The seas have calmed considerably today. I’m sitting in my favorite spot on the boat, where I spend several hours each day. I sit nestled against four velvet pillows at our U shaped salon table. My view is of my feet stretched out in front of me on dusty blue upholstery, then beyond that my herb garden hovers in the center, unmoving, set against a tilting, frothing ocean.

I love this view. Even when seas built to alarming heights over the last couple days, there was a quiet joy and wonder in watching as they snuck up behind Magic, rose quickly, and then splashed and thudded upon impact.

Watching the waves gave me an illusion of control over them. When a steep wave crashed into Magic with a loud noise, at least I could see it coming. I knew what caused that thunderous sound. Plus these were the biggest seas either of us had ever seen and I just couldn’t look away. They were the brightest, most beautiful shade of blue I’d ever seen. They were positively mesmerizing.

The gift on the other side of uncomfortably large seas is a deep conviction, a knowledge so solid it could never be felt by reading, or by an old salt’s advice, is that this is what your boat can do. This is what you can do. You did it successfully and you can do it again. And honestly, our boat was never anywhere near her limits. She can weather so much more. I know we can, too.

Our boat is even more today a thing of admiration, beauty, and comfort than before. She protected us. She rode the waves and performed beautifully. Our expectations are reset regarding the size of seas we think will present a challenge for our boat. Those 6 foot waves which seemed large and lumpy a few days ago don’t even register now. They are just a part of the ocean. In this way, the trip has become more relaxing. Our comfort limits have had to expand early and now everything else seems easier.

It’s been great reading the conditions reports from other small boats sailing nearby. We get these reports from a great free website called Farkwar. Here are some reports from the last 48 hours:

“It’s always interesting (a nice word for scary) to look off the side of the boat and see a big wall of water next to you.”

“In the afternoon we had some of the biggest waves we have seen at around 12 feet.”

“The big seas remind us of stormy days off the coast of Washington and Oregon.”

“It is a one hand for you, one hand for the boat kind of day.”

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Conditions were mellow during the first few days of our trip, but now we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean riding 12 foot waves. They rise up behind Magic with white foam frothing on their surfaces. The blue peaks hit the bottom of the boat with a large thud, and then a short thundering noise travels down both beams of our catamaran. Finally Magic falls into the trough between waves only to begin rising once again.

This began last night when winds built to 25+ knots sustained. We’re sailing downwind and are in the beginning of the trade winds portion of our trip across the Pacific Ocean, where the winds blow gently from behind and take you straight to the Marquesas. It’s referred to as the “Coconut Milk Run”.

This isn’t really so gentle, and this sea state isn’t going away anytime soon. We have seen consistent 25+ knot wind and there is more in the forecast.

How to cope? Take plenty of video and photos, and appreciate the mountainous waves. Marvel at the way our boat rides them so smoothly. Then when it all gets to be too much, close the curtains for a while and watch the Simpsons.


After some incredibly memorable last minute-ing, our engines were finally purring instead of clattering. Our big trip is going to happen. We’re going to sail 3000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. For a couple weeks we weren’t sure if it would work out. Our engines were giving us last minute trouble. As my friend Leanne says, you can only push a boat so far. Brian worked feverishly on our two diesel engines with the help of our skilled mechanic, Colin.

We had a time constraint to work around for this trip, which takes anywhere from 15 to 30 days. I need to get to an internet café in the Marquesas by April 14, which is the day one of my big programming processes runs at the University. Yes, my employer approved a month off from work for this trip, but requested that I “return” in time to support this important process. I won’t go into boring programming details, because this is a blog about vans and dreams, but suffice to say I need to be available for this.

At one point, desperate for the right parts and unable to get them in Mexico, Brian flew from La Paz to San Diego to get new shafts for Magic’s sail drives, then flew back to La Paz the next day. We hauled out the boat on a crane twice to work on Magic’s sail drives. But in the final hour, the most maddening job ended up being the injectors.

The injector system was like a house of cards, and every time one piece of it was touched something else would break. The most annoying part was a tiny, wiggly fuel supply hose. Each time it got tightened down too much, or its delicate feelings disrespected in any way (maybe someone looked at it cross-eyed?) it would sprout a new leak and Colin would whisk it away to his own personal Neverland to soothe it with more soldering. Each time it left the boat for another trip to his shop we grew more frustrated. By the fourth time this happened we were about to lose our minds.

Finally the delicate part returned and was installed successfully. We departed full of excitement, but with a sobering fact hanging in the air: we hadn’t tested all these changes to our engines yet. Our last minute-ing may have put our trip at risk. If we found more problems while motoring from La Paz to Cabo it could be too late to fix them. Our mechanic, a good guy with a big heart, reassured us he would drive to Cabo to help with more repairs if needed. He had become invested in our trip and wanted to make those engines work for us.

Luckily we motored all the way to Cabo and enjoyed great engine performance the entire time. Whales jumped near Magic and we were so pleased about our engines. With everything going so well, we knew we were headed off into the big blue Pacific. This is our someday.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll never forget the time I met Sherbert the kitten. It was late afternoon and Brian and I had driven all day from Tucson, Arizona to reach our boat in San Carlos, Mexico. Our Sprinter van bounced into the marina parking area, which was just a dusty patch of ground adorned with a big green dumpster. This part of Mexico is pretty casual. There are no malls here, just the ocean, friendly Mexicans, and a kitten who needed a family.

We were elated to be here and anxious to see our boat. We opened the van doors to a wall of hot, humid air. We stepped outside and walked toward our boat, and then Sherbert appeared.

She was cute as could be with an orange coat and a furry white chest patch. She was small and painfully skinny, though, and kept her distance. She meowed loudly from a safe perimeter, around ten feet away, as we moved things from the van to the boat.

She must be hungry. What could I feed her? I searched my food supplies from the previous season and found several cans of Costco chicken breast. What kitten wouldn’t love that?

She did love it, especially the broth, yet remained skittish and ran away when I got within a couple feet of her.

My prediction was that Sherbert and I would be cuddling by the end of my 8 day stay and she would turn into a great boat cat. Brian wasn’t sure about that and called Sherbert “semi-feral”.

img_0898-largeDuring the first couple days I would simply set Sherbert’s food a few feet away and sit with her as she ate. On the third day I set the food close to me and sat down on the dock next to our boat. Slowly Sherbert realized she would need to expand her comfort zone if she wanted to eat, so she inched closer.

She began to lap up some chicken broth and I reached out my hand to sneak a quick pet on her back. Instead of running, she stopped and peered at me with a confused expression as I withdrew my hand. I waited a second, and then petted her again in the same manner. She looked at me, eyes alert and watchful. Then, the third time I touched her she actually rose up to meet my hand!

It was an exciting moment, and soon Brian came out to celebrate Sherbert’s first petting by taking some photos of us and enjoying the loving scene taking place on the dock in front of the boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI grew to love Sherbert more as she took her first steps onto my lap and later let me pick her up. She came running when I called her name and enjoyed being petted as much as possible. Brian and I would walk to the beach with Sherbert trailing behind us. She played in the sand and we tried to teach her how to hunt crabs.

She would be a wonderful boat cat and I’ve always wanted a cat who would enjoy travelling on the boat with us. But we had plans to fly back to the US for the holidays and there are strict laws about crossing a border with an animal. We wouldn’t be allowed to bring Sherbert until she’d been vaccinated and then cleared a 30 day waiting period. We also plan to sail the South Pacific which is not pet friendly, either. Imported pets are subject to lengthy quarantines.

Sadly, Sherbert couldn’t become part of our family but she was starting to get a little plumper. She was getting pretty friendly, so I hoped someone would want her as a pet. I asked a couple people who walked by and they just laughed. Leaving her at the marina was a heartbreaking idea. One day she would come around looking for us and find only an empty dock, not a big white boat full of love. She would continue to meow at people, but no one would know she was more than just a stray. She had become used to sitting on laps and eating regular meals. I had given her a taste of what it was like to belong with someone, and now I couldn’t take that away from her. What was I going to do?

I started calling and emailing the local animal rescue organizations but none of them were taking cats. One lady I spoke with offered to list Sherbert in a newsletter, which was great, but then a couple quiet days passed with no calls or emails.

Then I got a very exciting phone message from a lady named Gwen. She wanted Sherbert. Her home was a cat sanctuary and it was just a few miles away.

I cried and felt so happy. Sherbert wouldn’t continue to return to an empty dock; instead she would have a better life. Gwen’s call came just in time since we were scheduled to leave the next day.

I prepared a fabric covered box for Sherbert’s transport, and cut several holes in the top. It was easy to get Sherbert into the box, and she was fairly mellow as Brian drove to Gwen’s home while I held her box. She poked her tiny nose out of the holes in the top of the box a couple times, but otherwise settled in for the ride.

When we arrived at Gwen’s house we knew we were in the right place. Several cats lounged luxuriously in front of a tall iron gate. Gwen stood in front of the gate, waving at us. Pink walls and green trees framed the front of the house, high on a hill near the ocean. We entered through the iron gate and then walked in the front door. A gentle rottweiler and a smaller, elderly white dog greeted us, along with three cats. The entry way had high walls painted with a brightly colored jungle scene.

img_0241-largeWe handed Sherbert’s box to Gwen and she gently lifted the lid, cooed at Sherbert and placed her in a kennel. Sherbert immediately began eating dry cat food from a small dish. I sat down next to her and said goodbye. A friendly cat rubbed against me, welcoming me immediately into the fold.

We walked outside and chatted with Gwen for awhile as cats rubbed against us. Brian enjoyed watching a very acrobatic black cat who jumped skillfully from a tree to a fence to a car and back again.

Gwen said she wants a kitten and may keep Sherbert as a permanent resident in her home. Gwen also sends cats to the US to be adopted and Sherbert may be adopted in the US someday. Either way, Sherbert is in loving, competent hands and is hopefully being petted and fed at this very moment. It was sad we could not keep her but I helped her find a better life, and I can’t remember feeling better about anything.

Gwen was absolutely lovely, a bundle of blonde energy with a thirty year history of helping animals. I still get misty eyed thinking of our conversation about providing dogs and cats with vet care from the back of a car in the desert, Gwen’s battle with cancer, and her desire to be well and travel the world with her daughter.

Bless you, Gwen, and may all your dreams and wishes come true. You deserve it. Meeting you reminded me of the vast amount of good just one person can do in this world.

And thanks for helping someone I love. I’ll never forget it.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been bouncing around all summer long. Like a pinball. Bing. Ding!

Sometimes the pinball would hit good things and lots of happy lights and sounds erupted. Other times, it missed its target completely and fell down the chute, feeling lost and not sure where to go next.

This summer was a mixture of these two pinball states, and we remained in motion nearly the entire time. I lost the balance and simplicity I enjoyed about nomad life. My life lacked stability and there was no element of simplicity anymore. Somewhere I crossed a line I did not even know was there, and I felt it deep in my bones.

2016-07-27-14-12-02-largeA sense of belonging is a basic human need, and I moved around too much and spent too little time with loved ones to feel like I belonged anywhere this summer. I need a community, at least part of the year. I need to belong to something larger than this isolated, nomadic, fervent life. In the past, I always found a balance between relaxing and adventures. But this summer we tried to play catch up from six months on the sailboat, and had a very long list of things to accomplish. A few of the items: buying investment property, taxes, mail, preparing for the biggest sailing trip of our lives, attending my 20 year high school reunion, selling a van, and then buying that van right back because the sale (to a friend) was a miserable failure.

We lost the simplicity of van life. Instead of enjoying peaceful time in nature, we grabbed zealously at big dreams while living in a tiny enclosure. Sometimes we stayed in short term rentals or hotels, but they always had problems and we never felt truly comfortable. We had two work trips, both of which required driving and flying. Exhausting, those trips were.

We did it, yay, and supported and loved each other along the way. But it was difficult. And the van was full of stuff and never clean. That really stressed me out, and there was no good way to fix it because we had a big life raft riding with us, waiting to get serviced. Also, part way through summer we got some things out of storage to move to a fourplex we thought we were buying, but the deal fell through.

13996150_10210373559994206_2908566252896338542_oOh, we’ll always remember that fourplex deal which fell through. It was a heartbreaker at the time, but we’re happy now that we walked away. It was contaminated with meth, had a rodent infestation, termite problems, structural problems in a couple areas, a tenant with a huge emotional support pitbull, 100+ year old plumbing and electric and no crawlspace or attic access. It was a hot mess and a real drain of our time and resources to inspect and try to come up with a plan to rehabilitate this poor building. In the end, it was overpriced and the rehab was too costly.

A good realtor would have been an asset, but I was in a hurry and picked a bad one. He showed up late and acted silly, laughed way too much, pointed out the strangest things, and took nothing seriously. First I gave him a “dad speech” via email about what we expected from him, then he blatantly screwed up again, and I fired him. I felt bad about it because he was a nice person, so we sent him some goodbye money and decided to represent ourselves in the deal. As you can probably predict, that didn’t go well.

P1140038 (Large)Those were some of the stressful times. You already know about the happy times, because that stuff is fun to share on social media. We did have fun this summer. We went to Alaska, learned to hike on glaciers, and did some great backpacking, sea kayaking and mountain biking. Those were the highlights of our summer. And when these things were happening they were truly glorious.

The rest is just sort of a blur. A blur of dream-grabbing, moving, doing, working and craving a place to rest.

We needed a solution. So, we’re buying a house to enjoy a couple months per year! Our closing is scheduled for Halloween, October 31.

Don’t worry, we’re not selling out or giving up. If anything, we’re turning up the intensity of our dreams. We’re global citizens now who spend half the year outside of the US on our sailboat. We need a peaceful place to go when we return to the US, and that is where the new house comes in. It will be a place to pursue dreams, store things, and cultivate a sense of belonging in a wonderful city where we already have so many friends.


Category: Uncategorized

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere we were, camped in front of a giant glacier, next to the ocean, in a place of indescribable beauty. I looked around and started counting waterfalls. 36. I could see 36 waterfalls from where I stood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were in Blackstone Bay, a small arm of Prince William Sound in Alaska. We had just been dropped off by a water taxi for four days of frolicking in the wilderness.

We weren’t exactly roughing it. We had three sleeping bags, a down comforter and two pillows, as well as two sea kayaks and all of our mountaineering gear. We planned to explore the bay by kayak and do some mountaineering or glacier trekking. We were loaded with both adventure AND comfort gear.

We were most definitely glampin’!

Lawrence Glacier loomed behind us, a steep, bright white hunk of ice. We took a glacier travel and crevasse rescue course a week before this trip, and it gave us the confidence to walk around on dry glaciers, that is, glaciers without snow. We were ready to try our new skills.

P1140038 (Large)Lawrence Glacier had plenty of delicious icy curves for us to explore. This was going to be good.

First we explored the bay by kayak. Two tidewater glaciers tumbled all the way down to the sea. We enjoyed the gentle sounds of our paddles plying the icy water, punctuated by a loud boom every now and then when the falling ice from a glacier crashed into the sea.

Thankfully we were never too close to one of the glaciers when a large chunk of ice came off, which can create a dangerous wave!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne snow white glacier was perched atop a cliff, slightly overhung, with a waterfall flowing from its base. It was breathtaking. Holy. This place was holy. We paddled over to see the waterfall and a small group of Kittiwakes (birds) flew by, loudly protesting our presence. Nearby we also found a large colony of Kittiwakes, chattering among themselves.

We returned to camp, blissed out by the wonderful paddling. We took a short nap, picked some berries and then decided to scout Lawrence glacier. We walked around, waded an icy stream, and eventually found a good way to reach the side of the glacier.

P1140158 (Large)It was a reasonable hike with no unstable ice or exposed climbing. When we reached the glacier I felt hesitant, so Brian climbed on it first and started walking around. After awhile I decided to join him and we enjoyed a little bit of the glacier together. When we reached the first steep section we decided to call it a day and return tomorrow with more time and energy. We were both excited by the easy access we found.

The next day we returned to Lawrence Glacier. We quickly made our way onto the ice. Soon we had our crampons on and were covering new territory. We reached the first steep section and Brian climbed it without protection, then built an ice anchor to belay me. I climbed after him, and now we were high on the glacier. Its curves glittered in the sun and blue crevasses regularly sliced into its depths. The surface rippled with what mountaineers call “sun cups”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed around on the labyrinth of ice and eventually reached an obstacle Brian wanted to cross and I didn’t. It involved a step over a crevasse with a deep hole (moulin) next to it. I didn’t like the deep hole, which would be difficult or impossible to escape from. I practiced building ice anchors while Brian stepped across the crevasse and explored higher. He soon returned and we decided to descend. I rappelled off my own ice anchor and then Brian climbed down after me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrian was confident on steep slopes in his crampons. I really appreciated that he could lead our climbs on the glacier, since Lawrence Glacier was even steeper than the glacier where we took our class. I felt comfortable following him and enjoyed building my own anchor and rappelling off it.

We even found an ice cave! Exploring the glacier was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We both had a fantastic time.

The next morning was our last in Blackstone Bay. We wanted to make the most of it and left early to get in one more paddle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water was flat and gray, dotted with small white iceburgs. We got in our kayaks and paddled toward one of the glaciers. Soon I began spotting seals in the distance floating on pieces of ice. We fell silent and slowly glided over to them, being sure to give them plenty of space. Imagine my excitement, and the conflicting need to stay quiet and still so as not to startle them. I was *bursting*! They were incredibly cute and blubbery.

We took many, many photos. When we were back at camp later the seals floated by on their pieces of ice out in the middle of the bay, riding the tide, looking relaxed.

P1140244-3 (Large)At the termination of this dreamy trip we knew, looking at our giant map of Prince William Sound, littered with islands, bays and glaciers, that we would be back. Next time we’ll be prepared to see more of this glacier-filled paradise. Maybe we need a small boat for Alaska. We need another tiny floating house.


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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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