Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Splash of Reality

All you’ve heard about the adventure aboard Kamaya is a rosy painting of everywhere. Now I’m talking to those of you who might visit us, that’s not really how it is. For example, in Los Islotes, with Oma, I didn’t say anything about jellyfish did I? No I didn’t, actually I have been getting jellyfished the entire trip down, but I will give more detail later, because you get the point. Also there are many nasty odors, when we catch a fish there aren’t many great smells there, or when we’ve anchored by islands covered in guano (bird poop.) I often shut my hatch and close my door. Or in Mazatlan, where the forward head stunk so much that we had to take it out and clean it. In Bahia Santa Maria Kai and Bendon got pinched by blue crabs. There was some trouble with cacti in Isla San Martine for mommy and I. Sometimes we have to eat lobster, and don’t get breakfast or a few bites for dinner. There has also been some incidents: kids and grown-ups have fallen down the Stairs and recently Kai got bonked on the head by a chessboard and a light sabor that had rolled down off it’s place.

The jellyfish that hurt the most are the little ones. The first time I was stung by a large jellyfish. My foot got tangled with the jellyfish. After that I probably got attacked by fifty something jellyfish. The best cure we’ve found is to squeeze lime on the skin.

I just plain hate the extreme heat and having to put on sun-block every day. Maybe I should move to Alaska.

The no-see-ums come out at sunset, especially in San Blas and Chacala. That’s where we suffered from many mosquito bites. There have also been little water things that prickle your legs and a few seconds after you get out you feel this tingling but think you’re imagining it. Once you’ve gotten out of the dingy it starts hurting, by the time you’ve dried off the little things are burning. So I scream that I need some lime and it begins to stop.

One of the hardest parts about using a marine toilet is you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet. You have to pump the toilet, some people aren’t very good at pumping, like my brother, Kai, who leaves poop in the toilet because he doesn’t do a good job pumping. When we sailed from La Paz to Mazatlan, we noticed that our head stank a lot and so my Dad had to take the whole toilet out and fix it. When we got the boat the aft head didn’t work so everyone had to use the forward head, it took a while to fix it and we’ve learned to put vinegar into the head.

Beware the cacti:
We went to Isla San Martin and decided not to go swimming because it was a little cold. When we got to land, there were nasty flies. We hiked up what looked like the trail heading to the lava-tubes that Charlie’s Charts talks about, and that’s when we saw them: the cacti. They didn’t look bad, at first, my mom turned a different way and from our perspective she seemed to be bush-wacking. Then we heard her yell, “help!” My dad had to go get her. At the same time, my foot got pricked on a cacti. My mom yelled more desperate, “forget the kids, help me!” She had cacti on both her hands and her feet and couldn’t move. So we went back to the dingy after getting the cacti out and when we went back to the island, we stayed along the beach.

Some people get seasick easily. There was a girl who came to the boat when we were anchored in Los Frailles and she got seasick even in the calm anchorage. Kai used to get seasick, but doesn’t anymore. And we just took some Mexican friends from San Blas to Chacala and one of the women got horribly seasick. All the puke gets pretty disgusting.

So this is cruising life, or at least some of it. I wanted to give you a splash of reality. I’m sure we will have more bad cruising experiences and also lots of good experiences like swimming with sea lions, getting close to nesting booby birds, and watching humpback whales jump high into the air.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Celebrating the Holidays in San Blas

The night before Christmas, Maya asked whether we had stockings to hang up for Santa Claus. When we packed the boat, the holidays seemed so far away and neither the Christmas stockings nor the menorah came with us. But that gave us a chance to improvise.

Tim and the kids made a menorah from a piece of driftwood that we found on Isla Isabela and he taught Maya and Kai how to use his drill and make holes for birthday candles. It’s a perfect menorah: the short lived candles keep us from burning down the boat but we do “stand watch” after we light the menorah. For stockings, we took two of Tim’s socks and decorated each of them. Kai wrote his name on duct tape and stuck that to the sock and he then attached it to shackles to hang his stocking. Maya sewed her name on the sock with light thread and that too was transformed into a useful stocking.

There was another hurdle: Santa Claus doesn’t know how to swim plus he’s too fat to fit down our mast. But he did manage to figure out a way to leave a few pesos and to relay a command to buy the kids Swiss Army knives when we find them in Puerto Vallarta or somewhere else along the way. Santa Claus on Christmas Day also brought Bravado, a 45 foot New Zealand Elliot designed boat, into the estuary with three kids to play with and books from Oma that came via Jennifer on Ecotopia who brought them from Seattle to La Paz. What a journey for that package! And perfect timing, especially since we hadn’t been able to do much Christmas shopping nor could we afford to have more toys take up space on the boat.

We’ve found that downsizing our stash of toys hasn’t impeded the fun and has perhaps even enhanced the fun. I’ve been so impressed with how creative the sailing kids have been with their playing. Just yesterday, Jet (our new friend on Bravado) and Maya were constructing a hammock to hang out on the boat. They took a towel and line and a cup holder and figured out how to string it between the staysail and the jib. Then they wrote a sign: “Keep Out: Relaxing.”

Maya and Kai have been busy building a miniature boat with wood from Isla Isabela and sails made from Kai’s old shorts. Maya sometimes decorates Kamaya by taking all the spare lines and stringing them around the bimini.

It sounds like those of you living up north have been enjoying a very white Christmas. Please build a snowman for us and we’ll build a sand castle for you. Ho, Ho, Ho ….

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Isla Isabela with Baby Birds

Solstice afternoon, Maya and I went ashore to climb the ridge and observe the blue and yellow -footed boobies. To get there, we walked past the nesting frigate birds. These rather unattractive but good flying birds congregate in the trees and build their nests close to each other, just like apartment living. We saw as many as 15 frigate birds perched on one tree. Some of the males were showing off by puffing their red throats and making clucking noises. But Maya and I didn’t stop to admire them. We were on a mission: the sun was going down and we wanted to spend some more time with the congenial and rather funny looking blue-footed boobies.

Instead of living on an apartment in a crowded tree, the blue-footed boobies build their nests on the ground, many with views of the blue ocean. Maya and I walked on the ridge overlooking the anchorage. We walked carefully because we didn’t want to trip on any of the birds nesting on the bed of grass on the ground. Some still had eggs, some had tiny chicks and others had chicks that seemed a little too big for their mother’s to be perched on top. Like kids they don’t want to leave home, even though they were a little squashed, they seemed content with their mom’s warmth. None of the birds seemed to care that we big footed humans were nearby.

I found two male blue-footed birds looking at each other and circling a blue egg about three inches long. The egg looked abandoned, but it seemed like the males were wondering which one would sit on it. None took the initiative -- they just kept prancing around discussing the matter in their bird language.

Perhaps in this case, sitting on chicks is best suited for the females who with their brown and white feathers and neutral webbed feet aren’t as attractive as the males, but know how to take their jobs seriously. Once they lay their eggs, they have four days before it hatches and then comes the task of feeding the hungry white fluffy chicks.

Just next to the abandoned egg, some of the males congregated in pairs and danced together. Pointing their tails in the air and lifting their blue webbed feet. As I watched the birds and wondered what life would be like being a booby soaring through the air and building nests, Maya bent over and handed one of the female birds a piece of straw for her nest. The bird took it from Maya.

I smiled to myself as I watched the sunset on the shortest day of the year. What a privilege to be so close to the birds where our presence doesn’t concern them; and how doubly satisfying to be able to share this special moment with my own little chick, Ms. Maya.

Our journey out of Isla Isabella was equally impressive. We saw a number of humpback whales breach high into the air and then slapped its large tails back in the water. Some say they are courting the females and others say they may be trying to get the parasites off their bodies. Its really impressive. Tim caught some of the breaching on video for you to experience as well.

Made it to Mazatlan

We made it to Mexico’s Mainland Mazatlan. When I left you last, we were in La Paz -- but since then broke free of the umbilical cord and sailed back to Ensenada de los Muertos, which means Bay of the Dead but has been renamed “Bay of Dreams” for marketing purposes, and Los Frailes and then 160 miles across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland. Along the way we thought heavily about Christina Bockius and her family. For those who don’t know Christina -- she recently had a horrible kiteboarding accident in La Ventana and was airlifted back to Oregon. Unfortunately, the doctors couldn’t help her and she died. I kept seeing Christina’s charismatic smile as we sailed by La Ventana. Her contagious love of the outdoors and her zest for life will endure in all of us who were fortunate to know her.

Before we crossed the sea, we stopped in Los Frailes to meet up with Wynn Pechous who lives in a blue house overlooking the bay with his wife, Anne and four year old daughter Hana. Wynn and Tim were about Hana’s age when they met in India. When Wynn said goodbye to us he told Tim “I hope it won’t be another 40 years before we see each other again.”

Our crossing to Mazatlan started out with a spinnaker but soon ended up with super light wind. The smooth seas enabled us to spot gulls resting on turtles. But the real highlight was a birthday delivery to Jason from Third Day, so named for the Third Day in Genesis where God created the seas. We discovered via the radio that Jason was celebrating his 10th birthday so Tim turned the kids’math lesson into the problem of how to intersect with a boat coming about 10 degrees north of us. They started their crossing at three in the morning from Ensenada de Los Muertos and we left Los Frailes at 7 in the morning. We could talk to Third Day on the radio and we could see them on radar. Tim showed Maya and Kai how to finagle the newfangled GPS as well as do some fancy geometry to figure out how fast and at what angle we needed to sail in order to meet up with them. They calculated correctly and about 80 miles out, we were able to pass Jason a gift. Captain Rich had just baked sourdough bread and he generously gave us some of his tasty bread. It tasted so good that when we reached Mazatlan, we found another boat, Perpetua, who gave us some real Alaskan sourdough starter which we have been feeding and just succeeded in making our own tasty bread.

As we entered Mazatlan’s narrow channel, coincidentally our friends in the catamaran Don Quixote was leaving. We spent three days at Marina Mazatlan and were fortunate to dock next to Sea Venturer where owner Michael, a former welder, fixed the dinghy davits (that’s what is on the stern of the boat). Being in a marina is always a luxury, one which gives us a chance to clean the boat with fresh water and give our sea legs a break. The special treat was watching the Chinese Circus which had some unicycling, spectacular gymnastics and, of course, an elephant that does handstands.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Swimming with Sea Lions

I drove the dinghy around the island searching for the sea lion rocks. Once we found the guano-covered island, everyone got out and took off their life jackets, all except mommy, who wore hers while carrying Kai’s and mine. She insisted that we might want them, though we never did.

We all swam off in search of play mates. It only took a few minutes flicking flippers, diving down and spinning, and swimming fast. A sea lion pup swam straight under me, speeding up then somersaulting over to spin around staying still for a second and then swimming straight up and flipping at the last second. Oh, I love the sea lions.

The next week or two Oma and Poppa Nate came and we took them to Espiritu Santos. Poppa Nate didn’t come swim, but Oma did. The family showed Oma how to swim with them, play with them and just do with them! It was fun-y! Oma played with them and had lots of fun.

Espiritu Santos.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dolphin and Sea Lion Videos

Here's links to a couple of videos of us swimming with sea lions and sailing (motoring actually) with dolphins.

Dolphin Video

Sea Lion Video

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Already!

In the past few weeks, we’ve made La Paz our home-base and have explored the surrounding islands of Espiritu Santos, Isla San Francisco and Isla Coyote. Our family favorite is Los Islotes, on the north end of Espiritu Santos, where the sea lion pups swim circles around us, nip at our fins and play like puppy dogs. Their insatiable appetite to play reminds us of our dog Jedi.

Momma Myra (known as The Oma) and Poppa Nate joined us for Thanksgiving and it was great fun to share our boat life with them. We took them sailing and sailing for days with a 24-hour interval on land to feast on turkey at Ted and Michelle’s home in Los Barriles. Thanks to Trudy and Michael, who brought a frozen turkey down in the airplane from San Diego, we had a traditional Thanksgiving supper. Trudy said that she was a little worried that the dead bird stored in the overhead compartment might thaw out and make a little mess on the airplane. But the juices stayed intact and Michelle concocted a fabulous and memorable dinner.

Rather than recount all the details of our life at sea, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the kids who have tolerated our boat schooling program but are thriving as boat kids. They both think of books as candy and eagerly awaited Oma and Poppa Nate’s arrival, not just because it’s special to have grandparents on board and banana bread baking in the oven, but also because they brought a suitcase of books.

As I write, Maya, who turned 9 a few weeks ago with a piƱata party on the beach, is having her first boat sleepover on another boat called Don Quixote. Instead of using a cell phone to talk with her friends, she used our VHF radio to coordinate logistics. Sometimes all the boat kids use the same channel to chat altogether.

Kai has been our chief mechanic and enjoyed teaching Poppa Nate what buttons and switches to push and at what time. He loves starting the engine on our dinghy and just yesterday after he went to the dentist, he drove the dinghy from the dock to the boat all by himself.

Both Maya and Kai have been unicycling all over La Paz and yesterday a man stopped us and told us that he was a clown and could use some help at a fiesta. So Maya and Kai are going to don their juggling hats and unicycle for the party. I just hope they won't jump ship for the circus which is coming to town.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! There's so much to be thankful for .... especially the privilege to be at sea for the year where the dolphins play on our bow and sunrises and sunsets are rarely missed.

Thanksgiving in Los Barriles

Kai on the ATV. He'll be driving a car in no time ... watch out he likes to go fast!

Michelle and Trudy proudly displaying our feast

Even Oma jumped on the ATV!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Interview with Kai

What have you have been up to for the past few weeks?

A lot of things. One of them is swimming with the sea lions. Another one is making banana bread with Oma. Another one is snorkeling in Isla San Francisco and Espiritu Santos. I've also been unicycling all over La Paz.

You went swimming with the sea lions-- how was that?

Fun. They swam next to us and we chased them and then they would come up to us and turn at the last moment.

What have you seen snorkeling?

I saw a crab, puffer fish, starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, parrot fish, and lots more fish.

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving?

We went to Ted and Michelle's house in Los Barriles with Oma and Poppa Nate and rode ATVs (all terrain vehicles).

What was it like driving your own vehicle?


How would you describe it to your friends back home?

It's like driving a bicycle. But there are four wheels and a gas pedal and you don't have to work so hard pedaling up the hills.

What happened when we did the man over board drill?

Maya went overboard and I pushed the man over board drill and we threw out lines and life savers for her. She grabbed on to the life saver and then they were going to pull her in, but Maya wanted to stay in the water because it felt better and then I joined her.

What happened when you and Maya were swimming behind the boat when we were sailing?

We were swimming against the current. There was a life raft behind the boat and Maya caught it when it was close and I didn't. Then the boat started sailing away without me. Then they turned back and got me.

Were you scared?

Yes. Because I was thinking that I might be left behind.

Who saved you?

Maya did. She caught hold of me and then we came back to the boat with the life saver.

How did you like the dentist today?

I hated it!

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...