Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baja Update - October 2010

We are starting our 4th fall down here; it seems to get more beautiful and full of friends each year.

Some old friends who moved to the mainland visited, and a group of 15 of us had a reunion.  We rented a catamaran and cruised to a nearby island for snorkeling and dinner.  There was a reef full of star fish – no less than 6 different kinds – some were pink with light blue spines!  Water was in the high 80’s.

Joined an overnight Turtle Tagging Expedition.  They net sea turtles, bring them to the beach and measure and tag them and let them go.  The new program hopes to expand and employ previous poachers, and bring out locals so they can see how turtle tourism can be a renewable business instead of hunting them.   We sailed over to Isla Coronado and met up with the group of about 16 with 3 guides who prepared a fish taco feast and put up tents for the overnight.   We anchored off the white-sand beach and were picked up for our 2 hour shift in the evening.   We spotted 5 turtles, but didn’t net any. 

When we returned to our boat, there were so many blue needle fish around our hull that the kids netted a couple of them.  
Every week we set sail and anchor to get the boat ready for our 
6-month mainland cruise.  Last week, Ann caught up on the home-front work, and neighbors joined the kids and Doug onboard.   (These neighbors had given the kids a coin-cutting class during the week).   A couple hours south we found a secluded cove with donkeys on the beach and snorkeled in 70 foot visibility waters loaded with fish.   In the morning, a school of brown sardines were bubbling around our hull while two big Yellowtail tuna stalked them from below.  Our friend Mark, a forager, hunter, gatherer, threw a net, caught a sardine, hooked it on a line, and Henry hooked a Yellowtail that unfortunately broke the line and got away.   So they smooshed bread on hooks and cast them overboard and reeled in 3 good sized Porgy -- a tasty, white meat.   Fish kept Henry and Mark so busy I had to bring their pancakes to the deck.   Later, Mark speared a Sun fish, Rooster fish and Bass, and we ate like kings.   The snorkeling was like swimming in a Sea World exhibit aquarium.   If you hung out at about 30 feet down, in 10 seconds fish would appear from all around.   Huge colorful, parrot fish bigger than rugby balls; flat fish like big saucers with yellow tails; and school of silver and black striped fish streamed right at me within 3 feet before veering off to the side.

Henry played a comp round of golf and occasionally goes out to hit a bucket of tennis balls with Dad.  He and two friends have recently been in a crab hunting mode and head out for the beach in the afternoons with a bucket and shovel and sticks.  They come back with dirty feet and knees and stories of raw crab they ate.  Chandler reads volumes and has a couple girlfriends that visit to get dressed up and act out lives in all ends of the world in their imagination.  Ann home schools each morning, is planning our trip to the U.S. and has made new curtains for the boat; Thursdays a friend joins her for a pool exercise / chat session.   The neighborhood maintenance business fills Doug’s mornings, and afternoons it is often the boat maintenance or a little tennis with Henry.    

We recently went to a high school talent show of singing, skits, and dancing with beautiful traditional costumes in an outdoors stage at night.  Loreto continues to offer us culture, adventure, and friendships amidst the beautiful and quiet environment of the Sea and mountains.

We’ll soon be in San Diego for our last provisioning trip before launching on our cruise to mainland Mexico in December.   H and C are excited about a U.S. Halloween night!  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


What’s the ‘Point of Sail’? A Q&A.

What got us interested in cruising with our kids?  
When Ann and I lived in Sausalito on our Cal 40, we met teenagers who had grown up on boats.   They seemed to be comfortable being around adults, respectful, and showed an interest in life and others.  We remember spotting two teenage friends who were running across a parking lot on a Friday night.   We shouted to them, and they looked like they’d been caught grabbing cookies.   But they were just excited about getting off work and to sail little El Toros in the Bay at night.  Their classmates may have been at home or mixing at a crowded party.   These two chose adventure, night sky, freedom.

How do our children like cruising?
Smiles and enthusiasm.   Henry, 9 years old,  fishes and sees the ocean as his backyard, watches fishermen harvest shellfish and fish, and runs the dinghy to visit coves, friends’ boats or a beach like its his own set of wheels.  He’ll troll a line for hours or take half an hour brushing his teeth over the rail while watching  the morning schools of fish scurry around the hull.   

There are several cruisers with kids, and we tend to orbit the same anchorages.  Their ages don’t matter.   Chandler, 10 years old, met Zada (5) on Eyoni and
bonded on sleepovers, cupcake bake outs, jewelry making, hair styling, fingernail painting and Littlest Pet Shop, and even hide and seek in the V-berth!.   Henry also runs outside his age with 4 to 14 year olds.   They’ve all got the same interests: dinghies, speed, and catching fish.   They’ve all got stories (toilet seat diving behind a dinghy!) and they are all fascinated in the other’s adventures; some day, it could be their’s.   These kids are all in the same “boat”. 

What do you do about school?
It is said that if you create the environment for learning, a child will learn.   Sailing, like a farm, or camping in the mountains is a learning environment.    We schedule a little of the usual:   math, reading, and writing.   We have our kids practice Spanish also.    Around noon, we each give reports: what we did, how we did it, what we didn’t do, and why not.   Then lunch and we jump in with reading classics to them and playing cards and games like Scrabble, Set, Bananagrams, backgammon, chess.   There are chores each morning before breakfast.  And for misbehavior?  Stuff 7 pieces of trash into a plastic bottle.  This compacts the trash, keeps down odors.   Henry however finds pleasure in taking a screw driver and pliers and cramming stuff into a hole.  

What is it like being together on a 35’ sail boat?
There seems to be some good mojo to raising kids on board.  Is it the closeness?  Is it an awareness that it takes each person to keep a cruise going?  Maybe its that something as personal as showering becomes an outside sport (in swim suits) because everyone has to plunge in and scrub together off the back of the boat.   There is no “walking away” from problems.  Everyone is needed at some point whether for launching the dinghy, carrying food back to the boat, or making sure something is tied down or safe on the boat.    You learn to put any discouragement or anger aside for more important focuses to find a solution to keep your boat safe.   It’s not just about you; your crew needs you.  

I lived in Japan in minimal space for 14 years.  On weekends, I’d see kids on the train at night returning to their homes after a long day out in town at the park or some hip-hop, shopping street -- their hair spiked or streaked, costume-dressed as street fighters or Bikers and girls made up as Go-Go girls to malt shop and saddle shoes of the 50’s.   And I’d wonder, “What happens to all that “image” as they crowd back into a train of the everyday conforming dress and manners now so close and surrounding them in the train?”   And when they reach their stop,  the narrow streets  funnel everyone down its traditional alleys with customary sounds of bathwater splashing on the ofuro tiles and the steady sliding sound of  aluminum door covers closing up for the night; and the smell of yakitori and straw tatami mats replace perfume and hairspray and leather jackets.   Then the front door is opened and all the teens’ shoes: boots, heels, stylishly torn  sneakers, are all removed and in each house the word, “tadaima” is announced in a low voice  -- a centuries’ old password that says “I’m home”, and the automatic response, “Okaerinasai”  is muffled from the other side of the paper shoji door of a common living/dining room.     And now a family is there in a space too tight to continue the day’s play,  in a community too familiar to pretend away from, in a culture too much one’s self to shame.   The separation that allowed the day’s pageant is closed, and  reminders of tomorrow’s role as uniformed school kids are laid out like bath towels and soap.   The change is just another role to play to fit in the home front.          

And a boat isn’t much different – the narrowing passages that lead to this lifestyle create commonalities that we all find necessary for successful voyaging.   Despite what mixed backgrounds or careers we paraded at one time,  Mother Nature and boat maintenance (and friendships) are so central that everyone’s part has value, insight, niche expertise, camaraderie, and often a simple part for an otherwise impossible repair.  Regardless of whatever fashion, clique, or age group our children imagine themselves in, this  environment brings them back to their “tadaima”  of the innate importance of  family and respect for others.  

What special moments do you find?
There are moments that make parents smile that are moments completely originated from  kids.  Like when our kids figured out how to rig a halyard so they can swing out over the bow and land on the cabin soul like buccaneers because they saw it on a friends’ boat.   Like when our son and his 4 year old friend invited us to the bow to see the sails they’d  rigged up --- all made from bandanas, clothes clips, and fishing line because they’ve seen how the sails work when the boat is under way.

Like when the kids wrote their own poetry pieces because they heard someone recite some lines or because they liked the words written on an old sandal that was hung on the “sailor’s shrine” bush on shore.   Like when Henry will grab a slimy fish or run a hook through live bait, or slurp a raw clam because their friends do and there’s nothing like bringing home or making your own lunch.  

To hear a 4 year old tell his buddy Henry, “When I grow up, I’m going to have a Ketch and sail the Ohio River.”  To hear a 5 year old do perfect VHF radio protocol to hail Chandler, and then watch our daughter race out the cabin and jump into the dinghy and pull start the engine and race away to a play date.  To collect shells for hours together on a beach.   Whatever this boat culture is, it is taking hold; they are picking up an education; the trend is in building confidence and independence. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Christmas in October

Since we will be sailing when Christmas comes along this year I thought it would be a fun treat to surprise the family and celebrate Christmas in October.  A few good reasons for doing this are:  I have no extra storage room for gifts on the boat, we feel sailing is the main family gift this year, plus, this means I get to watch "Elf" before December hits!  On Saturday, October 15 I asked Doug to take the kids to the boat until 5 PM so I could put up the fake Christmas tree, decorate it with twinkle lights, make home made egg nog and gingerbread cookie batter, pull out some Christmas cd's, wrap gifts, and make a traditional Mexican meal of arrachera tacos. 

It all worked well and when Doug, Chandler, and Henry Wyatt arrived home we all enjoyed the surprise Christmas I hoped to give them.  We celebrated Christmas Eve that night by watching Elf after dinner and the kids slept under the Christmas tree in the living room while Doug and I slept downstairs in Chandler's room to be closer to the fun.  The next morning it really did feel like Christmas morning as we opened a few gifts before having a traditional turkey (well, chicken) and stuffing meal followed by gingerbread cookie baking.  My guess is we will long remember our Christmas in October.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eating octopus

A neighbor in Loreto caught some octopus and brought it home to eat.  The kids got a lesson in squishy fishy food that day.  Check it out!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fish thoughts

We sailed to Dansante, an island off the coast of Loreto, for an overnight.  The next morning as Chandler started to prepare breakfast, she asked Henry to get a fry pan out of the pantry, at which Henry replied, “I don’t know this kitchen anymore and where everything is.”   So, I gave the kids a quick galley refresher.  When I was done Henry waited a moment and then he said, “Mom, I can’t remember all that right now because I’m thinking too much about fish, fishing, and snorkeling.”  Alleluiah!  The kid’s got it straight!