• Travel Essentials for a Sailing Trip: What to Pack

    Hooray! We’re sailing!

    You’re going sailing – that’s so exciting! There’s an art to enjoying your time on a sailboat, and here I’ll talk a bit about what you need to pack. I’m a firm believer in never checking luggage. This is especially important if you’re getting to a destination on small planes or ferries and you have tight connections.

    Here are some fundamentals to remember:

    1. No one looks cute while sailing.
    2. Everything runs the risk of falling, getting wet, or going overboard.
    3. You must conserve fresh water, so you’ll be packing some items to ensure you stay clean and fresh although you aren’t taking the kind of showers you do at home.
    4. Space is at a premium.
    5. The weather can change quickly.
    6. Safety first!
    7. The only things that get flushed in the loo/Are things that naturally come out of you.


    Everything you take should be light, multipurpose, and quick-drying, from your luggage to what you put inside it. It’s a process to figure out what works, and over time I’ve developed a list of things I like to take. I’ve put links to these items in the post.

    If you’re flying, you can take a carry-on and a personal item. You’ll want to take only soft-sided luggage that you can fold up and stow after you’ve put your things away.  For your main packing bag, find a carry-on size duffel bag. I use the L.L. Bean Adventure Duffel in Medium. I sprayed it with a waterproofing spray to help protect the contents while I schlep it around.

    Last year I splurged on a fancy personal item * but for years I used one I found for $35 at TJ Maxx. You want something that looks like a big-ass purse, but not so big that it looks like you’re trying to sneak on the plane with two carry-ons.  Something like this might work. I like it to have plenty of pockets and be light and easy to carry. Guys can take a backpack. You’ll be taking this item in the dinghy when you go ashore, unless you plan to use a dry bag, which I’ll discuss below.

    Here’s my fancy personal item, and then a picture of the pink tote I used for years.

    Notice that I packed everything inside it in ziplocks!
    I was packing for 10 days in Croatia, not a sailing trip.

















    I pack everything in packing cubes or ziplock bags. If I use cubes, I want them to have a mesh front so I can easily see what’s inside. These are great.

    I’ll put tops in one, bottoms in one, bathing suits in one, and tuck my socks into my water shoes and slip them in a bag with my sandals. My raingear goes in a ziplock, and so do my undergarments. I wear my heaviest clothes on the plane: pants, heaviest shoes, top, and coverup/jacket.


    Remember, the idea is to take items you can layer, that dry quickly, and that can serve a couple of purposes. A long sleeved shirt is a must, and a button down is the most useful. Put it over a tank and it’s a light jacket. Toss it on over your bathing suit when you’ve gotten enough sun. Sleep in it. I have a blue Columbia one that’s been all over the world with me.

    My guys and I all have this shirt, in fact.










    While pricey, I’ve gotten lots of use out of my Coolibar coverup. I wear it as a jacket on the plane, I might sleep in it for a couple of nights (when it’s not smeared with sunscreen!) and I definitely use it as a sun protective coverup. The striped Catalina coverup is cute also, and you could even wear it as a dress when you go ashore, because no one is dressing up any fancier than that. Two items to use as coverups/layers should be plenty.

    I take five shirts, rolled up tight and stuffed into a ziplock bag or packing cube. I make sure they are thin material that dries quickly, and that each can be worn with all of the bottoms I bring.

    For bottoms, I’ll bring a pair of shorts or two, or maybe a skort, and a pair of light pants. I take 2-3 pair of socks and some quick drying underwear. The men’s version is here. My guys like it so much they wear it all the time.

    I take three pairs of shoes and can get by with two: a pair that can get wet but dry quickly (the fabulous mesh water shoes described below), and whatever you want to wear ashore, which for me is a pair of casual, lightweight sandals.

    All five us us took and really used the hell out of our mesh water shoes. Here are some Men’s water shoes.You can wear them on the boat because the bottoms are white and you won’t slip as much as you do in bare feet. They are awesome to wear when you ride in the dinghy, because there’s always a puddle of dirty water in the bottom of the boat. Stick your fancy shoes that you want to wear ashore (lightweight flat sandals like this for me) in your dry bag with your phone and money, and slip them on after you dock.

    Boys riding in the dinghy with water shoes on










    Don’t forget your rain gear! As an Eagle scout family, we each take rain jackets and rain pants, stuffed into (you guessed it) a ziplock bag. Here is a jacket and pant set for a very reasonable price.

    Proof that you’ll need raingear:

    One minute you’re hanging out…
    The next minute it’s pouring rain.
















    Tut, tut, it looks like rain.










    Staying Clean and Fresh: Toiletries and bathroom gear

    The Turkish towel is what we use for everything we do outside, whether it’s drying off after a swim or lying on the beach. They are super absorbent and dry quickly.  I take two, one for outdoors (sand and seawater) and another for inside (real freshwater baths).

    My guys prefer the microfiber towel for shower time. It also packs up very small and even has a little snap so you can snap it to the lifeline and dry it. You can see a gray one drying in the second picture below.

    My Turkish towel drying in the sun
    Other stuff we wash and dry


















    You can shower on the boat; it’s just not a traditional shower. There’s very little room to move, you must conserve water, and the temperature in the shower is hard to control. Fortunately, there is usually a hand shower on the back of the boat with fresh water. I handle most of my bathing on the back of the boat in my bathing suit. I take some special supplies, up there, including:

    • shampoo bar. I personally like the one from Lush that is pink (Jason and the Argan Oil). I use it to wash my whole self, including my hair. I also use it to soap up the parts I shave;
    • It’s a 10 leave in conditioner (this is a travel size version); and
    • a wide tooth comb, a razor, one of the small microfiber cloths, my turbie twist, and my Turkish towel.
    A few of my shower supplies

    I’ll shave my legs off the back of the boat using sea water because I have no shame. Then I’ll wet myself quickly with fresh water and lather up my body and rinse off, and repeat with my hair. Then all I have to do in the tiny shower is clean my intimate bits. I think it’s a fabulous system.

    During the day when I feel smelly I use Swag wipes. I like the way they smell and they are big enough to do your whole body. Before I go to bed, I dust my feet with Baby powder and wipe them on a microfiber cloth. This gets any bits of sand off my feet before I climb under the covers. Of course, it’s no use doing this if you’re not going to make your bedmate de-sand his or her feet as well.


    Getting serious about hygiene










    After a few days, your clothes smell like sunscreen and sweat. Anegada is a great place to take them ashore and wash them in the sink using the laundry sheets you bring. I realize this picture doesn’t make this look fun, but it’s the highlight of my week.

    I took it ashore in my dry bag, and I’ll wrap it all in my Turkish towel to blot it dry before I hang it up











    Everyone lost their dingys during the hurricanes. They ordered replacements, but they all look exactly alike. That’s no good after a couple of painkillers!

    Wow, I can’t tell these apart.

    It’s no fun to ride in to dinner, have an awesome time, then return to the dock and realize you have no idea which dinghy is yours. So take some glow sticks to hang on your dinghy before you head to shore for dinner. Make sure they have a hole so you can attach them to the boat. And, obviously, bring some string or thin cord to tie them to the dinghy with.

    (It doesn’t hurt to mark your boat also to help you find it in the dark!)




    I also pack:

    3-4 small microfiber cloths: Mine are pink so the boys won’t steal them. We use one in the kitchen for clean up, I use a couple downstairs to ensure that no sand or water gets near my bed, and I use one as a washcloth.

    Everyone brings a headlamp: . If something breaks, you can see to fix it. You can read in the dark. You can use both hands to tie a knot in the evening when it’s hard to see.

    I love these hat clips:. Clip one end to the back of your hat and the other to your shirt, and then when the wind blows (which you want, so your boat will go), you won’t lose your hat.


    I not only attach cables on my sunglasses; I attach them to my reading glasses as well, because I can’t read the chart without them.

    Dry bags in different sizes and colors Have a choice of sizes. Use it to take your laundry ashore and wash some undies in a bathroom sink! It can be your beach bag. Carry your snorkeling stuff around.

    Clothes pins:  Your boat will probably have some, but we usually need more. Use the extras to seal bags of chips, etc.

    Bungee cord: We always travel with bungee cords because they are so damn handy! Use them to fashion an indoor clothes line, add a handle to something you need to carry, feed it through a sleeve of your hanging shirt on a windy day in case a clothes pin blows off, or lash down that bit of sail that’s flapping and making noise.

    We each pack a water bottle to cut down on trash during the trip. I’m a freak about having my water ice-cold, so I make sure to take a bottle with a removable top and mouth large enough to accommodate ice cubes. I attach it to my personal item with a carabiner.

    My guys on Loblolly with their gear










    Thanks for taking me sailing, Mom










    Still lovin’ it!
  • Help A Tourist Out

    I need all present and former Birmingham natives to pay special attention to this post, for we are called upon to help a visitor from the North make the most of her stay in The Magic City in April.  Here’s what Mindy told me:

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now and love your writing. You are always humorous and entertaining and real. My husband has to go to Birmingham on business in April and I am thinking about tagging along. If you have a minute, can you send me any thoughts on hotels, restaurants, things to see and do? I will be on my own during the day and will need to stay in an area where I can see the sights, shop, etc. on foot.

    I asked Mindy for more details, because if there’s one thing Birmingham is lacking (besides snow), it’s public transportation. I also wanted to know more about her interests.

    My husband will be going to meetings all over the city, and he will have a vehicle so I was hoping to find an area to stay in where I could get around on foot. We will be staying on for a couple of days after he is done, so can hit any sights that require a car then. We have four kids under 8, so this is an escape for me. Weather permitting, I could happily park myself in a lounge chair by a hotel pool with a gin and tonic and a good book, but also interested in good food, good wine and some shopping but not the malls, necessarily. Also a history buff – noticed both the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Civil Rights Institute on the city website.

    Fellow citizens: let us help Mindy plan a perfect trip to Birmingham.  Because she’s escaping from all those children, she needs a day to sit by the pool and relax.  Where should she stay?  What sights should she see?  What areas of town are a must?  What food would you recommend?  Will she die if she doesn’t visit a meat and three for lunch and sample grits for breakfast?  And most importantly, how should she travel to all these places?  Do you have a special place that would impress a visitor from Canada?

    To leave a comment, look at the small print beneath the post where it says “_ comments.”  Click that and a box will pop up for you to add your two cents.


    Four years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Merry Christmas: Let Me Bum You Out

  • FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Coveting A Cape Buffalo

    When I went to Africa, people told me that it would permanently change the way I looked at the world. “The land goes on forever, and instead of SUVs and Starbucks you see elephants and zebras,” my sister told me. “It makes the Tiny Kingdom seem very small and insignificant.”

    Once I arrived in Kenya, I understood what she meant. The grass stretched out endlessly, dotted with acacia trees and giraffes. It was gorgeous and peaceful, and I was almost able to forget that Bill and the boys were half a world away.

    We first stayed at a camp made up of tents. The bathrooms were glorified port-a-potties, and although they were located only a few steps away from the tents, the owners warned us to be extremely cautious about using them at night. Cape buffalo were active after dark and would come close to the tents. Those cape buffalo were something else. They had horns, hairy chins, bulgy skin hanging off their faces and piggy eyes. Cape buffalo were ferocious and killed people and lions.

    We were instructed to turn on our flashlights and wait for a Masai warrior with a spear to come to the tent and escort us the seven feet or so to the potty so we wouldn’t end up as a midnight snack. I decided not to drink anything after 3 p.m. and avoid a standoff altogether. Although most people think of lions when they think of Africa, it was the bloodthirsty cape buffalo that gave me nightmares.

    Africa 06redo 171

    You must pack lightly for a safari, and thus your clothes have to be laundered along the way. Many camps offer this service. You bundle your dirty clothes, fill out a slip that itemizes them, and they appear, clean and fresh, at your tent in the morning.

    As I filled out my laundry slip I encountered some problems. First, the paper stated that “Ladies undergarments will not be accepted for laundry.” That was odd. My panties were the smallest, thinnest, easiest item to wash, and fun to look at besides. The form also said, “Occasionally cape buffalo and hyena raid the laundry yard. The lodge accepts no responsibility whatsoever for guest clothing damaged during cleaning.” Those cape buffalo again. I’d heard all about their murderous ways, so I was surprised to hear that they had a hygienic streak as well.

    I asked about the underwear exclusion, and was told that African men consider it beneath their dignity to wash women’s panties. They’re not so different from my boys after all, except that the Masai wear red blankets and carry spears.

    When I taught Drew how to wash clothes, the darks were not a problem. Cold water, detergent, check all pockets, and press start. But as I coached him through the whites, I encountered some resistance.

    “Okay, same deal, but we’re washing on warm. Turn the button to warm, add the Tide, and then add the whites, piece by piece.”

    Drew began adding socks, kitchen towels and pillow cases, and then he screamed. Porter came running.

    “I touched lady panties!”

    “Drew, that’s just my underwear,” I said. “It’s part of washing the whites. Just pick them up and toss them in. I wash your underwear all the time.”

    “Where are the panties? Where, Mom? I want to see them,” Porter said. “And I thought ‘panties’ was a bad word.”

    “I can’t pick them up,” Drew said. “They’re nasty.”

    “Good Lord. Just pinch them at the edges and throw them in the machine. This is ridiculous,” I told Drew.

    He retrieved my underwear from the hallway where he’d hurled them and flung them into the dryer. At this point they were looking as if a cape buffalo had gotten hold of them.

    “This is the worst thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said.

    “Yeah,” Porter said. “Key word: worst. I don’t want to learn how to do laundry. I’ll just clean up the kitchen every night because there aren’t any panties there.”

    I looked at my laundry slip again. I’d had experience with males washing my underwear against their wishes, and it was an unpleasant one. I sent my safari clothes to be cleaned, but I washed my underwear myself.

    On the first game drive, we discovered a group of lions flopped lazily under a tree. It was obvious even to me that they had just eaten.They could barely keep their eyes open.
    Our guide told us that the lionesses do all the hunting, but the male lions muscle in and eat until they are full. Only then do the women eat what is left.

    The guide kept talking, but I was thinking how much our house in Alabama resembled the African countryside at mealtime. Night after night I prepare meals, and I have to restrain my three cubs from slurping up the food until it’s properly blessed.

    After they’ve eaten, the boys grow heavy-lidded. They complain that I have the nerve to ask them to clean up the kitchen when what would be best for them, obviously, would be to go directly to bed. If I don’t eat quickly enough, they get seconds, and thirds, until I’m left facing an empty skillet and forced to graze on a container of cherry yogurt to fill my stomach.

    It’s not just dinnertime—if I want to eat, I have to guard all my food carefully. When I order Girl Scout cookies, I purchase an extra box of Thin Mints and hide it in my pajama drawer. I learned the hard way that if I don’t, the males will have devoured all the cookies moments after they’ve been placed in the pantry. I wondered if the lioness had a stash of zebra meat hidden in some bushes for a similar African emergency.

    As the trip progressed, I began to wonder whether I could bring a cape buffalo home with me. I could train him to guard the evening meal until I’d had a chance to serve a plate of food for myself, ensuring that this lioness wouldn’t go hungry. I’d have to expand the laundry room to accommodate him, but then he could stand sentry over the boys and guarantee that they washed all the laundry, including mine, before I told him to relax and let them return to their Legos. The boys would be protected from bullies, because they could say, “Hit me again and I’ll sic my cape buffalo on you.”

    It was such a marvelous idea that when we got to the airport I faxed Bill and asked him to see whether the Tiny Kingdom is zoned for cape buffalo. He suggested that perhaps I’d overdosed on anti-malarial medication and recommended that I sleep as much as possible on the plane.

    I still don’t have a cape buffalo, but I sometimes dream about them. In my dreams my cape buffalo isn’t the nightmarish barbaric animal I’d feared at first. He’s my hideous but beloved partner in setting these boys straight.

    God knows that I have one teen already and two approaching that age, and that I need that cape buffalo soon. I have faith that my special buffalo is on his way. Best of all, He’ll send me one who’s quit eating humans and developed a taste for grits. I can’t wait until he gets here.

    Enter your Flashback Friday link below! For instructions see here.

    1. Sir Nottaguy-Imadad
    2. Observations of an Earthroamer (Kim)
    3. Ladybird @ LaVidaLadybird
    4. Andi (a bribe to get married)
    5. Marissa – A Night Out
    6. christina
    7. Rebecca (Puppy Love, Stolen)
    8. Brandy
    9. doni@RainbowCreek@Home
    10. doni@RainbowCreek@Home

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  • Lots To See If You’re Quick

    The boys kept yelling “frank ‘n’ beans!” when they were changing clothes while we were in New York last week.  Maybe they do this every time they pull down their pants at home, but if so, I don’t hear it amid the drumming, yelling and twittering of Feathers and Omelet.  In the minuscule apartment, however, the frequent outbursts were quite noticeable.

    Eventually I realized that “frank ‘n’ beans” refers to a boy’s privates, and that shouting it serves as a warning not to look as the boy briefly exposes his genitals to put on what I hoped was a clean pair of underwear, not the pair that had toured Chinatown the day before.

    I pretended not to know what they were yelling about.  It’s been a long time since I’ve wiped any butts or bathed anyone in the bathtub.  In the last couple of years all three boys, even Porter, have grown quite modest.  Honestly, I was quite curious as to how everyone was maturing down there, and I wanted to check out everyone’s frank and beans.  I figured that as the mom, if anyone was sporting signs of sauerkraut, I had the right to know.

    At first the guys were fixated on whether their brothers were trying to see their manhood, but it didn’t take them long to notice me trying to sneak a peek.

    “Mom! Frank ‘n’ beans means don’t look.  Give a guy some privacy.”

    I found that hypocritical, as these same complainers have been known to track me to the bathroom to ask for lunch money.   As the least modest person in the universe, however, I haven’t let it get to me.

    The next time I came out of the bathroom I yelled, “Two miniature fried eggs,” just before I ripped off my robe to slap on my bra.**

    I can’t always be one of the boys, but I can try.


    ** Look at the FIRST cute bra I’ve been able to purchase for my tiny tits!
    It’s a Wacoal Petite and Viola at Bloomingdales in NYC helped me. It was very expensive ($48) but so worth it for my ego. All my other bras are flat triangles with straps.


    Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Virtual Book Club #5