March 31, 2011

One Step Forward…

Crossing an ocean to spend six months in some of the world’s most remote islands is a step you shouldn’t take lightly. Sailors don’t typically die in the South Pacific (it has some pretty reliable weather patterns…) but more than a few boats are lost and dreams are dashed every year. Every year…

So while I’m sure it gets boring reading another ‘we’re still in the getting ready stages’ blog post, I personally find the drudgery of work infinitely more appealing than the chaos of trying to save a boat in distress. Which is all a super long winded way of saying, “One step forward and a whole huge, freaking leap back…”
 One rudder stock is bent. Which means our steering is off, and the forces on our rudder are far higher than they should be. Evan tried to convince me (and him) that the obvious bend we were seeing was just refraction. An optical illusion which oddly enough only affected one rudder… And that maybe, just maybe the rudder stock wasn’t damaged

But then he pulled the rudder and we got a different answer…
 Happily we have a stainless guy we’ve worked with who can fit us in. Also happily we have a good friend with a car who transported Ev and the rudder to the shop. So now we wait for the repair (and the bill…). And while we wait we’re working on those steps forward.

March 29, 2011

Departure Stresses and Sisterly Cures…

 I’m becoming excessively familiar with the sunrise here. I can tell at the first hint of light what the sky will become. If it glows with a deep purple—the reds will follow. If grey shows first then it will be a golden pink.

I’m not sure I’m happy with this knowledge… Ideally I’d like to be sleeping when the sun isn’t up. I’d rather not be worrying over lists, finishing off columns, sending out emails and trying to cover the millions of tiny details you need to cover when you’re about to sail off the edge of the earth…
 Today though we bagged the work and went sailing. Sailing… Actually we claimed it was work by saying we had a bunch of modifications to test sail—which we did. We also have a bent rudder stock to sort out (eek!!) We have no idea went it was bent but sailing today confirmed our steering hasn’t recently changed.
 The main reason for setting sail today though is my sister and her family are here. So we loaded them up early this am and set out for the Islas Tres Marietas. Dolphins frolicked in our bow waves, the kids swam and enjoyed each other’s company, and my sister and I caught up over a bottle of wine, and then we set out on a perfect sail home.
 It was a day we shuffled around as we wondered if we could even fit it into our schedule. But as it drew to a close today, I realized it was the sort of thing we should spend our entire lives making time for. Even if it means rising well before the sun…

March 27, 2011

The Countdown to Departure

We’re days, rather than weeks, from departure now. For the past two days we’ve had a rental car and have been running around gathering up every item that’s on each of our spreadsheets (mine=five pages, single spaced, not including fresh food…).

If you’ve been reading a few cruising blogs you’ll no doubt have heard people talk about their spreadsheets: About how they inventoried their boats, catalogued what they had, made lists of what they eat and how quickly they eat it, cross-referenced this stuff with other peoples spreadsheets as well as notes about what is and isn’t available in French Polynesia (and at what price), then double checked it all with a dietician (kidding) before creating the perfect personalized spreadsheet…
 I didn’t do this. I’m sort of embarrassed to say our spreadsheets are my friend Behan’s spreadsheets (S/V Totem). All I did was go through her lists (including skimming her recent blog posts about what they had too much/ too little of…) and reduced all the numbers (they have 3 kids and left with crew)—then went for it. We’ll eat what they ate.

On the first day alone I filled five jumbo shopping carts with food. That’s a lot of food. And fortunately I was shopping alone—because it filled the trunk, the back seat and the front seat to capacity.

For the most part provisioning in Mexico is straightforward. There are loads of excellent cheap options and we should have plenty of variety. The problem comes when you start to get into specifics—if you want a certain type of cheese, crackers, canned veggies or sauce (even one you’ve bought a hundred times before) it may not be available today, or this week, or ever again.
Mexico grocery stores are at best unpredictable.
and don't worry--we have way more than two bottles of wine...
 The other issue is language. My Spanish is serviceable, and I can typically get by. But when it comes to shopping, you sort of need to know what things are called--precisely. Hand waving doesn’t work when you want baking powder or are looking for a specific medication… And if you want to avoid certain ingredients, you need to understand how to read the words. All of which can make grocery shopping last longer than expected and can still result in a few unexpected purchases. Who would have thunk that you could even buy reduced calorie sugar with extra fibre…

The good news is our spread sheets are almost completely checked off. The bad news is somehow we need to store all this stuff away. I think the shopping was the easy part...

March 23, 2011

All In the Name

I was hanging out at the beach recently chatting with Barb, from Whatcha Gonna Do, when she sprang it on me, “I never realized that you were you,” she said. I must have looked puzzled. “What I mean was I never realized that “Kaylee” and “Ceilydh” were the same boat.

We’re used to this particular point of confusion. Although most people figure it out before we’ve shared meals, traded emails and arranged play dates… But whatever, Barb’s been busy.

Boat names are one of those controversial things where no one is right but everyone has an opinion. There are the proponents of the straight forward, phonetically correct single word names—the Voyager, Journey, Eagle and Totem crowd I guess you’d call them. Then there are the folks who like clever word play or ambiguous meanings—Whatcha Gonna Do, Just a Minute, Mystical Crumpet… Then there are the folks like us who steal a word or phrase from another language and make it our own (mainly because all the good names were taken)…

As an FYI Ceilydh is a Gaelic word that means social gathering or celebration…

The names that really don’t make sense to me though are the ones that cause confusion on the radio. Names like Priority, Gale Force or Lost… A good boat naming rule of thumb oughta be try the perspective name with “Mayday” attached to it. Then try play acting the whole Coastguard rescue conversation and see if it gets confusing.

March 21, 2011

Plague Ship

It was bound to happen--there is a stomach bug making it's way through the fleet. We've been tracking its progress while staying busy working too hard, socializing too much and imbibing in a few more than we should. So of course--when we least expected it--the bug took Evan out.

He's been down for the count for two days. Which clearly rules out a hangover. While he recuperates (that's wife speak for whines) I've been writing and hitting send. Invoicing and hitting send. And dreaming about the type of work that doesn't involve hitting send...

Thankfully, when it comes to Maia, the village stepped in. And because I have nothing worthy to report about life on Ceilydh—I’ll just link you to Maia’s life elsewhere. The only life she has right now…

March 17, 2011

The job list

When you are just coastal cruising you can let a lot slide. When you are no more than a few days from shelter and never really have to face bad weather (unless you are trying to meet visitors on a particular day...) you can avoid worrying about storm precautions. But on an ocean crossing we have to be a bit more proactive. 

So here's my job list. Most of the big jobs are done. Some of the ones that are still to be done are mostly done but I don't cross them off until complete.

build fiberglass dive compressor box
Autopilot support arm
carbon tillers
helm chair tube stiffening
dorade boxes
surfboard repair
parachute sea anchor strong point
bridgedeck drain clamshells
engine room vent
heater vent guard

battery switch
oil pressure gauge
ST1000 plug
replace watermaker toggle switch

shorten steering wheel
autohelm 3000 install
office chair securing better
office drawer securing better
dinghy lashings
stern drogue chainplates
gooseneck bushings
3rd reef
wooden deck securing better
ham radio secure
GPS secure
aft lkr stbd lazarette vent
splice sea anchor rodes
pull injectors and clean
remark anchor chain
rig inspection
build new battery shelf/strap
re-align engine/check shaft seal
aft cabin window gasket
clean watermaker membrane
setup Pactor for Winlink
ditch bag
mast track gate fabricate
manual bilge pump strum box
epoxy alcohol lkr. Stops
epoxy bow locker locking nut
install diesel 12V pump
MOB flag 
MOB pole drogue
dinghy drogue
galerider clone
stackpack zipper
luggage tag jackline end
inside aft cabin bhd
port mid hull lower

Got the T-shirt

Today we said goodbye to Savannah and Java as they headed out toward the South Pacific. At almost the same time we heard from our friends on Adios III that they had safely made their own landfall. This leaves us even more eager to get going ourselves—while at the same time we’re having such a wonderful time with friends here, and we’re so busy, it’s almost hard to imagine we’ll be leaving soon.
Ev has been making huge progress on our projects—our diesel has been realigned and had a whole host of stuff done to it (thanks Stew!!). The carbon tillers are built. The dive compressor has its own secure locker, we have reinforced pad eyes for our sea anchor and storm drogue, our spare auto pilot is hooked up… And the list goes on.

Meanwhile I’ve been busy with deadlines—I had a surprise visit from the assignment fairy who brought not one, but three assignments last week. So rather than shopping for food for six months I’ve been researching celebrity honeymoons.
Seriously. Don’t laugh.
The clock is ticking though and the parties are starting to wind down. And most importantly our t-shirts have arrived. So we have to get going…

March 14, 2011

A Crew of (Way More Than) Three

Stew--helping with the diesel
Sometime in the next couple of weeks (we’re refusing to pin down a date yet because we’ve had a one-step-forward-two-back type of week…) Evan, Maia and I will take off on our biggest adventure to date. I imagine that casting off the dock lines on that day (whenever the heck it might be…) will feel like the culmination of something huge. The three of us have worked hard. Especially Maia, according to Maia. She did extra dishes and sweeping this week.

But the thing is, while we’ve worked hard for our dream, so have our friends and family. When I think about all the hours other people have put into our life—all the shopping they’ve done (thanks parents!!), all the banking and mail managing (thanks Sis!!), all the advice from those who have gone before (Behan, Karen, Naomi, Susan, Steph, Chris…), all the hours poured into our boat (Mark, Ken, Stew, Jamie, Don, Tyler, Robin, Leighton…), all the kid wrangling (Meri, Tammy, Wendy, Andrea, Ann, Kelly, Lynne, Cheryl…) meals served (too many to even begin to thank), all the dreams and ideas shared over wine (ditto)—it’s really humbling.

It might just be us three out there, physically, but we are so blessed to carry so many amazing friends along for the ride—in our hearts and memories. It’s going to be busy over the next week or two leading up to leaving (just don’t ask us when that will be…) because the list keeps growing (thanks, Stew for noticing the engine is out of alignment...)

But we don’t want to miss saying thanks. So thanks.
Dreams shared are dreams realized. And the power of friendship is an amazing thing.

March 11, 2011

La Cruz Tsunami

Before I say anything about our part of this event—I have to say, our day seems frivolous compared to the widespread devastation that we are still learning about. My heart goes out to those who lost lives, loved ones, homes and livelihoods.
Early on--the water has just begun to churn up
 Like many people, we woke to the news of Japan’s horrifying earthquake and tsunami. As we monitored the situation this am—we tried to decide what to do about the fact that both our main engine and steering were disassembled. As initial tsunami reports came in, it looked like we’d experience an event much like last years—a quick rise and fall of the water and some current. So Evan headed into Puerto Vallarta to retrieve boat parts and I headed off on an errand.

Around noon it became clear that the tsunami was packing a much bigger punch than anyone expected. So any boat that could head out of the marina did. I sent Maia with Hotspur, so I wouldn’t have to worry about her. And fifteen-year-old Tim joined me and helped me tie the boat up as best we could.
Then we waited.

The first drop came around 1:30pm. It wasn’t huge—it was about 33 inches and took about 30 minutes to go through the cycle. We had three more similar surges—which churned up the water and created some current, but we simply rose up and down. The in and out wasn’t fast enough to throw us around.

When Ev got back Tim and I headed out to the breakwater to check the entrance. We saw a few big surges—complete with whirlpools and overfalls (think big river) but then it seemed to slow. So we headed back to the boat thinking it had ended and it was safe to start unlacing ourselves.
Six foot surge over a 5 minute period
The next wave caught everyone off guard—it rose and fell 6ft in five minutes and sucked at the docks until fingers on dock 11 began breaking away. If there had more than one surge like that we would have had more issues.
 But now, it’s 6pm. We’re surging gently up and down. The harbour is still closed and families are starting to puzzle over how to reunite because many were separated. But as far as tsunamis go—we had a good one. It was fascinating and powerful. But still heart wrenchingly devastating.

March 10, 2011

Pacific Yachting Story About a Few of Our Friends

Surfing Mexico

We’re usually really good at follow-through. If we say something is going to happen—we do it. Which is why Maia’s surfing lessons have being weighing heavily on my mind.
 She’s been dreaming about learning to surf since Crescent City, CA. Back then (she seemed so little!) she watched the surfers day in and day out and asked when it could be her.
 So we promised her surfing lessons for Christmas that year—but even down near Newport Beach the water was still too chilly. Then we planned to do it in Mexico—and while there have been surfers all around us this past year, we never got it done.
 But yesterday we grabbed Tim (who’s also been wanting to learn to surf) and Carolyne (who was more reluctant but was told it was her home schooling gym class) and joined Coral and all her friends for surf classes in Sayulita.
 Everyone got up on their boards and had a blast. Especially Tim, who may have been in 15-year-old-boy-heaven, in his surf class with four bikini-clad teenaged girls.

March 8, 2011

Jump Off Party at Philo's

 Because we were in Barra during February, we missed all the parties and seminars that typically lead up to the 'jump'. But there was one party we definitely didn't want to miss: Philo's.
Monica and Andy are heading off about 10 days ahead of us--they're going to scope it all out for us.
 Philo's is a local cruiser's hangout that's run by a former cruiser. And the annual jump off party is a tradition.
 It definitely lived up to it's billing--we had a blast, danced up a storm and said our goodbyes. Now we just have to finish the flipping boat and go...

March 7, 2011

La Social Life

 I came back from running errands the other day only to discover Evan buried deep in projects and Maia nowhere to be found. “Haven’t seen her since breakfast,” Evan mumbled as he worked. “Pass that screw driver.”

Considering it was 3pm, I thought we should try to track her down and see about feeding her. So I started calling around. Maia sightings had been made throughout the day—one boat reported feeding her, while another mentioned she had asked for sunscreen. Eventually we found her on Eyoni—one of a crowd 7 girls who were in the midst of a princess tea party.
 Maia’s currently being neglected—by us. But she seems to be making the most of it. There are close to 20-kids in the marina right now and considering only two of the families are South Pacific bound—she has good odds for showing up on a boat where food and care are available.
 We are also enjoying the crowd of families. Clearly we have to eat—and this town is pretty good for sit down street tacos and with this many people, kid tables are a given. So busy as we are, we haven’t opted out of La Social Life—in fact we’re embracing it. Maybe too enthusiastically…

March 6, 2011

Coral’s Quinceañera

I cried when Coral entered the church. 
 The memories came flooding back: of meeting Dee and Stew after a storm blew us into Westport, WA and sailing down the coast with them; of being the first to meet Coral in the minutes after she was born; of cruising Mexico with them; and then taking a trip together to Mexico City to visit Ramon and his family, our newfound Mexican friends, and celebrate Coral’s 1st birthday.
 That night—when Coral was in her fancy party dress, and her birthday fiesta had gone far too late for the wee girl, Dee proposed we do it all again, in fourteen years—for Coral’s Quinceañera.
Ivan & Dee, Coral, Stew & Wendy
 Not all friendship pacts make it through the challenges of time and geography—and our little group changed shape over the years. But Coral went ahead and grew-up anyway, and last night was her fiesta.
Ramone, Coral & Pat
 A Quinceañera is a celebration of the end of childhood and the beginning of young womanhood. It’s a beautiful ritual that lets a girl’s parents tell her how much they love who she’s growing into. Perhaps it’s a bit like a debutant ball, or a coming out—but the rituals: the first make-up, and first high-heels, and the tossing away of a childhood doll are solemn ones. And for Coral—who is Mexican by birth and who spent her first four years here--it’s a link to a culture that she's just beginning to learn about.
Maia and Carolyne imagine their own parties
 Mass was lengthier than the, “sprinkle of water and a few nice words about growing up” that Stew said he had hoped for. But it ended without the overhead pigeon pooping on Coral, or any of us bursting into spontaneous flames…
 We headed to dinner afterward and continued to catch up—and admire Coral. I cried when she got her high heels, and again when she danced her first dance with Stew. I cried when Maia caught Coral’s (now headless after a bad bounce) doll and marveled again about how quickly it had all passed. Just yesterday, it seems, I was scooping Coral out of Dee’s arms at beach landings, and standing at the top of pyramids with her—showing her the world.

 And now it’s hers.

March 4, 2011

Life in La Cruz

 It’s lovely how easy it is to step back into life in La Cruz. I guess it’s because out of the past 14 months in Mexico, this has been the town we’ve called ‘home’ for more weeks than any other. We pulled into our old slip, were greeted by old friends, and slipped into the lively pace of life here without a second thought.

Today is ‘kid’s club’ a new organized playgroup put together by Tammy on Andiamo 3. And today was also the first day in a series of Huichol art classes where a local artist, Alvarez Ortis will be teaching us some of his traditional beading skills.
In case you’re not familiar, the Huichol people are one of Mexico’s indigenous groups. They live in the mountains—mostly as subsistence farmers—but over the past several years their intricate bead and yarn work has become a favourite tourist souvenir. The art itself is spiritual in nature—and reflects the Huichol people’s relationship with their deities: the trinity of Corn, Blue Deer and Peyote, the eagle, and the Sun God, "Tao Jreeku".
Alvarez explained this to us in a slow gentle Spanish that even I could mostly understand. He told us how their art is for the most part unaltered—that while they have switched from natural seed beads and plant-based dyes to crystal beads and nylon string, what they create is still culturally authentic and spiritually relevant.
I’m not sure what I expected from our first class—but I did sort of hope I’d get to stick beads into bees wax and create a masterpiece. Instead Alvarez had us start at the beginning—making basic necklaces—giving us no direction other than to create what moved us and listen to our own inner music.
Mine wasn’t much of a masterpiece. But at the end of the 90-minute class I felt incredibly peaceful, which Alvarez told us while we packed up, was the first lesson. Next week though we get to do designs!

March 2, 2011

Calm as it ever Gets

Either Passage Weather misforecasted the day, or "calm as it ever gets' is a euphemism for a stiff wind in a washing machine.

It started out fine. But rather than the wind dropping last night, it began to build. Not to anything dramatic--but between the adverse wind, the adverse seas and a stubbornly adverse current we were making a nauseatingly slow 3.5 knots through the night.

Occasionally we'd hit a steep wave that was big enough to stop us cold. When that happens the boat shudders and bucks and I'd race around trying to see if we caught a fishing net or something. But then we'd start to churn forward, wallowing up and over the next wave.

Our goal, when we set out yesterday, was to have an event free passage. A goal that despite the nasty conditions seemed to be going fine until I was woken from a sound slumber: "The engine's over heating and the tach is going crazy!" Evan called down, before disappearing into the engine compartment.

I was up in a flash--checking our location, course, looking out for hazards etc. Then Evan called me to shut down the engine. There was water in the compartment.

Salt freaking water.

I hate finding water in the boat. It bugs me. Logically I know we're not actually sinking, I know we're nearly impossible to sink. But water doesn't belong in the boat.

I also hate the little dramas that come with these emergencies. Or rather, I did. Something hit me this time--as Evan trouble-shooted, and I offered actual relevant thoughts (through some sort of osmosis a whole bunch of boat stuff has sunk in to me), and Maia did what was needed and helped where she could--we're okay at this. We can handle emergencies.

This is good to know. Because no matter how well prepared we are, stuff is going to break and things are going to go wrong. And Evan--despite being competent at everything boat--can't steer the boat and hold a calmish course while his head's in the engine diagnosing that the water is coming through the shaft seal at high rpms, but only when we hit a wave at a specific angle. And I can't fetch him things if I'm outside steering and sorting things out. And Maia can't help with tools if she hadn't known where they are kept and what they are called.

I would have like an eventless passage. I would have like to have stared at the waves and daydreamed about wonderful things while the ocean went by like a movie.

But I like that our emergency played out without drama--that it was as calm as it ever gets.

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March 1, 2011

Back to La Cruz

We look like we're in a convoy, or a parade. Just one of a fleet of boats taking advantage of a weather window around Cabo Corrientes that Don Anderson (Summer Passage) pinpointed this am. "It will be as calm as it gets there," he said on the morning net. And clearly from the 5,6, make that 7 boats I can see, several of us listened.
Despite the calm--we're still beating into it. Sailing at 5 knots in light wind and lumpy seas. A whale spouted nearby, but we're all lethargic--a factor of trying to find our sea legs after weeks in the flat lagoon and trying to ease our hearts through a hard goodbye.
Yesterday was sad. We spent the day with Hotspur. Unlike every other day with them, where the laughter and chatter flow freely, yesterday there were lots of sighs and quiet moments. This morning Maia and Carolyne wouldn't let go hands:
"Do you remember when we met?" Maia asked. "Our mother's let us have a sleepover! We never even knew each other!"
"And that silly day. Do you remember that?"
"And your laugh. I love your laugh."
"And our kitchen in the rocks."
"Your funny jokes!"
"We have email." Maia said.
"And skype." Carolyne replied.
"And pictures."
"And memories."
And memories.
I called Meri and told her it was time to pick up Carolyne.
I hugged Meri. And Jim. And thought of when we met. And the adventures we've had. And reminded myself we have email. And skype. And pictures. And memories.
And now we're in a convoy heading north on this round earth. Toward friends we said goodbye to fourteen years ago. And I'm reminded that this goodbye will ease, and that this sadness will gradually fade into the comfort of what's sure to become a long friendship.
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