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

Wednesday
Jul022014

fundraiser for That Others May Live in august

I was genuinely honored when asked to participate in a fundraiser for That Others May Live. If you've followed our rescue and post-rescue world, you probably heard me mention that organization a couple of times. Simply put, the Air Force Pararescuemen (the folks that jumped out of a plane to help my daughter) have a dangerous job. 

The Air Force Pararescue motto is:

That Others May Live

Not "That we all might live", or "That we'll all get through this one together", but genuinely and truly they are working hard and putting their lives at risk for other people. If you're an adventurer, traveler, soldier, or otherwise a person who's out there in the thick of it and need help, these are most likely the people who are going to come for you.

And it's the only type of work they do. There are no risk-less assignments. There is no getting the cat out of the tree or helping old ladies across the street. These are M4 toting hard-asses with families of their own who put that aside to do a duty that is truly awe inspiring. 

  

 

In the course of their work, they get hurt. They're jumping out of planes, climbing over mountains, swimming in the ocean, and dealing with enemy forces in their combat search and rescue role. 

The TOML foundation (pronounced "Tom-ahl") helps out those rescuemen and their families. 

These guys are there for you right now. There is a C130 waiting on the runway, fueled up, with a dozen airborne medic-soldiers just waiting to come get your ass out of a jam: it's that real. It's what they train for, it's what they're the best at, and I'm proud to do whatever I can to help them.

If you have the resources, consider helping them as well. Your support goes directly to help people who can and will risk their own lives to help you and your family. 

Friday
May302014

building back up with worn out tools

A college professor of mine regarded Rudyard Kipling as a Hallmark poet: not the kind of high brow writing that a serious literate would adorn their book shelves with. Still, Kipling's poem If has been rotating around in my head ever since we hit the EPIRB. In particular, the second stanza.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

The last two years of our adventure was the most glamorous part: the high seas, a foreign country, and new horizons. It was a magical world and for those out there who are planning their own adventures I think to some we served as motivation or at least a reference point.

But what made those two years possible was the decade before it. It was acquiring a lot of sea time. Buying a boat. Paying down debt. Long hours in the office. Getting my commercial license. Many, many hours of physical labor. 

Those were not sexy years. They do not capture the eye with pictures of amazing sunsets or tropical paradises. But the reality for most of us is that if you want to achieve something you need to put some serious time in at the grindstone to get there.

So more than anything, that's what I'm trying to embrace again right now. Whatever we want to do next, whether it involves a boat, a cabin, or a spaceship, it will ultimately come down to having a plan and following it. 

One of the biggest things that I learned through our experience is that every single one of us, you and me included, are capable of achieving any goal that's even remotely possible. It really comes down to putting a plan together and working towards it. Every day, bit by bit, chiseling away and making progress.

The responsibility to pursue our ambitions and make them manifest is ours: the locus is internal

And with that, aside from the random thoughts about the loss of our boat, I'm starting a new chapter in my mind. 

You can't help it if a bird flies over your head, but you don't need to let him make a nest in your hair.

Those words, spoken by Martin Luther, have been helping me over the last couple of months. It's natural, normal, and healthy to run through all the emotions following trauma. The thoughts of guilt and self doubt battling away with confidence and sureness of direction. 

Ultimately though, I need to control what I spend time thinking about. If I only have sixteen or so conscious hours a day, will I spend those hours in a true and honest pursuit of a dream, or will I hamstring myself by occupying my mind with thoughts and emotions that serve no constructive purpose. 

So, happily, back to the grindstone I go. From this point forward you can expect content that will be un-exciting, work-heavy, and without a sense of finality or closure: exactly what's required to take dreams and turn them into plans, and then eventually reality.

Saturday
May102014

donations - thank you

Believe it or not we (usually I) do end up reading every message sent to us. Again, I can not express enough the kindness and generosity that we've experienced since the first member of the California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing parachuted towards us, all the way to someone yesterday who asked me quite simply and honestly if I could use a new pair of shoes.

We lost our home, nearly all of our belongings, and (temporarily) our dream. 

But we're alive, we're safe, and in large part we owe that to the men and women who choose to dedicate their lives to rescuing others.

To that end, if you were considering putting a few dollars our way, please send that generosity towards That Others May Live. These are the people who made our rescue possible. We'll never be able to fully repay our debt to our four parajumpers or to the crew of the USS Vandegrift

Wednesday
Apr302014

captain's log, april 30, 2014

If you're writing cathartically or just to document, you don't really need a cohesive point. But whether or not there's an answer to "what is the author trying to say?" can be the difference between good writing and rambling rhetoric. 

I've struggled a lot trying to make sense of the loss of our dream, our home, and our way of life. Short of a press statement issued in the throws of a media circus, I honestly haven't known what I wanted to say and in large part I still don't. 

I know there are people, many people, who have suffered far worse fates than my own family has. Roughly $20,000 dollars was unsolicitedly raised for us. To put that in context, more than 40% of American workers make less than that amount annually

My parents used to remind me of the old saying, "I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met the man who had no feet." Not trying to equivocate on it, but where does that logic end? "I felt sorry for myself because I had no feet until I met the man who had no legs?" Maybe no one in a bad breakup should feel sad because hey, they could have gotten their legs chopped off too, so turn that frown upside down.

It's helpful to put our loss into perspective, but I'm trying to stop short of engaging in Oppression Olympics where we're only allowed to feel bad if we have the trophy awarded for Greatest Loss Suffered Ever. 

One of the hardest things for me personally is that we've been out of mainstream American culture for roughly two years now, living in an adventure. Everything we did was generally difficult but incredibly rewarding. Our adventurous sailing friends are literally going wherever the wind blows at this very moment, and I'm sitting on my laptop imagining our home of eight years sitting 6,000 feet under the water. 

My child's Buzz Lightyear doll, if it floats, is probably banging against the overhead in the cabin, forever unable to escape and there it will remain for hundreds or thousands of years, gently bobbing in the near current-less waters of the deep Pacific basin. These images, and others too painful to bring to the forefront of my mind, will be racing around my head for some time I imagine. I actually try to slowly remember more and more of the ordeal, and of our home sitting on the bottom of the sea, as a way of revisiting the memory and making it less traumatic. 

I of course was the one who cut the hoses myself, sinking Rebel Heart, so metaphorically and literally, I sank our dream, watching water lap over the floor boards as I said my final goodbyes to a ship that had protected us, taken care of us, and allowed us to see thousands of miles of ocean and coastlines.

Moreover, Rebel Heart allowed us to see ourselves for who we were. We learned what we really could accomplish. We learned that chasing down dreams and doing the impossible is actually quite possible, and not just for other people. We learned that we could be so much more than we thought. 

So to Rebel Heart, our beloved boat resting, I hope peacefully, at the bottom of the sea, I want you to know that you will always be a member of our family and that we continue to draw lessons from you. Your impact on our lives and the time we had with you has forged bonds that the years will never be able to undo. 

Even now you allow us to see the generosity and decency of people, who from all over the globe have offered us support and kindness in whatever shapes they can. 

Thank you, Rebel Heart.

Thursday
Apr102014

twenty four hours back in san diego

First, we would like to express our profound gratitude for the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard. These people are true heroes, along with Commander Alva and the crew of the USS Vandegrift. We will remember them forever.

We have been happy with the maritime life we have been able to share with our daughters. Even as we write this, several other boats are crossing the same stretch of water that Rebel Heart was on, with families who seek to show their children the world. Children have been sailing on boats for a long time, and the modern cruising family dates back several decades.

To our supporters and those who also seek an adventurous path with their families, we thank you for your kind words and support. From professional rescuers, professional sailors, and other families at sea we have been buoyed by your warmth and kindness. For those who are more critical, we ask that you kindly await all the details. There have been many inaccuracies reported through various media related to our daughter's health, the vessels' condition, and our overall maritime situation.

While we are thankful for the unsolicited generosity we have received and been offered, we encourage you to consider donating to That Others May Live (www.thatothersmaylive.org), which provides relief to the families of members of the United States Air Force Rescue community when tragedy strikes.

Wednesday
Mar262014

fingers crossed for wind again

Someone in Puerto Vallarta make sure you hop on the VHF and tell Mike Danielson that, indeed, I'm glad I brought a good book with me because we've been rather becalmed for the last few days. "Becalmed" of course is a fancy way for saying "the swell will rock you around as your sails flog themselves to death with insufficient wind to move the boat in any relevant direction."

We're maybe five or six hundred miles off the coast of Mexico headed south west, trying every trick in the book to get down closer to more reliable winds. There are some not-unfriendly looking cumulus clouds floating around the barometer took a small hit so I'm hoping this keeps up through the night. I've really learned to embrace my inner light-air sailor. Three days of < 10 knot winds will do that to you, or at least they have to me.

For the last few nights the wind has dropped to around 3 knots, not "strengthening" to 7-ish knots until later in the morning. This has honestly been some of the toughest sailing I've done: needing to handle a boat in flukey air, dropping all sails and bobbing like a cork for hours in the open ocean, and trying to extract every ounce of speed I can when it does pipe up a bit. There's a certain joy in being exhausted from your day, only to hear your rig slamming about in nonexistent winds. Dropping sails on deck, the mainsail ungracefully trash-packed all over the coach roof, and my grumbling with my headlamp on.

We've only burned five gallons of diesel so far in this whole affair, knowing that since we carry so little (30, total) there really isn't a lot of fudge factor. Every drop and every minute needs to be carefully allocated and there hasn't been anywhere worth motoring towards, so sitting with johnsons-in-hand we do. In my defense this is my first ocean crossing and I'm usually a much better weather router, but I definitely screwed up the assessment on this one a bit and have been getting the consequences rammed into my respective orifices.

I haven't had a ton of time to sit around and be reflective about this insanely long passage. My waking hours are spent, entirely, working. Parenting, extracting performance from whatever wind we have, fixing a few broken things, laundry, my day job, and then trying to connect with my wife once the kids are in bed. Oh, and then there's whatever the night has in store for us which lately has been a huge back of, well, you know.

The forecast looks better starting tomorrow, we haven't seen a boat in days, and our apples should last another week if we ration ourselves.

Time to flip on the running lights and watch some Battle Star Galactica with Charlotte on my laptop.

Sunday
Mar232014

day ... 4?

I think it's day 4 now?

We're still running a somewhat normal configuration of a single reefed main, staysail, and yankee with decent results. During the daylight hours the wind tends to freshen a bit. At night we're seeing around 8 knots, and it pipes up to maybe 15-20 during the middle of the afternoon.

Night time boat speeds are hovering around 5.5, daytime is more like 6.5. We've bumped 8 knots a few times, and a few days ago we bobbed like a cork at 0.0.

I'm still trying to make sure we make a lot of westerly progress. That's not really that hard to do, but it does put the boat on a beam reach which for full grown adults isn't a problem but for a one year old it's a little... active.

At night when everyone is in bed, I sneak around and trim all the sails in a little tighter and put us back on a close reach. The motion is lumpy but people are sleeping so I get away with it. Once everyone is awake I'll widen back up again to a broad reach for the comfort factor.

The psychology of this trip has been rough. I read about everyone else's Pacific crossings: watching movies, reading books, fishing, etc. On Rebel Heart from the minute the girls are awake we're in extreme parenting mode with a couple of intervals where it calms down a bit during naps or digitally enhanced entertainmnet.

We've finally started reading about the islands from Polynesia to Tonga that we're planning on checking out: it's been a boost to our spirits to realize that we're not just crossing 3,000 miles of water for shits and grins. There is indeed, hopefully, a warm light at the end of the tunnel that involves a pleasant anchorage and some type of rum-based beverage.

Saturday
Mar222014

36 hours into our pacific crossing

Well this certainly is an interesting experience. It's not every day that one gets to sail across an ocean for the first time, and as I type this that's what we're doing. A gap materialized whereby both girls are entertained, the boat is basically on course and balanced, the water tank is full, batteries are at 14 volts, and well, things are pretty good.

Yesterday, things were not so good.

On our first day out the wind died at night, giving us the option of light air sailing with our drifter, bobbing like a cork with the sails down, or burning precious diesel fuel which will be needed later on.

Once the heavy Dacron sails couldn't keep up, I hoisted the lightweight drifter and we managed to make a couple of knots for a few hours. Dew set in after dark, saturating the boat and making everything cold and wet. Then the drifter parted, and my thoughts went to a "skied halyard", meaning one that is way the hell up there and you can't get it back down.

Portions of the sail went down into the water, forming a sea anchor of sorts, which loaded up the jib sheets (secured with bowlines). A blown out (1/3 of it was gone) sail was wrapping around the keel which fortunately on our boat is full-ish in shape so there's not a good chance of anything wrapping.

I had to literally hack the drifter up with my rigging knife, at three in the morning, on a sloppy wet deck with my headlamp on: pretty salty stuff.

The wind has actually been out of the WNW today (day 2), so we're close hauled making 4 knots or so now with a single reefed main, staysail, and yankee. The Hydrovane has been dutifully steering us around.

On the grib forecasts it looks like the wind starts shifting to be more northerly, which will let us widen up our angle to a beam reach and make true westward progress.

Psychologically, it's a pretty big adjustment to get used to an underway boat, at least for us. Day sailing is one thing, but this is a whole different bag of potatoes. I'm usually a meticulous navigator but I've found myself realizing that short of a daily fix there isn't much use in being more anal about it.

I'm really hoping the wind stays up tonight and doesn't die off like it did last night. Off the west coast of Baja, once you were about ~50nm out, the daily diurnal wind patterns dropped off and you got the prevailing northwesterlies.

It will take a huge load off of my mind to be "in the trades", or at least in a 24 hour wind pattern that we can bank on throughout the night. Bobbing like a cork is no fun, my light air sail is totally unrepairable, and diesel is worth its weight in gold.

Today we found ourselves in the cockpit for a few hours, everyone happy, the boat zipping along, and we look around smiling, realizing that this really can be fun. One day down, maybe 30 more to go.

Sunday
Mar162014

wednesday, not friday

A few years ago I almost crewed on a boat bound for Hawaii, departing from San Diego. The owner onboard was a lazy drunk who didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground, but he was damn sure not going to leave on a Friday. 

For those who don't know, the general consuses was that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday. Because we like to to pick and choose mythology in our consumer based society, sailors picked that one as an unlucky day to depart.

Which is utterly ridiculous if you think about the amount of commercial ships and warships that leave whenever they are required, Fridays included, for as long as boats have been on the water. Leave it to the knuckleheads with the lowest amount of sea time to lug around superstitious mumbo jumbo up there with angry gods sending fire out of the tops of mountains because an insufficient quantity of virgins were sacrificed.

The don't-leave-on-Friday bullshit is especially absurd if you think of the practical and pragmatic pressures on vessel schedules: official entry and exit requirements, weather, tides, visas, and much else.

Personally I'd prefer to leave on a Friday just to imagine the head shakes and tssk-tssk's that would emerge from hardened seafarers (crossing their fist ocean, just like me). 

This is a long way of saying we're slated to depart Wednesday night. Hoping to grab some showers, wait for the wind to die out, and motor out of the bay once the chop has died down.

Sunday
Mar162014

some updates for thekeel.com

I published some updates on thekeel.com today that hopefully should solve a couple of problems some people were experiencing.

  • Map would load, but you weren't on it. Well in fact you were on it, but the zoom and centering was way off. So it should be a lot better now.
  • Tracer effect added. Until now you could upload GPX tracks and your current position, but there wasn't anything in the middle. Now you'll have a colored linestring for your last 60 days of checkins, connecting the dots (as it were) of the places you've been. Now that I type that, it should be user configurable, but I think I'm up to my eyeballs in code changes already.
  • Cache updates. Should make everything a bit quicker.

What should get me some sympathy from any other developers out there is took me about ~10 hours just to get the site to recompile on my laptop. Between the last time I had worked on it and now I got a new laptop, so everything collided as new versions of Entity Framework blew up all my data references. 

As an example of the "tracer effect", let's take my good friend Sven for example, piloting his Ericson along Mexico. See Sven, I told you I had your data!

 

If anyone has any feedback, please email me. I can't always knock out problems as soon as you find them but I'll add them to the stack and knock them out when I have a decent connection some down time.