I’m the Bosun!

It was before 8:00 on a bright, sunny morning. My husband was below decks, feeding the boy, washing dishes, and generally getting ready for the day. I was on deck surveying the boat. I made notes of what wood needed to be replaced first. I came up with an action plan for maintaining the brightwork. I started to calculate how much caulk we would need to recaulk the cabintop.

That’s when it hit me: Since "the Bosun" works 40 hours per week as a computer geek counter service technician, and I stay home and work on the boat (only early in the morning and during naptime, of course), I’m officially more Bosuny than he is. And since the position of Bosun’s Mate has already been filled (by our son), I guess I’m just the Bosun.

MrJ is now the Bosun/Captain, because, you know, he still has to be the honorary Bosun. And when it comes time for haul-out, I’m going to be putting my finger firmly on my nose and calling "Not it!"

Always Keep Your Camera With You, Turned On, With the Lens Cap Off.

You can always switch to a fresh battery.

I received this advice from Neil Silverman at last year’s Morro Photo Expo. Have I followed it? Not closely enough.

But I have learned my lesson.

Why always keep your camera with you? Because if you don’t, you’ll have only cell phone snap shots to commemorate the day when a huge fishing boat crashes into your dock and you suddenly have no place to live.

Fishing Vessel Southeast crashes into Fowler's Docks in Morro Bay.
Fishing Vessel Southeast crashes into Fowler’s Docks in Morro Bay.

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The “Boy on a Mission” Toddler Backpack

A week from Tuesday we’ll be taking a train to Santa Barbara, a plane to Seattle, and then a car to Lynnwood, WA. (yay) It’s going to be a long day. Since we’re not checking any bags, we’re doing some minimalist packing. This basically means that everything BabyJ & I need, including his travel diapers, will be stuffed into my backpack. (Dad can fend for himself.) I thought the easiest way to keep BabyJ’s books, toys, snacks and things from getting lost in the shuffle (read: lost in my overstuffed backpack) would be to give him his own bag–but there’s no way he’s going to carry one around all day. So, I started searching for a toddler backpack, which he can carry with no fuss, and which can easily clip onto one of our bags when he’s not wearing it.

First things first: the bones and muscle structures of very young children are still developing, and they shouldn’t be bearing more than their own weight. I know that 1) we will be carrying this backpack 90% of the time, 2) a soft book, a toy or two, and some mashed fruit don’t weigh much anyway, and 3) the point is for us to be organized and for him to recognize that he has his own place for his own things, not to turn him into a pack mule.

The backpacks I found at EcoBambino in downtown San Luis Obispo were ADORABLE! But, they were for age 3+ and I didn’t think that he’d be able to work the zippers reliably. So, in addition to being a little bit too big for him, they would probably frustrate him.

I started searching for patterns for toddler backpacks, and the simplest ones had drawstring closures, which I didn’t like. Finally, I found this pattern on the Indietutes blog, and I love it! It’s just a simple fold-over closure, but I think I’ll add some Velcro to keep things from tumbling out.

A toddler scooting around wearing a backpack, but no pants.
This boy is on a mission.

I put it on the boy, and he just took off around the house and continued to play. Backpack? Check. Pants? Who needs ’em?

The fabric I used is Dacron (Polyester), and while I usually prefer natural fibers, I have a soft spot in my heart for Dacron since sails are made out of it. This particular Dacron I purchased for about $5 a yard on clearance, for another project related to this trip. (More on that later.) I cut it in half right down the length of all four yards, and then realized that four yards were not enough for what I wanted to do. Too late! Now I have eight yards of 30″ wide fabric, which is basically useless for garments (adult-sized garments, anyway), so… it looks like I’ll be making several more orange toddler backpacks. Know any little people in need of adorable backpacks?

~Sarita Li

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Simplifying Life, or, Why a Sailboat?

I used to blog about minimalism.

I read a lot of things by Everett Bogue, Leo Babauta, and Tammy Strobel. I wanted to get rid of the Stuff that was clogging up my life. I shifted my thinking about what was valuable (time and experiences vs. possessions and passive entertainment), and eventually we got rid of almost everything and moved into a 250 square foot apartment at the beach.

Apart from some unbelievably inconsiderate neighbors, life was good. Things were simple.

And then we had a baby.

Partly due to the tiny-ness of our apartment (but mostly due to the horrible neighbors), we moved into a two bedroom house a couple of blocks away. It had a laundry room. And a yard. It was huge.

Somehow, after only a few months, our huge house began to shrink. Suddenly there was Stuff everywhere and no room for more. But new Stuff continued to appear, only a small bit of it in the form of baby gear.

One day, as I was moving a heap of junk out of the way to get to another heap of junk which contained something I needed, I realized what had happened. It had nothing to do with the baby.

Old habits had crept back in because I had allowed myself to blame my sweet, simple baby. My expectations had shifted. I bought into the idea that babies need a lot of gear, and so I unconsciously gave up on the idea that we could live as a family without a lot of Stuff. Even though our baby didn’t have half the Stuff other babies in the neighborhood do, he still had more than he needed. But again, it wasn’t his Stuff that was clogging up my life and sucking the energy out of my home. It was mine. I had completely lost sight of the freedom that simple living had afforded. I guess I was too busy paying attention to the baby to notice the mess I had made of my environment.

So, it’s time for thinking to be readjusted again. It’s time for an extreme shift in our environment.

I’m a big fan of the tiny house movement, but I’m also a fan of living on the water. So, the 49.5′ canoe-hulled ketch Baltia is our version of a tiny house. It’s not really tiny by boat standards, and the amount of restoration and maintenance it needs makes it less than simple. But, it is a lifestyle less full of Stuff.

This boat is a stepping stone for us. It gets us back to living aboard, and to being able to throw our possessions into a backpack (or 3) and just go. If we can maintain a simple and more self-sufficient lifestyle, then we’ll be ready to move on when it’s time to let Baltia go. We’ll be used to living in small spaces, with furniture built in, spending more time outdoors, and not having lots of Stuff.

For now, that’s just what we need.

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Works in Progress: June 2012

We have been working on all sorts of things around here lately, including the ever popular towel rings:

The Landlocked Sailor's Nautical Towel Rings, in Progress
The Landlocked Sailor's Nautical Towel Rings, in Progress


New scrapbooks and journals:

Handmade scrapbook journals with nautical accents
Handmade scrapbook journals with nautical accents

Fabric Flowers:

Navy Blue and White Striped Nautical Fabric Flower with Red Sailboat Button
Navy Blue and White Striped Nautical Fabric Flower with Red Sailboat Button

And, of course, playing in the dirt:

Playing in the Dirt at the Avocado Farm near Morro Bay
Playing in the Dirt at the Avocado Farm near Morro Bay


What have you been up to lately?

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Landlocked Liveaboard: Loving the Lubbers’ Life

Everyone wants to be happy.

Right now there are a thousand things I can think of that I expect would make me happy.

Someday I’m going to do or have or make those things. Someday we’re going to live on a boat again and life is going to be wonderful.

But not today.

We had the best time, living on a boat. Two boats, actually: one on the West Coast and one on the East. We had the best time. We really did.

Sarita refinishing the mainboom on the Sailing Vessel Hawaiian Chieftain
Sarita refinishing the mainboom on the Sailing Vessel Hawaiian Chieftain

The only reason I don’t lust after boats every day now is because I want a big vegetable garden, and some chickens. I want my boy to experiences seasons– snow in the winter, that first spring blossom, fireflies in the summer, and mountains of autumn leaves. I want to work from a loft upstairs while my children play all day in the sunshine. To do all of that on a boat, well… that would be one heck of a boat.

But lately I’ve been thinking, “What can I do now, today, that would fulfill some of these wants from my ideal living situation?” One thing is gardening. I need to just start. We have some room here. I could at the very least do some container gardening. I don’t have to wait for the ideal home in the ideal location with the ideal plot of land… I want to garden, and I’m going to garden. Right now. Today.

Now that we’ve got a little bit of the Midwestern farm life under control, what is it specifically that we miss so much about living on boats? There are several things I can think of off the top of my head:

1. We worked from home. Crewing the boat was our job. Ok, it was more like living at work than working from home, but it was good. The different aspects of our lives were integrated by living and working in the same space. Also, we worked very well together, and we enjoyed being together and working side by side every day.

2. Everything was neat and tidy. Ok, if you’ve ever sailed with me, you’re laughing really hard right now because my bunk was always so messy & so full of junk that I had to sleep elsewhere, but on the whole… the first thing every day (after breakfast) was cleaning the boat, top to bottom. Morning chores are a great way to start the day, and it helps keep the rest of the day’s activities running smoothly.

3. We were out of doors every day. Even on days we didn’t put to sea, there was no lack of fresh air and interaction with the world around us.

4. We were strong. The first time I went sailing, I went for two weeks. When I came back to my favorite landlubber job at Starbucks, I could carry six gallons of milk at once. That’s about 25 pounds per arm. It’s not easy to carry that much weight any distance at all, and there is no way I could do it today. (Ok, my son weighs around 20 lbs, but I carry him differently and now my back hurts!)

So, what can I do today, this week, this month to recreate some of what I loved about boat life?

1. Work from home (more). I already work from home, but not in a very organized way. I need to streamline my work day and grow the business so that John can eventually join me here instead of commuting to his tech job every day.

2. Clean the house! I love a clean kitchen in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. Housekeeping has always been a challenge for me, but the more ritualistic it is, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. I’m going to post a chore bill. I think I’ll make it out of chalkboard paint. Actually, for now I’ll just make one out of notebook paper so I don’t get caught up in that “as soon as I make that really cool chore bill, we can start cleaning the house” fallacy. We’ll create a ritual of housecleaning, first thing after breakfast.

3. Get back into the routine of taking Keani Kai out for walks every day. We used to do 3-5 miles per day, at least 5 days a week! We can also do a lot of our work out of doors, and then there’s the gardening.

4. Working out of doors and gardening should help us get some of our physical strength back, but I’d also like to start strength training again. I’ll have to see where I can fit that in.

This seems like a good start. For now, the snow, the fireflies, the autumn leaves, and the chickens (and the boat!) will just have to wait.

Homework: Think back to the time in your life you were the happiest, the most productive, or otherwise the best that you could be. Aside from going back in time, what can you do right now, today, to recreate some of the best aspects of that time and place?

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What Not to Do: Yudu Screen Printer Edition (…and a Cute Baby)

Two significant things happened yesterday:

1. I finally unpacked my Yudu machine and gave it a whirl (I think I’ve had it over a year now), and

2. Keani Kai (9 months old now) ate curry.

Item #1: If you’ve ever heard anything about the Yudu machine, you’ve probably heard that you will mess up the first 2 emulsion sheets which are included with the machine. I was determined not to let that happen to me under any circumstances, so I read the manual (twice), watched the instructional DVD (twice) and then watched a few user-created videos on YouTube for good measure.

So, I wet down the screen, applied the slightly annoying sheet of emulsion, and took a good look. It looked weird. I smoothed it out with the squeegee. It still looked weird. “Oh well,” I thought, “it’s not changing any no matter how much I smooth it out, so I’d better dry it now.” I put it in the machine and started the “Dry” cycle.

Then I sat down to watch more YouTube videos. When I got to this video, Kendra-the-Cricut-Lady explained in detail how to make sure the emulsion was properly adhered to the screen. When she held it up and said “It shouldn’t look like this,” I knew I was in trouble because that is exactly how mine looked. So, what did I do? Genius that I am, I ran over to the Yudu, pulled out the half-dry screen, and re-wet it, trying to get it to go on right. It started coming off. Yep, the emulsion started washing right off, so I stopped, stuck it back in the machine, and put it through another drying cycle…and another…and another…and another… after about 2.5 hours, I was tired of waiting, so I just pulled off the protective plastic coating, and big wet gobs of emulsion came off with it. It was too bad. I wanted to get to the printing part.


Emulsion coming off a Yudu screen because it was not dry enough
Emulsion coming off a Yudu screen because it was not dry enough

The two pieces of text I had prepped were small, so I fit them into some undamaged areas on the emulsion, and exposed for 8 minutes. I should have done 10. Anyway, at the end of 8 minutes, I went to rinse off the unexposed emulsion, and this happened:

A ruined Yudu screen
The ruined "Team Baby" Yudu screen

Yep. It all started coming off.

Lessons: Get the emulsion on right the first time, then leave it alone. Make sure the emulsion is totally, completely dry before messing with it. Expose for 10 minutes.

The good news is that this experience was very liberating, and I am now ready to experiment and play with my Yudu machine. I went at it with an uncharacteristically laid-back attitude because I realized that the reason I’ve let it sit in the box for a year is that I was afraid I’d mess up. I wanted to wait until I was a pro before using it. Duh. How will you ever be a pro at anything without making a bunch of mistakes first? So I went for it. And I messed up. I completely wrecked my first project. And now I can get on with perfecting it.

As for the baby eating curry, well, I took some curry, turned it to mush in the Magic Bullet, and fed it to him. The look of delight on his face after the first bite was priceless. It was as if he were saying: “Mom, are you sure this is for me? It’s delicious!” It was kind of like this, but a little more on the tickled pink side:

Baby Boy looking up with a puzzled but happy expression
Baby Boy looking up with a puzzled but happy expression

And now, as I type this, he has pulled one of the air tubes off the breast pump and is trying to learn everything there is to know about it. So, until next time…

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2012 Morro Photo Expo: More Than Just Birds and Sunsets

One of my best shots from the 2012 Morro Photo Expo- model Michael Marrero at the "It's All About the Light" Workshop. I was standing on a chair and couldn't get a wider angle to get his elbows in! But still, I like it. (Photo credit: Sarita Li Johnson)

Have you heard of the Morro Photo Expo?

I couple of years ago I was walking down along the Embarcadero just before sunset, and a man with a pretty cool DSLR (that’s a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera, in case you’re wondering) asked for a restaurant recommendation. Conversation ensued, and he said he was here in Morro Bay for the Photo Expo. Interesting, I thought, and then never thought about it again…

…until the following year. I saw the posters, remembered the guy with the cool camera, got the impression that it was all about nature and bird photography, and never thought about it again (again)…

…until this year.

This year I joined the Morro Bay Art Association, and (somehow, I’m still not sure how) became half of the newsletter committee. (Well, there are only two of us, so in that sense I’m half, but workload-wise, I’m really only about 10%.) Anyway, in the process of researching the Photo Expo for a possible article, I discovered that there is a lot more to it than nature photography! So, I just spent three days running around Morro Bay photographing people. I learned SO MUCH in those three days.

See the participants’ best shots here, in the Morro Photo Expo “Give Us Your Best Shot” Flickr Contest.

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A Bad Case of Mamitis

Now that most of Keani Kai’s food allergies* are under control, he’s developed something even more perilous: mamitis. What is mamitis, you ask? Well…

Baby Boy with Mamitis, Wearing a Red Plaid Tie
Keani Kai with mamitis


This is what it looks like. It’s basically an allergy to everyone but Mom. Even his favorite people; he sees them, smiles, waves, reaches for them, but the moment he’s in their arms…

The sad face. The tears. Mamitis.








*which I haven’t blogged about here, but should have

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