skincare and the sea

While there are a lot of things us sailors worry about, one of the biggest concerns is skin cancer. We are practically living outside, and the sun reflecting off the water and sand only magnifies it’s intensity. Being a ginger, protecting my skin is a way of life. I have a lot of friends with much darker (and even lighter) skin than me and I often find myself explaining what a sunburn is and that yes, you probably do burn as much as you think you don’t (especially looking at you, white folks who “don’t burn”).

Being sunburnt is bad enough, and being sunburnt while on a 4 hour watch mid day, for several days? I haven’t had to suffer through that thankfully, but I honestly don’t think I’d be able to either. Having a bimini helps keep the sun off you while in the cockpit, but some boats only have a dodger which only offers protection from the sun during certain times of the day.

I use SPF 50 and always select the Zinc products found at Whole Foods or similar health food stores. I go through about a bottle every month or two, depending on what I’m doing. I have a different lotion for my face than I do for my body, as it won’t clog your pores or irritate your skin. I also have an SPF lip balm, as lip sunburns can be rather irritating as well. I use the facial sunblock every day, and if I am going on a short (less than 20 minute) walk with the dogs I won’t worry about applying sunscreen to my arms/legs/chest/back. Otherwise, I lather up and toss it in my purse incase I need to reapply.

I still get burnt several times a year, because the sun will find any spot that I have missed. If I travel to a lower latitude, I generally forget how harsh the sun is and I completely space on reapplying the first day, to end up with a big ol’ burn. Heck, my eyelids even got burnt the first time I layed at the pool in Texas! That doesn’t happen in Seattle. I have finally stopped pretending as if I’m not going to get burnt and just bring the aloe freeze gel with me when I travel. These products have lidocane in them, and although I prefer the blue gel over the green gel, they are both miracle workers and really help the burn heal and ease the pain/discomfort.

I have gotten second degree burns before, both times it happened when I spent too much time in the pool or on the beach. I try my best to cover up, be in the shade, wear wide brimmed hats, etc. It is difficult to cover up when it is hot and humid, though. I find I break up the time I’m in the sun if I absolutely have to be outside when the sun is blazing hot, my skin feels more normal. When I start feeling like I’m getting burnt (while working on boat projects or walking the dogs), it’s time to go inside for a couple of hours. I’ve heard of others not going out during the peak sun hours (12 pm-3 pm) and this certainly couldn’t hurt to work into my schedule.

For the most recent second degree burn I got I ended up using Vaseline on the affected areas just to keep the skin moisturized, as sometimes it felt as if my skin was going to rip when it was dry. Thankfully, there isn’t any scarring and you can’t tell there was a water blister/burn. Even though it may be overkill, I have come back from a sun filled vacation with a new really dark freckle (like 3x darker than any spot I have) that I immediately had removed. I pretty much expect to get skin cancer, and hope I can catch it quickly enough.

On the first day leaving Hawaii for my 2014 ocean crossing, I was trying to be cautious yet still cute. The next morning, my lips were sunburnt and my face was a little tender. So… I did something I’d never done before and just went full ambush on the sun’s attempts to fry my delicate skin. I did not care how much of I resembled a beachy jihad. Comfort and safety is key at sea.


my story

family pic-1

I was born to a homeless teenage mother. The manager of the Safeway parking lot she was living in called CPS which resulted in her first-born daughter being taken away. I was still in the womb. My mom feared the man she was living in the car with, the father of the babies, was going to kill her. Her parents wouldn’t help her, and they had good reason as the man had threatened to kill them multiple times and his brothers would often terrorize anyone he had a problem with (including my 16 year old aunt). My mom showed up hundreds of miles away in Seattle via Greyhound wearing one shoe, tattered clothes, and heavily pregnant. This was where her Grandmother lived, and she had offered to take my mom in to help get my sister back. If my Grandma Frankie hadn’t done this, I would have had a t o t a l l y different life. I have never met my bio dad, and I plan to keep it that way.


My Great-Grandma helped my mom get her GED, put her through a technical school, got her her first car and helped her get an apartment after a couple of years. The pictures I remember seeing the first couple of years after my mom bought a condo seemed normal and the house was clean. I wish I could say my mom turned her life around and everything was great, but it wasn’t. At some point in my early childhood, things changed.

What I remember growing up in was a hoarders house. My friends would say things like “our mom would NEVER let the house get this dirty!” There was always a pathway to get from one room to the next. An open bag of sawdust for the guinea pigs’ cages fell down the stairs once, and it stayed there for probably over a year. Whenever I needed something, I was afraid to ask for it because I was always met with an eye roll and a sigh. I felt like the biggest inconvenience to my mom, yet if my sister so much as coughed my mom would rush by her side and make sure she was OK. I was hungry one night and afraid to ask for food, so I put a can of soup inside a pot and turned the stove on. She found it, and was pretty angry. At me, of course, not herself. Had I known how to open a can, she might not have noticed I had fed myself.

My sister was eventually in charge of the house and got whatever she wanted. She had learned early on that throwing tantrums and us not knowing our dad was a great way to make our mom feel either embarrassed or guilty enough to cave to my sisters wishes. Bio mom would take my sister on shopping sprees, spend hours in her room with her talking to her, and showering her with gifts and flowers, and cards assuring her she loved her, etc. “One day, I’m going to get one of these cards too,” I told myself…. I was a really well-behaved child. Almost too well behaved sometimes, I didn’t know how to relax and have fun. I wanted my mom to love me, yet nothing I did got her attention unless I was very very ill.

My sister I believe was bored, so she had resorted to picking on me for entertainment. She would find out what buttons of mine she could push, and she would push and push and push and push. We were usually home alone as our mom was off working. “Leave me alone” never worked, ignoring her didn’t work either because she would just push harder. But throwing things at her until I hurt her sure got her to leave me alone. The only problem is I’d then get in trouble, because according to my sister I just started throwing things at her for no reason, and “oh this poor girl has a monster of a sister.” Before you think I’m exaggerating how bad it was, several neighbors called the cops one day when we were fighting really bad. Our mother was home pretending she couldn’t hear us screaming. I remember finding scissors and in an act of desperation, grabbing them and pretending I was going to stab her. She wouldn’t leave me alone, and my mom wouldn’t do anything to get her off my back, I felt so helpless. The whole situation again was all my fault. We couldn’t share a room, so my sister got the master bedroom as my mom slept downstairs on the couch. Life was pretty miserable, but my biggest joy was being able to go swimming in the neighborhood pool in the summertime. I was there all the time, and there was nowhere else I wanted to be.

I often thought about running away, but the more I thought about it the more I didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes my mom had made because “look how well it worked out for her.” So, I was just going to have to hold my head down until I turned 18 and could move out. I started buying pot holders and placemats when I was 14 for my imaginary apartment. I was voted the worlds best day-dreamer by a teacher in high school, I hadn’t realized until later in life what a healthy coping mechanism it was.

I did move out when I was 18, but I moved in with an abusive boyfriend. After the relationship was over, I stopped eating and friends I’d known my whole life didn’t even recognize me. I experimented with drugs but decided it wasn’t for me. I knew I had to do something better with my life but I didn’t know what. I just wasn’t sure college was going to get me to where I needed to be. My friends parents would ask me what college I was going to, and I didn’t even know the names of any colleges other than the 2 most popular nearby. I didn’t know what an Associate Degree was, or a Bachelor’s Degree. I didn’t have the money for college, so why waste my time? I took a year after high school to figure out a plan, and in the mean time I had met people from all branches of the military. I figured if I passed the ASVAB, that’s where I was meant to go. I decided to go with the Air Force, because there are more women therefore I have a better chance of not getting raped (wrong). I left Seattle when I was 20 and have barely been back.

I served my four years of active duty service, and the further I got from my family the happier I was. Previously, I honestly didn’t understand why some people smiled all the time. They irked me and I secretly hated them. As I formed my own friendships, visited countries that interested me, and did well in my job, I was smiling a lot, too. I tried to pretend I missed my family, mostly because that’s how everyone talked about their family and I didn’t want to seem weird. But I didn’t miss them. I certainly had a romantic idea in my head that somehow they’d change, but I was always severely disappointed by how I’d end up in therapy for six months after a three-day visit with them. I’m not a weak person, but they have the ability to break me.

When I first left home, my mom often times would only respond to my calls when she wanted to. Apparently I never told her I broke my foot. I was 19 and still living in Seattle, and she was probably the last person I called (and then never returned that call for the duration of time I was in a cast?) Sometimes it would be several months until I heard from her again, with a “my medication wasn’t working” excuse. She could talk to everyone else just fine, but her medication prevented her from talking to just me? I never pressed, because I wasn’t in the right place to deal with the core issue yet. I was also around a lot of religious people, where you love someone no matter what they do to you or how they hurt you. I now know how incredibly toxic this is, and feel sorry for people who keep abusive people close just because “she’s your mom.”

It may seem weird to some that my “family” has no idea where I am or what I’m doing. It’s like 7 people and none of them are nice. Choose your least liked relatives and take away the ones you love. That’s what I was left with. When things are going well for me, they love to try to pop in and see if they can get their foot back in the door. They don’t care how I’m doing, really they just want to continue on with the same shit they’ve always done and I simply will not allow it anymore.

The only difference between a crazy person and a sane person is personal responsibility, and my family has zero. Nothing is ever my sisters fault (it’s actually mine, every year she has a new story as to how I ruined her life). Nothing is every my mom’s fault, it’s the medication’s fault. My Aunts, who I haven’t really mentioned, would love me so much more if I were just skinner, married a rich man, were a Republican and loved God, worked in an office and did everything society says women should do to find a man. It royally sucks when people won’t accept you for who you are, but when you rid yourself of them, you open the door for people who DO accept you, who DO care about you, who DO value you and respect you.

I tend to read people’s bios and come away thinking “wow, we have NOTHING in common!” Most people with issues like mine have severe drug and substance abuse issues, which thankfully I curbed quickly, but I get it. I get the self-destructive behavior, not caring about yourself because nobody else seems to. I totally get it, and I understand how much it hurts. It took me years to be able to understand what narcisistic abuse was, find a therapist who could help me move forward and heal, find ways to deal with my own issues when they crept up, etc. I want to be able to say to anyone resonating with this that there is hope for you. You have a right to be happy. You have a right to follow your dreams. Your feelings aren’t wrong, and you are not stupid. Trust me when I say “you do you, and you will find your people.” I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, but once you learn to trust your gut, set boundaries, and find a path that works for you and what you want for your life, you simply can’t go wrong <3

adventures progressions

10 ways you can loose steering, or propulsion, or jack up your rudder


Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 8.35.58 AM

I feel like there are a million ways to loose steering or propulsion. I didn’t feel this way before I set out on my journey, but I feel that way now. I’ve experienced a few of them, and it seems like there are way more systems and little seemingly insignificant pieces to look that than I could have imagined. Coconut has hydraulic steering, so here are some things you should triple check before leaving the dock.

1. Make sure the system has been recently serviced and doesn’t have ANY leaks. Keep at least a gallon of hydraulic fluid on hand incase you need to bleed the system. Also have a bleeding setup you can do yourself if you need to. It’s a two person job, but when you’re alone you’ve got to figure out something.

2. Check the clevis pins and make sure they all have cotter pins. Yes, mine was missing cotter pins and we made it 48 hours offshore before finding out. Overall a stupid problem to have, and would have been much more frightening had we been closer to shore.

3. Inspect the bracket holding on the hydraulic steering. Mine snapped off when I tacked going the fastest so far we’ve gone, around 6 knots steady, all because it was only welded on one side (not both) all over. Have a backup of the bracket just incase and make sure the area it’s bolted on to is structurally sound.



4. Make sure your emergency rudder can work if the main rudder is no longer working. When the bracket snapped, the rudder was flopping around for several hours as I got towed. This not only resulted in damage to the rudder, but because the main rudder was still moving, the emergency rudder couldn’t out perform it.


5. Emergency Tiller: Coconut came with an emergency tiller as well as shaft to put on the rudder post. The only piece missing was the part to secure the tiller post to the rudder post. I now have this piece, although I could have (and should have) used it when I lost steering! Test it out while underway, several times. I will time myself doing everything from removing the mounted tiller and metal post to moving bedding out of the way to having it working. It’s good to know how much time it will take you to set this system up just incase something happens. By the 3rd or 4th time of doing something, you figure out a system that works. Write it down if you need to, with maps of where parts are!

6. Your wheel might have a “key” on it. When I had the hydraulic system serviced, I had a new key made. If this key snaps off, you have no way to steer with the wheel anymore.

7. Check your gear shifter and make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight! Mine rattled loose, thankfully I was already in an anchorage and ready to drop the hook anyways. Timing has never been my specialty, but damn, I couldn’t have asked for it to happen at a better moment! Had it been 10 minutes earlier I’d have been on the rocks of the jetty. My buddy James saved the day on this one, he came out in his boat to diagnose the issue. You can watch the YouTube video here!

8. When trying to diagnose what the issue was with the gear shifter, having a line wrapped around the prop was mentioned. I had of course heard of this happening before, but never knew what the signs were. What happens is the engine runs, but turns off as soon as you put it in gear. Now I know! And if you do accidentally run over a line, put the engine in neutral as soon as you notice, and wait to put it in gear again until you are sure you are past the line. That way the prop won’t suck the line in. The only way to remedy this issue is to jump in the water, so having a wetsuit is pretty important if you aren’t in warm waters.

9. Your rudder is supposed to have a “stopper” on it to prevent it from going too far in either direction while in reverse. I didn’t know this until I had the Autopilot installed, but apparently because I have hydraulic steering it can’t go too far in either direction anyways.

and last but not least…

10. If your wheel is suddenly turning and turning and turning and you’re thinking “dammit, not again!!!” Make sure the autopilot isn’t still on…. 😊

Overall, I’m glad these things happened or that I learned they could happen. A couple of things, like the clevis pin / cotter pin issue, several people had looked at and didn’t notice the pins were missing. Sh*# happens, it’s nobody’s fault in particular, but in the end it is your responsibility as the boat owner and Captain to keep your boat safe. Coconut hasn’t sailed since the late 80’s, I have to cut her a little slack as I shake her down and rattle things loose.

I am also eternally grateful for the mishaps I did have, as I did a lot of things right. I was not only several miles offshore (giving me time to figure out a plan) or in a safe anchorage, but I was fortunate enough to have received help when I made the call. I even got towed by a company who specifically does. not. tow. people. For all my friends reading who are scared for me, please don’t worry. I am one lucky lady, and with everything that goes wrong the boat gets better, and I get wiser.