Monday, February 20, 2012

Present Time....Barra Navidad

Current location: Barra Navidad (130 miles south of Puerto Vallarta).

No flashback this time….this is present time!!

So we continue to head down the coast exploring different anchorages and having a wonderful time sailing and seeing new places. We are currently anchored out in the lagoon of Barra de Navidad which is a nice change from the moderate swells of other anchorages. I find myself getting up in the middle of the night to check the anchor out of habit, which is quite unnecessary since the waters are dead calm.

We are enjoying the town of Barra and its warm welcome to cruisers. The Sands Hotel allows us to use the pool, internet and other facilities which the boys are thoroughly enjoying. There is also an enormous and elegant hotel across the lagoon which we have not yet attempted to invade “Caddyshack” style!

Perhaps the most miraculous find for me has been the French Baker, who comes to the anchorage every morning ringing his melodic bell signaling his arrival and ready to serve up delectable bakery goods. Now anybody who knows me, is aware of my obsession with baked goods ranging from Ho-Ho’s to Austrian handmade pastries (my sister, Colleen and I literally ate our way around Austria, attempting to sample EVERY pastry we would find). Emerit (we are on a first name basis) pulls up to the boat with an amazing selection of chocolate and almond croissants, baguettes and tortes. When requesting a chocolate croissant, he happily placed it in a bag and declared, “Voila!”. After eating an almond croissant with my coffee one morning, I informed Ben that I was truly sorry, but I was leaving him for the French Baker. Screw the sailing thing….there’s a man out there that can bake heavenly goods for me every morning!! Ben is convinced he is from the Bronx and faking every syllable of his French accent…I believe this is simply jealousy rearing its ugly head.

Due to the calm waters in the lagoon, our friends from Bella Star, Ventured, Panache and all of us on Jace decided to execute a “raft up”. This is where several boats tie up together which I have never experienced before. It’s a bit like living in a college dorm, where there is always someone in close vicinity to socialize with and yet when you need some privacy, you can always retreat to your room and shut the door. Needless to say Mickey and J.P. have enjoyed every minute of our two day social event!! We have also become quite the spectacle in the anchorage and at one point fellow sailors swung by to take pictures of our little floating community.

Zach from Panache astutely observed, “I feel like I’m living on a hippy commune”. To which he quickly added, “but you’re kids would need to change their names to something like ‘Rain’ or ‘Sunshine’.” We all agreed J.P.’s new self-proclaimed nickname of “Collateral Damage” wouldn’t pass hippy pacifist ways.

On top of all this fun, they boys were tickled when our friends from Endeavor showed up the other day. We have had a wonderful time catching up on each other’s adventures and they boys are happy to follow their friends, Sydney and James around town like little puppy dogs.

Today we plan to head south once again to the Manzanillo area, where we hope to do the necessary repairs on our fuel tank and check out an anchorage that is reported to have beautiful snorkeling.

I think Ben had something to add to this blog....see below!


The French Baker Poem
By Ben Doolittle

You come around in your ponga.
4 stroke engine with electric start.
Peddling your baked goods
rolls, croissants and tarts.

You ring your silly little bell
and pull up alongside my yacht.
My wife goes crazy smelling your goods,
all so steamy and hot.

Smug little French Baker if you know what's good for your life,
keep your baguette away from my wife!

From your orange crates
come baked goods like I've never seen.
And you speak in that little smug french accent,
you'd be perfect if only you brought cofee!

Smug little French Baker if you know what's good for your life,
keep your baguette away from my wife!

Streets of Barra at night

The "Treehouse" restaurant. Love the lanterns in the enormous tree!

The French second husband! See, the boys really like him too!!

Rafting Up...Ben took this from the mast.

Rafting up....Mickey took this from the dinghy. In order from left to right:
Bella Star, Ventured, Jace and Panache.

Mickey and his pal Maureen from the boat "Blue".

Recess!! J.P. floating in the Sands Hotel pool.

Mick enjoying some "school time" in the garden by the pool. Man, this kid has a rough life!!

Yelapa Pics

The boys and I at the "cascada" (waterfall).

This seem strange, but this reminded me of my dad back home. When I was a kid he would bring these "spools" home from the phone company and we'd build things out of them in the backyard (my brother KJ made a spectacular coffee table!!).

Here's a poster for a politician running for office. Is it me...or does this guy look like he hasn't done a day of hard work in his life?? Or is this John Edwards ressurecting his political career in Mexico??

A picture of our sailboat tied up to the mooring ball in the bay.

Walking through the narrow and tropical streets of Yelapa.

What is Ben thinking here?? A couple of guesses:

"This reminds me of our fuel tank"
"Dang, this makes me want to pee!"
"Is that crazy saleslady still behind me?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taking Turns with Tears

Current Location: Barra Navidad, Mexico

Flashback to our trip to Yelapa and getting moving again (February 9th)… of Yelapa to follow soon (there are no pics of the crying!)

As we left La Cruz, I have to admit I found myself crying on the bow of our boat. My Floating Frat House residents looked at me with disbelief saying things like, “Why are you crying? I thought you wanted to leave?” Where are the sorority sisters when I need them??? Turns out this would NOT be the only fit of tears in the next 24 hours aboard our boat.

Our first destination was a day trip to the village of Yelapa across Banderas Bay. It felt good to be out on the water again. We parked the boat on a mooring ball and headed ashore in the dinghy. After asking a local, “Donde esta la cascada?” (Where is the waterfall?). He replied in perfect English, “Follow that trail up the hill.” So we beautifully executed a beach landing in the dinghy, which resulted in J.P. being carried like a little King Tut sitting proudly at the bow as the three of us carried it up to dry sand.

Yelapa is a little town built on a hill that can only reached by horseback or boat. After convincing the boys we were unable to travel there like “caballeros”, they settled for our stupid, old boat. Apparently it’s a place where hippies and yuppies both come – hippies settling here and yuppies visiting (that’s my take anyway). As we made our way up the hill via the narrow stone streets, I pointed out to the boys how the geographical region had changed and become even more tropical. We all agreed it reminded us a bit of Hawaii.

When we reached the waterfall most of the little touristy restaurants and shops had closed down except for one hard core Mexican woman selling necklaces and other trinkets. This lady made the closer sales guys from the movie, Glengary Glenross look mellow. But alas she could not close the deal with the Doolittles due to our stubborn resolve (well, we also didn’t have any pesos). So we took some quality, touristy pics and mad our way back down the hill.

As soon as we got back to the boat we untied from the mooring ball and set sail for Chamela, approximately 100 miles south. This would be our first overnight sail in a month and a half. Ben was miffed and extremely frustrated by the autopilot that decided to turn left and go off course. However, he soon had it repaired and was on its best behavior the rest of the way. Over dinner, Mickey started to cry, missing his friends in La Cruz and experiencing another bout of homesickness. I totally empathized with him and shared that it was one of the more difficult parts of the trip for me as well. For Mickey this rang true and even more so since he has less of the “gypsy soul” as his mom and dad (oh, yeah and little King Tut). He seemed to feel better, as we all watched a brilliant sunset, looking for the “green flash” as we always do and settled in for the night.

First watch was mine and it was a lovely night. A bright full moon was quite ethereal as clouds floated in front of it causing Mickey to proclaim, “that is really romantic!”. Gotta put that one in memory book under cute kid quotes! He’s going to make some lucky woman a great boyfriend some day!! My shift passed with only minor interruptions of sail checks by Ben and me inquiring how to plot a course on the autopilot (hey---it’s been almost 2 months!! I almost forgot where neutral was on the helm, too!! ). Sleepy eyed Ben was too tired to even give me a hard time about that one!

Around 11:00 pm, Ben came up on deck while I settled snuggly into bed next to J.P. and his teddy bear, John . Mickey sleeps in the cockpit harnessed in doing night watch through his closed eyelids. At 1:00 a.m. we switched places again, but by 4:00 a.m. I was ready to get some shut eye. Before going down below, however, I told Ben I thought I smelled diesel so he checked the engine and fuel tank. Sure enough the fuel tank had sprung a leak. We spent the next two hours using a hand pump to extract several gallons of diesel out of the tank into jerry jugs.

After I had accidentally spilled some fuel on the salon floor, the inevitable happened. I started sobbing uncontrollably. It was all too much. So I did the only thing I had energy for…sat in the dimly lit cockpit, buried my head in my arm and I wept. The kind of cry that produces gasps of air in between long drawn out sobs. Not quite hyperventilating, but damn close. Ben is well experienced in dealing with me in this state of despair. However, in my defense the last time I remember it happening was when Ben discovered me sprawled out on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night after having our first baby. The door bumped me in the butt as he tried to find out what that weird noise was emanating from the bathroom. This is my physical response when I am exhausted and extremely stressed out . It doesn’t happen often, but I’m sure to Ben it resembles the “Volcano” song by Jimmy Buffet.

“I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the Volcano blows….”

So as I sat sobbing in the cockpit in the dark of night, I wept for the broken fuel tank. I wept for the $2,000 transmission receipt still sitting on the table. I wept for the fatigue that comes along on night watch. And finally I wept for the ultimate “girl” thought that kept running over and over in my head…..”my cozy, little home with flowery scented candles now smells like a truck stop.”

After telling Ben, “I just don’t think I can do this anymore!”, he did the only right thing in this situation. He kindly handed me a paper towel (sailor Kleenex), patted my back and said, “why don’t you go get some sleep.” You see we do this in our marriage quite often…while one person falls apart or is in a funk, the other metaphorically grabs the oars and keeps rowing (does that metaphor make ANY sense…hey I’m tired, I’ve been up all night!).

I went to bed and awoke at 8:00 a.m. with the pesky reminder that we had a leaking fuel tank, but at least more rested. As we sailed along, I sat in the cockpit drinking a cup of coffee, evaluating our options. At that exact moment a humpback whale went frolicking across the stern of our boat about 30 yards away. I can’t explain how amazing it is to see these huge creatures gracefully swim through the water and how honored I feel to witness it almost daily. (it should be noted that the younger crew members are now categorizing them with dolphins…..”uh, yeah mom…sure they’re great…can we go down below and eat now?” and we have a running joke onboard that they are a lot like seeing squirrels in our old backyard).

So there I sat appreciating the beauty of the moment and allowing myself to feel comforted. Things like this always happen when I feel overwhelmed, as if something out there is trying to say, “Hey Molly! It’s all good. Everything is going to be o.k. “. I’ve learned to be conscious of these moments, helping me focus on the miracles of this trip and not on the problems. Now I could get all philosophical and spiritual on you, but this blog has gone on too long already and I don’t want to bore you with my attempt at Buddha pontifications. But I will share one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einsten:

“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

As the day progressed and our in-house mechanic evaluated the leakage, we miraculously realized it wasn’t as bad as we had thought. Everything tends to be a bit scarier and more problematic in the dead of night (being 5 miles offshore in the ocean doesn’t help either). The leak was small and we would be able to repair it at our next larger port of call. Well, I say “we”, yet we all know who’s doing these repairs….but I do bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies while underway!!

We sailed most of the way to Chamela and arrived right on schedule with plans to anchor out for a few day. Hopefully there will be no further tears shed….although I think it’s the Captain’s turn now!


Friday, February 17, 2012

More Pics of La Cruz...Catching Up!!!

Recess time at Doolittle Boat School!! What a great playground!

Amigos, Leo and Theresa!! Theresa can shred the swells on her surfboard, while Leo showed the boys his boogy boarding skills! Mick has become quite the boogy boarder!

We took a hike to the Petroglyps which was awesome AND educational! Here's Ben's rock balancing sculpture which represents us as a family. Hopefully, I'm the tall, skinny one!!???

At the end of the hike was the "Bathtub of the Kings". Apparently the Native Americans still use this as a worshipping site for their ceremonies.

This sign explains the human sacrifices the Native American tribe used to worship. Mickey and J.P. thought that was pretty cool....and then got a bit jumpy as we hiked on...until I assured them they would not be taken captive!!

Our guide was April, an ex-pat surfer who has lived in the area for 25 years and raised her own two boys here. We became fast friends and she generously invited us into her house to watch the NFL a REAL living room where we lounged luxuriously instead of in a crowded restaraunt/bar. She also knew all the good surf spots!! =)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Memories of La Cruz....

I realized that through the last several weeks we haven't posted many photos of our travels in La Cruz. So over the next few days I will share some highlights of the events we experienced in our time there (also, people have e-mailed and requested less words....more photos. I can take a hint!!).

It's not unusual to have an impromtu cockpit party aboard JACE! Here's Aaron from Bella Star showing off his fancy "palm tree in a bottle" of rum!

Brian from Go For Broke and Nicole from Bella Star smiling, glad that it's not their transmission on the fritz!!

Giving Zach from Panache a hard time for checking his e-mail in the midst of the festivities!

The boys ringing in the New Year with Mexican sparklers! Look at the size of those things!!!!! Ben and I fell asleep before midnight while the boys partied on until 1:00 am....who knows what goes on in their V-berth...scary!!!

New Year's Eve in La Cruz!! Ben was miffed that I smuggled on a paper tiara that lit up w/ a blinking light!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ode To La Cruz

La Cruz, Mexico (Huanacaxtle)

We are currently in Chamela waiting for the tropical rain to stop so we can head south to Tenacatita. Here's a flashback to our departure from La Cruz on Tuesday. I apologize for the editing...I was in a hurry.

As I sit here in the cockpit, the town church bell is clanging away making me nostalgic for my college days. The clock tower in the middle of Chico State’s campus had a similar sound and rung every half hour, usually signaling that I was again late for class. Listening to the bell ring now, gently reminds me that it is time now for us get going again! Bittersweet since we have loved our time here in La Cruz over the last six weeks and it has become a home away from home.

Ben has successfully installed our new transmission and he continues to amaze me with his ability to fix just about anything. His display of perseverance and talents have been great examples for Mickey and J.P. who learned “mucho” from their dear, old dad as he muddled through this “do-it-yourself” transmission fix (I’m sure they also added some colorful language to their vocabulary he rattled off daily).

If there existed an academy award ceremony for mechanical repairs, Ben’s “I’d Like to Thank the Academy Speech” would probably go something like this:

“I’d like to thank Les and Nancy, the former owners of JACE, who answered all of my questions along the way and who we will forever be grateful for all of their support. A special shout out to Butch, the angel mechanic, who imparted his knowledge and expertise when I needed it and being an all around good guy. John from Popoki for taking a whole day out of his hectic schedule (ok so he skipped a surf session) to drive me to Mazatlan in order to retrieve a transmission donated by the generous captain of Victoria Dos. And all of the one-armed mechanics who stopped by to lend moral support, holding a wrench or bolt in one hand while drinking a beer with the other…confirming the well known fact that “man cannot repair an engine on bread and water alone”. I’d like to thank my mom for allowing me to build that motorized bar stool in the garage when I was 12. It was an excellent training ground for this project. Also for her efficient handling of our mail and depositing all of the rogue commission checks so we could purchase our new transmission. Last, but not least, to my youthful, Cindy Crawford look alike wife, who continually gave me quality advice like, “maybe you should read the instruction manual” or “um, instead of asking me, why don’t you ask the mechanic”. To all of you a heartfelt “thank you” and may all of your transmissions keep changing gears!

There are so many things and people we will miss as we leave La Cruz. Our daily visits to Huanacaxtle Café, our local “Cheers” hangout where everyone really did know our name. Even though they didn’t yell “Norm!” when I walked in, Oliver did always greet me with a friendly, “beunas tardes, maestra!” (good afternoon, teacher!). We always got warm hugs from all of our new friends, Alex, April, Oliver and J.C. (it should be noted that saying ‘J.C’s name always conjured up images of Jesus Christ due to my Catholic upbringing. It never seemed quite right that Jesus would serve me beer and tacos, but I clearly got past it!). It became our meeting place, internet café, karaoke bar and general playground with new found friends. Our visit would not have been the same without it!

I will miss our walks through town and being greeted by local merchants who became friends, petting our new furry dog pals, and eating at our favorite taco stands (sometimes located in a family’s backyard or simply tables on the street). Ben became amigos with Mario who owns a small market in town. To celebrate the Mexican tradition of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Day (making a wish for every month of the year) Ben went on a last minute search for ‘uvas’. Of course all of the markets had run out , but when asked where we could get grapes, Mario told Ben to jump on the back of his motorcycle and whisked him to another store in search of the elusive produce. Mission accomplished! From that day on, Ben would walk the extra block to Mario’s tienda to refill his “ballena” beers for 20 pesos each.

We will always cherish the kid friendly town with memories of full moon bonfires, the marina kid’s club activities (who knew a handmade Star Wars valentine’s day card “Heart Wars” – made by Mickey – would be so romantic), birthday celebrations, movie nights in the outdoor theatre, the video game tienda where the boys could “rent” Wii time and traipsing all over town on their now salty and rusty scooters. As a parent, I think what I will miss most is their freedom to explore and play with friends in a way they’ve never experienced, just the way we used to play as kids. I fondly remember the days when our parents would shove us out the door to play outside in the neighborhood with the only rule being, “come home when the streetlights come on”. In this sleepy little Mexican town, this is still the norm and I am grateful that J.P. and Mickey were able to live like that for a bit.

Other highlights included: our hike to the petro glyphs with April from Wave House, the visiting dolphins/whales who frequently swam by our boat in the anchorage, Sunday flea markets which fed my homemade tamale addiction, tacos on the street, dancing to live music, local bus rides to anywhere and being able to walk through town finding friends around every corner. We were grateful to celebrate Christmas, New Year's and our 12th wedding anniversary here (we bought each other the oh-so romantic gift of a new transmission....sweet!)

So as we prepared for departure, we took a celebratory “new tranny” spin around the anchorage, it was bittersweet to have friends come up on deck with the enthusiasm only fellow sailors could exude. They understood that when your “house” is broken the time being land locked becomes more and more difficult for us “modern day gypsies”. The overwhelming desire to see new places outweighs the comfort of a home port.

Perhaps all too timely was the last song Ben sang at our weekly karaoke night. Along with Rob from Wings of the Dawn, he belted out his own version of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” with some sailor modifications:

On the sea again
Just can't wait to get on the sea again
The life I love is making music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the sea again

On the sea again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the sea again

On the sea again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way and our way.

Vaya Con Dios, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle!! These Doolittle gypsies will miss you!

Next up: More mechanical woes on our sail to Chamela…and no it wasn’t the transmission!