Category Archives: Travel

Giveaway! The Landlocked Sailor Photo Contest

Have you heard? The Bosun has been sailing on the tallship Hawaiian Chieftain since early August, and we’re here keeping the home fires burning. Actually, we’ve been able to visit him quite a few times, and we haven’t had a single fire since he’s been away. Moving on.

A few days ago the Chieftain hauled out at Boat Haven in Port Townsend, Washington, so I’m considering her to be landlocked for the moment. Also, the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is going on this weekend! So, in honor of those two things, we’re having a photo contest.

Tag your nautical photos with the hashtag #LandlockedPT for a chance to win a set of two handmade rope towel holders on stainless steel boat cleats ($175 value).

We’ll be keeping up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Ends September 30, 2013

Tag your nautical photos #LandlockedPT for a chance to win these handmade rope towel holders from The Landlocked Sailor!
Tag your nautical photos #LandlockedPT for a chance to win these handmade rope towel holders from The Landlocked Sailor!
The tallship Hawaiian Chieftain in dry dock in Port Townsend Washington 2013 during the Wooden Boat Festival
The tallship Hawaiian Chieftain in dry dock in Port Townsend Washington 2013 during the Wooden Boat Festival
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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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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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Morro Bay State Park on a Rainy Morning

Last Monday I had a photo shoot scheduled at Morro Bay State Park. I hauled myself out of bed at 5 a.m., stumbled through my morning routine, and drove to the Natural History Museum. I was about ten minutes early, which was good because I hadn’t scoped out the place ahead of time.

I got out of the car and attempted to shield myself from the drizzle, but I looked up at the sky and thought it would clear up as soon as the sun rose a little. The light was dull but improving by the minute. As I clicked away at all the potential props and backdrops, my fingers started to go numb. Next went my nose. “Yeesh,” I thought, “it’s freezing!” Then I laughed at myself because of how quickly I’d forgotten winter in Indiana.

About 15 minutes after the appointed meeting time, I texted the model to see if he was on his way. My phone immediately started to ring. “This can’t be good,” I muttered. There he was on the other end of the line: “I emailed you…” He explained that it was pretty rainy where he was, so he didn’t think it was a good day for a photo shoot. Well, thank you. “At least he’s thinking,” I grumbled aloud to a little sparrow as it hopped cautiously by.

I tried to look on the bright side by telling myself that at least I could go home out of the cold, but then I changed my mind. By this time the sky was mostly clear, the golden hour was upon us, and my child was with his favorite caregiver (Daddy), so why should I rush away home?

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A Day in the Life: Marlinspike Seamanship

Brig Lady Washington (left) and Hawaiian Chief...
Image via Wikipedia

Imagine that you’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. You feel the sun beating down, and the gentle sway of the vessel in the water. You turn your face to try to feel the direction of the wind, but there is no wind. Not even a breeze. You hear the creaking of the masts and the gentle lapping of the water on the hull, but you are dead in the water.

There’s no telling when the wind will pick up again; it could be several days. In the meantime, what will you do? The year is 1854, and you are a topman aboard a merchant vessel bound for some Pacific Island. You can’t pass the time by reading, because you don’t know how to read; you don’t feel like singing at the moment, and you can’t whistle because you are superstitiously worried about whistling up an ill wind.

What’s a sailor to do?


There’s always plenty to be done to keep the ship in top condition. There are sails to be mended, lines and rigging to be repaired, old rope to be turned into baggywrinkle, decks to scrub and tar… the list goes on and on. However, when that “Sailor-Do” list is completed, what’s next?


Have you ever seen a particularly handsome bell rope and wondered, “How on earth did they make that?” Or how about a boat’s ladder (stairsteps) all decked out with ornamental ropework? It’s not strictly ornamental, after all. On the ladder, for example, it serves as a nonskid surface for climbing around in your wet boat shoes. There’s a  name for this combination of form and function: it’s called Marlinspike Seamanship, and it’s not exactly a lost art. (The work below, coxcombing on tillers, was done by Frayed Knot Arts.)

Fancy Knotwork by Frayed Knot Arts: Cockscombing on Tillers
©Frayed Knot Arts (


The next time you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a sailboat (or even see one in a movie), look for examples of Marlinspike fancy work. It’s all done by hand, and it’s a tradition worth carrying on.

If you’re in the Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo/Central Coast area of California and you’d like to participate in a Marlinspike workshop, leave a note in the comments below. We’ll let you know when we have one coming up!


Also, check out these books (click the covers to see them on Amazon):

Click to purchase the Sailmakers Apprentice on Amazon.Click to purchase the Arts of the Sailor on AmazonClick to purchase the Marlinspike Sailor on Amazon


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Photo Shoot Aboard Lady Washington in Morro Bay, CA

So today, in lieu of Wordless Wednesday, I am FINALLY posting a few photos from our awesome family photo shoot aboard the Tall Ship Lady Washington. Thanks to the lovely Ginger of Sandprints Photos in Morro Bay for her amazing photography and cheery personality. Also a big thanks to Captain Miah and the Lady crew!


Three Johnsons on the Tallship Lady Washington, Morro Bay, CA 2011

Tiller, Lady Washington's Canine Mascot

Tiller the Dog, Again

Sleeping Baby

Father and Son With Morro Rock in View

Happy Family

Smiling Boy

Three Johnsons On Lady Washington's Main Deck

Baby on the Pin Rail

Looking Out to Sea

Aft Cabin Hatch

Father, Son, Morro Rock

Three Johnsons plus Ginger!

Happy Times With Morro Rock in Background

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Beach Front on a Budget: Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier by Brian Auer

I’ve always wanted a summer home on the beach. But can you imagine the cost of a beach house you’ll only use a couple of weeks or months each year?

I started thinking about why I want a beach house. I’ve come to the conclusion that the appeal is in the beach itself, not the house. Basically, I want a place I can sleep, shower, and eat, with easy access to the beach. I’ve found my solution at Hostelling International’s Los Angeles-Santa Monica Hostel. The catch: you can only stay for 14 days per year, or 14 consecutive days (so you can’t stay the last 14 days of December and the first 14 days of January which would make it 28 consecutive days).

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, here are four reasons to consider it:

  1. They’re cheap. Usually under $30 per night per person, depending on the type of room you choose. That often includes breakfast.
  2. They’re close to stuff. Unlike the airport hotel, your hostel will be right in the midst of everything interesting. Often right downtown, on the beach or in the woods, and within walking distance from train and bus stations.
  3. You can cook your own food (or not). Hostel kitchens are usually stocked with spices, cooking oil, etc. (not to mention pots, pans, plates, everything you need). Grab a bag of groceries and cook a yummy dinner. If you don’t feel like cooking (or grocery shopping), there’s a good chance there will be a special dinner available one or more nights you’re there, usually under $5 a plate.
  4. You’ll meet lots of interesting people (or not). With the lovely and comfortable common areas, there are plenty of opportunities to meet fellow travelers, many of them international. Everybody’s got a story. If you’re feeling anti-social, well, a hostel is probably not the place for you, but if you just want a little more privacy, many hostels have private or family rooms available. Oh, and don’t worry about your stuff if you’re in a dorm-style room. There are lockers, but remember that everybody’s in the same boat, and the honor system is important here too.

Santa Monica Sunset by Wolfsavard on Flickr

The Santa Monica Hostel is your very own beach house, two blocks from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier. You just have to share it with 250 of your closest friends!  When you get there, head out to the end of the pier and have dinner at Mariasol- good Mexican food and a priceless view. Of course, there’s also the arcade, some fast food places, and oh yeah, the Ferris wheel and carousel! Have fun!

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