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 by Eric (392)

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.

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.

Wednesday
Mar122014

we're [eventually] going to leave soon!

We're still sitting here at the dock, moving bulky gear around the over-stuffed cabin, ready to cross an ocean. Why are we sitting in a slip, holding our collective johnsons, you may ask? Well unfortunately for us the weather does not share our state of readiness. Instead it has decided to be light and flukey.

Slow sailing isn't necassarily bad. In fact, with a light swell, it's down right enjoyable. We have a big drifter. 8-12 knots of wind can be a downright pleasure.

But 4 knots true when you need to move downwind? Well, that's a little different. And that's the wind speed I heard on the SSB this morning for a boat that's sitting a few hundred miless off the coast. Looking at the forecast it's just going to get softer and softer over the next week, eventually blowing lightly from the south (ie: the wrong way entirely).

The furthest forecast I can see, including on Fleet Numerical's models, shows the Pacific High establishing itself (finally) eight days from now and hopefully a low pressure trough gets shoved down on us from the Gulf of Alaska. If those two things line up, that will create enough power to get off the coast (courtesy of the storm's remnants), and the Pacific High should be sitting there allowing the trades to operate at a good strength and extend far enough to the east that we can "hook into them". Mike Danielson at PV Sails went over some of this with me and I felt better finally having someone explain to me what the monsoonal trough really f'n is.

That's a lot to wish for and it's at the outer edge of a model trying to predict global weather, but every week or two conditions look better than they did a week or two before.

So, here we sit. On many cans of chicken and pork, we sit, waiting for the winds to align so we can shove off in a nice breeze towards Polynesia. 

In the mean time we've implemented a "chill the f out" policy onboard. After weeks of scrabbling to get ready, we're as ready as we can reasonably be. We've crossed the threshold whereby anything stressful or onerous at this point doesn't have a major impact on our success. 

And as anyone who's prepared for a big journey knows, it's a lot of work and sometimes you need to stop and remind yourself that the whole thing is supposed to be enjoyable, not just bearable. 

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.