Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31st 2008 – January 1st, 2009 – New Year’s Eve and Doug’s birthday! We spent this evening with our good friends aboard Love Song, including their visitors. We were treated to handmade margaritas, and a private Indonesian dance recital, and then we went ashore to a little grass topped restaurant for dinner and ended up staying there for the evening, eating, dancing and carrying on. It was really fun! And we had an amazing view of the fireworks at midnight, including those as close as next door, and as far away as Puerto Vallarta. Even the boys made it to midnight, but collapsed shortly afterwards on a blanket supplied by the restaurant owner. Very sweet! We were thinking of you, Troy and Leah and Corie-Ann! Happy New Year, Anniversary and (Belated) Birthday!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28th – our Mexican family, Maria de Jesus and Paul arrived at our boat this morning, eager to sail with us at our invitation, but just as eager to take us to eat once more at Choy’s parent’s home. And so we went, chauffered once again by this generous crew! We ate cow head tacos – a delicacy here in Mexico. We did not want to know this, but we could not help but notice the ladies in the kitchen pulling the last bits of meat off the skull to add them to the monstrous bowl of meat already prepared. They kept the eyes separate, lucky for Maria de Jesus as they are her favorite! And the dogs got their share before we sat down to eat. Lucky dogs! After we ate, and Choy’s dad David made sure we understood we could come back any time, and that his house was our house (mi casa es su casa), we departed to the boat. Once everyone was aboard (there were 13 of us all together), we set sail. We sailed through an amazing pod of about 30 whales at close range, so we watched them and took many photos. It was absolutely magical! They were rising and diving and breaching and flapping their flippers on the water much like a beaver slaps his tail! And one of them shot out of the water and did a perfect pirouette before her splashdown! It was very spectacular, and we were very close to them, which added to the excitement! I have a couple of good photos. Amazing!
It was very exciting! Then Christian went ashore, and the rest of us all found places to sleep onboard our boat. On waking, we departed to Les Tres Mariettas Islands, anchored, snorkled, Choy (who is deathly afraid of water) swam, and just enjoyed the water. We arrived back in La Cruz by evening, and after a shocking accidental grounding at the entrance of the harbour, (the boat is luckily fine) departed them for the last time in 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26th – Happy Birthday, Uncle Sandy!! Christmas was wonderful, except that we didn’t get to talk to some of our family, even tho we tried. But the rest was excellent. First thing in the morning, the kids opened their presents. We are down to 2 gifts each, plus presents from Love Song and Gaia, which made four. And the kids were incredibly happy about that, since they thought there might be no presents. Low stuff is excellent, especially this time of year. Love Song (Kathy, Allen, Morgan and Wyatt) joined us for a big pancake brunch complete with homemade jam, cream, syrup and fresh strawberries. Delicioso! Then we had a little swim and took our potluck stuffing to Philo’s – a pizza joint and bar in town – where we joined about 100 other folks for an absolutely amazing turkey dinner with all of the fixings and friends too! The dinner was better than I could have made because there was so much variety. My boys had excellent manners, and cleaned their plates (several times). And Merle looked especially handsome, all cleaned up and shaven and smelling delicious. And the music was live, and Santa Clause even came. It warmed our hearts to see the Mexican children lined up out the door and down the block to sit on Santa’s knee and receive gifts from him – all donated by the restaurant and various individuals. They gave away over 500 gifts, someone said. That’s a lot of happy children! We plunked ourselves into our dinghy with full fat bellies, and raced Love Song back out to our sailboats to dream about the fun we had and how grateful we are to be here. Shandro was especially happy because he met a little girl tonight named Olivia, who adores him. He loves to be loved. We all do.
Love Song’s friends Doug and Chris arrived this morning. We will have some fun with them in the next week or so. Having visitors is so exciting!
Justin is supposed to join us as well, we hope, just after New Year’s, for surfing! That will be so excellent! And Ryan just told me on the phone just now that he might come down here at the end of March (if we are still here at that time!) so that will be amazing too!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23rd. Business as usual for people today. We took the kids on a bus to a big store (we call grocery stores ‘big stores’ now, as opposed to markets and street vendors, who sell a smaller variety of goods, but at far better prices). The bus was fun. My favorite part was the older gentleman and his son who were playing guitar and tambourine, and singing loud and clear on the bus for us. And the hardest part was hauling all of the groceries home. Thank goodness Merle came with me! He is so strong, and can carry his weight in groceries. Good thing too, because we bought a lot of beer!
It was interesting to me that business should be open all day today, with such an important holiday tomorrow. One would think it should all stop and rest, if the holiday is so important. But it doesn’t. So then I was thinking perhaps this Christmas stuff is contrived – in our minds, and created as reality because of what we believe. (We watched Zeitgeist a couple of nights ago, so that is rolling around in my head and contributing to this, I am sure.) I guess that is true, to a large extent, because different people have different celebrations. And everyone is always creating what they believe to be true. It made me wonder what kind of celebrations the world would have if we all listened to our hearts rather than to the (possibly contrived) information that our egos (are taught to) believe. What are the ‘true’ celebrations? Or are there any? Maybe there are things to be celebrated every second, but we are too distracted to notice? I will try to notice more.
I was feeling a bit homesick today, but not for home. Home is covered in snow and very cold right now. I was missing my family and friends. Especially Mom and Dad. Christmas really is about family, and I sent you lots of love; I hope that you got it. I wish you were here. I wish I could afford to send you all air tickets to be here with us. If I could, I would.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21st, 2008 – We attended something that I never thought I would attend in this lifetime – the baptism of Jesus at Christmas time! Jesus is the son of Dan’s friends. There was a lot of tradition in that church this morning, not the least of whom were Merle and Maria-de-Jesus playing the devil’s advocate right in church just like Uncle Sandy might do. There were probably 1000 people there for their normal Sunday service – inside and outside listening to the service broadcast over loudspeakers, and there were 32 baptisms that morning!! Following the ceremony, there was eating and drinking and Spanish lessons and broken English and French to figure out just what was in the soup anyway. Tripe soup is apparently a favorite of many Mexican families, and eaten especially for breakfast. Lucky for us, Maria de Jesus helped us finish our tripe. Homemade ice-cream was the appetizer for the evening feast, hosted by the parents and Godparents of Jesus. Among other things, there was beer, punctuated by the odd shot of Tequila, and ribs slow cooked to perfection followed by a huge cake. As if we could eat cake after all that! And speeches punctuated by laughing and champagne – a typical family wedding type gathering, except that it was all in Spanish. So we laughed when they laughed and danced with them and communicated with a lot of gestures and hopeful intuition and a Spanish word here and there where we thought we knew them. Being dropped into the Mexican culture was amazing. We like to think we made leaps and bounds in our Spanish today. But more than that, people are the same everywhere. I felt so comfortable there with those people. They are good folks who love and respect each other, who work honestly and laugh openly, who want the best for their children, and bend over backwards to welcome Canadian foreigners into their town. They visited and danced. There were the handful of older men sitting around the bar area, and babies and mamas. The old people looked like the old first nations people in Canada. It was easy to be there, and I felt very connected, despite my language barrier and my blonde family. It was awesome. And after the party, they arranged to have people return us right to our dinghy, easily 45 minutes from the party by car. How can you predict that, or even arrange it? It seems like the more grateful we are about our lot, the more surprise gifts the universe bestows on us. Mexico has indeed been very kind to us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17th, 2008. This day is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in this book of sailing. I can see the chapters now, for the first time, today. Chapter 1 started when we made the decision to live on a boat, followed by its purchase. Chapter 2 began with the move to California, and help beyond anything we could have imagined to assist us in this regard. Chapter 3 was the chapter of working on the boat, spending a lot of money, and preparing her for sailing. When I look back now, there was a lot to do, and Merle did almost all of it without any prior knowledge of sailboats or their inner and outer workings. We celebrated friends at Ensenada and named our boat during this time. Chapter 4 was the ‘creative chaos’ chapter that kicked our buts and helped us realize that it was as much us as the boat that needed work. Thank goodness Shane and Amy were not only tolerant but so helpful through that time for us. Right at the end of that chapter, we said goodbye to Amy and Shane, and said hello to Kathy and Allen, friends we still spend much happy time with. Chapter 5 was the Dan chapter. It began with ‘I hope we’ve done everything that we need to do to take this boat around the cape, because we are leaving tomorrow, gale or no gale’ and it ended today with heaps of gratitude for an incredible insightful journey, and looking south to a bright future. Chapter 6 begins today.
The Dan Chapter. Dan left us today, to fly to San Diego and then to France for Christmas. We were all sad to see him go because he brought a great deal of happiness and enthusiasm to the boat and to our lives. But, as Dan said himself in the words of Fatuhiva, the residents of the islands of the south pacific don’t say goodbye to each other when they depart, because it never occurs to them; their beliefs hold that we are all one, and always connected. So why say goodbye? Us westerners are still trying to figure that out, and no matter how many times I told myself that today, it was still sad to see him go.
The chapter of Dan began in spirit sometime in July with Shane’s intuition, followed by meeting him in person in August. But the chapter truly began on November 9th, when he arrived on our boat, and we departed on our journey. The first days were sick for me, but Merle was delighted that not only is Dan immune to seasickness, but when it was his turn at the helm in 12 foot seas, he was eager for the opportunity, and well able to hold his own.
He brought levity to our boat, and happily took his turns around the clock for watches as we sailed around the clock for 9 days. That was amazing. And once in La Paz, he helped on the boat and brought us delightful new tastes from town that we would never have bought ourselves. He was incredibly patient with the kids, and they loved his great positive energy for everything. He always had something positive to say, no matter what. When we were sailing at 1 knot, which is ridiculously slow, I can remember him saying in his half French half Romanian accent, “This is perfect! It is easy, we can enjoy a beautiful dinner, and we are still moving forward in exactly the direction we want to go! What could be better?” And then later that same evening, “Three knots! Incredible! And perfect timing – we just finished dinner nice and calm, and now the wind is starting to blow! Mucho Gusto!” He did not offer his opinion unless you asked him, and even then he was pretty flexible on beliefs. Very open-minded individual, and very connected in many ways. He has immense trust in the universe that everything will work out, and he was not easily flustered about anything. He inspired us every day, and every night when I said good night to him, I was grateful for his presence on our boat. He was not a guest – he was family in many ways, but with respect and grace uncommon in many people. He contributed characteristics like those of Merle – sports minded, and wanting to extract the most (wind) from the least (effort) – equally delighted at a fish on the hook or a spinnaker day. But he also had Allison qualities like being able to cook, and digging in and doing dishes and looking at the sunny side of life. As Merle aptly stated, he reflected some of the best qualities in both of us, reminding each of us that the other is an amazing human being and completely valid as is, no changes required. How could we have picked someone better suited to our trip? It was so easy – we just asked him and he accepted. The universe really is a fine tuned being if you just allow. We are so grateful that it brought Dan to us, and equally hopeful that we will see him again somewhere. He did say to call him if we are heading in the direction of the Marquaises, in case he isn’t busy during those months. I look forward to that time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday the 12th – our anniversary. (We celebrate any 12th that we remember. Today, we remembered!) We went to the downtown beach to surf and play and swim. We sat in a restaurant and drank fresh coconut milk (hugo coco) and beer (cervesa). Then we went to town to check out the nightlife there in the square (mercado). We had amazing dinners – each of us something different, from different vendors who were there. Matero had corn on the cob (elote) and a beef (carne) taco. Shandro had a cheeseburger (hamburgesa con queso) and fries (papas fritas). He also had a Marlin taco. Merle had a few different tastes – burritos and tacos for sure. I also had tacos and an amazing ice cream and a bite of Dan’s churros – a deep fried doughnut that is shaped like a long finger, and eaten hot with sugar or cinnamon sugar. Amazing! It was fun to eat a mishmash from the different vendors. And then, to top it off, we saw a parade! People were all dressed up and there were 2 groups making music or maybe 3, and it was awesome! It ended in the church in the center of town. We saw a couple of familiar faces at one taco stand – John and Joanne on Western Grace from Victoria, who sail down here every year, and then sail back again via Hawaii in March. It takes them 3 weeks to sail to Hawaii, and another 3 weeks to sail back to Canada. That’s a long trip!! We did return to the boat after a very full day. Matero was asleep in the dinghy before we returned to Kenta Anae. Saturday we sailed and anchored south of San Blas to avoid the no-see-ums. On route, Merle spotted a couple of whales rising, so we all had a look. That was very cool to see over and over again.
On Sunday we returned to San Blas to meet with Dan’s friend/schoolmate from France (Paul), who just happened to be visiting at this time for Christmas, and his extended family who live in Mexico. Paul’s family became our own personal tour guides and hosts, including Maria de Jesus, Paul’s family Natalie, Mae and Agate, Paul’s sister Perla and her family Choy and Jesus, and Paul’s brother, Christian.
That was a great day! (It was also a really good Spanish test. My Spanish is getting better. I can understand way more, but I still have a lot of trouble saying what I want to say. The verbs are not there.) We ate with them at a restaurant and then they decided to go on a tour of the local castle – which was at one time the only part of San Blas that was out of the sea! Since the sea has gone down, San Blas has grown considerably. Anyway, Paul’s family took us by car inland to the castle. It was amazing!! And up so high! It was a great change in perspective, and we all felt so lucky to be there! Too bad I didn’t take my camera. Amazing photos from there! Following that, we returned to the beach where we had been Friday, and ate and drank until after dark while the kids played on the beach. It was wonderful. Very relaxed, and very typically Mexican – fresh, not commercial, not eroded, just perfectly San Blas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Dec 11th. We go to the beach. Dan surfed, Merle kayaked in the surf, and the boys and I played in the surf on the beach. Shandro learned the skimboard in a couple of amazing hours today. And he was also very successful at riding the skimboard in to shore on his tummy, pushed by the waves. He must have said he was grateful that Shane and Amy gave us the skimboard about a hundreds times that day! Even Matero gave it a go, and rode it easily close to shore. They both had an amazing day. I tried to body surf. There is a lot of power in the waves, that’s for sure!! It scared me so I tried it a few times. When I am 100 years old, I willl probably be fine with not mastering surfing in this life. But I am going to try it some more just in case. Dan went into town and we retired to the boat. I think Merle was up every hour checking for him. When Dan returned (after walking several miles and swimming across a river twice and swimming the mile out to our boat – all happily and not even mentioning it actually) Merle heard him right away. I thought it was so sweet that Merle would care so much that he would watch out for Dan. Merle slept well after Dan was home.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 6th, 2008. We leave La Paz at 6pm in hopes of catching the big wind early in the week to escort us across the water to the mainland, but also in hopes of avoiding the bigger wind that is supposed to begin to blow on Wednesday. The shifts are on, every 3 hours as before. Merle started, so Dan would steer 9 to midnight and I took the midnight to 3am shift. The wind was good, and we had a nice sail through the night. Sunday (7th) was also amazing sailing with good wind. By Monday (8th), our Spanish was improving with Dan’s help, and the seas were very calm, with only a breath of wind. Merle and I decided to pretend we were on route to the Marqaise islands, to see what it would feel like being in the doldrums for hours or days at a time. Merle did well and didn’t start the motor.
Tuesday the 9th was also quiet. So quiet that Merle took the sails down and we all jumped into the ocean for a real blue-water swim. Dan was first, as usual. At one point, Dan was so far from the boat we could hardly see him. It was amazing to look down into the water with the sun behind my head; it was crystal blue and clear. I could see down deep – I bet a hundred feet. And the dolphins came!! They came to swim with us! When they came I was pretty excited. I never did get to touch one, but it was awesome to be swimming in the presence of those big beautiful creatures. We washed and all felt totally refreshed, from the swim and from the inner peace that we all experienced in that amazing clear water. These long journeys offshore are really magical.
On Wednesday, within a couple of hours of starting the engine, we had wind, so we sailed some more. We circumnavigated Isla Isabella. Although our initial thought was to anchor here, we changed our minds and carried on to the mainland, arriving by 9pm. As ‘luck’ would have it, we arrived quite by ‘chance’ in San Blas, an amazing truly authentic Mexican town with very little American influence, if any. Everything from the architecture to the food, music and people shone Mexican, and we soaked it all up like little sponges. There we found beaches, surf, fresh coconuts, only Spanish speaking people, sunshine and blue sky, and real tropical smells in the air, wafting down from the tropical forests on the hills – full of bananas and coconuts, Dan told us. He was here once, he said. We were greeted enthusiastically by no-see-ums that evening.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1st, 2008 Yahoo – we made it!! I got a reading last winter and the lady said that we were indeed going to sail, but that (at that moment) it looked like we would return in November, after being away only 8 months. I have been wondering if that would come to pass or if we were able to change our course and get onto a new path before that would happen. And we did it!! We changed whatever it was that put us on that path, and now we have a new future. That’s pretty cool!
Kathy gave me this piece yesterday. It is called In Passing, and it comes from ‘Wanderer’ written by Sterling Hayden (1916 – 1986).
‘To be truly challenging, a voyage, like life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea – “cruising”, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
‘ “I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these people can’t afford is to not go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security”. And in the worship of security. And in the worship of security, we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it, our lives are gone.
‘What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, and playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
‘The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
‘Where, then lies the answer? In Choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of the purse or bankruptcy of life?