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Home Waters

Back on the water, Olympia, WA USA

We went sailing last weekend. It was late Sunday afternoon, on a friend’s small boat. We sailed back and forth in superlight summer breeze across the head of Olympia’s Budd Inlet. After a whirlwind past four months, we felt…done.

Back in May, still in New Zealand, we bought a house in our old, affordable Olympia neighborhood next to Capitol Forest, packed and shipped our stuff back to the U.S., moved Wondertime to the sales dock in Whangarei, kissed our good ship good-bye, took a quick RV trip up to Cape Reinga, jetted back to Washington State, signed our house papers, moved our eight bags in, unloaded our storage unit, bought some patio chairs, then sat back and listened to the birds twitter in the tops of our 7 acres of trees with a proper Pacific Northwest IPA in hand.

Was it as easy as that? God no. Many times during the process of returning home did I feel like I was going to explode into a thousand pieces. But it was necessary, and knowing that kept us going. Earlier this year, we tired of the struggle and pulled the plug. It was that simple. The lack of any kind of support system was wrecking havoc on our family. Struggling to make financial ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the world was disheartening, with Michael trudging off to a well-paying job daily. We had to sneakaboard to sleep in our home. We couldn’t afford to visit our families, and they couldn’t afford to visit us. We missed them, and were sad they had missed so much of our girls growing up already. Our simple life aboard and abroad had become anything but. We love New Zealand so, it was a terrible decision to make.

Somehow, it all came together and we were back in Olympia by late May. In June, Michael started work again and the girls and I kept ourselves busy making our new house a home (o massive thrift shops! how I missed you!), rekindled old friendships, and played in our creek. It’s been a quiet summer: catching frogs, getting to know our new/old neighbors better, carving trails, camping in the backyard, fireworks, sprinklers, s’mores over the fire, watching the weeds grow. Settling back in. Missing New Zealand profoundly, as we knew we would. Everyone does.

It’s late August now, only two more weeks until school starts up. Michael’s been helping our good friend Garth (you might remember reading about him on our way south, he was our first brave crewmember) get the engine of his little Pearson 28 running before summer’s run out. We finally got the chance to head out with him last weekend, on a perfect PNW late-summer afternoon.

Sailing our favorite waters

Of course, the engine wouldn’t start when we got out to the boat. Not a problem for Michael MacGyver Johnson who jumped below, contorted his body in impossible ways in the tiny quarter cabin and rewired that sucker. He was determined to get us out on the water.

As expected, the engine purred to life soon after and we puttered out of the marina. In 5 knots of wind we put up the sails, cut the engine, and felt the weight of our world drop away at the so familiar sound of water trickling past the hull.

Leah had been below reading her kindle (having earlier refused to go out with us because “my sailing days are over” and “sailing is stupid”). She grabbed a life jacket and joined Holly on the bow. Not far ahead was Hope Island and she suddenly begged to go there, to see the Onion Tree once again, hike our trail again. We hated to break it to her that we were only out for a few hours, and besides we hadn’t a dinghy with us and weren’t going to swim ashore. Another day, we promised.

Sailing girls, Olympia

We zig-zagged back and forth several times, then Michael handed me the tiller. It had been a long, long time since I’d held a tiller on a small boat. Such a simple and true thing. Just a titch in one direction or the other and I could feel the exact moment when the boat was satisfied. I’d hold it there for a while, and then the wind would shift a bit, or change in velocity and I’d have to make the proper adjustment. Then we’d carry on.

With the tiller in my hand, I saw that everything I wanted is right here: two beautiful, happy children, a partner in life, love, and adventure who is willing to grow and change alongside me, a loving community, a cozy home, a daily shower, a desk of my own, cats sleeping under it, paid writing gigs, memories of grand adventures and seeds of more to come, and my beloved Salish sea, once again on our doorstep.

Our house. "It's shaped like a boat!" my Dad said when I emailed him the line drawings from NZ.

Our little house. “It’s shaped like a boat!” my Dad said when I emailed him the line drawings from NZ.


Brand new simple pleasures


Our backyard. No nature deficit disorder here.

Our backyard. No nature deficit disorder here. The creek will be filled with putrefying salmon come November. They swim from the ocean into Puget Sound, down into Mud Bay, and upstream to our little creek where they leave their little ones to grow.


My dream come true: a writing desk with a view

My dream come true: a writing desk with a view, and the sound of ravens outside.


Meet cat #3 (not a typo): Lulu. We love her.

Meet cat #3 (not a typo): Lulu. We love her. She joins Penny and Tui, older siblings we adopted from our local cat rescue.


  1. Kyra says:

    Reading this made me happy for you even though we miss you… By the way, I love your writing nook! xo

    1. Sara says:

      Do I miss you!! When you get your new stickers, come visit!

  2. Liezel says:

    I enjoy following you journey, what an adventure! We moved to NZ 18 years ago when we first got married. Our two girls were born in NZ. I also feel sad that we miss out on so many family gatherings and special times. When the cousins’ came to visit last December and had to leave again, my youngest said “Who did this to us, who ripped us apart?” I felt that oh so familiar pain and guilt. It has become a much more expensive place to live…but we love it, and can never return to our homeland. I am so happy for you and wish you and the family many happy memories in your new home, it looks fantastic. Hope the girls enjoy their new school and lots of family time. All the best L

  3. Laura says:

    Two years ago we left sailing in Mexico to come home so our teenage son could have the advantages of life on land, in America, near his extended family. So many people questioned why we would want to bring our teenage son back to America, like it was a poison. Drugs! Guns! Media Violence! I was a little nervous. Well, it is so much better than I ever could have hoped. Education opportunities, work opportunities, so many friends he can see every day, a sports team for every season, the wild beauty of the NW forests….too much to name and Family, too. He is having the time of his life and is so grateful to be “home” right now. Our ex-pat friends all bemoaned the problems of America before we left to come home. Yet, we are really enjoying life in America. Yes, America is screwed up politically, and economically – BUT the people we know and who are around us in our small town, are wonderful, kind and friendly. And America won’t get better if all the good people just leave. Welcome home.

    1. Sara says:

      That is SO true Laura! The thing about America is there are a whole lot of problems (there are problems everywhere, right?) but there are also a LOT of people that care and are working hard to change things here. We are glad to be back to help improve things for the better, for our daughters.

  4. Your new home is lovely and what an awesome setting. I look foreword forward to visiting someday–we all do. Michael

    1. Sara says:

      Oh MR! Your too clever. It will be a grand reunion for sure and we can’t wait.

  5. Diane says:

    You sound happy and your home looks beautiful. We also look forward to settling in back home (someday). I’m always grateful that we have a place that is home to my heart. I love the places I visit and live along the way but Dorothy was right:)

  6. I just came across a beautiful blog, which is your blog. Awesome posting. Home is where the anchor drops!