Monday, January 31, 2011

A Short Stop along the Way

On a whim, we decided to stop in Acapulco on our way from Puerto Angel to Zihuatenajo.  We’ve been to Acapulco several times on land with our dear friends the Saal-Dalmas as Dennise’s parents have had a house there for 30+ years.  We’ve made a lot of wonderful memories there, and because of this, we had decided not to stop there on our way south (also because we had time constraints).  But on a whim, we decided to stop there this time around, and we are glad we did.

First, it’s always nice coming in to a familiar place.  We knew where the grocery store was, where a healthy restaurant was, and the basic lay of the land.  Second, Acapulco is perhaps one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world.  Truly.  Arriving by sea this time was exhilarating (mixed with some melancholy since the Saal-Dalma family was not here).  And last but not least, there are kid boats here – YAY! 

There have been very few encounters with other kids since the beginning of the summer, so our kids were going a bit stir crazy.  Nonetheless, we met up with Santosha, a beautiful family (Tammy, Patrick and their 10 year old son Jack) in the last 3 days we were in Huatulco.  Tammy owned a yoga studio back home and she’s an incredible instructor. The boys really hit it off too.  We even spent a day with them at San Augustin beach (also known as Playa Sacrificio) where there is perhaps some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done, and had a great meal.  We had a great time with them, really connecting, but then it was time to go. We and our kids were so sad that we had such a short time with them, but so goes the cruising life.

So when we heard there were more kid boats in Acapulco, we thought we’d take a break from our travels.

And so in Acapulco, we met up with the crew of Blue Sky as they are completing the last leg of a five year circumnavigation which will be completed when they return to Zihuatenjao next week.  Five years!  Emma and Jim are from Redondo Beach, and their kids are Phoebe (12) and Drake (11).  Our kids instantly connected – they are both outgoing as most cruising kids are.  We were in awe of their stories about helping locals in small villages in Madagascar and other places we’ve never heard of, by trading goods or simply applying basic first aid to save a young girl’s hand.  They make our trip seem like a jaunt to the corner store.

We also met up with s/v Lisa Kay.  We had been in contact with the crew of Lisa Kay (Lisa and Larry and their 10 year old son Ben) for a while.  First they had responded to our message on the “Southbound” email list for cruisers heading to Central America, when we asked for other kid boats.  The next time we ‘met’ was again not in person, when we were heading south to Zihuatenjao from Mazatlan, and, passing Barra de Navidad (where we had spent several weeks last season) we heard chatter on the VHF radio.  Having been traveling on our passage for a couple of days and not quite sure which time zone we were in, I put out a call on the VHF radio for a time check.  Larry came back with the correct time, and then we chatted a bit.  Later, via email, we remembered that we had emailed several weeks earlier.  Then again, about 100 miles south of Acapulco, we heard Lisa on the VHF (a pretty incredible thing since VHF radios do not generally transmit long distances).  They suggested that we make the stop in Acapulco as Ben was interested in meeting Harrison.  And so when we got closer, we decided to head into the bay.

We'll be adding links to their blogs to the right of our blog.  I've got a lot of catching up to do!

We spent the day yesterday at the Acapulco Yacht Club.  Then all five kids had a sleepover on Lisa Kay last night after going to see a movie in town.  They all slept in the same room and were up until 2 a.m.  Can’t wait to see how our kids behave today!  Michael and I got a night on the boat on our own and caught up on some episodes of Mad Men (an HBO series that we’ve recently gotten into).

We are now back on board, heading out for our 2 day passage to Z-town.  Once there, we’re planning another inland trip for a few days and then back for Sailfest, a sailing regatta and basic celebration week in Zihuatenjao the first week in February.

-Barb, written en route to Z-town on an overnight passage
Posted while in Z-town 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zipolite – A Trip Back in Time

After leaving the Huatulco area, we stopped for a couple of nights in the small coastal town of Puerto Angel (pronounced Poo-er-TO An-HEL).  It’s a beautiful anchorage with several dozen pangas either moored or beached at any given time.  The draw for us to this anchorage was actually a day trip to the town of Mazunte (pronounced Ma-ZOON-teh) which is known for its turtle sanctuary. 

Spot our dinghy amidst the fishing boats...

Here’s a tip to all travelers:  check your guidebook for hours of operation before setting out to visit an attraction.  The Centro Mexicana de la Tortuga (the Mexican Turtle Center) was closed on Tuesdays.  Sorry to miss that one, we got roped into doing a gringo tourist visit to La Ventanillo, an ‘ecotour’ into the mangroves to see crocodiles, birds, turtles and iguanas.  Our guide spoke not a word of English, so his explanations were less than basic for us.  We've been on much richer ecotours in Mexico.  Our favorite part was the caged monkey who took a liking to Michael.

Mazunte also has a natural cosmetics workshop where they make and sell – you guessed it – natural cosmetics.  We managed to buy a few things there too.

Feeling like the stop may have been a bit of a waste, we decided to go to the next town, Zipolite (pronounced Zip-oh-LEE-teh), which we heard had a great beach.  It turns out that the 'great' used when describing the beach at Zipolite has nothing to do with the swimming or the water.  In fact, one cannot swim at Zipolite, as it is always a double red flag day (that’s the first time we’ve ever seen TWO red flags up).  The draw, it turns out, to this beach is that it hosts nude sunbathing.  Picture the family of four shlepping our backpacks and our kids along the sand in the scorching heat to find a restaurant – on a nude beach.  A scene right out of a movie. 

Regardless, we had a lovely afternoon at a beach restaurant eating one of the best meals we’ve had yet in Mexico at a restaurant/hotel called El Alquemiste, watching the crashing surf and hanging out in the hammocks and couches afterward, before meandering through the unpaved single lane streets running through this jungle town.  We met few English speaking tourists.  Most were from elsewhere - and had dreadlocks.  Everything seemed to move in extreme slow motion.  The day was not a total waste after all.

Siesta Time

It's the unexpected that makes travel so exciting.

La Ventanilla beach walk

Michael is helping get this fishing boat into the water at low tide in Puerto Angel

Written while en route from Puerto Angel to somewhere north
 Posted while at Marina Ixtapa

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Market Day in Ocotlan

The Friday market in Ocotlan just outside of the City of Oaxaca, is by far one of the best markets I’ve ever been to.  We spent a few hours there and I could have spent even more!  Feast your eyes:IMG_9639 Pure honey, with bees included.
IMG_9620 IMG_9616
Herbal remedies, with explanations and all.
IMG_9590 IMG_9591 IMG_9594 IMG_9596 IMG_9599 IMG_9604 IMG_9605 IMG_9614
-Barb, currently in Acapulco

Barb’s Take on Our Trip to Oaxaca

We’ve returned from our week long trip to Oaxaca happy, more knowledgeable, and with a few ‘tchachkes’ that we couldn’t resist.

 IMG_9819Day One involved a 300 km drive from Huatulco to Oaxaca over the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, averaging only about 40 km/hr. The drive took us 8 hours, and although the kids and I got a bit car sick from four hours of hairpin turns, the vegetation and views were spectacular.  We loved this route so much that we decided to take it on our return as well, but stopping for an overnight at San Jose del Pacifico on the ridge of the mountains to break up the ride, in a beautiful cabin complete with fireplace (see photo: view from the cabin).

Once in Oaxaca, after checking out several hotels, we settled on an apartment hotel near the Santo Domingo church, which turned out to be a great location and walking distance to everything in this extremely manageable city.  The full kitchen allowed us to save on restaurants, and in fact on most days we ate out only one meal.  You may have noticed from Danielle's Take on Our Trip to Oaxaca, our meals are very important!

We spent a few of the days exploring the beauty of this colonial city with narrow but straight grid-like streets, many plazas, stone buildings and a university feel to it. There are art galleries and artesanias in every block, and some of the
restaurants are truly first class.  We visited the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in the monastery buildings adjoining the Iglesia de Santo Domingo which gave us a good overview of the history of the area, as well as a few other art and artifact museums.

We visited several ruins that were perhaps some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen, dating back as far as about 300 B.C.  Between our guidebook and the signs (surprisingly in English), we fared well guiding ourselves most of the time.  Between the sheer size of Monte Alban,
IMG_9696 and the mosaic artisanry of Mitla, to say we were in awe would be an understatement.    We all were impressed with the way that the Zapotecs, skilled builders, appreciated their landscape as well as their resources – they put our renovations to shame, as they regularly built and rebuilt their structures to IMG_9707 accommodate their purposes rather than disassemble and start anew.  And we learned that the society may have been governed by women.  And that disputes got resolved on the ball courts.   I so loved that my kids enjoyed it just as much as Michael and I did.
Synchronizing our watches....

We visited markets that provided sensory overload (I’ll post a separate blog with just photos from the market – it truly deserves a blog of its own!), and artisan shops of international caliber.  In fact, we found several of these artists (wood workers and weavers)     IMG_9656through a coffee table book on Artisans of Oaxaca, who travel worldwide to teach their respective crafts.  The artisans we visited had work in museums and exhibits around the globe.  And we contributed to their livelihoods nicely.  In a few of the workshops, our kids got to try out IMG_9651their abilities: weaving and carving.  The creativity and art was inspiring. 


Its fascinating that each town is known for a different craft.  San IMG_9769Bartolo Cayotepec is known for its black pottery, San Martin Tilcajete for its ‘artesanias de madera’ (wooden handicrafts), Santo Tomas Jalieza for its back-strap loom textiles, Arrazola for its ‘alebrijes’ (copal-carved animal figures with IMG_9801vivid colors), Teotitlan del Valle for its rug and tapestry weavers, and Santa Ana del Valle for its woolen blankets.  At each artisan’s shop, we got lengthy demonstrations on natural dyes, paints, weaving or carving or molding.  It was absolutely fascinating.

IMG_9660 We had great adventure as well.  Aside from the highway getting there and back, we also took a short cut to get to Monte Alban which meant driving right in a riverbed.  Only in a rental.  Meandering the streets of Oaxaca and the outlying towns, trying grasshoppers (they’re kosher!) and sampling mezcal, and visiting the real local markets where live goats, turkeys and chickens are sold side by side with lingerie all helped expand our horizons.

Notwithstanding the relatively cold temperatures, people do not run indoors.  In fact, coffee shop and restaurant tables are packed outdoors at all times of the day and night. Apparently over Christmas/New Years week the city is jammed, but we felt it was actually pretty busy when we were there too.  It’s a great city to people watch and walk around.  This is a trip I highly recommend. Needless to say, I’ve love to return again one day.

-Barb, back on the boat

Friday, January 28, 2011

Harrison’s Take on Our Trip to Oaxaca

Journal: Oaxaca

January 13, 2011

To start our day in the cold conditions, my sister and I watched the
1st Harry Potter movie.clip_image004 Later, we walked to the Iglesia (church) De  
Santo Domingo, viewed the gold ceilings and walls and then to the Zocolo, the town square. At the Zocolo, we went in the main church and saw all the sculptures and art work on the walls. Next, we had lunch and went to one of two museums. The first one taught us about the history of humans, our world and Mexico. The second one, teaches us about the three tribes (Zapotecs, Mixtecs and Aztecs) and Mexico's governors and presidents, Porforio Diaz and Benito Juarez, both born and raised in Oaxaca.

I do have to admit it was a long and tiring day but that didn't stop the fun.

January 14, 2011

clip_image002This morning, I had pizza, left over from last night. Then, we drove in our rental car to Ocotlan and went to the market there. That was the busiest place I've ever been. I didn't like the market because people with chickens and turkeys kept walking into me. Next, all of us got back in the car and drove to a place where they make black pottery out of natural clay and Quartz. There, we saw someone make a pitcher and I bought a clay dog. We took the car to a restaurant called Café La Olla and had a sandwich there. Then we visited Benito Jarez's house.

My favorite part of today was visiting the pottery place and seeing
them make the pitcher.

January 15, 2011

clip_image006Today is January 15th, 2011, and we had breakfast, two pieces of toast with peanut butter. Then, we watched "Despicable  Me", and we played some games while my parents were at the Oaxaca Market. Next, we went for a walk to visit some artisans, art galleries and have lunch at a delicious vegetarian restaurant. We walked to a mescale, a place where they sell and give tastes of mescal, which is alcohol from the agave plant, and played with their dogs (Tesla and Poopa).

The weirdest part of today was eating grasshoppers that were roasted in chile and lemon in the mescale.

January 16, 2011

This morning, all of us got in the car and drove to a coffee shop (with me as the navigator). Then, we drove to a wood carving place where we viewed around for four hours and ended up with a three headed clip_image008dragon. Now, for the best part, somebody told us the directions for Monte Alban (we'll get to that in a moment) and they were to follow the river all the way down. She was correct when she said to go down into the river, which we drove IN to get there. The 'river' was a very bumpy and hilarious experience. When we got to Monte Alban, a ton of ruins near Oaxaca, we got out of the car laughing and went to pay our admission and started on our tour. In our tour we climbed a big pyramid, went in a small underground tunnel and an over ground tunnel.

The most hilarious part of the day was going to Monte Alban in THE river.

January 17, 2011
clip_image010We started our day with my dad and I lighting some fire crackers that
were really a piece of junk (but when they did work, they were booming) and then went to a book store where we were looking to buy a book but they were too expensive. Today, again, we went to a place where they carve wood, except that this place I went to was excellent. They actually showed us how to carve, make natural paint, which had very vivid colors, how to fill in cracks in the wood and to paint the beautiful carvings. Later, I got a piece of wood out of the car and the people that showed us how to carve helped me carve a turtle. Then, we went to a weaving market where the people there, again, let me help them weave gorgeous table runners. On the way back, we went to the grocery store and two mescal places.

For sure, my favorite part of the day was getting to carve my own turtle.

January 18, 2011
My favorite part of the day today was going to the town of Mitla were we got to visit more ruins. There were two tombs that you got to go into and see the stone mosaics on the walls.

My favorite part of the whole trip, though, was getting to carve my own turtle out of wood and visiting the amazing ruins in Mitla and Monte Alban.

- Harrison, now back in Huatulco

Danielle’s Take on Our Trip to Oaxaca

Day 1
After we finally finished watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we left our apartment hotel and walked down to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. We looked around and saw a family tree of Santo Domingo de Guzman painted on the ceiling and gold painteIMG_9562d walls, pillars, and altars. The newest part of this church was the altar in the chapel from the 1950s.

Next, we went into one of the many galleries lining the narrow streets. There were sculptures and paintings. Then we headed down to the Zocolo and went to a restaurant called La Primavera, definitely not the best (the hot chocolate was disgusting and the quesadillas were rubbery). I’m excited for wood burning pizzas tonight.

Our first of two museums was in one of the government buildings in the square. There we saw evolution evolving, felt (or tried to feel) the earthquakes Oaxaca gets frequently, and played some games. The next museum on our tour of the town was in the church and taught us about Mexico’s peoples throughout time. The cool thing about this museum was that it was in an old convent, so when we listened to the audio, we were told what the room we were in was used for. This convent used to house 7,000 people!

After all this walking, my legs were getting tired, so here we are now, back in the apartment.

Day 2
Today we learned moreIMG_9622 about the history and culture of Oaxaca. To start off, we went to the market in Ocotlan. There we viewed the hubbub of market day in this town half an hour from Oaxaca. Live turkeys were being held by their feet and others were tied together. As usual, the smell in the meat section made me want to barf. We bought bread in the main building, not the best-of course, and fresh fruit in one of the many stands. Mom kept on saying it reminded her of the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. To finish off with our market experience, we followed a truck with at least 30 goats stuffed inside and landed up in a special designated area for selling live cows, goats, bulls, and horses.

On our way back to Oaxaca City, we stopped off at two pottery places. The first was owned by three Agular sisters and wasn’t very impressive at all. Dona Rosa’s family owned the next. Dona Rosa was the woman who invented a way to make pottery shiny without using paint. The traditional way before her accidental discovery was to let the clay turn a chalky black. But, Dona Rosa rubbed quartz on her pottery and this made it shiny. We all got to watch a demonstration and then tour the gallery and purchase a souvenir.

When we arrived back in Oaxaca City, we stopped to catch a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Café Olla. Unlike La Primavera, this restaurant was delicious. I’d love to go back there again.

The last stop of the day was at Benito Juarez’s house. There we learned about the history of Mexico, the time of his presidency and the political issues in his time, and what it might have been like to be living in the 1800s.

I really enjoyed today and the last three stops were my favorite so far in Oaxaca.

Day 3
After a lazy morning in which Harrison and I watched Despicable Me (as you can see, we’re really stocking up on movie time), we left for an art walk. With me as navigator, we went to an art museum with really weird art. I prefer the galleries.

Next, we were supposed to go to a bagel store, but it was closed, so instead we went farther down the block to a gallery. In this gallery, we saw a full sized lion made completely out of twigs.

Then, on our search for lunch, we walked to an artisan store consisting of the works of 80 families. My favorite piece was a skull, that was enlarged, and was painted with a desert landscape.

The next stop, that all four of us were excited for, was lunch. This restaurant specialized in vegetarian options. I had a vegetable crepe with cheese that was DELICIOUS, Dad had a stir-fry, Harrison had an amazing veggie burger, and Mom had the vegetarian menu combo option.

We then left for a museum with prehistoric art. The museum was set in an old colonial house. The art was a collection of an old famous painter named Rufino Tomayo. I felt that I’d already seen enough prehistoric artwork and that this museum was a bit of a waste of time.

We walked to another artisan shop that was made up of 300 women’s artwork. There were dresses, tin decorations, and the black pottery we learned about yesterday.

After we’d been told to check out this mescal shop, we followed Dad there. My parents tasted three different traditional mescals, and all four of us tasted the cooked agave, the plant from which mescal is made. Harrison and I also got to play with the owner’s dogs, Tesla, a male border collie, and Poopa, a female black German Sheppard. The coolest part about this shop was that we got to taste grasshoppers. They were salty, spicy, and crunchy. IMG_9646

Now we are about to leave for a restaurant that we have a reservation for. It’s supposed to be very good.

Day 4
Day 4. Starting off with Harrison as navigator, we drove to a bookstore, but sadly, it was closed. After stopping off at a coffee shop, we drove to a town known for its artisan works. There we went into many different shops looking for something for my parents to get. I really liked the hummingbirds in the flowers. They ended up getting a three-headed dragon with bright, vibrant colors. Then we went across the street and got presents for our friends in California. We wanted to get unpainted wood animals and acrylic paints, but that would’ve been a big investment.

After a quick lunch in the car, we drove off down a narrow road that ran through a river. Following, or going in, the river was going to take us to a place called Monte Alban. IMG_9663 On the way, a car, while it was passing us on this narrow road (if you could call it a road), broke down while towing another car. After this, we’d realized that we’d gotten lost. After a lot of confusion (and laughter), we finally reached Monte Alban.

Monte Alban is an old Zapotec city with very famous ruins much like the Mayan’s. Here, we saw temples, pyramids, tombs, tunnels, and residential areas. IMG_9679The Monte Alban civilization was very advanced in that they flattened out ground, dug into hills, came up with a calendar, clock, and writing system, and were said to be the first civilization to have written.

After dropping the car back at the apartment, we went to dinner at a very good pizza restaurant. There were incredible pizzas and pastas.

I enjoyed the ruins a lot because I love learning about the way people lived long ago. I always wonder what people in a thousand years from now will think when they look at our ruins.

Day 5
After getting into the car at 11:00 and listening to my parents yell, we left for another town with many artisan woodcarvings and went to a place that gave a demonstration of how they were made. The cool thing about this shop was that the paintings were of small Zapotec symbols made with natural paints. We got to see them carve the pieces, mix the paint, fix the pieces, and paint the pieces. Harrison even got to carve a turtle. IMG_9759 My parents bought an armadillo painted with green, red, orange, yellow, white, and black. The process to make it would have been long because it takes two weeks to carve a piece, nine months to dry the wood, probably a week to fix and sand it, and five weeks to paint it.

We left this shop at 3:00 and went to a place where women make woven goods and sell them. They used a special method called back-strap weaving by using a loom called a back-strap loom. IMG_9788 We got to view their gallery and watch them weave. They even let us try to weave!

Having committed to be back at the hotel by 6:00 and it being 4:30, we had to hurry to pick up groceries, go to the bank, pick up mescal at two places, and get back.

We have now been at the hotel for an hour, having successfully run all our errands and gotten back by the right time (early, in fact). Now getting hungry, I can’t wait to go and eat something good for our last night in Oaxaca.

Day 6
Today was supposed to be the day that we drove home, but obviously there had to be some distractions.  The first stop on the way out of Oaxaca was at the weavers.  This place was known for its woven tapestries and demonstrations.  Here we learned how they spun the wool, dyed the yarn, and wove the blankets and tapestries.  I got to spin some wool (which was very hard), but wanted to try to make some dyes.  My parents ended up getting a tapestry/rug of the tree of life.

We then left to go to a place called Mitla, also known for its ruins with stone mosaics.  Here we went through multiple tunnels, saw the amazing stone work, and even ventured into some tombs!

We needed to check some things using the internet, so we stopped at a gas station.  By the time we left, it was four o’clock and going on a seven hour drive through a really windy road was unrealistic.  So instead we went to a town up it the mountains on a ridge and got a cabin there (with a fireplace!).

Going to Oaxaca was a wonderful experience and I’d love to look forward to many more of these inland trips.

-Danielle, back in Huatulco

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Update: What we’ve been doing, where we’ve been, and where we’re going

IMG_9531 Since we last posted a blog, we continued with visitors – our last set for a while – being my mother in law Fagel and my 7-year-old niece Hannah.  We had a great time with them, heading to a couple of anchorages in the 12 bays of Huatulco (pronounced Wha–TOOL-Koh).  We spent a couple of nights each at anchor at Chacacual and La India beaches, and then at Cacalutta, which was by far our favorite and most private.  We swam to the beach several times, went for beach walks, did yoga on the beach and on the boat, snorkeled a lot, and, of course, ate well!  We also managed to spend a day actually sailing, and a day at some recently discovered ruins of a Zapotec city from around 300 B.C. to A.D. 1500, called Copalita, where we also got a great view from a look-out point high up on a cliff.  We had some great bonding time:  each of us with Hannah, and each of us with Bobie/mom/Fagel.  It was sad to see them go.

Within 24 hours of their departure, however, we rented a car and drove the eight hours to the gorgeous colonial city of Oaxaca (pronounced Wah-HA-kah). The kids have written a blog about their trip, as required by their teacher, especially seeing as how they were going on five weeks of school break.  Each day after touring in and around Oaxaca, they would get back to the hotel room and journal about their respective days.  Those blogs will be posted shortly following this one.  I will of course supplement their blogs a bit, with photos and a summary.  It was truly an incredible trip, and has given us another idea of how to spend the remaining 8 months of our adventure.

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that for quite some time we’ve been angsting (not a verb but should be) about whether to go south into Central America, head to the South Pacific, or stay in Mexico.  We’ve nixed Central America due to (a) no wind, (b) Costa Rica being relatively unfriendly for cruisers, (c) needing to be out of there in May when the rains and bugs start, (d) not having a solution regarding what we do with the boat at the end, as shipping it back is very expensive, and motoring it back would be very uncomfortable, long and fuel-costly.  So then we became sure we’d go to the South Pacific, a place we’ll likely never get to by plane on a regular vacation, and a place whose ecosystem is perhaps the richest in the oceans but is slowly being deteriorated.  Our issue with this is that we’d need more than one cruising season, and Danielle very much wants to be back at school with friends in September.  With this deadline, we’d be doing drive-by cruising, and then, of course, there’s the issue of what to do with the boat.  We understand there is a market in Australia for our boat, but again, the deadline makes it difficult to get there, get set up with a broker, and then just leave.  Unless we meet other kid boats heading to the South Pacific that will keep Danielle happy, this option is not looking good.  And that needs to be determined by early March in order to cross the Pacific shortly after that.  And get the boat ready for the long three week plus passage before then.

So once in Oaxaca, we realized how much we enjoy the land trips.  It then became clear:  We could stay in Mexico, do a few more land trips, and make it back to California with the boat in time to start school in September.  We are quite excited about this prospect in fact.  But of course, a cruiser’s plans are written in the sand at low tide.  I wouldn’t be surprised if our plans change a few dozen more times before we return home.

-Barbara, written while anchored in Puerto Angel

A Math Problem

We recently had our friend Bob Rebitzer and his daughters Elana and Maya visit us over New Year’s week while we were in Huatulco.  Elana had a school assignment/competition that she needed to complete which required her to interview someone to see how they use complex math in their everyday job.  It turns out that she wanted to interview me!  She just informed us that her write up won first prize in her math class for most interesting use of math on the job!  Her teacher read it aloud while adding imaginary details about fending off sharks!  She agreed to share her write up which follows below.

Michael Mitgang and his family live on a boat. Every day, they use high level math, sometimes in order to save their lives. This happened a few weeks ago, as they were crossing from Mazatlan, Mexico, to Huatulco, Mexico. Michael was worried about how much fuel they had left and the reader was not giving accurate readings. If they ran out of fuel, they would either start drifting, which could get them miles off track, or have to sail the rest of the way, which would slow down the speed of the boat. That could have made the journey much longer than they were prepared for.

Michael checked the engine hours on both the port and starboard engines, which tell you how far they have traveled (like an odometer on a car). He also measured the amount of fuel left with a dowel and ruler, by dipping into the tank. Using that, and a few other pieces of information, he was left with these categories for a table.

Port Engine Hours Star Engine Hours Change in hours since last meas-urement. Inches of fuel left in tank Change in Inches Avg. RPM Hours per inch Est. # of hours left in tank Avg. Speed Amount of miles of fuel left

By filling in this table, Michael used algebra when he found the amount of miles of fuel left (X hours times Y speed equals miles of fuel left). Using that method, Michael could tell whether or not they had enough fuel left in the tank.

However, there was another problem.


The tank was shaped like this, so there were two categories of inches. The first was the amount of gallons of fuel per inch used when draining from only the taller cube. The second was the amount of gallons used when draining from both cubes. The difference between the two inches was substantial, greater than two full gallons per inch, so it turned out to be important to know the different drainage rates between the two types of inches. To solve this problem, Michael had to use geometry, while finding the total amount of gallons.

As a further problem, Michael and his family had no internet access at the time, and they didn’t know how many cubic inches were in a gallon. To find the amount of square inches in a gallon, Michael had to first convert inches to centimeters and gallons to liters (because he knew how many cubic centimeters were in a milliliter), and then convert back into gallons.

Every day, the Mitgang-Gottesman family faces similarly important problems, many of which having to do with high level math.

Michael, Anchored in Acapulco