Monday, April 7, 2014

Rebel Heart

I haven't written for awhile and now, as I sit here, our friends on S/V Rebel Heart are experiencing the double nightmare of having encountered trouble at sea (very sick infant and debilitating boat troubles all together 900 miles off the coast) which required national level intervention (Navy, Coast Guard). I'm pretty sure that NO ONE on the planet has not been touched- positively and negatively - by their story and the media reverb. And if that wasn't hard enough, their blogs were plundered by the press and quotes were misused and I can't even imagine the horror they will feel when they are finally back safe on shore and can fully comprehend the maelstrom of support and scrutiny (also on a national level) their peril has caused. *Big Sigh*. I have known personally that blogging was a risky venture and now I know for sure. I am working on a blog entry to get caught up on Planet Appa's travels but I felt the need to post a little entry about our friends. And while we have not known them long, we consider them to be friends. For the record, Charlotte and Eric are AMAZING individuals, parents, citizens. We have loved them from the minute we met them in La Paz and Marcus was already following their blog for years before that. Samey and Cora became friends in La Paz and in La Cruz and we spent so, so, so many good times together with them before they left in La Cruz. Lyra is a beautiful baby. They were prepared, they are SMART, they are wise, they are good, dedicated parents. The full story of what happened has yet to be shared and soon we'll know more about what happened but I KNOW that if they got to the point that they called in help on this level then they tried everything else in their vast repertoire before that. They were prepared, they were smart. They knew their boat, their kids, the risks. They do not deserve what happened to their boat, to their lives now, ever marked by the crass media and a planet of people who are choosing to judge them. They lost their home, their dreams (for now) and I can only imagine their despair. On the flip side, the support has also been amazing as SO many people all over the world love these people. I wish them a clear path to healing through all the bullshit. And that the spirit that is Rebel Heart never dies. The boat may be sunk to the bottom of the ocean but they are far from sunk. Godspeed, Rebel Heart.

Love you Rebel Heart Charlotte (and Monique LaBarre!) at Punta de Mita beach

Monday, March 3, 2014

March

So. March. Amazing. Time marches on. We've now been back in La Cruz for a week. As we anticipated leaving our southern-most destinations and going back to the Banderas Bay where we had spent over a month around Christmas, I did not feel that we needed to plan to spend that much time here on our way back up. We planned to buzz in, have some laundry done, go to Costco, take care of some boat work and some paperwork, see some friends who were leaving Mexico soon and then head north. After scooping up Max in Manzanillo after his two-week trip to Seattle, we decided to take advantage of rapidly closing weather window and shoot back up to Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz for this "short visit". It turned out to be a fantastic decision to leave when we did... and to come back here. We got back to the marina in La Cruz and friends here and it has been one heck of an amazing week. People all told us that we would love La Paz (we did not) and that there was something like a "bungee affect" that would keep pulling you back to it. If we have experienced anything like that idea, it has been in La Cruz. This is what awaited us at our slip when we got here:
Thank you Julie of S/V Sea Otter and Cora of S/V Rebel Heart for decorating our dock box for our arrival!!
Our wonderful friends on Sea Otter and Rebel Heart were welcoming us Home and it has felt simply wonderful. Not that we were feeling "adrift" or "disconnected" since we left but suddenly we were "snug in". That's the only way I can explain it. Back to center. Like a compass or something. And now we find ourselves "trapped" here for a few more days waiting for weather to push up to Chacala and then Mazatlan. Oh drat! Ha ha. When we decided to stay a few more days we were ALL happy about it!! Now that we have rejoined them. we will now be able to buddy boat north from here with our long-lost "peeps" on Sea Otter and Antipodes (we left them in Barra when we went south to Zihuantejo), where we will get to spend a week in El Cid with my mother (who is going to attempt to put my father in respite care at Aegis is Seattle and come down to see us). BIG. All this has led me to do a lot of thinking about Friendship and Connectivity (and by this I am NOT referring to that dang internet connectivity that has plagued us this entire journey, although that DOES play a huge role these days in being "connected", n'est-ce pas?) this week.

When were just starting this adventure and were in Alameda at Encinal Yacht Club, we met Nicki (and her family) from S/V Rubber Duckies. She was an interesting and poignant encounter for us to have made at such a launching time in our trip. Not only has she homeschooled her boys from Day One but they did the Baha Haha last year and spent a year in Mexico, much like we are doing. And they were now back, reintegrated and able to reflect back. I did not get to talk with her as much as I would have liked but she has ended up being a sort of a unsettling harbinger of things to come. I had two main questions for her as a mom, a cruiser, a live-aboard and a teacher of the Home School variety. I asked her how the schooling on the cruising boat during their year in Mexico compared to all the other homeschooling experiences she knew (she is a professional homeschool veteran and knows it VERY WELL; her kids are brilliant and she has created their entire curriculum from the get-go). And - my second question - I wanted to know if they learned any Spanish. First of all, she said that Home Schooling while cruising was virtually impossible. Moving all the time, no schedules, other influences constantly making you shift focuses, etc. And she said to just not worry about it. Just focus on Reading, Writing and Math. They get so much more from the experience that they end up just fine upon their return. Her insights have proven to be 100% correct. Home Schooling is a herculean task at sea - underway or not. And if you have been reading my blog, you know how little I enjoy homeschooling, even now, 6 months in. And to the second question she said, "You don't learn Spanish! You are always with cruisers!". I was a bit devastated with this because I had some sort of fantasy that we would come back from this trip with some level of fluency that we could apply to our lives once we get back. HA! Again, she was 100% right. We can get by with politenesses and pleasantries but carry on a conversation? Not really. Our encounters with native Mexicans is pretty much limited to shopping, taxis, marina staff, restaurant staff, etc. In the same way that I do not believe that at any point on this trip I have been more than 5 miles inland, our encounter with Mexico has basically been skimming the coasts and coastal towns/villages and marinas. We have not had a "full Mexican experience" by any stretch of the imagination. Don't get me wrong, I have met so, so, so many delightful Mexicans and have felt welcomed and welcome the entire trip. We've had, really, only delightful, helpful and heart-warming experiences with Mexicans. Never have we felt unsafe or unwanted. My bold sashays into Spanish have been fun and I love the language.

But, while I wanted to share this language and cultural perspective of the trip it is actually the flip side of her response that I am fixating on right now. "You are always with cruisers!". This has proven to be the single most fascinating aspect of our trip. To a self-proclaimed "community junky" (I crave it and attempt to create it everywhere), being part of the "2013-2014 cruiser fleet" that is buzzing along the Baja California coast and the Pacific Coast of Mexico this year (and not just Baha-inians because we have met SO many other great people along the way who came down this year and earlier but not THAT way - think S/V Valez Valeo and some wonderful new friends on S/V LiLo) has been a true community experience. Like it or not, we are never alone. Never. It seems like I can count on my hands the number of nights we have been just the 5 of us. Crazy! When we sailed into La Cruz last Monday, we were not only welcomed by our buddies but also ran into and connected with many, many friendly, familiar faces from many, many boats we have criss-crossed paths with, travelled awhile with, shared meals and life with. "We are all in this together"-type feeling. We all have the commonality of having somehow been able to extricate ourselves from more typical lives and have planted ourselves in the swells and tides and colors and winds and heat of Mexico. Many are just couples. Of all ages and stages. Some with kids but mostly with not. But we have glommed on to those very, very few boats who are traveling this way with kids where and when we can. Here in La Cruz right now, we are finding ourselves surrounded by the wave of brave cruising boats who are all preparing to cross the Pacific this spring and who are coalescing and humming and building steam. And among them, it has been amazing to see so many children. Babies! I think there are no less than 7 babies under the age of one here right now. And TONS of kids. Max and Ben got to be part of a "Beach Camp" last Saturday with 14 other kids (mostly aged 12-16) who are here now and who all spent the night on the beach with a campfire and tents and sand and hot dogs and marshmallows and the likes. 14 kids at one time (and there were probably 10 or so others who are around but who were not there) is like a VILLAGE for Max and Ben. We have not been around so many kids yet. Odd and hard at the same time. Our very social Ben has suffered from this on this trip for sure. He and Easton (S/V Sand Dollar) and very close but in some aspects they have become like brothers and fight like old ladies! Max has not really been able to spend time with kids his age the entire trip. We heard that in 2008, there were so many kids cruising that during the Baha Haha they had teen boats, tween boat and kids boat gathering all the time. We have NOT had that experience. Having kids along is almost usual. Here and now it stands out less but in general? We are the exception this year. And I believe that that "bungee effect" is really just that La Paz and La Cruz are "cruisers havens" where people meet other birds of a feather, feel connected and don't want to live too long away from "belonging" to something that gives them purpose and feeds their hearts and souls. It doesn't have as much to do with Mexico or the Mexicans or that either town is so amazing.

But I meant, by bringing this all up, to share with you a slice of our life here these days in La Cruz. We are in our slip - Dock 10, B3 - and our mobile house (sailboat) is like a hub. We start the day together but then the world comes in. We go up to the bathroom, we go to the little pool, to the air conditioned Cruisers Lounge (WiFi!!). We walk to town for food, ice. We go to the market, to the swap meet. To the "combis", to Bucherias, to Puerto Vallarta. The kids - Ben and his friends Adam (M/V Antipodes) and Ben (S/V Sea Otter) - pass us on their way to one boat or another seeking screen time and food. Max is fishing or in the lounge with WiFi. Marcus does boat projects, checks weather, compares notes with others on weather and travel plans. We listen to the cruisers net on Vhf ALL DAY LONG. Samey wants to ride her bike. We have "mutual dinners", potlucks, and walk to town in pairs to get laundry, provision, get Margueritas and ice cream. And now, to my great amazement and delight, I have realized that we have begun to share, out loud, our sweet, nascent "collective memories" as friends. We can tease each other about things and reminisce about things we did together now, in our shared experience of this year. I love it. We have built something together and are a part of it together, with our families and we are all stronger for it. This. I. Know.

This week I have got to have some great GIRL TIME with my FRIENDS. Not just acquaintances (and of those we have made MANY!!) but friends. Who have known us and who have loved us now for a few intense months. Who have shared the "Ride" that this "Trip" is. And new friends, too, who blend into the mix, like Bethany of S/V LiLo. We hang out, share woes and challenges. People like Charlotte of S/V Rebel Heart whose drive to network is as phenomenal as it is all-encompassing. All in her "net" are supported and uplifted and left better for it. Yesterday, I got to hang out and dye Julie and Nancy's hair, just sitting on the dock in the breeze of the end of the day, talking and spending time together. The kids were off playing, our husbands were otherwise occupied and Samey played next to us with her doll, scooting around on all fours like she loves to do these days, in her imagination. Calm, confident, close. Time is just different down here, too. Suddenly, it is 4 pm. And that is just fine! Time takes on the feel of something other than in our normal lives back home. There is pressure, sure, like for SCHOOL (grrr....). And we bristle when others attempt to control and direct our "time". But mostly there is an amazing little (HUGE) gift of getting to "slow" time. When you know it takes all day to do one errand, how can you plan to do more than one? There's a background hum of "enjoy the moment". We cruisers all stepped out of our normal patterns and routines to ENJOY life, without the usual drudgeries. Don't get me wrong. Even in Paradise, you still need to chop wood, carry water. But it all has this feel of "suspended belief". As in, how did I actually get here? Am I actually here? What will remain after we get back in a few short months? Thrown together with these fun, sweet people? Not by choice but by Choice, a big "C" choice each of us individually did at some point in the past that has led us all to be here, now. People say, "Friends for a reason, friends for a season, friends for life." Is this just a season? I think not. And yet? I can't begin to explain or prove to you what a difference having made some "true friends" has made for me during this trip. Taking a step sideways in your life, is lonely. And I mean it. My friends in Seattle and my "peeps" there and in Delaware feel very, very far away and out of touch. I miss Keri and Wendy EVERY DAY (still!) but I am used to that now (unfortunately). But I am not used to being twice removed - from Delaware and now from Seattle. I've said it before, thank goodness for social media like FaceBook. Otherwise, it feels like I fell off the face of the earth. Connectivity is hard and people are wrapped up in their lives of which I have chosen to "remove myself" and so, "out of sight, out of mind" comes to mind. And how can I explain to them what this feels like? Being on a boat. Traveling like this? Just like having kids. If you haven't done it, you have NO IDEA. And while I know I will see our "communities" again when we get back, it has still felt vacuous to be "removed". And I have realized just how vital my friendships are to my mental health and well-being, especially now, "far from the maddening crowd". Duh! Right? But worth pondering, for sure. Meeting Suzy from S/V Vales Valeo was like I was thrown a life-line. I miss her terribly. And my friendship with Julie from S/V Sea Otter has added air and light and humor where I never knew I was so deficient. I truly love these women:
Suzy from S/V Vales Valeo
Julie of S/V Sea Otter, Bethany of S/V LiLo and Nancy of M/V Antipodes
The Mighty, Fierce and Amazing Charlotte of S/V Rebel Heart
Shauna of S/V Sand Dollar, our sister ship
So lucky to have met them and walked this walk with them, all of them. We will always share this year in ways that no one else from the lives we return to will understand. That is amazing to me. I guess this post is about coming to terms, in some small way, with the ever-shifting tides of friendships and connections and community. I thought we would be spending way more time together as a family. I just did not realize that family would come to mean so many.
Marcus and Ben with Adam and Randy from M/V Antipodes at Rancho Grande, Los Pinos (Bucherias)
Samey and S/V Rebel Heart Cora in their matching Costco swimsuits!
Ben D from S/V Sea Otter, Ben and Adam from M/V Antipodes nerding out at the Cruiser's Lounge
Steve Labarre, a wonderful friend we met through Charlotte of S/V Rebel Heart, drinking a star fruit Marguerita
I could go on and on with the photos and the middle of the night musings but I am getting sleepy. More again soon. Happy March.
Samey with her pink scootch bike (THANK YOU ANNA!!!) and her Dora backpack with
Baby Baby inside in front of Bougainvilleas at La Cruz Marina
Strong, sweet Max helping S/V Rebel Heart Cora do the slides at Los Pinos






Monday, February 17, 2014

Reaching our Farthest Points South - Part Three (of Three)


I've decided to spend an entire post on this little island. Technically, it was only a couple of hours North of Zihuatanejo. In fact, while our guide books call it "Isla Grande", it is locally known as "Isla Ixtapa". We had heard mixed things about it but decided to spend a day and night there to check it out. It turned out to be one of our all-time favorite anchorages thus far. We had so much fun there!!! We ended up staying 3 nights and even contemplated staying one more. Lovely clean, clear water, sandy beach, great food. Fun times. The photos say it all:
Sitting at a palapa on the beach, gazing at Appa at anchor
Sand Dollar and Appa
The kids on "The Great Mable"

There they go!!!
Swim Babies
They were so lovely and kind and then even gave the kids a few minutes on the jet skies!!
Our friends Paul and Carol from S/V Unleashed

Ben diving off the boat, Sand Dollar anchored in the background
The view of the beach from Appa 
Marcus towing the kids in Sand Dollar's inflatable!

Who's peaking her head up from the inflatable?? The mighty Samey!
And there she is again, jumping and jumping and jumping again off the boat!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reaching our Farthest Points South... Part Two (of Three)

The beach where we landed the dinghy in Zihuatanejo
All in all, we stayed in Zihuantanejo for a week. From Saturday the 1st of February to Saturday the 8th of February. It was a great week at one of my favorite places. I just love the Pacific coast so much more than the arid, desolate Baja. We were anchored in such a pretty bay and the town was so well-organized, friendly and interesting. So different from so many of the places we have been. I would definitely return there for a vacation, if ever the chance arose. Sailfest turned out to be quite entertaining. It was a feather in our cap as Marcus had read about it in so many blogs about cruisers doing the race and we felt we should participate and see what it was like. It is a charity race to raise money for local indigenous children who are not allowed to go to school because they do not speak Spanish. We participated in the race and that meant that we offered our boat up and welcomed “paying guests” aboard for the race. This means local ex-pats and people vacationing in the bay. We were unsure about what this would mean as far as "strangers" on the boat but we cleaned up the boat as best we could and got it ready for them. As it turned out, we got SO lucky! We had two absolutely lovely couples join us: Dave and Betty from California and Dave and Diana from Canada. Both Daves have had quite a bit of sailing and racing experience, it turned out, and contributed greatly to our winning third place!! Woohioo for Appa!!! (We even made it into Latitude 38 again!!!) Marcus was, as usual, a patient and wise captain, letting them do the driving while patiently standing by and facilitating. JC from Sand Dollar joined us which was a treat since usually we are moving next to each other and not on the same boat! And Max was there as expert crew, too. Ben and Samey hung out on Sand Dollar which meant that I could actually enjoy the sail!!! NICE! It was a lovely day and we had great wind, lovely skies and a really fun day. That was on Wednesday. We also participated in the “parade” on Friday and welcomed 8 guests this time, including again the original two couples that we enjoyed so much and Ben and Sam. I found in Betty such a wonderful new friend whose bright and extroverted character reminds me fondly of my mother. I hope we will stay in touch with all of them! On Friday, after the parade, Max and I took a taxi to the airport. Max was returning to Seattle for a two-week stay to take his first semester exams (Brigham Young University Independent Study Program – 10th grade) and to see his Dad and his friends who are on mid-winter break. He is to return on the 23rd and we’ll pick him up in Manzanillo. It was hard to see him go. His presence, his character and his closeness has been such a major part of this trip for me. I am glad that he is up there with his Dad and friends, in the snow…! He has really been missing them. It is an adjustment, to be sure, having him gone. He is a big guy and the boat suddenly seems spacious! Ben and Sam are missing him, too. I did some provisioning on my way back (THAT was an adventure involving a stubborn decision on my part, thinking I know better than any old tourist, that lead to me walking many miles in the hot sun along a desolate road only to be rescued by a kindly old man in a dilapidated red pick-up truck who picked me up and dropped me off at the market... Mexicans are lovely people.) and we left Zihua with Sand Dollar and Unleashed to begin our trip back up the coast the next morning, Saturday. It was in so many ways “a turning point”. We’re heading back now. North to Banderas Bay, North to Mazatlan, West over to La Paz again and then North to the Sea of Cortez and then, eventually, North to home. I feel pangs of regret for the trip being half done from time to time, and yet, I also feel a certain sense of excitement, too. We are now heading back into “known” territory. We’ll see new places but also many that we’ve seen already and know well. And then, home. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” –Kabat-Zinn.

Our wonderful Sailfest crew: Dave, Diana, Dave, Marcus, Betty and JC
Marcus, steering patiently from the wings while someone else drove
My new friend Betty!
Dave at the helm
Ben and Max during the parade
Dave, who obviously had a great deal of grand-parenting experience, bonding with Samey... cute!
The parade around the bay
Dave and Diana!
Three internet nerds and the Virgin Mary
Holey Mackeral, Batman! That is a big fish!
Max went sport fishing with Ken from Kialoa... they caught three sailfish!
Went almost every day to this "Central Market"







Friday, February 14, 2014

Reaching our Farthest Points South... Part One (of Three)

We left Bahia Navidad and all our friends there on a Monday not too long ago. I just cant keep up with this blog the way I'd like to... By now, I am so far behind it seems almost silly to go backwards and recount all our adventures... But here goes!!! We loved it Bahia Navidad but were ready for a change and a slowing of the pace. Buddy Boating is great fun but coordinating so many people can get complicated. Our wonderful friends on Vales Valeo had headed South for Ixtapa. We were all attempting to get to Zihuatanejo before the SuperBowl so that we could see the game there together and so that we could be there in time for the SailFest activities and for Max to catch his flight home to Seattle for two weeks to take his exams and see his Dad and friends there. We stopped for two nights in Las Hadas, Manzanillo. It was a lovely anchorage in front of a wilting but lovely resort. LOUD, though, again. Construction all day long and loud music into the early morning. For $200 Pesos, we could tie up to the dinghy dock and use the pool and facilities at the resort. Always lovely to swim in fresh water and the pool was quite pretty but the resort felt tired after the glorious Wyndham Isla Navidad. We were joined there by Unleashed and then Sand Dollar. We had a really fun pizza/Italian dinner at one of the restaurants by the marina there and the next day I provisioned at the nicest WalMart we've been to as we steeled ourselves and prepared for the 36 hour trip down to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. The trip was quite easy and although we (AGAIN) did not catch any fish, we were boarded by the Mexican Navy for a "routine inspection". It was a little uncomfortable having someone with a machine gun onboard but the shiny-shoed YOUNG officer who took down our information was charming, respectful and non-threatening. They also boarded Sand Dollar and Unleashed who were following behind us.
The Mexican Navy boarding Sand Dollar, after us
We were so glad to get to the bay at Zihuatenajo! Such a lovely place. And the town was as charming and interesting as Barra Navidad. Some great shops and restaurants and an amazing "Central Market" replete with the skinned cow carcases and hanging meat, stands with tons of shoes, ones with piles of clothing, vegetable stands, cheap plastic kitchen items, pirated DVDs, and incredible "loncherias" for food. We had a great lunch sitting at one of the benches. The women all marvel at Sam's blond hair but thought she was a boy! That has never happened before. They all want to touch her hair. Suzy told me it is because they want to know that if they are staring it is not because they are giving her the "evil eye" and the touching of her head is to reassure her. Who knows! The SuperBowl was crazy. Many, many Americans and Canadians crowded the many bars and restaurants who were catering to that crowd. Our friends Vales Valeo, Sand Dollar, Unleashed, Neko all gathered to watch the game. We alternated between the beach where the kids played in the sand and the bar where they watched with the grown-ups. There was no marina and no dinghy dock but there were some guys who set up a little business "helping" the dinghies land and then watching them for $10 Pesos in and $10 Pesos out. It was actually really nice because we could go swimming or go for showers or load up the dinghy with heavy groceries and leave it there and it was safe. Alphonso, Jesus and Jose. Nice guys. The saddest part of our trip happened the next day. Vales Valeo needed to keep moving down the coast. I had become so attached to my new friend Suzy, her chipper husband,  and their wonderful girls. Kaley (who befriended Sonia), Samey (who loves Anna) and I were in tears to have them depart. We won't see them for awhile as they are headed to Costa Rica, Galapagos, crossing the Pacific and farther and won't return to their Redondo Beach, California home until the summer of 2015. Such great friends. But then, the SailFest began! I will cover that in Part Two and publish this now...

Max and Samey underway

My three Perfections on the iPad by the pool in Las Hadas

My Baby

LOVE these girls... Anna, Sonia, Kaley and Samey
She wrote SAM by herself...! Cute...
Two Peas in a Pod... Ben and Easton







Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I got my dinghy badge!!!!

SO PROUD,  I am!!! Thanks, Scoutmaster Brian!

Some photos from Bahia de Navidad

No, this is not a Mexican. It is our Marcus! iPad in hand, as always!!
Our friends Randy, Nancy and Adam Sysol from m/v Antipodes. WONDERFUL people.
The entrance to town on our way back from visiting the Port Captain
The only Post Office I have seen in Mexico. 
Approaching The Sands Hotel where we parked the dinghy when going into town.
Barra de Navidad from the dinghy
Julie Butler Dillard (S/V Sea Otter) and Max (they are buds)
Poolside at Hotel Cabo Blanco with awesome friends Julie and Mike Dillard (S/V Sea Otter)
Marcus and JC (S/V Sand Dollar) - BFFs
Street tacos
At The Sands Hotel. Not sure why this paper mache doll was there but Samey sure "made friends" with her...
Wonderful new friends, Suzy, Paul, Sonia and Anna Kortenkamp from S/V Vales Valeo, a family that we originally met by chance on Catalina Island and who we've now met up with again after keeping in touch via email... BIG LOVE for me, this family. Such wonderful people. And Samey also adores sweet Sonia and Anna.
Two old cruisers at The Sands Hotel
Ben, Max, Easton and Nate (both from S/V Sand Dollar at The Sands Hotel, geeking it up with their Nintendos