Goodbye Marquesas..Hello, Tuamotos!

These are from our last few days in the Marquesas...

Trecking through the jungle on Nuka Hiva...

... to  visit Muktuk's friends for a birthday lunch...
and eat delicious goat curry (Ali and Little Noah)...
Taiki shows Ali's dad ( birthday boy) how to prepare a special coconut...
Hunter and Taiki
Our version of soda pop now!

The "water-maker" in action
Sweet Jan and the conch horn

checking the transmission one last time....
homemade donuts, underway!
perfect sailing weather

prepping the brioche dough for rising...
Arrival in Tehuana, tutamotos atolls- on father's day morning!
Ali makes calzones on the beach fire
Carl and Jan

The fort-built by all the kids and Ali's parents-and they all slept in it one night!

Hunter and Erika make "dishes" from palm fronds
basket weaving!

The first of the underwater shots...still learning!

Arrival after the five day crossing..tired but happy!

Free divin' Kai

Kai took this one on a breath hold dive

Yup. He's taller than me.

Kai in cruise mode

bottom dweller

Kai stalks a small blacktip reef shark in the lagoon

Still working on getting that tan!

My boys...

...and now they're BOTH bigger than me!
...channeling Gramma Sara and her knack for being photographed  in silly headwear....
spotting for coral heads

Off to find something to kill and eat...

No photo shop required!

Coconut cocktails

Girl and rainbow

What's not to love?

Waiting cream.

Kai and Hunter in summer school.
Tehuana was so rad and we had such a great time, scuba diving, snorkeling, hanging out, eating coconuts,
and generally living in complete, Robinson Crusoe -mode, that
we almost ran out of  propane, water...and food.


I mean, we were aware, that we could get to Fakarava ( the next atoll, sixty miles away) pretty easily,
and it was perhaps, possible ( although not CERTAIN) that we could do some to re-provisioning there,
but the general lassie faire attitude with with we were approaching our survival -was kind of amazing.

This is what eating too many coconuts does to you.

Water is our biggest issue but we were still on the end of our main tank and we carry forty gallons in the reserve- so we weren't too worried.

This was the first time, we had ever used the main tank BEFORE using our smaller reserve- the thought being, we knew we had to go longer on it, so we would use up the big one and refill if we got rain-which we haven't- and if we didn't, we could still make it to Fakarava once things got seriously low.

We had plenty of dried stuff in the bilges, flour and legumes and even a few cans of things I had left over from my "adventures in canning" episode in La Paz -but fresh meat was out.

There was ciguatara ( nasty illness you can get from some fish) in the lagoon, so spearfishing was not on the menu,
and despite several attempts at catching lobsters on the reef,  we had come up empty handed.
The hunt part was still exciting though...
We waited until dark, then everyone strapped on headlamps and walked the razor sharp reefs at night looking for lobsters but we didn't  see a single one.
There were plenty of pissed off Morays lurking in every nook and cranny, just waiting to bite your toes- but that was it.

There were conchs in the bay but the effort required to get their meat out ( even though it is super yummy) just wasn't worth the calories it burned, to do it more than once.
Muktuk made a meal out of gathering snails off the beach and sautéing them in butter and garlic but my crew was less enthusiastic about that as a meal plan.

We made do, without too much suffering ,
there were calzones and pizzas, cooked on a bonfire,  tons of lentils in every conceivable form, 
Hunter baked cookies and even made Indian flatbread all by herself, 
but eventually, the basic human desire for "fresh meat" drove us to admit it was time to move on.
That...and we ran out of wine.

(there was also, a deep and persistent craving for something really cold, sweet and creamy, that crept into our minds and grabbed hold of us like a sumo wrestler)

We had learned and experienced many new things on our first atoll, it will be forever in our hearts and we have become die hard fans of atoll cruising- despite it taking a hell of a lot of pluck to get yourself and your boat all the way out to one-
they are soooo worth the effort.

On Tehuana we had our first "drift dive",
Well, it was actually a snorkel but it was still a thrilling new experience for us...and a practice run for getting to do it with our scuba gear, the next time.

Drift diving, is when you use the incoming tide to transport you back into the lagoon.
Getting the timing right is of primo importance because if that current isn't going IN- you can be swept out to sea.
So, you know, it's really key, getting that bit right.

Which we did, of course.

Otherwise I would be writing you this from Tahiiti-having floated there in my wetsuit.

The whole thing starts with fighting your puny, underpowered, dingy up through the insane, roilling current, 
nosing your way out into the entrance of the pass, where the water is  deep and full of predators...
Then, as the ocean hurtles past you ( at an intense speed as it goes from thousands of feet down and squeezes itself into the narrow entrance, moving at several knots),
you quickly put on your masks and gear, drag some lines off the dingy, put the engine in neutral...
and  jump overboard!

"What exactly is the plan, here?" 
I asked Jon over Hunter's, tearful, wailing.
(she was already crying, because to her, it looked like we were headed straight for the breaking waves on the outer reef)

Jon did his best to reassure us.

"I already checked it out. It's perfectly safe. We climb in and we hang on and we just's supposed to be FUN".

"Yeah!" said Kai, "It's awesome!",
Then he and Jon dropped over the side into the swirling rapids... to show us how we weren't going to die.

( I admit that i totally found this whole scene a teeny bit intimidating the first time around and might of also started to cry a bit and question my gentle husband rather sternly about weather or not this was a sane idea at all...but it was one of those "TRUST" moments in my life and so i just went with it. Once l got in that water and had my first look at what was down there, everything dissolved into squeals of pure glee )

The "trust" thing is key, in these situations.

I had one kid in the water already and the other looking over at her brother with curiosity now,
(overpowering her fear of the breakers)

"What do you think?
 I asked little Hunter, who moments before had been crying and white as a ghost.

She spat in her mask and rubbed it around.

"Let's do this thing" she said and then flipped into the water, holding on to the dingy painter-line.

What could I do, but follow her?

It looks really crazy all around you on the surface,
but once you slide into that water, all  the fear melts away and all there is, is total, AWESOMENESS.

You literally FLY along in the current, towing the boat behind you. The thing is, everything in the outer ocean is ALSO coming in along with you...
feeding on all the nutrients in the small pass,
Fish, sharks, mata rays, eagle rays, dolphin, all swimming along with you on the 5 knot current.
We weren't actually so lucky as to see any sharks or mantas the day we went ( not a problem!) but the drift itself and the 100 foot visibility, as you sail over the coral heads  and thousands of schools of fish...
was indescribably beautiful.

Of COURSE, Kai and Jon immediately let go of the line that they promised to hang onto and free dove up and down forty feet below us, keeping pace with the dingy the whole time.

It was beautiful to watch them, and soon enough Hunter and I were taking our own mini-dives ( but not without the rope!) after them.

It was like the world's coolest, natural amusement park ride because it is really, really FAST.
The whole thing takes about five minutes and then you climb back in the dingy ( that has been following you on its leash)
and race back out and do it again..and again...and again....
as many times as you can, before the tide gets anywhere near changing.

Later that afternoon, we had a great scuba dive with the kids on a  large coral head near the boat.
Kai dropped down before the rest of us ( in thirty feet) to check the anchor and had his first all-by-himself shark encounter...
The shark was spooked by the time we got to the bottom and all Jon and Hunter and I saw of it, was his silhouette slinking away into deeper water.  Kai was blurbing away happily, making shark signs with his hand signals and smiling. Then, he pointed to a huge, giant barracuda, hovering a few feet away from him.
The big fish, had his creepy old mouth full of razor sharp teeth, hanging slightly open, it made him look like some sort of maniacal idiot. 
I gave the big brute one of my top-drawer, mommy stink-eye , "back away from my kid" looks and the fish swam further away-to Kai's endless disappointment.

The rest of the dive, was filled with such incredible beauty it's impossible to do it justice on the page.
Unfortunately, I'm still learning how to use my under water camera, so the pics won't do it yet, either!

Purple corals and fish of every color and size- we literally checked off about fifty new species in our fish identification book when we got back to the boat.

Hunter did great on her little tank and had all kinds of fun, hanging onto her daddy's hand as they toured the coral heads  she was so happy with herself to be "making bubbles" again.

We had an absolute  ball...
and could have easily stayed two more weeks,
but it was time to put some "meat" back on the table and that pesky "water" issue was starting to become a concern, as there had been absolutely no rain, whatsoever.

After ten amazing days, we finally untangled our hook from the coral heads of Tehuna
(yes, its a pain in the ass, but you do get used to it) 
and under a nearly full moon, 
we headed back out the pass and onto Fakarava.

Full moon, calm seas, clear skies...good wind?
Wow. Yes, please!

The overnight trip to Fakrava was the most excellent night sailing we have ever done, we arrived bang on time for slack tide in the South Fakarava pass the next morning but the only bummer was...
just as we approached the atoll, we caught and lost! an absolutely MASSIVE, like at least 40 pound, Dorado.

So much for fresh meat.

We actually saw him coming at the boat, swimming on the surface, he looked like an actual dolphin he was so big.
'Oh! My! Oh, Oh. Oh!!!" 
I said, jumping up and down and pointing, as he came rushing over the waves at our boat.
"Please,  come on, hit our line..." prayed Jon out loud.


The biggest fish we ever hooked up was jumping out of the water and on our line...
which promptly, snapped.

Our unhappy crew watched weeks worth of fresh fish meals swim away.
Hunger certainly heightens the agony of defeat.

Lucky for us, the always amazing Muktuk had left before us and landed a 75 pound yellowfin on THEIR trip to Fakarava...
so we got to bum about 10 pounds of fresh fish off of them.
(that's like 250.00 worth of Tuna for all y'all who buy their sashimi grade fish in stores!)

We had big plans about scuba diving in the fabled South Pass of Fakarava but unfortunately, the perfect winds changed the second we entered the atoll and a reinforced Trade winds came in from the east, making the pass untenable for our little dingy.

There was nothing to do but change plans and head for the North pass where we could hopefully re-provision before heading to the next atoll where there is also superb visibility and excellent diving.

We said goodbye to Muktuk, who would spend a few more weeks in South Fakarava and hope to meet them "further up they way" which is cruiser speak for "Whenever, wherever... hope to see you again!"

Pura Vida nosed her way up the eastern side of the island, in an easterly blow, which meant we had wind but were perfectly protected from fetch.
It was like sailing is in your best, most perfect, dream of this sailing thing...
Blue sky, FLAT water and flying along under full sail at 7 knots! Nothing to do but smile and wish everyone we know and love could have been with us that day.

Thanks to Mutuk, we had plenty of fresh sashimi on hand and seared Tuna steaks that night and Tuna sushi rolls for breakfast.
We didn't go hungry, which was fortunate, because the only store in the North anchorage was closed when we arrived... due to the only power generator on the island blowing up!

The other thing we discovered, other than there was no store to re-provision from, was that we had also totally run out of water.
We found this out just after we put our anchor down.
BOTH tanks had gone completely dry, even though Jon had checked the forty gallon spare three days before and it was full.
(this was a real "oh shit" moment for us, as it could have been life threatening if we were in different circumstances)

Unbeknownst to us and after three years of living aboard...
the FOOT PUMP on the fresh water tap ( which we have been using instead of the water pressure, to keep us in high conservation mode) drains off of the SPARE tank-even if the valve is not turned to SPARE tank. In other words, we ran out of water four days earlier than expected...
which is a super scary feeling.

The good news, is it happened near a town
(and this is the only town for two hundred miles).
The bad news, is, it happened in a town with very little available fresh water.

In fact, the only place you can get water at all, is from the municipal cistern, which is a rather long dingy ride and then a walk from the boat.

Also, there is no water pressure, so we have to fill our two 5 gallon jerry cans by gravity...'which means it takes exactly one hour ( and considerable humping) to get ten gallons of fresh water into our tanks.
Jon lugged fifty gallons aboard before the locals started looking at him  funny-it is everyones only source of water after all.
We decided to  call it quits for the day and try one last time to fix our ancient water maker.

In case you were wondering why we don't just get a NEW water maker (mom!),
water makers cost about 6,000 US dollars.

It's very much a fingers crossed and pray for rain kind of deal for us now-a-days.

So it goes, in paradise!

Our current plan, at this moment, is to continue to forage as much fresh water as we can, without depriving the locals of their own reserves, post some blogs and photos, at least the internet seems to work, praise Jah-Jah...
Then we'll set sail for the next atoll on our list of diver's paradises...
sometime in the next few days.

This is all assuming that the store here eventually opens and sells us wine and ice cream.
Otherwise all bets are off.
We will be re-routing our plans.

I can go a long, long, way out here, 
having not enough water to bathe or wash my clothes
(overrated pastimes, really),
I am perfectly adapted to survive on boxed wine and fresh sushi for months at a time...
I can even rock a mad hairdo and not know where we will be tomorrow...

But living without ice cream?
That, I'm not so sure about.

If this store doesn't open soon, Tahiti will certainly jump up on 
the list of things that need to happen in the near future...


Land of beautiful people and plentiful, fresh produce and propane, 
potable water that comes from a hose that you simply put in your boat, 
A hotel bar, where one might perch on a chair and drink something  slushy and cold with an umbrella in it.
And Oh, while i'm having this fantasy, in my current salt-encrusted, sober, half-starved state...
maybe also a department store, with perfumes and shoes (not because i actually need shoes but because seeing lots of pretty shoes gives me a heightened, electrified, buzzing-feeling...or is that my peri-menopoause vitamins? I can never tell, anyway...)
Then, maybe a pedicure, even if half my toe nails have already fallen off, ever since climbing that death-defying mountain in the Marquesas...

There is much to be said for escaping the lure of consumerism and living off the land, 
getting back to nature, blending into the 'Om", wandering around paradise in bare feet, sleeping under the stars...
but in the end, not even the lack of WINE is what finally sucks us sailors back towards the vortex of humanity (although booze is high on the list, it can be made out of coconuts, if you're desperate enough)...


When you have finally mastered the art of eating things like hermit crabs and perhaps, you have also gone so far, as to actually forget how much propane you have left in your tank...

Your thoughts will return to the bright lights of civilization,
and the ONE thing you cannot find on the beach or make out of the coconut tree...

Ice cream. 


the sixth day

Six days on a deserted atoll,
somewhere in the South Pacific
and you
whatever it was,
that was,

If I am
anything anymore,
it is only this, sapphire-blue night,
watching our children dancing around a bonfire, under a full moon,
on the bleached bones of a coral beach.

The God-sound roars at us,
from a thousand untamed leagues of ocean outside the lagoon,
but here in our magic-ring of solitude,
we sleep like babies in gossamer webs.
Stars reflect off our pillows.

It occurs,
that tomorrow, we will need to seek fresh water.
Necessity is the compass needle of the idle sailor
(whose water-maker is not working).
Tales of a cistern in the abandoned village,
is the only reason to go anywhere.

is the prize for
sailing through those dark nights.
Today, the answer,
to all the endless questions,
I love you
is all it took to get the ball rolling in the first place.

We are in....Tahanea!

Oh boy, do I wish I had internet so I could post a photo of what's outside right now!
You know that screen-saver shot of the perfect deserted island, with the white sands, turquoise water and scattered coconut palms?
This IS that place!
Or wait...maybe it's any one of the 76 islands that make up the "dangerous archipelago"-of the Tuamotus.
(Apparently, they're all as stunning as the one I'm looking at right now.)

Speaking of dangerous, we hit our worst weather ever, aboard Pura Vida. It all went down last night around 12:30 pm--40 steady knot gale slammed us, complete with lightening and matching waves, hammering little ol' us, on the nose until dawn.
"Happy Father's day!" Jon!
Everything was fine. Things got a little wet and sloppy and we got some waves over the dodger for the first time but the boat rocked right on through and we were sitting outside our intended atoll at exactly the right slack tide just as the sun came up.

Did I mention what a good captain our Jon is?

We coasted on through the channel entrance, to a perfect deserted island atoll.
The only other boats in the anchorage we recognized right away-Muktuk and Nyon--and we were thrilled to share this little piece of paradise with such cool people.

It took about ten seconds after anchoring to jump in the water--unbelievable.
Visibility was easily sixty feet, even the morning after a storm with an incoming tide--OMG!

We had a nap, made Jon a huge father's day feast of some much coveted steaks and freshly made corn tortillas with homemade Jalapeno chutney, then it was time for another skinny dip.

Ali's parents are visiting Mutuk and they came over in the dingy with their grand-kids to grab our kids and head ashore to explore. Kai and the other boys all had their machetes and were set on scoping out the spot where they'll begin construction on the massive fort they plan on erecting tomorrow.

Me...I'm ready for another nap.


Day 3: Passage to the Tuamotos

My last post was a little rushed as we were busy pounding along in 24 knots and the beam seas were making typing a little tiresome-to say the least! I was busy trying to regain my sea-legs,and after firing off that little post, I scurried back up on deck to get some air and have a last look at the islands...

Thank Tiki that I did, because otherwise I would have been wedged behind the navigation desk, in a stiflingly hot cabin, going on and and on, about how amazing it was to have gotten to visit the Marquesas....
and I would have missed saying goodbye to Nuka Hiva as it disappeared behind us in a perfect sunset.

The whole Marquesas island chain is so profoundly beautiful, fertile, fierce, remote, primitive and so completely unlike anything I have ever experienced before...there aren't enough bad-ass words in the English language to describe them.

As we sailed off into an evening that was dissolving from deep blue-to-dark-purple, we raised our arms above our heads and sang a farewell to these islands;


The Marqueseans chant this before hunting or when calling out their totally awesome connection to everything around them and it tells the world what completely stunning powerful people they are and that they still belong to the earth in a way that we have, sadly, forgotten. You cannot believe how it sounds when they do it. We tried, as best we could to imitate them-- it helps if you imagine your voice is incredibly deep and you are ripped and powerful and your face is beautiful and inked in swirls of tribal tattoos and looks as if you were carved from the very stone of these islands.

Afterwards, there was nothing to do but sit on deck and watch as the islands disappear into sea behind us and the stars came out like a glittering cast of chorus girls.

Since then, its been a lot of fast sailing-which has been vexing poor Jon to bits as he must constantly recalculate our course and ETA to be in sync with slack tide on either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning... Even when we reef our girl in, in an effort to slow it all down for the sake of arrival time...
the current still has us buzzing along in the right direction!

Well, hard to complain. Haven't touched a sail in three days other than to reef her in to slow down,
and we have all read about three books a piece on this trip.

As long as you're really sailing, (YES!)...
and the color Blue (YES!), because that's all there is out here...
and warm days (YES, YES, YES!)
Then this is the crossing of your dreams.

I was having my doubt about this whole "coconut run" moniker they give this South Pacific thing--because frankly, it was a bit of an ass-kicker, there for awhile.
But this....
This, is the stuff of dreams.

Oh yeah,
and that secret atoll we are headed to...
is still staying a secret for now.

Outbound Nuka Hiva

Okay, all you Honorary Shellbacks and Virtual Crew...
Pura Vida is underway again!

Outbound Marquesas islands-inbound Tuamotus!

We departed Nuka Hiva last night before sunset...
Our last few days in the Marquesas were spent marveling at the astounding beauty of Taioa Bay, otherwise known as  'Daniel's Bay' to us, Euro-types.
As an unbelievably cheesy and exploitative by-line, this is the location where they shot the "Survivor Marquesas" season of that silly show-apparently they paid off all the locals to "move-out" of their pristine valley for the season!
Miraculously, Daniel's Bay was not spoiled by the notoriety.
No doubt, it's still too damn remote to build an "all-inclusive" resort, so i think it will remain safe--for now.

It was utterly spectacular, secluded, dramatically volcanic...
and a fitting place to bid farewell to these amazing islands.

We spent a few days in the protected anchorage, getting ready to cross and taking on water--by filling our Jerry cans from a fresh water tap, which we found by dinging up a jungle river (going only at high tide, when there was enough water for our hard-bottomed dinghy) and wandering through a valley filled with coconut palms and banana plants, dripping with flowers and sweet smelling vines and fruit trees of all kinds. The property belonged to some Marquesan friends of Mutuk's (whom we have caught up with again) and we were lucky enough to meet them and spend an afternoon with yet another warm generous local family when we tagged along to a wonderful luncheon they made to celebrate Ali's father's birthday...

After lunch, the crews of Mutuk and Pura Vida hurried back to the boats to hoist their dinghies and get out of the narrow bay before the sun disappeared behind the towering cliffs. A weather window had opened and the time was right to make the five day cross to the Tuamotus--so we jumped on it. Deciding when to cross to the "dangerous archipelago" --as they were always called before the advent of GPS--takes some forethought. Jon sent many days pouring over tide charts and maps and reading lots of cruising guides before making the call.

The Tuamotus is made up of low-lying atolls. Small, coral-reef-fringed islands... the highest point on any of these islands is the palm trees that grow there (making them hard to spot from a distance or in any kind of weather or seas) and the only way through the surrounding reefs and into the sheltered waters inside, are through narrow and notoriously difficult passes in the reefs.

Entrances and exits to these passes have to be timed to accord with the tides, which are accompanied by high outgoing and ingoing currents as the water from the ocean enters and leaves the lagoons. Do it wrong and you can easily get overpowered by current faster than your engine or worse, be met by towering standing waves.
I love to surf and all but I have no desire to attempt to use Pura Vida to ride into the lagoon!

When one doesn't have internet available--this is a math/moon/sunrise/sunset game that must be puzzled out before departure so you don't get stuck waiting outside, having to heave-to in the dark, sailing back and forth and waiting for your window--all while you are surrounded by atolls and motus (rocks).

Jon had been looking at the weather and monitoring the various systems in play-highs above us and low pressure swelling up from Antarctica... the trick is, you need enough wind to sail there and you want your timing to be right for making the pass of whatever atoll you're aiming for. Predicting weather--even with advanced weather programs--is surprisingly complicated for the uninitiated, so it was days and days of him humming and hawing and scratching his beard.

We left last night, with good winds.
Pura vida scooted along in second reef, in 18-22 knots.
We were making 7 knots average which was faster than we want if that was our average, a few hours into it we furled the headsail in to slow us to 5.5 which would put us in the Tuamotos in about 5 days.

That was last night.
We made 135 miles in 24 hours--we could have blistered along and it was tempting to do the crossing in less days but we liked our timing schedule and didn't want to rethink it too much and besides, we like to take it mellow on our old girl and her rig so, no sense in screaming along at 7 knots all night!

We are re-finding the familiar routines of passage-making.
Three hour watches and the sea berth is out again...
Fortunately, the weather has been the best we have had in ages, and the sailing has been great.
Winds have been steady, somewhere between 14-22 knots the whole time, so far.
The seas are pretty good, beamy but not too big.
And best of all, the clouds aren't marching along the horizon in nasty looking squalls...
they are high and puffy and floating around up there where I like clouds to be.

Beam seas, as illustrated by Transport Canada, are when the wind and waves are running perpendicular to the boat's direction of travel.

All is well and we are happy to be underway and on our way to a new adventure.

The Tuamotus are world famous for clear water, huge numbers of fish (and sharks!)
and world class snorkeling and diving...

Pura Vida dive team is stoked to put our compressor back together, get those scuba tanks pumped up
and make some bubbles!

I'm keeping our intended atoll a secret for now --but will keep y'all posted as we get closer!


Let them lead the way...

This last term, we ran an experiment on our kids.
I know, you're not supposed to actually ADMIT it,
that you don't know what the heck your doing...
that even though you may love them with all your unconditional heart, 
parenting still seems to boil down to a whole lot of finger crossing and best intentions.

If you really want an acute dose of this feeling... 
take up homeschooling.

Just mention the subject at a party, and observe how it immediately puts people who would otherwise get along, on opposite sides of a (nonexistent) fence.

Of course, we all know, that no ONE method of teaching is perfect, the same thing can't possibly work for every individual...
So why does everyone get so flustered about it?
Easy. No one wants to mess up their kids.

Everyone wishes their child will grow up, bright, curious and well rounded, with enough skills to carve out a successful future.
We fret that our cherished little people, will also survive the war-zones of elementary and high schools and emerge with their fragile self-esteems intact.

Every parent wants these things.

The issue with homeschooling is, there is no set-in-stone way to do it. Naturally, this breeds uncertainty and self doubt...
and geeze, isn't that a fun place to parent from!

The second you start to take responsibility for your child's education, you have to actually THINK about how to teach them.
This is a really, intimidating prospect. Highly educated, PHD- wielding professionals have spent whole lives devoted to researching and experimenting this subject...
and even THEY haven't worked out all the kinks, yet.

So how on earth, are YOU not going to blow it?

Jon and I,  have experienced all of these feelings and more, during the year and a half we've been experimenting on our poor, unsuspecting children.
We're not experts or anything but I gotta say...Holy Cow.
It has been an eye-opener.

When we first looked into withdrawing our kids from school in California, it was the middle of the year,
Kai was halfway through fourth grade and Hunter was in second.
They had always gone to public schools and could read and write and were good socially... so we knew we had that going for us.

When I looked up HOMESCHOOLING on the internet, the first thing that came up, was how illegal it was in the State of California if you went into it willy-nilly. We needed to go through a whole bunch of red tape and this "tape" required us to re-institute them into another system of education, immediately.
-but we weren't even sure what we wanted yet or what would work for them. We didn't know the first thing about how to teach our kids, never mind teach them on a sailboat...
For, that matter, we didn't even really know all that much about sailing a boat to Mexico...
it was a lot to take on.

So, we did what seemed safest.

We signed up with other home-schoolers, loaded up on books and downloaded curriculums based on their grade level.
Safety in numbers. Stay with the herd.
Luckily, we had friends who were already blazing the home learning path-and we even knew a few, radical folks who were into this wacky-sounding "UNSCHOOLING" thing... 
A "new-age"-sounding, learning style, which gave me mini-spasms of fear, because it just seemed NUTS to stray that far from the path of what is 'known'. What kind of tye-dyed wackos lead a child into an abyss of Do-it-your-own-way, with no state-run-testing-or-formal-structures-to-guide them?

-I have since been converted, wholeheartedly, to this learning concept but we all must leap before we fly :).

We started out by sailing and schooling, sticking to the familiar structure of certain hours of the day devoted to various subjects.
We compared notes with every cruising family we met, 
(and secretly compared our children to theirs; "are they smarter? Do they keep more regular school hours?")
Monday to Friday, spelling tests, math pages, Rosetta stone, grammar, write in the journal every day, projects for social studies, science and art...
We worried incessantly, that they might fall behind.
We were strict. Well, we were ridged, really...
which was a bad fit for us. 

The result was... 
we fought all the time,
with the kids, with each other, 
and homeschooling became a nightmare.

We tried all kinds of fixes.
There were "star charts", reward systems, "Buddy systems", "Special days"...invariably, we ended up dolling out reams of "consequences" more often than prizes.
It all sucked.
We felt like we were failing....
the two most important people in the world, to us.

So, eventually, we did what any good parent would do;
we gave up.
No, really. We gave up and decided to try this "other" kind of home-school notion...
the one that also included that sneaky, patchouli-smelling "unschooling" thing.

Here we were, out in the wild blue, doing all this crazy stuff.
Jon and I were always busy and learning ourselves, 
so why not trust that kids would, too?

We leapt into the unknown...
dragging our kids with us.

Which brings me to these end of the year report cards;

For the past four months, we have kept no regular school hours.
We never made the kids crack a text book-unless it was something they wanted to do and were feeling curious about.

What we did do, was provide as much support as we could for whatever interest they were showing the most enthusiasm for.
Discipline was enforced. 
We live on a boat and there are chores galore and the kids were expected to share a fairly hefty part of those.
They were taught to preform tasks that were within their abilities  --and we expected them to do these well.
We counted on them as crew and gave them responsibility.
Work ethic. Responsibility. Completing tasks-
this was homeschool.
If they chose to do schoolwork instead of cleaning the dinghy, that was fine but they would still have to do the dishes and sweep the floor. 
The boat stayed reasonably clean, we finally had help (and weren't so stressed out ourselves) and the kids learned how to do a lot of mature boat tasks, like care for a dinghy and it's engine, provision water and fuel, and bake and cook some things for themselves.
"Cool. Responsible. Tidy" 
Words we all felt should exemplify a boat-kid.

Kai and Hunter felt pretty great about their accomplishments-and so did we. 
We told them how much we appreciated all their help-all the time.

They learned how to be better sailors WITH us.

When we looked up things in books, they were right there, over our shoulders, reading and learning and experimenting.
We made them part of the conversation, whenever possible and when it wasn't possible to engage them, we told them to beat it.

They crawled into their bunks and read and read and read and read and read....or watched a movie on their computer.
(Which is not a bad thing, so stop sweating it, if you are. Just let them watch better stuff, so they can talk to you about it, after)

They wrote facts about the ocean for the blog during the crossing and discovered that they really liked to write for an audience.
(and there was no more fighting about doing journals)

Manners, chores, reading, activity, quiet time and limited exposure (but not NONE) to electronics...

We set them free to absorb everything they wanted, as they wanted...and we let them be.
There was much less fighting.
Everyone had a good time.

Then came the report cards.

Honestly, we were so proud of them and all the amazing things they had accomplished as people this year; crossing an ocean, learning to scuba dive, speaking new languages...
even despite the usual growing pains that we all expect from pre-adolescence (lippy, lazy, slobby, surly, catty), they were both awesome, hilarious, caring, gentle people that we love to be around.
Yet, there was a niggling fear about how they would measure up with those pesky grade tests, because that part wasn't the KIDS responsibility any more... 
it was totally on us.


"Your report cards are due..." said We, in ominous undertones.
"since we haven't been doing school the 'normal' way, we were just wondering, how do you guys feel about your progress this year?".

The kids looked to one another, uncertain.
There was a chill in the wind, maybe it was a trick question.

"Ummmmm? Ohhh-kayyyy,  I guess?" said Kai, raising his eyebrows, in a hopeful plea.

(my stomach was breeding 'bad-parent' butterflies, at this moment)

"Should we take the end of the year tests in the curriculum books to see how you do?". 
It was just a suggestion.

The kids looked a little worried.

'Don't worry". 
We assured them.
"We take full responsibility for this. If you don't know something, it's OUR fault. We will teach it to you. But at least we will all know where you are, in relation to other kids in your grade."

This took the pressure off the kids and once they knew this, they took it as a sort of "challenge" -in a good way.

We spent a few hours a day, for three days doing all the tests in their grade books.

It ended up, that we chose a few tests from the middle of the book-where they had left off- but they did those so quickly and with no problems, so we jumped them to the final tests.
We were shocked, frankly.
The kids did amazingly well.
We can't take any credit, for it either.

Everything that we have been doing for the past year had sunk in.

Their amazing brains hadn't just figured out how to do fractions by baking and times tables (because it was occasionally fun to work on them) or grammar and spelling and reading comprehension (all  a breeze because they do it all the time anyway and read so much),
and science, is a joke because they already know more than I did, when I was in college...
they ALSO picked up everything that went on around them in their daily life;
navigation, understanding where a storm cell might form, repairing the heat exchanger on a diesel engine, figuring out why the fridge won't work and how to fix it-which means you learn about the difference between alternating and direct current-learning to shop, live and make friends, in a foreign country-where no one speaks your language-converting imperial to metric, studying wildlife, reading poetry, playing guitar, rebuilding the second stage regulator on a scuba tank...
it was ALL in there and more.

Take away the stultifying, bullying, daily-bludgeoning-session that had become our botched attempt at structuring homeschool like 'conventional' school..
and they blossomed.
They bloomed.
Our kids' minds were free to explore and a few months into it, they were CRAVING information and seeking it out.
We watched carefully, for clues of what they were into and then pounced on the opportunity to teach them what they WANTED to learn...but we did it with soft, fuzzy mittens-not boxing gloves.

Our kids did their grade tests WILLINGLY.
In fact, they got off on it, because they liked that they knew so much. Kai and Hunter even took it upon themselves to relearn anything they felt vague on.

Jon and I carefully looked through everything they were supposed to know for their grade level-they had learned all of it and so much more. Totally shocking. Wasn't expecting it...

But that is what happened.

We wrote them out honest report cards with honest grades and sent them to our home learners program.

This was was a week ago.

Since then, they have been so monumentally impressed with themselves and their leaning abilities, they have been downright obnoxious.

They have spent evenings quizzing each other (and us) about subjects we didn't do much of.
US history, algebra(?!) 

When Kai got a consequence for not remembering to recharge his Nook (living on solar is a bitch sometimes) he picked up SLAUGHTER HOUSE FIVE.

"That's a good book" I said.

Kai turned it over.
"What's it about?" he asked.
The world "SLAUGHTER" has potential, for an eleven-year-old boy...
"It's about this guy, who goes back and forth in time and sometimes he's in a really awful war and sometimes he's living with some aliens that kidnapped him..."
(bless you, Kurt Vonnegut, for making a masterpiece with a a log-line that good)
Kai read it in a day.
When his Nook was finally charged, he didn't want to go back to his other book.
He passed up watching a "kid-movie" with his sister, to finish it.
When he emerged from his room at eight that night, I asked him what he thought about it.
He said he liked it a lot but some of it was confusing.
Then he talked about it for two hours, about the second world war and how writing can be simple and deep at the same time.
He asked us what other good books there were that were like that.

Hunter (who has gone farther than any of us in her a Rosetta stone programs because its what she does for fun) got sick of all this discussing something she hadn't read and wanted to know if we could have a spelling contest.

So we did.

This was our experience.

These are kids we're talking about though, 
so in a month, the game could totally change....
and when it does, we will, too.

Whatever works.

So the next time, someone says..
"How is homeschooling going?" 
and you feel like you want to throw yourself on the floor sobbing?
We totally, feel ya.

You are not alone in the fear that you might screw it up.

It can be scary out here, 
on the dimly-lit path of homeschool, un-school, fun-school...
but just keep reminding yourself,
"there's no brighter light than Love",
trust in it to guide you...
and keep your fingers crossed.

If you're interested in other methods of home learning, check out my friend's blog:
Rickshaw Unschooling