Breaking in the Catalina 30: Sailing With Kids

Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares photos of her young daughters on a Catalina 30 sailboat

We’re officially three trips in with the new Catalina 30 sailboat—one overnight trip with Jeff and I, one overnight trip with both girls and one day trip with both girls.

I’ll be perfectly honest—we haven’t gotten out on the water a whole lot so far, but we were able to get one sail up with the girls on Lake Muskegon with the whole family, so we considered that a win. Jeff and I are going to go up today to finish setting up the lifeline netting and to finally try our hand at a sail on the big lake before we try it with the girls.

We knew going into this that the first few years would be a lot more about hanging out at the marina with little day sails when the girls are on their best behavior and the weather is cooperating. The pool at Great Lakes Marina was a big draw (Arden has shown us that she’s not a fan of it, but Zel loves it), and we love that we’re so close to multiple gorgeous beaches where we can play in the sand and watch the sunset.

We’re still learning how to adapt to some of the challenges of “living on a boat” while we’re in Muskegon—converting our main living area to a toddler bedroom, naps in the v-berth, dealing with public meltdowns with 100 other boats in close proximity, where to put all of our stuff while we’re there, the bedtime routine, etc. It’s not always perfect or pretty, but it’s our little adventure.

Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares photos of her young daughters on the deck of a Catalina 30 sailboat
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares photos of her young daughters playing on the deck of a Catalina 30 sailboat in Muskegon
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her young daughter in swimmies climbing out of a Catalina 30 cabin
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her young daughter in swimmies climbing out of a Catalina 30 cabin
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her young daughters in the cabin of a Catalina 30 sailboat
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her young daughters snacking in the cabin of a Catalina 30 sailboat
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her young family in the cabin of a Catalina 30 sailboat
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her one year old napping in the v-berth of a Catalina 30 sailboat
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo the cabin of a Catalina 30 sailboat set up for a one year old
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her husband and daughters at Great Lakes Marina in Muskegon, Michigan
Michigan wedding and lifestyle photographer, Allie Siarto, shares a photo of her husband and daughters at Great Lakes Marina in Muskegon, Michigan

Sarah + Ron: Adoption Profile Photos

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Sarah and Ron asked me to help them with a very important project—they needed photos for their adoption profile and book that would let their personalities shine through. I learned pretty quickly that these two are a hoot—with a few interactive prompts, it didn’t take long to get them laughing together and showing off their goofy side.

Sarah and Ron, I loved hearing your stories, and I’m so excited to follow your journey into parenthood. One very lucky kid is going to have the honor of calling you Mom and Dad soon.

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Melissa: East Lansing Senior Photography

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We got started a bit late on Melissa’s senior session, so we used the setting sun as an opportunity to get some darker and more dramatic portraits using MSU’s campus as a backdrop. I’m loving this mix 🙂

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Here’s a photo of Melissa’s image box. I swore I took a photo of her Storytelling frame too, but I can’t seem to find it 🙁

The memory box has been the most popular product among high school seniors. It comes with 50 prints, and you’re welcome to get duplicate prints to give out as gifts. It’s also a fun way to hold other memories like a class ring and other small, meaningful trinkets.

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Learn more about senior photography

We Bought a Sailboat!

Sailing in Muskegon, Great Lakes Marina

About two years ago, Jeff discovered SV Delos—a group that has been sailing around the world on a 53 foot sailboat.  He had never stepped foot on a sailboat before, but he was instantly drawn in by the idea of traveling by wind (he also works on NASA projects involving the oceans, so he has a huge respect and fascination for the world we live in).

He started small. He told me that he wanted to take sailing lessons over at Michigan State at Lake Lansing, so he spent the month of June, 2015 learning the basics of sailing. That fall, he told me that he wanted to take a four day course up in Traverse City to learn to sail larger boats. After the two classes, he was able to get me excited about sailing by bringing me out to Lake Lansing to sail with him and chartering a few boats out of Traverse City to explore the Grand Traverse Bay and experience sleeping aboard a sailboat.

Sailing in Muskegon, Great Lakes Marina

We spent our winters talking about sailing trips we could take in the Great Lakes, and Jeff slowly started to introduce the idea of buying our own sailboat one day. It started as a longterm plan—we’d start looking at boats in 2019 before Zel started Kindergarten.

But as we talked about it more and looked at other families who were sailing with very young children, we were just so intrigued by the idea of starting the family adventure sooner. I told Jeff that I’d consider keeping an eye out for the right boat, and he immediately told me that he had one in mind (it turns out that looking at boat listings had become a bit of a side hobby for him).

Sailing in Muskegon, Great Lakes Marina

We made the trip up to Muskegon on a cold winter morning to look at two Catalina 30s. We climbed up the ladder into the boats as the wind blew around us. In one case, we had to climb under the boat cover to get inside (the other was stored inside, which made things a bit easier).

We were looking at boats from the eighties, and Jeff had warned me that they wouldn’t be nearly as nice as the newer charter boats I had experienced, but I was pleasantly surprised by how warm and welcoming they felt (even with headlamps and flashlights in the winter).

We ended up making an offer on the 1989 Catalina 30—the family (also with two kids) was moving to Colorado for a job. After a little back and forth, our offer was accepted, and the Siarto adventures began.

Great Lakes Marina, SV Ragtime

We spent our first weekend there in early May while the girls stayed with my parents—we wanted to make sure we had all of our childproofing in place before bringing the girls aboard.

We spent the better part of a Saturday trying to install lifeline netting around the boat as an added precaution to go along with lifejackets and harnesses (we’re taking safety super seriously, especially since 17 month olds and three year olds aren’t always known for being the best listeners).

We had read that the lifeline netting would be a time commitment, and boy was it. It’s simple in theory, but we spent a lot of time unwinding lines trying to get the whole thing to lay the way we wanted to. We still have to finish off the back next time we’re up there.

Allie putting up safety lines

We motored out onto Lake Michigan to test things out. It was windy and chilly that day, so we haven’t even had a chance to get the sails up, but we’re hoping to try them out soon, and we’re planning a long weekend mini cruise in June.

We’re also so excited about being a part of the community at Great Lakes Marina in Muskegon. Our first weekend there felt a lot like my first week living in a dorm at MSU. Hanging out working on the boat was a lot like leaving your door open on campus. Everyone who walked by made a point to stop, introduce themselves and chat for a bit. I can’t wait to see where this summer takes us.

And I’m sure you’re wondering the logistics of sailing when I’m photographing weddings on the weekends. I made a point this year to take more summer weekends off, and for wedding weekends, Jeff has plenty of vacation days to shift our weekend to Sunday/Monday.

We’re excited to share our adventures as we jump into this new world. I’ll try not to use too many cheesey boat puns, but no promises 🙂

Allie on the Catalina 30 putting up safety lines

Our Catalina 30 sailboat

Jeff captaining our Catalina 30

Taking our Catalina 30 sailboat out for a spin

Great Lakes Marina scenery

Entering Great Lakes Marina

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