November 27, 2009

Black Friday Ruminations

posted via radio. Cleaned-up links, and some pretty pictures of our Thanksgiving anchorage, when we get online... might be this weekend. Might not.

If I could pick a detestable day of the year, this would be it. More than April 15, more than the most darkest day of winter. It's is making me think more about the very positive experience of doing less with less, and our own glass house.

My friend Laureen recently reviewed the book A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk. I hadn't heard of Sharon but the book sounded interesting, so I went poking around her blog. The first post I read covered a World Bank paper that made simple math of the meaningful impact of individual behavior on overall 'greenhouse gas' emissions- and questioned why people don't make changes even when they are faced with the obvious. Her prior post ruminated on her own family's choices to try and live sustainably. I'm hooked already:

".the most important (and least photogenic) thing that we do to fulfill our goal of using vastly less energy than most Americans is to choose not to do things that most people do. It isn't sexy. It doesn't look good in pictures. But it is a tool available to all of us, and it is often overlooked in our race for substitutions and replacements."

It's nice to feel good about where we are now, how our consumption has changed and our footprint has shrunk. How smug we could be, satisfying our power needs directly from the sun and wind, living simply, orienting our daily priorities around family togetherness, and fundamental needs a la Maslow instead of pop culture driven, artificial wants.

Great. Good for us. How very nice and neo-hippy. But could we have made the tough choices to meaningfully affect our consumption if we hadn't literally sailed away? Could we have avoided the popular pressure to fall in line and do what we're "supposed" to do- burning fuel to cart the kids to soccer practices and swimming lessons, buying wardrobes to meet unspoken work standards, expending power to run all the machines that make life "easier" and allow us to cram in more things that we don't need?

I wonder. I really don't know, but I'm not optimistic. It's a whole lot easier to do the things that seem sustainable on the surface, but actually involve more consumption and more stuff. One-upsmanship, even, just Boho style. Like Sharon points out, sustainability often doesn't look good in pictures, and our culture swings hard in support of the photogenic.

Sharon's thoughts are probably sticking with me because we're thinking lately about what happens in another 18-24 months, when our cruising kitty gets lean and we have to make some tough choices about what's next in our lives. Where to live, how we'll support ourselves, how to find a path that feels right. A perfect U-turn to walk in our old footsteps doesn't seem possible.

I look at the things our children are learning, the priorities being set now that I hope form a lifetime groove, and can't imagine doing anything differently. Contemplating change is hard, but finding a voice like Sharon's at least helps it feel possible somehow. And meanwhile, it just makes me which I could click my heels together three times and make the crush of people racing for a bigger, cheaper, flat screen TV today stop in their tracks, and contemplate what hole they are trying to fill.

November 20, 2009

Fiesta, baby!

It's a celebration just to have our good friends finally here with us in Mexico, but just days after their arrival we had PJs birthday to add to the festivities.

Brad lured us to the beach across from La Paz to help PJ ring in her 40th with a bonfire, s'mores for the kids and margaritas for the rest of us. This lady KNOWS how to celebrate! Jamie got the kids out to the beach ahead of time, and made a "card" in the sand with shells and other beachcombing treasures:

PJs birthday!

It's fun to share milestone birthdays with good friends, but despite the distance from home in Seattle, there were plenty of familiar faces around. Capaz crew had made a number of friends on their way south, both coming down the US west coast and on the Baja Ha-ha rally from San Diego to Cabo. We even had four boats from the Seattle Yacht Club- new friends and old!

We're looking forward to many happy memories with them as we share the miles from here down Mexico's coast and across the Pacific.

PJs birthday!

November 18, 2009

pinch me

Years ago, before grad school and babies and big jobs and houses, Jamie and I moved to Seattle. New town for me, new coast for him. The first friends we made there were Brad & PJ Baker.

Last week, we were reunited with Brad, PJ, and their boys in Mexico. They left Seattle in August on Capaz and sailed down the coast and around the tip of Baja. It still feels surreal to have our dear friends so close by, but when I popped up in the cockpit the morning after arrival, the proof was still there:

Capaz at sunrise

Capaz, anchored to port of Totem.

What's really remarkable to me is that we have been talking on and off about cruising together for most of the last 15 years. So many people plan and dream like we did, but never manage to bring that dream to reality. Life gets in the way and unexpected things happen.

Ten years ago when our eldest children were babies, we had dinner one night at our old house in Seattle with the Bakers and another couple- Scott & Mary Malone. We made a pact that night to meet in Tahiti in 2010. It's really incredible to me that we are actually doing it! OK, so Scott & Mary got to Tahiti this year (no comments about these overachievers, who we can't wait to meet up with in New Zealand or the South Pacific next year), but truly- this flies in the face of cruising dream statistics. I'm proud of us... and immensely grateful to be living this wonderful life.

I'll leave you with a panorama of the anchorage we picked to roundezvous with Capaz before doing the crazy re-entry to civilization in La Paz.... might need to click through for the full image.

Caleta Partida panorama

November 12, 2009

Favorite memories from fall in the Sea

A friend of ours said recently, sometimes it's better to just shut up and show the pictures. I can't argue! Herewith, some of our favorite memories captured since returning to Mexico, sailing in Sea of Cortez.

Fishing at Isla Carmen
Jamie and the kids, fishing from the dinghy at sunset- Isla Carmen

San Juanico
Hiking the hills behind the San Juanico anchorage, on the trail of Apache Tears

Chuyita's hot dog cart
Waiting for bacon-wrapped (oh yes) hot dogs at Chuyita's cart in Santa Rosalia

Mairen, Skylar, and a full moon
Making friends: Mairen and Skylar, from s/v Ocean Blue

Puerto Don Juan
Raw beauty in the northern Sea

Dolphins! they never get old...
Dolphins playing next to Totem

November 10, 2009

Like a fish, he is!

our resident fish
We’ve had some amazing snorkeling days recently. Up in the Sea of Cortez, where there’s warm water left from the summer heat and an abundance of beautiful fish.

The amazing thing is that when we left to go cruising last year, Niall couldn’t swim. His first big milestone was last Halloween, at our friend Betsy’s backyard pool in Malibu. He swam with delight from one side of the small pool to the other. A huge step for the kid who we finally pulled from swimming lessons because he was all about playing where he could touch the bottom, and not at all interested in anything that involved stepping over depth.

Now, he’s all about being in the water. His professed desire is to be an Icthyologist. He already has an encyclopedic knowledge of fish (right down to referencing scientists in the field in his conversation). It certainly makes him the ideal snorkeling buddy- if there is anything I don’t recognize (and there always is), Niall knows what it is. And if he doesn’t, he finds out when we get back to the boat and can spread out his books.

It’s almost hard to believe it’s really been just a year. I see him now and think about how he’s grown, and as a parent I want to pop! He’s reveling in his new skills and knowledge, too.

I’m posting a picture of him below, along with a few of his favorite underwater pictures. He’s inseparable from the underwater camera we picked up this summer, but that’s fine by us.
King Angelfish
Swimming through a school of King Angelfish

excellent eating, this one!
This one is delicious, too

find the poisonous fish
Creepy, camouflaged stonefish

November 5, 2009

Dia de los Muertos

The week or so we spent in Santa Rosalia was primarily at a marina. We chose the marina in great part to make it easy for our children to play with the other kids here, but the side benefit for me was routine early morning walks. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, comes just after Halloween.

A combination of Aztec traditions with the All Saint's Day traditions brought by the Spanish, this is a day when Mexicans remember and celebrate their family and loved ones who have died. Marigolds were sold in town to decorate gravestones. Families trucked up to the cemetery on the mesa to gather around family plots- cleaning, decorating, eating, telling stories. I couldn't bring myself to go on the actual "dia", it felt intrusive, but loved the view into changes at the cemetery through these early morning walks.

November 2, 2009

Halloween, cruising kid style

Our Halloweenies

We make a point of keeping celebrations and holiday traditions as familiar as possible. I'm sure this will get interesting next spring, since we expect to have at least one child's birthday in the middle of our Pacific crossing. There are many things to learn and enjoy from being in new places, and we certainly benefit in that respect- but there is also important comfort in the of repetition of traditions in the children's lives. And in the case of Halloween, they would probably say there is importance in collecting and eating candy, too!

Halloween this year helped me appreciate a few aspects of our nomadic life. First, we didn't have to spend several months having it marketed to us- we are able to enjoy holiday when occurred, with an abbreviated run up of about a week or so as the children considered costumes and trick or treating. I'm pretty sure that back in the US, the marketing of Christmas specific decor and gifts has already eclipsed all signs of fall. Halloween gear was on the shelves of stores before we even left the country, back in August. AUGUST, people! That's crazy.

Second, we have the time to indulge deeply in enjoying it in context. We spent most of the two or three days before creating costumes. Making costumes was something I always wanted to do, but could never fit into our busy land lives. Well, there isn't nearly as much competition for my time now! The children drew pictures of what they wanted. I tracked down a fabric store in Santa Rosalia, and found scraps to make costumes. I cut, and they sewed, taped, and painted. Siobhan's mermaid tail was acquired in La Paz last spring, but the rest came from our hands...and I have to say, I think they look pretty fabulous. They sure thought so, and that counts more than anything to me!

The unexpected delight was how prepared the neighboring cruisers were for our little trick-or-treaters. The plan was to visit the half dozen or so boats at the Singlar Marina where we're tied up. I visited boats on the dock about an hour before we planned to send out the kids- our three, Jack from Just A Minute, and Skylar and Steven from Ocean Blue. I brought a bag of candy along, so I could have a few handfuls with any boat that didn't have candy on hand. Being prepared for trick or treaters was not something I wanted to assume, and Mama Bear didn't want her kids disappointed (or her cruising friends having to turn down a bunch of cute children!). There was no need to worry- EVERY boat was ready! There were familiar candies (to anyone who has sampled the, um, unique Mexican candies like hot and salted tamarind pulp... or salted chili watermelon popsicles...this cannot be undervalued), and one boat even had fresh baked cookies.

It's a wonderful tribe out here.