The wisdom of Insecurity

Groovy, old Alan Watts wrote a hip little book illuminating ( for the jazz-listening, beret-wearing, beatnik-crowd) the fundamental Buddhist contemplations on impermanence. 
I've read the book lots of times over the years, but these past few weeks have given Jon and I more visceral opportunity to absorb its concepts.

We float around in this strange and wonderful sea, surrounded by beauty and death.
The sunsets are impossible. 
The wind can make you crazy.
The phosphorescence beneath the boat are a mirror reflection of the milky way above...
Seeing these things will make you disappear.

We found out by email sent to us over the radio waves, that we sold our house.
Our home, near our family and friends.
The one we built with love. 
The one where we went sledding with the neighbor kids on snowy days. 
The one with the vegetable garden and a wrought iron gate, made by a friend.

We drift around on our anchor and the chain leaves elaborate patterns in the sand beneath the boat. We are pushed by tide and wind.
Our tracks are gone a moment later.
There is no proof that we were even here.

The pufferfish congregate in the shadow of our boat.
They are plotting something and everyone down here knows it.

Life has become one long mediation.
There is no noise. 
There is no desire other than to jump in the water.
Thoughts move slowly. You see each one as it floats by.
You wonder why it's there.
Then you fall asleep.

Ambition is a pointy word.
I used to think it was an arrow, now, I think it's a thorn.

We went for a walk with some new friends the other day. These people were really cool. They have sailed down here for years and they know how to find the bones and teeth of things that lived thousands of years ago. They taught us how to search the cliffs for fossils- Great white teeth and whale vertebrae. We learned how to sift through the flotsam on the beach for paper Nautilus and Puka shells.  The kids swam back to the boat and discovered baby lobsters, not more than an inch long, living in tiny holes in a rock. We ate raw clams, fresh from the sea, with hot sauce and lime juice. 

Kai has learned to free dive so well, that soon, he will start spearfishing. Our new friend is an expert spear fisherman and he taught Kai how to make his own bands for Jon's gun.
Hunter and I were diving the edge of a drop-off the other day. We were holding hands and swimming along, following a school of baitfish. The visibility was good, we were in about ten feet of water over a rock face that dropped off to fifty feet.  As we swam along the edge, Kai appeared from below. He had been stalking us from the depths. He pointed his "pretend" gun at us and smiled. 
 "Bang" he mouthed through his mask. 
If we had been a Leopard grouper, we would have been dinner. 
To watch Kai underwater, is to witness someone doing the thing they were born to do. Sometimes I think he's the reason we are all out here. No matter how hard we were trying in Hollywood to make something happen, the ocean was calling to Kai the whole time. 

It's strange to us still, that we're out here.  We talk about it constantly.
When you spend your whole life working towards a goal( like Jon and I have )and then something else steps up and presents itself with seemingly less obstacle and more pleasure, it's hard to shake off the feeling that you are being called in a new direction. 
We have no idea where we will go. We have no idea what we will do. We have no idea how we will make any money.
For the first time in either of our lives, we are completely and totally satisfied with where we are and what we are doing.
We feel, at the end of pretty much everyday here, grateful, happy, clean and healthy. Our self esteem is in tact. 
We have much to learn and do but there isn't anything frantic about it.
Life is very good, very cool, right now.

This is the wisdom of insecurity. 

It's  "Pura Vida", baby.
Isla Monseratte


Seal bones

Mako tooth

Father's day smiles

Pelican skull
Looking for treasure
sweet girl

silly girls

Heading home
A treasure trove

 Guests and evening entertainment on Pura Vida

Tea party

The extraordinary Zada finds another tooth

Zonked after a long day

The ghost in the machine

sad about grandma leaving
We all were sad to say goodbye to Grandma and Cynthia...Hunter was beside herself and cried for the whole day - but it was nice to get to share our world with them for a little while.

Hunter was cheered only slightly by the thought of  meeting up again with her new friend, Zada.  A little girl her age, who we met in Candeleros. Zada has been cruising the Sea for four years (and has  already ridden on the back of a whale shark!). Hunter and she hit it off right away. We promised the girls to do our best to catch up again, somewhere, once Daddy fixed up the pesky heat exchanger. 
We also met another boat-family with a brother and sister, in their early teens, who had been in the Sea for four years and were heading back to California and to high school. 
They were super bummed to be leaving and wishing they could stay out one more year-all were really neat, outgoing kids. 
There is definitely an "old-fashioned" aura to the kids we meet out here. Polite, well-spoken,  clean up after themselves and pitch in without being asked. They spend a lot of time talking to adults, obviously, because most of the folks out here are retired. Kai and Hunter have made friends with retired Fire fighters, Fisherman, smugglers,  Ex-marines, Ambulance drivers, Boat builders,Triage nurses, Teachers, Retired-millionaires, Writers, Merchant Marines, Doctors, F-14 pilots, Professional Spear-fisherman, Pediatricians, Industrial spies and Penguin researchers.  They have met people who have been in wars, been shipwrecked, sailed to Egypt and Antarctica, fought off pirates, one old-timer even had spears thrown at his boat in New Guinea. No one out here is watching TV or rushing off to work, there is always a pair of experienced hands to teach how to tie a lure, or catch a Dorado, or tell a story about a giant Moray that drowned someone. 
Kai and Hunter were dong their schoolwork the other day in the "club-house" in Escondido; a tiny room stuffed with free books and a DVD library that cruisers use as a swap and trade. It's about 115 degrees in the  little box and I was trying unsuccessfully to log onto the internet for the 100th time and Kai and Hunter were dutifully doing there pages when a tie-dyed flower-child in her late fifties bounded in the room. 
"There's no homeschool in June!" she yelled.
Kai and Hunter looked up at me from there workbooks with raised eyebrows.
I didn't say anything.
"I'll give ya 20 Pesos to row me back out to my boat" The lady said to Kai.
Kai turned white.
"I'll do it!" Hunter stood up.
"great!" yelled the rainbow Pixie.
"I'm on the big schooner out there and it's too damn hot for me to row myself. C'mon boy, I won't bite. I'll give ya a tour of the boat. See ya later, mom." 
She bounced back out the door. Hunter followed her without so much as a look back at me. 
"I better go with her. I'll finish this when I get back" Kai said. "Stay here. Ok?".
I returned to my private frustrations with the server, not giving a second thought as to who the lady was, or how my kids would get back, or any of it.
I knew they were in for something great.
There are people out here who may actually be the Fairy Godmother or Santa clause in semi--retirement - the long white hair, or beards, the jolly countenance, a twinkle in the eye. The only difference is the clothes-board shorts, flip-flops and tie-dyes.  Unable to resist the lure of youngsters, they spring from their boats, unannounced, surprising any children they come across with something fantastic. Freshly baked cookies and fish-lures, neat books or a special shell or feather found on a deserted island.
I had seen the Patricia Belle on the way in. She was a 66 foot schooner, built by hand, looked exactly like a pirate ship and i was pretty sure that the kids were going to have an experience of some sort while aboard her.
Sure enough, they returned an hour later, with enough pesos to buy an ice-cream and stories galore.
Jon, meanwhile, was having a grand time being trapped, head-first, in the airless engine room, scraping and goo-ing, smoothing and soothing, some sort of life-threatening Epoxy-based compound onto our heat-exchanger. 
His hope is that the alchemy of toxic chemicals and singular devotion, will turn our crumbling tube into something more like an engine part and less like swiss cheese. 
He's fixed the microscopic hole on the hot-water heater hose. It  was jetting Perkie with a nearly invisible stream of water that pooled and gathered under the main block and was for many days, a cause of much puzzlement and anxiety, because the source of the growing pond of fluid was a mystery.  Engines are fun, three dimensional sudoku puzzles. They require a zen state of non-attachment to prevent the immediate onset of madness and dementia. Ours sometimes even presents Jon with mysterious Koans he must ponder for weeks at a time. 
The path to enlightenment- one oil change at a time.
goodbye smiles

heading out again-headsail only!

Kai happy to ripstick while in Escondido

A pelican tries out our paddle board

New friends, Zada and Amy visit our boat

A Baja adventure

Jaunico was great.
The water had been murky lately, due to a plankton bloom but in Jaunico it was perfect visibility.
I paddled out across the reef we had almost run into and on the glassy, boiling-hot morning, a cold sweat broke out over my body as I looked at those rocks lurking just below the surface.
It is an impossibility of physics that we survived it.  I marveled again, at what a good job Jon had done getting us out of there.
I circumnavigated a large pinnacle rock rising thirty feet out of the water and counted five Osprey nests. I had spent the early morning listening to the hungry chicks as I sipped my  coffee on the foredeck and watched the harried Osprey parents catching fish after fish and flying back to the nests. There would be a few moments of silence as the fuzzy youngsters gulped down the morsels and then their shrieking would start again. I had to laugh. The moment I put our breakfast dishes away, Kai invariably asks for a "tide-over"-our word for a snack before the next meal. I cannot believe how fast we have gone through our stores. It's only begun to dawn on me ,what the kids are going to require in terms of caloric fulfillment as they approach puberty. We too, will have to become very good fisherman to keep up with them.
I swear to God, those Ospery parents shot me a knowing look as they flew past me, in search of "tide-overs" for their own bottomless pits back at the nest.
I struck out across the wide bay and explored. 
Jaunico is a magical place. The reefs and shelves are surrounded by soft sea-grass and the water was so clear it was like paddling in an aquarium. I could see everything below me. Out of the corner of my eye something so large swam out of the grass, that I thought at first it must be a shark. It was nearly four feet long. As my brain computed more information -brown and deep bodied,  a fan-like tail, fat lips, a  downturned mouth- I realized I was looking at the biggest grouper I have ever seen. I tried to follow it but it shot away before i could get any closer. I knew the second I told the kids about it they would be over here in the dingy with every lure in our tackle box. A moment later, a small green and quite irritated-looking turtle popped up beside me. He was a new species to me, not the usual Pacific Green's that I have been loving so much here in the Sea. This guy was much more reptilian seeming. His head was small and pointy and his shell was covered in very large white crusty things-barnacles maybe, or some kind of calcite. He regarded me with cold, glittery eyes. I actually got the feeling he would bite me, given half the chance. He was not at all like my big, dopey , doe-eyed Greens. I decided to snub him and paddled away. He craned his sinewy neck  around and shot me a surprisingly nasty look over his shell as he continued munching his mouthful of sea grass.
On my way around another rocky outcrop, I saw schools and schools of fish and overhangs that promised underwater caves and the excitement was just too much, so I paddled back to the boat and woke everyone up. 
"Let's go snorkeling...Right now!" i said.
Everyone was dead tired but no one wants to miss out when there's turtles(grumpy or not) and giant groupers and caves, and within ten minutes we were squeezed in our gear and piled in the dingy.
On the way out to the rock another boat hailed us.
Jon and I looked at each other, wondering if anyone in the anchorage was going to ask us what in the hell we thought we were doing yesterday- but no one did.
It turned out to just be a nice couple from New Mexico complimenting us on the family scuba adventure.
"How great!" they said. "The whole family diving together!"
Not so many Grannies squeeze into a wetsuit at eight in the morning in the sea of Cortez in search of child-size Groupers.
Cynthia is a born water baby but Sara was raised on lakes and the whole Ocean experience has been a new frontier for her. Plied by eager grandchildren (who by now are half-sea creatures themselves) and the requisite  pre-dive, stiff Ceaser cocktail, she has become exceptionally brave in her escapades with us. I have noticed, that she tends to stick rather close to Jon when encountering large stingrays but so does everyone else. 
We had an epic dive that day and everyone saw lots of cool stuff. There were fish of all sizes and the kids pointed out everything they have learned about to Sara and Cynthia. Jon and I were proud, as we always are, watching them wiggle and twist in between the cuts on the reef, diving down 15 or twenty feet to point out a camouflaged stone fish or a green moray eel slinking by. Back on the boat, the afternoon wind had swung around to the South and the anchorage was getting rolly and rough. We bounced around  for a few hours and then decided it wasn't going to quit so it was time to haul up the hook and search out  a more protected spot for these conditions. 
Jon and I were on the ball, this time, as we entered Ramada cove with the utmost professionalism.
There wasn't room for many boats in there, so had the place to ourselves. We could see around the rocky point that the Sea had kicked up into a real blow now but we were anchored in calm waters and the wind was substantially less-just enough to cool us all down.We fell into the usual windy weather activities of reading and lounging and chatting. Jon was rummaging around in the engine room and came out with a particular "look" on his face. He was chewing his lip and thinking something.
"what is it?" I asked. 
He glanced at our guests and just shook his head. 
I decided to let it drop-and we had a lovely big dinner and everyone went to bed early.
Our plan was to set out for Isla Coronados the next day. It's  another extinct Volcano and reputedly great fishing. Kai and Jon were desperate to catch something for our guests as we had been having such good luck but that wasn't so much the case as of late. We hoped this would turn for us in Coronado. The Dorado were reputed to be beginning their run and Kai could talk of little else-much to everyone's dismay-and spent hours expounding on theories of lures and sizes and live baits vs....God knows what else, I can't keep track of it all.
Jon and Sara and Kai had a hike to the Cruiser's shrine and Cynthia and Hunter went to explore the beaches and a seek out perfectly preserved dead sea turtle I had found on my morning paddle.  The "mortified turtle"... as Hunter called it. Which was  funny, because the raging Sun had certainly "petrified" him but he had died with a look on his face that seemed as if he actually might just of expired of unimaginable, Turtle-embarrassment.  They seem to be creatures possessed of a humble dignity...Not at all like the cheeky dolphins who race around and fornicating all the time. 
Kai told me recently that Porpoise are the only creatures besides humans who have sex for fun. I'm sure he's right about his facts, although I wonder how the scientists can be so sure. It seems awfully presumptuous to assume you know what a wallaby or a camel is thinking about when he's at it.
It was noon and still blowing moderately in the bay when we weighed anchor. We nosed out into the channel and it was a whole different story out here. It was 20 knots on the nose and the Sea had gotten herself pretty worked up overnight and we were heading into the wind with a six foot swell on our nose. None of this was any big deal for Pura Vida and her saltiest of crews but we had company and Jon had expressed to me in the privacy of our cabin that the heat exchanger was vexing him. We decided that guests from LA in for a week did not need to slog through rough seas for three hours and we opted to run back to the protection of the "Ramada Inn" (as we now called it) and wait out the night. Leaving at daybreak the next morning would certainly ensure less wind and hopefully the seas would settle too.
We anchored again, made dinner, listened to  music and watched an amazing sunset, then everyone went to bed. 
Sara and Hunter decided to sleep on deck as the moon was nearly full. It is TRULY bright down here when the moon is at the apex, so Sara was awake most of the night. Hunter gave up at some point and crawled in our bunk and slept like a small sweating hair-shirt between us.
Jon and I rose early, looked out at the channel beyond the shelter of the cove and all looked calm and fair. While Jon ran the usual engine checks, I crept around on deck stowing lines and getting ready to sail. Sara seemed to have finally managed to fall asleep and I worked quietly around her in the cockpit. Jon came up with a worried look on his face. We whispered together and he told me his concerns about our crumbling heat exchanger. It is old and a serious concern as it's a most vital part of any engine and we have had trouble with it before. Jon showed me a small rusty chunk of metal about the size of a dime that had come away from it. We continued discussion it in hushed voices so as not to alarm our guests.
Sara  opened one eye and looked at us.
"what's wrong?" she said.
"Nothing." I lied. "Why?" 
 "You guys are whispering over there..."
Sara sat up and yawned and stretched. She grinned at Jon.
"And then you threw a chunk of something overboard. Was that a piece of the engine?".
Jon laughed. Mother's are hard to fool.
We gambled Perkie would hold together long enough for us to finish our planned itinerary and then we could make our way back to Esondido where we could hole up on a mooring ball and pull the  blasted heat exchanger-thing apart.
The weather had settled and the passage was as we had hoped.
The seas were calm and the wind was fair and we managed a comfortable cruise to our new destination.
We spent a lovely day and night in Coranado and Sara and Cynthia became masters of the paddle board in the calm clear waters. 
There was finally  successful fishing and dinner was caught and a feast was made and we celebrated an early birthday for the lovely Cynthia.
Complete with cupcakes by Hunter.

The next day we set out for Candelros, a stop we had made before. We were out of supplies by now-and more drastically, tequila-and it was agreed that an afternoon and evening at the pool bar would be a fitting way to end the Mexican cruise. When we arrived we were thrilled to find the place packed with kid-baots and Hunter and Kai made lots of new friends and it happened to be Karoke night the next night and Hunter made a plan to preform and spent the whole next day rehearsing her Adele reportie.

We finally got an internet connection and received an urgent email from my mother back home on Bowen...
There was an offer on our house.
Heading North


Gramma love

fishin' girl

Havin' a ball!

Thor cross-dressing again...

Cupcake queen

Cruiser's shrine

Goggle girls

go go grandma!

Vacation smiles

Our friends


The spires of Jaunico

Ta Da!!

Baja bang master 2000

fun times



a star is born

The mortified turtle

What a girl!

The ladies

Beautiful girls!

Big Bag of Luck

We finished restocking our dwindled supplies in Escondido and were about to head out again, when Jon's mom called from Ojai.

She and her good friend Cynthia, were having lunch (and maybe a Margarita or two) when the urge to visit Mexico had suddenly seized them.
"We want to come see you guys!" ...
They were calling from the restaurant.

We had been dying for Sara to visit and had somewhat (relentlessly) manipulated her by sending very cute pictures of the kids looking pathetically into camera. 
We may] have also said something about wanting a new kind of anchor from LA so we "would't be shipwrecked during the hurricane season here".
I think that may have been the tipping point...
In any event, we had our window. Jon jumped on the internet to check the flights before their tequila buzz could wear off.
The God of Agave must've smiled on Earth that day, because the prices were down by 400 dollars and there were two spots open on the usually booked, twice-weekly, flight that landed in Loreto.
Jon rang them back. They were shopping the thrift stores in Ventura.
"Your plane leaves in 36 hours". He said.
They both had huge lists of valid reasons why they couldn't possibly manage a trip to Mexico the next day but they ignored reason and followed their sturdy hearts and booked their flights anyway .
Cynthia had to work the whole next day and Sara had a party in Ojai that night and somehow had to get back to LA to pack and figure out shopping for us-There was a  long list of 'must have's " from stateside that we gave her. At the midnight hour they even managed to wrangle together entire scuba outfits - always a great deal of snorkeling aboard Pura Vida.
Of course, this mountain of stuff  also had to be squashed into a soft bag no bigger than a pillowcase because we live on a boat and have no room.
By some mad force of determination they did it all and caught their flight to Loreto.

The crew of Pura Vida scrubbed and cleaned and polished and filled the tanks and the kids could not sleep for excitement because Grandam Sara was coming.
We had visited our new friend Tony on the way home from a sweltering hike in the beautiful canyon above Escondido. The kids swam in the pool at his super groovy trailer park and Tony kindly offered to lend Jon his truck so he could go to the airport to pick everyone up. Jon and the kids gathered our guests from the airport and took them to Loreto for lunch and I stayed on board organizing  things and enjoyed a rare afternoon of solitude. 
The boat was sparkling clean, I lay in the sun and savored  this brief moment of perfection, not immediately destroyed by swarming, salty children and piles of toys and fish tackle. 
Tony swung by on his boat with a freshly caught Cabrillo for our guests.
The ladies arrived and we all  had a grand reunion and after a late night, all tumbled, exhausted, into bunks or lee cloths and got some shut-eye before setting out the next morning for Jaunico.

Juanico is forty miles away. We had the wind was on our nose, so there was no sailing but the weather was calm and clear.
Cynthia spotted a dwarf Sperm whale ( we identified it with our whale book) , as it lolled about in the glassy water. 
Spotted eagle rays glided beneath our bow wave and Brown Boobies, Pelicans and Ospery's whirled in the skies around us.
We trawled our new lures behind the boat  but out luck was poor and I was thankful Tony had given me a beautiful fish the day before. 
I made Ceviche for lunch and we drank cold cervesas and enjoyed another perfect Baja day on the seven hour trip.

We also came perilously close to putting our boat on the rocks.

It is said, that novice sailors starts out with two sacks;
One is EXPERIENCE- and it is empty.
The other is LUCK-which is full.
The idea, is to fill up the empty bag of EXPERIENCE, before you run out of  your bag of LUCK.

Our bag of a little lighter now.

Jaunico is an absolutely stunning anchorage,  with aquamarine waters  filled with rocky pinnacles and submerged reefs and shelves extending from them. 
It's heaven for snorkeling and hiking but it's not a place you want to enter casually, if you haven't been there before.

We had both read the cruising guides and studied the charts and were aware of the dangers but our energy was somewhat more distracted as we entered the bay.

For a variety of reasons (which we analyzed, over and over as we lay together in our bunk that night, sweating at the memory of just how close we came to a major-full-blown-fuck-up), we were simply not as focused.

Being fairly new to all of this, we are normally uber-serious and very much on the cautious end of things when anchoring in new spots, checking our depths, laying out extra scope just in case- but this time, the energy was different.
We've been cruising for four months, things have has become a bit more familiar and this was the first time we had guests aboard in a long, long time.  

It looked fairly crowded in the main anchorage, so we thought we might poke around the cove and look for a less packed spot...

Normally, we wouldn't do something like this without some thoughtful consideration.
One of us would have checked the chart again. One of us would have noticed the geography of the landscape, wondering if something tricky was lurking below the surface.
We would have consulted each other about our thoughts. We might of considered WHY everyone was clearly anchored somewhere else.

We were casually laughing and talking and catching up as we entered the bay...


I was on the bow spotting for depth changes and possible rocks when the water suddenly went from 12 feet to 8 feet and a reef rose out of nowhere, fifteen feet ahead of us.
We still had forward way. I frantically signaled for Jon to stop.
I pointed to the rock and signaled for Reverse. Rocks appeared on all sides. Rocks appeared below us. 
Right below us.
The setting sun on the water had cast shadows where the rocks were but now I could see clearly, we were surrounded.
My blood froze. I broke into a cold sweat. 
"We're in the reef" I shouted to Jon at the helm.
" 'Just point at the rock, honey" He said very calmly.
Our normal procedure for spotting, is, that the person on the bow simply points at the object in the water so the one at the helm can focus on avoiding it.
There were rocks, literally, everywhere.
I couldn't point at all of them. I didn't have enough arms.
'Uh... we have to get out of here, babe." I said.
I thought I was going to faint.
Jon looked to Starboard, a great submerged pinnacle loomed up beside the boat.
I braced myself for the impact. I  had once run aground, in my own small fiberglass racing dingy  and I remembered exactly what fiberglass sounds like as it is crushed against an immovable object.
As time slowed to a stop, in that frozen moment of panic, I also noticed that there was a house on the beach near us... and it's occupants were watching us through binoculars.
I could clearly make out that they were shaking their heads.
I waited, breath held, heart pounding in my ears.
Pura Vida's transmission roared and her prop growled as Jon smoothly worked her around, spinning her on a dime. I saw rocks not two feet from our bow, on either side.
But somehow, we turned around in the one teeny tiny deep slot that we had entered by and calmly motored out the way we came.
I wondered if the people in the house knew we were idiots but Jon's driving was so slick and confident-acting is a useful talent after all-that, perhaps, we had seemed to those on the hill above us ,to be the most bad-ass sailors ever.
People so salty, they pushed the envelope.
People with no fear.
I honestly don't know. 
But, somehow, Jon got us out of there and we came through without a scratch.

Big, fat, BAG of LUCK....

"That was some good driving, today. "  I told Jon that night, as we lay in our bunk.
It was dark and quiet and everyone on board was sound asleep.
The moon glared down at us, through our hatch.
Jon shook his head and let out a long breath. He rolled over and took my hands in his.
"We were SO lucky." He said. His eyes were wide and honest. There is not a hint of bullshit in Jon. It's a big part of why I trust him in all of this.
"That rock was six inches away from us. Pura Vida pulled up her skirts because for a minute there...I thought we were screwed".
Jon laughed and shook his head. 

"That rock to Starboard was five feet underwater'.
Our draft is seven feet.
"Good Boat" I said, patting her bulkhead-for the hundredth time this trip.

It's hard being new at something, to overcome the Fear, in the first place and as you gain confidence, your even more likely to screw up.
I guess we have lots more of that to look forward to.

I was recently reading a book, written by a sailor we met awhile back, who had circumnavigated three times.
His tale begins with a screw up. It is the heart of good storytelling; near misses and close calls, outright screw-ups...
It is adventure, after all. It is not staying at home.
It sure makes you toss in your bunk though, counting those lucky stars.

Hopefully we've added to our bag of Experience...
And thank Neptune for that bag of luck.
I'm sure we're gonna need it again.


To the mountains!

Hiking the canyon

learning to rock climb

looking back at the hurricane hole of Escondido


A rare lunch out

Streets of Loreto

300 year old church

The pool at the trailer park

The ladies arrive!

My guy