LCKC Beach Campout

Once again, Kat and Mike put together an incredible activity for the kids here in the marina. There was pizza delivered directly to the beach, roasted marshmallows, a demonstration of emergency flares, capture the flag, and story telling. They even exploded a watermelon by putting rubber bands around it till it was peanut-shaped…

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La Cruz Kids Club

The beloved Katrina, despite being set back by severe respiratory illness over the past two months or so, has been doing an absolutely incredible job creating opportunities for the La Cruz Kids Club. The lucky cruising kiddos get to have fun, learn new skills and give back to the local community. I’ve posted previously about events such as Kids for Ribs (where the kids ran the restaurant at Octopus’ Garden). In the past month they’ve also done Kids for Tacos, when they made and served tacos at La Ballena Blanca, donating part of their tips to local charities. 

Maeve, Neli and Jessica serve chips and salsa:

Morgan and Maia work the bar like pros again:

Maeve and Emma squeeze limes for alllllll those margaritas!

The whole crew:

Kat also ordered plain white burgees (and her partner Mike of PV Sailing donated paint) for the kids to decorate and fly from the rigging to let others in a new anchorage know there are children aboard.

Last month I volunteered to help drive to Amos de Amor (Hands of Love), an orphanage in the neighboring town of Bucerias. Originally this was to be a service project for school credit for the teens, helping to play or read with the children there, and help clean or organize as needed. We ended up including a cadre of younger kids as well, who jumped on the trampoline and pushed the orphanage kids on the swings. We all had a tour and got to see the children’s dormitories, the classroom, and the living areas. The orphanage kids were so very happy to meet and interact with our kids. I think it was eye-opening for our kids to see how little these children have; yet they have the wonderful love and care of those who work and live at the orphanage with them.

The “closet” in this photo is full of the boy clothing. Nothing belongs to any one child in particular; they all share all the clothing. This was the younger boys’ dorm.

The classroom:

In addition to the wall painting of the Spanish alphabet, they had this painting of the English alphabet with transliteration below each letter. I thought it was very interesting to see that there is no |y| sound in Spanish, so it’s spelled “guai.” (This also explains why, when I was talking about a wedding with a local, she asked me how to say it in English, and wrote down “gueddin?” )

This sweet little girl remembered Maia from when the orphans were brought to swim and eat hot dogs at the marina, and she immediately became Maia’s shadow.

The kids enjoyed a game of basketball despite the intense heat!

The whole gang! Back row, L-R: [cruiser boy] Maia (Ceilydh), [cruiser girl] Nina (Shawnigan), [cruiser boys]. Front row: photo-bombing orphan, Dean, Ellie and Scott (Zimovia), Maeve, Cooper (Wiz), and Benjy (Valella).

Another major event here was the LCKC Claymation Film project, put on by Kat and Susan from s/v Wiz. The kids were divvied into teams and set out to create a 30-90 second stop-motion animation using modeling clay (which was later donated to the orphanage) and a stop-motion app on iPads. Anyone who has ever done stop-motion animation will know that it is a labor intensive project and not as easy as it looks! Each production team came up with a name, sketched storyboards, and worked together to make their ideas come to life on the screen. 

Smiling Fish Productions:

Kidummbia!

Bubble Fish Productions:

Last Thursday, movie night at the amphitheater began with the presentation of their finished films and the awarding of cardboard and rigging wire “Oscars” handmade by Kat and Susan. 

The short films were a big hit, and were followed by birthday cake for Luke of s/v Beach Flea, and a showing of Zootopia. Here, for those who weren’t lucky enough to attend in person, are the finished videos:

As boats begin leaving the area to cross the Pacific to French Polynesia and beyond, Kat is trying to squeeze in more events for LCKC before the quiet season begins here. This weekend, Mike and Kat are hosting a beach camp-out: first they’ll build a base camp and first aid station, then have a bonfire and pizza from Kids Club sponsors Falconi’s Italian restaurant. They’ll let the kids stay up as late as they want, provided they can be awake at 6:30am for a quick breakfast and beach cleanup. (For those that don’t know our kids and their crazy schedule, 6:30 is going to be a painful wake up for them no matter how early they go to sleep!) On Tuesday, LCKC will have a kids-only, PJs and pillows/blankets movie night in the main marina building featuring Moana, an apropos feature with its sailor girl protagonist. In a few weeks, our kids will make food to share and host a potluck dinner and movie night for the children from Manos de Amor. It’s going to be a busy and fun time until most of the kid boats leave Bahia Banderas for the South Pacific, the Central American coast, or the Sea of Cortez.

It must be mentioned that Kat does all of this on a volunteer basis, in addition to her paid job at Marina La Cruz. It’s clear that she truly loves spending time with the kids, and she gets excited about each new idea she comes up with–we boat families are just so fortunate to be able to share in Kat’s enthusiasm and passion!

Tonight LCKC will run Kids for Sushi at Yin Yang Sushi. Pretty soon we’ll be able to put Morgan and Maeve to work making us supper on the boat!

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Juice Box

On Wednesdays here in La Cruz, there’s a “Beer Can” race, where a handful of sailboats go out for a short afternoon of friendly racing, then come back to the marina to chat about sailing, eat pizza (a local pizza chef brings his barbeque setup to the poolside area) and drink beer. 

Every Wednesday morning, we hear Mike (the partner of Kat who runs the kids’ club) on the radio announcing in his scratchy voice “yeeeah, we’re gonna get a Beer Can off this afternoon, so come on out, it’s a fun time for everyone…” After hearing this on the morning net for months, our friend Sara of Riki Tiki Tavi came to with the idea that we should set up a Beer Can for the cruising kids. RTT has their own sailing dinghy; on Nomi we have a sailing rig for our dinghy, PoPu; another family with four kids on a boat called Pickles has a sailing dinghy as well. 

The younger kids don’t yet know how to sail a dinghy on their own, but today Sara trailed two of them behind her motor dinghy Big Dollar, with just the rudders attached so they could begin to get a feel for how to use the tiller to steer. In the photos below, Morgan is in bright orange PoPu, and Liam of RTT is in the blue and white dinghy. Maeve and Neli had already had their turn so they rode on the side of Big Dollar with Luke of Beach Flea, who had his turn next.

Once the kids are ready to try actually sailing, we’re going to have Liam announce on the morning kids’ net: “yeeeah, we’re gonna get a Juice Box off today, should be a good time so everyone come on out!”

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Hauling Out

When we moved the boat last summer to Paradise Village, you may recall that we broke a very important piece of our driveline and consequently had no way to move the boat under power. So upon our return this winter, one of the first things we had to coordinate was getting Nomi towed back to La Cruz and hauled out of the water to repair the damage and replace broken parts. This was complicated because it’s not allowed for owners to live on their boats, so we had to find alternative temporary digs; but most buildings in La Cruz are not completely enclosed, so even the places that would allow our cats to stay didn’t work for us because we wouldn’t be able to keep Wylie and Dekker indoors. What we ended up doing was renting beds at a hostel in town and leaving the cats on board, with Casey spending most of every day in the yard working and keeping the cats company. Since the boat was about 15 feet in the air the cats were able to have free run of the boat during the day (they weren’t brave–or stupid?– enough to try to get down the ladder).

After each hard day’s work, Casey would lock the cats inside the boat and walk up the hill into town to join us at the Octopus’ Garden hostel, where we would cook supper in the shared kitchen, chat with other guests, and get ready for bed. (This is the same location that the kids did the restaurant-running event at; the hostel is located sort of above the restaurant). OG is also a music venue, which meant that for most of the nights of our 6-night stay there was loud music going on right outside our room, sometimes until after midnight. And unfortunately, not all of it was much good. The local older expat community seemed to love it, though, singing along with such favorites as “I Wanna Be a Dog” (awr! awr! awr!) and “I Don’t Look Good Nekkid Anymore.” The one night the restaurant was closed, the next-door neighbors hosted a birthday party, complete with a live band (and a barking dog). Now, there’s some great music in La Cruz, but this band was not it. It sounded like three separate bands all playing in different keys. It has to be heard to be believed.

Meanwhile, work was chugging along in the boatyard. Nomi got her AquaDrive repaired, a new propeller shaft installed (the old one had a lot of corrosion so it made sense to replace it while work was being done anyhow), and her bottom sanded and repainted.

Morgan had some questions for Casey about the repairs:

We splashed (put the boat back in the water) in the late afternoon on February 3 and motored over to the other side of the marina to a slip near a bunch of other kid boats. If you’ve ever wondered how they move boats around a yard, here’s your answer. First they move the gigantic Travelift around the boat:

Then they fasten the sling securely around the hull and lift the boat off its stilts:

Lastly, the boat is taken out of the yard to the haulout slip and lowered into the water. 

The Travelift driver stopped momentarily as our bowsprit aligned with the ground so that Casey and I could climb over the pulpit and onto the boat before it got any lower.

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Mini Restaurateurs

Our friend Kat at the Marina de La Cruz organizes the La Cruz Kids Club, with activities like last year’s Smoothie Stand at the cruisers’ swap meet, doing fish prints, and making gingerbread houses at Christmas time. 

This week, she arranged with local restaurant El Jardín del Pulpo (The Octopus’ Garden) for the kids to take over control for the evening, serving customers from the cruising community as well as others from the area. 

We parents dropped our children off at the restaurant at 2pm and left them in the capable hands of the chefs and owner. For the next two hours all twenty-five of them–ranging in age from five to sixteen–learned how to set tables, take orders, and cook and serve food and drinks. The restaurant opened for dinner at 4:00 and the community turned out in force, keeping the kids working hard, running up and down the stairs with orders until 6. 

All the boat kids did an amazing job, and they were rewarded at the end of the evening with ribs and chocolate cake. They also each took home 100 pesos in tips!

Ellie of Zimovia works in the kitchen serving coleslaw.

Ellamae of Shawnigan and Briley of Me Too put in their orders at the kitchen window.

Maeve and Neli of Riki Tiki Tavi help each other write down their customers’ orders.

Morgan explains to me that he is not actually allowed to serve me a margarita while Neli awaits her drink orders.

August of Princess Erica and Ellie work together on making salads.

Liam of Riki Tiki Tavi serves one of his tables.

Maeve carries a limonada very carefully down the steps to a thirsty customer.

Hannah of Empyrean and Matero of Kenta Anae discuss work.

Servers patiently await their orders.

Nina was in charge of getting the orders from servers to the kitchen staff.

Morgan works behind the bar, squeezing limes for margaritas. Behind him, Maia of Ceilydh and Abby of Beach Flea mix drinks.

Shandro of Kenta Anae works with the chef while Nina gets plates ready for servers.

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Ode to Nadine, or: California to Mexico

This is what Nadine looked like when she was a young, new 1996 Corolla wagon. (This isn’t actually her, just a photo I found on the web.)

Together, Nadine and I traveled from Oakland to Los Angeles somewhere upward of twenty times; we drove to Eugene, OR, and to Seattle probably ten times. When my brother Jay was in grad school at Simon Frasier in Vancouver we made a trip up there.

When Morgan was a baby, he took more naps in Nadine than he did in a bed. When Maeve was born and we upgraded to the Odyssey, Nadine became Casey’s daily driver and she took him miles and miles and miles, safely and reliably, from home to work and back for eight years.  

I’ve been known in recent years to call her “a deathtrap” or “POS,” particularly when she needs new brakes or suspension, but the truth is I love Nadine and she’s a good girl who still runs a lot faster than I do.

This is what she looks like 20+ years later. She’s on the cusp of turning over 300,000 miles. 

We stuffed her to the gills with clothes, toys, food, boat parts.  We had to strap three large duffle bags to her roof so we would have (barely) enough room to fit ourselves, the kids and the cats. On the morning of Saturday, January 14th, we set off from my dad’s house in San Leandro, headed for Puerto Vallarta.

We intended our first stop to be Phoenix, AZ (crossing the border at Nogales, not Tijuana) but not everything went to plan… As we pulled out of the driveway, we dragged our rear end–badly. When we got into the freeway, every little pothole or bump resulted in the suspension completely bottoming out. It was a little better if we kept the speed down, but not much. Driving down the I-5, we were going slow enough that we had to stay in the right lane, but of course the right lane is where all the big rigs drive and the road surface there is considerably rougher than the passing lane.

(Casey adds here that, while he had replaced the shocks himself with the help of Morgan and our nephew Julian a month earlier, he was a cheapskate (his word, not mine!) and didn’t replace the springs, not thinking about the fact that twenty-year-old springs don’t have much sproing left in them.)

At some point we realized that between driving slower than planned, having left a bit late, and (let’s be honest) Maeve’s vociferous complaints about this and that and EVERYTHING, we weren’t going to make it to Phoenix in one day after all. We stopped our first night just outside of Riverside, CA. We got some rest, re-grouped and decided we would drive to Tucson and spend an extra day there to replace the rear springs before moving on. Our thought was that if it was this bad in California, the roads in Mexico would surely be even worse. (In fact, it turned out that the roads in Arizona were orders of magnitude better than those in California, and even most of the toll roads we traveled in Mexico were better than California.)

Morgan and Maeve show off their new Bay Area Life Learners t-shirts before breakfast in Tucson. We’ll miss our community!

On Tuesday, we loaded into the new and improved Nadine and set off for the border. Crossing was surprisingly easy. “What’s in there?” the border agent asked, pointing at our rooftop luggage. “Clothes,” we said. Done. Casey and Morgan went into the immigration office while Maeve and I stayed in the car. We thought we’d tag-team, even though there are guys at the parking area to keep an eye on the cars. (These guys, of course, wanted a tip afterward. “I’d give you a tip,” said Casey, “but I don’t know what you did for me.” “Give them twenty pesos, for complimenting the cats,” I told him.) Turns out, Maeve and I didn’t even have to show our faces inside to get our visas. That health certificate I paid $200 US for, guaranteeing our cats don’t have rabies? They didn’t even glance at it.

That day we made it to Hermosillo and stayed in a palace of a hotel room. It cost us $50, and we ordered room service for four for an extra $14.

On Wednesday, we kept driving, through the state of Sonora and into Sinaloa. We’d been warned not to have all of our cash in one location in case we were robbed, so we stashed the pesos we’d gotten in Nogales under the seats and in other hidey holes around the vehicle. We never let the gas gauge get below half a tank, if we could help it. The journey was without incident, though. To occupy ourselves during the long ride, we listened to Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief, worked crossword puzzles all together, and watched lots of movies on the portable DVD player.

The only thing that happened that was a bit of a bummer was when we came to a police checkpoint in Sonora and they said we had to backtrack a few kilometers to get the proper import license for Nadine. A few hundred dollars and some lost time later, we were on our way again.

The kids enjoyed keeping count of all the Oxxo convenience stores they saw, which are way more ubiquitous than, say, 7-11s in the States. On our first day they counted 38, quite remarkable when you consider that most of the passing scenery was emptiness, broken only gas stations and the occasional shack that passes for a restaurant in the area. The final Oxxo count was 135.

On our way from Hermosillo to Los Mochis, we saw a lot of images of a native man with a deer headdress, but none quite so large as this enormous statue we passed on Thursday:

In the afternoon we lucked out, stopping for gas in a small town where there were plenty of tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants. We filled our bellies with inexpensive, but muy ricos, tacos de camarón y marlin. Tall glasses of sweet jamaica quenched our thirst. I love Mexico.

Los Mochis to Mazatlán was our shortest travel day of all, so we arrived at our hotel early enough to swim in a nice pool then walk a short way down the malecón to a palapa on the beach where we ate shrimp for supper.
The last leg of the drive felt the longest to me, probably because I was so anxious to be back home to the boat. At least I had Wylie to keep me company:

We arrived around 6pm, tired and glad to be out of the car, in time to find a decent if expensive Italian restaurant and enjoy some pizza and share a glass of celebratory wine with Casey.
Whew!

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Visit North to Oregon

Our return to Mexico, previously planned for early November, has been delayed yet again. We’re still waiting for delivery of a custom-machined part for our Aqua Drive (part of the boat transmission) from a dude in New Jersey. With Casey officially retired (at least temporarily) as of November 23rd, we decided to take a family road trip to visit our friends the Pearts at their new home in Redmond OR, outside of Bend.

Our first stop was at Castle Lake, north of Lake Shasta near the CA-OR border. The campsite we aimed for, which was supposed to be open all season; turned out to be snowed in. As it was already getting quite dark, we headed back down the road to a turnout that had been plowed, and made ourselves at home. Here’s a shot of Moby Truck at Castle Lake.
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Home sweet home away from home away from home!
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Morgan had a chance next morning to shoot his pellet gun:

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The kids both enjoyed some snow play before we got back on the road. 
Our drive the next day was increasingly snowy, and by the time we got to Redmond there was quite a bit of snow on the ground, which was great because the kids could go out to play in it whenever they wanted!

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Much of our stay was dominated by sub-freezing temperatures and snowfall, so we took the opportunity to do indoor activities:

Morgan bowls a strike!

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Echo’s got the skillz
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Maeve concentrates in her “signature hat”

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Harrison (aka HP) used a ramp. His balls rolled very slowly but hit their mark more often than not!
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After bowling it was time to hit the arcade

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Will she win? Will she lose?
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Morgan won enough tickets for a much-coveted snake

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Charley photobombs from behind Maeve

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When we arrived, baby Charley  (aka Cha Cha) was just beginning to take steps at only nine months.  We kept putting her on her feet (hee hee, sorry Amber!) and before we left she was walking more than she was crawling. She’s the most chill baby ever (possibly due to being the youngest of three?) and it was so fun to watch her during the two weeks we stayed.

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Sleeping beauty
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Smash mouth

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Our cats, of course, came with us on this trip. Since Amber has cat allergies, they stayed in the bedroom, where they had a perfect view of a bird-filled tree in the front yard. The girls and the Papas made feeders to attract more birds, using toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, peanut butter and birdseed.
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The birds enjoyed the treat!
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The girls built “Frosting the Snowman” in the front yard with HP’s help
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Parsnip nose
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Even though the temperatures were so cold (15* F one day!) the kids had a blast skating in the tiny outdoor rink in downtown Redmond.

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