Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Mom

This is a paragraph that I wrote as part of my home schooling and is about my mom.

My mom loves spending time with me especially doing school. Her name is Barbara and she has black hair and green eyes but doesn't look like me at all. She is very caring and loves to help. She is very busy doing school with me and cleaning and cooking, even though she hates cleaning and cooking. My mom doesn't have a job because we live on a boat. Her favorite things to do are hiking and kayaking. She and I love to read and do school together.

I really love my mom. If you ever meet her you will love her too.

My Friend and I

This is a story that I wrote as part of my home schooling project and is about a friend of mine that I met while sailing.

My friend Noah is seven years old on the sailing vessel "Gypsy Wind".  He has long blonde hair, just like mine.  We spend time together on one of our boats having ADVENTURES building lego or swimming.  He is great at reading lips because he is partially deaf and wears hearing aids.  He is also great at swimming and diving.  Our fishing net fell into the water, he dove for it and got it.  You would be very lucky to have a special and caring friend like Noah.

His family is returning home to British Columbia in a couple of weeks.  I 'll be very sad when he leaves but I will keep in touch with him.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Whatcha Gonna Do and other such decisions

You'd think that once we decided to set sail, all other decisions are easy.  Not so.  Aside from the weather-related decisions (do we leave the anchorage just ahead of some 'weather' or wait it out until it passes?) and the daily 'what shall we have for dinner', there are three currently plaguing us.

First, our tourist visas that allow us into Mexico for 180 days are up on May 7.  Either we apply for an FM3 visa, which is good for a year but costs about $1000 for the family, or we leave the country.  This could mean we high-tide for Central America, like, yesterday, or we fly home or elsewhere but out of Mexico before May 7.  If we leave and re-enter, we buy ourselves another 180 days, which will only take us to just beyond the end of hurricane season - and then we'll be in the same situation as we are now.

Which brings us to decision number two.  Do we cruise another year?  We hear that the job market is not much better than when we left, and cruising is proving to be much less expensive than staying in the Bay Area.  If we continue, where do we go?  We have only gotten as far south as Manzanillo, and had thought we'd get to Costa Rica!!  If we continue a second year and head to Costa Rica pronto, our Decision #1 becomes a moot one, but if we continue a second year and head to the Sea of Cortez for the summer, then Decision #1 continues to be a decision needing to be made.  So you see how Decision #2 has a bearing on Decision #1, but also affects Decision #3.

Decision #3:  Where do we go from here?  Hurricane season is fast approaching and our insurance requires us to be as far south as Costa Rica or as far north as the northern part of the Sea of Cortez - all between July 1 and November 1. It feels like it's a bit late in the season to head south - and if we do, we'll miss out on Guatemala and El Salvador.  If we go to the Sea and continue for a second year of cruising, we can hightail it to Costa Rica (and Guatamala and El Salvador) after hurricane season.  But if we go to the Sea, that's a long time for us cruisers to commit to being in one place.  I know, I know, here we are not even halfway down the coast of Mexico in seven months and we're fretting about being 'cooped up' and 'imprisoned' in the Sea of Cortez.  Many crusisers claim it's a highlight of their cruising time.  Plenty of swimming, snorkeling, clear, warm seas, fishing, fishing and more fishing (SUSHI!), and a different anchorage every night if we want it.  For some reason, I'm worried we'll be bored.  While most of our friends will be 'summering in the Sea', as we say, I also want a bit of Mexican culture.  Some towns that are larger than 25 or 100 people with more than one tienda (shop) to buy your groceries from and more than one restaurant to choose from.  We understand that many of the fishing villages we'll see don't even have a tienda, let alone a restaurant.  There will certainly be nature, and even the much desired solo anchorages (i.e. you are the only boat anchored there).  And it will be hot.  VERY hot.  But the consolation is that it is a dry heat, as opposed to the very humid (100%) Central America.  Costa Rica's summer months are considered the wet season, when it apparently POURS for about an hour each day - torrential downpour with thunder and lightening - but notwithstanding the rain, I think I'd find Central America much more interesting. I could be very wrong, and I'm open to that.

Lightening for boaters, however, is another story.  As you likely know, lightning strikes the tallest thing around, and is attracted to water.  Our mast is very high, and we do sit, as you know, on water.  If lightning happens to strike your mast, it will fry any electronic equipment on your boat, rendering it completely useless. As a result, each time there is any remote sighting of lightening, we dash to put every portable piece of electronic equipment into either the small metal safe we have on board, or the oven.  Yes, the oven.  The idea is that if lightning strikes and fries electronics on your boat, anything in a sealed metal box will be saved.  I don't know of anyone that has had electronics saved in the oven when hit by lightening, but I don't know anyone who hasn't, and so, we put all the iphones, ipods, itouches, DS's, cell phones, computers, digital cameras, Kindle, earphones, satelite phone, hand-held GPS's, VHF radios, and anything else I can't think of right now, into the oven.  Disconnecting the navigation electronics would be out of the question - if it storms every day, that would be a bit tedious.  Also, how do you remove refrigeration compressors, alternators, motors and the like and even if you could, we'd surely need that second wall oven I've been wanting for my birthday (joke). So, if we did get struck by lightning, and while we may not be able to start our engines or use our chartplotters, we can still listen to music on our iphones while making phonecalls and taking pictures.

This is how complicated the whole lightning issue gets.  Here's a real excerpt from the Southbound YahooGroup discussion about what precautions to take if heading to Costa Rica during the wet season, to avoid fried electronics if hit by lightning:

"We have pieces of s/s wire about 8 ft long that we bulldog clamp on to the shrouds and hang in the water. Better than nothing, maybe."
"For a summer in Costa Rica, I
. . . put up a 6-gauge lightning rod at the masthead,
. . . ran 6-gauge wire down the main shrouds,
. . . ran a 6-gauge wire around the boat at deck level (tied to shrouds and stays), and
. . . ran battery cables from the shroud wires into the water, ending in zincs.
I didn't get hit, so all that work proves nothing."

"I hang lengths of chain from the shrouds several feet into the water, hoping that will provide a fairly straight and attractive path to ground should many tens of thousand of volts, or more, choose my mast as their pathway."

This one's my favorite though: "I like the idea of climbing into my bunk, putting my pillow over my head, and singing very loudly until the lightning passes. Keeping a couple of small cushions handy so you could kneel and offer up a quick prayer to your favorite life force or spiritual guide might also help."

For now, we are undecided about Decisions 1, 2 and 3.  We are stuck in that Whatcha Gonna Do mode.  Because the decisions are so intertwined, we don't even know where to begin.  However, this too, shall be history in our blog, one day.  I can't wait to read what we've decided.

-Signing off from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit (Banderas Bay), Mexico

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Leftover Matzah

We just took an inventory and we miraculously went through 9 of our 15 kilo boxes of matzah over the eight days of Passover, partially due to the fact that we had guests on board.  We have six boxes left.  That works out to, oh, only about 13 lbs.  My good friend Alex Bernstein made these suggestions for what to do with what's left:

Fish food
Leave on boats of people you don't like
Give to any local church as wafers for sunday mass
Make a ton of farfel and freeze for next year
Anti-diarrhea medicine
Sell on ebay
Ship one box to each friend that had visited you
Ship one box to each friend that hasn't
Put all in one giant bag along with other unnecessary items and sink it
Make a time capsule someplace on the boat - sell boat - don't tell new owner
Tell kids "do your homework....or else" while waving matzah above their heads

-Signing off from Playa Perula in Bahia Chamela, Mexico
19 degrees 34.995 minutes North; 105 degrees 07.924 minutes West

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

8 hours of cleaning

Living on a boat is like living outdoors all the time, as the windows and door are always open. The shiny wood walls and dark floor collect dust, salt, fingerprints, and whatever else lurks in the air. Keeping the boat clean is a never ending battle to begin with - something like taking water out of a leaky boat - and we have a morning routine where the kids help out with cleaning chores. One takes salon duty for the inside main living area and the other takes cockpit duty for the outside area. This way, floors get swept everyday, clothes get taken off the lines everyday, tables get wiped and clutter gets put away. But given that we were a bit lax this past week while my sister and her family were here, it was that much worse.

We spent eight hours cleaning our boat today, now that Passover is over and our guests are gone. One hour for every day of the holiday. Matzah crumbs everywhere. Had a great vacation from cleaning, but the build-up of crumbs was completely out-of-control (and out of character for me, if you must know). In addition, there were fingerprints and dirt and salt build up all over the walls, and jam gluing the rugs to the floor in the cockpit. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Spray, spray, spray. Sweep, sweep, sweep. Sweat, sweat, sweat.

One of our friends was celebrating a birthday today, but given the cleaning, I had to pass up playing host - which was very hard for me. I must say it was nice coming home tonight to a clean boat, though...

-Signing off from Chamela
19 degrees 34.995 minutes North, 105 degrees 07.924 minutes West

P.S. Notwithstanding we've played a lot of matzah frisbee at sea, we still have a ton of matzah left over (for reason why, see Preparing for Passover post), currently stored in our engine room. Not sure the locals will actually appreciate free boxes of matzah, so am open to suggestions of what to do with it. And please don't recommend that we eat it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Musings of Land People

My sister Maureen and her family joined us for Passover, and here are their impressions:
 We have spent the last week or so interacting with the crew of Whatcha Gonna Do, and we now have a better understanding of what, in fact, they do.

The conservation of water, power and food supplies has  more meaning now, especially as we lived on board with 4 kids and 4 adults in Barra de Navidad and had to watch our usage.  We were commended by skipper Michael for only using 3/8th of the water he had made en route, since we were anchored in a murky lagoon which does not allow for making fresh water. Despite feeling very environmentally conscientious, skipper Michael has forced us to shower in every public shower available (and those actually not available) to us. We hear they have a stand up shower on board (in one of the three ‘heads’), but Maureen only got to use it once, when skipper Michael was not around.

The boys (Daniel, age 6 and a half and Zachary, age 4 and a half) have learned how to relieve themselves sitting down in the head and off the back of the boat, without falling in (either).

Washing hands and dishes with short pulses of water still gets things clean.

Opening up the fridge/freezer as few times as possible to ensure the cold air stays in is a skill that requires good planning. Defrosting the freezer, on the other hand, was an exercise in patience and ingenuity (ice doesn’t stay frozen, and chicken breast supply was frozen solid in huge bags that couldn’t be pried apart without herculean strength.)

We spent evenings playing Mexican Train (a Dominos game – not sure what it is called outside of Mexico)  (thanks to Fagel for picking it up). We are still a bit unsure of the rules and we forced Danielle to stay up late with us, because it is so fun to giggle with her.

We spent the first few nights in the Blue Bay Resort, with Whatcha Gonna Do anchored close by in the bay. We took a bit longer than  planned to meet the gang on shore. To make a long story short, and not to embarrass the guilty, Michael, Barb, Danielle and Harrison had to sneak out our balcony and dodge the security guards of the resort to get back to the boat.  It wasn’t one of their finer moments.  After a follow up visit to our hotel room by the body builder security guards, we had eventually negotiated that the hotel would service us by setting up for our second Seder on our balcony.

First Seder on the Big Boat
Second Seder on our balcony
Our memories of Passover in Mexico on the boat were worth the trip in itself.  The boat, despite all the sweeping and attempts to clean, does look as if it has confetti sprinkled all over from the Matzah crumbs.  Our first  Passover Seder meal was on board the boat.  The ceremony that  requires dipping greens in saltwater and recalling the parting of the Red Sea had significant impact this year, as we were floating in the ocean.  We held the second Seder on the balcony of our hotel room, although we had to delay the start for a bit as the hotel was prepping for a bonfire disco that evening, and the speakers were just beyond our balcony.  We eventually were able to complete the steps of the ceremony, including lighting candles that sat in sandbags, and hiding (and finding) the Afikoman (final piece of Matzah) in the hotel room- repeatedly so that each kid could find it independently. Our hotel room looked like it too had confetti spread all over.

Daniel is Moses in our
annual Story of Passover skit

As we stayed at the Blue Bay Resort for the first few nights and traveled back and forth to the Big Boat, we got the full experience of the dinghy beach landings.  As the dinghy is like the car that gets you from home to where you need to go, it took time, like all family car trips do, to prepare, load and unload for each ride.  Dry bags were essential to keep various cargo dry, as all the skill and experience of skipper Michael did not prevent the splashes and soaking that we all received almost every time we travelled in the dingy crossing  the surf.  In fact, in coming from shore to the Big Boat for the first seder, Michael, Jason, Danielle ,Harrison, Daniel and Zachary were soaked through and had to change out of their nicer clothes.  Of course, as in Passover past, Maureen and Barbara had stayed behind to prep for the meal and ceremony, which was fun, but rocky.

While in Tenacatita Bay, we took a dinghy ride down the Jungle River that connects with the bay.  We were going in while a strong tide was going out so that the dinghy needed some manual guidance.  The first to jump in was Danielle, as Barb was still looking for her footwear loose in the dinghy (or was it that she didn’t want to get wet?).  Danielle almost got pushed over, and eventually, Barb and Jason had to get off and pull us into the passage to get into the river. Through the river, the kids  counted 62 crabs, and we almost got impaled twice with sharp branches as the dinghy had to yield  to larger Pangas that held other tourists.

We had the sailing experience going from Tenacatita to Barra – only a 30 minute car ride, but over 4 hours by boat. After 3 of the four land-people complained of borderline-motion sickness, on the way back to Tenacatita Bay, Michael decided we should leave early in the morning, and we ended up motoring the whole way.  Nonetheless, Michael and Zachary now have  a special bond, one that only comes when one vomits on the other.  You can guess who did what to whom, after eating peach yogurt.

We spent some time in the local towns, shopping, getting ice cream, and playing at a waterpark.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the local bus travel, with bumpy cobblestone roads and all.  On one trip, we shared the bus with members of a  Mariachi band, with their jingling pants and instruments on hand. On another, we sat with a couple of clowns.  It’s Semana Santa, one of the busiest holiday weeks in Mexico, so apparently it has been much much busier than usual with mostly locals, which for us has been a treat.

At first our VHF handle name was “Rubinoff Land”, then too boring, switched it to DanZack del Mar and then to “R-G Canada” and at times, were known as the “secret agents” and various numbers like “300 – calling 400” etc.  We caused enough of a ruckus on the VHF public line (channel 22) that other cruisers made fun of us for our crazy names. (refer to the blog explaining the VHF radio if you need help understanding this part).    

So, we survived the visit on Whatcha Gonna Do – gained amazing experiences on board and a new appreciation for living with only what you need. The land-people are looking forward to the last few nights in Puerto Vallarta at the Sheraton and will quickly get over our guilt of flushing after every deposit and keeping the water running while washing our hands. We may, however, continue to avoid the clothes dryer.  Recharging our electronics on a daily basis, though, is another story.

-Maureen, Jason, Daniel and Zachary