Category Archives: California

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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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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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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Small Town ♥

Urban areas are overrated.

OK, I admit it: if I had a free ticket to Anywhere, USA, I’d be in NYC quicker than you can say X-ray scanner, and if I had to pick a destination on the West Coast it would be Seattle. I do love the big city, but I know I’d soon be back home in my tiny town. All things considered, I can’t think of a better place to experience life with my son every day. Morro Bay, CA is a small town of a little more than 10,000 residents scattered over 5 square miles.

Reasons to love Morro Bay:

  • November, 10:00 a.m., 63° (17°C) and sunny
  • I can put the baby in his stroller and run all our errands on foot
  • When business people ask for a phone number, they look at me like I’m crazy when I include the area code
  • In 2 hours of running errands, we see approximately 6 people we know
  • At the Post Office, we see a letter carrier walk right out the front door with his satchel of mail and start delivering to the businesses across the street
  • On the way home, we see 2 more letter carriers, on foot, with their satchels
  • Plus, there’s this dog that hangs out at Legends Bar:

    Legends Dog
    Legends Dog

Small town ♥ !


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A Brand New Sailor Boy

Actually, he has not been out on the water yet, but since he is the son of two sailors, I think it’s fair to call him a little sailor boy!

BabyJ in his Little GsSo this is why I have not been blogging lately. I’ve been busy taking care of this little one. He’ll be 6 weeks old on Wednesday! I had originally planned to reopen my Etsy store on August 1st, but that was just wishful thinking. Then I pushed it back to September 1st, which is only about a week and a half away, so we’ll see!

Anyway, I wanted to name him after the wind and the sea, so I did… in Hawaiian. Isn’t he sweet?

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Thrift Shop Finds May 2011 (Fabrics)

We found a great little thrift store a couple of blocks from the beach in Cayucos, CA today. I picked up some jersey-knit cotton, some cotton flannel, and some great wool and cashmere for upcycling.

I also made MrJ try on some of my finds. This is my favorite. He looks like Mister Rogers, even though it’s not a cardigan!


Trying On a Celery Green Lands End Cashmere Sweater

That’s MrJ in the Celery Lands End Cashmere Sweater. The grey Pendleton sweater has 4 or 5 moth holes in it; otherwise I would have been tempted to resell it. The flannels and jersey knits are for a new stash of cloth diapers, and I’m sure the Pendleton will become a diaper cover or two. Still not sure what I’ll do with the cashmere, but I have a hunch it will also be baby-related. Why baby-related, you ask? Oh, didn’t I tell you?


That's My Baby
This could be why I never blog anymore.




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