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

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Entries in family (9)

Thursday
Mar062014

getting ready to say good bye to mexico

Just me and my shirtless male friend touching each other.

I've lived in Mexico now for a year and a half. My Spanish has improved and I can accomplish most anything I need to, albeit I probably have the equivalent grammar and vocabulary of a four year old. But still, I have a dual citizen Mexico-United States daughter. I flipped through my passport and saw that in the last sixteen months I've accumulated eight re-entries to Mexico. I've written a book about my experiences here.

I've singlehanded Baja and the Sea of Cortez, and sailed across it twice more with the girls. I drove a van from Tijuana to San Diego, then back down the Baja peninsula to La Paz. I flew in a twin engine prop plane across the Sea of Cortez, twice, missed a flight in Cabo, and have collected every type of passport entry method aside from a train (which I'm not sure even exists in the US-Mexico border). 

I've surfed, paddleboarded, scuba dived, hiked, ran, snorkled, crewed a race boat, gotten drunk, ran into old friends, met new friends, did other things I can't put on this blog, lived in two apartments, and raced down a lonely Mexican highway in the middle of the night with my wife in labor as a police pickup escorted us.

A possible route for us, in manly pink.

A weather window has materialized allowing us to sail the 3,000 miles to the South Pacific, meaning that multiple days of decent winds have shown up as far as the forecast models will go. This, coupled with the pilot charts and general sailor-wisdom pointing to mid-March through mid-April as being optimal times to cross, means that no matter how you slice it our time left in Mexico is pretty short: possibly only a few more days. 

I'm not sure how I feel about Mexico. Because my daughter was born here, both Charlotte and I are eligible for permanent resident status. For most of my friends back in the USA, the idea of living long term in Mexico might seem rather absurd: it's a narco cartel ridden back water that's dirty, dangerous, and poor, right?

Well, not really. Talking about "Mexico" is a lot like talking about the "USA". Can you really compare Detroit, San Diego, Manhatten, and rural towns in Appalacha and Wyoming? They're incredibly different and most of the people living in one of those places probably wouldn't get along well with the folks from the others. Mexico, while certainly not as culturally or racially diverse as the USA, still has many layers and it's frankly ignorant to imagine a country so large and involved as being nothing more than our backwards and poor neighbor to the south. 

Zooming down the highway with Charlotte in labor, some unknown woman's car, police escorting us.Still, it will be nice to leave, but for me personally it's because I have a fair case of wanderlust. As you travel around by boat, in every harbor or bay someone will undoubtedly tell you that their little slice of the world, the one you're in at that moment, is the best.

I know seven people who've sailed around the world, and they came back here and said it was the best they'd ever seen.

I've heard that above line (with startling little deviation) in San Diego, Catalina, Puerto Escondido, La Paz, Mazatlan, and Bahia de Banderas. Personally I think the various boosters and self proclaimed admiralty of whatever bay are well meaning, but their attitude is akin to a townie who views any departure as treason, sensing the threat that if people want to leave the spectre is raised that perhaps that little slice of Earth isn't really all that special. Or at least not so special as to keep you from finding happiness somewhere else, albeit on a different set of merits.

More to the point, the only reason I've seen so many amazing places and done so many amazing things is because we got off our asses, pushed ourselves hard, and went into unknown (to us) territory. Sometimes the results were spectacular: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and San Blas come to mind. Sometimes the results were mixed: Mazatlan and La Paz. And sometimes the place was an absolute dump that should be used for storing nuclear waste: Puerto Escondido. 

Despite Mexico's faults, and like any nation it has a long list, it has treated myself and my family well. The people have been warm, generous, and kind. I've traveled in the USA and returned to Mexico over a half dozen times, and right along with the knock-down heat I get a smile on my face and feel at home.

So Mexico, thanks. 

Monday
Mar032014

me and my little buddy

My friend Carlos gave us a ride to a store that sold "panga tanks". If you'e sailed in Mexico, you know these things. Five bucks, fifty liters, surprisingly durable.

Where I go, she goes: me and Cora. 

Cora and I have been glued to each other for the last year or so. Ever since Lyra showed up we, like many parents I would assume, divide and conquer. It's hard working on a boat project with one small child, it's virtually impossible with two. So when I need to go somewhere or do something I bring Cora because otherwise Charlotte would be dealing with two kids while I get to haul ass around and be independent: kind of a dick move.

Fortunately, I really like Cora. She's funny, nice, and tries really hard to always do the right thing. I think because I do so many grown-up projects with her that I sometimes forget she's three years old. I caught myself getting frustrated because she didn't know the difference between a socket and a box wrench. It's odd sometimes to traverse adult-level challenges and then hear a no-punch-line joke about poop from someone with hand-drawn tiger stripes on her knees. 

She routinely walked miles with in the Baja summer heat. She's been on bouncy bus rides, airplanes, multiple boats, and slept in a dozen beds. She always wants to help me. She loves her mom. She really loves her sister and those two are adorable together.

In the last year if you've seen me for more than five minutes, chances are good that Cora was there with me. Possibly picking flowers, telling you about her day, or asking if you like her dress. 

Cora and I zooming out to Rebel Heart in Puerto Escondido.

Cora and I have been to parties together. We've gone to the beach together. We've had take-out on the sand together. We've gone paddleboarding together. Surfing together. Swimming together. To a waterpark together. To movies together. To the plaza together. To workout together. To my job together. Worked on the boat together. She sailed through a gale at four months old and has crossed the Sea of Cortez twice (as has her sister and mom).

So little buddy when you read this in the future, just know you've been a dynamite kid.

Thursday
Aug292013

hi mom!

A couple of references if anyone is interested:

 

 

The below photos show the deck of the USNS Henry Gibbins, T-AP-183, carrying the 1000 WWII refugees across the Atlantic. The ship was half refugees, many having escaped from concentration camps still wearing their Nazi-provided prison uniforms, and half injured American soldiers. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother on that trip.

My mother was born in conditions that on American soil rivaled only that of pregnant mothers in Japanese internment camps. My mother was one of the first refugees born in America, and even at that was in a fenced in camp patrolled by armed guards: refugees could not leave, and even family visitors could only interact through chain link.

 

Everyone who arrived in Fort Ontario wore a badget on their clothes that said US Army: Casual Baggage. Eighty years later I'm back on a hot and sweaty ship with a little kid in a foriegn land. What a world.

Tuesday
Aug272013

well now, here we are in puerto escondido

Looking west in Puerto Escondido at sunset.

Now that the dust has settled from Charlotte's blog post, I submit my own meager thoughts on our current location: Puerto Escondido, Baja Sur, Mexico. 

We've mentioned it over and over again but the heat is really the overriding factor. A close second now though are cyclones, rotating masses of heat and moisture that can wreak amazing amounts of damage. Even the systems that don't graduate into hurricanes, or break apart and send their appendages scattering about, can still cause substantial damage.

Tropical Storm Ivo passed through here a few days ago and blazed a path north that resulted in a drowning related death in Las Vegas, Nevada. We had 50 knot gusts down here and roughly a foot of rain in a day. The road to the nearest town was washed out in numerous places, homes were destroyed, and the sea water itself is still loaded with palm trees, cacti, and dirt. 

Cora's head, and looking out from the roof of our apartment where we can see Rebel Heart floating in the inner harbor.Puerto Escondido, in August, with a family, is pretty rough. Some people like it here very much, and I'd put that number maybe at two dozen, none of which have families. It's one thing to like the Sea of Cortez outside of the summer months, but late August through mid September is a switch that fluctuates between tropical cyclones and the blazing heat of the desert. 

The other night I walked through sheets of rain to get out to Rebel Heart: it was her first night on her new mooring and I couldn't sleep without verifying the ground tackle was holding and there was no chafe in the 20-50 knot winds. Scorpions scurried and frogs hopped all along the the road, eyeing me cautiously. A workman in a shack wondered who the insane gringo was walking around in the storm with board shorts and flip flops on, in the middle of the night.

Last night our bathroom (in the apartment we're renting) had a roach, a gecko, and a rather large spider, all staring at each other and finally allowing me to witness a true Mexican Stand Off.

We've officially been here a long time: the switching of courtesy flags.In two months it will be a year that we've lived in Mexico. It's hard to write objectively about things when you're in the throws of the tough parts, so as someone in mile ~18 of a marathon I'll recuse myself from forming a full opinion.

Putting so much of our lives up under the public spotlight inherently invites criticism and comment: it's just part of the equation. It's hard to put my finger on it but one thing this trip has really taught me is the importance of a unified, constructive, long-term mentality.

I mean really, how often in your life do you have to literally brave uncharted courses armed exclusively with your own wits, for years at a time? The longest haul that most people do is college, which is hardly comparable since you're around a bunch of other people doing the same thing and the institution exists for your success. The sea, however, does not have guidance counselors or academic coaches to help you out when you stumble.

This is not to say that you (or we) should simply bash our heads into the problem until it relents: another lesson of the sea is that when you attempt to argue with an ocean you will lose every single f'n time. Instead, you adjust the sails, anchor in a bay and wait for the weather to pass, or otherwise find a way to strike a tenuous balance. The sea is always changing: the deal you strike with it today will be washed away by tomorrow. 

The northern Baja Sur coastline, with the Sierra Giganta, is a mountainous desert unlike it's pancake-flat southern relative. Tonight I get to walk the ~1/2 mile back down the bay and dinghy back out to Rebel Heart, double checking the ground tackle before a couple of cells show up from a non-formed tropical storm that's showing up tomorrow. 

Would I rather be doing something else tonight? Of course. But do I get to spend more time with my kids than any other person I know? Yep. Have I seen more in the last year than anyone else I know? Yep. Does my eldest child feel as comfortable in a third world shack as a first world mansion? Yep. Have Charlotte and I learned a ton about ourselves and experienced so much we don't even know where to begin talking about it? Absolutely.

Time to head out, clouds are coming over the mountain tops and sundown is in a couple of hours.

Monday
May132013

rebel heart video from the sea of cortez

Some various video clips edited together and put to AWOL Nation's "Kill Your Heroes" (which is figurative advice I think a lot of people might want to consider). Still getting the hang of the new Countour after ditching the GoPro (terrible product, terrible service, more expensive).

 

Tuesday
Nov062012

newsflash: food in mexico is cheap as hell, and good

Pat and Ali on Bumfuzzle have commented about this before, and I'm sure I'm not breaking any new ground here. 

Some things in Mexico are very expensive, particularly if you need a specific boat part. Expect 2x-4x the US price tag, and that's using the base of already "marine grade" pricing. So that $100 doodad might be $300 now.

We took a free shuttle (a guy in a little Ford Tempo) into downtown Esenada and looked for an authentic Mexican restaraunt. We kept walking until we barely saw any white people, and glanced through a window that looked decidedly non-American but at the same time non-rip-you-off-tourista style. 

It was with great joy that I was presented a bill for $11. Food for all three of us, a beer, and a soda. Finally, I have found something in this whole boating thing that is indeed cheaper than living on land back in San Diego. Eat your wallets out, San Diego.

I tried my Spanish on the way back, asking a man sweeping the sidewalk for directions to a taxi. He of course replied quicker than I could understand so I just nodded a lot and said "si" on repeat. Charlotte was there to translate, forunately. 

A ~$8 cab ride back and we had a terrific evening for less than twenty bucks. Seriously: viva la f'n Mexico.

Saturday
Apr212012

said good bye to some friends today

Growing up I got used to people coming and going. I moved around a lot as a child so nothing really lasted forever. As a grown up (if I indeed am one, I'll leave that up to you) it's been a whole new world for me. I finally have control over my friendships and the people who are in and out of my life. The Internet, a bank account, and the general mental decision making capacity of adulthood leave you armed to maintain friendships that in other worlds would have been severed. 

Today Cora and I waved good bye to our good friends Stan and Diana. They've been in the painful process of pulling their rig and getting Westwind loaded up on a truck to ship back to Maine.

They've been great to our family and are genuinely cool people to know. Rather than concentrating on the slightly painful memory of their boat being gone and Cora asking where they are every time we go up and down the docks, it's a good reminder that you can't stay in one place for too long.

When I lived in New England I knew people who lived in the same towns they were born in, sometimes the same house. While I'm not trying to bad mouth anyone, there's only so much you can do sitting on a boat in San Diego forever. Getting a move on and changing your life towards the things you want is what you're supposed to do.

If there's something you want, if there's something you think will make you happier, you owe it to yourself and everyone around you to make it happen. For our friends, it was yanking the boat from San Diego and changing things up.

It's also a good reminder that even if you want things to stay the same, you're under the illusion of control. Your job can vanish and your friends can move. Your world can change even if you try to keep it the same. So since change is inevitable, you might as well make it of your own creation rather than leave it to the whims of chance.

Stan and Diana, we'll see you guys soon.

Tuesday
Jan312012

watching cora grow up

Cora's first birthday.Tonight I got the chance to hang out with my daughter for most of the evening, just the two of us. Because of my schedule and Cora's current desire to hang out with Charlotte all the time it's actually pretty rare for Cora and I to spend an evening together alone.

Because I don't get a chance to really "bond" with her (I can't believe I'm using that word) often, when I do the differences are really profound. I see her almost every day, but the bonding part really only happens every month. It's sort of like cartoons written out page by page on the corners of a paperback book. There are definite frames that I see with a fracturing that keeps it from being perfectly linear. 

The disjointedness between the frames, the pronounced difference from one snapshot to the next. Like a figure moving in the dark, it's the actual movement that draws focus.

So Cora, I write this to the future you in the hopes that you read it one day. Getting a chance to spend a nice evening with my daughter is one of my favorite things to do. As much as I'm scared of you growing up fast, I'm so excited for you to learn about this world and all the wonderful things in it.

Wednesday
Feb232011

the winter of 2011 marches on

This blog post will entertain very few; let me just get that out of the way right now. There are things worth blogging about, and things not worth blogging about, and I've been doing a lot of the latter recently. But I have been doing things none the less, so perhaps you're a friend or associate of mine and wondering "where the hell has Eric been?" lately. Well, here's my update.

Who Doesn't Want To Be A Tug Captain?Maritime Training

I have twelve hours of class a week, in addition to my forty hour a week job, so if you haven't seen me around it's probably because of that. Want to hang out some evening? Sorry, can't make it. How about go have lunch? Sorry, need to do homework.

The upside is that I'm finally getting some things out of the way that I've wanted to for a long time and I'm learning a lot. One of my instructors is a merchant marine (heavy shipping) so he approaches everything from a big-ship prospective. Another instructor is primarily a pleasure boat operator (charters and the such) and has spent a lot of time sailing, so he has a typical sailing vessel view of the world. In my class there are commercial fishermen, sport fisher crew, life guards, diving instructors, and then a few pleasure boat sailors like myself. One guy even pushes gondolas around.

Typical Pacific StormSan Diego Winters

This is where I get a chuckle from everyone about how we don't have real winters. Well okay buckaroo, let's go ahead and strap you into a sail boat in 40+ knot winds with horizontal rain and send you out into the winters we don't have here. It might not look like your typical snow scene from some Christmas movie but we get powerful storms from the north and south that dump rain on us for days accompanied by driving winds. And these storms have been known to arrive in pairs, triples, and even quadruples, slamming into the coast line just as the tail end of the last one vanishes.

Couple that with 50 degree water, not so much daylight, crummy fishing, fog, and nights loaded with dew that might as well be rain and you have yourself a San Diego winter. Until the Pacific High regains its strength and formidable nature, here we sit taking southwesters up our ass and artic storms on our nose, for months.

Strength Training

I was lucky enough to start reading some of Mark Rippetoe's books, namely Starting Strength and Practical Programming. I have learned a lot about strength training and by following the Bill Star 5x5 model I've been making some ridiculous improvement. Focusing on the compound barbell lifts and avoiding almost all the garbage out there. Focusing on squats, press, and now power cleans I've gained just over ten pounds of muscle (correcting for body fat and water) in a six month period. More importantly I've become much more flexible, have almost no injuries to speak of, and have gotten much stronger.

As of writing this however I am struggling with my power cleans. This might sound trivial to a lot of people out there but for me it's really been a thorn in my side. For over one month now I've been beating my head against the wall, video taping myself over and over again trying to get my form right for this movement that so many renown athletes and trainers say is critical to strength. 

Being A Husband And Dad

In a lot of ways all the things listed above are part of being a husband and dad. You're not very good at either one of those if you become a lazy slob, so keeping your mind and body in as top form as possible is the forerunner to anything else. Trying to teach your kid to shoot for their dreams while you play XBOX and smoke pot probably isn't going to do the trick. I'm not trying to ride too high on my horse, but even before Cora arrived I keyed in on the notion that your child will basically adopt many of your attributes more so than whatever you want to teach them. So I thought long and hard about the type of daughter I want to raise, and try as hard as I can in my life to reflect those qualities.

However, there are brass tacks issues you need to take care of as well. Waking up in the middle of the night (which Charlotte does much more often than I do, I might add) to change a diaper or just hold Cora for a moment, scheduling your life around available babysitters, trying to ensure that Charlotte and I have time together as often as possible sans daughter so we can remember that we are two adults who like being with each other: these are some of the new responsibilities you get to handle. Making sure I read to my daughter rather than surf the Internet or play Global Agenda.

Cora has gotten to be much more enjoyable as late. I'm not a baby person. To be perfectly honest, I don't really care about anyone's baby other than mine. I certainly don't wish them harm in anyway, but I just don't really care. I don't find them cute or charming and I'd like them to be kept away and out of earshot from me. I managed to enjoy Cora as a small baby probably because of some physical hardwiring that causes parents to love and adore their children no matter what.

But lately, really right around six months, there are more and more periods (and we're talking about periods that grow by maybe a second a day so let's not get carried away here) where I actually really enjoy hanging out with her. She's getting to be more fun to play with, and just this morning I think she actually got the concept of walking a little bit with me holding her arms up, swinging her legs one in front of the other. 

On the husband front, I'm reminded of a pre-marital course we went through were they said that many couples after having children focus on their jobs and parenting and the relationship suffers. To some extent the first few weeks and maybe first few months make that guaranteed. We're getting to the point now, slowly but surely, were our time commitments are opening back up again and Charlotte and I can start going on dates and doing stuff again. It's a nice change of pace and six months of baby plus six months of a rough pregnancy before that make it a year ago that we could really be somewhat carefree and enjoying the sunshine in the park.

In Summary

As I said in the beginning of this, I've been doing a lot of things that are not worth blogging about. No one is making movies about people studying, working, saving, getting strong, or trying to be a good husband and dad. In my day job, there are days of closure where you can actually check something off your list and feel good about yourself. And then there are the weeks and sometimes months (and sometimes years) of work that goes towards that one day, where you often feel like you're in a coal mine just pursuing a path that you hope leads you to where you want to be one day.

The greater the things you're trying to accomplish, the longer you might end up having to keep your head down and nose to the grindstone.