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!



  1. Windy and I love reading your blog. Post on! Continue enjoying the journey despite the occasional tears and thank you for sharing. Best wishes to all of the Doolittles from the Robertsons on Del Viento.

    1. Many thanks Del Viento! We enjoy reading your blog as well! Happy sailing to you and your kin!