Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some unlikely friends

It's been over a week since we left our 'buddy boats' in La Paz to make our crossing to Mazatlan and south. Several of you have asked to hear more about our friends, and we find them fascinating people.

Gypsy Wind's crew consists of Harvey and Kim Chernoff and their three kids Nikita (16), Kiya (15) and Noah (6). They call Nelson, BC their home, which is about a 9 hour drive from Vancouver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Harvey is a luxury home developer and has left his business in the care of his brother-in-laws. Kim is an artist and runs an artist's co-op. Gypsy Wind is a gorgeous 47 ft Vagabond (1986) ketch - interior is beautiful wood and very roomy with a great galley (kitchen) and some Persian rugs. Of all the boats we've been on, theirs feels the most homey.

On land, they live in a very tight-knit community with Kim's family, including her 99 year old grandfather who lives with Kim's mother. They are Dukabors, a group of Christians that left Russia around the turn of the century to avoid fighting in a war. As a community they are very peaceful and live a simple life. I remember learning about Dukabors in junior high school in Calgary as there were Dukabor communities close by. Dukabors are vegetarians, so given that we are keeping kosher, we've had a lot in common. In addition, Kim makes verenikes, latkes, blintzes, borscht and other Jewish comfort food, given their Russian roots. They had decided to catch fish and eat it along the way (essentially drawing their own 'kosher' line), but had such a traumatic experience killing their first one, that they've gone back to being strict vegetarians. For Jews, it would be like deciding to eat pork for a short period but killing the pig first. I feel for them. But boy, could we ever use some of the fish they've caught and then thrown back!

Meshach's crew consists of Thor and Tanya Temme, and their two kids Tristan (7) and Sienna (4). They sailed to San Diego to start the Baja Haha all the way from Hawaii where they live (Tanya grew up there). They live on Kuai, and surf and sail. In fact, Tanya's father started a surfboard manufacturing company. Thor rebuilt their trimaran over 4 years before this trip. It's a very cool looking boat, with some really inventive components. For example, their trampoline is actually seat belt canvas woven together. Tanya is a great cook, which is even more impressive given that they do not have a fridge or an oven on board.

Ten years ago Thor and Tanya sailed Meshach for a few years to the South Pacific. It turns out that Mark McNulty, our crew until Thanksgiving, had been aboard their boat in French Polynesia ten years ago. The cruising world is very small. Thor and Tanya also have incredible stories, including one where someone they had crewed with sent them a letter asking them to pick up the $40,000 he hid in the bilge in a boat that was being impounded due to his criminal activity that had landed him in jail.

Cruising gives you the opportunity to get to know some really interesting people. We are all out there helping each other out with information, sharing food, and whatever else there is to share. I suspect having a hunger for adventure and the unknown is what brings us together, but I certainly feel that our voyage is enriched by getting to know people like the Chernoff and Temme families.

And while we are on the subject of friends, we were joined last week by Harrison's buddy Kenji Greenberg and his mom Natsuko in Mazatlan. We did some exploring in Mazatlan, and set sail a couple of days ago for a 27 hour trip to San Blas (21 degrees 32.617 minutes N; 105 degrees, 17.612 minutes W). On the way, we saw dolphins and a very active and beautiful whale. Kenji has been participating in Harrison's homeschooling and it has been going so smoothly! The boys are in heaven being together again. I call Natsuko our resident healer and sushi chef. She has been an amazing crew member, massage therapist and cook. For those of you who know her from back home, she has an amazing gentle way about her, and it has been calming to have her aboard. Of course our highlight was when we caught a pompano on our way into San Blas marina. Within minutes, we were making fresh sushi rolls. It doesn't get much fresher than that!

We'll meet up with Kenji's dad Jonathan and his brother Tomo in La Cruz in a few days, and hopefully will share some more adventures with them. Tomorrow we are hoping to meet up with Alex and Sonia Bernstein (friends from San Francisco, CA) and their 3 kids, who are vacationing a bit north of Puerto Vallarta in a surfing town call San Francisco/San Pancho. We were hoping to anchor off the beach there, but because the surf is so high, we'd never get our dinghy over it without capsizing, so instead we'll meet them somewhere close by. Finally, our friends Mimi Arfin and Bob Rebitzer and their girls Elana and Maya are meeting us in Nuevo Vallarta, a bit north of Puerto Vallarta, until new years eve. We are all totally psyched to see them too, and hope they don't have to do too much explaining coming into Mexico with a large suitcase full of items we asked them to bring for us (all legal)!

More later.
Signing off underway somewhere in the Pacific on our way to Chacala Bay
21 degrees, 12.601 minutes N; 105 degrees, 14.453 minutes W

Kids On Board

My friend Kenji came on board on the 17th of December and ever since, Kenji has become a cruiser. We built a car that, when you pull back and let go, it goes forward. We do different subjects together in homeschool. Kenji, Danielle and I swing on the halyard around the mast. Natsuko, Kenji's mom, bought a seat that attaches to the halyard and we sit on it. I like having other kids on board.

Halyard - a rope that raises the sails.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We've Arrived In Mazatlan

Yesterday, we left Los Muertos (23 degrees 59.48 minutes N by 109 degrees 49.67 minutes W) on the Baja coast for Mazatlan (23 degrees 16.18 minutes N by 106 degrees 27.32 minutes W)on the mainland. Its a 190 mile sail across the Sea of Cortez -- the longest off-shore sail (versus coastal sail) we've done. We raised anchor at 5:45 am on December 14th and were docked at the Mazatlan Marina at 9 am on the 15th. It was an awesome sail. We had wind of between 15 and 22 knots the whole way across and did it on one tack. As the sun set last night in the west (as it usually does) we were about 90 miles off the coast of Baja and could still see the outline of coastal mountains with the sun in the background. We put a reef in (made the main sail smaller) and changed out our screecher (a sail) for a small jib. Interestingly, with the smaller sails we really did not slow down much at all. We were averaging over 8 knots with a peak of nearly 12 knots -- that is catamaran sailing. We had actually budgeted 35 - 40 hours for the crossing but with the wind we had and the speed we were making we did the crossing in approximately 27 hours!

Barb and I each shared the night watches three hours on/three hours off. That worked out well and believe it or not, Barb has not yet taken a nap today! :) My last off watch this morning was cut short because while Barb was on watch and as the sun was coming up a school of dolphins was swimming beside and in front of our boat. It was so impressive that she had to wake me -- and it was worth it.

The last time I was in Mazatlan was over 25 years ago when I came here with my sisters and parents over Christmas break. While we have not yet been into town yet (home school and cleaning up the boat), the skyline looks much more impressive than when we were last here. Also, last time, I remember every afternoon after we were at the beach and back in our hotel rooms taking showers yelling (six stories down to the maintenance staff -- no room phones) "NO AGUA, NO AGUA". For what ever reason, there just was not enough water to service the hotel. Well, I can tell you today there seems to be plenty of agua as I was able to do a thorough wash down of our boat and I had excellent water pressure.

I sure hope there is water left for us to take showers this afternoon....


Monday, December 14, 2009

Our favorite boat names

Just passing the time as we make our 3 day crossing from the Baja Peninsula to the mainland (Mazatlan is our goal), we wrote down our list of favorite boat names.

There are those that clearly would rather be sailing:
Exit Strategy
Outta Here
Gato Go (note: Gato means cat in Spanish - this is a catamaran)
Done Dealing

Fishing vessels:
Tuna Tamer
Reel Pain

X-rated (try these using the VHF hailing system - see Barb's previous post on this):
Rock Hard
Lucky Dick
Simple Pleasures
Wet Dream

Those that name their dinghies to go along with the 'mother ship':
Sea Weavel; dinghy name: Lesser of Two Weavels
Just a Minute; dinghy name: Just a Second

Many that play on the wind:
Prevailing Wind

And some others:
Hello World
Broken Compass
The Office (as in: I'm going to the Office)
Risk Taker
Beach Access
Pipe Dream
Ballena (in Spanish, this is a whale)

Chrokeva - this one is a play on the owner's kids' names: Chris, Robert, Kevin and Virginia

And then there's the not-so-creative:
No Name

Of course, there is ours "Whatcha Gonna Do" and we are beginning to figure out what we gonna do.....

We'll post more as we come across them. In the meantime, please send us your favorites...

Signing off from somewhere along the southern crossing of the Sea of Cortez,
23 degrees, 58.36 minutes N; 109 degrees, 12.97 minutes W,

Some highlights of our 11 day exploration of the islands around La Paz

Before I forget, I wanted to capture some highlights of our 11 days at various anchorages in and around the islands close to La Paz, heading further north into the Sea of Cortez. When we are back with internet access, I'll edit this post to include some photos, so stay tuned for those additions.

Our first stop was Isla Espiritu Santo, where we anchored for three nights at Bahia San Gabriel (24 degrees 25.7 minutes N, 110 degrees 21.57 minutes W). There was only one other boat anchored in this vast stretch of beach, with gorgeous stratified cliffs in the background. It was from this location that we did our 'school desert field trip' to the other side of the island, ending up at Playa Bonanza, another gorgeous stretch of beach. Both kids blogged about what we saw along the way, including plenty of mud on the way back. We also visited the ruins of what used to be a pearl fishery. We learned about tides in a big way - the beach at San Gabriel has a sand shelf that is the same depth for at least a quarter of mile. When we brought our dinghy in to shore, we had to anchor it way out in high tide, and lucky that we did: When we returned at low tide, we had to walk out the quarter mile as it was on sand. (photo)

Next stop: Isla Partida, where we anchored for the next three nights at Ensanada Grande (24 degrees 33.631 minutes N, 110 degrees 13.771 minutes W). By this time our friends on Gypsy Wind and on Meshach caught up to us, so we hung out with them here. Highlights included a bonfire on the beach one night, the kids building a teepee on the beach, cutting Michael's hair, and skurfing (being pulled behind a dinghy on a surfboard with a waterski rope; it looks like wake boarding). (photos)

From Isla Partida, we visited Los Islotes (24 degrees, 35.79 minutes N, 110 degrees, 24.24 minutes W) to swim with the sea lions - definitely a highlight as Danielle has already written about. And yes, I was scared. Much preferred to stay on the kayak - the sea lion pups would play with the kayak by bumping up against its underside and chewing on the rubber ring at the end of the kayak. That was certainly enough excitement for me! We had heard that just a day or two earlier, a woman was swimming in the water and got between a mother and her pups so the mother grabbed her arm and pulled her away. That's all I kept thinking about in the water, so I opted for the kayak. Our friend Tanya on Meshach had a seal pup jump into her lap on her kayak a couple of days later when they returned for a second time - she loved it but I would have screamed for sure! (photos)

There is no place to anchor at Los Islotes, so we continued on to Isla San Francisco (24 degrees, 49.12 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34 minutes W), possibly my favorite anchorage so far. We stayed here for two nights. Great hike along the ridge, from where we had an incredible view of 5 separate pods of whales heading south. Utterly wonderous. From there the hike continued on to sea level where we passed through some salt ponds, then to the other side of the islands where we searched for agotes (crystals) and seashells. Just gorgeous. (photos)

Next, we anchored at Isla Coyote (24 degrees, 51.04 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34.86 minutes W), a rather strange place. The island covers maybe 2-3 acres, and is inhabited by a family that has been there for 150+ years. Currently there are 10 people living there. They have a small structure that serves as their church, and they have solar panels on each of the approx. 5 or 6 homes. Everyone has a VHF radio. They make a living by fishing, salting their fish, and jewelry making for sale to the gringos like us (Danielle and I were happy to oblige with a pair of earrings each). Believe it or not, they have a Whale Museum, which consists of the whale carcass that wraps around the island and a large sign that says Museo de Ballena. We spent a couple of hours there and moved on to our next anchorage. (photo)

Our next anchorage was at the north end of Isla San Jose at Mangele Solo (25 degrees, 01.77 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.36 minutes W), our point furthest north. This was the only anchorage we stayed at without other boats. Incredibly peaceful, with a cactus forest on the hills surrounding the beach, until a panga with 4 men motored toward us in high speeds. We freaked out a bit - Michael sent the kids inside, told Danielle to get us our satellite phone, and we waited for them to arrive. They actually appeared to be wanting to tie onto our boat so Michael kept our motors running and spun in circles. It was really scary until we figured out that they just wanted to sell us chocolate clams. This experience prompted us to have a safety review with the kids, from what's in a ditch bag and how to deploy our liferaft, to putting out a fire and using the Single Side Band radio and/or the EPIRB (an emergency device that, when deployed, sends a signal with our position to the US Coast Guard who then sends someone out to rescue us - if you remember the story of the boat that sank due to being hit by a whale, it was the EPIRB that saved them by notifying the Coast Guard of their distress). In any case, the reason for anchoring in this spot was because you supposedly can see many whales and dolphins, but unfortunately we didn't book ahead with them so they never showed up. In the morning, we discovered two dozen eggs had gone moldy so the kids had a hysterical time throwing rotten eggs one by one off the side of the boat. (photo)

After one night at Mangele Solo, we continued on to the mainland of the Baja Peninsula to a small town called San Evaristo (24 degrees, 54.64 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.38 minutes W). Apparently this is a fishing village of about 20 families and a general store that opens only when they feel like it (it was closed when we were there). We passed the town elementary school - basically two rooms with a basketball court - and a desalination plant (that seemed to consist of a hole in the ground with a really old motor and some tubing connected here and there). Three horses roamed the town freely. On our way back to fetch our dinghy to get back to the boat, a fisherman offered us some free fish - a very tasty yellowtail. The fisherman fileted it and made a little hole in the filet tails so that Michael could carry it back to the boat. One thing about the Mexicans that's definite - they are very resourceful! (photo)

We spent one night at anchor in San Evaristo and we woke up at 6 a.m. to begin our sail back to La Paz. Which reminds me: I have been getting up by 7 or 7:15 every morning since I posted that I would. Homeschooling has definitely improved, and I'm better for it.

Signing off from the Sea of Cortez 39 miles offshore,
23 degrees 56.394 minutes N, 109 degrees 06.283 minutes west,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We need Spanish lessons

Barb went grocery shopping yesterday.  Included on the list was some shampoo and body wash.  Had an interesting shower last night when I washed my hair with Head and Shoulders conditioner and my body with Dove moisturizing cream.  And she told me her French was close enough to Spanish for us to get by!

My Lego

My mom told me, "I read in a sailing book that said a kid that is cruising needs lego."  But I have so many legos that my friends that have lego come to my boat to play lego.  I have two big 2-gallon bags and 2 small.
I built a car with so many details, it looks like a model.  It has a trailer full of a toy hand car wash, that has something that says, "$15.00" so I tell people "$15.00 for a hand car wash."  My friends Tristan (6) and Noah (7) come to play legos with me.  I guess my mom's book was correct! 

Update on La Paz send-off

We did have a send-off at 6:30 a.m. this morning. In addition to our friend Thor from the sailing vessel Meshach, who helped us get off the docks, we had some dolphins jumping in the background to the sound of the church bells ringing. Should be a great day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The La Paz Vortex

La Paz is like Hotel California: You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave...

We arrived in La Paz the first time a week before American Thanksgiving and stayed 11days. After spending the next 11 days in the Islands further north in the Sea of Cortez, we returned here 2 days ago with the intention of staying overnight and moving on to make our crossing to the mainland. But it's so hard to get off the dock. If it weren't for some friends that we are meeting in Mazatlan on the 17th, we might have stayed for longer.

We fully understand why so many arrive in La Paz and never leave. In fact, we have met many of those people. La Paz is everything wonderful about Mexico without any of the bad stuff. The people are friendly, happy, helpful. They are family-oriented, they love their celebrations, and they are colorful. But there are no vendors trying to sell you stuff on the beach or elsewhere, we have seen no begging or poverty, and the city is relatively clean. Okay, so there are no zoning laws that we can see, but it is a pretty civilized place.

The population, as we've been told, is about 100,000. It's a 'government town', being the capital of Baha Sur (the southern half of the Baja Peninsula) and as such receives a lot of government money. There is the traditional cathedral opposite the central plaza where bingo is played on Saturday nights, a cultural center, a malacon (boardwalk) where locals regularly stroll, and yes, Home Depot just had it's grand opening on December 6 [that's not to say it's a quick in and out - our friends who visited today said it took them several hours to do their shopping]. We were lucky enough to be here during Revolution Day celebrating Mexico's freedom from dictatorship in 1910, with parades, music in the streets, traditional dance performances, and lots of fun. Mexicans know how to throw a party.

And then there's the Bread Guy. That's seriously what he calls himself. He's a transplanted American - one of those guys who arrived 10 years ago and never left - and he runs a small bakery with amazing breads. We have visited his shop three times, and the bread has never made it home with more than a few crumbs.

The big resorts and condos have not yet made it here to La Paz, which is what makes the city so charming. There are not many tall buildings yet dotting the coastline, most of the Mexicans you deal with in the shops off the malecon (boardwalk) do not speak English, and for better or worse, it does not have any of the toursity hub-bub of Cabo San Lucas. We have found our way around nicely, mostly on foot, as the city streets are all on a grid - no windy streets to get lost in. From what we can see, there are no shanties here.

Within the marina / cruisers world, it's an incredibly easy place to be. There is a daily 'Net' which I referred to in an earlier post, run by Club Cruceros which also has a clubhouse and coffee hour every day just outside the Marina de la Paz (check out their website at ClubCruceros.com). The Net begins at 8 a.m. every morning except Sunday on VHF Channel 22 (remember the 'party line' I posted about?) and is led by different English speaking North Americans living in La Paz. It begins with daily arrivals/departures, mail call from the local marinas, marina announcements, Club Cruceros announcements, rides and crew (anyone looking for a ride or crew), local events, local assitance, and swaps and trades. Because one cannot sell anything for money here unless you are a Mexican citizen or have a vendor's licence, when someone has something to 'swap or trade', often you'll hear them say they've got something to sell 'for coconuts'. We bought some extra line (rope) for coconuts that happened to be made into paper with faces on it. As for local assistance, I found out you can find veggie burgers at the CCC supermarket.

And we've made some great friends. So much so that when we left for the islands, we actually had a crowd waving us off at the docks. Harrison even commented: "Finally, a crowd to send us off!" I'll write more about these friends in another blog post, but we've had a great time with them - many meals shared, laughs, playdates with the kids, borrowing eggs, limes and zucchini. I imagine that this is what it was like in the 60's when neighbors were really neighbors, and you spoke to each other daily, not by phone but because you were outside hanging laundry or fetching kids, or walking to the store. You pick things up at the store for your friends. You take their kids when they are trying to get boat projects done and they do the same for you. The men talk about boat equipment and projects and the women talk about homeschooling, food and cooking, grocery shopping, and the luxuries we found locally or the ones we miss from home. Back home I would find this division almost insulting, yet here there is a comforting simplicity to it all.

Because of the kid boats, our kids have gained a tremendous amount of freedom and independence. They roam freely within the marina (the gates are locked) and the Clubhouse playground, so long as they are together with other kids and let us know by VHF radio when they change locations or go to someone else's boat. We've even tried buddy homeschooling (Harrison went to one of his friend's boats and one of Danielle's friends came to our boat) - it actually went quite smoothly too.

For the boys between ages 6-9, you'd think you were on Leave It to Beaver. They spend hours on end fishing off the docks, or pulling barnacles off the sides of the docks and dissecting them, or setting off paper boats in the water to see whether they will sink, or keeping pet hermit crabs or fish or who knows what else. There is a bit of a wider range in age for the girls - Danielle's friends range between 10 and 15, and they often look after a 4 year old. Everyone loves swinging from the halyard on our boat or someone else's boat, although I can never watch that activity as I imagine them coming in straight for the mast and sliding down like the coyote does in the Roadrunner cartoon.

When we returned to La Paz after being away for nearly two weeks, it felt great to come into a familiar port. We knew the ropes already - where to shop, where to go for dinner, where to find someone to do some boat work. And it was great to see some familiar faces too.

There won't be a crowd in the morning waving us off as we'll be setting out at 6 a.m. to make it to our next anchor by sundown. We had to say our goodbyes tonight, but we'll be seeing many of our new friends on the mainland over the next month or so. Someone's gotta leave first, but it sure w0uld be easy to stay put for another little while.

Signing off from La Paz,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A comment on your comments

We just wanted everyone to know how much we enjoy receiving your comments. While we cannot reply to each one, we gather around the computer each night after the dishes are done and read all of them. We get so excited to hear from you all, so please keep them coming. They are a wonderful source of encouragement for the kids' writing, and they are our connection to the 'real' world. In fact, we have no clue what's going on in the world at all - other than the weather. We'll do a separate post on weather one of these days, I'm sure, but suffice it to say we know when there is a storm in California as it usually travels down here...

Back to your comments. We've heard from old friends and new, business colleagues, people that we haven't spoken to in years and acquaintances. We've been hearing from our family in Toronto almost daily - more than when we are on land - and we are loving it!! We love each and every comment, whether from a familiar email address or not. It's like our own personal Facebook page on the water.

Let us know what you're curious about, or what you'd like to hear more on.

We do try to post photos whenever we can, but we do require internet access to post more than one or two at a time. When we do post via the Single Sideband radio (i.e. when we don't have internet), it uses up limited time we have to receive and send emails, so we often choose to wait until we have internet access.

I also have to say that I love my friends and family! Your support after my last post was so welcomed, you have no idea. Just so that you know, it's been back to a great experience since then. In fact, our buddy boats started grounding their kids until they'd get their work done - could it be that we set the tone?

And so, please keep commenting.

Signing off from San Evaristo on the Baja Peninsula,
24 degrees, 54.633 minutes N; 110 degrees, 42.367 minutes W

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kings, Protectors, and Babies of the Sea

In Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo National Park, there's an experience that you would never forget. Up the coast of the Baja, on the side that's in the Gulf of California, there are many different places where you can see sea lions. But at the one in Los Islotes, a sea lion rookery, or breeding ground and home, you can swim with these graceful swimmers.

The male, big and black, are like the kings. We rode in the kayak into a cave, and were about to go in when one of those "kings" swam up to us barking-in other words, telling us to get out of his "castle".

The females, smaller than the males and tan, are very protective of their babies. My mom and dad were kayaking and got too close. A female came up and swam between the pups and my parents, barking, until they piffled away. A few days ago, a woman was swimming too close and wouldn't swim away, so a female bit, not to hurt her, but to drag her away.

Pups, smaller than females, are like real babies-they LOVE to play and chew on chew toys (a.k.a. snorkel fins and kayak paddles). My dad and I were swimming, and I was beginning not to feel as scared as I had before, when all the pups came out to play, bit dad's flipper at least 20 times and chewed on my mom's paddle. One even climbed on my dad's shoulder, until I made a quick movement and it swam away. This is probably why my mom preferred to be in the kayak. Okay, you made me admit it. I got really scared again.

So, if you ever had a choice, I really hope you decide to come and visit the kings, protectors, and babies of the sea, living in their own version of a castle. You'd all enjoy it. I know I did!


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A vent, a head and a battery

So I have not posted in a while. It seems there are always things to do. If its not working on the boat its cleaning the boat, helping with a meal or on occasion, reading a book or magazine. So, I've been busy.

Anyhow, today we left Ensenada Grande on Isla la Partida for a day stop at Los Islotes, a sea lion rookery. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to swim with sea lions of all sizes from pups to bulls. They would swim up to us, nibble on our fins and do twirls and spins to perform and entertain. I am sure Danielle or Harrison will post more on this later.

Now we are on our way to Isla San Francisco (24 degrees 49.9 minutes north by 110 degrees 34.6 minutes west), Barb is giving herself a pedicure, Harrison is taking pictures and Danielle is reading and on watch. I guess Barb's venting yesterday is over with and she is more relaxed. I on the other hand (read venting), seem to always have to fix or tweak something on the boat. Boat ownership is fun but there are always things that need doing -- and this boat, like many cruising boats these days, have lots of systems on them -- including water makers, generators for charging batteries and producing AC power, inverters (for converting DC power to AC power), two diesel engines, an outboard engine, navigation equipment, email (which needs to be sent over a single sideband radio), vhf radios, sails, rigging, refrigeration and water heaters and pumps -- and all need to be monitored and maintained. So, while I might not be doing as much cooking and home schooling there are plenty of things to keep busy with.

When on land we take so many things for granted. Barb's already talked about water. I will talk about a few others. At home, we flush the toilet. Do we ever really think about where all that stuff goes when we flush that toilet? The system just works. Maybe the toilet bowl needs to get cleaned on a regular basis or on a rare occasion it gets clogged. On a boat however, we have special toilets, called heads. These heads bring in saltwater (saltwater with anything is usually never a great thing) into the toilet and then when you flush you either have a manual pump or electric pump that pumps and/or macerates the waste into a holding tank. At home we don't have holding tanks to worry about. However, on a boat, you can't just flush overboard (unless you are three miles offshore. Instead you flush/pump into a holding tank. So you have to monitor that. How full is it? What do you do when it gets full? Well, you try to time when it gets full to when you are leaving the dock (and heading three miles offshore) or you have to either have a service that comes to pump it out or you have to head (no pun intended) to a pump out dock and pump it out into the municipal waste system. Our preference, of course, is to pump out offshore. Its a lot easier.

Then there are batteries. I have not given amps much thought since engineering school, and I will be honest, I've forgotten most of it. We are constantly monitoring amps. At home we really take electricity for granted unless it is August 14, 2004 (not only Barb and my birthday, but also my nephew Sam's bris and the day the east coast went dark). At home we turn the lights on or off, we don't ask where the electricity is coming from or how it was generated and we really don't have any good way of monitoring how much we are using. It is not until we get a bill from the electric company at the end of the month do we say "wow did I use that much?"

On board, our electricity comes from our bank of batteries, our generator and/or diesel engines which run an alternator which generates electricity. We have batteries that when fully charged will hold 660 amp hours. That means if I use something that draws 10 amps I can run it for 66 hours. For example, our salon lights use 3.2 amps. Also, you never want your batteries to go below 50% (or about 330 amp hours). So, we are always looking at what lights, radios, computers, water pumps, refrigeration, navigation equipment, etc. are on to minimize how often we need to charge our batteries since charging them requires us to either run the engines or run the generator. We are also monitoring our battery meter to see what our battery level is at and how many aggregate amps we are using. So, we have a little game on board. We turn things off and see how many amps we save. We have an amp cop -- that's me. Did you turn your lights off? Why is that hull light on? Do we really need to charge that vacuum?

Even with solar panels and trying our best to monitor and minimize our usage, we seem to have to run our generator every couple of days -- which from what we hear from other boaters is not too bad (they run them every day). I do think a home based product that monitored electricity usage would be a great product. Because, if you can't measure something how can you really know if you are using something a lot or a little. And, as I like to ask, does anyone really know how much it costs to run their washing machine or dishwasher either? NO. But if they did, perhaps they would use them differently -- that is my cleantech plug.

So, as you can see, it is not just about getting a boat from point A to point B safely or dealing with home schooling or boat cleaning, it is also about making sure all the systems are working properly. Great fun and a great learning experience.

So, we now are approaching Isla San Francisco. Time to navigate our approach and think about where we will anchor. And then of course, there is fishing, swimming and dinner and tomorrow probably a hike to some salt ponds.

More later,


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Michael Post

I was going to post something but it seems to be clear from the comments to Barb's, Danielle's and Harrison's posts that there is no way that I could come close to producing the quality of writing and stories nor would I get the sympathy and hugs that Barb got if I were to complain about the amount of cleaning and boat maintenance required by me or about listening to the home school banter.

That's my post.


PS. Barb gave me a haircut yesterday. She took off more than what is left, but had tons of fun and laughed a lot.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Calm seas, light winds, but no smooth sailing aboard this vessel

I know I said my next post would be about life in La Paz, but I need to vent a bit. While these blog posts make it seem like life is a constant vacation, I'd feel more understood if you got a piece of reality as well.

Homeschooling is not easy.

We probably hit our proverbial brick wall two days ago (Thursday, December 3) when we left Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo for our rendez-vous with some buddy boats on Isla Partida. We got up early to get the boat ready to leave. We had discussed with the kids that we'd need to be ready to leave early so that we wouldn't waste the whole day, which meant our morning checklist (other than breakfast and schooling) completed: Get dressed, tidy your room, make your bed, brush teeth, take vitamins, do chores (salon duty or cockpit duty includes tidying up those areas, taking off or putting up clothes on the lines, wiping down tables, vacuuming the floors, rugs and seats). We said we'd have breakfast once underway, followed by school. No problem there.

Got underway, practiced maneuvering this 3-bedroom/3-bath condo on the water (I've only ever had to hold the wheel straight), and we even raised the sails although the winds were really light. We then ate breakfast and cleaned up. Pulled out the school books. That's where it all went downhill.

Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in a million directions. Missing all the beautiful scenery as we go.

And then it's time for lunch.

After lunch, Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in two million directions. Missing more beautiful scenery as we go.

And yes, I lost it. Yelled at Michael. Yelled at the kids. Threatened that I can't continue doing this without cooperation. Yelled that it's not worth it for me to be schooling all day even though there's this beautiful nature all around us because I don't EVER get to see it. I'm the ONLY ONE who cooks and cleans. I'm the ONLY ONE who works on keeping the schedule. I'm the ONLY ONE blah blah blah. It did quiet everyone down, which makes me feel even more like an ogre. But boy was I pissed. And ridiculously frustrated. If I sounded like a two year old, I sure felt like it. And I probably looked like it too. Nothing I'm too proud of, but thought I'd come clean.

Danielle finished her school work around 3, and Harrison and I abandoned his by 4:30. Michael read them the riot act. I chimed in no less than a half dozen times. Bottom line: not a pleasant scene. By this time we had arrived at our destination, but I couldn't even greet our friends off the boat. Danielle and Michael went for a quick visit, but Harrison and I stayed on the boat.

By dinner, we barely ate. Harrison called a family meeting saying he wanted to go home. The kids were crying, I was crying, and it was just awful. We all went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep thinking I had destroyed my kids, and that mentally they will never be the same. I ran through the dilemmas in my head: Should I just abandon school altogether, have a great easy year, and deal with the consequences when they re-enter their regular school once we return on land? Or do I keep at this, and let them know that we mean it when we say that school needs to be done early so that we can do stuff in the afternoons? Or do I make them do school on their own (Danielle already does) and if they are not done by 1, I leave them and let them stay on the boat to finish it? And then I keep going back to the fact that if I don't get angry, I don't get results.

I've already stripped down Harrison's subjects to reading comprehension, writing, phonics/spelling, Hebrew - and he's chosen to keep science and geography. We don't do poetry, mythology, art and some other odds and ends. We occasionally throw in an American President. Danielle has kept most of her program's assigned subjects except for the program's reading selections as she'd prefer to read books of her own choice and I'm okay with that. Somehow I'm also supposed to begin teaching her Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - I've got the Cole's Notes for it, a child's version, and we've already studied the life and times of Shakespeare - but I have never liked Shakespeare myself - how am I supposed to teach it with any verve? And while I love teaching (my friends will attest to the fact I always have advice on most topics), I find it incredibly burdensome going off the assigned daily checklist provided by the homeschooling program - I don't see myself as a creative person in this area at all. When we took the day off to do a field trip hike to examine desert life, no one was interested in hearing the details. Perhaps I should have done a scavenger hunt - except I didn't know what to expect myself. Dead end again.

If anyone out there has any other advice or options on homeschooling, please come forward, as I can use any and all help you are willing to give me.

Michael, on the other hand, takes all this in stride. He's way more anxious about keeping afloat than about what the kids are doing. His view is that I have been too relaxed about the schooling schedule and that they need to know that we mean business. He assured me that we needed this day to get on the right track. And although he may not always do or say things in the gentlest of ways, he is usually right about most things. And in this case, he was, once again right.

We woke up the next morning (yesterday) at 7 a.m. The kids ran through their checklist and were doing school by 8:30. Done before 11. Which was also before the other boats were done. We had a great day.

All's well that ends well.

As a side note, I will take the blame for some rocky starts of some of our days because I get up and ready after the kids are awake. My entire life I have battled getting up in the morning. It's not actually being awake early as I love being awake early, when all's quiet and fresh. Rather, it's getting from the horizontal position to the vertical. I honestly don't know what it is. Today, I was on 6 a.m. anchor watch so I HAD to get up. Even after checking the anchor, I stayed up to see the sunrise (it was too cloudy) and even enjoyed it. I recall loving the nighttime baby feedings once I had started. And it's not that I'm going to bed too late - we have eased nicely into the cruisers' life of being in bed early (as early as 9 p.m. some nights). Bottom line is that I MUST get up early to help the kids get a smooth start to the day. Woops - In coach-speak, 'having' to do something will never work - there's too much dissonance in it. So I'll correct my wording to reflect my true perspective: Getting up early is the only way for me.

Right here, right now, I am committing to getting an early start every day. Please check in with me down the road - I'll let you know how it goes.

Signing off from Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida,
24 degrees, 33.631 minutes N by 110 degrees, 23.771 minutes W,

Friday, December 4, 2009

My New Shoes and Some Shells

Today, 12/2/09, we went for a little field trip. We are anchored in Bahia San Gabriel - a bay in the island called Isla Espirtu Santo (24 degrees 25.7 minutes N, 110 degrees 21.57 minutes W). For our field trip, we went for a hike that led from the beach we were anchored near to a beach on the other side of the island. We took our dinghy and dinghy anchor to go and beach it. It was still high tide, so we dinghyed up to a reef, checking our depth with a paddle. The reason we did this was because the beach is very long and even and when the tide goes out we would have had to pull our dinghy all the way out to be able to float. Our dinghy is really heavy so instead, we chose to anchor to the reef and walk along the bay through 2 feet of water to the shore. Before that, Harrison and I hopped into the water to play around and waded ourselves into deeper waters. My dad took the anchor to anchor us. Once the anchor was dug in, we waled to shore and changed into dry clothes. Then we began our hike.

The path of the hike took us through a valley. It was clearly a desert, for there was a lot of cactus all around us -- some three times the size of my dad. After 2 hours, we were at the beach.

Harrison and I played a little in the water. Then Harrison dug a hole in the sand while my mom and I searched for shells and my dad slept. After a half an hour we went back.

After we had walked most of the way back we were 10 minutes away from the beach where our dinghy was. The Mangroves stretched into a swamp that was right in front of us. The river was muddy and brown, and unless we wanted to push our selves through it we had to go back and round the rest of the mangroves that stretched backward and also be hiking through thick mud. We we decided to go back and around and it and it added another half hour to our hike.

So, now my green shoes are brown and heavy. And, I guess you could say tat I have two souvenirs from from our little day trip. One pretty, one not so pretty. My shells will be the same forever and hopefully my brown shoes will turn green again.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Me and My VHF Radio

We use the VHF radio everyday. VHF stands for very high frequency. Our mobile VHF radio is like our cell phone and the one on the boat is like our home phone.

We use it to communicate with our family and friends. Sometimes we use it to ask mom or dad a question for school if they go out. We use it for making arrangements like for dinner or a play date to go to the park. We also use it to ask things like "when are you coming home."

People use boat names as phone numbers. Some boat names are very interesting. One is Meshach. Another is "Just a Minute" and their mobile is "Just a Second." Another one is "Do it" and their mobile is "Doing It." Our mobile is "When They Come For You", just like the song. That leads to a story which I will tell you about.

When I called "When They Come For You" a guy answered on their VHF "Why don't we get a kids channel." Then I called again. "Get a cell phone a women said. Those people are sure mean. A mom from a boat that we talked to later called those people boogers because everyone has the right to use the VHF.

VHFs are useful and fun for kids and adults.