Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween, Cruising Style

A quick update.  So, we have left Bahia del Sol, our home for the past several months and made our way south to Isla Meanguera, still technically in El Salvador.  It is a small island in the Gulf of Fonseca where the three countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicargaua all meet.  We plan to set out at first light tomorrow and sail the 170 miles to Bahia Santa Elena in Costa Rica. 

I receive inspirational quotes from my friend Laura Hansen's website every day. Here's the one for October 31st.  Very appropriate for our sail south.

Within the gentle breeze are the memories of the lives it touched before you

They don't celebrate Halloween here in El Salvador, but we made out own celebration with a cookie kit and treats.  We discovered the Hotel La Joya del Golfo on the island, a beautiful and tranquil spot.  The boys spent time with Rachel, the daughter of the hotel owners and even got to walk her to school today.  If you ever are in El Salvador and looking for a peaceful spot to spend some time, this is the place!!  Thanks to Richard and Rina for their hospitality and a tour of the town.

Some photos and video to document our travels:

Mickey enjoying some siesta time on the hammock. To quote him, "I never want to leave here!"  Smart dude!!
We walked through the small village and dropped off Rachel at school. Just like at home, the boys were embarrased by my picture taking.
No trick-or-treating this year (last year they trick or treated from boat to boat in Turtle Bay, Mexico).  Preparing for this, I brought a cookie kit from the US, complete with eyeball gumballs, gummy worms and severed jelly fingers.  Rachel scared the boys with her ghost costume this morning! They don't seem to mind not dressing up this year.
As soon as we pulled into the anchorage the boys spied Rachel up on the deck.  They said, "Hey there's a kid!  Let's go to shore!!"  Making friend on the high seas!! Thanks to Rachel for being so sweet to the boys and letting them watch Nickelodeon "in English".  Life is good!!
Here's a video for ya!


Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Combatting Lightening Using Lt. Dan and Forest Gump

Some would say sailors are a superstitious lot and they would be absolutely right. Common among them are;  Never leave on a Friday, don't have bananas onboard, do not rename your boat, and my all-time favorite, no women aboard.  It should be noted that we have done three out of four..

Our fellow cruiser friends, Aaron and Nicole of Bella Star, have taken this to the next level by installing a foolproof lightening prevention invention that will soon be sweeping sailing cities everywhere. Their ingenuity and out of the box thinking is inspiring to cruisers everywhere and perhaps also useful for those poor folks in the Midwest, experiencing a barrage of thunder and lightning storms. Let it be known, the Doolittles have plans for a patent and plan to market it worldwide on QVC upon our return.

First, you must obtain a worthy Lego figure or Army guy out of your children's toy box.  If whining or complaining occurs at this pillaging, simply explain you are attempting to save their lives and quell Mother Nature's most powerful force.  In our case, the Lego and Army guy were given up voluntarily and carefully handpicked by our children.  Our children have become sailors, they understand.

Next, haul your husband up the mast using a pulley system on your sailboat. Mickey and I are becoming adept and doing this, however, Captain Ben continues to take 10 minutes lecturing us on the importance of managing the lines while he is up there.  After he is a few feet from the ground, I remind Mickey that there is nothing to fear, we have a large life insurance policy on the captain and this is definitely a win-win situation. He makes it back down, we get to keep traveling and if he doesn't, we go home in style. Perhaps I should rethink this, as I observed a twinkle in Mickey's eye after relaying this information.

Forrest Gump takes a watch on the top of our mast!

The poor schmuck who is hauled up the mast, now places the figures on top using epoxy, shoe glue or any other adhesive found on board.  This will defend your mast from any lightening strikes and ensure a safe voyage for your vessel. 

There is no ceremony required, but naming figures will help solidify the relationship with your new guardians at sea.  Aboard Knee Deep we have named our Army Guy, Lieutenant Dan and our Lego Guy, Forrest Gump. Taken from the scene where the legless, Lt. Dan, ties himself to the mast screaming at the heavens while enduring a horrific storm:

"Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a bit##! Blow! It's time for a showdown! You and me! I'm right here! Come and get me! You'll never sink this boat!"

Lt. Dan kicks butt......all is well!!!
Together...they are GIANT!!! Lt. Dan and Forrest Gump working side by side. When it's not thunder and lightening could they do something about that rusty VHF antennae???
Lt. Dan takes a watch at the anchorage

This is the guy you want atop your mast when the sh##  hits the fan. And we all know everything always works out great for "Forrest - Forrest - Gump".  As we set our for Costa Rica, we are confident our guys will watch over us and make our travels that much safer. 



Some more El Salvador anchorage pics from the top of the mast:

That's a looooong fall!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Addiction Continues - The Hunt for A Giants Game in El Salvador and "Hoooonter Peenssssss!!!!"

One of the perks of following Ben and J.P. to El Salvador was Mickey and I being able to support our baseball addiction. The Giants were in the playoffs, we weren't ready to give up Papa's huge flatscreen t.v., and we had much more American food to consume before departure (clearly proven by the 10 lbs. I gained over the summer). One morning we left the house on a mission to have some good, old gringo breakfast, turning on KNBR hoping to hear some of the Marty Lurie Show for pregame.  Realizing it had already started, Mickey commanded we turn around and go back home. Since we were now in downtown San Mateo, I suggested a Sport's Grill which had wall to wall flatscreens.  The addicts were looking for their next score.

We parked the car and ran (yes, we did indeed run) down 4th Avenue in San Mateo. As we approached it was confirmed that we picked our venue correctly.  The crowd was decked out in Giant's gear and were cheering loudly about a Giant's base hit. A table opened up and we settled in to eat some pub grub and watched our team open up a can of whoop ass on the Cincinnati Reds. Only after an older man turned to Mickey and asked, "So no school today?", did I remembered it was a weekday. Ooops! At least I wasn't drinking a beer!

It should be noted Mickey did turn to me at one point and say, "So nobody has to work today?"

So Mrs. Doolittle's boat school probably won't receive the "Prestigious School of the Year" Award, but I think she definietly has her priorities straight.  While schools in the Midwest enjoy "snow days", the academy aboard sailing vessel Knee Deep indulges in "baseball days".  I blame Bud Selig...who schedules a playoff game at 11:00 a.m. on a weekday?  What a smuck!

Mickey and I proceeded to watch an amazing game and our setting confirmed that we like to watch a game where there is a lot of hooting and hollering going on.  When Buster Posey hit a grand slam, I turned to high five my son and realized he had been embraced in a bear hug and was being tossed about in the air by the same man who had earlier inquired about his educational status.  I love baseball!!!  (And - BONUS - apparently he wasn't going to call the truancy officer on me)!!

Upon our return to El Salvador the baseball addiction monster became more challenging to satiate.  It is a sport low on the totem pole here, with television coverage for soccer matches having a high priority, whether it be professional, beach or local.  Playing the enabler roles, Ben and JP had concocted a plan for the baseball addicts to see their beloved Giants play in Game 2 of the NLCS. Our friend, Santos, had a friend (this is how it goes here, everyone has a friend that has a friend), who had cable television at his restaurant. Before you picture Applebees or the equivelant, let me be clear that restaurants here are usually a palapa-type structure off to the side of the road, with no walls and furnished with plastic chairs and tables.

So the Doolittles jumped in the dinghy, picked up Santos and our other friend Michael aboard the sailboat Epiphany, and motored up the esturary.  Pulling up onto a deserted boat ramp and leaving our dinghy on the grass, we walked down a dirt road to Santos' friend's pickup truck.  Our only fee was to bring back some pupusas for the security guard.  The addicts were in deep!!

As it started to drizzle we made our way down the dark highway to our destination only to discover that they were closed for the night. This is where an American would pick up a pizza and go home.  Not in El Salvador. Santos whistled to his friend who apparently lived behind his restaurant. A few minutes later his friend (and now ours), appeared and declared in Spanish, "No problem! Follow me!".

A guy with connections to support our addiction....Perfecto!!

He led us into his house, where he flipped on the television and turned to the Fox Channel (which apparently in Spanish is 'Fox Channel').  I chuckled as I noticed his couches were the color orange.
I don't belive in coincidences and took this as a sign from the baseball Gods that we were in the right place.

We proceeded to enjoy the Giant's game narrated in Spanish and even learned a few new words.  Ben mostly got a kick out of the announcers screaming, "Hooooooonter Peeeeeeeense!!!" (The Giant's right fielder is Hunter Pence for all of you non-addicts).

When defeat was imminent, along with Mickey and I suffering severe jet lag, we packed up and  headed home. We tried to leave our new friend money for his hospitality, but he would have none of it. And so it goes here in El Salvador....these people are incredibly kind, generous and downright charitable.

The following night, we found a place closer to home with another of Santo's friends, Jose, who had left El Salvador when he was 12, but recently returned with the downturn of the American economy.  We meandered down the road to his establishment where Mickey quickly informed the lady that Fox Channel was on "viente y cuatro" (24).  Jose quickly offerred up beers and pupusas as we sat and watched the game.  He even produced a coconut from the fridge recenlty cut open with ice cold coconut milk which I drank quickly.

So it goes for the Floating Frat House. We have addictions to feed, friends to meet and miles to travel, but let it be known we will ALWAYS find a way to watch our beloved Gigantes de San Francisco! 

I will edit this later with photos, but WiFi not allowing it right now.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Doolittles Are ALL Back in El Salvador

Mickey and I returned to El Salvador with no drama or delay, the only little wrinkle is the current jet lag after a red eye flight.  Finding the cheapest tickets warranted an early morning (1:00 am) flight to Mexico City with a five hour layover until we had to catch our San Salvador flight.  Mickey was a trooper, but to quote Ben, "he looks like a truck hit him". 

There were tears shed as we said our airport good-byes to my sister Colleen, "Auntie CoCo" and my dad, "Papa".  Never one for long farwells, I like to rip off the band aid and deal with the quick, sharp pain, instead of a lingering dull ache. Unfortunately, with Ben and J.P. leaving first, in addition to all of the necessary preparations for our departure, it turned into an extended "adios". 

Even though I was extremely excited to get back aboard Knee Deep, I could feel the swell of emotion building, which was assisted by a heavy dose of PMS.  In Mickey's case, it resulted in a good, long cry laying in our bed, while I loaded up the car.  The most difficult part for him has always been the long absence from family and friends. As listened to the wailing upstairs, I second guessed this whole summer visit, wondering, "maybe it would have been easier to stay in Central America and not put him through this."

But in true kid form, by the time we were getting on the plane, he was smiling and talking about seeing his friends that live on sailboats.  His sadness has dissipated and he was happily splashing around in the marina pool with his brother by dinnertime.  I am in constant awe at how resiliant children can be. 

In contrast, J.P. packed up his backpack, gave his mom and everyone else a quick kiss, grabbed his dad's hand and walked off down the airport terminal without a backward glance. He loves his family and friends dearly, but enjoys the adventure sailboat life offers. This may be why these two brothers are such good friends, balancing each other out and learning many lessons from one another.

Mickey and I arrived in San Salvador around 3:00 p.m and made our way through Immigration and Customs without incident. Fortunately, Ben had hauled most of the "illegal" things (prescription drugs for friends, boat parts and beef jerky) with him, so I was quite relaxed when pushing button to see if our bags would be searched.  I smiled at the thought of custom agents digging through our luggage only to find textbooks, swim goggles, stuffed animals and Christmas presents for the boys. I am happy to report I was able to fit in a bottle of my favorite wine and the wine glasses I received for my birthday. It really doesn't take much to make me happy!

When we exited the terminal, there was a man holding a sign stating, "Bienvenida Molly" (Welcome Molly!).  Ben had befriended the cab driver that took him from the airport a few days earlier and hired him to pick Mickey and I up.  Being married for 12 years, he has learned that this is one of my favorite things....being greeted at the airport. Sure, it wasn't him standing at the exit with a bouquet of flowers, but to me it was just as sweet! Emilio was a bit taken back when I exclaimed, "Que es una sorpresa!"...which hopefully means "What a surprise!"  I'm hoping it wasn't some strange slang for "Hey, your fly is down".  Turns out he has a newborn baby and of course, Ben and he bonded over having two sons. 

As we took the 30 minute drive to our marina, I smiled at how good it felt to be back.  Making our way down the road I took comfort in the cows randomly wandering the streets, ferrel dogs chasing cars and women walking roadside, carrying pupusa baskets atop their heads.  I even enjoyed the three close call head on collisions we avoided, as we sped top speed down the two lane highway.  Mickey and I chuckled when the song, "I'm Sexy and I Know It" came on the radio full blast.  We were home again!!

Ben was ecstatic at how well our boat has held up in our absence.  The engine fired up right away, the interior was clean and there was no dreaded infestation of bugs which can often happend when leaving a boat in the water.  We have pulled the boat into the marina for a few days as we prepare to set sail for southern latitudes.  Some of our friends are ready to leave as well so we should have some company.

The rainy season is wrapping up here so the lightening and thunderstorms should start to dissipate which is our biggest concern.  Our current plan is to either sail two days to Costa Rica or stop halfway in Nicaragua. As always this is contingent upon weather, wind, etc.

Again, thank you to all who let us housesit and to Papa and Colleen who tolerated our family of four invading their home for the summer. Much love and hugs to all!


P.S. At some point I will catch up on writing about all of our Mexico and El Salvadorian experiences....or you might just have to wait for the book!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back to our old-new reality......

Strange how a summer of flopping on friends/relatives' couches can make sleeping on your boat in a foreign country feel like home. But I am getting ahead of myself.....still awake after 24 hours of travel....JP hanging tough!!
Some annecdotes about our trip down:

As we waited at the gate JP asked about first class. The gate agent at an adjacent gate annouced last boarding for Las Vegas.....JP shouted, "First class to Vegas Baby!! That's how I roll!!"
So I called his bluff and told him to go up to our gate agent and ask if we could be upgraded to first class......which of course he gotta love the gumption!!
Hilarious when we ended up on the plane for the last leg nearly by oursleves.....lots of room, plenty of attention from the flight attendents, a nice lunch.......JP says, "THIS is what first class is like!!"  He got his first class after all and he was loving it!!

Here is my breaksfast in MexicoCity........must be back in Central America!! It was delicious.

But the funniest thing was waiting to get cleared through customs in Mexico. Of course I packed WAY too many new electronics, was carrying MANY percription drugs for a friend (therefore I had no Rx) and to top it all off, I packed the 5 lbs of beef jerky (totally illegal to bring meat across the border) that I had carefully prepared in San Mateo.
So I am standing waiting for our bags to come from out behind the clear lucite wall where cutoms...and their pack of rabid drug dogs.....was eagerly ripping open any bag that tipped the german shepherds off......lots of shadows, barking, laughing in Spanish.....clothes getting tossed......and all I see are the shadowy outlines of the customs guys, their dogs and the baggage they are destroying. I am of course convinced that I will be in prison before nightfall and JP will be w/ the Mexican version of Child Care Services....and I will need to explain all of this to Molly!!
Everyone else's bags come out and I am standing alone w/ JP, and I am FULLY FREAKED OUT......but I pull it together enough to ask non-chalantly as possible, if this is the baggage from the flight from San Francisco.
No, it wasn't.....our bags were sitting all by themselves 2 carouselles over.....unopened. No drug dogs, no customs guys.......and the best part......all my beef jerky was still in there!!!
NOTE TO SELF......just don't DO that again!

Off to bed.......the boat is in surprisingly good shape......lots of work tomorrow but we'll be up and running in no time.


Two Doolittles Have Left the Building

Last night we dropped Ben and J.P. off at the airport to catch the red eye to El Salvador. I must admit I got a bit weepy watching those two walk away down the terminal. Mickey and I will fly out on Sunday night and join them in preparing the boat for departure to Costa Rica.

Hopefully the rainy season will be winding down and the thunderstorms will start to be less frequent....nothing like sitting in the water with a tall metal mast stretching up into the sky during a lightening storm. Two of our friends were struck this season, but have made repairs and are sailing on! They have made some scientific and technical modifications to ensure they will not be struck again.....with help from Mickey and J.P. for a description involving childlike genius, Lego men and apoxy.  Check it out, so funny!!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation......

We have booked passage back to El Salvador next week. I have mixed emotions about going back. This summer has been a blast (can you say "good beer"?) and I am a bit nervous about heading back (will the engine that has sat idle for 4 months fire up for us?)
And yet I can't wait to get back down to Central America and continue our cruise.

But before we go back, a little review of this last few months. Let me start by saying that when we talked about coming back and doing some "sofa-surfing", I had no idea how far we would take that.
Well here is the list of households that afforded  the Cruisin Griwald's some floor/couch/garage/attic/camper space:

Jerry Forbes (we were an anchor tenant here for the summer), San Mateo
Sally Doolittle, Petaluma
Erik and Laura Teply, Sacramento
Steve and Darla Lucas, Orinda
Brigette and Sean Schickendanz, San Francisco
John and Diane Perrault, Sacramento
Molly Johnson, San Francisco
Mike and Krissy Paulucci, Yuba City
Twain Harte (cabin rental w/ Forbes family)
Patrick and Susan Forbes, Elk Grove
Sam and Laurie Doolittle, Petaluma
SF Sailing company (spent MANY nights on their boats at Pier 39)
Rob annd Kara Pulkownik, Lafayette
Chris and Kim Link, Sacramento
Lee and Kathy Bucinio, Elk Grove

That's 16 weeks somehow we managed to impose ourselves on 15 of our formerly close friends!! That is one of my primary observations from this summer: being back "at home" was alot more like traveling than being in a foreign country on our boat!!

Huge thanks to ALL who opened their homes and refrigerators) to the Doolittle gypsies!

Now for a little photo essay:

SO GOOD to be back in the US of A!!!!!!!

One of the coolest places we house sat had an awesome roof patio over looking the Bay.
Music in the park in San DON'T bundle up like this in El Salvador.
Below is our first attempt at Geocaching.....I KNOW we were in the right spot......but came up empty handed. It is awful pretty up in the mountains at Twain Harte.

Molly and I also enjoyed a little bit if the high class life at friend Andrew and Emile's wedding at the Ferry Building in SF. This in Jeff enjoying a tropical bebida.

The boys and I hangin at the beach.

Academy of Sciences in SF....this is the tropical rainforest....geuss we didn't need to leave home after all.

Playinig tourist in SF w/ cousin Kate.
Lunch w/ Molly at the Beach Chalet.....we had our engagement dinner here oh so many years ago.

It was a BLAST to see so much America's Cup action w/ the boys!!

They also learned how to drive go-karts.
I taught sailing w/ Jeff and Gina below at SF Sailing Company, and drove the shuttle for the Forbes Island Restarant. You just can't keep me away from the boats.

We finished the summer w/ a birthday party for Mickey....and JP since we will be away AGAIN for his birthday.....we had a very SERIOUS football game.

I can't believe how fast this summer went by. It was a blast and we really owe a huge debt of gratitude to all who hosted us, especially Colleen and Jerry in San Mateo.