Friday, January 27, 2012

A CLOSE Encounter of a Whale Kind....

James and Sydney aboard "Endeavor" locked and loaded with water guns.

Current location: La Cruz (Huanacaxtle), Mexico

Another week has passed and here we are still in La Cruz. We love this place, but are now REALLY ready to get sailing and see new places. We pulled out of the marina into the anchorage without a functioning engine to save some money. This was accomplished by “tug boating” out of our slip and into the open water. We tied our dinghy to the side of our sailboat and as I drove, Ben towed us out. Our friend, Earline stood by in his own dinghy in case we needed his assistance. All went smoothly and we are now enjoying our “free” stay in the anchorage. The new transmission is on the way and should be here early next week so my mechanic, Ben, can install it and we can be on our merry way.

As promised a flashback to our CLOSE encounter of a WHALE kind.…

Not since the Whale Sharks in La Paz has an encounter with wildlife been as exciting. Unfortunately with our boat on the fritz, we weren’t able to bring Colleen out sailing and explore different anchorages as much as we would have liked. However, our friends on Endeavor (The Phillips family-a link to their blog at right) invited us out for a sail and snorkel to Tres Murietas Islands a couple days after Christmas.

As we set sail across Banderas Bay all of the Doolittles were amazed at the smooth sailing and speed of their beautiful Taswell 49 sailboat. Just like cars, sailboats all drive a bit differently and when you have an additional ten feet of waterline your ability to sail more quickly increases exponentially. This is where Ben would go into a scientific explanation of water displacement, blah, blah, blah, however, I would like to explain it with my own expertise and knowledge: Dang, that sucker can sail!!!

Let me digress in saying that Endeavor is often the first boat our boys look for when entering a new anchorage. We met the Washington natives while sailing down to Cabo San Lucas during the Baja-Ha-Ha and they have now become cherished friends. The boys love to spend time with Sydney and James (12 year old twins) while they swing in their hammock or bogart their Wii for hours on end. These are nice, grounded kids and Ben and I can only hope to have pre-teens as fun and kind as these two. J.P. is currently knitting a scarf for Sydney’s teddy bear…and we all know J.P. isn’t about to do anything like that for just anybody!!

So we all headed out of the marina (along with Colleen and our other new friend ‘Lawn Boy’… a reincarnate of my brother K.J. It concerns and delights me that the planet is occupied with two such energetic, crazy, enthused men). Ben, Lawn Boy and I spent a good amount of time looking at each other giggling about how our smaller and older boats would get their butts kicked by Endeavor. Tickled with our smooth ride and ability to cover lots of ground in little time, we set out for the islands (approximately a 2 hour sail).

After reaching our destination, we hopped into kayaks and snorkel gear to explore the waters. We had the place to ourselves and happily floated in the water until a Catamaran carrying approximately a hundred tourists arrived. It quickly started offloading the gringos all decked out in fluorescent life preservers and snorkel gear. Taking our cue, we headed back to the boat for some lunch and beer.

It’s at these times when I feel a bit smug about my life. Sitting up on deck, watching the vacationers being herded around in their borrowed equipment, I felt a bit sorry for them. Our bathing suits and snorkel gear have become a part of our every day wardrobe and we can take our own sweet time exploring sites since our timeline is not dictated by a weeklong vacation. Of course, this lifestyle comes with many disadvantages (broken transmissions, limited budget, home schooling, etc.), and if asked many of the tourists would probably feel quite sorry for the crazy haired, poor sap like me, living on a tiny boat with 3 guys.

As we made our way back across the bay, we spied manta rays hurling themselves completely out of the water and pointed out the whale watching boats who were following a few of the big guys. But the high point was yet to come. As our host, Rick went down below to mix up some Rum and Cokes, we all sat in the cockpit chatting while the children lay on the bow of the boat.

As our drinks were being handed to us, we heard a huge “SPLASH” and a wall of water came flying down up on the boat. The kids scurried off the bow, screaming and laughing, drenched from head to toe. All I remember is someone yelling, “Oh my God! That was a whale!!”.

Sure enough I looked over the left (port) side of the boat just as the whale was submerging back into the water leaving a huge outline of bubbles where he just had been. There was literally a few inches between us and the huge creature! We all reverted back to acting like little kids laughing and squealing about how amazing it was! Unbeknownst to us, the whale had been swimming in the area probably trying to avoid the whale watching boats. Thanks to the creatures quick thinking we were able to avoid any contact except for the huge spray of water which made the encounter even more exciting. It was like being in the first row at Sea World, but without having to pay and $80 entrance fee.

With another great sailing story to tell, we pulled back into the Marina in La Cruz still chuckling at our close encounter with one of the largest creatures on the planet.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 10 Reasons to Stay In An Anchorage vs. A Marina

Current location: La Cruz (Huanacaxtle), Mexico

No scooters have fallen in the water recently. Mickey even held a pancake making seminar on our boat for Aaron from Bella Star without setting our boat on fire, so things are looking up! He is becoming quite the chef!!!

I had to write a quick blog entry in response to Mickey’s recent post of “Top 10 Reasons for Staying in a Marina vs. the Anchorage” on I will submit my “Top 10 Reasons for Staying in Anchorage” here:

10. More wide open space and your cockpit is now your "backyard" instead of your "front porch". Your neighbors are farther away, therefore sitting in the cockpit naked at night is acceptable (this is submitted from Ben, not me….no, really!).

9. Better water quality. The boat is not surrounded by murky, oil-infested waters and there clearer, less polluted water in the anchorage.

8. Natural swimming pool available any time of day. Jumping off the boat to cool off is easy and fun!

7. Wildlife. Word is among the boats anchored out here that a whale passed through the other day, in addition to the wide variety of fish swimming around. The only thing you see in the marina are stubborn old Puffer Fish that don’t even puff up when you poke them with the boat hook (not that I would ever do something like that).

6. Quieter. You don’t hear those damn kids riding their scooters around the dock (and you don’t have to fish them out when they fall in).

5. The temptation of the “Sky Bar” (see Mickey’s post Item #4) is a whole dinghy ride away. Therefore, being the lazy person I am, I would get a beer from the fridge and watch the sunset from the boat.

4. I get to drive the dinghy.

3. Farther from the live bands that play into the early morning hours…who knew a Quinceanera could go on until 4:00 am??!! (I secretly like this reminds me of my youth in the City).

2. It makes me feel like a real sailor.

1. IT'S FREE!!!!

Molly's another reason for the list....There's a "Time Out" room always available!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Parenting While Cruising...A Never Ending Journey

Current location: La Cruz (Huanacaxtle), Mexico

Yes, still here in La Cruz! The part has been installed, but our transmission is being quite stubborn in this healing process. Worst and most expensive case scenario is replacing the whole transmission, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. The boys are enjoying life here and we have all made some great friends.

One incident worth mentioning before the flashback is Mickey’s launch off the dock on his new scooter. Apparently he was racing and went to hit the brakes with no response. He and his scooter flew off the dock and into the water. By the time I got up on deck, he had pulled himself back up and was standing on the dock weeping softly, staring at the spot where his scooter had just sunk. His beloved new scooter he received just weeks ago was now resting on the muddy bottom of the marina, twenty feet below.

Now, if you don’t know our oldest son, Mickey let me explain something. He is a very careful kid and a rule follower. This behavior was totally out of the box for him. As he quietly grieved his lost scooter, Ben and I reassured him that it was going to be fine and some way or another he would ride again. His dad went on to say:

“Mickey, I’m proud of you!! You went balls to the wall and that’s awesome!”

Perhaps not put into the eloquent words of Plato, but the message was clear.

The next several hours were spent “fishing” with a boat hook and dinghy anchor to see if we could pull it back to dry land. This brought our self proclaimed “Griswald” status on Dock #4 to a whole new level. We deemed ourselves this (from the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies) since our boat has been pulled apart with tools, boat parts and scooters strewn about in the cockpit for several weeks. Generally living in a marina is like a normal neighborhood. On the beautifully landscaped and manicured street, there is always one annoying house with a front lawn that never gets mowed and has a broken down car in the driveway. That would be the Doolittles in Marina de La Cruz!!

So after our fishing expedition failed, (it was Friday, the 13th after all) Ben decided to jump in the murky and stinky waters of the marina. He tied a rope around his waist and dove in to save the day. Apparently the rope was to help us pull him up after he found the scooter on the bottom. After several attempts and being totally grossed out, dear old dad gave up and vowed to hire someone to dive down and retrieve it. Enter Ernesto the following day. He came over in his wetsuit and diving apparatus and retrieved the scooter in about 10 minutes. He declined payment, but we were able to finally convince him to take some pesos for his kindness (I will post pictures of the rescue attempt soon).

This event provided much entertainment for all of our dock friends and many thanks to all who loaned equipment and advice as we tried to retrieve Mickey’s beloved scooter. Unlike back home, there is no need to watch for speeding cars in the street while riding scooters , but other dangers now lurk….beware of the dreaded end of the dock! We are happy to report; he is back on the road riding side by side with his little brother through the streets of La Cruz.

This incident made me reflect back on how cruising has changed my parenting style. It seems weird, but I have become more relaxed and less of a helicopter parent. There is something about living on a boat that encourages teamwork and is a vital part of our existence. Yet it has also helped me learn that I am capable of many things I didn’t think I could do. This has inevitably flowed over into my way of parenting, allowing my children to try new things without interference and allowing them more freedom than I would give them back home. In addition, I’ve learned that if am capable of sailing a boat in the dead of a moonless night, pull up an anchor, navigate by charts…..I am capable of many things. I don’t say this to brag, just to illustrate how much I have learned about myself on this trip so far. As a result of this discovery, I am more able to see my children as the adept beings they are and watch these amazing little people grow before my eyes every day.

I suppose the evolution of my role as a mother is inevitable as I learn more about myself in my middle aged years (yes, sad to say I’m middle aged if I have any hope of living to 86). You see Mickey and I had a rough go of it at the beginning when we first met each other ten years ago. (here comes the dreaded ‘birth’ story….skip ahead if you’ve heard it…if not, you can skip ahead anyway. I’m not easily offended).

A guess it was a sign that all would not go smoothly with the birth of our first child when the Twin Towers blew up. I remember sitting there on the couch watching the horrific event and rubbing my eight month along belly as if to reassure it’s occupant that all was well. In a novel this would clearly be foreshadowing of difficult events to come, but I was completely oblivious.

It was a standard scenario in the beginning. Ben and I drove to the hospital after my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and were given a lovely birthing room. An epidural was administered at my request and I thought all we had to do was wait and be patient from that point on. Wrongo-Dongo! To keep a long story short (too late) the next 36 hours were sheer torture. They included a wide variety medications, nursing changes, spiking a 104 degree fever, pushing for 3 ½ hours and one nurse actually saying to me, “well, you’re just not doing it right.”

This was a low point in self esteem for me. Here I was…coming from a large Irish Catholic family whose matriarch birthed six babies quickly and easily…on top of the fact that I had this fine tuned machine of a female body specially engineered to birth babies and I was failing miserably!!

Finally, after the baby’s heart rate dropped, they quickly wheeled me into the operating room for an emergency C-section. Many minutes of chaos ensued and they were finally able to pull the baby out. As I lay there semi-conscious, utter relief flowed through me as I heard him let out a loud cry and they showed our beautiful baby to us. All was well! We were both alive and everything would be fine from here on out. Wrongo-Dongo!

Soon the operating room was a frenzy of activity and hushed voices as they worked diligently on the little guy (well, not so little…8 lbs. 8 ounces…must have been all that stuffing and ice cream I ate). His heart rate had inexplicably shot up to 298 beats per minute. To put this in perspective, if an adult heart tried to beat at this rate it would go give out and stop quickly. The goal now was to get his heart rate down as soon as possible. I lost consciousness before any of this registered, but our baby was whisked off to the NICU where they intently worked on him for the next few hours.

I awoke in the recovery room and Ben showed me a video of our beautiful new baby boy (who on top of his medical issues was named ‘McCormick Renner Doolittle’…who does that to a kid?) . It took me a few minutes to realize that he was hooked up to numerous wires and I asked Ben to explain. He set down the video camera and sighed. He spent the next several minutes explaining the circumstances and that they were doing their best. I stated the obvious with my sobbing reply, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Over the next several hours we waited, until a doctor and nurse team arrived in my room to inform us that our baby was not responding to treatment. They needed to transport him to another hospital where they had a more equipped NICU to deal with critical issues . So a team of nurses wheeled into my room, our baby boy who was now housed in a little “bubble”. I was able to stroke his head through gloves installed on the sides of the unit and say good-bye. I never was able to hold him.

So the next few days were spent sobbing in my hospital room wallowing in a Molly induced ‘pity party’ as I listened to all of the newborn babies crying with their new moms there to comfort them. Until my mother finally said, “Molly, you’re baby is still alive. You’re alive. Time to buck up and get on with it.” It was just what I needed to snap out of it. I will forever be grateful to her for that.

Soon after, word came that just as the doctors made the decision to give our baby’s heart a zap (stop his heart and restart it to hopefully reset the rhythm), he responded to the medication (another story in itself, but I'll let Ben tell that one). After three days I was able to be discharged and hold our baby at the other hospital. It was a surreal moment. I remember thinking that I would never ever let anything happen to him as long as I lived. A promise that realistically I cannot keep.

So you see…...again another of my long drawn out points…if you fell asleep, wake's my point......From moment one, I was put to the test. I was ferociously protective of this guy as any mother is. Yet on top of that, every day for the first year of his life, we were regulating his heart rate and administering medications, hoping today was not the day his heart stopped. Mellow dramatic…sure. My reality…yes.

So it’s been a process of letting go of that protectiveness and I am convinced life on a sailboat is great therapy for that. I think those damn birds may have it right….sometimes you just need to let them fly so they can discover what they can do.

Maybe it’s best illustrated by a game our son J.P. would often play back home on land. From about four years of age, we would pull up to the driveway and he would say, “Hey, mom. Go inside. Let’s play the ‘Visitor’ game”. I would enter through the garage and he would make his way towards the front porch. As I walked through the house, the doorbell would ring. Opening the door I would find our little boy standing there smiling and saying, “Hello, my name is J.P. I thought I would come and visit for a while. Do you have a room for me?”

I would proceed to show him his bedroom which he would accept as suitable accommodations and say, “Yeah. I guess I’ll stay for a little while.”

And there’s the rub. They’re not mine….they’re not permanent residents….they’re just visitors soaking in what information they can until they learn how to fly. I guess it’s my job to give them their freedom. Not easy and at times not fun, but damn it…I guess I have to do it. Even if it means a scooter and a boy fly off the end of the dock.

Next up….the flashback I promised previously. A CLOSE encounter with a whale!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Christmas Flashback

Current location: La Cruz (Huanacaxtle), Mexico

Still settled here in La Cruz enjoying great weather and visitng with friends. We have received the necessary transmission part which Ben has installed and are keeping our fingers crossed for a successful fix. Nasty old Mrs. Doolittle’s boat school has begun again amongst groans from her pupils who would rather ride around on their scooters terrorizing the marina residents and local townsfolk. We hope to toss off the dock lines as soon as the repair is complete and head south towards Zhihuatanejo/Ixtapa area. The actual departure is being dictated by our transmission challenges (see how I turned that into a positive….not a problem…it’s a challenge!). Apparently there are many beautiful anchorages along the way and we look forward taking our time, exploring as we go.

Now a flashback to our first Christmas on the boat here in La Cruz…..doooo-dooooo-dooooo-dooooo……

My sister Colleen (Auntie Co Co) boldly accepted our invitation to visit for Christmas, which goes to show how truly brave she is! A woman vacationing on a small Floating Frat House takes a motivated and determined traveler. Apparently she enjoyed herself since she extended her stay by a week, which allowed us to show her some sights and play a bit more. She chose to forego our “guest quarters” and slept up on deck under the stars. Coll was also a good sport about the fact our life here is not a vacation and there are always “real life” things for us to accomplish (insurance work, repairs, school, etc.).

Everyone on our dock knew about her impending arrival since Mickey and J.P. scooted up and down the dock telling everyone their “Auntie Co Co” was coming for Christmas. I think she enjoyed meeting everyone and found herself among kindered spirits who validate and encourage the wanderlust from which both Coll and I have always suffered.

When she arrived the Christmas preparations went into full swing since one of her suitcases was filled with presents for all of our family. This year’s shopping presented some challenges since the boys had specific items they really wanted (Nintendo DS Lego Batman, Star Wars Lego kits, baseball jerseys, etc.). Finding these things in Mexico were challenging and if I did come upon them, they were extremely expensive. I ordered all of our presents via Amazon and had them shipped to my sister, Kathy’s house in Elk Grove. Then she very generously dropped them off in San Mateo for Colleen to perform pack mule duties to Mexico. Fortunately Auntie Co Co got the “green” light at airport customs and all the gifts made it to the boat without a hitch.

Also, J.P. called ahead and asked her to bring her knitting supplies so she could teach him how to knit! The lessons started right away and soon J.P. was expertly creating a new scarf for his teddy bear, Jon. I would often find him in the v-berth diligently working to finish in time for Christmas. At one point he said, “shhh, Jon’s right here sleeping. I don’t want him to wake up and see his Christmas present.” I think the next project should be a teddy bear life jacket because if that bear ever goes overboard and sinks….we are in BIG trouble.

On Christmas Eve the vessel Serendipity organized a potluck for our dock in the marina. I was raised in a large Irish Catholic family, so food at any gathering is extremely important!! During one of our first dates, Ben actually attempted to eat off my plate and he almost lost an arm. Therefore, I was a bit apprehensive about a holiday potluck and was still recovering from Thanksgiving in La Paz where they ran out of desserts and stuffing (This memory STILL makes me want to punch somebody.….I think I may need therapy to recover from this tragic event).

My concerns were unnecessary since there was a bounty of delicious food AND desserts. Apparently I should have been more worried about my own contributions for the event. My brother e-mailed me his peanut butter ball recipe and I searched the markets for all of the required ingredients. Powdered sugar and chocolate chips proved to be most elusive and my Spanish speaking skills were put to the test. In the end, I discovered “azucar glass” (powdered sugar) at Walmart and our friend Lisa from Endorphin pointed me in the right direction to find some Mexican chocolate.
Making peanut butter balls was my attempt to quell the homesickness I was feeling. I tend to comfort myself food (I know….another item to discuss in therapy) and a taste of home traditions was just what I wanted.

Unfortunately, all food preparations did not go as planned. The Mexican chocolate used for the balls was not even close to Nestle Toll House and my stuffed mushrooms were literally inedible. The good news….my Pom-o-Politans (Cosmopolitan, but with Pomegranate juice) were a huge success, reinforcing something I already knew. I would be a great bartender and a crappy chef. So the mushrooms were designated to fish food and we picked up a rotisserie chicken from the “Chicken Lady” here in town (The Chicken Lady and are my new BFFs!).

After thoroughly stuffing ourselves, the kids of Dock 4 congregated on our boat for a raucous visit and spent the next hour swinging from our hand rails burning off sugary sweets. After our little visitors left, we prepared for Santa’s visit. Cookies and a tortilla shaped like the Gingerbread Man (stolen from the potluck), were set out in the cockpit along with a glass of milk. Delving into the refrigerator for carrots produced no results so Mickey wrote a note to Santa that read:

Dear Mr. C,

If you want more milk, its in the frige. Sorry abot the carrits.

The Doolittles

As Mickey and JP slept in the v-berth, we wrapped presents and toiled late into the night. Around midnight we were able to lay our heads down for a good night’s sleep and were awakened at dawn by little footsteps sneaking around the boat. Santa had left stockings in the companion way and soon the frenzy of present opening began.

By far the most interesting and entertaining gift was the new clothes Ben received. The boys and I had purchased a “lava-lava” (a.k.a. sarong) back in Mazatlan and ordered a Will Farrell “I need more cowbell” shirt on-line (see photo for results). His new Polynesian trousers was soon dubbed a “ma-wrong” by our friends on Endeavor and we all giggled as our tall, thin giant enjoyed his new comfy outfit. It should be noted that this item was on Ben’s Christmas list as he expressed a desire for something comfortable to put on after swimming out in the open sea. Again, something I love about Ben…he’s not too concerned about what people think. Maybe for his birthday we’ll complete the outfit with a “satchel”.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around and walking on the beach until it was time to go to dinner. Colleen and Ben found a restaurant called Pacifica while walking in town and made reservations for their fixed holiday menu. We sat in the beautiful garden setting enjoying one of the best meals I have had in recent memory. You know one of those meals you wake up the next morning thinking about with a smile on your face? Utter heaven and if you are ever in La Cruz Huanacaxtle, Mexico I would highly recommend it!

The meal was accented with a great bottle of wine my sister Kathy sent down via Colleen’s suitcase called “Three Sisters”. One of the things I miss most about California (besides my sisters...) is a good bottle of red wine, so this was an unexpected and much appreciated treat. The homemade dessert tray was stupendous with Chocolate Madelines, vanilla ice cream, pecan fritters with homemade caramel and a creamy cheesecake with plum sauce. My disappointment over the failed peanut butter balls was soon put to rest and J.P. and Mickey both agreed that “this is the best meal ever!!” After the consuming every last morsel of food, the boys and I ventured upstairs to enjoy the view and watched a man lead his white horse down the dirt street. Another reminder we were in Mexico!! I love his place!

It was encouraging to witness the residents of the Floating Frat House enjoy a classy restaurant and tickle their palette with something other than hot dogs and grilled cheese. There is hope after all!

Next up: Doolittle Hillbillies visit the Four Seasons plus sailing on Endeavor and our CLOSE encounter with a humpback whale….


CoCo and her new whale sculpture (with J.P.'s knitting project).

Ben in his new Lava-Lava

Awaiting Santa's visit!

Kid's Dock #4...Good times!!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rules of the Road...

Arriving in La Cruz, Mexico just in time for Christmas!

Ben and his homemade hookah!

Current location: La Cruz, Mexico

The holidays have passed and even though the pace here is much slower, we are recovering from the activities and festivities. More on that later….here’s another flashback to our adventure from Mazatlan to La Cruz….dooo-doooo-doooo-doooo….

December 18-20th - At the marina in Mazatlan, we spent the next several days attempting to resolve our mechanical issues. After having our prop cleaned with the removal of numerous barnacles, we hoped this would restore our ability to steer the boat under motor. Unfortunately, our wishful thinking didn’t work and Ben narrowed it down to a transmission problem. In other words, this probably wouldn’t be a cheap and easy fix. As the saying goes, “Cruising is simply fixing boats in exotic locations.”

My sister was flying in for a visit to Puerto Vallarta and there were several boat yards and marine stores there, so we decided to sail on to our next destination. Not a problem when you have a boat that is intended to be powered by wind. That’s the beauty of a sailboat…redundancy. When we are underway, we like to sail as much as possible and you can often hear Ben saying, “It’s a sailboat, not a power boat, so let’s sail it.”

This does not mean there aren’t moments of mutiny from crew members while bobbing along the ocean in the hot Mexican sun. If given the option Ben would sail along happily doing 2 knots, flying the spinnaker and attempting to squeeze everything out of a light breeze. It’s usually a tossup between Mickey and me to see who starts to whine first. To avoid further discourse, we implemented the “3 knot rule”, which states:

If we have been sailing under 3 knots for an extended amount of time, the captain is tortured with whines, complaints and threats of throwing his beer overboard, if he doesn’t turn on the sticking engine!!

Other rules of the road while underway:

1. Pee overboard downwind.

2. Sleeping assignments are open (you can sleep wherever you want….for example, if the boat heels over while snoozing and forces you to fall on the floor, you are under no obligation to crawl back in your bunk).

3. If a whale or other spectacular wildlife is spotted by the person on watch, you are required to run up on deck to “ooooh and aaaah”.

4. Navigator Molly’s charting of location should be checked occasionally to ensure she is using the correct coordinates and/or charts.

5. When boarded by the Mexican Navy, smile, nod and check the “excelente” boxes on their customer service survey. It is also preferable for the female on board to be wearing a low cut shirt (even if she is ignorant of the exposing nature of her shirt, apparently the Captain is under no obligation to inform her of this).

As with the Founding Fathers of our nation who wrote the Declaration of Independence, these rules were established as a result of actual events that we would rather not experience again.

The incident that led to Rule #5 is actually a good story. While in La Paz we decided to sail up to an island named Isla Partida which was reported to have great snorkeling and a peaceful anchorage. We enjoyed a couple days of swimming in clear blue waters and exploring the shallow reefs. Apparently this picturesque location provided my husband with creative inspiration. After enjoying the sunset one evening, he turned to me with a glint in his eye and said, “I wonder how you make a hookah?”

As I mentioned on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, this is where I start checking to see if his life insurance premium is up to date. Knowing that his intention for the hookah was not for its “traditional” use, I was certain it involved something seen on an episode of ‘Jackass’. Sure enough, I awoke the next morning to Ben duct taping the garden hose to our manual air pump. He was intently giving Mickey instructions to step on the pump to push air through the hose. As he lowered himself into the water, outfitted in a wetsuit and snorkel gear, he shoved the end of the hose into his mouth. This would enable him to breathe while diving on the boat to change the zincs on our prop. The attempt failed since Ben couldn’t time the breathing correctly and get enough air. However, I am certain it will not thwart further attempts at homemade breathing apparatuses. -Audible sigh-

But I digress….on our sail from Isla Partida back to La Paz, I sat in the cockpit reading chart books with Ben at the helm. I heard him say quietly, “well, prepare to be boarded.” I took it as a joke and continued enjoying our lovely sail a couple miles offshore. A few minutes later, I noticed the sound of an engine and turned around to spy a ponga (a small metal motor boat) approaching at fast speed.

Five men were onboard, two of which had automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. Getting boarded by the Navy is a common thing in Mexico. They monitor the waters and basically want to confirm that people are documented travelers within their borders (and ensure the boat doesn’t have a couple extra kilos of cargo on board….if you know what I mean). When dealing with the government here, I’ve learned to be polite, cooperative and nod a lot. It doesn’t hurt that we have two small children which results in people warming up to us quickly. Family is important here and they value it immensely, another thing I love about Mexico.

Four of the five men approaching were stoic and imposing. In addition, one was missing an eye…I’m dead serious! The fifth was at the bow smiling and waving as the captain pulled alongside our boat and he quickly hopped aboard with clipboard in hand. The ponga sped away and drove behind us, as the government official sat down in our cockpit and asked for our documentation. I scurried down below, jumping over our two children who were so engrossed with their Star Wars movie, they were oblivious that we had been boarded. Retrieving our folder with all the necessary papers, I handed them over to the very friendly and polite official who spoke no English. He proceeded to ask how many people were on board and I answered ‘4’, pointing out our two children down below. At that moment, Mickey and J.P. look up and he greeted them with a wave and a smile. My angelic, polite children (ha!) grinned and waved back, then turned their attention back to watching the movie.

So here’s my question:

When you are sailing a couple miles offshore and you look up to see a foreign man in army fatigues sitting in your cockpit, wouldn’t it make you wonder how he got there and who he is??

Apparently our normally inquisitive children lacked a sense of wonder that day and were unfazed by this exciting event (must be their crappy teacher’s fault).

When the official was satisfied we were not drug traffickers or pirates, he filled out his form and flipped over the page. He proceeded to ask us in Spanish to fill out the survey to rate his performance while conducting the boarding. Of course, this was all in Spanish, but we managed to decipher the meaning of questions like:

“Rate the performance of this official.”

“Would you say he was helpful and polite?”

We rated him “excelente” in all areas and the interview was over. He signaled to his vessel and his crew quickly and expertly drove alongside our boat again. Hopping aboard and giving us one more friendly wave, they all disappeared down the coast. I turned to Ben and said, “Well he was a nice guy. He was so friendly!”

To which Ben replied, “Yeah! I think it helped that he could see down your shirt.”
And so life goes on the Floating Frat House….

I’m happy to report that we have not been boarded since and had an uneventful sail to La Cruz (near Puerto Vallarta). Our transmission cooperated long enough for us to maneuver into our slip at Marina de La Cruz which did not exist when Ben visited here 15 years ago. This made it a challenge to find since it does not appear in our outdated chart books. When I bring up the issue of our older publications, Ben simply replies, “Land doesn’t move…It’s not a problem.”

I guess he’s got a point, but it still makes me think I’m sailing with Captain Ron (a movie from the 80’s starring Kurt Russell….a silly sailing comedy, but good fun!). Just to be clear…we have current navigational charts, but our books that provide detailed descriptions of anchorages are outdated.

We spent a night in the marina and pulled out to the anchorage for a few days. A great time was had by all as we cruised through the 40 or so boats, saying hello to friends we had not seen in a while. The boys were ready to jump out of the dinghy and swim over to our friends on Endeavor they were so excited! It’s one of the things I love about pulling into a new place, there are usually friends to be reunited with and many hours are spent catching up on everyone’s most recent adventures.

Our excitement and enthusiasm for the holidays grew as the arrival day of my sister inched closer and preparations for Christmas were in full swing.

Next up….Christmas in a foreign country, visit from Auntie Co Co…..and the answer to the burning question: Does Santa Claus deliver presents to children on boats?

Cheers! Molly

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

lovin La Cruz Mexico!

$5 traditional dinner entrees, $2 beers, outstanding service.....AND great Wi-Fi and AC/DC and Pink Floyd retro concert on massive plasma w/ killer sound......holey toledo, this place rocks!!!

Then, watching Pink Floyd, JP asks, "Why are they building a wall???"

Try to explain that one!