Saturday, October 22, 2011

Could Be Love, Could Be Like, Could Be Breaking Up….

We completed our first overnight sail on our family voyage and what an event it was. It was a bit like Ben and my first date; unconventional, a bit of a train wreck and at critical moments I found myself thinking, “what the hell am I doing here?”. And yet I knew I wanted to do it again.

Let me explain (for those of you who know this story, skip to the end). Ben and I met the old fashioned way…..drinking cocktails in a bar. Over the years we answered the question, “how did you two meet?” with the simple reply of, “at the Bustop.”, leaving people to draw their own conclusions of whether it was the San Francisco bar or we met on public transportation. While playing “wingman” to our friends, we fell into easy conversation where I learned this adorable, easy going, tall man had just returned from traveling on his sailboat. To fabricate a line from the movie Jerry McGuire, “You had me at ‘traveling on my sailboat’”. I think it was his standard pick up line, but I didn’t care, I was intrigued. He jotted down my phone number on a cocktail napkin and we agreed to get together sometime.

A few days later we met at a Starbucks for coffee. As I walked down the hill from my apartment, I spied him waiting on the corner. Before you play romantic music and get all gooey-eyed about this moment, let me stop you. When I spotted him my first thought was, “Oh crap, he’s wearing cowboy boots…I hate cowboy boots!!” STRIKE 1.

We went inside, ordered coffee, and then he suggested we drive down to the beach for a walk. Cowboy boots + beach = walk? Uh, ok. He motioned towards his vehicle which was illegally parked with it’s hazards blinking in front of us. I don’t know if I could hide the horror on my face as I slid into the passenger seat of the windowless, 1980’s cargo van. Inside I found a seat-less backseat with walls splattered recklessly with paint.” At least I think it’s paint,” I told myself.
Ignoring the Silence of the Lambs van, I decided to make the best of it.

As we drove down to the beach, I soon discovered this was his father’s paint store delivery van which he was borrowing since he was unemployed. STRIKE 2 and 3. As we came to a stop sign, he stepped on the brake and my seat immediately flipped backwards which sent me flying into the rear of the van. STRIKE 4.

“Oops, sorry about that! Forgot to tell you that seat’s not
bolted down in the front,” he explained with not a sinister or devilish smile,
but more amused and apologetic. Darn he was cute.

Further conversation revealed that he was living in Petaluma to which I inquired, “Do you have roommates? And how did you choose Petaluma?” His amused
smile reappeared as he explained, “I live with an older married couple and I’m
from there.”.

Now, I’m no dummy. I was 30 years old and knew when I was getting the run around. So I raised my eyebrows and bluntly said, “You live with your parents, don’t you?”. STRIKE 5, 6, 7, and 8.

I should have just told him to drop me off back at the Bustop so I could drown my sorrows in another failed attempt at love. But I didn’t and can’t really explain
why. There was something about him. His self assuredness and comfort in his own skin when most of society would deem him a loser, intrigued me. More importantly, he made me laugh. Call it gut instinct, foolishness, or desperation (hey…I was 30….my eggs were rotting), but I knew I would go out with him again even though all signs pointed to a disastrous date #2.

And that is my long drawn out point…..our first overnight sail was in some definitions a “disaster” (see Ben’s entry for the gory details), but in the middle of it, I knew I was meant to do this and I would do it again. I pushed myself to do
something scary and unknown. The end result was – I felt good about myself when
it was over. Just how I felt after stomping in the sand with a boot clad, unemployed homeless gypsy man. It felt good and it felt right.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The PERFECT Storm....

Over night passages can be rough.
They can also be poetically beautiful. Warm trade winds blowing, star lit skies, ticking off the miles in peace while the boat surges ahead.

That wasn’t the case for our first over nighter.

Molly was nervous about this first overnight passage. Understandably so. It is a scary thing
We left Monterey after spending a few days resting and cleaning up ourselves and the boat. The first few hours out were not remarkable….except that it would get breezy, then die off, then get windy again, which meant I was on deck a lot and didn’t really get a chance to nap before it got dark. At one point during this period I found myself battling the headsail to get it to settle down and be quiet. We were sailing far enough off/away from the wind that it would fill w/ a bang, pull for a few seconds, then collapse and bang around against the mast…..fill again….bang….rinse repeat…..Finally Molly said sheepishly, “Would it make more sense to furl it??” (Put it away….) I figured it couldn’t hurt and rolled it up. The boat quieted down, and we didn’t lose any boat speed…….she has good instincts.

I finally got a chance to put my head down around 8, but was up at 8:30 as the wind changed again.
I forget who was on deck around 2 am……we both were half there I guess. This is when the night watch demons really get going. It is stinking dark, which is scary by itself. But you are tired which makes everything worse. Then there are the worries, the boat breaks, the kids fall overboard, I go overboard…… The wind started to come up for real and even I was getting a little nervous. We were doing 9 plus knots down wind w/ just the main sail up….that is like 120 mph in a car…..way too fast for some, just right for others….but really scary on a dark country road when you can’t see around the next turn….well….you can’t see where the next turn even is!
I was walking Molly through the steps of how I was going to reef (reduce) the main sail (basically taking our foot off the gas)….how I was going to be up on the (pitch black pitching) deck and she was going to be steering the (wildly out of control) boat when I heard her whimper something….
"WHAT!” I yelled over the noise….
”Can we just take it down?” she quietly pleaded through tears.
Now understand, taking sail down altogether when there is a fresh breeze up is like a heroine addict saying no to a little bump…..that ain’t gonna happen. But I realized immediately the position I was in: 1) reassure her that it would be fine and continue w/ the reefing process (and be an ass even if it was fine) or be a hero and simply take the sails down…….and so down they came.
Here’s the kicker: The boat immediately quieted down ( a given), the auto pilot which had been over powered previously took over control w/ ease (an unexpected bonus) and the biggest surprise…WE WERE STILL DOING 6-7 KNOTS UNDER BARE POLES!! Who needs sails!!!

Like I said, the lady has good instincts……

Why the title of this post? Because on top of the normal
fear of an overnight sail, the anxiety about being on the open ocean w/ your
kids lives in your hands, the 2-3 am exhaustion after wrestling w/ the boat all
night AND having the boat totally out of control in the pitch black…..Molly was
also PMS’ing . It was the perfect storm!

The following night we had our second all nighter and it was much more
the romantic novel version of a night time passage. My third trip around the dreaded Point
Conception and once again I had to motor for lack of wind…..a good thing. (Some call Pt Conception the “Cape Horn” of the Pacific.)

And here is the reward for gutting out a shitty night night sailing:

When asked to pick out a board game to play last night, JP picked “Battleship” (as in you sunk my Battleship!”
Anyone else see the irony in that??

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthdays, Repairs and The Force

Lots of things to report since we last wrote. Mickey and I are both a year older, rain brings dampness to older boats, my hair is scarier, home schooling is a marathon not a sprint and I married a very patient man.

After our first day at sea, we anchored out in Half Moon Bay and put our new dinghy to the test. This is the moment the boys had been waiting for! Forget the old school oars, put an engine on anything and watch three boys display the look of joy as if they had just won the lottery. Everyone took turns taking it for a run before we set out for a lovely dinner at Mezzaluna. It was a restaurant my mother loved so it brought back fond memories and a chance to reflect on how she would have absolutely loved this idea of “cruising” (by the way that is the accepted term for people who live on their sailboat and travel…let’s be clear….it’s ‘cruising’ not ‘crazy’). Although she died over a year ago, she is never far from my thoughts and I thankfully inherited the travel bug from her. She would be tickled that her grandsons were able to have this experience.

Afterwards we settled in for a great night’s sleep at anchor and headed out for Santa Cruz the next morning, a ten hour sail. At 4:00 a.m., Ben used the windlass (a motorized anchor puller-upper) to get us on our way, but it took a few tries and the boys awoke with all the ruckus. We were underway and encountered a 10 knot southwest wind, with swells 2 to 5 feet. Nassau was had by all, as we are all still getting our sea legs. Although I have experienced a wide range of boats (ferry from Brindisi to Crete, boat across the Irish Sea, sailing on the Bay….now you’re thinking, “oh stop it Molly, you’re just bragging…) getting used to ocean swells on a sailboat is a different beast altogether. I was actually shocked since I tend to have a stomach of steel. For proof ask my sister about our ride on the stormy Irish Sea, where I partied all night in the disco downing Guiness, while she lay paralyzed in her bunk with sea sickness. We have adopted a variety remedies, but the most productive seems to be spending more time on the ocean. I’m happy to report that with every new passage, we are all becoming more and more comfortable with the foundation of our new home.

A few days later we arrived at the Monterey Marina where we waited out the weather and experienced a deluge of rain and high winds. One of my favorite parts of being on a boat is the ability to cozy up in bed and listen to the storm throw it’s snotty fit outside (in a marina, at anchor it’s a different feeling). On the flip side, my least favorite things about our floating home are the surprises and constant repairs required. We discovered several areas of the boat that leak (i.e. windows) and spent a good part of our time in Monterey drying things out and repairing leaks. I have to confess I had deep, dark thoughts (Darth Vader like) about my husband, while completing a leak repair well into the night on Friday. Before turning in, I returned from the dark side to instill good will towards Ben once again. May the Force Be With Me.

Jedi Master Ben continues to exhibit his inordinate amount of patience and fortitude while completing boat projects, tending to his wife’s unstable emotional state and teaching a cranky wild haired Chewbacca how to sail. As we docked, after completing a recent passage, I asked Ben, “how’s my hair look?” To which he replied, “it just keeps getting more interesting!".

Patience is a definitely a virtue while I begin the home---uh, boat---schooling process. We have eased into it since the boy’s have undergone significant changes in their lives allowing them time to adjust. Most of their learning (and mine) has come from “field trips” like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and “teachable moments” that we experience every day. For instance, Mickey was focused on cutting up our old dining room rug to fit onto the boat’s floor. He and Ben tackled the project dockside one day and the math lesson of area and perimeter began with real life connections. The carpet now has a new home and pride of ownership by the 10 year old mathematician who created it. Another teaching moment came from a walk along the “historic path” in Monterey as I pointed out information on the Native Americans and California Missions. After listening for a while one of the boys turned to me and asked, “why would the Spanish want to make the Native Americans believe what they believe about God?” Thus, the teaching of history through multiple perspectives has begun. On the more structured front, we have begun our “book club” and our first selection is Dear Mr. Henshaw, which the boys are thoroughly enjoying.

Sorry for the rambling, but I had the time to catch up as I watch the boys play in the park. Ben, Mickey and I thank you for all of the birthday well wishes! FYI – J.P. is due for a birthday March 13th!! Who knows where we will be!!??

Next blog entry will cover all of the trials and tribulations of our first overnight passage. When I’m ready to relive it, I will post it.

Cheers, Molly
My business, Doolittle Cakes has been temporarily shut down. Here is the new "boat" version for birthday cakes aboard Knee Deep....chocolate donuts!
What's he smiling about?
JP literally passes out when we take long passages. We had to check and make sure he was breathing here as we arrived in Monterey Harbor. I wish I had known this when he was a baby!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Approaching the Golden Gate!
I think we cleared it......
On the other side...hello Pacific Ocean!
First night aboard, anchored out in Half Moon Bay.

Elvis Has Left The Building

The Deed is Done! We have thrown off the dock lines and started our journey (currently waiting out the weather in Monterey for few days). I wasn’t really certain what state of mind I would be in as we made our way out of the Golden Gate. I was somewhat surprised at the euphoric excitement I experienced.

Then I remembered back to all of the trips I’ve taken over the years, from an 8 year old little girl listening to my parents pack up the car for Disneyland or loading my backpack for a 4 month long trek through Europe. That feeling that starts in the pit of my stomach, bubbling up into a volcanic eruption of enthusiasm and exhilaration as I take the first step towards my destination. It’s something I’ve known about myself forever….I love to travel! “It’s been a long time, but this such a familiar feeling and I love it!”, I thought to myself as I danced around the cockpit of the boat giggling.

Imagine my surprise as I glanced over at Captain Ben, expecting to share this joyful moment, to see a grimace and furrowed brow plainly expressed on his face. A naturally easy-going guy, who isn’t flustered by much, was clearly quite perplexed about something.
“You o.k., Ben?” I asked.
“Yep fine,” he replied curtly.
Hmmmmmm, questions buzzed through my brain. Was it second thoughts? Was there something wrong with the boat? Were the tides not right? Is my hair really that scary big already?

“You sure?” I said.
“Yeah, I just get really stressed out when I start a trip like this. I felt the same way when I headed out of the Golden Gate last time” he replied.

If you don’t believe me, here’s proof.

I love this story for a couple of reasons. One-whatever I think my emotional reactions are going to be, most of the time they cannot be predicted. Two-it proved to me that I REALLY REALLY want to do this and the fear about the unknown was quelled by sheer enthusiasm.
Captain Ben’s three crew members had a blast taking the first step on this journey!

I messed up posting the photos of going under, so you have to go to for photos of us sailing under the Golden Gate. Thanks to my sister, Colleen who came out in the foggy damp weather to hoot and holler at us from the South Tower and her great photos documenting the event.

It should be noted that Captain Ben recovered nicely and his easy, relaxed smile returned as we made our way through the swells of the ocean enroute to Half Moon Bay (there was some sea sickness as we are still getting our sea legs…but that’s another blog entry…coming soon).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Almost ready to go...and it ain't pretty...

No, AIN'T PRETTY....but more on that in a second...
First, the storeage unit loaded up:
Our pretty little living room...gutted on our last night in our home:
Our boat....with stuff EVERYWHERE:
And finally, the really not pretty part. Sent this picture to a friend as a long before Molly and her hair looks like THIS???
Funny, until you see THIS!
Heading out for Half Moon Bay tomorrow.......pray for us!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


As Mark Twain once said:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

After several delays and a later departure than anticipated, we are ready to do just that. The ship of fools is scheduled to sail under the Golden Gate at max ebb tide somewhere between 9 and 9:30. If you are interested in watching, here is the live webcam with a view of the Golden Gate.

Keep in mind, only one person can control the camera at a share nicely! We all learned this last time, when Ben passed under about a month ago. If you catch a glimpse of the Doolittes on Knee Deep underway, hit the "snap" button and you can record a photo. If you are able to record an image, we would be grateful if you save it as a PDF and e-mail it to us! Many thanks!

F.Y.I. As a typed this, sipping my glass of wine, the Kelly Clarkson song "A Moment Like This" started playing...sappy I know, but the universe speaks to me through easy rock radio stations like KOIT quite a bit.

"Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this
I can't believe it's happening to me."

Good night and Good Luck...(to you and me)!!

Climbing the Mountain....Where Are the Sherpas??

I've heard accounts of people climbing Mt. Everest and as they ascend the summit they experience a euphoric state. Along the way, there are Sherpas who act as guides on their quest. I found this description:

"the Sherpas are usually happy and easy going....You will need them to carry oxygen, etc. Many solo climbers actually bring Sherpas with them all the way up. Sherpas are a valuable aid to us, as the climb will be hard enough for you anyway, in not being genetically adapted to that kind of altitude by birth."

So my question is this.....where in the hell is my Sherpa??? And when will I get to the summit??

I sit here snuggled up in our home, listening to the wind blow outside, halyards rhythmically clinking against the mast, smiling to myself that we actually have pulled this off. I just went up on deck to tuck in the sail cover which keeps me awake sometimes (this would be the Sherpa's job, if I had one), stopped to look out over the marina and thought, "dang, I'm am so lucky!!". We have moved aboard and although all of our things are not quite stowed away, I am excited and relieved our adventure will finally begin. In other words, I'm at base camp and excited to start my ascent to the summit.

Now, since this blog is written in the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, let me share with you that 48 hours ago, this lovely bliss I just experienced, was quite the opposite. Sheer and utter nervous breakdown/anxiety it whatever medical term you'd like. Maybe on Everest it's "altitude sickness", but let's just say, "the girl LOST it!" I won't bore you with the details, but it involved sobbing hysterically in a van outside a storage unit. The kind of cry where you can't catch your breath...can't talk....and at one point I thought, "I think I'm having an anxiety attack!"

Now, most of you that know me would chuckle at this. I'm a Libra (as are Ben and Mickey...which goes to show that executing this trip is a true miracle....we tend to be easy going....and don't like making decisions) and I try to approach life with a "no worries" mentality. In my early 20's the Bobby McFarren song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hit the Top 40 charts (maybe he was talking about the sherpas?). It spoke to me, people!! And I adopted it as my creed.

Alas, this mentality was utterly forgotten as I wailed in my van watching miscellaneous items fall out of our jam packed storage unit. Ben carefully approached me, gently put his hand upon my shoulder and said, "You can't have a nervous breakdown, I need you now!" Sherpa (Ben), that I was counting on to get me up the mountain, abandoned me! Much to my chagrin, I realized he was having his own crisis and was saying so eloquently, "buck up, I'm having my own meltdown, we'll get through this" (meltdowns are very different in a male body!).

So here I sit at base camp (Emery Cove Yacht Club) amused at the range of emotions I have experienced in the last week, with many more to come. I'm not sure where and when my Sherpa is going to show up, but I'm confident he'll be here when I need him most.

Itinerary: Many of you have inquired about our plans or itinerary. We plan to sail out of the Golden Gate on Sunday (we have encountered delays since we underestimated the challenges that can occur when leaving the country). From there, these are the only solid plans we have so far:

Sunday, October 2 - October 20th - sailing down the California coast
October 23 - November 4th - Baja Ha Ha cruisers rally, San Diego to Cabo San Lucas

These are our only set plans for now, although we hope to be in La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, and many different locations in Mexico for a while. Then hopefully through the Panama Canal, Central America, Caribbean, Cuba, and the East Coast of the U.S. All of this is tentative and subject to change.

So there you have it! Thank you for all of the well wishes and continued interest in this crazy odyssey!! We will miss you tremendously. Onward and Upward!!

Quote of the Day: Ben back from his first marina shower here. "My shower was was magical! I smell good and I'm a sailor again. I'm getting happy -- I'm getting reaaaaallllll happy!"