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)

Monday
Feb242014

the bamboo whisker pole

I try not to run dead down wind, but instead take it a bit on the quarter, enough that the staysail fills and isn't blanketed by the main. If we must sail dead down wind we will, and especially in calmer sea states that's just fine. 

When waves start breaking and seas start heaping up, the ride is a lot more comfortable if you're broad reaching and in my personal experience the risk of broaching is much lower. Less end-of-the-world-ish, broad reaching tends to heel the boat a bit instead of just letting her roll around on her longitudinal axis. 

Regardless though, the 3,000 mile / 4 week Pacific crossing will be primarily a down wind affair, and if the trades don't beef up here very soon the wind will be in the 10-15 knot range. With conditions like those we have a drifter for a jib (thanks to my unpopular move of trashing the roller furling) and I really wanted to get a pole.

A whisker pole, basically, is a pole that lets you "push" the clew (bottom/back corner of the sail) out over the water and hold it there. In light airs when the sail might otherwise collapse and flog itself to death, the pole forces the sail to keep its shape, sort of. 

The problem with whisker poles is that we don't have one and the "right" ones cost a lot of money, but fundamentally it's a pole, right? I mean, it's a friggen pole. Yes it has to perform under load, yes it needs to be corrosion resistant, and yes it needs some fittings on the end. But other than that, it's a pole. 

Images danced in my head of two long 2x4's with some overlap, thru-bolting them together. Then someone mentioned a long piece of thick-walled PVC. 

But then I saw the geniuses over on SV Lilo that were using bamboo for a dinghy mast and I got excited. 

We got the scoop that some bamboo stalks were growing next to the wall near the primary school in La Cruz, so off Cora and I started on our hike.

Protip: if you do this, make sure you realize you'll need to cut the bottom and the top. The canopy at the top is way to intertwined to just haul down a stalk you chop at the bottom. Worse for me, there was a power line running through it all and I didn't want to be the guy who started a fire at the school or knocked out someone's power. 

Fast forward thirty minutes of hiking back with it and then sawing off all the little nodules along the stalk and I'm the proud owner of a new soon-to-have-fittings whisker pole. 

Yes, boat nazis, I know it isn't as good as aluminium (or carbon). But you know what? It's free. I got a nice little walk out of it. I got a chance to cut down a bamboo stalk and make a whisker pole out of it. 

And when we roll into French Polynesia with our balling-out-of-control bamboo pole you know everyone will be jealous. 

Thursday
Feb202014

dodging the el nino bullet

An "El Nino event" (in the ENSO) is basically the term for the Pacific getting warmer than normal near South America. When that water gets warmer, things change. The water temperature is always changing but during an El Nino event it changes so much that more dramatic weather impacts are felt. More moisture comes into South America. Australia can experience drought conditions. Cyclones can range farther and pack more punch. The trade winds weaken, or even reverse. 

That last aspect there has had me a bit worried for the last week ever since a client prediction center said there's a 75% of an El Nino event happening in 2014. In a worst case scenario that would mean you're sitting in the middle of the ocean with no wind: a bad place to be.

Fortunately though if you look at the data and forecast models, the general consensus is that if an El Nino event occurs in 2014 it will be around the time that we're hoping to already be out of the trade winds, although there is certainly an El Nino impact on New Zealand which we'll take into consideration. 

It's also worth pointing out that NOAA, which is no slouch, will only issue El Nino warnings six months in advance of increased likelihood and they have not (as of now) done so. They have however indicated that some models are suggesting El Nino activity, although they point out that those models might just be responding to normal seasonal variation. 

For those of you looking for some absolute truths, realize that climate models are built by software developers and as a software developer I assure you that we are generally a lazy and error prone bunch.

On a personal note, I've really enjoyed getting to know the weather. It's one of several aspects to sailing that really helps ground you to the world we live on. At a micro level you're paying attention to wind direction, but at a zoomed out macro level things like global warming (seasonal, man made, or natural) really do have a material impact on our plans. I've never had that kind of connection before. 

In our previous land life bad weather was this thing that while inconvenient was rarely a truly life threatening event but here on the big blue ocean it's different. Taking the time to learn about the weather and to care about meteorology can be the difference between happy and well timed passages versus bobbing around with no wind or getting the crap kicked out of you. Both happen anyway, but you can avoid those extremes as much as possible by making smart weather decisions.

Know your boat and know the weather, and nine times out of ten you'll be zipping along happy as a clam. 

Sunday
Feb162014

this internet connection sucks, my torrent won't download fast enough

Sitting in the "VIP Room" of the marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle it's a great lesson in why we as a people are selfish assholes and need to be policed. 

Sailors and broadband are quite hilarious. What should happen, in an egalitarian world, is that we would all recognize that the marina's Internet connection is a shared resource. We all need to use it, we're all frustrated it's not fast enough, and we'd all like to have some basic web browsing / email sending / social media'ing. And if we restricted ourselves to that the Internet connections would be speedy, clean, and wonderfully reliable. 

But no, we can't all just agree to that. Because the minute we get on a fast-ish connection we decide to take our pants off and shit all over our fellow sailors by opening up uTorrent and downloading the latest season of Walking Dead in HD. 

We could, of course, simply hop on the VHF and ask if anyone has it (to which ~50 boats would reply affirmatively), but instead you, I, and ten other boats are sitting there sucking down torrents, porn, and having video Skype calls while we bitch that all three aren't fast enough.

So please, fellow sailor, if you're in a marina with me and would like any Kindle books, pirated movies, or TV shows, please check with me first. I will gladly hand you a thumb drive loaded with gigs of data that now will not need to be transferred through the marina's pipe.  

Monday
Feb102014

weak el nino year possible for 2014

I just spent the last hour combing through forecast models and am slightly bummed to find out that there is a better-than-zero chance of a weak El Nino event happening in the middle of 2014.

2/6/2014 - (Reuters) - U.S. weather forecaster Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said on Thursday there was an increasing chance of the El Nino weather pattern after expecting neutral conditions through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.

That represented a change from the CPC's previous outlook of neutral conditions through summer 2014.

In its monthly report, the CPC maintained its outlook that El Nino was unlikely through the spring, but noted that a change in temperatures "portend warming in the coming months."

The good news about that is three fold:

1) It's possible that no El Nino conditions will happen at all.

2) If an El Nino does happen in 2014, it looks to be weak. 

3) If an El Nino does happen in 2014, it looks to happen in the summer time which although still not great for Pacific sailors at least leaves the big Americas->French Polynesia route relatively untouched. 

Reading through the NOAA forecasts you really a strong taste of all the phrases like "might", "could", "possibly", "waiting on data", "still being determined", etc. If you peel back the layers further you'll see that budget cuts to oceanographic warning systems have been chiefly responsible for the lack of finality in recent forecasts. 

Apparently the $3,000,000 USD needed to fix NOAA's buoys was simply not available. To put in context, that's the cost of two Tomahawk missiles. I don't think it's a reach to argue that knowledge of global weather patterns that affect crop production, transportation, and so much else might be slightly relevant than what two cruise missiles can accomplish. In 1998, damage from El Nino weather conditions caused over twenty five billion dollars in losses to the US economy. 

 

Saturday
Feb012014

last night in the you-ess-of-ay

It's been a little... interesting... here on our blog. With all the talk of child molesters and abuse, my regular banal contributions to the Internet have seemed slightly out of place. But perhaps no one is looking and I can squeak out a nice mundane blog post that is not emotional, gripping, or even that interesting to be honest. 

Today is February which has special signifigance in our household (or boathold?) because we're planning on leaving in March. That means we have roughly a month and some change to get ready to cross three thousand miles of open ocean, spending perhaps thirty days underway. With two small children. 

What we're waiting for, basically, is for the area inside the black circle to look more like the area inside the red circle. Those hockey-stick looking things are the wind, with the handle (the long part) being the direction the wind is going towards. The blades on the end indicate the strength. One long blade is 10 knots, a half a blade is 5 knots. So a long blade with a short blade is 15 knots, two long blades is 20 knots, five long blades is 50 knots, etc. 

These are the trade winds and they strengthen in the spring, but it's not an exact science. Some years they start early, some years they're stronger, and some years they're weaker. Some years (el Nino), they're backwards. 

(above: my day job. conference is over, business clothes packed, waiting for a car and subsequent flight to another city)

It's funny because I have the same disbelief about leaving for the South Pacific that I did before we left for Mexico almost a year and a half ago. I don't really believe it will happen, but I make a list of things that need to get done and I start doing them. Then, you turn around and they're all done, or more likely, done-ish. The weather is good, the provisioned are packed, and there's not much else to do but slip the lines and take off. 

30-45 days to go. I've been up in the USA for a week on business and it's a really weird feeling to know that the next time I come back it will probably be on jet airplane that has to cross over the Pacific.

Wednesday
Dec182013

let's talk about our relationship

There's something special between you and me. We've probably never met, or maybe we have, but there you are and here I am. Maybe you're on your laptop on the salon table of your boat in a foreign country, or maybe you're reading on your phone while sitting on the toilet in your corporate office building.

See that's the interesting thing in our relationship here: I don't really know you that well and to be honest you don't me either. If you've ever met an author or actor outside of their books or off the big screen you might know the feeling: let down city. I ended up in a Navy weapons class for a few months that started at six in the evening and ended at midnight. As a natural result I watched a lot of Days of our Lives. Some of the actors came to a local shopping mall one weekend and although a few of them were cool most were total douchebags. To a large extent writing is like playing a musical instrument in that just because you're good at it doesn't mean anyone necessarily likes you as a person.

So what have we established? That I could be a raging asshole and you are passing the time while getting paid to evacuate your bowels, all the while my writing helps to keep your mind off the guy in the stall next to you. Or maybe I really am a great sailor and all around wonderful chap, and you are a kindred spirit. We're in this together, the two of us, existing on some connected wavelength known only to seafarers.

Or maybe you're an ex girlfriend, colleague, or other interested party. And hell, who doesn't enjoy a nice evening of Internet Stalking here and there.

More realistically you don't hold me in that high, or low, of regard in the first place. I once heard that hating people is a waste of time because half the people you hate don't know how you feel and the other half don't care. Put more bluntly, we generally over think our relevance and impact to others. Our website here has several hundred "likes" on Facebook right now but since when did someone expending 0.00001 calories with a mouse click have anything to do with actual impact on their lives?

It's a sad state of affairs that the genuine affection of a blood and bones person has been reduced, or at least equated, to Facebook's little thumbs up icon.

So here we are. I occasionally write and you occasionally read and perhaps from time to time we wonder about the other. In my most perfect Zen'd out moments I embrace the philosophy of Steven Pressfield and write what I think is worth writing. Whether anyone else finds value in it isn't my concern. My goal is to do the best I can, not try to make other people happy. A therapist that I paid $140 an hour told me one time that I can't make my sense of self be tied to the emotions of others and let me tell you, that particular hour was money well spent.

Dear reader, I don't know if you enjoy everything I type although I do know that I can't meet that standard anyway. I don't even like all the things I write so why in God's name would you? But since we're here in this relationship together you and I, connected like we are, I promise that I will always try to write something that I believe is worth writing. I won't employ gimmicks, I won't make blog entries with lists even though I know you'll be more likely to click on it. If I can't be the writer I want to be I can at least try, and since we're in this together I'm hoping you can meet me in the middle.

Saturday
Dec072013

call me johnny fitness-seed

If you've read my blog before you know I'm "into fitness". It's a fairly lame term to be honest: people who drink water every day aren't necessarily "into water". They are both basic component parts of a healthy and functioning human body. You can't expect to live very long if you don't ingest fluids, nor will you have many long and happy years on Earth if you body is out of whack. I hate to break the bad news to you but the human body was never meant to sit on its ass for a dozen or more hours a day. Your hunger was not meant to be constantly sated. Our genetics are that of a rough-and-tumble genome with incredible athleticism. Find some other animals that can do some of these:

 

  • Walk, run, and swim for miles at a time, consecutively. And while we might not be the fastest on the land or in the sea we certainly make up for it with flexibility of terrain.
  • Climb up a horizontal rock wall with only hand and footholds.
  • Carry enough force in a well placed punch to break bone, brick, and wood.
  • Climb up a rope (or a vine).
  • Balance on a single leg while load bearing.
  • Throw objects an amazing distance coupled with devastating accuracy. This in particular shows not only our physical prowess but also how our powerful intellect combines with it to perform target-motion-analysis on the fly. Lacking any formal education in physics, humans are genetically capable of calculating the complex math around hitting a moving target with a projectile. Accuracy comes with practice, but find any other being, blood or machine, that can do the same. 

 

One thing I've enjoyed about pursuing fitness in Mexico is that it's allowed me to go beyond basic tourist status. A lot of it is pure logistics: routinely working out on the same piece of real estate for a few times a week gives you a good vantage point. Normally we're moving through the places we visit. But when you workout in a public place over and over again, you stay put and the surroundings come alive around you.

When scouting for a good workout site, top billing goes to a strong horizontal bar capable of supporting me dangling by my gymnast rings. Last week I found an optimal location: the plaza in the middle of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The crowd has been growing every day and today my fitness cup overfloweth with nearly thirty kids at top end showing me their chops with the rings and my jump rope. 

Health skills that can last you a life time aren't really taught in schools, and not a lot of parents pick up the slack. Kids don't know the difference between a carburetor and a carbohydrate, and I double dog dare most anyone to give me an accurate estimate of the amount of protein you've eaten today, in grams. 

So I'm really proud that some of the local kids are taking an interest in fitness and I think in the months ahead I'll start carving out a basic routine for the more committed attendees. I figure if the United States has indeed exported obesity, I'm happy that as an American I can help to export some of our culture's better angels.

Friday
Nov292013

the safety of mexico for a cruising sailor

A typical cartel raid. Military grade weapons, armor, and uniforms.I received an email the other day from someone who, understandably, is worried about going to Mexico in light of the violence and crime that is so widely reported. Anyone traveling to Mexico probably, hopefully, has at least asked themselves "is it safe?".

An excerpt of the email is below, and as always any identifiable info has been removed to protect the innocent, less their friends and contemporaries know that they associate with me:

I am actually planning on heading down south as I too have a Hans Christian 36 :)  I am planning on doing Mexico and want to surf Baja and eat lobsters down there, but was getting a lot of grief from family about it being so unsafe these days... I almost decided to bypass Mexico and go to Hawaii, missing out on Baja altogether.

Then I found your blog and looked at the great photos and thought Mexico is still safe - just look these people are totally doing it!

Please, if you have a little time, please give me your opinion of the overall safety there now.

When we lived in San Diego some South Korean friends were at our boat for dinner and expressed how they were not going to Los Angeles because of the violence there: they had seen the homeless man who was set on fire and burned to death, they had heard the gangster rap music of the 90's, they had seen the movies, and they knew the drive-by attack rates.

Charlotte and I tried to explain to them that there are many people living quite safely in Los Angeles and that they were really far off in their threat assessment. Personally I'm much more worried about getting into a car accident driving back and forth from San Diego to Los Angeles than I am ending up in the crossfire of a gang war. But people as a rule generally have terrible skills at identifying and prioritizing risk, usually magnifying the unknown threats and minimizing those they have already come to terms with.

Cartels have hired young women to work as assassins because people are less suspicious of them.To answer your question, dear reader, the reality of narco cartels in Mexico is multifaceted, nuanced, and quite far from the typical US image of the situation. To be fair, it's also pretty far from Mexico's image of the situation.

First and foremost, the number of your typical-westerner-bystanders being involved in cartel violence is quite low. These are not gangs as much as businesses, and nearly everything they do is fueled by the desire to protect and expand their revenue. The ballpark income of Mexican cartels is $64 billion dollars annually: these are not motorcycle meth gangs in leather jackets.

Before I came to live in America's southerly neighbor I definitely had the (egregiously wrong) paternalistic view of Mexico where whatever they built could never be as good as what America has done and whatever their problems are it's nothing that some Predator drones and a few DEVGRU guys couldn't wipe out. This is simply untrue and anyone who thinks along these lines does not understand the depth or breadth of narco trafficking. 

Ending up in the crosshairs of a cartel can happen in a number of ways: you could be a politician, a rival cartel member, a business operating in controlled territory, or even simply someone with skills a cartel has deemed helpful and wants to employ. But the odds of that happening to you as a barely-Spanish-speaking tourist on a boat is remarkably slim. The reality is that you (and I) have little to offer them in terms of benefit or threat. Note that when looking up "American citizens killed in Mexico", you will be wading into the sea of Mexican-American nationals. The twin daughters of the world's most powerful narco cartel are in fact Americans, born in Los Angeles: immeadiatly after they returned to Mexico so now you tell me, are they Mexican cartel affiliates, American citizens, or do they exist in some nebulous in between?

Cartel murders are often public, with signs informing would-be rivals to think twice.There are places you can go, most of which aren't on the Pacific coast (or on any coast) that will crank up your odds of problems. If you emailed and said you were going to backpack through the trafficking corridors of Durango and then set up a drug rehab clinic in Juaraz, yeah: there's a decent chance you're going to end up in a bag before the year is out.

But to provide a parallel in the United States, there's a difference between working in the San Diego golf course industry versus being in San Bernadino county creating bulk pseudoephedrine: both of those paths set you at wildly different courses of running into a rather violence prone set of individuals. To the untrained eye however, someone might simply see the entire state of California as dangerous because if you can get into trouble making a meth precursor then surely maintaining the putting greens in La Jolla is equally as terrifying. 

One of my favorite books on the subject of Mexican narco cartels is Ted Carpenter's The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America. That sets up a pretty good base of knowledge for understanding the violence spurring aspect of the Mexican-American "head hunting" campaign where rather than introduce systemic solutions to narcotics trafficking, the current enforcement model targets cartel senior leadership (a.k.a. "king pins").

These senior cartel leaders generally are the least violent (of very violent people), and when they are removed from power intense fighting follows in their wake: lieutenants fight each other for control, splinter groups form, and rival cartels smell blood in the water and move in to capitalize on perceived weakness. This is precisely what happened in Tijuana with the decapitated Tijuana Cartel, and in Juarez with the also aptly named Juarez Cartel. In both instances the violence spikes were directly tied to the fall of the senior leadership.

The headhunting enforcement model is roughly akin to hoping that by killing the CEO of Coca Cola and Pepsi, you will thereby stop people from making and drinking soda. Undoubtedly the supply will be disrupted temporarily, but a lower supply and maintained demand only causes prices to soar and bolder actions by those who can manufacturer and sell. But people don't like nuance, and voters generally root for the guy who managed to put a bruised up "drug kingpin" in front of the cameras with a pile of narcotics and gold plated weapons on the table in front of him, flanked by scary soldiers in ski-masks.

Why this matters and why you should be aware of it, dear reader, is because traveling through Baja and the Nayarit area, you're going to be smack dab in the Sinaloa Cartel's operating range. The Sinaloa cartel is the largest narcotics organization in the world and easily the most powerful in Mexico. Formerly the Pacific Cartel, it controls the territory these days that a typical Mexico-Pacific sailor will encounter from Ensenada to Puerto Vallarta. 

So with all the corpses dangling from bridges and faces sewn onto soccer balls and kicked into government buildings, here's a less ghoulish tale that shows some nuance. 

Every Wednesday there is a market here in sleepy La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and there is always the pirated movie stand. $20 pesos for a movie, buy 5 and get your sixth for free. Last year I picked up Shrek, Act of Valor, and some other titles from the stand and walked away. One of the kids working there chased after me and hauled me back, explaining that I hadn't picked my sixth free movie and that he still owed me one. Even better, he said if any of them didn't play to make sure I brought them back next week for a refund or exchange.

I bring this up because my money, and the money of everyone who's purchased a pirated movie in Mexico, goes directly into the coffers of the area's predominant narco cartel. The police don't turn a blind eye to pirate movies because they like Toy Story 3 and want others to get it at a fair price, these illegal markets exist (and are operated with terrific customer service) because of the powerful cartel influences. The cartel gets its cut and as a result the pirate movie vendor doesn't have competition in that area and doesn't get hassled by the local police. 

Narco trafficking is a major aspect of Mexico: you simply cannot have a conversation about business or politics without the subject being brought up. In some places the effect is obvious, in others the impact is more subtle. It's incredibly naive for anyone to imagine they are immune to the footprint of cartels, but likewise it's Chicken Little-ish to think you personally are that relevant to a cartel or that the razor thin chance of ending up in a cross fire, which can happen in Kansas City as well, is anything more than distantly remote. 

The take away points I would offer up, and I wrote this in my book as well (cough cough), are:

  • Be careful if you buy drugs. Lots of people buy weed in Mexico, and honestly the cartels are there to sell and make money not to hassle or endanger their customers. But the local shit-head taxi driver you ask might try to fleece you for some cash before he takes you to his connection. If you want to score some weed, make friends with a local first. 
  • Until you know areas well, stick with remote villages or well trodden areas of cities that have a defined gringo footprint (La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, Turtle Bay, Loreto, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, etc). 
  • Don't get caught with drugs in Mexico. It's actually not as illegal as people think: most states have legalized minor posession but the Mexican military has wide latitude and the local municipal police can still hassle you. There is quite a bit of distance, especially on the mainland, between what's on the books and what happens in the street.
  • Lookout for enforcement actions that rattle cartel leadership. If El Chapo Guzman were ever caught or killed (and we were in a Sinaloa area) we wouldn't leave town instantly but I'd be much more alert and avoid sketchy situations than I otherwise might.
  • Read some books on the subject and familiarize yourself with the patterns, targets, periphery, and cycles of narco violence. 

Mexico is neither safe or dangerous, and it is obtuse to oversimplify such a complex country into those definitions. Your safety and experiences are entirely dependent on where you are and the choices you make. With a bit of light reading (that is actually pretty interesting), staying up on the news, and having a genuine interest in learning about the situation you can make the danger of Mexico be as remote as that of your own home town.

 

Wednesday
Nov272013

four days at sea later, we're back in la cruz

We spent the last four days and three nights underway, about 25% of that motoring across the typically flat Sea of Cortez, and the other 75% bouncing around at or near hull speed whilst double reefed with terrific force 3-6 conditions. For one evening in particular things got a little beefy, but we have a heavy cutter and with the mainsail double reefed and the staysail on its boom, the boat rarely ever feels over powered. Still, it's weird to see 7.4 knots for a Hans Christian 36.

Double reefed, Hydrovane steering, flag flapping, ripping long before the weather really started up.

One really weird thing that blew my mind were the two encounters with upper tonnage commercial ships. In both cases I saw them on AIS early enough, and they saw me as well (visually, on radar, and via our AIS transponder). Normally in an open seaway things are a bit clearer: you're generally moving on one heading as is the other vessel, so potential collisions are spotted early. 

But in narrow bisecting channels that curve and look like spaghetti noodles piled onto the chart, AIS isn't smart enough to do the math that you're going to be making a turn in a few minutes (to avoid shoal waters, for example) as is the other vessel. 

Both times I contacted the bridge via the VHF and politely explained that we were a sailing vessel with limited options for maneuvering, and acknowledged they are probably restricted in their options because of the channel depth. It was blowing pretty good, I had two preventers rigged, and the wind vane was in the water: yes I can officially state that it would have been a pain in the ass to move out of their way. But I also know, because hey, I paid attention in captain school, I was intersecting a channel that they were crossing: we needed to figure out a mutually beneficial solution to our problem.

Closer than most of us want to get.

Both deck officers were more than polite and shot our stern. The captain of the Mazatlan Star in fact [figuratively] ran into us again a day later and hit me up on the VHF just to chit chat and say hello. As a footnote, if you ever run into a good merchant captain out there, consider taking the time to send an email or make a phone call to the company that they work for. These are men and women with jobs, and the good ones should be aknowledged more. 

I don't know if I'll ever get used to really long passages. I enjoy them much more these days, in large part because we have the boat (and ourselves) much more dialed in. The self steering systems work well. With paper navigation and a windvane we eliminate two of the always-on power consumers on many sail boats: the autopilot and chartplotter-electronics-suite. Charlotte's a good cook and has dialed in more and more recipes underway that make use of what provisions we might have, don't require a ton of cleanup, and doesn't sentence anyone to long stays in the galley doing prep work.

My navigation and weather skills are definitely better than they were, and my ability to balance the boat and keep her as comfortable as possible in a bucking seaway is improving. All of these little steps: from changing out incandescent light bulbs to LED, all the way to a balanced sail plan to avoid over ruddering constitute a base that doesn't eliminate problems, but has certainly freed us up to concentrate on other ones. 

Sunrise on the Pacific, just south of the Sea of Cortez.We're safely back in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and even within two hours of being on the mainland we were clinking glasses and getting hugs from friends we made last year. In less than an evening we were welcomed back by numerous people, invited to a local birthday party Saturday night where a lady has been dying for us to try her posole, and I hugged our old cabby Oscar that almost caused Lyra to be born in the back of a van.

And with that, the Sea of Cortez is now officially behind us. 

Friday
Nov222013

my current workout system

Managing to stay fit with two kids, living on a sailboat in a developing nation, and holding a job has been... interesting. But like fitness everywhere it's about priorities. For awhile I'd wake earlier to dodge the heat, but then the mosquitoes would be out in force. So then I needed to go in peak tropical heat, dead noon. Then I got heat exhaustion and almost fainted. So now I drink some salt water before I go. In the end, it's all about how bad you want it and how much shit you're willing to put up with.

Anyway, here's my routine and I'm pretty happy with it. I feel it's pretty balanced and has been helping me on a lot of asymmetrical problems: chances are you're weaker on one side of your body than the other. Everything I have fits into a backpack and I spend maybe a total of two hours a week working out, which breaks down to about ~45 minutes every couple of days. Sometimes I get lazy/busy and stretch it to three days.

Pack light.As far as gear goes, I pack light. I'm much more comfortable with barbells and although I have some kettebells onboard, the ability to cover distance and go somewhere good is critical. In order of importance is my bluetooth speaker, gymnast rings, chalk, map 3500 backpack, jump rope, and water bottle. Not pictured is me in some sneakers, gym shorts, and T shirt.

Location is everything. I find a place that has a load bearing horizontal bar that I can toss my ring straps over. Anything that's 6' - 15' off the ground will work which is actually an awful lot of stuff. Playgrounds in particular are target rich environments. Screw trying to workout on the boat: it's ridiculous. Even active sailors spend ~90% of their time not underway. So grab your bag, get your ass moving, and put your time in.

Upper body push: ring dips and clap pushups. I hate doing high reps so these are a great combo for me. Ring dips are just freaky awesome in general and if you can do 30 pushups you won't be able to do half of that with claps. These are the muscles, bones, and connective tissue that allow you to push things around with your hands.

Upper body pull: front and back levers, and pullups. Pullups really don't need a video. These are the parts of the body that let you pull things with your hands. If you're just getting started with rings I'd recommend focusing on the support position and inverted (supine) rows.

"Core": I hate that stupid term, but I do some planks and the single leg Romanian dead lifts make my abs hurt so I figure that's helping. If you do a lot of full body exercises you don't need to really worry about doing "core" work. If anyone starts talking to you about "core" exercises just walk away from them. Or mug them and take their money because you can safely assume they're not that strong.

Lower body push: pistol squats, vertical jumps, split jumps. These are the muscles that let you jump, kick, and lift your body off the ground. I use the jump rope a lot too, but mainly because I feel like Rocky Balboa.

Lower body pull: single leg Romanian deadlifts. These awesome little guys should be in anyone's arsenal regardless of the fitness equipment that might be at your disposal. They are deceptively simple but require staggering amounts of single foot balance and motor control. Plus, they're the only bodyweight hamstring exercise I know of that only requires a floor. These are super important and you do not want to have funky legs where your quads are strong but your glutes (ass) and hamstrings are weak: knee problem central.

I'm always tweaking my exercises, in large part because I like new challenges and it feels nice to progress up the food chain of increasing complexity. Hopefully some of this will help some other fitness-minded person out there struggling with ideas on how to not turn into a blob of goo when sailing around in whacky locations.