Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life in Ecuador

Less than a week after arriving in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, we enrolled Maya and Kai in school, joined the local tennis club and started a routine life. The kids take tennis lessons everyday at our new club, Ruth takes yoga and is coaching two girls for a regional spelling bee and I am helping the school set up some physics demonstrations. We feel like a normal family with a normal routine.

Here's a typical day. We get up at 6 am, have a quick breakfast, Maya and Kai put on their school uniform of jeans and polo shirt and we dinghy over to the dock at Puerto Amistad, our home on land. From here, the kids walk across the street and take the bus to school at 6:45 am. School, which is 5 kilometers away, starts at 7am and sometimes they do miss the bus. Then we have to take a taxi.

Can you tell how Maya and Kai feel about school?

Classes include Spanish, English, math, science, PE, art, music, and a really interesting one called "development of thought." During English class which is everyday for two periods, the kids are tutored in Spanish.

Maya and Kai come back in the school bus around 1:40 in the afternoon and quickly change into tennis garb. We jump on a 3-wheel bicycle taxi...which takes you anywhere in town for .50 cents...and head straight to the tennis club.

The local pro, Coco, teaches Maya and Kai tennis, while Ruth and I play on the clay tennis courts. After tennis the kids love to play with the other boat kids here at Puerto Amistad, while Ruth coaches some of the girls on their upcoming spelling bee.

It's comfortable and relaxing to be back in a routine. The stormy skies of Panama have been replaced by stable cool weather. Surprisingly, even though we're living on the equator, the weather is cool, almost like San Francisco. We actually sleep with a sheet AND a blanket at night and sometimes wear a sweatshirt or long pants during the day!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Passage to Ecuador

In the early morning of September 2nd, after a night with the turtles (Maya’s next blog entry will detail our incredible night), we sailed off the hook from Isla Canas, Panama and made our way to Ecuador. In front of us was the powerful Humboldt Current, the cold ocean current flowing north from Chile to Peru. For that reason, we opted to sail about 100 miles southwest out to sea for relief and a better wind angle. We also wanted to by-pass the coast of Columbia which is known to have a few pirates lurking around.

Kamaya was loaded with oodles of bananas, yellow-finned tuna and lobster that the locals had given us within a few minutes after we set our anchor in Isla Canas. Our refrigerator was also stocked with a tasty fresh caught Sierra. We also had heaps of mangos, and tons of dried goods like pastas, beans and rice that we had purchased in Panama City. No one was going to go hungry on this 600 mile leg of our journey.

During our first night at sea, we faced thick rain, lightning, thunder and plenty of wind. The lightning would flash and light up the ocean for a few seconds and then, even though we had a nearly full moon, the sky would be dark from the clouds. Fortunately, the lightning was miles away from us, but it still kept us alert and nervous, especially since we had already been struck once and had just repaired our radar.

The strong wind continued throughout our journey and oscillated from the south to the southeast, which meant we were sailing upwind with the sails closely hauled in. At times we had a double-reef on our main. The second day, the lightning and thunder ceased, yet the sky stayed grey. We enjoyed the cooler weather, especially after the heat and humidity in Panama. We saw lots of flying fish. One whacked Tim in the back while he was standing on the side of the boat. Sailing upwind with 20 knots on the bow impeded our cooking -- that meant bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the fish had to wait for calmer days. The current was so strong that it kept sucking us into the coast, making it hard for us to round the island of Malpelo that we had plotted as our initial course. We ended up sailing inside the island, leaving it about 60 miles to our starboard side.

Nothing really noteworthy happened until the fourth night, Sunday, September 6th, when we crossed the Equator. September 6th also happens to be our one year anniversary of living on Kamaya. It's pretty amazing that one year ago, we pulled up our anchor in Sausalito and sailed out the Golden Gate Bridge with Zach, Stef, Eli, Ari, Dave and Cole. It doesn't seem that long ago that the same night that we waved good-bye to them in Half Moon Bay and they drove back to their routine lives, while we didn't have a crystal ball guiding our future.

Anyway, a few minutes before 10:00 pm that night, Maya counted down the minutes of the longitude on our GPS. We each had four blue M&Ms for a sacrifice to Poseidon. “Save the turtles,” Kai said as he threw his M&M into the sea. “Don’t sink our ship” Maya requested. “Be kind to us,” I said. Then Tim took a cup of rum and reiterated the plea to keep us safe on the sea as he poured the sailor’s grog into the surrounding waves. We then blasted songs from Finding Nemo and danced on the deck, celebrating our passage to the official South Pacific.

We're now drying out our sea legs a bit in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador where thankfully there is no lightning. Tomorrow, Monday, Maya and Kai will go to school for the next month and immerse themselves in this very friendly country. We make our way around town getting rides on a three-wheeled bicycle cart and we've even joined the tennis club. It's been an incredible year for us and I'm sure the next year will be equally adventurous.

We end this blog entry with a special wish to my Grandmother who just turned 102! Happy Birthday Grandma Anita. I can't believe that it's been two years that we were all with you for your 100th birthday. Stay healthy and wise. With love from the Kamaya crew.

Looking Back

It took me more than seven years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because...