Saturday, January 31, 2015

Girls can Scuba too!

After getting Tristan on Scuba it was only a matter of time before Lexi was on her way as well.  She has always amazed me at her snorkeling and diving ability.  I have often been floating over a reef somewhere and out of the corner of my mask I see something diving down.  Lexi will dive down and spin around just for fun, to see what it feels like. Thankfully, she is very comfortable in the water and easily hangs with Dad and Tristan.

After Tristan's adventure, I waited a day and refilled our smaller scuba tank and suited the gear up for Lexi.  She and Tristan are almost the same size so it works out perfectly.  I am also getting very thankful that our boat has its own dive compressor- its certainly a convenient luxury that will hopefully pay off even more in the South Pacific.

We decided to do one more family snorkel/dive at the wreck in Santiago Bay.  There are tons of fish and its rare to see a wreck/reef that close to the surface - and where we can anchor our boat within 75 feet of the wreck.

Our beautiful 12 year old Lexi- "Everything is OK!"

Lexi and I let the family go ahead and snorkel and then we set about some lightweight scuba lessons - mask clearing, ear equalizing, buoyancy control and what the gear does.  The visibility wasn't great- but we dove down to 18 feet under water to practice some of these skills and to get her comfortable. Its hard to smile with a regulator in your mouth, but I could see her whole face contort in a funny and positive way.  After a few more times up and down she was eager to see more things, and we set about exploring the wreck.

Learning to Scuba was a big deal for me, that I was eager to do for a long time.  It was one of the classes I took in my first semester at San Francisco State University.  It also seemed so much harder and more complicated to me, than it seems to be for my kids. Granted they don't understand it all yet, and what to do in all the emergencies, but they just seem to think its natural that they can breathe underwater and swim with fishes and other marine life!  Its a pretty awesome sight to see.


Lexi happily consumed half the tank as we cruised through and over the shipwreck- and then she handed off the rest of the tank to Tristan who was eager for another dive.  Lexi went back to snorkeling and diving and spinning like a dolphin!

I now have two dive buddies to send to diving certification school, and to go exploring with!  We just set our hook in the bay of Zihuatanejo, and will go ashore to look for the dive store shortly.

Hope you are all well and having great adventures! CHRIS

There's a whole other world down there!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My First Scuba Dive - by Tristan

Today I went on my first scuba dive. My dad and I and our friends all went to this cove that had a blow hole, close to Santiago, Mexico. When we got there we were getting on our dive gear when the blow hole blew a bunch of water out - it was like watching a fire hydrant exploding. 

Before I went in the water my dad taught me some of the things about diving and about the hand signals. As I was going in I was terrified that my regulator was going to cut out on me and I wouldn’t be able to get up for air in time, but it turned out that it was like breathing underwater. When you are above water the gear is heavy all together but when you get into the water it feels like nothing. When I was just floating on the water line waiting for my dad I decided to put on my snorkel and look down.  It was scary because I saw what looked like a really big fish below me, but it was actually just my friend scuba diving. 

When my dad got all his gear on and came in the water we started to practice going up and down because if you fill your BC, or buoyancy compensator, with air you go up but if you empty it then you go down. There is a point that is called neutral that is where you want to be - it feels like you’re floating in space because you are in between two forces. When we got to the bottom, we practiced sharing a regulator and when all that was done we started to look around and it was awesome. 
Unlike snorkeling,  I was not in such a hurry to look around while diving and then going back up for air. We spent about twenty minutes in the water, getting as deep as 27 feet and then we got back out took all of our dive gear off and went back for lunch.

After we finished lunch we went to a sunken ship that was in shallow water and it was awesome. Everything was almost in the same shape it had been in when it sank and it was filled with fish. When my dad and I went into the water we started to explore the inside of the ship. The visibility was good you could see about 40 to 50 feet. When you looked around the ship you saw that it had turned into a coral reef and there were a bunch of fish.  At one point we saw 32 pufferfish all in one little corner. 

It was cool seeing all the rooms and looking out the windows and holding on to the wheel. One of my favorite things about scuba diving is that when you go deep then look up you can see everyone floating above you and it just looks awesome. When I go diving next I am going to do tricks.

I think I am really going to like scuba diving, I hope that I get certified so that I can dive around the world.   Tristan

Earlier, I wrote a blog post about epic moments.  I probably haven't been great about keeping these up to date, but real epic moments always remind you about the fact that you are having an epic moment.  Scuba Diving with Tristan for the first time brought it back to me, quickly.  

Tristan, Lexi and Mykaela have played around Scuba as they have breathed off my second regulator (breathing device) in a few feet of water, but Tristan always had a greater interest in it.  Our adult friends, Mike and Amy, on Pelagic are both divers, and their 12 year old, Zander, was just getting started as well, and had started reading the PADI diving instruction manual.   When Mike talked about doing a second real dive with Zander, I thought it might be fun for Tristan and I to start playing more seriously with the scuba gear- and thankfully we had an adult XS size setup on board as well.  (Thanks Dan Nater!!!)  I truly hadnt decided what we were going to do when we got to the dive sight, but we just started going through some instruction and Tristan just ate it up.  Both Lexi and Tristan are super comfortable snorkeling, and Tristan just followed the instructions so easily.  

We descended to 12 feet and did a bunch of drills, went back to the surface and after a few more lessons in buoyancy control we were off!  It was such a rush for me to look to my side and see this little dude cruising through the water like he had done it all his life.  You could see the amazement on his face as he experienced new things and how much he loved being in this new environment.  We didnt take any chances and kept it shallow and safe, but I can see we will be doing a lot more of this in the near future.  I dont think Tristan quite knows how lucky he is, diving on an awesome wreck on his second dive, and diving in 83 degree water- all you Northern California, 20 foot visibility, 5-7mm wetsuit scuba people know what I mean!

I have already been in touch with Luis in Zihuatanejo, who is a master dive instructor, and am looking in to Junior Open Water Diver certification for both Lexi and Tristan.  Let the great new experiences continue!!!   Chris

Tristan exploring the wreck

Friday, January 23, 2015

Surfing, crocodiles and palapas OH MY......

Hello Everyone!  

We had a great time the last few days exploring Chamela, Tenecatita and Melaque.  With Paddle board surfing, boogie boarding, long walks on the beach and sitting under some palapas with an ice cold corona... the cruising life is so hard :@)  (right now at least)  

Dad and his 18 lb Dorado

We left Chamela and headed toward The Aquarium in Tenecatita.  This is a well known snorkeling site and it didn’t let us down.  We had a great time taking the dinghy out and dropping the anchor and having the kids swim a muck about all the reefs.  Snorkeling here along the Pacific Coast of Mexico has been somewhat hit and miss so it was a welcome site to see all the fish about us.  It is really fun to hear all the muffled screams and talking through the snorkel by Amaia and Alina.  Looking forward to the snorkeling in the French Polynesia.  We decided to go to the beach and hang out for awhile.  Our cruising guide paints a very tropical picture with a lot of fun little restaurants and shops along the beach to hang out in.   Well when we got there we saw a vacant beach.  It looked like a ghost town and completely deserted.  All of the buildings are completely empty and rotting.  In the cruising book it also mentions an excellent surfing beach just across the spit so I sent Mykaela and Tristan to go check it out and let us know if we should make the trek over.  It looked to be only about 500 yards away.  After a short time I decided to go over and see if I could see them coming back.  I was approached by a guy on the beach just wanting to inform me that nobody is allowed off the beach, that it is now private property and guarded by armed guards.  This really rich guy had supposedly bought or claimed this land and kicked everyone off and is battling the Mexican Government to keep it private.  So now my first thought is OH CRAP... I sent Tristan and Mykaela up there wondering.... So I used my loud whistle a few times to try to get them back.  I looked up the road to see them walking back being escorted by an armed guard with guns and 2 Huge Machetes.... When I saw that Tristan had a smile on his face and was talking to the guy, I felt a huge relief.  He had just explained to the kids that they weren’t allowed to go wondering off the beach and he was bringing them back.  When I whistled the guy didn’t know what was going on and the kids had to explain it was just “Mi Mama”  and then when I had whistled a second time they were laughing.  Again, it is really nice to see the kids having fun with the locals.  It also showed us how quickly things can change in our cruising guides and to never really PLAN on things being the way we expect.  It is really teaching the kids flexibility and to make the best out of every stop we make.  

The next day we left for Manzanilla and had a great time at the Cocodrillo sanctuary.  It was 15 pesos for adults and 10 pesos for kids to enter... If you can imagine seeing a bunch of 10ft - 15ft crocodiles swimming under your foot of this raised walkway over a swamp that is made of rusty cabling, broken boards and chain link fence that swung when you walked on it.  The kids were having a great time and then we came to a bridge.   This bridge really swayed when you walked on it so you didn’t want to put to much weight on the bridge at once so we spaced ourselves apart to go across.  There was a huge crocodile swimming underneath it going to the other side.  This is where I guess the sanctuary ends and the crocodiles are free.  He swam to the road and there were people just walking along.  One of the locals let the gringos know that there was a crocodile there and to walk on the other side of the road.  I guess that is good enough to get away from them.  

We are now anchored at Melaque.  We have met up with Pelagic, another cruising family that we have become great friends with.  They have 2 boys Tristan and Lexi’s age and a little girl that is a great friend with Alina.  Amy and Mike, Xander, Porter and AnnaKenna are planning on going through the Panama Canal, over to Florida, Across the Atlantic, around Europe, then back across the Atlantic, through the canal, over to the Marquesas and then back up to Portland.  My hats are off to them!  The kids are having a great time playing on the beach, jumping off the top of our boat and being towed by the dinghies on the boogie boards and paddle boards... We are waiting here for another boat that is coming up the coast on their way back to PV.  We have become great friends with Apropos and they will be doing the Puddle Jump with us this year.  Karen, Jim and Jacintha should be here today and Amaia and Jacintha have become BFF’s and she is very excited to see her.

This is Bucket.. He reminds me so much of my Kava!

We will be heading down to Las Hadas for a few nights and then heading down to Las Hadas next where for 200 pesos we get to enjoy all the resort has to offer.  Namely the pool for the kids.  It is a nice break to get out of the salt water once in awhile.  I am looking forward to the wifi and uploading all of my pictures.  It is always a fear of mine that I will loose these pictures that we have taken.  Like I have said in the past-everything on the boat is always in a state of getting wet or drying from getting wet and then wet again.  We store all of our hard drives in zip lock bags and hope that the moisture doesn’t get into them.  I am just waiting for the big crash and trying to do the best I can to have an alternate storage recovery option.

Hope all is well with everyone back home.

Hugs to all,

Heather and family

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A few more photos! Finally back in the water

We are finally back in to the water again. We haven't been snorkeling much, as Mexico isn't quite the Caribbean in snorkeling breadth and quality, but occasionally you find some great places.  We are about to go back out and snorkel some more but got some great shots yesterday of the family putting on our seven masks and snorkels and flopping over the side of our boat to explore.
Sometimes you get lucky with random shots you take!  I love this one!

Tristan and I have been hunting but are struggling to find "shootable" fish.  I guess red snappers don't get much bigger than these? :-)

We're also working on the quality of our underwater photos - Amaia admiring the fish
Our home, Family Circus, against the idyllic beach at Tenacatita

I hope you are enjoying your adventures!  Please send comments through email, or by logging in to the website, otherwise we don't get them! Thanks  - CHRIS

Chris's Random Update

After not writing a while it takes a while to get going again- which is what I am trying to do with this post.  I often think of things, throughout the days, that would be good blog posts, but then I talk myself out of them- audience wouldnt care, not complete enough a post, want to get more details....

Sometimes its just easier to catch up with some pictures- Heather and I both love taking pictures and with the 5-6 different cameras we have on board there are a number of different types of shots. Its also a great reminder for me of cool things that we sometimes don't write about, but are great day to day activities....sorry in advance for the random nature of the subjects!

A tradition in our family is waking up a family member on their birthday with everyone singing them Happy Birthday and coming in to their room with a candle in a cupcake--so we adapted it for the boat and piled everyone in the cabin for Lexi's birthday. I cant post the video yet, but love this photo:

We tackled a short haulout thanks to Tristan lifting the boat out of the water with his magical powers!
Rise! Family Circus, Rise!!!

And I am not sure we ever posted Christmas pictures... It probably deserves its own post, but since we may not get around to it .. we were fortunate that Santa and the Elves found us in Mexico, and Christmas morning was fabulous like it usually is-especially with more of our family with us.  Heather and I were very impressed with the muted gift expectations that our older kids had.  I hope that extends when we return back home- as all Tristan wanted was Jellybeans and Hamburger flavored potato chips!
I love how the GoPro makes the one meter tree look so big!

And now that we are finally underway, we have more cool pictures from being out at sea.  Its great having a big sister to hang out with, especially when the sun is rising and the dolphins are out to play!

We are on a constant evolutionary journey with Homeschooling, including the timing of it.  We've done some night schooling lately, and have tried splitting the workload throughout the day.  We try to give the teachers a break, and also allow the family enough time to enjoy beaches, or snorkel spots like "the Aquarium" here at Bahia Tenacatita.
A pleasantly surprising good morning of focused homeschooling!

Now that I started looking at pictures, I've found a few more.  I feel another blog post coming!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crossing our T's and Dotting our I's... reposting because it went before I was ready... sorry!

Hola Everyone,

We are having a fabulous time in La Cruz.  I just love this town.  It will be sad when we have to leave to discover the our new favorite place.  We are taking advantage of all of the professional services here in La Cruz.  I can't begin to express how impressed we are with everyone that works here and how professional they all are.  We had the boat hauled out at the La Cruz Shipyard here in La Cruz.

Thank you to Peter Vargas and all his guys for raising the water line of our boat and all your fabulous glass work.  They were completely on time and so great to work with.   It is always a little unnerving to see your home of 20 tons lifted out of the water and propped up on little pallets with braces in the back... but the guys took good care of her and extra special love to make sure her weight was evenly distributed.  I highly recommend if any work needs to be done, La Cruz is fantastic! 

We have been constantly struggling with fixing our freezer.  I guess every boat has there headache and fortunately ours is just our freezer.  We have had a number of people out to try and fix this blankety blank thing... to no avail it works perfectly for some time and then decides it doesn't feel like working any longer.  Don with Fresco Refrigeration has been amazing and so great with attempting to make a permanent fix.  We have been in contact with the manufacturer and Don has been going back and forth with them.  Yes!  it is fixed as of right now and has been working for a miraculous 3 hours... knock on wood.  It would be such a pleasure to take off from Mexico loaded down with meat to fix and ice cubes... also a way to keep all of our fish we will be catching!  Luxuries I am discovering and to have an (yes I said ONE) ice cube in my sunset drink is such a treasured added bonus!

One of our discoveries in trying to fix the freezer is that these wonderful little barnacle critters love to climb all the way up through the the sea intake valves, through all our hoses, through the filters, into our hoses that go to our freezer compressor and then back again.  God!  I can't tell you how bad they smell when you clean them out, Small Wire Brushes are a MUST in order to scrub the inside of the hoses.  So after cleaning out what we could take off, disassemble and get brushes through... HERE comes the Muratic acid flush!  They don't like that so much... sorry little guys but you are not wanted inside our boat.  What a headache and to try and keep on top of them I can already see is going to be a challenge.

Okay.. I tried to do my own laundry!  This is the before picture.  This fun little contraption came with the boat so I thought I would try it.  It is suppose to be a French laundry system... Just so you know it is now donated to anyone who wants it in La Cruz and I have ordered the 

"The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Portable Compact Mini Washing Machine" from Amazon.  A lot of the cruisers rave about them, Thank you Oma for packing it in your carry on to Zihuatanejo.... I am so looking forward to having my little washing machine on board.

I want to give a shout out to Huana, our organic ice cream guy!  We love his ice cream and it is always a pleasure for us when it isn't a good surfing day because he will be OPEN!  Otherwise we need to wait till he gets home to open... believe me it is worth the wait!  Also, thanks to Casa Jemi for the fabulous time we had at his rental property here in town while our boat was out of the water.  Jimmy the house is fantastic and so much fun.  Just like the other towns we have been in, La Cruz is really easy to fall in love with.  The local town people from the security detail, to the fisherman, to the store owners, to the marina personnel, I could go on and on... everyone is so nice and wonderful.  

The all the kids attended a science class today on Dock 9 and had fun making flubber, crystals, and learning where coconut oil comes from... didn't know it was a special tiny little coconut that is pressed to make the oil, just a tad bigger than an almond or Brazilian nut.   Then Amaia was called out on the VHF radio the Gecko Rojo restaurant owner to help her make a wedding dress for her dog for a charity event.  They are trying to raise money to help spay and neuter the animals in La Cruz.  We had dinner there the other night and of course Amaia is now BFF's with half the town.

What is next... we will be leaving here tomorrow to start making our way down to the coast to Zihuatenjo.  We will try to be there by 2/1 but have a few recommended stops along the way.  If we leave here tomorrow at 4pm our first stop is 110 miles away at Bahia Tenacatita, then off to Bahia de Navidad, then Bahis de Santiago and Bahia de Manzanilla.  Then we will head for Z town, total distance 330 miles... it seem so short.  We are looking forward to being on the hook and making new discoveries and getting out of the madness of being in town.  You always feel so much more rushed.. even in sleepy little towns.  There is always something to check on, fix, organize, catch up on etc.... time really escapes you.  It is amazing.  

I feel that we are ready to make the Puddle Jump.  We have registered and are getting all the information that we need to have in order to arrive into french polynesia... 3 month visa, medical insurance, bonds, charts, food information, etc... We will make a final provisioning in Ixtapa/Ztown and then will be waiting for the go ahead from the weather people to head across.  This should take us between 20 and 30 days.  Lets hope for good winds (not to strong) small seas, and a fast tank!  I would love to make it in 20 and I am crossing my fingers... 3 weeks without land is a really long time and you can bet when we make it I will be kissing the sand and getting my new authentic tattoo!

Hugs to all!


Friday, January 9, 2015

Three months already?

Its hard to believe that its only been three months since we headed out under the Golden Gate Bridge, on an overcast fall day, and headed "Left".  I can still picture my family frantically waving from the South end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I also distinctly remember that knot of nervousness and excitement that affirms that you are really headed in to a true adventure, in to uncharted territory.

It feels like that was so long ago, that so much has transpired. As I randomly reflect on where I thought we'd be and where we are ,it is interesting to look at the differences.

We have much to learn about the ocean, but we don't fear it as much.  We've had some exciting, edge-of-your-seat-moments, and we've had some spectacular we-could-be-on-a-postcard moments. We have a great boat that is ready for this, and we are learning more about how to really make her go.

We have loved cruising Mexico, but the truth is we've been on the "easy stretch" that is well trodden, and has a fantastic support system built in for cruisers.  Starting late next week we will start the process of breaking from the common watering holes - and we will really take a step further in to the minority when we set across the massive Pacific Ocean in early March.

We were completely novice fisherman three months ago, and now are slightly better than that.  We overwhelm the fish through persistence and dragging as many things as we can.  I wish our freezer would consistently cooperate on preserving our catches - but we aren't winning that fight at the moment.

I personally thought we'd have more free time for stuff we each brought, but a cruiser's day is much shorter, and everything takes longer.  I brought a guitar that hasn't seen use, just like kites, spearguns, watercolors and a stack of non-fiction books. I suppose that's the good news - that its only been three months-and there is still time.  On the flip side, the kids have endless drawing and crafting creativity, they read a ton, and they will stay playing in shore surf waves until the sun goes down.

We are working our way through homeschooling, managing through some lows, but also delighting in the high points.  I get a kick out of the fact that my assigned student now likes Math and thinks she's good at it (which she is!).  We still have a long way to go but we'll improve, and no one can accuse of our kids of not reading enough - they are burning their Kindles' batteries on a daily and nightly basis.

We have found that we love meeting other people on similar journeys.  Especially other "kid boats" where there is a good kid and parent match.  I can see how having to say goodbye to them as we navigate different voyage choices will be very hard to do.

I'd also say I've really enjoyed how well our family unit entertains each other.  We are fortunate in that we have happy kids that can hang out together for extended periods of time -its one of the distinct advantages of larger families.  In our normal home environment- everyone inevitably gets pulled away by other friends and activities- its fun to see them good natured as they bond together instead.

It certainly is no picnic- you have to work harder than you would think at this daily- but its been a great start.  Things will also change as we end up in more remote places- and have to be more self reliant, and do without more things.  I am sure it will challenge us, and hopefully reward us as well.

Heather and I started the process of provisioning for the next 6 months yesterday, by inventory-ing the boat and then making the first run to CostCo in Puerto Vallarta.  It has some unique supplies that are great for our large family.  It was interesting to see that most people shopping there came through the check out counters with less than 10 items.  Heather and I pulled in with two overflowing carts, and rang up a $20,000 peso bill! We've been told to expect high prices and limited options in the South Pacific, and were also recommended to bring the booze needed for ourselves and to trade.  We still have several trips planned and then have to find a home for everything on the boat- while still keeping it afloat!

We have been in a nice marina for a while, at Paradise Village, but are getting itchy to get out and go exploring.  This resort beach has 400 umbrellas stacked up on the beach in neat rows, with the staff serving below average cocktails as Parasailors and banana boats wizz around the Bay.  When we had friends over last week, we went 15 minutes up the coast and found a secluded beach with very limited access, super fine white sand and small boogie boarding waves.  We are spoiled and want to experience more of the latter.

Our plans call for a quick return to La Cruz on Sunday, a quick haulout of the boat for some maintenance work and then a few smaller provisioning trips before we try and head South to Zihuatanejo by the end of next week.  That trip should take us 10-ish days as we go in search of beaches, fish, snorkeling, surf and unknown fishing villages.  We are planning to be in the Zihuatanejo area for about 6 weeks as we countdown and get ready for the big crossing.

Heather and I's butterflies are starting to build as we think about that next big step. We have a lot to get ready for, both physically and mentally - it must be a good sign that its a real adventure!  CHRIS

"We are about to stand into an ocean where no ship has ever sailed before. May the ocean be always as calm and benevolent as it is today.  In this hope I name it Mar Pacifico"  Ferdinand Magellan, 17 November 1520

Sunday, January 4, 2015