to imagine the logistics of wintering aboard. When we first started thinking about buying a boat, I picked up The Essentials of Living Aboard A Boat by Mark Nicholas. From our sunny front Porch in L.A., I read about the perils of winter boat living -- the damp, the mold, how all his suits were wrinkled on one side from condensation in the closet. How you had to build a bubble around your boat and fill your engine with anti-freeze so it wouldn't crack.

I have a very specific memory of setting the book down, looking at Jon and saying out loud, "let's never move to the East Coast." We were in strong agreement on that.

Months later, in a card Jon gave to me just a few moments before he proposed to me on a beach in front of our boat, he wrote: "I love our life, let's never live in the snow." 

Yet here we are. And to be honest, it's not as bad as I thought it would be. Well, the snow is. But it's been a few chilly months now and I still love #boatlife.

So, let me paint a picture of what life is like aboard in (this relatively mild) winter. Let me know if you think I'm as crazy as I once thought Mark Nicholas was. 

Where do boats... erm... live? 

First, let's clarify something a lot of non-boat people have misconceptions about. Boats can be anchored, moored or tied to a dock. Unless you're cruising, it's a good chance that if you're living aboard, you're at a dock, in a marina. We are. We don't dinghy into shore every day. We won't get hit by a ferry. We have electricity. 

Okay, now that that's out of the way. If you are at a dock, in a marina, there are two ways to store a boat in a marina in winter -- "on the hard", which means out of the water and in the dockyard, propped up by stilts, or by "wet storage", which means keeping the boat in the water the whole winter.

Most liveaboards keep their boats in the water, including us. When you're on the hard, it's more difficult to access electricity, any water you use dumps directly to the blacktop below you and you have to climb a ladder about 10 feet in and out of your home. So it's definitely preferable to stay in the water. 

What about ice? 

Our boat is protected by bubblers, little underwater fountains that circulate the water to prevent ice from forming against the hull. That's how we don't get stuck in ice all winter. 

Also, water is shut down on the docks because the pipes would otherwise freeze. So we have to use long hoses from pumps on land to fill our tanks. Which is, yes, a total pain. When people forget to empty the water out of the hoses, the water freezes, and you can be stuck without water until the sun warms things up again, or if you're in a hurry, you'll need to resort to some fairly undignified activities to defrost your hoses. 

On our boat, we have sinks that operate by foot-pump and no hot water heater. So the fresh water we do use is chil-ly. Unsurprisingly those arctic blasts while washing hands or our faces definitely helps with our water conservation of the 30 or so gallons we have aboard at a time. Brrr. 

How do you heat a boat?

Our boat has been up to Alaska and back down to the tip of Mexico, so it's really well insulated. But it no longer has a built-in heat source. So this winter, we have three electric heaters that we're loving -- a mini fireplace that I've written about before, a baby radiator-style heater that's safer to leave on during the day for our dog, and a West Marine heater that we can leave on when we're on trips that will automatically turn on if the boat's internal temperature drops below freezing. They're all small and easily stowed. We rotate them so that no one heater runs for more than a few hours at a time, to prevent risk of overheating. But since our boat isn't going anywhere this winter, we haven't invested in any kind of heating that would be usable offshore. 

We also have an electric blanket that we're obsessed with that takes the edge off getting into chilly sheets in the v-berth, a.k.a. our boat bedroom. 

Why does the boat look like a giant bubble?

The best thing we did this winter was shrink-wrap the boat. Having some version of boat wrapping is a very good idea for cold weather boat lovers, whether your boat is in the water or not. Wrapping it protects the boat from moisture damage and keeps it warmer inside. 

Not everyone wraps their boats, but it can expose boats, especially unattended ones, to more dangers. For example, a friend of a friend left their boat for the season, unwrapped. The weight of the snow caused a leak that then froze, melted and refroze, ruining ceiling and floor inside. 

If your boat is out of water, the wrapping is usually white and opaque, and looks a little marshmallow-like. Some people buy specially fitted canvas covers that they can use year after year. If you're living aboard, the plastic is clear, and looks like this:


Longterm liveaboards often forego shrinkwrapping and instead invest in nicer cockpit enclosures that they can use for storage or extra living space in the dead of winter. That does mean, though, that you end up having to shovel your deck after a big snowstorm. All due respect to the cash saved, I say a thousand nopes to that.

And on a nice sunny day, the deck of our boat heats up like a greenhouse, allowing us to sit barefoot and in t-shirts "outside" while it's freezing just on the other side of the zipper. 

Are we always warm and dry?

Yes and no. For one, it's definitely not like camping. But sometimes, after a long day at work, I find my pajamas or sweater are a little... damp. 

The Scallywag has kept us cozy, but much like a house with poor insulation, the temperature difference between the inside and outside on boats can cause condensation to form. Which means we have to have great circulation in the boat and plenty of dry heat to prevent our stuff from getting damp or growing mold. That's as gross as it sounds. That's also why even people who have boats with showers don't shower in the winter -- you just go through too much water and create too much moisture to make it worth it. 

We haven't had too much of a problem yet with this, because almost all the "closed" spaces on our boat have natural circulation in some way. The backs of our settees, for example, are woven out of rattan, which means air can pass through easily.

We did have a close call with our foam mattress, which tends to get wet on the bottom during particularly cold nights. We've fixed that with a layer of Hypervent, which looks like a rug made out of stiff dish-scrubbing plastic, and allows air to circulate between two layers (like wood and a mattress) to prevent condensation. Basically, the more we've learned about how to prevent condensation from forming, the dryer we've been. The wrapping seriously helps with this too, as it essentially creates a layer of insulation with the air pocket between the boat and the plastic covering. 

Don't people, like, slip and fall off the dock and die?

For some reason this is on a lot of people's minds, including my mother's (hi mom!) who yells "Natalie Wood!" at regular intervals when I mention walking our dog at night or hanging out on the boat alone. But so far it's been a nonissue. 

We haven't had much snow this winter, so the docks haven't been icy at all. Because I'm neurotic, I keep a whistle in my coat, just in case. But so far, it hasn't even come close to being a problem for us, and I imagine you'd have to be pretty tired/drunk/distracted to fall in. However, our marina is religious about keeping ice off the docks, whereas less well-maintained marinas might be dicier, similar to having a bad landlord who doesn't salt your sidewalk. 

What sucks the most about living this way?

There are fewer things of note than you might imagine. And there's a different low for everyone when it comes to wintering aboard.

One woman I talked to mentioned that she misses the extra space of the cockpit -- because when it isn't a beautiful day out you lose what's essentially an extra room in your home. 

For me, it's that I have to layer on a coat and boots, then walk through a cold wind or snow to have a hot morning shower. And that our water on the boat, which isn't heated, is icy when I wash my hands or dishes.

When I asked Jon, he said he still hasn't gotten over taco-ing the foam mattress in the narrowest part of the boat so that we could layer hypervent under it.

And now that I think about it, I don't think I've gotten over it either. Or rather, gotten over getting stuck under it. #boatlife.

How to survive and enjoy a snowstorm on a boat.

This winter has been remarkably mild until this weekend, with Jonas' dramatic swirl across the east coast. So with a diet coke in hand and a sunny spot on deck to write, I wanted to break down how we're surviving -- and legitimately enjoying -- #davidsnowie aboard. 

First, I freaked out a little.

Starting on Wednesday, I began getting texts from friends, concerned about whether we were going to make it through this storm. The initial blogs from Slate's meteorologist predicted a storm surge of up to 9 feet, which would put our docks within inches of pylon tops. The docks could float away. I immediately looked into making a hotel reservation and peacing out for the weekend, but Jon wasn't having it. Apparently he's a go-down-with-the-boat sort. I am not. 

After a brief moment of marital discord, we agreed to stick it out on the boat this weekend, with a backup plan if the boat literally began to float away. Luckily the storm surge forecasts were reigned in within the next 24 hours for our area, so all that was left to debate was the scale of our general trepidation. 

Monster storm surges aside, being on a boat is ideal for apocalyptic scenarios. We have more than 30 gallons of water onboard. We're well protected from wind and rough seas in our marina. Non-catastrophic flooding doesn't really affect us. We have DC power should the power go out. And we're well-stocked with booze. Jon also bought us each a whistle, in case we slipped off the dock and into the water. (Next time, I'm ordering some of these guys to strap to the bottom of my boots so that slipping will be a non-issue. Jon thinks they look silly. That's fine. I will laugh at him when he falls over and I don't.) 

Our wise longtime liveaboard neighbors also advised us to pick up a few other things just in case -- an indoor propane heater and generator in case the power went out and we couldn't run our floor heaters. We couldn't get the generator in time, so another set of marina friends, who write the awesome blog, Sailing Chance, lent us theirs. After hearing from friends in Baltimore that they were without power and heat for hours yesterday, I plan to get a set of portable propane heaters for any land-based house I live in during the future. 

Then we settled in to brave the storm, in the way you do when you don't entirely believe it will be a big deal and fear that it actually will be.

For once, the storm was not a joke. 

It's a little snowy out. #winterishere #boatlife

We expected to get between 2 to 20 inches of snow. We periodically took turns punching the plastic wrapping around our boat to knock off the inches of snow accumulating on top of it.

The snow was thigh-high on me by 4 p.m. The marina store had a run on all its liquor, selling more in one day than it had all month. The news reports gave up predicting inches and just left the regular updates at "more than 25 inches".  Workers, brought in to shovel snow, were sent home because it was coming down faster than they could shovel it. We liveaboards were left on our own for the night, and it felt like an adventure. 

So what are a bunch of boaters left to do? Throw a storm party, of course! A boat neighbor invited whatever brave souls were willing to trek to his soiree-sized boat for wine, prosciutto and cheese. An ideal winter's night but the mid-storm walk was wild. 

My crazy trek through last night's storm. #wineaswalkingstick #snowpocalypse

A video posted by Sail Me Om (@sailmeom) on

There were some wildly salty sailing stories exchanged, and there may have been a Queen singalong. Let's leave it at that. 

Sometime between when we arrived and the fifth or sixth bottle of wine, the snow stopped. 

We emerged to see that everything had remained copacetic. The power never went out, and neither did our internet. Only Honey was truly traumatized, during the two walks she had to take in the storm. 

Today we awoke to a gorgeous snowscape and an army of people ready to dig us out. But even better, the sun had completely heated our deck, so that I can write this while hanging out in a t-shirt and bare feet. It's so warm I'm a little schvitzy. 

Blogging from the comfort of our cozily wrapped deck.





How to build a DIY smart LED system for your boat, RV or other 12v setup.

One of the things I miss most about apartment living are my Philips Hue lights. These lights can change color, intensity or turn on or off at the command of my phone. By changing the bulb colors, I could completely change the mood of a room. They also served as an morning alarm in our basement bedroom. They were our favorite splurge of last year.

Unfortunately, my Hue lights had to go into storage when we moved onto the Scallywag because the boat’s primary electrical system -- and all its lights -- run off of 12V electricity.

I started looking for alternatives to Hue that run off of 12V and are designed for marine use, but there really just aren’t any good consumer-level contenders out there. That left me thinking about how to recreate the system from scratch...

Welcome to our space boat. 

Initial research had me believing that I could get the system functionality I wanted extremely cheaply. I thought that a few Mi-Light units would be all that I’d need and I'd be able to build the whole system for less than $100. While these do work to some extent, I’m also a big proponent of good build quality and that you get what you pay for. These Mi-Light units are so cheap that I can’t imagine them making it through more than a season or two before becoming a headache. But, if you want a cheap, quick win — they’ll probably work.

Instead, I opted to go with the more expensive LED wifi control hub and LED controllers from LEDENET. They are a little more pricey at $140 for the hub and about $50 per controller, but the build quality is excellent and they give me just about everything I want in the system.

Tory and I are now able to control lights in the v-berth, cabin and galley from apps on either of our phones. Pre-programmed lighting effects, like our  favorite tone of light for reading at night in the v-berth, also sync across all our devices — something even Hue couldn’t do. If our phones die, there is also a physical remote with customized groupings and zone control so you can do more than just turn all the lights on and off at once.

After installing everything, I added a last final touch. I have always been slightly disappointed with the lighting in our locker. We had an old light fixture on one side that requires me to open both locker doors to get to and leaves my half of the closest poorly lit. To fix this, I decided to take the project to the next level and install a motion detector switch to control a warm white LED strip at the top of the locker. The closet is now perfectly illuminated  and turns on the second either door opens. It’s also set to turn off after one minute, so no more forgetting to turn the light off!

Here is a list of what I used to make this whole system work.

Total cost: $576.69

Total time: 8 hours

Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate

Cabin, V-Berth and Galley

LEDENET® 2.4GHz WiFi Lighting Control System Bridge Hub Wireless Support 12 zones RGB RGBW CT DIM CCT LED Strip Bulb Ceiling Spotlight Lamp Controller for iOS iPhone iPad Android Smartphone Tablet - $139.99 -- Master control to connect everything and sync with mobile app.

LEDENET® V8 4-Zone 2.4G LED RGBW Controller Remote Control RGB RGBW LED Strip Lighting Panel Lamp (V8 RGBW Remote) - $21.99 -- Master remote control. Amazon says that the item is currently not available, but keep an eye out because the quality of this remote blows all the others out of the water.

LEDENET® 2.4G Wireless Remote receiving Controller RF Constant Voltage Receiver DC 5V 12V 24V 20A for Single Color RGB CW/WW RGBW RGBWW LED Strip Tape Lights (5 Year Warranty) (R4-5A CV Receiver) - $53.99 x 5 -- You will need one of these for each strip that you want to individually control, including if you want to be able to control the port and starboard sides separately. You can always group strips together to control at the same time through the app or remote. I opted to include on for every individual strip I wired to have maximum control.

SUPERNIGHT 16.4ft 12V 5050 RGBWW Warm White LED Strip Lighting 5M 300 LEDs Waterproof Ribbon Lamps Multi-colored LED Tape Lights - $18.99 x 3 -- These strips have true RGB + Warm White. This results in double the LEDs per strip (300 vs. 150) and twice the power consumption, but if you only run one of the two at a time, you still keep the power draw to a minimum and it gives you more flexibility overall. Having both on gives a lot of light, whereas just one or the other is very much accent lighting.


LEDENET® 12V 24V PIR Sensor LED Dimmer Switch Motion Timer Function Sign Control PIR8 Cotroller LED Strips Lighting - $10.95 -- Motion detector to sense when the door opens and turn on the lights. Simply cut the connector off the next strip and wire this motion sensor between the LEDs and your power source.

LEDMO 12V 5050 LED Strip Light, Warm White, Super Bright 150 Units SMD 5050 LEDs, Waterproof, 5050 LED Ribbon Light/ LED Tape Light, Pack of 16.4ft/5m - $11.19 -- I didn't need RGB color in the closet, so I opted for the less power intensive warm white only strip here.

Misc parts

ESUMIC® 5M Extension Cable Wire With 5Pin Plug for LED 5050 RGBW Strip Ribbon - $8.99 x 2

ESUMIC® 2.5M Extension Cable Wire With 5Pin Plug for LED 5050 RGBW Strip Ribbon - $6.99 x 3

LEDENET® 5pin Female Connector Wire Cable For Flexible 5050 RGBW RGBWW LED Ribbon Lamp (5-pack) - $9.48

Blue Sea Systems 12 Circuit 30A Terminal Block - $12.86

Blue Sea Systems Terminal Block Jumper for 30A Terminal Blocks, Pack of 5 - $4.36

Honey tours Block Island by bike, to music.

Ready for two minutes of unadulterated delight? 

With winter undeniably, officially upon us, we took the long weekend to pull together some of our travel footage from our cruise around the Long Island Sound in early fall. 

We started with our most adorable footage by far -- Honey's bike tour across Block Island. 

This beautiful Island, just off the coast of Rhode Island, looks a lot like Ireland in some spots and offered days worth of hiking, empty beaches and beautiful porch views.

We were moored in the Great Salt Pond during our visit and the only way you can get to town without calling a taxi is by bicycle. After a few days of getting left behind on the boat, Honey had had enough, so we took her out for the ride of her life. 

Honey biked from the The Oar at Block Island Boat Basin dock in the Great Salt Pond to Poor People's Pub at the edge of New Shoreham, the Island's main town. The pub's waitress had a piece of bacon waiting for her as a reward for her long journey. 

We found the entire island to be low key and dog friendly. Bikes are available without a reservation in front of the docks and can take you pretty much everywhere. We've heard everything gets more competitive in midsummer, but you can see from Honey's tour that in late September we had the island and its joys to ourselves. 

We promise no Honeys were harmed in the making of this video, but some good laughs were definitely had at her expense. 

Oh, and the music in this is The Bike Song by Mark Ronson, of Uptown Funk fame. I know, you can't believe you've gone your whole life without hearing this song. So good. 


7 sanity-saving products that make tiny homes infinitely more livable.

It's been just over a month since we've moved aboard full time and we're settling into the swing of things. People keep asking me whether Jon, my husband, and I are ready to kill each other yet. But we've lived in fairly small spaces for awhile now, particularly after a year in downtown Manhattan, where we had even less storage and counter space in the kitchen. 

We're no stranger to making do with the square footage we've got. But there are a few things that we've collected along the way that consistently make our small spaces more lovely and comfortable, that may also have a place in your home, little or not.

1. A beautiful magnetic spice rack.

I love to cook but have realized over time that it's not the size of my kitchen that matters, it's the ease of pulling things out and putting them away that will make or break my joy of creating a meal. I get frustrated REALLY quickly when things start falling on top of me or out of cupboards as I'm searching for something to add as a meal simmers or bakes. 

We received one of these as a gift for the tiny kitchen in our New York apartment and it was the most complimented thing in our house. When we moved to the boat, we adapted the spice set with a sheet of metal tooled perfectly to serve as a backsplash behind our sink. It's functional, pretty, and even my wilder spices are at hand at all times. Protip: If you want to make your own magnetic board to fit your space or have spices ready at hand, just buy the empty jars from Gneiss and DIY your own set -- but don't bother making the set from scratch, it's not worth buying all the parts separately unless you want to do it in bulk. 

2. A super smart cutting board and colander. 

I found this on a tiny house article awhile ago and ordered it out of curiosity. I've loved it ever since. The colander is the perfect size for almost anything you have to wash for two people and takes up no space to store. And the board, while annoyingly awkward to wash, legitimately turns your sink into a real counter space. You can use the colander to catch scraps or hold food as you chop and it still allows you easy access to the sink if you need it. It's doubled my workspace for cooking and other counter needs in both our old apartment and our boat. 

3. A safe, romantic lantern. 

This little guy, dubbed the Candelier, is a new addition to the boat and so far we're really digging it. We were in need of some kind of lantern that didn't run off electricity and the beautiful old brass ones are out of our price range. I was afraid of candles getting knocked over and burning the place up. But the Uco has spring-loaded, drip-free candles that burn for 9 hours and are surrounded by a protective, windproof case. The lanterns come in different colors and even smaller sizes and cast a bright but romantic light. And the top can serve as a warmer for your coffee, which I haven't tried but nonetheless seems like a win.

4. A tiny, delightful fireplace. 

This was originally a boat-warming gift from my supportive parents, who resigned themselves to the fact that my husband and I would die of cold over the winter in New York. It has since been the coziest part of our winter evenings, both on land and off. Most fake fireplaces are loud and cheesy, but this one has form, function and vintage flair. 

It kicks off a nice heat and cozy glow. It also barely takes up a square foot of space. You can order it in white and black too. 

5. A set of unbreakable cups.

We foolishly went through an entire set of Ikea glasses before deciding that we had to invest in something more sturdy. These enamel cups look great and are impossible to mess up. Even drinking red wine out of them is doable (if you forget to rinse them out, just give them a quick Clorox spritz before your normal washing.) That being said, we're still on the hunt for the perfect unbreakable wine glasses.

I've seen these all over the place in difference colors and in much fancier locales since purchasing ours. We always get compliments on them when we have people over. 

6. A mess-free decent coffee maker. 

A tip from a coffee aficionado colleague two years ago turned me onto the AeroPress and I haven't looked back when making boat coffee. It takes about four minutes to make a super concentrated, delicious espresso or coffee with this press. It's a fun process to make a cup and the easiest clean up of any coffee maker I've used -- by the time you've squeezed out your coffee, you've already cleaned the entire device. And there's very little filter waste.

So. much. better. than shoveling out the grounds of a french press into a trash bag. Ugh. The bag is cheesy but I find it makes the whole set easier to store and travel with, so I've come to like that too and would recommend just buying the whole set for the price because you end up using all of it. Stow the bag and the ugly plastic parts when you have company over and you'll show off your super cool tool that I recently spotted at a Manhattan coffee joint at a $50 markup.

7. A reliable battery-charged vacuum. 

I was recently asked what product changed my life more than any other recently, and for the last two years, it's been this vacuum. It charges quickly, has an extendable hose, vacuums wet and dry substances, and goes after everything -- pet hair, spills, errant adhesive -- with zeal. It can handle any boat project or wayward dinner party we've thrown at it. I love this vacuum the way you love a family pet and it's small enough to stow away without a second thought. Every house, of any size, should have one of these. And the charger is the same for several of our tools, which makes it a space-saving win. 

8. Bonus -- A really good stain remover.

We're a wine-drinking household, which means inevitable spills. This stuff has saved our cushions four times over when we've splashed wine across our cabin -- because one spill means our entire house gets covered in wine. I live in fear of not having this at hand during a crucial spill moment. Which is why I buy two whenever I stock up. 

What are we missing? What can't you live without? There are great new products coming out every day for small living, so I'd love to hear your secrets. 

Finally, a little disclaimer and FYI: All of these products are things we love and use. If you click through on our links on Amazon, we do get a little referral tip for telling you about them. 

A faster, foolproof thank you note.

An adventurous spirit is naturally incomplete without gratitude. It’s not possible to stand in front of a wide expanse of ocean or open time without thankfully considering the people and decisions that have led you there. 

But there are lot of people who are full appreciation and full of dread for thank you notes. At their worst, thank yous can feel inauthentic, inefficient or a little anachronistic to write or receive.

Slate recently argued that thank you notes feel moot in a time of instantaneous feedback. What can you say in a card that you can’t text or email back days or weeks sooner? It’s true that a handwritten note is no longer necessary for actual proof of receipt. And because of that, it’s become even more of an art to write a decent one.

There are many, many guides to the thank you note, and most focus on how to acknowledge a gift and how you’ll use it. But if penning your passion for a pair of wool socks stops you short, I propose another easier and more meaningful way to write your way through a season’s worth of gifts.

This kind of note focuses on the gift giver instead of the gift itself and allows you more ammo to share kind words that you might never get the chance to say to a person in the course of daily life. This kind of note also becomes a lot easier to write when you move your focus away from the object you're thankful for.

Got your favorite pen and stationery handy? Let’s do this. 

First, get into the right mindset. Every gift is meant to be an expression of thankfulness for the giftee. So, you’re not writing a thank you note for a gift, you’re writing a thank you note for this person being in your life and thinking of you. There are very few opportunities to show appreciation for the people you love, so make this thank you note a letter worth saving. 

Step 1: Greet the giver and acknowledge the gift. 

Pretty simple. No fancy stuff here.

Optional Step 2: Add one more sentence about how you plan to use the gift or have already used it.

Show you know how much thought they put into their selection. This is usually the hardest part of a thank-you to write, especially if the gift is impersonal. But in this recipe it's optional because you're making a meatier note. If you’re not inspired to talk more about the gift, skip this sentence and move on. 

Step 3: Share your appreciation for the gift giver. 

Your gift giver put you on a shortlist of people that deserve a physical manifestation of love. What do you appreciate about your gift giver? Share a memory of spending time with the person, related to the gift or not. 

  • What happened the last time you saw them that made you laugh? 
  • When was the last time you randomly thought of them? Why?
  • What did they do at the gift-giving occasion that brought you joy?

Step 4:  Share a hope for the next time you see each other and sign off. 


Propose a plan for getting together soon or staying in touch, and end your card warmly. 

That’s it. A foolproof recipe for appreciation that’s just as easy to write as a normal thank you card. If it works for you, write me a thank you note! 

P.S. If you were delighted by the famous thank you notes at the top of this post, you can read more at Letters Of Note.