Monday, May 19, 2014

Winding Down The Blog

Max and Samey playing at the pool in La Cruz Costa Baja Marina Beach Club
Dear The Blog, Please forgive me. I have neglected and abused you! I had never attempted a “relationship” of this sort before – one between me and my words/thoughts - and I proved to be undeniably unworthy. I have always abhorred diaries and journals and so I should have known that this “job” of keeping up with The Blog would prove to be just too challenging for me. I freaked about the exposure, the questioning of who would be reading my words and finding myself writing “for” specific people. I spent too much energy thinking about who would care about The Blog, how much or how little detail to include. Should I include just a few photos? Many? I languished in confusion about how my “message” would be received. Did I even have a clear message? Did I need one? These things lurked around me, burdening unnecessarily the process. I stressed about it too much. Cared too much? How, above all, to be honest and true to my experience and somehow escape scrutiny? If I was not writing it for me, was I sharing, showing, documenting, creating a timeline, or a record? At first, it was fun. I enjoyed sharing. Hey, this blogging thing was actually fun! My adored Scout Master Brian awarded me Merit Badges! Woohoo! But then, when I tried to maintain authenticity, I was blindsided by the reactions. I realized that sharing the “truth” of my experience was not in my power because the Truth is Powerful (reference Rebel Heart for case in point). Truly, who could possibly care to hear me go on and on about my personal struggles? Just tell us about your dang trip and leave the mind-wanderings out of it!  But then, as I slipped further and further into the adventure and away from my “usual life”, it became harder and harder to keep up with the documenting and the feeling of connection that I required to expend the energy. Hello out there! Is anyone listening? And the Internet  (or lack of it, rather) conspired against me, too. SO many amazing things have happened, so many beautiful things have been seen, so many wonderful (and not so wonderful people) have been met, so many feelings, so many  realizations, so many things to share and to conceal at the same time. After I had let a certain amount of time lapse, where did I start back up again? How could I find, as so many do, enough time to record consistently our every movement? Just as I find it hard to imagine that people find time to watch TV and not only that that they find time EVERY week at the same time to follow series, I just could not find enough time to devote to my blog. Not the way I wanted to or envisioned I would. And so I avoided it. Procrastinated. Made feeble attempts wherein I resorted to posting only photos. I was, however, a faithful photographer and did manage to take tons and tons of photos (not so many of me, though, I am afraid) so it is not that I do not intend or desire to keep a record of the trip. It is just that The Blog has suffered. And now we are less than two weeks away from leaving Mexico and the “cruising life” behind and flying home to Seattle. And I am finding my failure at The Blog to be an acute loss.

Having a little dinghy ride!
Snorkeling in Ensenada de la Raza
The astounding water color off Isla Espiritu Santo - the dinghy appears to be floating!
In retrospect, it has been one hell of an adventure. I feel really, really lucky to have been able to do this with my children. All three of them. They are incredible humans and to watch them these past 10 months as they have experienced this trip has been amazing. Each one unique and gifted in their own ways has struggled and exalted in the process. I find it incredible that a three-four year old and a eight-nine year old and a sixteen year old could all live together with two adults on a 42’ sailboat and come to experience it as some sort of normalcy. I've loved watching their relationships with each other change and grow. Max is such an incredible, fun, devoted big brother to Sam and such a despot with Ben! Poor sweet Ben who has never been vengeful or spiteful or injured with his big brother even when Max is relentless in his disdain. He just adores Max and wants his attention so badly. Max struggles to be kind and patient but, in the end, Ben is usually his "whipping boy". It is not malicious just frustration. It has not been easy for Max to be with us with not one peer in sight. Either the adults and their shenanigans or the kids and theirs. No teens at all. He does well with both sets but it has been trying for him, I know. Sam and Max and their relationship is one of the gifts of this trip. They never would have been able to spend as much time together in Seattle as they have had on the boat to bond and sit and be silly and "hang out". And Ben and Sam muddle through, competing for my attention, for Marcus' attention, but more and more they are finding fun in being just the two of them together watching movies or jumping around on the bench seats as Sam matures and is less "baby". They are all three so flawed and so perfect at the same time! I often find myself wondering what each of them will “take” from this experience and how it will shape or form their lives. What residual will be left for them after we revert back to our lives in Seattle and the Mexico we know becomes a vague memory. Will it be textures, colors, food, Spanish, sand, water, wind, space, heat, lack of clothing, lack of shoes, fishing, home-schooling, screen time, boat kids… the list goes on and on. How have their ideas of themselves and how they interact with the world changed? How has their vision of me changed? Do they know me better? How will they embrace their lives once we are back? People tell us that life just closes back up again over the “hole in time” and it becomes hard to even imagine that the trip even occurred in the first place. We talk about missing Seattle and what we miss all the time now in these last fews days. Ben is counting the days. Sam wants to see the “blue house” and Keegan, She wants to get her new bike with wheels and pedals. She has now outgrown her “scoot bike” having ridden it all over California and Mexico with much aplomb. Max wants to see and drive the car that his dad bought for him, to eat Pho and to be able to stand up straight in his bedroom without hitting his head. He is eager to get back to his friends and high school but knows he is going to miss the water and the snorkeling and the spearfishing that he loves so much here. Ben just wants to go to Yogurtland with Matthew and Cole Brown and their moms and also go to Blue C Sushi. Oh, and to play Minecraft with Matthew. Duh.
Princess kiddie pool on the foredeck with all her animals, Evaristo
Little Lady Captain
The other day as I sat at our table with the three kids, Max asked me what I was most looking forward to upon returning to Seattle and at first I was stumped. Of course, there are many things I miss (Asian food, NPR, driving, Trader Joe’s, doing my own laundry, sturdy bathrooms, human sized beds) but it is complicated for me. Am I really looking forward to going back? Not really. My “regular” life is complex and complicated. It involves a lot of “servicing” of others, a lot of running around. I have had a lot of time to reflect on my life as it was there in Seattle “before Mexico and cruising” during this trip and this time apart. I would say, with the perspective and distance gained on this trip, there are some things that require some fine-tuning and adjustment. I ended up telling Max that I was eager to get back to Seattle to help my brother with my parents (to help my mother specifically as she deals with my father’s dementia) and to accept that support role again that I have been “shirking” this past year. But that was a lame response. Truth be told, I don’t want to have to go back to all those “life” things. The burdens, the work, the responsibilities, the COMPLEXITY. I’d like to be strong enough to bring some of the simplicity of this life on the boat back to my life in Seattle and live more authentically, realistically, slowly, intentionally. But how to you explain that to a 16 year old whose evolving life unfurls before him full of beckonings and clatter? How do you explain to him that you want less not more? I think he would get it, though, as he’s an amazing soul. He’s proven that to me over and over during this trip. And he would and will whole-heartedly support me in my endeavors to “right my boat and steady my course”. 
Mother's Day in La Paz
Marcus, of course, is on a different path that the rest of us. He is preparing for the challenge of a lifetime: the challenge of taking our boat (not someone else’s) home to Seattle via Hawaii, a voyage which should take him two months with two separate crews (amazing people ALL of them and we are very lucky to have each and every one of them, I might add, but that is another story for another time). He is thinking constantly of the weather and safety and provisioning and Responsibility.  Not yet thinking about Seattle much, I don’t think. He is remarkably calm. I am glad NOT to be doing this leg of the trip with him. I am glad to leave him to that part of his dream year. Our friends on Sand Dollar are doing it right now as I type and I am proud of them and their courage. But I don’t envy them. I simply do not have the desire for that particular challenge. Three weeks at sea at a stretch sounds insanely daunting to me on my own let alone charged with the care of a toddler and two other children as well. Forget it. Alaska Airlines, take me home!

Me! With my beloved Julie Dillard and my Samey
Journal writing. Such a diligent (if not distracted) worker
Doing "her homework" too. Naked, of course.

We are currently at anchor off Isla Partida and Espiritu Santo near the southern tip of the Baja California. It just couldn’t be more stunningly beautiful. Desert, desolate, volcanic, red rocks, cactus everywhere. I wish I was a geologist. I am experiencing the beauty, I know that the rock formations are significant and impressive but I don’t know how to explain the gradations and the layering and the textures. Suffice to say they are incredible. The water is gradations of blues and greens that are not even describable. It is hot. Too hot to walk the decks without shoes on. We hide below while we do school and food and then venture out, covered in SPF clothing and hats and swimsuits and cool off in the incredible waters. The wind picks up in the afternoons and we cool down a little but if the sun catches you, even in the evening, you feel the burn. I continue in my love of hanging things to dry on the lifelines. I will miss that. Things dried in the sun. Ben has been “making salt” for the family by putting out a cookie tray with salt water and, after the sun evaporates the water, he scrapes it into a glass. We used it on our mashed potatoes tonight and he was proud to be “contributing” to our meal. It makes you a little crazy, though, this heat. Not sure I’d like to spend a summer in the Sea. People all told us about it but until now, it was hard to fathom. I’d come back, though, to the Sea of Cortex, to Mexico, to the mainland. I have grown to really love this country and I will miss it. We were much more than tourists, much less than locals or ex-pats. We know the coasts but not the inland areas. We’ve just begun to know the culture and language. Would I do it again you ask? Quite possibly. With different parameters, though. I have learned so many things. Would do so many things differently. However, I don’t feel we’ve made that many mistakes. We all did quite well, really. We rallied our strengths, carried our weaknesses and soldiered on with admirable grace and humor. And we’ve been lucky. Lucky in so many ways. All in all, if I failed at The Blog, I feel really good about what I brought to the year for us all. I may not know much about sailing but I know a heck of a lot and learned a heck of a lot about what it means to live on a boat while cruising for 10 months in Mexico with a family that includes small children. And it ain’t easy.

Max catches a fish! A Bonito. SO HANDSOME. (Max, I mean. Not the fish.)
Getting the lure out.
Mmmmm.... green Fun Dip from Grandma Marcia!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Samey Turns 4

Scenes from Planet Appa...I have gotten too far behind...!

My mom, Marcia, visits us in Mazatlan

Back in the Sea of Cortez, the incredible waters of Ensenada Grande 
Marcus just before Shark Julie attacked...

Mazatlan from above
Mazatlan: 21 people descend on Le Fish Market
Marcus' cousins Tim and Jackie Nevin!!!

Julie's 50th birthday

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


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