Nana and the Birthday Man

"Nana is coming!"
"Santa is coming!"
"It's almost Daddy's birthday!"

Hunter is boundless in her glee.

She runs from bow to stern and hugs everyone she encounters.
She announces over the VHF (to the entire fleet) that "Nana is coming TODAY!"....

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity.
(We're not ALWAYS  loafing and shooting fish).

We had been out and about for weeks and were in need of a  MAJOR restock. 
Company is coming ( Nana and our friend Jr would be guests over the holidays) and as there are wee ones aboard, Christmas must come with all the bells and whistles- or a least a little tree tied to the mast.

But first things first-we needed water.
A few days ago, we discovered that our water maker was on the fritz and our secondary tank had become contaminated.
All the hours Jon diligently spent replenishing our water supply- a week's work of running the desalinator off the solar panels and the generator- had culminated in us making only less salty water out of very salt water. 
I had noted a slight change in taste but dismissed it as someone forgetting to rinse the cups thoroughly in fresh water- to conserve, we wash everything in salt first.
A day later, everyone was seeming very out of whack.
Jon re-tested our water and discovered that instead of making 600 parts per million-we were making 2100...
This explained why we all looked as if we had been binging on a diet of pickles and potato chips.
Thank Goodness. I thought it was just middle-age bloat.
We had ruined our forty gallons of hard earned fresh water but fortunately, the water maker only fills the holding tank-the primary is separate-to avoid such a mishap from fouling the entire water supply.
What a monumental bummer that would be if one were crossing the Pacific.

As well as water, we also needed diesel, gasoline, food and to do our laundry we made for the marina in Escondido.
The only Marina around for a hundred miles.

The marina at Escondido has no water. 

They have not fixed the pump damaged by Hurricane Paul- four months ago.  
They have also forgotten to pay their (gas pumping) license fee to the government so even though they have diesel in the big tank- they are not legally allowed to sell it to you.
They also have no gas.

But they do have beer!
So, we bought beer.

We spent the next three days, humping back and forth to Loreto ( forty miles away) with our Jerry cans.
Jon and Kai lugged 580 pounds of water on board, in five gallon jugs and emptied them into our tanks.
Hunter and I dropped two body bags of laundry off at the Lavandaria in Loreto and a sweet-faced, Mexican Abuela did our wash for us.
It turns out, running out of water does have it's advantages.

Jon spent a fun filled day, disassembling the water maker- imagine taking the space shuttle apart and then rebuilding it, one precious seal at a time- only to discover the problem was  not a faulty seal-cheap and replaceable- but most likely the membrane. 
A spare part we do not have and costs 400 dollars to replace.

This is the Murphy's law of cruising.

As soon as company is coming-the heads will fail, the fridge will over heat, the water maker will blow, the weather turns cold, the crystal clear waters cloud and the sea-life will migrate somewhere else.
The people who love you will come to visit, just when your boat smells like mold and you will have only wilted grey fruits and vegetables to serve and everyone will spend their vacation playing cards around an oil lamp while the wind howls through the anchorage.

-This is what I was worrying about.
As it turns out, it wasn't quite that bad.

After refilling the tanks and  getting all the spare fuel cans on board and rearranging our lockers-which entailed moving everything we didn't need in the next two weeks into the trunk of the car-we managed to get to the Sunday market.
Thankfully,  we have our dear, old Subaru down here. 
Driving your own car, while exploring a foreign country by boat, is a weirdly awesome luxury. 
I may not have a hot shower for months on end- but at least,  I can climb into a familiar vehicle and drink in the comforting smell of worn-out pleather-and a little bit of home sinks in.
Mexican roads are fearsome but in my trusty Subaru, I am ready for anything...
and I can pull into the dusty arroyo where the local Sunday Farmers market is held and I feel more like a local. 
Well. Maybe not a local, local-I would need chickens hanging out of the car windows for that-but I feel more confident. 
I shop the stalls with confidence, using my six and a half words of Spanish with flair.

The Sunday market was excellent (as usual) and Hunter and Kai were thrilled to discover that right between the guy selling a donkey from the back of his truck and our favorite cilantro lady, was a booth selling Christmas trees.
They weren't real-of course, but they were something and the same vendor had lights and lots of festive decorations-in Mexican colors like pink and electric blue and we managed a whole bag of stuff to decorate the boat with.

We spent the rest of the day offloading our purchases from the car into the dingy-which required climbing (with the bags) down a steep vertical rung ladder onto a rickety homemade, half sinking dock. It took about ten trips back and forth to load on all the provisions, then I spent the next six hours careful washing and cleaning( by soaking in a detergent bath) every single fruit or veg brought aboard. Jon continued to hump more water aboard until it was dark.

Each time we restock, fuel, water- it takes two entire days to complete the process.

We got the boat decorated and looking spiffy, the fridge and every food locker and bilge compartment  was loaded beyond capacity and we were ready-for two weeks out with a guest...and  then we will have to do this entire process all over again. 

I will never moan  about going to a grocery store or having to fill the car with gas.
I will thank my lucky stars if I ever get to use a vacuum or a dishwasher again.

Sometimes, I feel like we really are homesteaders out here, or at least,  something slightly Amish.
Minus, the whole bible reading thing, of course...
and possibly a bit more drinking and swearing, singing and dancing.
But other than Amish-ness.
Up at dawn. Bed shortly after dark. Mend our own clothes and bake our own bread.
And it's a long, long way from the nearest Betsy Johnson boutique.

Oh, how I've changed.

Today, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a wizened,  blond, sea urchin in the reflection.
"Who the hell are you?" I asked.
But the creature in the mirror, knows there is no point in answering that question.
She has been reading Buddhism.
She may not know where her hairbrush is anymore- but she knows a thing or two about living in the moment.
She looks back at me and says;
"Put your bikini on, bitch".
So I do.

Nana arrived at the airport, in a flourish of scarves and a lovely hat and two smartly packed bags.
Nobody travels as well as my mother.
The kids were overjoyed to see her and so were Jon and I.
We took her for tacos in town, then whisked her back to the boat.
By sun-up the next morning, we were setting sail for San Juanico.

The weather was the only part of my imagined horror that seemed to hold true. 
The North winds blew cold and the Pineapple Express-clouds form the Pacific-made a dark and liquid grey of my aquamarine world.
Nana could care less.
She certainly wasn't here to tan.

She was in bliss just to snuggle the kids and coo over how beautiful they are and marvel at the scenery.
She laughed at the dolphins and gasped at the stars.
She met Manta, our wonderful new friends.

With her here, to babysit Hunter, Jon and Kai and  I were able to dive all together, with Manta - for a change.
We cooked Nana all kinds of fish, speared on hunting forays.
And now, with Nana aboard, helping with the chores...the grown-ups outnumber the kids-so we're winning!
Things stay tidy at last!

We celebrated Jon's birthday-  
Dolphins played in the anchorage as we made Jon breakfast.
He got a new knife and a shark tooth necklace and we wrapped everything in pages torn from a Vanity Fair ( hurray for the naked pictures of Kate Moss!)
Nana had brought me this little bit of literary escapism  and the previous day, I had spent a wonderful hour in my bunk not being bugged by the kids, eating chocolate almonds( also Nana gifts) and reading about the fantastically squalid life of the rich and beautiful.

Hunter and Nana baked a red velvet cake while Kai and Jon and I went spearfishing.
We came back with two snappers and all of us half frozen.

Birthday Jon napped while I turned Pura Vida into a French bistro for the day.
The North winds blew a gale outside but we lay  comfortably at anchor, sheltered by the lee of a volcano, listening to Edith Piaf, drinking red wine and eating lovingly stowed away treasures from home.
Pate and cornichons-
And for dinner, steaks et pomme frites-rustled from the galley.
And of course, Hunter's cake.
And more wine.

Dolphins continued to play in the sandy bay and the stars came out and we had  grand time sharing it all with a new crew member.

And my beloved captain celebrated ... another year, still short... of Forty.
Cheeky bugger.

My Ship Mate...
and Soul Mate.
Who gallantly protects this little seaward tribe, 
and navigates us through the tricky bits... 
and never lets us down.
Who has the warmest heart,
the readiest laugh,
and always seems to smell like warm buttered toast.
Who wakes up everyday and looks at me with unconditional, goofy love.
Who is the best father a kid could hope for and
taught crazy, old, me, how to love without one foot out the door-or off the boat.
Who's trust and respect, is my most cherished possession.

If I didn't adore him so much, it would be monumentally irritating how damn good he is at everything-but lucky for me, it works to my advantage.

Happy birthday to him and a special, huge, fat, thank you to his wonderful parents- for making him.

We are a satisfied, cosy group aboard a trim old ship.
Pura Vida is a magic carpet, accommodating however many people she carries -even though we have less space-no one feels cramped or unhappy.

This is the nicest kind of magic.

I wonder how much more she'll make when Santa and Jr arrive...
Cake and Xmas decorations

Birthday boy

Too cool for Galley duty

Kai  tries to remember how to stow the asymmetrical 

Panga with a flock of seagulls 

Nana makes the lines with style

No pressure...It's only our water supply.


  1. The orderly intelligence of the man in the last picture is positively awe-inspiring. Where he gets it from I cannot imagine. And surely Kai has the fastest-growing hair of anyone on the planet! Such loving words and loving deeds. It does the old heart good.

  2. Looks like a whale of a birthday! Not quite sure how I ended up with a 37 yr old son!! I am scarcely past that myself:-) and it looks like you have some wind! Nana must be thrilled! It indeed looks magical and cozy and filled with love. We miss you all like crazy but are SO happy you are having this excellent adventure! Some more goodies coming down with JR. Lots and lots of love, Mom, Gramma Sara xxxxoooo

  3. Beautiful wonderful post, Suki! I can't wait 'til that urchin in the mirror calls you 'your loveliness'. One day... :-)
    Happy birthday to Jon!
    And hi Nana Caroline!

    1. Happy birthday cousin! Lovely post Suki, and Merry Christmas from our little tribe to yours. We'll raise a margarita in your honour this holiday. Xoxo katherine, Corie and Jasper

  4. omg omg omg omg. i cried! i love seeing the photos. and reading your beautiful words.

    i have some other friends who are cruising around the world. here's their blog:

    and here's my blog if you want to see what's going down in berkeleytown with dash, bella, and matthew.

    lots of love to all of you. email me if you get a chance!