Sunday, August 10, 2014

Settling in


Wow.  We sure have packed in a lot in the past 5 weeks. We had a couple of parties in Ct to attend with old friends that were a joy to see again.  Other than a few more lines on all of our faces, things have not changed too much. 


Emily got to see her old house and walk through the inside.  The new owners were gracious enough to invite us in and even had a few questions that only the builders (us) would know.  They have kept the house even better than we could have and they both must have green thumbs since the landscaping was much improved.


We got some health insurance and have all started to get medical exams to determine how we fared outside of the USA for 6 years.  Emily was fitted with braces for her teeth and is thrilled (NOT) to be entering high school with a mouth filled with metal.  Her school placement testing went better than expected as she will waive normal 9th grade Algebra 1 and Physics and take all subjects except gym and Spanish at honors level. We are very proud parents!

 

Tom has been clearing overgrown brush and fallen trees around the Ludlow mass cottage and trying to get it livable for the coming cold winter. Already replaced were 3 rotting floor joists and heat tape is being installed under the house to keep exposed water pipes from bursting (again).  Kim and Emily have been scrubbing ceilings, walls and floors of 6 years (or more) of dirt and making new curtains.  A washing machine was wired and plumbed in the barn and the house refrigerator needed replacement.

 

We all got Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 smart phones and are slowly discovering all the magic they contain. Smart TVs are being researched as Tom is trying to figure a way to eliminate cable TV altogether by using streaming internet. We found no good reason to re-connect our land-line phone, so good riddance to another bill!

We have held some discussions with the town and uncovering the bureaucratic hurtles we will have to overcome to build another house on our 40 acres of land.  Surveyors, lawyers and architects are being contacted. We attended a local Ludlow fair and Emily did pretty good at rock climbing.

 

We will continue to shuttle back and forth between Ludlow, Ma and Groton, CT until the boat is hauled out near the end of August.  0ver 60 boxes have been off-loaded into our dear friend’s basement and 4 carloads have been brought north so far.  The water line is slowly rising as we uncover parts of the boat that have been buried for years. Tom is trying to remember the winterizing steps and how many gallons of pink antifreeze will be needed. Going south until the butter melts was a much better plan!

We got a little more press; this time from Nordhavn, the boat builder.  Here’s the link but it was mostly a copy job from the Maryland newspaper piece:


Well life goes on and we will continue to chip away at becoming dirt dwellers again.  Once Emily is back in school and the boat is out of the water, things should settle down a bit…We shall see.

Tom

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Home At Last- And Celebrities at That!



We finally made it back to the same yacht club in Groton, CT that we left in 2008.  Life is a chaos trying to re-establish all the things we will need to return to the dirt dweller life.  Just a quick blog to reprint the article that the paper in Ocean City just printed.  The link is below, but it will probably only work until the next big story blows in.  Therefore, I pasted it directly below:

 
World-Traveling Lawler Family Stops in Ocean Pines

Posted on Ocean City Today newspaper on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 by Josh Davis

OCEAN PINES– After six long, fascinating years at sea, the Lawler family is finally coming home.


Tom Lawler posed with his wife Kim and daughter Emily aboard their ship the Emily Grace following a 6-year cruise around the world. The ship was docked at the Sunset Marina in West Ocean City last week.
JOSH DAVIS/OCEAN CITY TODAY

In 2008 Tom, his wife Kim and their then 8-year-old daughter Emily sold their home in Connecticut and began a global cruising trek.

Last month the Lawlers returned to the U.S., docking first in Port Canaveral, Fla. then sailing to Georgia, on to South Carolina and through Virginia in their Nordhavn 46 motor yacht named “Emily Grace.” In early June the family arrived at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City and spent a few days visiting Tom’s mother, Shirley, in Ocean Pines.

The Lawlers caught the cruising bug years ago during a scuba diving vacation in Belize on a live-aboard boat.

“It was very luxurious and we all came out thinking to ourselves, ‘why don’t we do this – just get a boat and go wherever you want to go?’” Tom said. “So that was kind of the seed. We developed a plan and saved as much as we could, and when we hit the right number we left.”

Tom grew up in Annapolis and spent every summer in Ocean City with his parents and two brothers. He learned to pilot small boats on the Severn River as a child, but he had to do plenty of research before setting sail across the world.

“You need to know about the customs, and you obviously have to know a lot about navigation,” Tom said. “I took some classes before I left.”

Kim, who has an extensive medical background, took classes as well and became a certified HAM radio operator, allowing the family to use a single sideband radio to transmit data and send and receive emails through satellite technology while at sea.

The boat was stocked with spare parts so the Lawlers could perform most repairs themselves. “You need to find what parts are critical – what parts will shut down the trip – and those are the ones you carry,” Tom said.

A broad range of medical supplies, including antibiotics, was also packed. “Kim could do injections, and we had controlled narcotics for pain,” said Tom. “We went to our doctor and explained what we were doing and they were happy to fill up prescriptions for us. When we left Emily was actually so young that she couldn’t take an adult dose, so we had to carry powdered antibiotics that you mix up.”

SETTING SAIL

After selling their home to fund the trip, the family headed first to Maine, then south through the Caribbean and Trinidad before heading west through Venezuela and Columbia.

Emily was homeschooled throughout the trip using Baltimore-based Calvert School’s curriculum. Food was – for the most part – bought during various stops along the way.

“Wherever you go they have food – they just may not have your food,” Tom said. “So we learned to eat weird things.”

Sometimes the family would stop for a day or two and gather supplies. Other times they would stay and set up camp for several months.

“We were in New Zealand for six months,” Kim said. “It was always because of the weather or the season – having to move – but that was the longest we stayed in any one place.”

“You have to time all the places in the world around the hurricane or cyclone seasons,” said Tom. “We entered the Panama Canal in February, which gives you the most time in the Pacific before the next hurricane season, but we only got as far as Tonga; if we stayed any longer we could potentially encounter a hurricane. So what you do is you go south.

“At certain latitudes near the equator there are no hurricanes,” Tom continued. “So you go down to New Zealand and you wait, and while we’re down enjoying New Zealand there were hurricanes swirling in the Pacific to the North of us.”

While in Niuatoputapu, Tonga, the Lawlers found a village virtually swept away by a tsunami. The Red Cross had dropped two dozen kit homes on enormous pallets on the shore and then disappeared.
The villagers, forced to live under trees, had no idea how to build the homes. Tom, with the help of several other fellow cruisers, met with the island elders to make a plan.

“There were six or seven cruising boats and we all got out our hammers and came ashore,” he said. “We got a bunch of the villagers together too so they would learn, and we all built a house together in one day.

“What was cool was this man that we built it for was about 75 years old,” Tom continued. “We started very early in the morning and at noon he comes riding up in this rusty, old bicycle, and he has a basket and he made us lunch – all the guys. It was so sweet to watch him. And at the end of the day it was his home, and we gave it to him and he just had tears running down his face. And then, once the villagers knew how to do it, they had another 20 kit homes and they could do it themselves.”
Tom said it was important to him – and many of the other cruisers – to give back.

“We visit these exotic places and don’t want to be seen as typical tourists taking pictures and leaving trash on the beach,” he said. “The personal interactions with the locals is what makes each country special and is just as priceless to me as the help we give them. At the end of the day we hope many of the locals will remember us as friends and have fond memories of us just as we do of them.”

During a stop in Fiji Emily briefly attended school with a friend she met on the island, wearing a loaned uniform and carrying in stacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and potato chips. The local school children devoured the foreign delicacy, while Emily ate the noodles the other children brought for lunch.

Showering could also an adventure.

“It was a tree trunk and two wooden walls and a rack for a washcloth, and the only soap that they had was what we brought,” Emily said. “The water was ice-cold, and if there was anybody out in the woods they would have seen us.”

Emily learned to do origami to pass the time, and would often make paper cranes to give away to native children.



Emily Lawler, 13, showed off her intricate origami dragon. Lawler made origami creatures for natives in more than a dozen country during her family’s 6-year cruise around the world.
JOSH DAVIS/OCEAN CITY TODAY

“There would be 30 kids wanting a little crane and I would make one for each of them and they would gasp,” she said.

“We would come into a village and there would be a couple of kids and they would be shy and hiding behind a tree, and then they’d come out and start talking to us and Emily would just start folding without saying anything,” Tom said. “The kids started watching. Then once you did the one and handed it to them that’s all it took; kids would come out of the bushes and they would be all around her. In some cases she would even stop and teach them how to do it. You should have seen the smiles on their faces.”

When they weren’t enjoying the lush, tropical locales and dozens of fascinating cultures they encountered along the way, the family would unwind on their boat watching movies stored on the four-terabyte hard drive packed for the trip.

That’s not to say things were always peaceful. Swimming with sharks and interacting with local wildlife became second nature, but mechanical failures – and the occasional run in with pirates – threatened to derail the trip on several occasions.

In one instance the Emily Grace ran into trouble when a small coolant leak led to a potentially disastrous problem crossing from the Maldives to Chagos.

“We thought we’ll just go – we’ll limp along, I’ll keep adding coolant and hopefully we’ll get to a place where we can have it fixed,” Tom said. “It was a 300-mile trip down to the uninhabited atolls of Chagos and we were 60 miles into it, and there was a little seal that was weeping – ‘drip, drip, drip’ – and suddenly it became a catastrophic failure. It dumped all the coolant to the bilge and the engine overheated and we had to shut it down; we didn’t have anything to fix it with.”

Luckily, the family was able to use their spare “wing engine.” They turned the boat around, slowly sputtered back to the Maldives at half speed, and had new parts shipped from the United States.

Unable to find a mechanic, the Lawlers performed the repairs themselves. “It’s about 100 degrees or more there and we’re all in the engine room,” Kim said. “It was so hot.”

“It was a very big part and it was awkward and very heavy,” Tom said. “Three of us in a cramped, little engine room – it was a struggle. But if we hadn’t of had the wing engine we might have died – we would have been lost at sea.”

Pirates also presented problems.

“We were going to come from India and go up to the Red Sea and go through the Mediterranean Sea, but Somalia is there and there were a lot of people that were being captured and held for ransom,” Tom said. “That’s where we made the decision to go around South Africa, and that added a lot of miles to our trip. But it was necessary.

“We ran dark – meaning we had no lights,” Tom continued. “We turned off our radar; we turned off our Automatic Identifying System. At night we were completely pitch black. If you so much as left the radar on they could use that beam to find you.”

Less life-threatening but no less important, the family was constantly on the lookout for other children for Emily to play with.

“When we left – at age 8 – mom and dad were the world,” Tom said. “But as she got older, most kids want to play with other kids. So we would seek out other boats that had kids and we would cruise with them. The problem is that, after a while, she was always saying goodbye. They make a friend and they make them quick, then a month or two later they have to say goodbye again.”

Emily’s longest friendship began in Madagascar and included a four-month stay in South Africa and stops in St. Helena and Brazil.

“It was a boy and a girl from Tasmania – Zeke and Nina,” she said. “We met in Madagascar and we cruised with them for about a year. That’s the longest I’ve ever been with another boat.”

COMING HOME

Since returning to the states, the family has enjoyed many of the comforts that were unavailable at sea.

“Ever since they got here they’ve been in the bathtub,” Shirley said.

“Every night,” said Tom. “We really missed that.”

Kim is relishing having a kitchen to move around in. “I’m enjoying the space and all the pots and pans,” she said. “The washing machine has been really nice too. We have a little washing machine on the boat, but most of the time I was using a bucket. I have a new appreciation for a lot of things.”

“We were in a restaurant the other day and Emily came out and said, ‘I can’t believe there is automatic flush on the toilet – automatic soap – automatic paper towels,” Shirley said.

The Lawlers plan on returning to Connecticut, unloading their “treasures,” and living in a small family owned cottage in Massachusetts. Tom said they would sell the boat and build a new home next spring.

Emily will attend school in the U.S. for the first time since 2008, entering the ninth grade in late August. “I can’t wait to meet some new friends, but I haven’t been to school in six years so I’m a little nervous,” she said.

Asked about her six years at sea Emily said, “I think it takes a brave person; it was a good experience, but I wouldn’t do it again.”

Kim was less diplomatic.

“I always said it takes a na├»ve or a stupid person,” she said with a laugh.

“When they first started out they were down in the Bahamas, and every time they would see something or go scuba diving and see some beautiful fish Emily would say, ‘OK, now we can go home?’” said Shirley. “And her father would say, ‘but what are you going to see tomorrow?’”



 “And there were always new experiences or discoveries,” said Tom. “Emily swam with dolphins in the Caribbean, sea lions in Galapagos, sharks in Samoa, humpback whales in Tonga and got her full SCUBA certification in Fiji. During the six years she has ridden an elephant, horses, a camel and an ostrich.”

Life – they all agreed – will be simpler than it was before the trip.

“You come back and appreciate what you have,” Kim said. “It’s amazing – the majority of people we saw are still cooking on a wood fire and living in a hut.”

“I wanted Emily to see that,” Tom said. “I wanted her to know that the United States is unusual in the way we live and the things we have. There are a lot of things that kids get into – little toys and gadgets – and they think that they have to have them. But they really don’t. I think she knows enough now to make that distinction.”

“We won’t waste water or waste energy like we used to,” Emily said.

Kim said the family intends to build an environmentally friendly house where she hopes to have a vegetable garden.

“But the first thing we’re going to do is go out and get a puppy,” she said. “And we’ll have chickens and we’ll have goats and we’ll live simply.”

The Lawlers kept a blog during their travels filled with hundreds of vivid photos and descriptions of the places they saw and the people they met. Visit www.mvemilygrace.blogspot.com to follow their journey.

We may not post too much beyond this since all my Dear readers already know all about living ashore…unless you beg...

Tom

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Maryland, New Jersey and New York

We had a nice visit with Tom’s family in Ocean City, Maryland.  His mother lives 15 minutes away from the marina and we spent all but two nights sleeping off the boat at her home.  All three of us luxuriated in baths almost every night and really slept soundly in her beds. We played cards or other games each night and it was like we had never left.  She had a small list of things to do mostly in her kitchen area that was being updated.  Most items were completed quickly and we were happy to help out.  We also did some other little items and some cleaning but brother Jeff has been doing most of this work for the past six years.

 
While we visited, a local mechanic sorted out problems with a generator (new raw water and coolant pumps) and lugger transmission (reverse plates missing and damaged seals from Africa repair).  The work was more expensive than we have grown used to but the work seemed to be done right and higher prices, I fear, are going to be the norm from here on.

As a bonus, Tom got to see his brother Mike working on the kitchen and brother Jeff and sister-in-law Peggy and two of their 6 kids.  Emily really enjoyed playing with Brian who had latched on to her and never tired of playing games. We enjoyed being paraded around to my mother’s bingo and AARP clubs and we even got interviewed by Ocean City Today for an article about the circumnavigation.
After two weeks, we headed out to sea and after two quick stops in Atlantic City and Sandy Hook, we found ourselves anchored just off Liberty Park in New Jersey just across from New York City.  We still cannot believe that there is a free, protected anchorage near this city where most marinas charge about $200 per night for dockage. The half-broken dingy dock that was here in 2008 is now gone and we now have to dingy right under the Statue of Liberty torch and by Ellis Island to leave the dingy at the expensive marina.  From here we can take a $7 ferry right to the World Trade center in Manhattan.  

We stayed here for 5 nights exploring the city for two days. On our first day, we saw the 911 memorial that was quite moving and the new World Trade Center building (Freedom Tower) that was built while we were traveling. 

 

We then took the subway uptown to spend the day in the Museum of Natural History. We spent a full day exploring the museum and barely scratched the surface.  The pterosaur exhibit and the exhibit on poisons were particularly well done.  

 
One exhibit worked by standing on a special pad and flapping your arms, you could control a live video of a flying and hunting pterosaur.  Emily understood that all the information was being transmitted though her feet to the computer.  The foot pads could detect arms flapping by the fluctuating changes in foot pressure.  Pressure on the toes would cause the bird to dive for fish and pressure on the heels would make him soar higher.  Left and right turns would be directed by the differences in pressure caused by leaning…very well done.

Emily found it interesting that many of the poisons like the tarantula, manchineel tree and poison dart frogs had been seen (and handled) first hand! We also saw the Mysteries of the Unseen World in their IMAX theatre.

Day two kept us closer to the boat and we spent the day inside the Liberty Science Center which was about a 10 minute walk from our anchorage.  Although many of the exhibits and interactive displays were geared toward kids younger than Emily, there was still plenty to keep us amused all day.  A high cool factor was given to the 3D simulator that required remote operation of two robotic arms to do delicate tasks like moving and transferring small objects.  Emily was much better at this than Dad.
 

We also saw two movies (Great White Shark and Island of Lemurs: Madagascar) in the nation’s largest IMAX dome theater.  The domed screen is 88 feet in diameter and seats 400 which is just a tad bigger than the 17” screen on Emily Grace.

 

After a quiet Sunday aboard doing homeschool and a few boat repairs, we headed back to the city. Although the subway was crowded with morning rush hour traffic, we did not experience 105 dB music, smell any stinkfruit (durian) or see anyone carrying live goats or chickens.   


The first stop was FAO Swartz (toy store) uptown near central park.  Emily experienced culture shock with 3 floors of toys.  We next wandered around central park seeing the Handsome cabs and did some people watching around the pond. We found authentic Maine lobster rolls for lunch at Luke’s Lobster in the Plaza food center.  


We strolled down 5th avenue enjoying the elaborate window displays.  St Patricks’ Cathedral was covered with scaffolding for renovations and Rockefeller center was converted into a restaurant, so things were less impressive than we remembered.  Not discouraged though, we rounded the corner a turned into a LEGO store.  Emily has not tired of LEGO and we even found a couple of bargains.  She hand built 3 mini-figures and filled a container with all the special pieces she could fit in a special cup.


We were back on the boat by late afternoon and slept good again in the Liberty Park anchorage.  Tomorrow we will ride the 3-4 knot current up the East River through Hell’s Gate and into Long Island sound.  Our plan is to slowly work our way back towards Groton and our old yacht club in Pine Island by early July.  Our old car is still being revived after sitting for 6 years and we are uncertain where we will find dockage while we unpack the boat.  Any Readers with dockage in the area are encouraged to let us know.

Tom

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moving North up the Ditch


It was a bumpy overnight ride from Charleston to Carolina Beach, NC.  We slipped by Cape Fear into the intracoastal, through Snows Cut and down Masonburo Sound to find our destination.  Carolina Beach is a nice town with the ocean on one side and the calm sound on the other with cottages lined up between.  We were greeted at a really nice dingy dock where they had individual slips for each dingy with proper cleats.  We tied up and enjoyed strolling the town. 


We found a nice place serving local fried oyster Po-Boys that were really good.  As we walked near the beach we saw a line of not less than 60 people lined up at Britts.  We found out that they only serve one thing…hot, fresh glazed doughnuts!  Since the locals promised that they were famous “round these parts”, we joined the line and chowed down.  They were, in fact, good.


44 miles up the ditch, we pulled into Mike Hammock Bay for the night, which is a part of Camp Lejune.  We enjoyed watching the Marines playing war around us in the sea and air.

 

Another 40 miles up the ditch brought us to Beaufort, NC.  We visited the North Carolina Maritime Museum were they had all kinds of artifacts from Blackbeards ship Queen Anne’s Revenge that was recently found nearby.  We stocked up at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store (I just love that name) and moved on.

 

Two more anchorages in the Nuese and Alligator Rivers allowed us to rest for two nights tied up at the free Elizabeth City docks.  Kim spotted turtles all along the rivers and even saw one alligator. We even found a free electrical plug in Elizabeth City that I could reach with two 100 foot extension cords I had aboard.  It was enjoyable being able to step ashore and not running the generator to keep the batteries happy was also nice.


Another two nights and we crossed into Virginia and pulled into a dock at Atlantic Yacht Basin.  They are known for quality work and I needed a second opinion on a transmission problem.  Unfortunately they confirmed that I will need to pull it out of the boat (as I did in Africa 2 years ago) and change some seals.  Their quote was too high so we made arrangements to have this work done while we visit with my mother in Ocean City, Maryland.


We moved 10 miles to the north and found ourselves in Norfolk, Va.  Here we found the Chrysler Museum and Glassworks to be extraordinary and, even better, both were free to enter.  

 
 

The car magnate opened his collection to the public and we all enjoyed the artwork and artifacts from around the world.   

 

 
The blown glass, cameos and paintings were breathtaking and this statues face really captured my emotion as I discovered that my transmission needed to be repaired again!


We visited the Glassworks and saw a presentation where a glass vase was created and blown from liquid glass to the finished product.


We had one more day to wait for weather to move up in the Atlantic Ocean to Ocean City Maryland, so we went ashore again.  This day we visited the Nauticus museum. We spent 2 hours in the morning just going through the museum and had lunch out side and came back to see the ship.  Berthed at Nauticus, the Wisconsin is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy. It was impressive and Emily liked seeing the oversized equipment like anchors and windlass compared to our little ship.


The weather report finally said go and we headed out to sea again.  It was another overnight passage to Ocean City and we slipped into the marina at 8:30 AM.  Once hooked up to power and water and rinsed off, we called my mother who lives in nearby Berlin.  We will get our transmission and generator all fixed up while we visit for 2 weeks.  My mother has a short list of handyman items that I can help with and the whole crew is looking forward to long baths and beds that don’t move!

Tom