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Day to day activities, challenges and new things learned living aboard a boat

Why I’m In Love With Branch Basics

You guys!!! I am ABSOLUTELY LOVING this plant and mineral based cleaner concentrate from Branch Basics!! I’ve been wanting to find natural ingredient replacements for all the nasty chemicals we have in our boat/home and I finally found one that is totally safe and still totally effective!

What Is It?

The Branch Basics Concentrate is eco-friendly, biodegradable, plant and mineral based, fragrance-free, non-gmo, gluten free, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, nut free, tree nut free, essential oil free, alcohol free, free of synthetic preservatives, not tested on animals, not harmful to people or pets, made in the USA, gentle enough for sensitive skin and babies, non-MLM, affordable, and totally effective!

I bought the travel kit and starter kit from Branch Basics which both have endless uses. Hand washing, dish washing, all-purpose surface cleaner, glass and windows, bathrooms, laundry, stains, face wash, body wash, baby wash, pet wash, and on and on. The website also has a complete user guide with recommended uses and an awesome FAQ. I’m thoroughly impressed with how well it actually cleans, and how little concentrate you actually need. There’s a mild natural smell but not overpowering or lingering. I actually clean more now and didn’t realize how much I was subconsciously avoiding cleaning because I didn’t like breathing in the other stuff and getting all kinds of chemicals on my skin. And let’s be honest, it sucks wearing big rubber gloves.

Why Does This Matter To Me?

For the past few weeks I have fallen down a giant rabbit hole on the hunt for cleaning and personal care stuff that is biodegradable and safe around anyone – pregnant, breastfeeding, infants, kids, pets, etc and I’ve done a TON of research. If you know me personally, you know I leave no stone unturned and I don’t stop researching until I’m totally confident in what I’ve found. (Remember the Insurance post, cloth diaper post and dog food post I wrote?) It all started with trying to find a totally safe baby wash for Brig. Of course, this just created more and more questions I wanted answers to along the way.

I’ve read more labels than anyone should ever have to and I’ve found that most commonly used ingredients are either harmful or possibly harmful to us in one way or another. The hardest part was finding natural plant based products that do NOT have essential oils in them. EOs are totally fine (and often helpful) for some people but there are SO many that should not be used around kids or during breastfeeding or pregnancy, or those with sensitive skin – even stuff that is labeled as unscented or fragrance-free sometimes still has EOs in it. If I’m going to switch to using natural plant based products I want to feel confident in the total safety of every single ingredient and I just don’t feel good about blindly jumping on the bandwagon of using essential oils and herbal extracts without knowing the potential side effects too. Branch Basics does have less than 1% of German Chamomile flower extract (not EO) in the diluted products but i’m totally okay with that.

“The Concentrate is human safe, not irritating to the eyes, skin, or lungs. All ingredients are rated 1 on EWG, and there are no harmful preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone, phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, or any type of alcohol. Even the extremely chemically sensitive and immune compromised are able to use Branch Basics with complete confidence.” -That’s just a snippet from their website. I also discovered they are certified on the MadeSafe.org website.

So What Are THe Ingredients?  

Purified Water

Coco Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser)

Chamomilla Recutita (German Chamomile) Flower Extract

Decyl Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser),

Sodium Citrate (Food-Grade Emulsifier),

Lauryl Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser),

Sodium Bicarbonate (Food-Grade Baking Soda),

Sodium Phytate (Plant-Based Antioxidant)

I always recommend doing your own homework and research. I’ve done mine and  feel totally confident that these ingredients are safe to use around pretty much anyone. There is of course a very small chance of someone being allergic to something in this product but the chances are SO small, and the benefits outweigh the risks (IMHO) when you are looking at all the known hazards of conventional cleaning products that most of us have lived our entire lives using. The chances of any of these ingredients being an irritant for anyone is so much smaller than it is for most of the ingredients in stores.

The surfactants in this concentrate are “Alkyl-Polyglucosides”. There are some studies which show these ingredients may be emergent allergens with a rare chance of producing contact dermatitis (skin irritation or rash). However, they are plant derived and are pretty much the most gentle for most people. Another example of a possible allergen is Chamomile. While incredibly gentle and typically soothing, you may be more likely to experience an allergic reaction to chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, asters, marigolds or chrysanthemums. But again, the ingredient here is only a flower extract (not essential oil) and is used in dilutions of less than 1%.

Why isn’t there a preservative? I asked the same question which is answered in the Branch Basics FAQ. There are tons of other helpful answers there that helped me understand why this stuff is so safe and so versatile.

Why Not Use Castile Soaps?

Another reason I like Branch Basics so much is because it’s not a castile based soap. Real soap is a wonderful natural toxin-free product but it tends to leave a residue (especially in hard water) and needs an acidic rinse like vinegar to come clean. Who has time for that? Vinegar can also be harsh on your lungs if you use it all the time. It can help as a tough degreaser but it really doesn’t “clean” very well at all. I still keep a bottle of it in my cabinet though. Castile based soap can also be very drying on skin if it’s made without retained glycerin (a natural humectant). In climates with low humidity glycerin can ironically draw natural moisture out of our skin, causing the opposite desired effect. This stuff doesn’t contain saponified oils or glycerin.

How Much Does It Cost?

There are several packages available where you can buy a full starter kit with or without the laundry booster, travel size bottles, extra empty full size bottles, or just the concentrate. Any way you slice it, the price for all of it is shockingly cheap compared to store bought products. Even though the concentrate is $49, the 33 oz. Concentrate makes:

  • 3 All-Purpose bottles (24 oz.) at $2.90 each
  • 3 Bathroom bottles (24 oz.) at $5.80 each
  • 3 Streak-Free bottles (24 oz.) at $0.20 each
  • 3 Foaming Wash bottles (10 oz.) at $2.90 each
  • 64 laundry loads at $0.24 per load
What’s The Catch?

The only thing I don’t love about Branch Basics is that it comes in plastic bottles. Half way down the rabbit hole I also decided I wanted to try to support a more eco friendly lifestyle all together and look for Zero Waste options whenever possible. I know i’m just one person but the impact of non-biodegradable waste all over the world has long since spiraled out of control. It’s something that will be an even bigger problem for my kids and their kids in years to come. It doesn’t harm anyone by trying to live a Zero Waste lifestyle and it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing deal either. Every little but helps, so why not try.

Anyway, at least Branch Basics is on the train of reusable and refillable containers. You can buy their bottles that have conveniently marked fill lines or you can follow the recommended ratios and use your own bottles you already have at home, just buying their concentrate alone. Glass is great because it doesn’t leach chemicals into the contents like plastic can, but the reality is that if glass isn’t recycled it actually lasts longer (maybe forever) than the 500-1000 years that plastic particles do. But that’s another story too. Branch Basics is currently working on better packaging so I’m super excited to see what they come up with. For now, I am just happy to have found something that is totally safe to use around my whole family. I will say that their spray bottles and foaming wash bottle are extremely effective at giving you just the right amount with each spray or pump. I tried using a glass bottle with a pour spout that I already had in my home but it caused me to waste way more liquid than I actually needed. It’s always great to try to reuse things we already have but I’m super happy with the functionality of the bottles that BB provides.

Is There A Trial Size?

If you want to give Branch Basics a try I’ve got a reusable $10 off coupon code you can use at checkout. It’s applied automatically if you use my referral link: http://branchbasics.refr.cc/wherethecoconutsgrow

It also gives me $10 off too, and I definitely plan on buying more, although it will be a long time before I run out of concentrate! I think you can use it for subsequent purchases too, not just one time – but i’m not positive about this. Let me know if you try it a second time!

(They currently don’t list US Virgin Islands as an option for shipping on their website at checkout but their customer service team rocks!! They quickly answered all the questions I had and manually placed my order over the phone so that I could get my order shipped to me in in St Thomas USVI. It arrived super fast and without any hiccups.)

For the cheapest way to try this stuff out, I recommend getting the $5 Trial kit which comes with a travel size 2 fl.oz. concentrate and a large All Purpose spray bottle. My referral link would get you this for free, and you would just pay a couple bucks for shipping. What I did instead was I bought the $20 Travel Kit (-$10 from the referral code I used equals a total of $10 plus shipping) and that way I was able to test out the Foaming Wash bottle too. It comes with the mini concentrate and a prefilled All Purpose and a prefilled Foaming Wash. Now I have a mini All Purpose and a mini Foaming Wash – both under TSA limits for carryon liquids and I can take them with me on my next plane ride (which is coming up very soon!).

I will point out that the prefilled All Purpose and Foaming Wash that I received had a slightly different formulation that also had soapberry in it. The company informed me that it was hard to source and expensive so they recently eliminated it with no significant effect on the product at all. I actually like the concentrate better without it. It was slightly drying feeling in my opinion. They might still have a few of these left but these prefilled bottles and older labels are almost phased out – they are still fulfilling orders with them because there’s nothing bad about the ingredient and it’s better than wasting product and plastic bottles and preprinted labels. Just something to be aware of (and not worry about) if you do order this kit.

If you do give it a try, I’d love to know what you think!

***

PS if you’re curious what other awesome things I found on my way down the rabbit hole, stay tuned!!!

A Change Of Scenery

Lately all of us have been feeling like we were long overdue for a change of scenery. So we did a thing…

A few days ago we moved to the dock at Sapphire Beach Marina here on St Thomas!!

The slip we wanted finally opened up and we made the move as soon as Peter had another day off. As much as I despise dock life and would much rather be at anchor, it’s really the best option for us right now. There just aren’t very many good options for being a liveaboard permanently based in USVI. Ideally, we would love to be in an anchorage that has good protection from waves and open ocean swell, water clean enough to swim in, and easy access to shore, but that really doesn’t exist on St Thomas. Plus, Brig is at the point where he really needs to run off some energy every day and meet some other kids his age, so dock life is the next best thing.

Peter is currently signing on long term for a really awesome job opportunity (more on that to come!) which means we are ready to plant some roots again. Some days I can’t stop thinking about how much I loved our mooring in Sopers Hole on Tortola, but then I remind myself that it’s not even close to being how it was before. There’s nothing there for us right now. Our new life after Hurricane Irma is here… on a different boat, just an island hop away. I absolutely love living in the islands and eventually I hope to love it here as much as I loved our home in BVI.

Sapphire has a pool and a really nice beach. There’s a beach bar/restaurant, coffee shop, smoothies, and ice cream. It’s close to the safari taxi route and there’s even a taxi stand by the restaurant. Parking is free, but you have to pay for showers. There’s self service laundry on site. Water is cheap at only .10cents a gallon reverse osmosis. The slip rental cost is pretty pricey but we don’t have many options to choose from. We get a decent breeze on deck but it’s coming from our starboard side so it can get pretty toasty down below. In the evenings it’s imperative that we get screens in all the hatches and zip up the cockpit or the no-see-ums and mosquitos can get pretty vicious. Our electric bug zapper racquet gets used once or twice a night even with the screens in. I think the part I like the most about our new home is that we don’t get ferry wakes anymore!! Those Tortola ferry captains lay on the throttle and when we were out in Christmas Cove we got some catastrophic wakes every now and then. Nothing like red hook gets – but still.

I think this will be a good thing for us. At least we are still able to live Where The Coconuts Grow

The Best of Intentions

As much as I want to write a new blog post every day, it just never happens. I have such high hopes for my time management. I dream about the times when I used to be able to sit down with my laptop and get lost in my thoughts.  The truth is that Brig gets busier with each passing day and there’s always something more pressing that needs to get done. To be fair, we have literally been on the move for more than a year.  Ever since Hurricane Irma hit, we’ve been traveling and bouncing around from house to house by plane, by car, and by boat almost nonstop.  Unexpected events pop up at every turn. As if a 17 month old baby wasn’t enough to keep me from blogging!

We finally got back to our boat about a month ago after spending some more time in the states for my grandmother’s memorial and to allow us to be out of the Caribbean during Hurricane Season. We began sailing North to get back to St Thomas but weather has kept us longer than planned. We’re still currently stuck in St Kitts for just a couple more days. On Monday we hope we can make the final 24 hour push to get back home and FINALLY get settled. It feels like its been SUCH a long time coming.  We can finally find a routine and nave a little normalcy in our lives.  I think I need it more than anyone.  Brig has been such a trooper through it all and I’m so proud of him.

Peter will go back to work full time for Paradise Yacht Management in St Thomas managing the maintenance on their fleet of charter catamarans.  It’s a great company and Peter really enjoys working with those guys so he’s excited to get back too.  I will be staying home with Brig and I HOPE to get some projects of my own finally taken care of.  There are SO many sewing projects on my list and I have tons of blog content I want to finally get posted. Brig is in the process of transitioning from two naps down to one so I hope I can finally get a solid chunk of time to myself during the day.  Am I just dreaming again? Maybe. We shall see.

I know there are many of you that only visit the website and blog but don’t “do” social media. Please remember to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages even if you don’t have accounts there.  You can still see our public photos. I post updates about our adventures on those sites WAY more often than I post here right now so head on over to get your dose of coconuts :)

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7 Reasons To Love Turkish Towels

As I began packing my bags to head back to the islands and move onto our new home I started thinking of all my favorite basic necessities I once had on our old boat before the Hurricane. We really learned a lot over the last four years living aboard about what we truly needed and what we didn’t. There isn’t much space on a sailboat so every single item must be carefully chosen based on it’s value.

A little secret I learned from my good friends Genevieve and Brittany was that Turkish Towels are WAY better than regular towels! Not all brands are created equal though. I first tried out some cheapies from Amazon but they were too thin and wore out within the first year of Caribbean sun and daily use. I began my search for a better brand and the next ones I tried were from a non-profit organization called Education And More. They aim to reduce poverty in Guatemala by providing educational opportunities and supporting local Fair Trade artisans to create ethically made hand-crafted products. They sell several different types of products but I was specifically looking for Turkish Towels.

I’ve been using them for quite awhile now and I can honestly say they are still truly wonderful! Here’s why:

100% cotton

Call me crazy but nothing is better than wrapping yourself in 100% cotton, Natural fibers just feel so much softer than synthetic fabrics. It’s personal preference I guess, but if you are able to tell the difference, most people will choose 100% cotton every time.

Compact

These towels are easy to store, they take up very little space and they are super easy to stuff into a beach bag, backpack or purse. Our new boat is lacking in the storage department so the fact that I don’t need a full size linen closet to store our towels in is a huge plus. If we used regular terry towels they would literally be sitting in a pile up in our cockpit because they wouldn’t fit anywhere else.

Lightweight

Probably the best thing about Turkish Towels are how lightweight they are.  They are easier to wash than big heavy terry towels and they dry so much faster. We are in and out of the water all day long down here in the Caribbean and that means our towels are always wet. We hang them on the line to dry and the sun bakes them to a warm perfection in no time at all so they are always ready for the next swim. A regular terrycloth towel would take hours to fully dry. Granted, you get a better absorbency from terrycloth towels but because these are made of pure cotton they are more than sufficient for drying off.

Gorgeous colors

These towels come in the most gorgeous colors! Their soft hues look so inviting.  Every time I take mine to the beach I always get lots of ooohs and ahhhhhs asking where I got them. I got a soft brown (which I love) but all of the colors would look so nice!!

Versatility

These towels come in full size or hand towel size and can be used virtually anywhere. We take them to the beach, we use them as our bath towels, our dish towels, our hand towels in the bathroom, as a blanket, a diaper changing mat, and as a sunshade! You could use them as an upholstery cover or even as dog bed ;)

durability

What I love the most is that they last. The women that make these must put a LOT of love into them because the quality is fantastic!  They are slightly heavier and maybe not as soft as some other Turkish Towels but they are made to last. The sun and the wind have not worn them too thin like the first cheapie brand I tried, and they continue to get a little softer with each wash. Also, with a little heavier weight (relatively speaking – since they are still super lightweight) it makes Education and More towels a perfect choice for a beach towel because you can sit on it on the sand without all the sand going right through it. Most importantly the sand shakes off easily.

fair trade

Lastly, with each purchase you are helping others. Education and More is a non-profit organization that offers a Buy One, Give One, Help One program where “for every fouta towel that you buy from The Fair Line, we will give one to a Women’s Crisis Center here in the United States.  Additionally, each fouta sold provides a Guatemalan Woman a fair wage for her artistry, which in turn helps her provide for herself and her family.” It makes me happy to be able to support such a good cause and share these amazing towels with you.

 

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

This post may contain information about a product sponsorship. We gladly accept discounts or samples when a company feels generous enough to support our cause. In return we support the manufacturer or local service by sharing their links and writing about our experience with them. We only seek out sponsorship and affiliate programs from products and services we actually WANT to use and likewise only accept offers for products or services that we WILL use. We are not paid for any reviews we write or feedback we provide. We simply like to spread the word and share great experiences we have had that could also bring joy to others.

Settling In

Brig, Betsy, my brother Brandon and I are settling in after arriving safe and sound in St Thomas a little more than two weeks ago. Peter had just arrived with our new boat from Antigua and everything was still in full on project mode. Day by day we’ve chipped away at the list and its just now starting to feel like home.

Every new boat comes with a few hiccups – a few surprises we couldn’t have anticipated. As soon as I got there the refrigerator and freezer keel coolers stopped working.  Peter only had the boat in the water for about a week at that point so many of the systems were being put to the test for the first time.  The good news is that Reefco, the local marine refrigeration company, was able to diagnose and supply the parts we needed. The bad news is how much the parts and labor cost us :( We began to work on getting on the schedule to haul the boat out to do the repairs.

We were on the dock at Crown Bay Marina for the first few days after arriving back in the islands, then moved to a nearby mooring that our friends Jesse and Stacey on SV Smitty helped us arrange.  When we tried to leave, our alternator and oil alarm were both giving us issues. Eventually we got it resolved enough just to get us up to Christmas Cove a short sail away but as we approached the mooring field that afternoon, our troubles continued.  The engine wouldn’t start! We calmly thought about what could be wrong and continued to try starting it a few more times. Suddenly it turned over… Our engine started and we anchored toward the back of the pack. We could have come in under sail but it’s always nicer to be able to back down on your anchor. A ton of boats were there already in anticipation for a regatta so there weren’t many spots to choose from. After we got settled Peter determined it was pure luck that we got the engine started just then and that it would NOT be starting again.

We had to wait almost a week to get Offshore Marine out with a replacement Electronic Control Unit, so not only did we have no way to start the engine, we still had no refrigeration. Our plans for hauling out to fix the keel coolers would have to wait until we had an engine to get us into the haulout slip. I’ve got towing on our new insurance but it wasn’t worth the hassle of filing a claim.  We resorted to eating soup, mac n cheese and pb&j.

Eventually we got it all fixed. We sailed back out to Christmas Cove now and we can finally relax! There will always be boat projects but we hope the major stuff is all done now.  Peter’s birthday was March 30 and luckily we got to spend it in paradise.

We’re all adjusting pretty well. Brandon is getting used to boat life. Betsy is so happy to be able to lay in the sun all afternoon again, and Brig is busy as ever. At 9 months he can walk around the whole inside of the boat using the walls for stability, he loves eating goldfish and he’s learning to like swimming at the beach! Peter and I are just happy to be back to where we belong <3