Saturday, January 31, 2009

Interview with Kai

Where are you now?

In Bahia de Navidad. We’re anchored right now in the lagoon with 25 boats. It’s hot and there’s no wind.

Where have you been for the past week?

We were in the Bay of Chamela and we met Jessica, Sage and Kaien. They live in the town of Punta Perula and it was Sage’s dream to go sailing so we took him for a 28 mile sail to Bahia de Tenacatita. And then yesterday we sailed to Bahia de Navidad.

How did you like Chamela/Punta Perula?

I liked it. We swam to shore and played with the waves on the beach with Sage and Kaien and Robin from Hipnautical and the Bravado kids. We also slept on land for the first time in a many months. We also swam back to the shore at night with the phosphorescence. Maya will write about that.

How did you like sleeping in a bed that didn’t move?

It was good, but it was noisy in the morning.

What did you do in Tenacatita?

When we arrived that evening, there was a bonfire on the beach and we played with lots of kids from other boats. Then the next day we took our dinghy through the mangrove swamps to the other side. We saw some birds and crabs, but no crocodiles like the river tour in San Blas.

What are some of your favorite thing to do on the boat?

Playing legos and reading.

What do you like reading?

Inkspell, and Calvin and Hobbes

Photo of Kai by Ewout Mante, Captain SV Bravado

Bopping around Banderas Bay

While Maya was on skype the other evening talking to her cousin in Alaska, she stopped for a moment to ask, “Mom, where are we anchored?” “We’re in Chamela Bay,” I tell her and then think about the numerous places we’ve been anchored and how sometimes it can be confusing for the kids to know where we are. The constant though is our boat. Even though the scenery, towns and people change, we’re still sleeping in the same bunks, cooking in the same galley and surrounded by all of our same books, electronics and gear.
Last Thursday, we sailed out of Banderas Bay which had been our home since New Year’s Eve when we arrived with our buddy boat Bravado and anchored a the north end of the bay near Punta de Mita, famous for its fancy homes and good surfing. That night we had front row seats to the fireworks exploding all around us. New Year’s Day, we sailed five miles to the ecological island called Isla la Marieta. We kayaked into the caves amidst the clear water and also explored the caves on land. These caves used to be underwater and many connect with each other. That’s where Kai, Hein and Eltjo played Indiana Jones; Eltjo the explorer climbed a little too high and got stuck on the cliff with the yellow footed booties. Fortunately, Indiana saved him.
In the afternoon when the wind typically comes up, we sailed into La Cruz marina, escorted by humpback whales that, like us, came from the north. Many of these big mammals make Banderas Bay their home while they munch on thousands of pounds of krill, plankton and small fish. This is also where they give birth to their hundred pound babies. I’ve never seen so many whales jumping high into the air and flashing us their tales.
When we pulled into La Cruz Marina, we told Rafaela at the desk that we’d stay for only four days. Bu the boat projects, provisioning, the performance of the Harry Potter play and luxury of being at a marina with hot showers kept us there for more than two weeks. It felt good to stop moving for a bit and to get to know some of locals. La Cruz is a cozy town where some people serve food out of their homes. The special alhambres tacos next to the ice cream store kept us well fed. And the tasty bakery kept us plump with their delicious baked goods. The only complaint from our unicycling family was that the roads were bumpy and the “big city” of Puerto Vallarta was a 35-minute bus ride.
The sophisticated Puerto Vallarta reminded me a little of San Francisco as both have luxurious homes perched amidst steep hills. We also met Tim’s cousin, Pat Henry who settled in Puerto Vallarta, after being the one of the first women and the oldest one to sail around the world alone. Pat has now given up the sailor’s life, and while not painting for a living, she’s on the dance floor, tangoing.

Other Banderas Bay highlights include releasing baby turtles at Nuevo Vallarta and sailing to the south side of the Bay to Yelapa, an artistic town that you can only get to by boat. Instead of wide roads, small walking paths weave around the lush village. Many locals get around with horses. We followed one path a few miles out to a waterfall. Although magnificent, the rolly anchorage and the tights moorings which many of us used otherwise we had to anchor in 80-to-140-feet water deterred us from staying more than two days. One night, we almost bumped into New Moon, a catermaran also on a mooring. The only boat that wasn’t flopping sideways with the waves was Bravado who opted out of grabbing a mooring and instead dropped both a bow and stern anchor.
Our last days in Banderas Bay were spent with the Koenig family who flew down from Hood River to get a dose of the warm water and the sun. We took them on a perfect sail where in less than an hour, we saw Humpback Whales and caught a Sierra fish. I told Margaret and Nathan that our boat life isn’t all a vacation and that often our days are filled with working on the boat, getting provisions and schooling the kids, and they looked at me in disbelief. Nathan nodded smiling, “We’ll think about you when we’re back working in Hood River and it's grey and cold.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama the Captain

It’s one in the morning and I can’t sleep. We’re settled at La Cruz marina, our boat is creaking back and forth with the surge and the call of the internet full of information keeps me awake. Here, we have easy access to information and I can’t resist. I should go to bed, but instead, I’m surfing from site to site trying to imagine what Michelle and Obama are thinking and doing right before they take office and their and our world will change. Are they running around their new home looking at the rooms in astonishment? What is the pulse of America? Is the economy really that bad? We’ve been out of the states for three significant months. As I flop from “” to “,” “u-tube” even to “” and then back to our little blog, I remember Bill Clinton’s 1997 inauguration which I was lucky to attend. I remember watching him play his saxophone on stage at one of the balls. I also remember being a little disappointed with the mayhem surrounding his inauguration -- it really was just another party with tons of people dressed in tuxedos and fancy gowns. I hope it’s different for Obama. It seems like it already is different.

I take a break from the computer and start the sourdough for tomorrow’s sourdough pancakes. Like the yeast, Obama may need a little time to rise to the occasion. Or maybe he’s going to beat all expectations. Tomorrow is an exciting day not only for the United States, but also for the world. The seas won’t be smooth for Obama, but the world seems confident that he has the aptitude to navigate his way. He’ll create a map for a better future, one where hopefully our children will be able to safely travel and grow with their experiences. I think Obama will be a wise captain. I hope he’ll be a captain that makes us all proud and keeps his ship, the United States of America, in stellar condition and not on collision course. Oh, I can’t resist the comparison. Signed the rambling, but hopeful Ruth.

PS- Here's where we watched the inauguration - at the La Cruz Yacht Club. My favorite quote, "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Perhaps our enemies can put aside their anger and figure out a way to work together. And if we work as a team, perhaps we can save the planet earth. Maybe I'm being too lofty.

Photo by Ewout Mante, Captain, SV Bravado

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Swinging like Monkeys

Since the kids don't have soccer or gymnastics to rush to after school, the crazy Dads decided to construct a swing from the halyards of Bravado and Kamaya. The kids swung like monkeys and the Moms sailed away in the little Peerys (sailing dinghy), afraid to look.
"We swung really high and after it was my turn, I got to squirt the next person with a water hose. It was really fun," reports Monkey Kai. "I hope we can set it up again."

Photos by Ewout Mante, Captain, SV Bravado and one of the chief engineers of the swing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Turtle Video

Here's a video of us releasing one day old turtles at sunset to increase their odds of survival from bird attacks. Once in the water, the baby turtles are subject to fish and dolphins feeding. Generally one in 1000 survives to adulthood. They can live off their yolk for 3 days without eating. These conservation efforts in Puerto Vallarta have been somewhat successful and the numbers are increasing somewhat. They have even had a few very endangered leatherback nests this year for the first time in 9 years. The sand in our hands helps imprint them with the smell of this beach (otherwise oils from our hand would interfere with this imprinting). Like salmon, these turtles return to the place of their birth to lay eggs. Click on the link below to see our video.

Turtle Video

Releasing Baby Sea Turtles

Last night, we went to the beach at Nuevo Vallarta and took one-day old Olive Ridley sea turtles and helped them go back to their home in the Pacific Ocean. "Survive" we told them, knowing that the odds are against them: only one in a thousand avoid getting eaten by pelicans, crabs, sharks or other predators.

First we took them out of the big pen where they spent their first day of life.

Then at sunset, we held the baby turtles and stood by the edge of the sea and urged them on as they waddled and crawled towards the big, scary ocean. We were instructed to not go past the line in the sand. That way the turtles could absorb the sand and surrounding smells so they knew where to return ten years later when they lay their hundred or more eggs deep in the sand. We also wiped our hands in the wet sand to remove all sunblock and other lotions as that is a hazard to the baby turtles. It was an incredible lesson about survival of the fittest.

Maya and Jet helped many of the little turtles back into the water. Here they are saying good-bye and good luck to the turtles as they make their way out to the big big ocean.

Photos by Ewout Mante, Captain, SV Bravado

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Sorceror's Stone.

I met this girl named Jet, and I knew she was a drama person. I had tried before to put on the Sorceror's Stone play that I had written, but hadn't found the right person. We decided to put it on in La Cruz. There had an amphitheater and it was just perfect for putting on the play. The boys joined us. Here are some fun photos that Jet's Dad took. He's a really good photographer.

Here is Jet playing Professor Magonagall and sorting Harry.

Here's Harry meeting the Weesleys

This is Ron (played by Kai) and Harry (played by Hein) at the train station. Notice the funny orange yarn to show Ron's red hair and Harry's glasses made from wire.

Hagrid shows us his baby dragon

Albus Dumbledore (Eltjo) and Nicholas Flamel (Kai) discuss the Sorceror's Stone

Tim played the scary troll.

And our bows at the end

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Boat-Schooling at its Best

Some of the benefits and challenges of our journey have been boat-schooling. Fortunately, Tim is a certified teacher and his rational and analytical left brain complements my more social right brained oriented way of thinking. So together we’re hoping to give Maya and Kai a well-balanced education. I teach more of the English and history classes and Tim is in charge of the science and math. Our curriculum mixes formal and informal courses, allowing for a lot of spontaneity. There’s waves of enthusiasm and it’s taken us many months to get into a rhythm of some sorts.

This week we’ve had some productive boat-schooling including a dissection of a fish eye with our kids and our new friends on board Bravado. Don’t worry we didn’t kill the fish just for the experiment. We caught a three foot Dorado off of Chacala and ate most of it for about a week. Maya had joked with Tim who, lucky for me, does all of the filleting (the converting of the fish from animal with thoughts into food) about giving the eye to Hein who loves to look at things under the microscope. Well, Tim saved the eye and that gave him the opportunity to teach the kids about the eye. Most fascinating for me was looking through the fish lens which looked like a golden ball and seeing things magnified and upside-down.

But one of the best aspects of boat-schooling is being able to let Maya and Kai run with their ideas. Maya just finished writing her first play which is based on J.K. Rowlings' story of Harry Potter. She showed the play to Jet, who also loves theatre and one afternoon while Jet’s mom, Judith, and I were taking them on a field trip to a coffee plantation just south of San Blas, the two girls would barely get out of the car because they were so enthralled with Maya’s script. Maya had finally found someone who could help her make her script come alive. Since that day almost two weeks ago, the two have been busy re-writing sections of the play, recruiting actors (the brothers of the bunch) and thinking primarily about how to produce the play.

When we arrived at the marina in La Cruz last Friday, Maya and Jet saw the outdoor amphitheatre and their minds raced into full throttle. They asked Rafael, the manager, if they could hold the performance at the amphitheater and he agreed to provide lights and microphones. He also wanted to lure more people to come via a BBQ potluck. When they asked Lupe, our dock neighbor on board the Catamaran called Moon and the Stars, whether she had any extra brooms, Lupe wanted to know more about the play and asked if she could invite the 13 orphans from her orphanage.

The girls recruited a musician, Bobbie Jo from the boat Hipnautical, to help with the music. And they’ve been practicing for four to five hours everyday this week. I have not been allowed to watch any of it, but have been amazed to witness how this kid-run and kid-initiated activity has produced such devotion, creativity and cleverness, especially with the props and costumes. Even Kai and the boys on Bravado are buzzing with excitement. The performance is tomorrow at 5:30 and I wish you all could come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kai on Power

Questions about electricity on the boat

How do you get electricity on board Kamaya?

At sea, we get electricity from batteries and when we are at a marina we can get electricity from the shore.

How do you charge your batteries?

We can charge our batteries from a generator, solar panels, alternator and when we are dock, from shore power


Solar panels


Shore power

Can you flick on the lights all the

time or do you have to conserve energy?

No you can’t. We have to be really careful with our use of energy. We are getting ready to put LED lights on our boat.

What are LED lights?

They are lights that use less power.

How do you know how much power you are using?

We have a device that tells you how much power you are using.(ammeter and voltmeter)

How many batteries do you have?

We have 4 batteries.

What happens when you go on shore power?

We can use all the power we want.

What are the big users of power on the boat?

Some things use lots of power, like microwave oven, electric winches, and anchor windlass, but we only use them for short bursts so they don’t run our batteries down that much. Other things use a medium amount of power, like refrigerator, lights, and watermaker but they run for a long time so they tend to put the biggest users of power. When we’re at sea, the autopilot is a big user of power as well.

Ask Maya

Ask a question through comments. they will be answered on this story.
1: Answering Grace's question yes I am speaking some more Spanish.
2: Eli, the water is warm when you go by the equator, the equator is warm because the sun shines on it. And if you think we're having all that fun read "a Splash of Reality."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Interview with Kai

Where are you?

We are in the marina at La Cruz which is near Puerto Vallarta.

Have you been catching fish?

Only one big fish. A big dorado fish. And we have the eye of the fish. We were going to give the fish to our friend, Hein, but it's too big for his microscope.

What's interesting about fish eye?

They don't have eyelids.

Who's Hein?

He is my friend from the boat Bravado.

What's his story?

He's Dutch and he's sailing all the way to Europe (the long way via New Zealand).

What else have you been doing for fun?

I surfed at Punta Mita. But the surfing wasn't as great as Santa Maria Bay.

Tell us about Tres Marietas just off of Punta Mita.

We climbed up to the caves with our friends on Bravado. And we climbed all the way up to the top and we had a nice view of the Bay.

Have you been seeing whales?

Yes. They've been jumping by our boat.

What happened when you sailed on Bravado?

We saw a whale and we played monopoly in their cabin. It was fun to see Kamaya sailing with us.

Anything else you want to tell your friends?

Happy New Years! Make some snowballs!

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...