Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico


You can also find me on G+ and twitter, and most of my photos get uploaded to


to start something, you must end something else

To walk into a new room you inevitably have to leave the one you're currently in. To start a new adventure, you need to tie off your old one.

When we lost our boat two-and-some-change years ago, it was a real blow to the gut. Quickly overshadowing the loss however was the real work that had to be done as a father, husband, and grateful friend. Also, the overwhelmingly supportive response that literally came from all corners of the globe was humbling. 

We quickly decided to get ourselves a new catamaran, in the high 30's / low 40's range. Used, but in good shape, we started imagining all of the things that we would do with it. Nothing extreme: just the combined knowledge of living aboard for 8 years, and spending 2 of those sailing offshore and living in the tropics. There are two things that I think any offshore voyaging sailor knows:


  • Keeping a vessel in passage-ready condition is hard work and a significant amount of money.
  • You have to commit to it, and by doing so you close off other options.


I very much loved watching our girls grow up at sea, and I've written literally tens of thousands of words to that effect. I love the culture of the waterfront and offshore sailors, almost without exception, share a common unbreakable thread that has run through seafarers since the first intrepid soul set out beyond site of land. 

Since being back on land for the last two years, we did what I've advised anyone considering a journey to seriously consider (waterborne or otherwise): No one is going to give you a trophy or buy you a beer because you sailed a boat around in tough conditions. Whatever adventure you want to do, make sure it's what you really want. Make sure you're not just replicating the curated-for-eyeballs published accounts of other adventurers. Live your adventure. 

After we lost our home, specifically as the person who scuttled Rebel Heart, I very much was scarred with the reality of making my family homeless and relying on generosity of friends and strangers. Humbling beyond words, the show of decency and compassion we received as a family will be with me until my last breath. But I also committed to trying my hardest to not making my family couch surfers again. I wanted an address in the United States that we owned. Maybe it's a little too domestic for readers of this website, but it's the truth.

Initially, we of course considered San Diego. Our adopted home town, one of our children was born here and I'll keep my 619 phone number with pride forever. I wrote a bit about why I wanted to leave San Diego, if you're interested.

Over the last couple of years we've spent more and more time up in the Eastern Sierra. With a good friend I backpacked (most) of the JMT last year. My daughter and I spent weeks up in Mammoth and June, snowboarding. I brought friends to places in the South Eastern Sierra that I was lucky enough to be brought to as a child. The mountains have always held a special place to me and they have a lot in common with sailing.


  • Mountains, like the ocean, are combined displays of majesty, peace, and nature in unbridled power. You cannot insulate yourself from the forces around you; rather, you learn to work with them.
  • People in small mountain towns help each other because often they have no choice. Ties are slow to form, like on the waterfront, but long lasting once forged. 
  • In our particular town, it's a deterministic place to live. No one "accidentally" moves here. You're here because you really want to be here. There's a bit of pride to it. 


And so last week we moved into our new home in Mammoth Lakes, leaving San Diego behind. Our boat plans are on hold. The idea of being on a catamaran sailing the high seas is as enjoyable now as it has ever been. But walking my kids to school in a small town, knowing all my neighbors, and listening to the wind rush through the pines sounds pretty good right now too. In fact, at this place in our life, it sounds better. Plus, we're at the foot of one of the nation's best ski areas, and being able to bike/ski/snowboard/hike together as a family are daytime routines I'd put up against many of our sailing days. 

I thought a lot about whether I wanted to write again about our experiences here in Mammoth. About whether or not I wanted to grab an Internet-podium and hop back ontop of it again. This website and the popularity it garnered was a double edged sword. It gave fuel to the rather small group of folks who vocally disagreed with how we handled our affairs, but at the same time I met countless people who drew strength from what we did, as I draw strength from the trials and experiences of others. Plus, I've learned a few things about managing popularity both in a functional sense (like turning off comments) and in philosophic one (like how to handle large volumes of feedback spanning the supportive-to-hateful spectrum). 

And with that, I don't see any further updates to this website from me. If you're interested in following our new high altitude journey, you can find me over at Otherwise I'm sure we'll run into eachother somwhere on top of a mountain or in the middle of a raging sea. Good luck on your efforts, and don't let anyone but you define your life.


cruising in a toyota

My mighty 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, bouncing over train tracks.In the end of October I realized that I had spent about half the month sleeping in a tent. 

My friend and I walked the bulk of the John Muir Trail. I did my field practical for a search and rescue team I'm joining. I've taken (dragged) my children out to the desert for weekend trips. 

I don't do well sitting around. A good friend of mine and fellow sailor went through a tough cancer fight, of the same variety that another friend passed away from. One of the Air Force PJ's who helped our family died barely a few weeks ago in a training accident. Charlotte and I are getting older. The gray hairs that were once a novelty are now forming a more united front on my head. 

And my children are getting older. Cora is, as normal for a human, turning from a child into a small adult. I talked to her the other day about how the transition is gradual. We don't even let people become a US Senator until they are 30 years old: the more trips you have around the sun, if you play your cards right, the more wisdom you accumulate although I'm sure anyone reading this can attest that plenty of people manage to remain copiously stupid despite advancing years.

A few miles before Muir Pass, John Muir Trail. All of this adds up to a theme that basically drives me throughout most of my life: the end is near. Well maybe not "near", but certainly it's not getting any further away and possibly it's more near than we'd like to think. 

My two wonderful girls will be done with their respective childhoods faster than I can realize, and probably faster than I want. I'm pretty fit and strong, but those will start to fail me too, and before they give out completely I will be consistently slower than before and take longer and longer to heal. 

Spend a couple of hundred miles in the High Sierras to really appreciate "passes" and what they mean to your daily schedule. And so I've found myself pin-balling around lately. In a desperate mad scrabble to do everything in this world I can, I've found success, failure, and much in between. 

In some ways, sailing was easy because of the identity it provides. There's community, there are some clear definitions, and there are well laid tracks in front of you with options for what to do.

Back here on land, it's different. You have to pick between buying and renting. There are Targets nearby. deliveries. Credit scores and prostate exams. 

All of those things hold true on the water as well, but they're less in-your-face. The forced simplicity and hardness of a sea-going lifestyle breeds a different set of priorities. Similar to exercise and keeping your calories in check, it's not always fun, but the ends justify the means. 

Parked out in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, two Land Cruisers, the girls, and our redneck firepit. And so I'm continually treading water. San Diego isn't a bad place to be stuck for a while, but "a while" will be two years this spring which is getting a little much. 

Some of my writing is well formulated and I'm trying to getting a message out. Others, like this, is more on the cathartic side. 

I guess when your previous plan was to sail a boat around the world with your family, second place goals to tide one's self over are miles away from first place. 


goodbye nate

On Monday I resumed my normal work schedule after taking a couple of weeks off to hike the John Muir Trail with a friend. I came home eager to see my family, drained but recharged, and looked forward to each day with an optimism that I've come to rely on more and more.

I went to the gym for a bit, and on my way out I had several missed calls and a text message from a PJ in the 129th

Nate Schmidt died in a training accident. I knew you'd want to know. 

Nate was one of the four Air Force Pararescueman that jumped from a C-130 a year and a half ago to save my youngest daughter's life. And now he was gone himself, training for a job that only the most selfless and couragous members of our society would embark upon. 

For the three days we spent together on Rebel Heart before the USS Vandergrift arrived, he wanted to buy a sailboat and head down the west coast to Latin America. When he asked if I'd be interested in doing the trip with him, I said in clear and certain terms, "Yes, anytime, anywhere. Name it, and I'm with you."

Looking at Nate kitted out in his CSAR gear with an M4 paints a picture which is off center from the person I knew. Living no more than 10' away from him for 72 hours in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I saw a very special man. Someone who played with Cora and put up with endless corny jokes, the punchline-less variety that can only be delivered by a 3 1/2 year old. Someone that held both of my daughters in his arms, with kindess and affection. 

Nate literally carried Cora on his back when leaving Rebel Heart. That image, of her riding on him, ended up as a piece of body art that he had tattooed on his leg. 

I've been trying to square up my feelings ever since I got the message that Nate is gone. There is a clarity present in Nate's life that stands out to me. He was a selfless person with a kind spirit. His life was in the service of others, and I along with a countless multitude have an outsized impact because of him.  

I will never take him for granted, and by extension I will not ignore my own ability to work hard in the service of others. Albert Pike wrote:

The onward march of the human race requires that the heights around it should blaze with noble and enduring lessons of courage. 

Nate was one of those lights, and will continue to be for myself and my family. A constant reminder of what a single person can do. What a team can do. What a decent person who works hard in the service of others can do. 

Nate, thank you. I hope you knew how important you are to me and so many others. 


why is questioning someone's religion such a taboo topic?

In the great (southern) state of Kentucky, a clerk is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. On legal grounds? No, not at all. On religious belief.

Davis says that to approve marriage licenses for same-sex applicants would violate her deeply held religious belief that matrimony is between one man and one woman.

Unpack the word belief with me for a moment. You are only reading this blog post because you believe that you are relatively safe from physical harm. If you believed that a wildfire was a mile from your house and making fast tracks to get to you, your behavior would change (one would imagine with lots of collecting your belongings and driving fast). Beliefs are not in a vacuum: they greatly guide and influence our behavior.

Kim Davis, standing by her belief that a supernatural power doesn't want two men to get married.Let's say that I decided to not go to work because I believed a rabid dog was in my office. My boss would most likely cautiously check the situation out for herself, perhaps armed with a stick. She would not simply take my belief without evidence.

To better parallel most religious belief, I could tell her that a book penned by god (or those used as his surrogates) has told me that a rabid dog is under my desk. Her evaluation of the facts are irrelevant because I believe in the book I have read. Further, I have been instructed to distrust (or worse) those who doubt my faith. Indeed, to be mocked by those who do not believe in my office's rabid dog is a badge of just how faithful I am.

These examples may seem silly, but only because they are outside the cannon of typical American-Christian values. Switch out the canine in my workplace for a value set drawn from religion, and now the tables have turned a bit.

If I call my boss and say I cannot work on Sundays because god says so in a book that I consider part of my religion, she would not feel at all comfortable disproving my silliness. Under the cloak of religion, all manner of nonsense and unverified truths become something that we don't dismiss out of hand. 

Unfortunately, religion does not find itself capable of staying out of the practical sphere, and it is because of the affect of belief on our behaviors. 

You would (hopefully) not have an operation performed on you by a surgeon who studied astrological charts first to determine the best incision technique to use. And while that may be their religious belief, this belief should not be tolerated as it has a tangibly negative net impact on society.

If you have the stomach for it, you can read about how providing medical care for children was not required by parents if it is a religious belief until very recently. If you say you don't like doctors because their coats are too white, that's not going to cut it. But if you say that god told you that prayer works better than medicine, well then you're all set.

I hope we can advance to a point where extremely large claims, like the dog in my office or god disliking the marriage of two men, requires evidence. The impact of unfounded belief in the supernatural simply has too high a cost to our society for it to continue getting a pass when making unsubstantiated claims. 

Aug282015 - hopefully helping out one day

I'm in the unfortunate position of having some decent knowledge of what it's like to be on the receiving end of a complicated search and rescue operation. 

It's sort like being punched in the face. You basically want to avoid it as much as you can, but there is something to be said for knowing what it feels like. And if that knowledge can help someone else, then maybe the damage you took ultimately helped out in aggregate. 

I built because I wanted to bone up on my MVC and Azure skills. And if you're going to build something, you might as well aim to be helpful in the process.

So what does it do?

0.5) It's free, just to get that out of the way.

1) MyHikePlan lets you file a backcountry plan. When you head off into the middle of nowhere, it's a good idea to write down where you're going. But more than that, if you ask search and rescue (SAR) professionals, they'd like to know more. They want to know what your skills are. What any medical problems might be you started with. They want to know what type of weather and conditions you were expecting, as those are directly tied to how you prepared yourself. They want to know, in your words, what you were thinking.

2) If you're late coming back from a trip, a simple one-pager is emailed to your emergency contacts with instructions on how to notify proper authorities. And that one-pager is perfect for printing off and handing to everyone from chopper pilots to ground search teams. 

3) You can tweak it all from your mobile phone, so if you want to make some adjustments to your route or alert settings, you can do that right up until the last minute.

Example one-pager for SAR teams.I've been slowly adjusting the site, getting little bits and pieces of information from the search and rescue community and plugging in suggestions as I can.

Normally this information is handed over to a friend, but there are some subtle breakdowns that can happen with that. For starters, there's no clear format with required information when giving info to a friend. 

More broadly, it's not your friend's responsibility to ensure SAR teams have the info they need: it's yours. You need to pick a clear photo of yourself. You need to describe your route in your words. You need to describe your existing medical situation. 

Think back to the "telephone game" in grade school. While you or a loved one is dropping further into hypothermia, hours are wasted patching together and passing along information that should have been compiled in advance with nothing lost in translation between you and the people on their way help you out.

And before anyone asks, I registered ... that one's up next. 


austin stephanos and perry cohen currently lost at sea

Right now, there are two teenage boys missing in the Atlantic Ocean. Their exact fate is unknown and as the time goes on the most terrible of possibilities gains more and more traction: these boys aren't coming home.

I haven't bothered to wade through the horseshit that is certainly being shoveled at the parents right now. Without a doubt, critics from all circles are embracing that most American of pastimes: turning into a puritanical mob hell-bent on leveling moral vengeance. 

The clicks-and-eyeballs-ad-revenue news media fuels this behavior. People want drama and controversy, and modern "journalists" are happy to provide it.

Fortunately my fifteen minutes of fame is long over, so let me pick apart the critics of these families a bit. 

Leaving firearms, alcohol, and motor vehicle deaths aside, we'll just focus on drowning in general. Every day in the United States, roughly ten children die from drowning in swimming pools. Every two and a half hours, every day, a child drowns. Even more brutal is that plenty of life-altering permanent neurological damage occurs for children who survive but suffered lack of blood profusion to the brain for a sustained amount of time.

If the spittle-flying critics really are concerned with the safety of children then surely the shockingly high death rate from backyard pools would be the top of their list. But they're not, and the media doesn't really report it, and sort of like black people dying in Africa (5,500 children a day is the number, by the way), our whole society puts our collective fingers in our ears and ignores it.

But man-oh-man, when something juicy comes along like two boys lost at sea, or a family crossing an ocean, well now there's some info-tainment for you. I don't know about other countries, but here in the US of A we take a certain pride in publicly lecturing those who we feel step out of line. 

  • It has nothing to do with safety.
  • It has nothing to do with a true assessment of risk.
  • It has everything to do with novelty and the treating of our fellow citizens like they are a reality TV show for our entertainment. It's not just an opportunity to criticise, we feel like it's our duty. 

Let me raise an even more blunt point: oceans are better than swimming pools for raising children. Do you know anyone who developed lifelong confidence, connection with others and the environment, and a profound understanding of life via a backyard swimming pool? No, and you never will. 

But if you know any sailors (I use the term to include all who crew ocean going vessels), you'll know these people are deeply and permanently affected by the sea. It is a powerful teacher, taskmaster, and perspective-bringer. 

So not only are backyard pools (and firearms, and alcohol abuse) a much more serious threat (by any math) to the children of America, but you don't even get a lot of positives out of them. I digress, but the ocean doesn't have a lobbying group as where pools, firearms, motor vehicles, and alcohol do. 

So to those of you who shelter your children from, but at the same time expose them to, mortal danger, and then hop on your high horse to denounce others, I squarely write in big bold letters that you're a bad parent. 

Your children will enter the real world one day, and that world isn't the kumbaya singing fantasy land that you're conditioning them to grow into. It's a real world with life and death, beauty and danger, pain and comfort. No matter how much you want the world to be a safe place, it isn't. 

That the critics of this world don't jump all over you when your children are injured in a non media-publicized way simply means your life is in the same cattle chute with everyone else and while it's easy to throw stones at people unlike you, it's terribly uncomfortable to look at your own problems and see them as such. 

If the parents of Austin and Perry ever read this, first and foremost I hope they are found safely. As you've indicated in the press, sailors know the ocean and there are countless search and rescue operations that have yielded jaw dropping results

If your children are gone, I cannot even let my mind go to that place because of the anguish that it entails. But as parents I look at you through a lens that although not popular these days, is what even your critics regard as courageous and noble, when they can arrest their own desires to defend their complacency. 


i think i [still] want to sail a boat around the world

One year and some change has gone by since our big drama on the high seas. I've had a few people ask me, probably just trying to be nice, if I was going to write a book about it. For me, I didn't want the loss of our boat to be the end of a story. Maybe there would be an additional chapter padded on at the end with some obligatory nods to the future, but essentially it would be a story about loss and disaster.

A larger and more significant crisis averted, but a substantial loss none the less. I just can't square that narrative as being my story, even if anyone would want to read it.

Rebel Heart as seen from the HC-130, smoke grenades deployed to the right in the water.I went backpacking with a friend a few weeks ago for Father's Day. It was terrific, although I'm afraid I didn't shut up the entire three days. While rambling, I heard myself say out loud a truth that I've been formulating in my head for a while: my children will have a better life growing up as sailing kids. And I'm not being the father I should be by keeping them from that.

There are some realities that I'm sure you know better than I do. Realities that no matter what I argue, you know in your bones to be a certain way and you've arrived there through a lot of experience and reflection. The kids on the boat are one of those for me. 

My daughter picked up a penny yesterday from the ground and put it in my pocket, saying "Here dad, this will help buy our next boat." She already gets it: a goal that is so much more massive than nearly any other. A goal that not only consumes you but also one that's worth being consumed by.

And that version of life is frankly better than the alternative. Charlotte and I talk about it a lot: it's just so damn easy to live on shore. In a year's time sailing we would have made dozens of new and interesting friends. We would have had close calls, seen amazing things, turned our backs on not-so-amazing-things, and done it all as a family.

Some days being in boat world is quite terrible, even when you stop and smile for the cameras. Puerto Escondido, mid summer. The years we spent on Rebel Heart, especially our last two spent really sailing and putting miles on, were some of the best and hardest of my life. In not-that-many years from now, our youngest daughter will be-not-that-little anymore. There are some realistic reasons for waiting until kids are a little older: sailing life is hard with 0-4 year olds. But after a certain age, those reasons devolve into excuses. 

If you've never seen that the grass truly is greener in the sea, I can understand why it doesn't call to you. But for those of us stung with sailing heroin, we just can't shake it.


going (back) to kennedy meadows

My friend and I clinked our tequila loaded mugs together on the last night of a multi-day backpacking trip in the Sierras. It was a success on many levels. Our kids, both four-soon-to-be-five-year-olds, not only survived the 2-night/3-day adventure but by all accounts had a great time. 

We started out at Kennedy Meadows. Located in the South Sierra Wilderness, a day's travel north will take you (along the Pacific Crest Trail) right into Inyo National Forest. The South Fork of the Kern River runs nearby, and beyond all that it happens to be the first place that I went backpacking myself in 6th grade. 

Eric and Cora hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail.

What was really amazing to me is that the first place we set up camp, north of the first stock bridge, was the exact same location that I had gone to as a child. Perhaps quite literally my tent was in the same location as I slept decades before. Being there with my own child, and being able to share the whole experience with another family, was another one of those torch bearer moments that make the whole mortality thing a little less depressing.

The only thing more woodsy than a titanium spork is eating out of a titanium pot with your titanium spork.

We kept it to a simple out and back course (caltopo details, for anyone super interested). I had some big dreams about a loop but the problem with loops is that if you don't make the distance you need to early on then you have to make up for it in the end. Essentially if you screw up the mileage plans on your loop, you're going to have a death march.

A note on death marches: there's a knife edge on backpacking with kids, and you need to play with "pushing it" vs "at-the-moment-enjoyment". Indeed, these two factors are at work with adults as well, but adults can communicate better, train harder, and (typically, but certainly not always) complain a lot less than small children. Walking up mountains is tough, there's no way around it. That's part of what you're doing and it's important that children understand that it's perfectly fine to not feel comfortable all the time. 

Seneca warned that the optimal position of our lives should be general stress and discomfort. The idea being that comfort and excess stressors are equally toxic for us. One could effectively argue that he spotted the problems of a sedentary lifestyle roughly two millenia before it fully plagued the western world

All photo credits are due to my friend, and fellow dad backpacker, Frankie.

This might sound weird, but I want my kids to be uncomfortable. It's good for them to have a hard time. And not in some t-ball-bullshit-hard-time sense where everyone gets a trophy at the end before the pizza party.

When we walked back to the trailhead, after spending three days in the backcountry, I looked Cora in the eye and said something to the effect of:

Who did you see out there on the trails? Adults. Adults in good shape. People walking the PCT from Mexico to Canada. A generally hardcore group of people that are way higher up the bad-ass totem pole than your average Joe. And you, you do it too. You walked for miles and lived in the wilderness. And you did it well. You did what few people can do, and you can own that now because you earned it.

We don't get better by having an easy go of it. Our lives shouldn't be about exposing ourselves to the least amount of discomfort and danger before we drop dead. Stealing from Nassim Taleb:

This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.

But have no fear, gentle hearted souls. In addition to a healthy dose of stoicism a few fun items were entered into the mix. Every night the kids got dessert, we made stick bread, I retold all the wilderness spooky stories I knew, and they literally spent over ten hours simply throwing rocks and sticks into the river.

Long day of walking + ice cold snow melt river = aaaaahhhhhhhhh.

Aside from the desire for a nice shower, I walked away from this trip with even more desire to get our family back to the sea. Back to a place where, like it or not, the wilderness is right up in your grill. Every day, all day. Reflecting between wilderness backpacking and sailing, I think the biggest distinction is that all backpacking trips end eventually. But with sailing, you can literally do it for your entire life. Years and decades can tick by where you are typically inches from the sea. 

Still, it's nice to be in the mountains and for as long as we have access to the beautiful wilderness in the United States we'll use up every minute of it that we can.


my first backpacking trip with a four year old

It's not a sailboat, but backpacking is actually where I got my first taste of adventure. And it has a lot in common with sailing: 

  • Backpacking is generally uncomfortable. A common thought in both sailing and backpacking is, "Why the hell am I doing this and not home on the couch?" Spoiler: finding the answer is the point. 
  • The equipment can be fairly expensive.
  • The more adventurous you get, the more a mistake will cost you.
  • It's a blend of nature, your skills, and your equipment. No matter how hard you try, if you screw up any one of those three you're going to have a bad time: you can't make up for a lack of skills, you can't do without some essential equipment, and you can't tune out nature. 


My pack, Cora's pack, and all of our junk (a.k.a. expensive equipment).I was lucky enough to go on my first backpacking trip with a friend in 6th grade. His dad extended the invitation, and I really had no idea how fortunate I was to learn such a cool activity. 

Now that we're back on land, we're saving up for a boat, and letting the girls get a few more years of growing up. I'm committed to maximizing that time, and showing my girls how to spend days at a time in the wilderness is squarely on the list. 

So, I scouted out a location and settled on the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Jointly managed by the BLM and Forest Service, it's not my perfect locale but for the purposes of a first-time backpacking trip it would do just fine. Mountain terrain, starting at 6,000 feet, and although in spitting distance of Los Angeles it's legitimate wilderness. 

Guess who's pack is who's.The first thing to realize about backpacking with a small child is that it's literally all on you. I managed to get a sleeping bag in her pack and a couple of colored pencils. Other than that, every item (including the water, since we'd be without a reliable water source), is on my back. I'm not complaining, and honestly the influx of ultralight backpacking has made a huge difference. My water+two-people's gear pack weighs as much as my first solo load out back in the late 90's. 

It's a fine line because unlike an ultralight purist, you don't have the option of telling your small child, "Relax, champ, if you get cold at night just do some crunches." (That really is a common piece of ultralight advice). 

But also, because you're going to be carrying so much crap, if you don't pay ridiculous attention to weight then you'll either be under far too much load or simply unable to do the trip. You basically need to care as much about weight as an ultralight fanatic but you don't get the payoff of a light pack. Such is parenting.

A friend and coworker of mine has correctly drilled into my head that the last thing you want kids to do is have a bad time with something that you want them to engage on. Especially with something like trekking around for days in the wilderness. You can't control all the variables, so I was constantly scanning for problems in advance and trying to think up ways to make things fun. I even had to change the dates to skip a storm that came through during our original departure window. I learned that lesson from sailing: skip as much bad weather as you can. Garbage conditions are eventually inevitable, but avoid as much of it as possible. No one's handing out trophies because you got the shit kicked out of you on a mountaintop somewhere, and they're certainly not handing awards if you drag your children with you on the escapade. 

I'm quite proud of this kid. For other parents out there, I'd recommend a few things. Initially, go car camping with them first to evaluate. This is the classic campground environment where you have your car, a bunch of heavy stuff, a campfire, bathrooms, etc. The main thing I was looking for here was discipline. Can she stay away from the stove when I ask? Can she keep herself (safely) entertained for a few minutes while I do something else? 

I know there is a current generation of parenting that doesn't put an emphasis on discipline, but a lack of self control limits what you can do as an adult and likewise as a child. 

Then there's the whole hiking-with-a-pack thing. Cora's pack weighed in around 5 pounds (including the pack), and consisted of the biggest and lightest thing we had: her sleeping bag. 

To be honest, I don't really think there's a material difference between a kid with a lightweight pack and no pack. It's not like you're going to get an extra mile out of them without the pack, so I personally wanted to know in advance that she could walk comfortably for an hour with no breaks. 

Plus, you're not a race car driver without a race car and you're not a backpacker without a backpack. My philosophy, to each their own.

The speed translated to an hour on the trail with breaks every ~10 minutes that lasted a couple of minutes, coupled with some bathroom stops, checking out wildlife, and general poking about. 

I think we managed maybe 1.5 mph, and we had a decent gradient

One thing I learned Cora can't carry is her own water. Water is heavy, and with the amount of breaks it was easier for me to just keep a small canteen clipped to my belt and keep offering it up to her. 

One of the deals that I made to myself is I would greet all bathroom breaks with cheer (so I got a chance to be quite cheerful), and that I would be getting her to drink up like a wino who just got dumped.

Breakfast with a cup of hot apple cider. Tents and packs in the background, kitchen in the foreground.

Another tip I would give a fellow parent (remembering that advice is free and you get what you pay for), and that I'll remember myself, is that at this age it really is about them. I think about my friend's dad who took us out in 6th grade, and I can only imagine the patience he had. I still remember him walking around silently picking up trash I had dropped: I'm still embarrassed by it. I realize he could have plowed through miles and gone onto routes that would have been much more rewarding for him personally. But the real reward he got was in transferring a tradition and set of skills to the next generation. He put up with our constant complaining, our constant rambling, and our foul breath and armpits. 

Cora at the trailhead, ready to take off.

Every time I go out into the wilderness, be it sea or land, I feel a little smaller and a little bigger at the same time. I feel smaller knowing that I'm nothing more than an evolved life form living on a turbulent planet in between ice ages, with most all of my (and your) accomplishments and cares being forgotten rather quickly in the march of time. 

But I feel bigger knowing that although I'm just a small link in a rather large chain, I am at least a link. I can connect the things that I've learned down to the next torch bearers. I have the opportunity to filter out the bullshit the best I can, and focus on passing down the better aspects of our world as I know them. A sense of adventure, the courage to do what you think is right, and a warm heart in a world that can often seem capricious at best and malevolent at worst. 

Back at the trailhead, our first official backpacking trip a resounding success. With that, dear reader, I thank you for your attention and will stop being long in the tooth. I'm doing the John Muir Trail in the fall with some friends, and have several daddy-kiddo backpacking trips lined up this summer. If you're interested in heading out with us or me at any point, please drop me a line. If we bump into you on the trail please feel free to go around us, we'll be walking slow and looking at the flowers. 


one year later

Randomly, I found myself listening to the This American Life episode that we participated in. It's hard to believe it's been a year since we pressed the button on our EPIRB that changed our life in such a dramatic way. There of course is all the bad stuff: the loss our Rebel Heart, the mini-media-storm, and the temporary speed bump in our sailing plans.

But there's been a lot of good too. A line was cut with scalpel level precision between friends and fair weather acquaintances. We're much more tuned into our sailing style and our new boat goals reflect it. I saw such an incredible outpouring of decency that I was literally humbled to speechlessness from fellow sailors, friends, and people I've never even met. 

For me, I got a slap in the face as to my priorities. I've always been a big fan of Emerson: Self Reliance (and Tecumseh) are regular night time reading for the girls (after Brown Bear). 

I appeal from your customs.  I must be myself.  I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you.  If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier.  If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should.  I will not hide my tastes or aversions. 

I will most likely be dead in 50 years: it's a cold hard reality. Our children, within 15 years, will be either fully living independent lives or very much on the road. I don't have a lot of time to feel bad about things or lament about what could have been. And I don't have a single nanosecond to entertain the misgivings that random people may have about my life. 

What I can learn from the past, I try to. But the past can quickly can turn into fruitless speculation and endless second guessing, all while sand continues to run out of your life's hourglass. So what I've really learned, and what I've really been doing, is thinking a lot more about the next year then the last. The past as they say is the past, but the future has yet to be written and indeed is the only canvas you can paint on.

On a parting note, this is a video from our Pacific crossing that's never been seen. I stumbled across it from an old video card. We were a few hundred miles off of Mexico, becalmed. I think this is when we were about five or six days out. And this is what 99% of our sailing memories are: us as a family, together, adventuring around with smiles on our faces.