handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

A Snapshot of Our Last Days in Missoula

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

Going away cards from our buddies, Jiah and Solan Grillo.











on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My last bike ride through Greenough Park along Rattlesnake Creek.  It’s been a helluva lovely commute these past ten years!









on the horizon line sailing blog

The new neighborhood grocery store on our kitchen floor, post cupboard clean-out.










on the horizon line sailing blog

And the cupboards for the last few days … we practiced living on a boat by using one spoon, one bowl and one cup each.









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

Remember how everything has to fit in a 12′ x 12′ area in the back of our garage? Here’s about half that space.  You can tell we like boots.









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

These favorites somehow didn’t make it into the book bin in time.  Maybe because we wanted to read them until the very last minute?









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My carry-ons tomorrow.  We fly out of Missoula at 7am. (And, no, it’s not a weapon or a fishing tool … it’s my mini guitar in Rob’s homemade case.)









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

The sum total of Rob’s belongings for the next 2 years: 2 sweet dry bags + travel purse + big hat.










on the horizon line sailing blog

In between moving our own junk, we helped friends move a REALLY heavy clawfoot tub up their stairs. They fed us dinner in return.







on the horizon line sailing blog

We had a continuous “free” pile at the bottom of the driveway. Most of our stuff didn’t move very far: here’s our lawn chair just across the street, and I just spotted our shelves next door.










on the horizon line sailing blog

After selling both cars mid-week, we were lucky enough to borrow the Kesslers’ jeep.  Rob had to pump up the leaking tire with a bike pump a couple of times.







on the horizon line sailing blog - kids at dinner

Goodbye dinners have been the highlight of each day, as we took a break from packing and cleaning to share meals with our favorite people.









packing the house to leave for our sailing trip - on the horizon line

Packing Your Home into a Small Space

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Sailing, Traveling


packing the house to leave for our sailing trip - on the horizon line
The Goodwill pile. We found approximately 221 cozies in our cupboards.

Our first day of (our first) retirement is full of dust-bunnies, boxes, and lots of trash bags.  The full chaos of moving is upon us.  Luckily, we have a whole week to move our life and our house into a 12×12-foot storage space before we fly away to Baja California where our adventures begin.  Even more luckily for us, Rob had the super-awesome idea of building a wall to divide our garage in half so that we can use the back half to store our stuff.

The up side: we only have to move all of our worldly possessions downstairs, which is rad.  But we still have to seal it, box it, wrap it, tie it, and stuff it carefully so that: a) it doesn’t mildew or get water damage, b) no rodents or creepy-crawlies destroy it, and c) it all fits into a space roughly the size of a bathroom.

rob's pile of stuff to put in his travel backpack - on the horizon line
Rob’s pile of “coming with us” stuff that’s supposed to fit in a backpack.


(Interesting factoid of the day: if you wrap your mattress in plastic or put clothes in Hefty bags, you should insert some silicone packets between the plastic and fabric first to suck up moisture.)

Here’s a typical conversation this afternoon: “Rob, I’m throwing away this ratty old blanket with holes in it,” as I toss it toward an overflowing trash bag.

“But, what if we want it for later?” Rob yells from the freezer he’s immersed in cleaning.  “Hey, cool!  I just found a whole bag of lemongrass.”  Rob also found frozen brussel sprouts, watermelon, cake with suspicious-looking blue icing, hops, and 12 packages of frozen beef.

brianna's pile and travel backpack - sailing on the horizon line
My pile of adventure stuff … minus that big drum in the black case.

Rob and I work well together — especially when we take on separate projects in separate corners and don’t ask permission when sorting and purging.  Just kidding.  We both agree on the fact that less is more in life, which will help us immensely as we pack up this week.  And, thankfully, we both agree that our couch and our bed are the most important items we own.  Everything else is just icing on the cake (though much nicer icing than what was on that nasty cake in the freezer).

Packing your life into 144 square feet + one backpack each is a good test for a relationship.  So far, so good.

I’ll let you know how we fare when the heavy lifting starts.





Bri in Little Blackfoot River in Montana - on the horizon line - clark fork coalition

Farewell (for now) to Working for Freshwater

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Community and Culture, Reflections on Life

bri rafting the alberton gorge9 years.  5 legislative sessions. 100s of grant proposals.  28,000 miles of streams and rivers to speak up for. Dozens of floats, monitoring days, and presentations.  Thousands of meetings, laughs, successes, snafus, late nights, and learning moments.

That’s just a sliver of what working for clean water means to me.

Today is my last day of work at the Clark Fork Coalition, a kick-ass high-powered conservation group that does good things for great rivers in Montana.  I’ve worked for almost a decade in a variety of roles at the Coalition, and never once did I dread going to work.  In fact, walking in the front doors almost always made me smile in anticipation of what the day might bring.  This is due in large part to the remarkable people I was lucky enough to work with and for.

Bri in Little Blackfoot River in Montana - on the horizon line - clark fork coalitionIf you’ve ever worked for a small non-profit organization, you know that every employee is a jack-of-all-trades.  We are writers, lobbyists, fundraisers, counselors, janitors, technicians, scientists, lawyers, explorers, tour guides, comedians and engineers — all in the same day.  We are passionate and dedicated and motivated to make the world a better place.  And we’re really fun, too.

The Coalition taught me a lot about how to make change happen — not just for the spectacular rivers and landscapes in Montana, but in my community, my country, my daily life.  It taught me that water connects everything: big and small, urban and rural, personal and global, eating and drinking, forests and valleys, mountains and ocean.

IMG_0130Why, you might ask, would I quit such a fabulous job or pivot away from such an important cause?  Because it’s the right time, and I can feel that deep inside.  I don’t ever want to walk in the front door dreading the day, so I’m planning to leave while the smile is still on my face and the passion is still beneath my skin.

Plus, as I see it, we’re just moving downstream to explore.  Granted, the Pacific is a lot bigger pond than the Clark Fork River, but I’m comforted by the fact that all of the clean water I worked to protect will be a part of the ocean that floats my boat.

I think my husband said it best in his farewell email to his co-workers at Trout Unlimited yesterday, so I’m going to let his words close out my farewell-for-now to the world of freshwater conservation:

bri rafting the alberton gorge

I’m calling it quits.  Not because I think there’s a better place to work or because I could make more money somewhere else, but because its just time.  Its time for someone with a new perspective to take over my program, to infuse it with new ideas and enthusiasm.  This track is starting to get awful familiar, and it’s time for me to find a new one.

I’ll be basically wandering for the foreseeable future, seeing some new places and people and trying to figure out what I’ll do next in my life.  My wife and I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to cut ties and vanish for a couple years. We will be leaving March 26 with a couple of backpacks, some snorkeling gear and a desire to travel, sail and explore.  Hitchhiking the ocean, some people have called it.  

I don’t think that being unemployed will always be easy, but I’m sure it will be interesting.  I want to say thank you for taking a chance on a bright-eyed idealist and giving me the opportunity, the skills and the flexibility to succeed.  For that, I will be forever indebted.  I feel truly blessed to have been your co-worker and part of an organization that has an excellent mission, hires good people and is just fun to work for.  Keep up the good fight and remember that we’re all in that fight together.  I’ll miss you. 

– Rob

bri and rob by the clark fork river at our wedding in missoula - on the horizon line

brianna randall at katie's wedding - on the horizon line

A Hair(y) Decision

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life
brianna randall at katie's wedding - on the horizon line
Can’t wait to see Katie in 12 days! This was at her wedding in June.

Ok, I’m going to pause for a moment to be a bit vain. I don’t usually succumb to girly habits, but occasionally I obsess about something somewhat silly like a dress or shoes or jewelry.  Today, it’s my hair.

I’m scheduled for my thrice-annual haircut tomorrow morning, and can’t decide if I should keep it long or chop it off.  Part of me is itching to go short, sassy, sea-worthy.  The other part of me knows that short and sassy will be a pain in the ass when I want to keep my hair braided or in a bun for days on end.

My dad and my husband both told me to just leave it long and wait to see how I feel when we get to Panama.  But they’re boys, and can’t be trusted with

brianna randall on the horizon line - in british columbia
A fuzzy old pic from 1998. Check out those long braids I was rocking!

girly hair decisions … especially when the decision may result in me (or, yikes, Rob) hacking at my hair in the middle of the Pacific with some less-than-sharp scissors and no mirror.

I’ve had long hair most of my life.  In fact, going through old pictures while packing last weekend made me realize I had WAY too much hair for many years.  It’s never been shorter than shoulder-length.

Please help.  I’d welcome some recommendations on what haircut makes the most sense for our upcoming sailing adventures (and is still girly enough to satisfy my fleeting vanity).

P.S. Thanks to SavageMama for this great post on dealing with her hair, which inspired me to share my own minor freakout.

brianna randall  and cass kayaking the salmon river - on the horizon line
Here’s a pic where it’s shorter, plus it’s just a fun memory of kayaking the Salmon River with my sister.
brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailing

A List of 10 Favorites – Here and There.

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailingWhat I’m most looking forward to when we get there (and by “there,” I mean latitudes south of Montana and places more salty than not).

  1. Remembering my dreams again.
  2. Mangos and avocados.
  3. Watching the stars and sun move across the sky.
  4. Counting birds and dolphins.
  5. Bioluminescence.
  6. Time to meditate.
  7. Humidity.
  8. New cuisines, new cultures, new friends.
  9. Having time to really listen.
  10. Dancing on the bow of the sailboat.

girlfriends at bri and rob wedding - on the horizon lineWhat I’ll miss most about being here (and by “here,” I mean our home in the beautiful Rocky Mountain town of MisSOULa, Montucky).

  1. My sister.  And my parents.  Cassidy and I have never been apart longer than 6 months, and I imagine the hole left in my heart without her nearby will ache often.
  2. Girlfriends.
  3. Mountains, and the crystal-clear creeks that flow from them.
  4. Our dog.
  5. Family dinners, followed by hilarious music jam sessions.
  6. Baths.
  7. Our couch (it’s seriously awesome) and king-sized bed.
  8. The lack of bugs and infectious diseases.
  9. Biking.
  10. Watching the kids we love grow up.


rob playing with kids in Missoula - on the horizon line

bri and cass at the wedding in Missoula - on the horizon line

bri with backpack ready to sail away on the horizon line

Travel Preparations: What to Bring With You

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Sailing, Traveling

bri with backpack ready to sail away on the horizon lineAre you ready for Part 2 of the Travel Prep Mini-Series?  We sure are!  This entry is much more fun, since it means we’re getting closer to a final packing list and farther from those nagging logistical details of leaving our life behind.  (In case you missed Part 1, click here to read “What You Should Leave Behind.”)

Did I mention that Rob had us do a “test pack” on Christmas Eve?  Yup, that was 2 full months ago.  And that’s how excited he is to get the backpack on his back and get out to explore the South Seas.  The test pack weighed in at exactly 50 lbs, which means we should be just under the checked baggage limit (fingers crossed!).  I just laid out everything on the floor again this weekend, trying to see how the hell it will all fit.

The goals of this post include: 1) share our preparation research with other wanna-be sailors/explorers/world travelers; 2) inspire you to cast off all bowlines and simplify some; 3) convince you (and us) that we can fit everything we need for 2 years in one giant backpack each.  See below for our packing list.

abe in laundry basket - pets scared of packing parents as we get ready to sail - on the horizon line
Our dog, Abe, goes to his “safe place” in the laundry basket when he sees us pack. Wish he could come with us!

And — please — let us know what we’re forgetting!  Although, as my grandma just told me on the phone, “I guess you won’t miss what you don’t bring, right?”  Hope not.

The Packing List:

  1. BAGS.  One giant 115-liter waterproof backpack, and one small daypack each.  A small purse/travel wallet for the items in #2.  Several different dry sacks/ditty bags to organize the stuff in the giant 115-liter backpack.
  2. WALLET & DOCS.  Passport, credit cards, ATM cards, license, health insurance cards, scuba certification cards, cash.  We also made electronic and paper copies of all of important travel docs to bring with us and leave with our parents.
  3. ELECTRONICS.  MacBook Air laptop, LaCie hard drive, iPhone (complete with Navionics charts and Bad Elf GPS plugin, and its own life jacket), camera, GoPro Hero 2, recording mic, mini-speaker, iTouch, plus a Joos solar charger to keep ’em all alive and waterproof/durable cases to keep ’em all dry.  *Stay tuned for a Travel Prep post on our communication plan while at sea.
  4. CLOTHES.  3-4 of each of these items: lightweight pants, shorts/skirts, long-sleeved shirts, tank-top or t-shirts, sarongs, underwear, visors/hats, bathing suits.  Rubber rain gear and a lightweight windbreaker.  Small, lightweight puffy jacket.  For Bri: 1 dress and 1 long skirt.  Shoes: Crocs, Vibram 5-Fingers, flip-flops.
  5. SAFETY.  Delorme In-Reach for emergency tracking and rescue (you’re welcome, moms!),
    inflatable Coast Guard-certified life jackets with harness attachments, headlamps, a UV SteriPen to filter drinking water, mosquito net, dive + rigging knives, and a bomber medical kit.  *Stay tuned for a Travel Prep post detailing our medical supplies and vaccinations.
  6. a snapshot of stuff we're taking sailingTOILETRIES.  Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (doubles as shampoo), toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, hair bands, sunscreen, all-purpose lotion, bug repellent (Rob made natural bug goop), chapstick and towel.
  7. FUN STUFF.  Snorkel and mask, rash guard, fins, books and Kindle, jump rope, yoga mat, fly fishing rod and saltwater flies.
  8. SLEEPING GEAR.  Fleece sleeping bag liners, small travel pillow and silk liner for Bri, a sarong and folded-up-sweatshirt pillow for Rob.
  9. NOVELTY ITEM.  Bri: travel backpacking guitar.  Rob: pole spear.


Click here to read more “Travel Prep” posts!


full moon brianna randall on the horizon line blog

Full Moon Tears

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

full moon brianna randall on the horizon line blogThe tears just keep on rolling.  I could blame it on the full moon or hormones, both of which are certainly affecting my mood.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t give credit to the fact I’m just plain sad to say goodbye to my loved ones.

I cry when I see our doggie bounding up to lick my face.  I cry when my sister leaves to go back to her house.  I cry when Kipper calls to tell me it’ll be hard to say goodbye.  I cry when Margi gives me a hug and refuses to say goodbye.  I cry when I bike across the creek and along the river that I’ve followed every day for a decade.

And I’ll probably keep crying for the next month, as the moon wanes then waxes again until it is just shy of full on the morning we fly away from my home.


saltwater cures with tears, sweat and sea

Saltwater Cures All?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

saltwater cures with tears, sweat and seaWe’re flying home from Philly tonight.  As this dark and quiet plane starts to settle down toward Montana, my thoughts are full of family left behind.  It struck me during this visit how different we seem to the rest of Rob’s family (and maybe to lots of other friends and family, too).  Along with the many exclamations of “wow,” “good luck,” and “really?”, many mentioned that they would never want to do what we’re doing.

Voyages into the unknown aren’t appealing to many people, when you get right down to it.  That part doesn’t surprise or bother me.  What does, though, is the fact that our less-than-normal desire to spend 2 years without a job, an itinerary or a destination incites worried heartache in our loved ones.

This trip made me appreciate the irony of our voyage — setting sail will reduce stress for us, but will increase stress for many of those left behind.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch, my dad always said.  And liberation comes with a price.

rob with a valentine heart

Today, the price was tears.  We hugged goodbye Rob’s mom, step-dad, grandpa, brother, aunts, step-sisters, cousins.  These hugs must last for at least a year, or — in most cases — several years.  Sure, it’s hard to leave people behind.  But it’s a lot harder to be left.  Both take strength and faith.  Being left also demands a sort of zen-like patience, as you must wait at the whim of impulsive explorers for word of safe passages.

Like anyone, I don’t like leaving those we love in tears.  It’s been said that saltwater cures all, whether it’s tears, sweat or the sea.  I bet I’ll need all 3 to get me through the coming changes.   And I imagine our family will need a healthy dose of healing saltwater, too.

rob and abe our dog sleeping in bed

Travel Preparations: What You Should Leave Behind

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Sailing, Traveling

Red notebook lists

Last week, I had coffee with my friend, Kim.  She and her family are planning to take a year off to sail soon (go, Kim!), and I talked her ear off about how to prepare.  Kim madly scribbled down notes as I rattled off websites, resources and advice about the logistics of leaving.  After 30 minutes of so, I caught myself marveling at the sheer amount of stuff we’ve checked off lists in the last six months.

Remember that Little Red Bible?  It’s a serious masterpiece now.  We have pages full of cross-referenced lists, organized by month and category.

Then there’s all the sticky notes and half-crossed out to-do lists littering our offices and house.  I’ve even started emailing myself reminders, since I think of details when the Little Red Bible is not close at hand.

boat funSince we decided not to buy our own sailboat (yet), I’m surprised by all these details.  I mean, how hard can it really be to fill up a backpack and go play on the ocean for a year or two?

Kinda complicated, it turns out.  Sailing away takes some serious organization.  I’m proud of how organized we’ve been, and how much we’ve taught ourselves about sailing, traveling and life-maintenance in preparation to head off.

Now we want to share our lessons in preparation here, in case you’re planning your own adventure (and we encourage you to do so!).  This is the start of a little mini-series on how to cast off your bowlines and head into the sunset.

What You Should Leave Behind (and hopefully not worry about):

  1. Taxes.  Do ’em before you go.
  2. Jury duty and voting.  Tell the county elections office and courts that you’re leaving the country for a spell. They can forward ballots if you know where you’ll be (we sure don’t!).
  3. Your address.  Set up a forwarding address for U.S. mail and change all relevant billing/contact information.
  4. Typical health insurance.  Buy international travel insurance, including emergency flight evacuations — it’s actually cheaper than U.S. plans.
  5. “Will and Testament.”  Write one, get it notarized and file it with your county.
  6. A home safe or bank safe deposit box filled with copies of passport, birth certificate, marriage license, house/car titles, bank account info, and wills.  Give copies or safe access to a trusted friend or family member, too.
  7. Your house and car(s).  Lease it, sell it, and get it in tip-top shape to avoid disasters while you’re a world away (stay tuned for a future post on how to do this).
  8. Financial complications.  Cancel all but one credit card, and open a new checking account and credit card that don’t charge fees out the wazoo (like Schwab or Capitol One).
  9. 99% of your clothes: only bring what fits in a 2-cubic-foot sack. Yup: that’s all you get.
  10. Furniture, gear, dishes, books, odds and ends.  Give ’em to Goodwill, sell on CraigslistAmazon or eBay, or have a white elephant party.
  11. Subscriptions.  No more newspapers and magazines, unless they get e-delivered to your Kindle or tablet.
  12. rob and abe our dog sleeping in bedStorage area.  If you can’t get rid of everything, build a storage space (we put up a wall with a locking door to use half of our garage as storage) or rent one.
  13. Pets.  So sad they can’t come with us on our adventures!  Luckily, our doggie Abe already has 2 sets of parents and gets to stay and chase turkeys and deer in Montana.  Our chickens found an excellent retirement home, too.  We’ll miss them all.

Next up in the Travel Prep Mini-Series: What to Bring With You.  Give us a shout with questions — we’d love to help you get out and explore!   (And, if you want detailed logistics info and a good laugh, we’ll lend you our Little Red Bible.)

The Pinch Point

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life

I don’t run, usually. Occasionally, though, tension builds up in my body and pushes toward my throat. Right about when it’s starting to choke me, I put on some shoes and start running.

It’s rare. Maybe 3-4 times a year. Today was one of those occasions.

About 2pm at the office, I ignored the multiple programs open on my computer and put on an ancient pair of tennis shoes. I started running downriver on the Kim Williams Trail near my office. The cold wrapped under my thin shirt, around my neck, snaking down my arms and chest. My feet started aching almost immediately, unused to the pounding.

My head didn’t clear, and it seemed to fill faster in rhythm to my stride. These days, it’s full of 70% work, 30% details surrounding leaving, and 30% social logistics geared to eeking out the most of my remaining time with friends and family.  Yes, I know this adds up to more than 100.  And that’s why I was running.  It’s also why I’m writing this blog post at 11:25pm after finishing one last work task this evening.  Writing and running provide a release.

heron on river

Most days, it feels like my brain is just a reflection of my computer screen or iPhone: toggling every few seconds from program to program, task to task, call to call.

This is not a healthy way to live.

This is not a healthy way to leave.

This is not something that is going to change in the next 6 weeks.

I reached the California Street footbridge over the icy Clark Fork River.  I looked down to see the whole river funneling into one very tight, narrow opening between the icy banks.  My brain stopped toggling, and came to rest on this one spot.  It reflected exactly how I felt this afternoon: a river of water moving toward me, pinching and dragging and towing me under … to what?

I walked to the other side of the bridge to see.  The whole river went under a shelf of ice after that pinch point.  It was a start contrast: fast, frenzied, loud as water funneled through the last ice-free section, then it went quietly under the ice.  Still.  Calm.  Peaceful.

I breathed in the peace for a moment.  But then I turned back to the chaotic pinch point, because that part of the river resonated more with me in this time of 130% brain-toggling tension.  I turned back because it was comforting to see the tension dissipate into stillness, and because it renewed my faith that — just like the river — I will soon be through the pinch point and have room to spread and flow, quietly and calmly.

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