2013-08-23 / Community

Going Sailing After Sandy

By Katie McFadden

It’s not often that survivors consider Hurricane Sandy to be “a blessing in disguise,” but for Christel Rice Astin and her husband, Jarad Astin, that’s exactly what it turned out to be as the storm has given them the perfect opportunity to follow their dreams. The ocean may have destroyed almost everything they owned during Sandy, but now they’re making the ocean their home as the couple, along with their 11 and 2-year-old daughters, will now be living on a boat.

The Astins, who are both professional musicians, lost just about everything when waist-high water filled their firstfloor home on Beach 102nd Street and Shore Front Parkway. They were able to save their cat, snake and instruments, including a piano, which they took with them when they evacuated.

The family spent eight months being displaced since the storm. They made several moves from different friend’s homes and living in a temporary apartment, but the Astins have finally found a permanent living space. They’re going to be living on a 43-foot C&C sloop sailboat. “We finally feel like we’re home,” Christel said.

The couple had a pipe dream of living on a boat and playing their music for a while. For the Astins, Hurricane Sandy was an eye-opening opportunity that allowed them to make their dream a reality.

“This was something that was on the back burner and the hurricane really put it into play. You go through something like that and you really start to realize what’s important. This is what we really want to do with our lives. We want to take this opportunity,” Christel said.

The Asti’s didn’t own the Rockaway home that they had lived in for six years and they weren’t left with many personal belongings after the flood waters took them away, so transitioning their lives onto a boat wasn’t very difficult.

They spent several months searching for the perfect vessel and came across their floating home after a friend recommended they check out a boat in Mystic, Connecticut in April. It was perfect. “This was the one after looking at almost 50 boats,” Christel said.

The sailboat, which they’ve named Catherine, “has a spacious galley and settee dining area to host eight guests.” It also has three staterooms, which will allow the couple and their two daughters to have privacy, despite being in relatively tight quarters.

The couple is embracing the fact that they’ll be able to be close with their children. “Having that time with your children is precious and doesn’t last long. There’s only a short window to spend that time with them,” Christel said. Their 11-year-old daughter, who formerly went to P.S. 114 and Mark Twain, will be home schooled on the boat. “I’m giving my daughter a unique experience as opposed to sitting in a classroom all day.”

While living on the dream boat, the Astins will also be making a living by doing what they love. As an Irish musician, Christel plays the flute and ukulele while Jarad, a jazz musician, plays the keyboard. They’ve formed a music duo called Stell and Snugs and play music like Brazilian Choro, Columbio Carribean-cumbia, 60’s American Pop Kitchen, Latin jazz and tango. They plan to play their music and book gigs such as weddings and parties down in the Caribbean, where they will be sailing. The couple has already recorded music and even filmed a music video while on the boat.

While the Astins are not fully living on the boat yet, they have been taking it out on the Atlantic daily and are still outfitting it to travel down to the Caribbean. They plan to add a wind generator and solar panels and make some other additions before they depart from Brooklyn in mid-October. The family, along with two crew members, will be sailing down to Norfolk, Virginia, where they will join a fleet of boats for the Salty Dawg Rally, which departs on November 4th and heads to the British Virgin Islands. When their eight to 10 day journey is complete, they’ll end up at the Bitter End Yacht Club in Tortola.

The couple does have some concerns about their adventure. Jarad, as the handy man, is concerned about things breaking along the way. “When you’re doing this thing, you have to be a mechanic, electrician and plumber on top of sailing a boat. Things will break as this is a high wear and tear adventure,” he said. To prepare, he’s making sure that the boat has extra parts and is as ready as it can be. “I wouldn’t leave tomorrow, but we have a list together of things that need to be done and I think we’re dealing with everything we can. Something will happen that we’re not prepared for and we’ll have to just figure it out and make it work.”

The couple is also concerned about encountering storms along the way. “Everyone is paranoid about what may come around the corner,” Christel said. “But I feel very confident because we’re taking the rally down.” As part of the rally, the sailors will be provided with daily weather updates. Christel is fearful of potential storms, but for her, facing the fear is a necessary part of taking this chance to live out her dream. “You have to face the fear or just go back to your apartment. We’ve got to face it and deal with it,” she said.

Despite the minor risks, the Astin family can’t wait to start their new adventure. “This is a great opportunity to spend more time with the family and see the world in a different way and still do what we love, which is to sail, play music and be on the water. We’ve combined all of those things. It will be an enriching and good experience” Jarad said.

“We’re ecstatic, nervous, excited,” Christel said. “We’re counting down the days until we leave. It seems surreal that we pulled this off. We get on the boat and say ‘I can’t believe we did that.’ This is exactly what we should be doing.”

After spending several months at sea and sailing around the Caribbean, the Astins plan to return to New York and Rockaway next summer. “Rockaway is going to be better. I believe they’re going to make it better. Out of tragedy, good things happen. We’re looking forward to coming back next summer.”

For more information and updates about Christel Astin’s music, visit.www.stellaandsnuggs.com

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