We have officially been living aboard for a year now.  My, how time flies!  It was last Christmas Eve when we hauled all of our belongings out of a storage unit in Argentina, down the docks in San Fernando, and aboard Field Trip for the first time.  I remember being amazed at how much stuff we had and being overwhelmed at trying to find some semblance of order among the chaos.  Since then, we have reorganized, de-cluttered, and rethought our use of storage over and over again.  

It is an ever-evolving process as we transverse various environments and kid stages.  Toys and clothes have been given away as the kids grow out of them, and new ones take their place.  Our family rule is for every new item (clothing, kitchen gadget, toy, book, etc) that is brought on board, one item needs to leave to make room for it!  We don’t follow it all the time, but we can quickly tell when the rule needs to be reinstated!! 

Christmas in Nashville
So, when we went home to spend Christmas with family, we set aside a huge empty box that would be filled with things we’d have to send back to Colorado.  It was easy to say goodbye to some things, like sweaters and long pants, but it was hard to have to send gifts home that we’d just received simply because there wouldn’t be room on the boat.  

As we sifted through things, I was amazed at how thoughtful the kids were in making their decisions.  Elizabeth, especially, really contemplated each choice based on how useful it would be on board and how much room it would take up.   It was a great example of how living with less has changed us all.  

Cousins at Atlantis
The best part of being with family was all the memories that we made together.  As the cousins played, it reminded me of the special times I’d had with cousins growing up who lived far away.  Even if we wouldn’t see each other for a year or more, we wouldn’t miss a beat when we got together.  The giggling and silliness brought back a flood of memories, and I know the time together etched in my kids’ minds forever.

Living aboard has changed us all.  It has made us appreciate time together and value people more than things.  It has given us time to breathe and just be.  The kids have found new confidence and learned so much about the world.  Mark has slowed down and been able to be part of our everyday.  And I have come to love my family in a whole new way, knowing them better than ever before, and loving our time together. 

Like all decisions, though, there are some cons to our lifestyle.  This recent trip back home left us feeling overexposed in many ways.  

I remember years ago when Elizabeth was in preschool and she kept getting sick.  Everything that was being caught, she’d catch.  Her teacher at the time said, “Don’t worry, she’s building up her immune system.  By kindergarten she’ll be as healthy as an ox!”  Well, she did have a pretty healthy kindergarten year, but then we moved aboard our “bubble” and the kids weren’t as exposed to germs on a regular basis.  They aren’t in the germ-infested classrooms daily, and so it seems they’ve lost that robust immunity that they’d built up on land.  

With the exception of Michael getting strep throat in Buenos Aires, we have been illness-free.  Then we went to Nashville during a horrific flu season and all of us got sick.  So the last week of our trip was spent in the Walgreens Take Care Clinic (which I highly recommend, by the way) and then on the couch going through numerous boxes of tissues.  Mark missed the initial hit, flying to his guy’s week before the flu hit us all, but he eventually joined the ranks of the infected when we brought it with us the following week!
Snorkeling for starfish
We also brought my sister and her crew along with us for a week in Nassau.  Her kids had never been out of the country before, and never been aboard Field Trip.  We weren’t sure how 8 people would fare in such tight quarters, but the trip was fantastic.  The kids played UNO and Zilch every chance they could, keeping them quite entertained.  

The winds were blowing at a constant 15-20 knots (on the nose), but that didn’t stop us all from doing some snorkeling and exploring.  It was so fun to see their kids discover the underwater world, and much of our time was spent enjoying the blue waters and reefs for which The Bahamas are famous.  

We anchored near Rose Island for a few nights and fished (unsuccessfully) offshore the third day.  The last two days we spent docked at the Marina at Atlantis, the huge waterpark on Paradise Island.  Unfortunately, Mark and my sister caught the crud that we’d had, so that put a bit of a damper on things, but they were troopers and kept up with the rest of us as we conquered all the waterslides!  

Vogels on beach at Atlantis
Ben and Jerry's at Atlantis Marina
Michael wasn’t quite tall enough for the big slides, but he had a blast in the rapid river and kids splash playground.  Elizabeth loved keeping up with her older cousins on most of the big rides, only avoiding the “Leap of Faith” and the body tube slides.  She even knocked her tooth out with her knee on one ride!  

My sister’s kids (ages 10 and 11) were the perfect age for the park – barely stopping long enough for lunch!  They were great with my kids, too, giving each of them lots of attention and help throughout the day.
Elizabeth loving on giant grouper
 A few tips for Atlantis that we learned…
  • Pack a lunch and water bottles.  They don’t check your bags, just be discreet.  The first day the kids made us all PBJs before we left and the second day I cooked some hot dogs and threw them in a thermos, just bringing a bag of buns and using the park’s condiments!  The food is quite pricey, and this saved us a ton of money.
  • Dock at the marina.  Okay, obviously, this is for our cruising friends, but it is much more economical to dock at the marina than to anchor out and buy passes.  Park passes cost over $100 per adult and $75 per child if you buy them at the park.  The marina charges $4 per foot per night, then anyone on board gets a park pass.  If we’d have anchored out to save docking fees, it would have cost us $700 in park passes alone!  We ended up only paying $400 for two nights and passes for 8 people.
  • Atlantis credit card.  When you register at the marina, they issue you a card that you can charge everything onto during your stay, including drinks, souvenirs and food.  This is very convenient, so you won’t have to carry your wallet around the waterpark.
  • Do not bring towels – they are provided at no charge.
  • The marina office has token laundry (3 machines) and nice showers.
Captain and crew photo - Atlantis
A short video of the water slides at Atlantis.  Mark shot most of this footage using the GoPro Hero3 at 720p 60fps.


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