On January 11, I turned 12. In the morning there was a swimming group that I had been invited to, it just happened that I came on my birthday for the first time The swimming group is around 9 am at one of the beaches close to the marina. I will admit, swimming in the ocean scared me a little bit because I don’t have any experience with it, I’m a pool swimmer not an open water swimmer, but I guess I will have to get used to it! We started off into the slightly chilly morning water on a beautiful start of a day. Jane (the other swimmer in the group who is awesome) told me to shuffle my feet in the deeper water so if I touch a stingray it won’t sting me. They only sting when you step on the top of them. Anyways, we shuffled into the water, slowly getting used to it, then slid in. We swam out to the end of the rocky point, then we swam back and forth for a while. The water temperature was quite nice just about pool temp. That day the water was murky, but I went a day ago, and you could see the bottom 9-10 feet down it was amazing. That was great, just getting to swim again.When we finished swimming, we saw a big school of pretty fish swimming around in the shallows, it was really wonderful getting to see them on the way in.
The rest of the day I did a little school, until dad and Sean came back from solar panel shopping. I got to decide where we went for dinner so I chose my favorite restaurant (The Green Tomato.) we got our usual, DELICIOUS fish tacos, with a side of guacamole, we told them it was my birthday, and the waiter grinned ad nodded his head, we had no idea what we were in for. After we finished our dinner the big speaker that was playing music stopped for a bit until suddenly they start blasting HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!! (Which we realized was the minions from Despicable Me singing happy birthday, it was really funny) all the while they were setting off fireworks in the street (we were sitting outside) and then they brought a big plate of strawberry ice cream and really good cake with beautiful chocolate sauce over the whole thing. It was really fun, and is one of my most favorite restaurant.
We then walked back to the Batu, and ate the beautiful lemon cake that mom had baked homemade, with the strawberry ice cream that Sean got for me, and I opened my presents that were decadently wrapped in moms clothes!
I really enjoyed my birthday, and if you ever go to La Cruz, go to the Green Tomato and enjoy homemade tortillas and fresh fish in a delicious fish taco.
At this point the BATU crew has been living aboard for about three and a half months. This is just a short time, but long enough to have a good feeling of what cruising on a sailboat is all about, and to have met many other crews who’ve done the same. I’ve regularly shared my perspective, but I thought it would be interesting to talk with some boat kids to find out a bit more about the voyaging life. To support these perspectives, I’ve included a few photos of life, and wildlife, around Marina La Cruz.
PETER: How long have you been cruising?
SEAN (13): Three and a half months or so.
SARAH (12): Three months.
RAQUEL (11): About a year and a half PETER: Where did you start from? RAQUEL:
KATYA (12): Four years. We started from San Diego.
PETER: Where have you traveled during that time?
SEAN: Astoria, the Ocean, Morrow Bay, the Ocean, San Diego, the Ocean, Ensenada, the Ocean, and La Cruz, Mexico.
SARAH: I have been to Morrow Bay, San Diego, Ensenada and now La Cruz, Mexico.
RAQUEL: We’ve been cruising around Mexico. PETER: Did you go up in the Sea [of Cortez]? RAQUEL: Oh yeah, yeah.
KATYA: We traveled to Washington, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, North Wales, England, France, Australia (some of these trips were by plane).
PETER: How do you like cruising?
SEAN:I like cruising so far, mostly.
SARAH: I like it. PETER: That’s it, huh? SARAH: Yeah….
RAQUEL: I really like it, it’s really fun. I like the clothes. I take less showers. Now that I’m living on a boat, I like nature more.
KATYA: I really love the boat, cruising, everything about it, except when you’re trying to find something that’s just buried beneath everything else.
PETER: What are some of the best parts about cruising?
SEAN: Best parts are meeting other cruising boats, other kid boats, learning things at our own accord, homeschooling I guess, most of the time, sailing (as long as we’re not motoring), being closer together [as a family], not being extremely poor cruisers. Sunrises & sunsets. PETER: Humm, what do you mean by that? SEAN: I mean we are are middle-class cruisers. PETER: Is that good or bad? SEAN: Well, you know, I wish we had a Halberg Rassy 46, but it’s OK.
SARAH: I like exploring uninhabited places, seeing new wildlife, getting to spend time with you people [the family], getting to know the ocean better and trying new things. PETER: Like what? SARAH: Passages, snorkeling, fresh bananas, papayas, swimming in the ocean. Meeting all the new people and attempting to speak Spanish.
RAQUEL: We see a lot of animals. Like when cruising we see dolphins and stuff. Hiking we get to see deer and birds and squirrels. When we’re in the anchorage, our family comes to visit sometimes.
KATYA: Meeting new people. We met more people in four years of cruising than in the seven years we lived in Denver. You get so open minded, meeting different people and different cultures, seeing the world.
PETER: Cool. What are some of the worst parts about cruising?SEAN: Missing home. Missing [our dog] Rio and being back home with friends, because if we ever do come back it’s not going to be the same. PETER: Why do you think that? SEAN: Because we’re not coming back for a while, so I won’t be going to middle school with everybody. PETER: Ah, that’s a bummer, huh. SEAN: Yeah.
SARAH: Not being able to put something down without having it slide off [laughs]. Haha…meeting new people [laughs]. I dunno, not having an address. I kind of like it though, but it’s difficult if you want something shipped to you. Not having access to as many books, and being away from swim team, and friends and Grandma, and Rio.
RAQUEL: To be honest, I’m not really excited about the Puddle Jump [upcoming passage from Mexico to French Polynesia]. Sometimes I get seasick and I can’t eat, and sometimes when it’s really windy I get scared because the boat is rolling from side to side like this [waves her hands around wildly – laughs] and I worry it’s going to flip over.
KATYA: Sometimes when I need my own space – well, there’s no such thing. You can’t go for a walk when you’re out in the anchorage. Everything you need to find is buried somewhere, and you have to put up with Dad’s swearing when parts break. My Dad has his monthly swear word. PETER: [laughs] like what? KATYA: Oh, like “Jesus wept”, “Holy Mary, mother of God” and just like every other swear word you can imagine.
PETER: What are some things about cruising that you didn’t expect?
SEAN: Water conservation – wanting to, needing to and doing it. It’s amazing how much less water we use – making sure to use less than a trickle to wash all the dishes by hand. At home you have a dish washer. Having to replace the refrigerator, and then having it take much longer than expected. Replacing the battery banks. I didn’t expect to get used to living aboard so quickly. It’s not like staying aboard for a weekend – we’re actually at home. The change happened almost immediately, that the boat was home.
SARAH: How much the birds and wildlife change from place to place, and having so much time to do stuff.
RAQUEL: Well, I didn’t know we would see so many animals. We see shrimp and whales and dolphins. and I didn’t expect my dad to curse a lot, but when a piece is broken it’s like…are you kidding me?!
KATYA: To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, but I suppose I didn’t realize we weren’t going to have a plan for the entire time, and that things were going to break so much. I didn’t realize the difficulty involved. And sometimes…boat toilets really smell.
PETER: What do you think about homeschooling on the boat?SEAN: It’s a lot different on the boat. The idea of going cruising is like going on spring break; exploring everyday and stuff. Now we’re here, but you still have to fit schoolwork into that, you have to balance two lives. We have all-the-time weekend, but all-the-time school as well, so you have to balance things. Plus it’s hard to get internet.
SARAH: Very interesting… [using funny nasal voice – laughs]. It can be good and bad, and sometimes it’s kind of hard getting yourself to do it.
RAQUEL: It’s amazing. My parents are my teachers, so I get mad at them sometimes, but I start school when I wake up, so I’m in my PJ’s and stuff. The projects are amazing! Once we made a volcano! We painted and decorated a papier-mache volcano, and then I think we used vinegar with baking soda.
KATYA: I started school on the boat, then I went to school in Friday Harbor, then back to homeschool. I like the fact that you don’t have a strict schedule. And let’s get something straight; all the kids I’ve met in the last four years, and that’s a lot of kids, trust me, they are friggin’ geniuses! I mean really smart kids.
PETER: What would you say to other kids getting ready to go cruising?
SEAN: Well, ‘hang on dude’, you can’t expect anything, just hang on. Make sure to say goodbye to all your friends, and your dog. Have a big get together and say goodbye. You’ll still miss them, no matter what.
SARAH: Have fun! Don’t bring sinkable things, or make sure to tie things down…yup.
RAQUEL: I would say you’re probably going to have to help your parents, and you’ll take less showers, but it’s really cool stuff that you’ll see and the anchorages are beautiful. It’s good if you have a kayak or a paddle board so can explore the places and maybe snorkel or scuba dive so you can see the fish.
KATYA: Be prepared for the best and the worst and get comfortable with yourself and the world. After a while you give up caring what you look like. PETER: is that good or bad? KATYA: It’s a good thing because you get to know yourself better, so you’re more open and honest.
Kids have a way of being brutally honest, and these guys cell ’em as they see ’em. These are some really special kids, and I was honored to hear their insights and get a few clear snapshots into cruising life from a different perspective. A big thanks to Sean, Sarah, Raquel and Katya! There are probably 20 – 25 interesting, intelligent and engrossed cruising kids here at the moment – I wish we could have included every perspective. Hopefully these few will give a good snapshot of the voyaging life from a kid’s perspective.
Today I am in the cockpit watching the swell roll beneath the boat. It forms into perfect azure lines that rise up to break as curling white foam, peeling away from the rocky point just inside of our anchorage. The broken waves stretch out their frothy fingertips to climb up the golden shore as if trying to escape before being pulled inevitably back to the sea. The horizontal plane of beach is fringed with luscious green palms and low slung villas looking smart in their uniform white-washed walls and red-tile roofs, the occasional frangipani adding a bracing shot of magenta as if the scene were not already quite picturesque enough. At the moment the tide is low, very low. We lie in 15 ft of water and the waves begin to break only a hundred yards from the boat. We are safe, but as I write the next set is 4 -5ft and I decide to move to deeper water. It’s starting to look like good surfing. The forecast is for building swell and I don’t want to worry about the boat. We’ve been anchored in this spot for a week. Time has flown by as if on fast forward.
In news from the fridge department, our well-stocked freezer is running on low between 4 and 9 degrees F – a very, very good thing. It has been almost a month and a half since that evening when our old refrigeration system went up in a puff of electrical smoke. We’ve covered a lot of territory during that time, literally and figuratively.
Looking back several steps, our old refrigeration was a large, heavy belt-driven system that required engine-running or shore power. It needed to be run 1-2 hours per day. The old batteries were flooded lead-acid, good for taking a charge quickly, perhaps not the best for ease of maintenance or longevity. The whole system was designed around a daily engine run. When asked why we had no solar panels we would try to explain that they didn’t make a lot of sense because of our refrigeration. When we needed new battery banks we chose high-quality sealed AGM batteries for their longevity, reportedly taking 1000 charge cycles or more. What I didn’t realize at the time is that AGM batteries prefer and require a lower, slower charge. I reprogrammed the charge regulators for the charger and the engine-driven Balmar alternator when installing the new banks. When the refrigeration system required an update, the choice was easy – we’ve long envisioned a small, quiet 12v system that didn’t mandate use of the engine and didn’t sound like a jet aircraft departing the runway. However, the energy required to charge the 12v battery banks which give us refrigeration, lights, computers and so forth has to come from somewhere. Currently we run the engine, or more typically, our small Honda 2000eu gas-powered generator to recharge the batteries. Unfortunately this is not an efficient charging tool because the AGM batteries prefer such a long, slow charge. AGM’s are much better suited to the steady stream from solar panels than to a hard, fast engine driven charge. We’ve reached a point where solar panels are not just a nice bonus, but a virtual necessity. As we seek shelter from the persistent sun of the Mexican Riviera I can almost taste those free amp-hours as they stream in through efficient solar panels, rush into our battery banks, and cool me an icy cervesa. So this is the next step for us; to figure out how solar works, what we need, and where to source it. In the states we take it for granted that anything we want is just a few clicks away. Getting specialty items like this in Mexico can be a huge challenge, and UPS and FedEx are not viable options.
Next to the the boat, another splash! We are dived regularly by pelicans and boobies. I know what you’re thinking, but these are the bird variety. According to the extra-thick guide book we somehow found room for, this one appears to be a masked booby. We’ve also seen brown and blue-footed boobies diving within a foot or two of the boat. They are chasing fish hiding in the shadow below our hull. We watch them dive on other boats in a similar way. An hour ago a pod of dolphins cruised lazily past, cavorting in the waves, jumping in beautiful arcs. Possibly they were after the same fish as the boobies, but they didn’t come close enough for us to tell. We’ve read that the younger ones are the most playful and inquisitive, while the older ones get more like me, a little grumpy and curmudgeonly. Just now as I look up from writing, two pelicans have come to roost on our bow. Not sure if this is a good idea or not, but it’s pretty cool to see Sean gradually approach them with the camera.
I must admit, to me this entire scene is a miracle. When I really stop to think about it, it’s unbelievable that we’ve made it here as a well-functioning team, and in good working order. We’ve had our problems, sure, but problems are to be expected. How you deal with problems is the real test. I am so proud of my wife and kids as they rise to these occasions, constantly making our team better.
We have kept our cruising schedule deliberately vague so that we could blaze our trail together as a team. The only concrete plans we had were to spend at least a month here in the Puerto Vallarta area. There are many great options from here. We’re currently beginning to gather info for our upcoming BATU team meeting where we will outline our next steps. We will certainly keep the updates coming.
For now, I swing on the bow in our super-comfy ENO hammock from outdoorplay.com and watch the sun set in an impossible explosion of colors that eventually rolls up into a tapestry of moon and stars. I think to myself “we are here, we are HERE, we ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE! Yop!!”