Nautie Books :: The Dirty Life



The Dirty Life: A Memoir On Farming, Food and Love

This book drew me right in.  

A couple years ago I watched the movie Food, Inc. It graphically imaged what I already knew about food...that we can no longer trust where it comes from. Shortly after seeing the movie I picked up the book The Omnivore's Dillema (which I highly recommend).  Right on the tail of suddenly feeling incredibly paranoid about where my food was coming from I hopped on a container ship. Reading the cargo manifest one day I realized we were shipping 'organic soybeans' in one of the refrigerated containers from China to California. I was horrified. I mean, seriously, the rain in China is probably toxic!! 

This book warned my heart - I knw. So cliche.  I felt so proud of these two young farmers. Like, take that you impossibly organic soybeans being repackaged and rebranded being bought up by the masses at Trader Joes!!!  Boom!  Essex Farm makes their own compost!  Take that!

Plus, there's a love story and recipes. I mean seriously. A farm. A man who cooks. A woman who drives a team of horses. Maple syrup.  

I'm currently at sea and I have to say there's something about reading about dirt in the middle of the ocean.  

Kristin Kimball couldn't have done a better job telling this story.  

Here's a great article about the book if you'd like to read more before picking it up! 

What's on your nightstand these days? 


 Remember way back when we had a book club?  I miss those days...I just don't miss them enough to commit to a book a month. How's that for honest?  That being said, I love a good book!  I also love when a friend recommends a good book. Let's do that sometimes! 

Tugboat Dislikes


I got to thinking today that's it's only fair I share my dislikes. It seems like a good idea to keep things real and share the downsides to tugboat life (as far as a transition from a ship goes).  

Here goes.  

I share a bathroom. This isn't the biggest deal ever. But, guess who forgot to pack shower shoes?  This girl. The ick factor is high.  

Space is at a premium. My room is about the size of a cleaning gear locker on a ship...okay fine...that's an exaggeration but, my room is small and so is everyone else's.  

You're never alone. Because the boat is small (hence space being at a premium) it's very had to find some time to yourself.  

Exercise feels nigh impossible. On a ship you can really stretch your legs. Sheesh, a walk to the bow alone is a decent leg stretcher. Here, not so much.  

It's wet. We take A LOT of spray and water on the stern. This really drives the above dislike because not only is walking at a shortage - you'll get soaked - plus, it can be unsafe.  

We feel the weather. (Hence it being so wet.). This could be a post of its own and probably will be however; we Rock and Roll. It can make things really challenging.  

All in all, the likes and dislikes remain properly balanced and life remains good. 

Tugboat Likes

I'm on my first rotation on a tugboat and, I've been really, really enjoying my time onboard. 

Here's a couple things I've been really liking (as opposed to ships): 

It's relaxed. People seem to take a very common sense approach to things which means that for the most part it's a much more relaxed environment.

It's dynamic.  We're much more in tune with the environmental factors. What's the wind doing?  Lots of current today?  What are the assist boats doing? How much water are we in?  

It's a community. It's blown my mind how much the tugs take care of each other.  Shared groceries, shared water,  shared information. Two days ago a tug dropped off a box of herbal tea for me. It's very, very refreshing.   

It's social. The crew actually socializes. Cribbage anyone?  Wanna watch a show?  There's one dining room table - we have lively dinner conversations. It's so good for morale.  

It's an open galley. Off meal times you can go to the fridge - find some food - and sheesh even cook it up if you want!  Coming from ships this feels like a luxury.  

It's flexible. Specifically regarding food. We actually go shopping at the grocery store.  If you want a specific cereal put it on the list.  Again, coming from ships this feels like a luxury.  

It's fun.  Hands on often times equals fun and that's very much the case here.  


It's also really hard to not love using the hashtag #nautietugshavenicersterns on Instagram.  


I've been living and breathing ice conditions for the last week or two.  It's not something I ever thought I'd track, pay attention to or, make plans around.

I've enjoyed the challenge of navigating through the ice immensely.  Not only does it require heightened awareness and constant vigilance it's also just down right gorgeous.  

ice edge

The ice fields we've been operating in have a distinct edge.  There are random pieces of ice through all the waters surrounding the North Slope of Alaska but, the ice we've been tracking has a fairly clear line where it begins and ends.  We track it on the radar but, we also have partners in planes who fly the region daily (as conditions allow) providing an ice report.

ice field

When you enter the ice field conditions vary based on location.  For example ice will 'stack up' around a barrier island making it much more challenging to transit.  The photo above is only about 40% concentration - but from the waterline you can see that it's really challenging to find clear paths to navigate through.

ice along hull

A lot of the ice is old and soft.  As our hull would make contact it would crack, roll and give way.  Part of the 'constant vigilance' is to constantly be scanning the horizon to assess the next pan of ice for what type of ice it is.  Is it solid?  Large underwater portions?  Are there fractures or weak places for us to target?  What color is it?  Our vessel is designed to operate in ice which gave us a huge advantage.

ice field

You can clearly see that not all ice is created equal.  You can definitely prioritize what you want to avoid when the concentration is only at 40%.  

One thing that surprised me was how dirty the ice was!  As this ice has broken away from its original location it's been 'rolled' by the forces of nature.  At some point the brown bits have touched ground or the bottom of the seabed rolling through the mud.  

Our toughest portion was about 60-70% concentration and it was much, much, much more challenging then 40%.

There are currently concentrations of up to 80% and we're hoping that a good blow will open things up for us.

In the meantime, I'm editing and resizing photos because Big Bertha had a field day!  I can't wait to share more!

Just a friendly reminder, I use Instagram a lot.  If you're frustrated I'm not posting you can almost always find me there!  @nautiemermate 

A Northerly Update

It's starting to get cold. Today we had little mini icicles on the railings - and it snowed! 

We spent two days last week in very heavy ice. It was intense, exhilarating, gorgeous and exhausting all at once.  

We are currently anchored and waiting in a safe harbor for the ice conditions to improve.  

It's incredibly hard to believe that it's August.  It seems like everyday feels a little more like winter.  I looked outside my window today and thought, 'I really hope we're out of here by mid-september'.   

I've been posting a lot of photos to Instagram but, I realize not all you lovelies can see them.  

Here's a mini look at what my Instagram feed is looking like!

Leader of the pack.  

Leader of the pack.  

Tugboat friends! 

Tugboat friends! 

A pan of ice along the hull while underway. 

A pan of ice along the hull while underway. 

Mini icicles in August! 

Mini icicles in August! 

I loaded these all from my phone - while I cringe to complain about the wifi (because...hello!  awesome!) - our connection is slow and spotty. Please excuse the lack of formatting! 



A Little History

This blog began in 2010, I was at sea, I needed an outlet, I was having a hard time keeping in touch with friends and family, I started to write.  Nautie Mermate became a strange nebulous friend of sorts.  This little slice of the internet has kept me connected and kept me sane.  More importantly, this little slice of the internet has brought people into my life that I just can’t imagine not having in my life.

One of my very first blog posts was a tribute to my Uncle Rocket.  It is one of the singularly most important things I’ve ever written.  It built the foundation for me to reconnect and become friends with his daughter, my cousin Rhiannon.

She’s become one of my favorite people.  Ever.  


Many of you are long time readers and you’ll know that each year I campaign on Rhiannon’s behalf as she participates in The Ride to Conquer Cancer.  One year I even got to meet her at the finish line

To say I’m proud of her doesn’t even scratch the surface.  She earned her Golden Helmet last year!  That means she’s ridden five years in a row!!  

More Recent History

This year I travelled to Nepal with an amazing group of ladies.  I call them ‘The Girls’ and they have been one of the best things to happen to me in a long time.  The Girls were all somehow connected through Rhiannon - when I heard she was going to Nepal I shamelessly invited myself.  These Girls.  They’re amazing.  They’re positive - uplifting - hilarious - fun - loyal - strong - smart - gorgeous women.  


This year in support of The Ride to Conquer Cancer - and I’m sure in support of their friendship to Rhiannon - quite a few of The Girls (and their dudes) are participating in this years Ride.  As in all previous years we're rooting for Team Finn.  


Everyone has their own reasons for Riding - while I’ve never participated I have my own reasons for being such a staunch supporter and fundraiser on their behalf! (You can read about more of my reasons - along with an old plea to donate to Rhiannon!  It’s outdated friends!)

This year I’m campaigning on behalf of Farley.  

Why I Love Farley

When we were in Nepal we did a four day hike through the Annapurna’s.  One of the days called for an insane early morning wake up and an insane trek up an insane amount of steps to watch an insane Himalayan sunrise.  I was struggling.  Like struggle-bus central.  I was hands down the most out of shape in the group.  The hike was a total stretch for me.  A set of stairs straight up in the dark was a stretch of a stretch.  Farley walked behind me with her hand on my back.  Literally on my back.  She coached me the whole way up, ‘ten more stairs’ ‘ten breaths’ ‘make it to that tree there’ ‘ten more steps then you can have another break’ ‘you got this’ ‘lets shoot for the next bend’.  If she hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have seen the sunrise.  I would have either quit half way up or been late.  She had my back.  

Call To Action

Please, head over to Farley’s page to read her personal story - it's an incredibly touching one.

Go one step further and donate because, let’s face it, we all know someone who’s been affected by cancer.  




I'd be incredibly honored if you took the time to click through some of the links to read some of the back stories.  They matter.

I donated to Farley this year in honor of Russ.  Russ was a long time family friend - and supporter of Nautie Mermate.  He generously donated to Rhiannon's Ride every year.  Sadly, this year he lost his own personal battle with cancer.  I know he'd be incredibly proud to see Rhiannon finish her sixth ride!