Fill Your Sails

Filling your sails with the adventures of our lives!

Sailing BlogSailing Videos

Sailing Blog

What’s it like to live on a boat? Is the sailing life for you? Check out our latest blogpost!

Sailing Videos

Everything from sailing adventures to savvy savings advice. Find what inspires you!

Become an Insider

Subscribe to weekly email updates to become a Fill Your Sails insider and receive an exclusive download of how we got started!

Passport sailboat

Which sailboat did we choose?

...we know, but you don't! Find out which sailboats were in the running! And then tell us what you think by voting!
Hans Christian 43 ketch

Falling in love and heartbroken...by a sailboat

Last fall, the first sailboat we looked at on our “boat hunt” stole my heart. Infatuation got the best of me. I learned a valuable lesson—not just about buying a sailboat—but about life. And I want to share what I learned with you.
Starting the search for the boat of our dreams

Starting the Search for the Sailboat of our Dreams

We wanted this time around to be different. We weren’t buying a starter-home/starter-boat. We wanted something that could be our home on the water—around the world—for the next 20+ years. With this in mind, we went into our search with the mindset that our next boat would be “the one” that would begin the next season of our life journey. Here’s how we got started!
Boat for sale by owner

Why We Sold Our Boat

After living aboard, evaluating her sailing capacity, and recognizing the reality of our dreams, Damian and I chose to sell our 1986 Catalina 30 in an attempt to purchase a larger, bluewater vessel that would fit our needs and vision for the future. Here’s why we did it!
At the Table in Deltaville, VA

My Favorite Day of Summer 2016

These are a few of my favorite things: (1) excellent food at a magnificent restaurant, (2) a quality glass of rich red wine, (3) a bike ride through a quiet, seaside town, (4) checking out a sailboat for sale, (5) friendly, enjoyable conversation, (6) swimming in the pool, (7) a beautiful sunset, (8) a comfortable night aboard my sailboat in the V-berth with working air-conditioning.
Out on the Boston Whaler in the evening

Once We Got To Deltaville

The three of us spent the evening talking and enjoying being out on the water together. We explored a beach that had once been the site of a prosperous factory at the turn of the century. And since a Boston Whaler is a powerboat, we zoomed around, creating our very own breeze as we flew through the water. So the night air was pleasant for the first time since we had set out!
Dodger on a 1986 Catalina 30 sailboat.

Our Last Journey South in 2016

Ship's Log (notes made by the skipper): "At 1700, I decided to check our progress. My first mate informed me that the current and the wind were against us. I looked to our stern, and noticed that we had barely been moving and had not made much progress. We were making roughly 2-3 knots. The waves were 1-3 feet, and the bow was constantly slamming against each wave."
Cockpit of a Catalina 30 sailboat at sunset with a cat

Herring Bay: Never Again

Sometimes we learn the hard way. We dropped anchor in Herring Bay on the evening of July 22nd 2016, hoping to lighten the intensity of the passage south down the Chesapeake. Not recommended. Rolly, rolly, rolly. As one wave, then another, then another rolled under our anchored vessel. The sun was setting. Should we stay or should we go? Could our stomachs make it overnight in this spot? On the chart: Herring Bay, ever heard of it?
Governor's Cup 2016 crew

Governor's Cup 2016

So what were we doing August 5 and 6 last summer? We were crewing aboard Makai in the Governor’s Cup! Our O-dock neighbor, Tony, and his wife and first mate, Cheri, had invited us to come racing with them several evenings throughout the summer and to join their crew for the “Gov Cup” in early August. Damian and I saw this as a great opportunity for us to learn, grow, and gain experience as sailors and a meaningful distraction from the sadness the summer heat had brought for us personally.
On the helm while sailing a Catalina 30

My Sailing Playlist

Sailing to music takes the experience to a whole new level! Here’s some of the tunes that are on my sailing play list! What’s on your “sailing” play list?

How we survived the heat!

Hundred degree-days this summer peppered the sailing calendar a little too consistently over the months of July and August. The thought of sailing—once joyous with the breeze whisking through my hair and stiffening our sails into a solid curve that would propel us forward—became one of distress, suffering, and downright misery.
Girl on a sailboat mast with a power drill hanging lazy jacks
,

Up, up, up the mast!

Lazy jacks are rigging lines that run from the mast to the back of the boom that guide the mainsail into place instead of falling all over the deck when it is lowered. Damian and I were eager to install lazy jacks on Gem&I so that the furling process would be easier and less dangerous for us while out at sea.
Barnacle Buster really works!
,

Barnacle Buster to the rescue!

How did we finally get our engine to cool down? How did we get our air conditioning working successfully again? Yep! You guessed it! An ingenious little product with a funny name: Barnacle Buster!
Super Solar Shower at anchor on a sailboat
,

How we shower at anchor

Many of you may wonder: how do we shower at anchor? Even though our head has a sink faucet that turns into a shower wand, we are not big fans of making our entire bathroom soak and wet (because the whole thing technically becomes the shower itself). So we use something else!
Fishing while at anchor with a cat.

Anchored at Gordon Point

A familiar anchorage near Kent Narrows is Reed Creek, a tributary of the Chester River. For an overnighter, Damian and I thought this spot would be the perfect place to unwind after being in the slip for a week or so working on boat projects. Only a few hours’ sail up the Chester, and we were free of civilization!
Plumbing on board a sailboat

Plumbers beware!

Problem: clogged drain in the galley sink. Solution: No Drano allowed. Biodegradable options only! We attempted four potential solutions. The most disgusting one worked. Find out how we did it!

Christina came to visit!

My best friend of a decade, Christina, came to visit us here on the island. Needless to say, this was not her usual visit: a sail, running aground, and a storm to top it all off! Adventure? I’d say so!
DIY memory foam mattress for the V berth

Who said a V-Berth can't be comfortable?

Boat projects continue as we make Gem&I more and more like home. One way we did this was cutting a memory foam mattress pad to fit the triangle shape of our V-berth to make it more comfy, cozy!
On a paddle board for the first time

First time on a paddle board!

Guess what one generous O Dock neighbor let me try out?! You guessed it! Paddle boarding!
Electrical work on the bow of a sailboat

The saga of our running light

We discovered some time ago that our running lights on Gem&I did not work. So Damian rigged up an ridiculous-looking flashlight, type thing duct taped to our bowsprit. This make-shift running light shines both green and red, indicating which direction on the boat is heading at night. I would call it an “eye soar” to say the least. But it has been one ugly thing to get rid of, because it has taken months for us to determine exactly how to replace it with a real one!
used WEST MARINE PRU-3 Performance Roll-Up Inflatable Boat

Anchored at Lovely Cove

We left Chestertown early Friday morning and motored back down the Chester River to a familiar spot shown to us by our sailing parents, Penny and Dave, called Lovely Cove. Lovely Cove is a peaceful spot at a cozy little bend on Langford Creek. It is the place where last fall, Damian and I kayaked up the smaller streams and discussed our tentative life plan: the dream we have been living out ever since. We were both sentimental about going back.
Cat on board a sailboat

Howdy from a boat cat!

Hello humans! Schnitzel here to tell you what it’s like to be a boat cat! Click on this blog post to see my life on the sailboat in pictures!
Fold up bikes on the dock

Chestertown: on bikes!

There’s no better way to explore a small waterfront town than on a bike, and since land transportation aboard a sailing vessel is hard to come by, we found “used but in good condition” fold-up bikes for half the price at a sailing thrift store called Bacon’s. Join us as we motor up the narrowing Chester River and cycle around the town of Chestertown!
on the deck of a sailboat with a cat
,

An anchor and hope

An anchor holds the boat steady from drifting with the wind or the current from a specific location. When an anchor is set firmly, even the high winds and currents of a mighty storm cannot move a boat. Reminds me of the hope we have that is like an anchor in Hebrews 6:19-20.
Anchored on the Corsica River

A perfect night on the Corsica

After a full day of sailing up the Chester River, we motored up the mouth of one of its tributaries, the Corsica River, on a quest to find the perfect anchorage for the night. And boy did we find a good one! It wasn’t what we had expected, but we felt as if we were staying at our own Bed and Breakfast–and yet, we were on our own boat! Just in a beautiful place, the kind of place Select Registry B&B’s are made of!
Raising the main sail on a sailboat

And we're off again!

Our next adventure was calling our names. The mighty Chester River (on which we had learned to sail for the very first time two years before) beckoned for us to explore from where her waters came from. We planned to sail up to Chestertown and return to the marina before the July 4th festivities began. Four days on the water, adventuring where we had never gone before!
Working on the engine in a sailboat with a cat

Impeller replacement with help from the cat

No matter where we are or what we are doing on the boat, we have our curious, little helper who tags along! He is always exploring the many small spaces he can fit into or the holes he can squeeze his paw through–and that means we have to watch him! Or like good ole Curious George, he could get into trouble!
Orange tiger lilies on Kent Island

The lilies of the field

For many years the tiger lily has been a symbol to me of my birthday, since mid to late June is the time of year that these flowers burst into bloom in my mother’s front yard. Coincidentally, tiger lilies also grow on the side of the road over the Kent Narrows Bridge. On my many walks on the island, my heart has been drenched in the blessing of God visibly exhibiting His love towards me through the presence hundreds of tiger lilies!
Swimming out the anchor

And then we ran aground again...

On a glorious June morning, the Gem&I with her skipper, his first mate, and feline crew member aboard set out on a return cruise back to Kent Island from St. Michaels. Just your normal, friendly, four-hour sail. But before we even had left the channel, we were in trouble again.
St. Michaels, Maryland, MD, eastern shore, seaside town, Chesapeake Bay town

The Town that Fooled the British

Two days in St. Michaels was just the ticket for us! Rich with history and so many places to explore, we were definitely on a learning adventure. Perfect for two public school teachers on their summer break like us!
Sunset in St. Michaels harbor

Hello, St. Michaels!

For the past three years that we have been learning to sail and sailing from O Dock, we have continually heard about this “must-sail-to” town along the Miles River called St. Michaels. So we made it our goal to make this quaint, watermen’s village the first port we docked in for the season. Hello St. Michaels! Here we come!

Why won't our engine start?

Ready to head out to our next destination, we secured everything down below and prepared to raise the anchor. Damian turned the key, held down the glow plug button, and then attempted to start the motor. But the engine would not turn over. What could be the matter now?
Too much trash on a sailboat

Too much trash

With about 60 square feet aboard our Gem&I, space is definitely something we think about on a regular basis. When we are anchored out or underway for several days, the trash accumulates, and there is simply no place to put it. This blog post is to generate a discussion about waste consolidation ideas and how to practically live a zero-waste life. Please feel free to leave comments below!
Oil on a cat paw
,

Oil, oil, everywhere!

Thanks to our sailing Dad, Captain Dave, checking our oil before heading out on a hefty motor sail is a routine practice that we have chosen to make a healthy habit. But sometimes oil gets on paws and causes some trouble on board a sailboat. Here’s what happened:
Catalina 30 sailboat anchored in a cove

Hidden Cove

We awoke the morning after the storm to a glorious world around us! A hidden, unnamed cove off the Wye East River, greeted us and was just beckoning for us to explore. So we climbed in our trusty dinghy and rowed toward the makeshift dock of wooden planks.
Rowing on a calm night on a PRU-3 Performance Roll-Up Inflatable Boat

No Greater Joy

There is no greater joy than to watch my man rowing along the shoreline alone with God. To see my man gazing into nature and observing with curious respect the intricacies and splendor of our created world.
after a thunderstorm on a sailboat at anchor 1

Thunderstorm musings

A thunderstorm in all its fury with lighting, wind, and rain swept through the little cove where we had anchored…twice. Each time, without fail, the weather–sky, temperature, wind, etc. changed for the better than the weather that had preceded the storm.

Riding out the storm at anchor

After an already tiring day of getting our boat ungrounded, we knew the worst wasn’t over with the next menacing threat on the horizon: severe thunderstorm. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the counties surrounding the Wye River, so we knew what we were in for. But we had never ridden out a thunderstorm at anchor before, so this experience would be our first.
SCUBA in a PRU-3 Performance Roll-Up Inflatable Boat

Still aground, with a storm coming!

It was too late to call after Always to come back and help us again. Besides they did not have their VHF radio on. We were on our own, grounded in the middle of a shallow creek with the threat of a storm coming.

Running aground...again

An old saying that we’ve heard many times around our sailing community is: “There are three types of sailors: those who have run aground, those who haven’t run aground yet, and those who’ve lied about it.” And on our way to our next anchorage, we ran aground for the third time in our sailing career. Here’s what happened next…
1986-Catalina-30 sailboat, anchored in Dividing-Creek-MD

Isn't she beautiful at anchor?

Because I was born on June 16 during the month of Gemini But not only that: the "Gem" in Gem&I stands for me, and "& I" stands for "and Damian." So the boat literally means: "Hannah and Damian," but in a creative way with a nod to my sign. We thought up this name while we were dreaming of one day owning a sailboat of our own. So when she came along for us to buy, it was a no-brainer of what we wanted to name her.
cat on bow of boat with dodger

Kent Narrows to Dividing Creek

What did we do on our first Monday of summer break? We sailed, of course! While most people are driving into work amid morning rush hour traffic in the DC metropolitan area, we headed out on our first sailing adventure of the season to one of the most popular anchorages on the Eastern Shore. With our newly-patched dinghy strapped to the bow, we were eager to see if it would sink or float. Dividing Creek, off the Wye East River, would be the perfect place for this experiment to take place.
Dividing Creek Maryland

Our dinghy floats!

Once we anchored in Dividing Creek, Damian did not waste any time putting the dinghy into the water. He grabbed the oars and climbed inside off the back of our sailboat. After securing the little bench, he began to row further and further from our boat. Together we held our breath to see if the dinghy would remain afloat. And sure enough, it did! I was eager to join him in the dinghy too, so Damian circled back so I could climb in too. Would the dinghy hold both of us? I put on my life jacket just in case.
PRU-3 Performance Roll-Up Inflatable Boat 1

Will our dinghy float?

When our sailing dad, Captain Dave, heard that Bob and Susan from Tiamiwere getting rid of their old dinghy to buy a brand new one, he told us about it. If we could fix it, they said, we could have it! Oh, the generosity of O Dock!
St. Michaels, Maryland, MD, eastern shore, seaside town, Chesapeake Bay town

The Town that Fooled the British

Two days in St. Michaels was just the ticket for us! Rich with history and so many places to explore, we were definitely on a learning adventure. Perfect for two public school teachers on their summer break like us!
boat cat sailing with a pet, cat on board a sailboat

Our boat cat, Schnitzel

The weekend after sailing season last November 2015, Damian and I adopted a 3 month old kitten from the local animal shelter. Little did the little guy know then that he would become a BOAT CAT! Damian spotted him right away and knew he was the one for us. Our Leo cat, affectionally called Booh-bah, is extremely lovable and takes command of a room with his lively presence.
Salon Setee 1986 Catalina 30 sailboat interior

Welcome aboard!

Gem&I is our 1986 Catalina 30 tall-rig sailboat that we have made our home. Come aboard to check out what she looks like below deck!