Saturday, December 26, 2015

On our way to Costa Rica!

El Salvador has been great and we really enjoyed our time here. We will be departing Bahia del Sol, El Salvador on Sunday (12/27) for a 3-day, 2-night sail to Costa Rica. Internet may be limited, so we will update things as it becomes available.

Our tentative arrival will be on Tuesday (12/29) into Bahia de Salinas or Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica. More to come...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad from El Salvador

Yes, I won.  Did you have any doubts?  We stayed in El Salvador for Christmas.  We had a truly wonderful experience at a local expat's house.  Every year Jan cooks up a turkey and invites cruisers to bring side dishes.  Jan teaches English to the local island kids, so she invites them over for Christmas dinner as a reward for all of their hard work.  We had a great time practicing our Spanish with the kids and testing them on their English. 
Christmas morning on the bow.

Look Mom, your scalloped corn was a big hit!

After dinner, the kids gathered for a game of futbol. 

Rewinding a bit, Hannah celebrated her 8th birthday December 20th.  Her birthday just happened to fall on a Sunday.  Every Sunday the cruisers gather at Lynn and Lou's house for a pool party and BBQ.  It was absolutely perfect!  Their pool and home are beautiful.  Lynn baked cupcakes and several cruisers brought special gifts for the occasion.  It really meant a lot for Hannah to be recognized and feel special for her big day.  A HUGE thanks to everyone for making a birthday that will be remembered for many, many years.  

Another kid boat, The Vortex, arrived in the marina on Tuesday.  The kids are having a blast playing together.  They are heading south as well after spending some time here.  Hopefully, we will catch up in Panama.  The plan right now is to head out on Sunday at high tide, around 4:30pm.  We have a good 3 day weather window with a relief from the Papagayo winds so we'll probably skip the Gulf of Fonseca and head to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua or straight to Costa Rica.  Stay tuned...

Mina, Hannah, Katelyn, & Henry

Saturday, December 19, 2015

El Salvador

We had a great 48 hour run from Chiapas, Mexico to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.  Bahia del Sol is a bar crossing so it needs to be timed with a high tide.  High tide was at 6:40 am so the plan was to allow ourselves 48 hours to make the run in time for the tide.  We still needed to get our Mexico zarpe before leaving Chiapas, which couldn't be done without customs coming for a visit the day of departure.  Knowing that they most likely would not be at our boat on time, we told them we needed to leave at 5am - so they arrived at 6:30.  After a brief inspection and paperwork, we pulled away from the dock at 7:15.  I was nervous getting back into the swing of things.  It would have been nice to have our first voyage be an easy day run, not a 2 nighter, but everything was great.  We fell into our normal sailing routine like riding a bike.  We were able to sail about 60% of the journey.  The first night, we were hit with 3 squalls.  We were reefed and ready for action.  The wind never exceeded 15 knots, but we had a nice downpour.  For the first time in quite a while, I wanted to have my foul weather gear on.  We were actually cold.  That feeling would soon be replaced by the heat of the searing sun beating down on us.  The second night was uneventful as far as weather was concerned, but the fishing pangas kept us on alert.  These guys were sitting out in the dark of the night and would shine a flashlight at you out of nowhere to make sure we knew they were there.  Unfortunately, they don't show up on radar until you are within 1/2 mile of them. 
Our much anticipated bar crossing into Bahia del Sol was nothing to write home about.  We had seen pictures and heard horror stories of boats coming in over breaking waves.  We rolled over a bit of a swell as we followed the pilot boat in.  Bill on the pilot boat got on the radio and welcomed us to El Salvador.  Jake and I looked at each other and thought, "that's it?"  Apparently, we arrived at a good time of year for the crossing. 
Checking in to the country was pretty easy.  It was $10 per person and $30 for the boat.  We had joined the El Salvador rally earlier in the year with the intention of being here earlier.  The rally was long over, but Bill still had our goodie bag full of t-shirts, caps, and goodies.  That was super nice of him to not forget about us. 
We are anchored out in the estuary near the Bahia del Sol hotel/marina.  We have paid $14 for the week to use their pool, showers, dinghy dock, and wifi.  They also give us $1 beers and a 30% discount on food.  Not bad for $14...
We have been doing some exploring with our friend Erlin on sv Ventured.  Erlin crewed with us on Ohana from Seattle to San Francisco.  He has summered over here for the past 2 seasons and has a lot of local knowledge.  Our favorite part of the country so far has been the pupusas.  Pupusas are a traditional El Salvadorian dish.  They are a thick tortilla made out of rice or corn, then stuffed with beans, cheese, pork, etc.  We found a place nearby that sells them for 60 cents each.  We usually eat 2 apiece - $4.80 for dinner for a family of four...
We are debating whether or not to stay here for Christmas.  I vote yes, Jake wants to keep moving.  I'll let you know who wins...  

Pupusas with pickled cabbage on top

We took a 30 minute dingy ride to La Herradura for provisons

El Salvadorian pilsner for $1

This poor iguana was road kill... then dinner.

Hammerhead shark tails

Local fisherman bringing in their catch of the day - hammerhead shark.

$4 meal

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hot in Tapachula

I have never tried hot yoga, but I image it to be similar to the weather in Tapachula Mexico.  I don’t know if I am any more flexible after 7 days in my simulated yoga studio, but I’m sure that I have sweat away a few pounds.

Jake is worried that this post will be too negative.  I’m not trying to be negative, just honest… Our life is not all boat cocktails and beaches.

First of all, we packed, dragged, and hauled WAY TOO MUCH CRAP back to the boat.  It was fun being back in the states and walking into a store and saying, “Oh wow!  That would be nice to have on the boat!”  Boy, did we pay for our lapse in judgment and weakness towards commercialism.  When we left Half Moon Bay in September of 2014, we were good.  We had all the equipment, toys, games, books, movies, etc, etc. to last us a good 2 years.  Therefore, everything that we purchased just now was a “want” not a “need” and was stupid.  Even my pressure cooker that I was so excited about was stupid.  Guess what I found at the Tapachula Walmart for less money – a pressure cooker.  So why did I lug it around in a suitcase for 3 days?  Lesson learned, if we leave the boat again, we will not be coming back with 10 suitcases bursting at the zippers full of crap. 

Speaking of leaving the boat…It is amazing what can happen to a boat after being unattended for 7 months.  So amazing that our engine starter apparently started on its own while we were away.  Luckily it blew a fuse and didn’t damage anything, but itself.  It was charred and fried when Jake found it.  Not sure if lightening or corrosion caused it to spontaneously start.  The good thing is that Jake had a spare starter on board so he installed it along with a new ignition switch just in case. 

Everything else on board was okay, just a bit dirty.  We had minimal mold.  We did acquire some ant friends.  We found some wasp nests in our canvas around the helm and cockpit cabinets.  Yuck!  We didn’t find anything some bug spray and cleaning product couldn’t tackle. 

We spent the first few days still on the hard trying to clean and organize as much as we could.  Jake had maintenance stuff to take care of while we were out of the water.  We had the yard crew paint the bottom. 

Ohana was put back in the water on Wednesday and we have been working our sweaty booties off since then.  For all of the new crap that we brought on board, we have taken off some old crap.  We made sure to pick a slip with no neighbors so we could really spread out and organize everything.  The yard workers are the proud owners of our donated luggage.  The book exchange at the marina will soon be full.  Hannah actually told me today that she doesn’t want any more toys for her birthday or Christmas.  That would have been nice to know before I packed birthday and Christmas crap. 

The reason that I am so negative, er, honest, about all this crap is because it is taking away from everything that we love about this lifestyle.  Of course there was going to be hard work involved and cleaning involved after coming back to a deserted boat.  Now, on top of all of that I’ve had to completely organize and filter through and find places for a bunch of crap.  It feels like chaos.  When living on a boat every bit of space is precious and I don’t want to look at crap.  And I’m HOT.  Why didn’t we pack a magical fan that would make me feel 10 degrees cooler?  We packed everything else. 

On a more positive note, the girls are doing great.  They are loving being back on the boat and are completely supportive of my meltdowns. 

Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post – they would probably have some negative looks and/or gestures.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Back in Mexico!!

We have arrived safely back to Mexico and Ohana. Traveling details can be another post, it was challenging to say the least. Since being back in Chiapas, Mexico, we have been going non-stop working on various boat projects. After 7-months of storage, it's amazing how dirty and non-functional a boat becomes.

Today (12/09) we are being launched back into the water after getting our bottom painted and minor repairs below the waterline. We promise to post more and add some photos soon....right now we need sleep!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Journey Back to Ohana

After packing and repacking about 20 times (no joke) we were confident that our luggage would meet the required 55 lb per bag weight limit.  That’s 55 lbs times 6 suitcases plus our carry-ons which we stuffed the heaviest stuff into.  All together we had 6 checked suitcases, 4 carry-ons and 4 backpacks and a cat…

We proceeded to rent a minivan to drive all of our crap from Phoenix to Las Vegas.  We overnighted in Las Vegas (too exhausted from packing to have any fun) and with the help of our best friend Z managed to get all of our luggage checked and board our plane to Mexico City without incident. 

We landed in Mexico City and were delighted to find free luggage carts in baggage claim to assist with all of our bags and the cat.  We had a reservation at the Camino Real Hotel located inside the terminal at the airport and although convenient, we still had to lug everything through customs and to the hotel.  After clearing customs with a “green light” (thank goodness), we were on our way to a good night’s rest at the hotel.  Not so fast, our three luggage carts piled high with 10 suitcases were not allowed past customs and into the main terminal.  No problemo!  Two friendly luggage helpers were standing by with their dolly carts ready to assist.  They proceeded to load their carts with the 10 suitcases and the cat and took off at mock speed towards the hotel.  I have never seen anyone walk that fast with over 250 lbs of luggage on a hand cart.  Luckily, the guy with Luna’s cage did stop briefly to take a breath and I was able to disguise her cage with a black garbage bag so we could smuggle her into the hotel.  Our helpers were rewarded greatly with a tip when we reached the hotel. 

The next day was more or less the same fiasco getting all of our crap and the cat checked in for our flight to Tapachula.  The Volaris check in counter girl gave us a good eye roll and sigh when she saw all of our stuff.  Yes, lady we already paid in advance for our extra luggage.  No, we are not here on vacation…

Finally, on the third day of our journey back to Ohana, we landed in Tapachula, Chiapas.  All luggage, children, and cat accounted for.  Jake prearranged a ride with our tour guide from our last visit to get us from the airport to the Holiday Inn via his van.  The Holiday Inn would be our home away from home for the next 4 nights while we made Ohana livable again and had her bottom painted.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Holy Crap!

We are one week away from leaving civilization and heading back to the simplicity of Ohana.  Yikes!  I thought I'd be super excited, but right now I'm just plain stressed.  We have a lot to cram into a short amount of time.  On the to do list - celebrate Thanksgiving (duh), spend as much time as we can with family, purchase Christmas gifts to for the girls, get Luna vet certified for the flight, and of course pack all of the crap that we have accumulated since May.

Speaking of packing... You may be wondering what a family of four would deem necessary items to schlep over the Mexican border and bring to a 41 foot sailboat.  We all have our own ideas of "necessary" items.  For Jake, it includes cruising guides, screws, anemometer, emergency water rations, underwater flashlight, fishing lures, fuel filters, and the newest version of the Delorme tracking device.  For Katelyn, it includes the latest music from 1D and 5SOS, converse, jeans, jean jackets, leather jackets (on the beach in 90 degrees???), books, and journals.  For Hannah, it includes every trinket and rock she has collected over the past 7 months, books, Barbies, giant stuffed dogs, baby dolls that cry, etc, etc, etc... And for me, well lets just say I have regressed a bit on my shopping restraint.  I will be packing a pressure cooker, fabric for new throw pillows, curtains, cockpit cushions, contact paper, sewing needles, acrylic wine glasses, lime squeezer, immersion blender, electric knife, Christmas lights, a selfie stick (super excited about that!!!), and a new underwater camera.  As you can see we all have our priorities on the boat.

Ziplock space saver bags are my new best friend.  I was able to scrunch 6 cushions for our cockpit in these bags.  They all fit in one suitcase.  Amazing! 

Random crap (mostly Hannah's) that we have to fit in a suitcase somehow...

We ended up with 6 checked suitcase, 4 carry on rollers and 4 backpacks.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

And so it begins...

The countdown has officially begun...
7 Countries...2 Oceans...6 Months (approximately)

Our tickets are in hand and we will be returning back to Chiapas, Mexico and 'Ohana the first week of December to begin our next big journey south. After a week of boat projects and getting things ready we will head out into the vast Pacific Ocean and make way to El Salvador, our first Central American country. Continuing south we will also be visiting Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. From the Pacific Ocean side of Panama we will be transiting the Panama Canal and enter the Atlantic Ocean (say Caribbean!!!).
With stops to offshore Columbian islands, we will be cruising and exploring the Western Caribbean. Our final destination will be the "Sunshine State" of Florida!
More to come, stay tuned...

United Mexican States
Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Republic of El Salvador
República de El Salvador

Republic of Honduras
República de Honduras

Republic of Nicaragua
República de Nicaragua

Republic of Costa Rica
República de Costa Rica

Republic of Panama
República de Panamá

Republic of Colombia
República de Colombia 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mexican Memories

As our time here in Arizona winds down, we begin to reflect on our six month tour of Mexico.  Although we are heading back to our beloved home Ohana, securely stored in Tapachula.  That will be our final port of call in Mexico.  The end of the road.  The beginning of a whole new journey and exploration of Central America – El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.  We will soon be pulling out of the Port of Chiapas with zarpes in hand and ready for a new adventure.  

We have had good intentions of posting about our learning experience while traversing the Pacific Coast of Mexico.  Not only about the culture of a new country of exploration, but also our experiences while cruising full time for 9 months beginning in Half Moon Bay, CA.  Being that we have been sucked into the landlubber lifestyle for six months, we have been much too busy and much too uninspired to share.  So, what better time than now?

What we learned about Mexico:

Don’t expect to find a toilet seat in any public restroom – or toilet paper… BYOTP, I can not stress this enough!

There are amazing Mexican woman who will be happy (well I don’t know that for a fact) to do a family of four’s laundry for less than 10 bucks.  Everything comes back perfectly folded and smelling like a Snuggle bear.  We used this service SEVERAL times in many different locations and only once were we missing something.  I returned the next day with my Spanglish and was able to get my sheet back.

People are genuinely nice.

When walking into a store, restaurant, any place really, people actually acknowledge you with a greeting and a smile.

Nachos are better in the US.

Walmart – it’s everywhere.

Shampoo, conditioner, lotion are cheap.  Sunscreen and bug spray, not cheap.

Milk comes in a box, unrefrigerated until opened. 

Eggs are not refrigerated.  They are “real” eggs though.  Sometimes they even have a little poo and feathers left on them.  We noticed the difference right away when we bought eggs in Arizona.  The yolks are unnaturally bright yellow and the whites are more watery.  I don’t even want to know why.

Raw chicken skin is yellow.  That’s right, chickens eat corn when they are not raised in Foster Farms slaughter houses.

It is important to ALWAYS watch your step when walking around town.  You can expect many different levels of concrete, holes, glass, wires, etc., etc.

Chimichangas are American.

Tacos sometimes mean taquitos and other times they are actual tacos.  It’s a nice surprise.

Anything broken can be repaired in Mexico.  The Mexicans are forced out of financial necessity to make do with what they have and repair something instead of running to the nearest big box store to buy another one.  Good for them.

There are TONS of Canadians cruising and vacationing in Mexico.  I often found myself picking up a Canadian accent rather than Spanish.

Don’t expect to find any needed boat parts, and if you do, expect to pay 3x as much as West Marine.  Yikes!

Mexican food carts are amazing!  Seriously, never got sick from eating off of one.

Pretzels.  Where are the pretzels?  They were very hard to find.

Jamaica is a drink made from dried hibiscus flowers and tastes amazing.

No need for cups, some drinks can be served in plastic baggies with a straw.

A Mexican fishing license is a waste of money.  We did not catch nearly enough to justify the $46 per person (including the kids) fee.  And of course, no one ever verified that we had them.

Tacos al Pastor.  I could eat them every day for the rest of my life.

Fresh produce galore.  Every day is a farmers market in Mexico.

No cars necessary, there are plenty of taxis and buses to get around in.

Families and children are cherished in Mexico.  Some random stranger once kissed Hannah on the top of her head and it wasn’t creepy at all.  If that had happened in the US I probably would have tackled the guy and kicked him in the you know where…

Trust.  We once loaded our malfunctioning outboard motor  into a taxi with a guy that we had known for maybe a week, entrusting him to return it in working condition.  And he did.

The only place we were truly uncomfortable (safety wise) in was Acapulco.

We also learned a lot about ourselves and the cruising lifestyle in general:

Conserving water really sucks.  If money were not an issue, we would most definitely invest in a watermaker.

We learned to adapt to whatever food we could find in each port.  We experimented and tried new things.  We ate a LOT of fresh food – fruits and veggies galore.

We learned to work together as a team and that a little bit of respect goes a long way.

I learned that dolphins are my new favorite animal.

We learned to be patient.  Patience is a constant factor in EVERYTHING – waiting for a weather window, waiting for the wind to fill the sails, waiting for the girls to get along, waiting for a marina with decent showers…

As we sit here in Arizona reflecting on our life, we learned that we made the right decision.  We have no regrets about living on a boat and traveling together as a family.  Learning to let go of obstacles that are implanted by society is the first step to freedom.  I thank God for our open mindedness and ability to take that first step.  Our possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Luna the Boat Cat

Hello.  My name is Luna.  I live on a boat with my family.  I have a mom, a dad, and two sisters who
take care of me.  We love each other very much.
What's it like being a feline living on a boat you might ask.  Well, there are definitely pros and cons.

Sometimes I get a little seasick... It took me a while to get my sea legs.  I am not a fan of the engine noise.  I used to run and hide under the bathroom sink when the engine was on.  I started to feel like I was going to starve to death, so now I venture out more when the engine is running.  I prefer sailing so that I can hear the gentle lapping of the water on the hull and the dolphins playing in the water.  I am always offering to use my night vision skills on deck during night watches, but my owners are always shooing me away.  I guess it might be because I don't follow the everyone in the cockpit has to have a life vest on rule.  I'm not a big fan of rules... 

I pretty much get the run of the house (boat). 

In my free time, I enjoy fishing and talking to birds. 

It's not all fun and games.  Living on a boat and exploring the seas is hard work. Being a black cat in the Mexico heat is not easy.  Sometimes I just have to find a cool spot to nap.

Recently, my owners stuck me in a cage and put me on a plane to Arizona.  They made me hide in hotel rooms along the way.  It's a good thing I'm so laid back or I could have really made their trip miserable.  Now I'm in a big house that doesn't lean sideways.  I have a lot of room to run and play.  They have these big plush things called couches everywhere.  OMG they make my claws feel amazing when I scratch them.  My owners put some dumb pink covers over my claws.  I guess I was causing some damage or something.  Humans aren't very smart though, I have these things called teeth that can just rip the dumb pink plastic things off my claws no problem. 

Being in a house is ok I guess.  It's just has hot as Mexico though.  I'm not sure why we left.  I do enjoy watching the bunnies, lizards, and quail run through the yard though. 

I miss my boat life.