Another one of those questions in my mind when we started this nomadic adventure was what holidays would look like. I did not want the kids to feel they were missing out on anything. We got a bit of a sample this week with Halloween and we were really fortunate to have the Lyons family on Dawn Treader still in the harbor to share it with. That coupled with Loren and Elliot's boundless energy and excitement (Loren counted down the days for nearly two weeks!) made for a really fun evening.
We ordered in pizza and the older boys and dads settled in for card games while the younger crowd trick-or-treated the harbor and the attached RV park. I was totally shocked by how many boaters there were prepared with candy in hand, their boats lit up and decorated to attract guests. The crowd was mixed young and old in the harbor itself but it was the RV group that I got a real kick out of. Much older crowd who complimented the kids on their creative costumes and really seemed to feed off their energy. My favorite moment of the night...the gentlemen who said he had been visiting the RV park for 18 years and had never had a trick-or-treater. He felt really bad that he didn't have any candy but Elliot and Loren wished him a Happy Halloween and shared a piece of their loot.
After a week in Long Beach we were ready to head south to San Diego and, rather then drag it into two days, I talked Keith into making a long run down the coast by leaving in the middle of the night. We had planned to take off around 2am and get into San Diego Bay about 4pm in the afternoon. Keith, who finds sleep easily, dropped off to bed at 9:30 and was fast asleep while I stayed up a bit longer organizing some items and stashing things in place for our travel. I attempted to sleep around 11pm and was met with annoying fly-by's of helicopters that continued for another hour and which ultimately woke Keith up (no small feat). At that point we were debating either to try to sleep through the helicopter racket or just go for it. I voted for the "go for it" option and we decided to leave. So we headed out of Long Beach harbor under a full moon around 12:30am. Once out of the harbor area and clear of traffic Keith headed below to bed and Mason stayed up top with me to keep me company; we watched videos on his phone, watched the cruise ships show up on the AIS first then off in the distance like brilliantly lit Christmas trees floating by in the night, we listened to music and just had a nice time. It's one of those memorable moments that seem to be far and few between with my teen son these days so it was treasured.
Keith showed back up on deck around 4am which was perfect timing as Mason was starting to get a little loopy from lack of sleep and I was sure I could hear my bed calling my name like a siren's song. Mason and I handed over the helm to Keith and headed below. A few hours later I was back up top and hanging out with Keith just as dawn was breaking, I spelled Keith again and was treated to a beautiful sunrise all to myself. Soon after sunrise the little guys showed up excited to see where we were at and asking the famous question "When are we going to get there?" for which my answer was, as usual, "dinner time".
The rest of the day was spent keeping busy. Boys played Lego's, played on their tablets, read or were read to and played card games. Around 3pm we neared San Diego and started to look at how we were going to enter the bay. I was already getting a bit nervous with the amount of traffic I was seeing outside the entrance and then looking for the navigation buoys when Elliot calls out that he sees a crab pot, then another. I sent the little boys up to the bow to watch for crab pots, which could be a nasty bit of business for our prop if we hit. The boys are calling crab pots everywhere so Keith went up on the bow with the binoculars to look for the channel markers and to check out the crab pot situation. The verdict...."it's a sea of crab pots!". We start to navigate through the crab pot "sea" with Keith pointing to port or starboard to navigate around them before he finally yells "abort abort" from the bow and we decide to take a wide wide angle around the pots and then navigate our way through the edge of them. I wish we had a picture of the massive volume of them but frankly I was too nerve wracked and white knuckled to even think about photos!
So we enter the harbor, and I swear I've never seen a harbor where less people actually follow the navigation rules. We had boats under sail coming up the right hand side of the channel and boats coming up the left, we had power boats all over the place that didn't seem to care about channel markers, navigation, right-of-ways or just plain courtesy. Many times I would ask Keith (the expert) ..."uh...what do I do?"...at which Keith would list out the rule that applied in the situation and tell me to either hold my course or make a big motion to show that I was altering my course. All I know was, after the crab pot field, I found this pretty nerve wracking also. The farther we got into the harbor the less traffic we had to navigate around and soon we were under the Coronado bridge and heading towards our final destination Chula Vista. The Lyon's, who were already in Chula Vista, had warned us about the shallow waters after the bridge and we'd already checked the chart but I wasn't really prepared for what we saw. The bay at the south end is pretty wide, maybe a mile or more across, but the area where we could navigate was just a few boat lengths wide on the far left hand side of the bay and it went on and on and on. At one point I'm thinking we surely have to be close and Keith says the left turn is coming up but all I see is mud all around me. Our channel markers changed from actual red/green buoys to sticks in the mud with either a red or green triangle on top and a number which aligned with the chart. All the way through our depth was bouncing from 22ft down to 12ft with my heart rate going up and down right along with the depth gauge. Finally we see the breakwater in the distance and we head into our new home for a few weeks.
Chula Vista has turned out to be worth the crazy entrance. The staff here is helpful and welcoming. The laundry facility is fantastic and a good price. The pool and hot tub is heaven for the kids. All in all, we are looking forward to spending some quality time here and enjoying the San Diego area.
Oxnard....what to say about Oxnard....well.....hmmmmm. Yah, that's about it. The facility we stayed at, another Almar Marina, was really pretty nice but it was an odd harbor, half empty. In talking to a number of locals it seems that Oxnard made the decision, right before the recession, to kick out all the small boats in the harbor and remodel the docks for larger boats and bigger dollar signs. At which point the economy went south and the boats all left for better pricing a few miles north in Ventura. So the harbor is half empty everywhere and many of the surrounding buildings were empty and/or dilapidated. Even the Almar facility, while in pretty good repair, was showing its age and the fact that the company had not spent money fixing it up recently. That said, they had a wonderful pool and spa which the boys all loved, and a small but clean reasonably priced laundry facility which Mom and Dad loved. This military town itself really isn't our cup of tea, especially after having so much fun enjoying the sites, sounds, and energy of Santa Barbara. So while we had noodled on the idea of staying more then one week when we entered the harbor, we quickly realized that we were ready to move on. We set our sails for a long day passage to Long Beach and the Shoreline Marina.
Long Beach....what to say about Long Beach...well.....we pulled in at dusk and all I could think of was Downtown Disney. Lights everywhere, in the trees, on the buildings, on the pedestrian bridges, on the boats and then there were people, massive amounts of people, (many of them inebriated) everywhere. It was the antithesis to Oxnard. Mason and I took a walk around that first night and he, the hermit, was not particularly impressed. I thought it was rather neat, in a way that I don't mind visiting but wouldn't want to live with on a daily basis. One of the big reasons for stopping here was it's nearby access to The Aquarium of the Pacific and we have not been disappointed. We bought a yearly family pass and someone from the family has been there everyday this week. Behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it really is one of my favorite aquariums and we have seen many around the world. Though not nearly as large as Monterey, they do a great job showing a really broad range of environments and I have been particularly impressed with the knowledgeable docents and hands on interaction that they have with the visitors. I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium could likely learn a thing or two from them in this area. We plan on staying just a few more days before taking off south again to San Diego where we are hoping to hook up with Lyons, a cruising family we met in Monterey.
I've been working to get all three kids into California Virtual Academies (CAVA) since before we left Santa Cruz and have finally finished and received all the materials, a total nightmare in inefficiency. Now we have been working to align with their standards and it has been a teeth grinding challenge every single day. I was hoping our experience would be like Colorado Virtual Academy but it hasn't been. My biggest frustration has been, I know my kids better then they do, I know what they can accomplish, I know their strengths and weaknesses and can adjust for them better. COVA gave me the flexibility to do this, which is why Mason was so successful with them...CAVA doesn't. CAVA expects my kids to "fit the traditional mold" and they will never do that. Essentially, it's way to structured for our very unique children.
So after weeks of challenges and tears with Loren, anger & frustration from Elliot and more grey hairs and bald spots on my head, we finally came to the determination that I can't handle CAVA anymore...at least for my two youngest. I've submitted to have the kids home schooled full time. We'll use the same K12 curriculum (which we all love) and the core testing software Study Island but I'm ditching the stress that California schools has added. With that decision made I feel like a thousand pounds of stress was removed from my shoulders. I'm so excited that we can have the flexibility we need to adjust day-to-day based on the kids moods. Keith is a great teacher with them, he loves to share his passion for science and math. It's fun to see him working so closely with them and watch the light bulb go off when they finally 'get' what he is trying to teach them. I think the little boys are really going to flourish with the changes we are making.
One of the big reasons we are even living this lifestyle is because over the past few years we have spent so much of our time 'housebound' due to kid challenges. I was starting to go absolutely bonkers. Now we have a much smaller space but it moves and I get to, sort of, get out and live a little. I was thinking back recently on a conversation I had with our sail makers girlfriend. She and I were chit chatting while the new jib was installed and she says to me, "So...you all are on the boat....like, full time. All together. All the time." and at that moment I just nodded and said "yup...it's neat". Now, I have those moments of clarity when I understand more fully what she was implying. I'm with my family, 100% of the day, every day, all day, all the time, in a space smaller then a one bedroom apartment....hmmmm....what was I thinking?!? :) Fortunately, those moments are pretty rare.
This week we've officially got all three kids in school and so we are trying to figure out what that really feels like in our little environment while I also work full time at all hours of the day. My plan was for us to work with the little guys in the morning, because they are the early birds, and then afternoon with Mason. This seems to be working pretty well for Elliot but Loren, who takes three times longer to complete any work and argues at every corner, can't seem to get his work done before 2pm at the earliest. This tends to push into Mason's time and creates stress. So now I'm trying to figure out how we can adjust Loren's work, beyond the fact that we've already halved his class load, and figure out what really makes him tick. I'm seeing that he likes the interactive learning games and he really, really needs lots of repetition. Skills we teach him one day doesn't carry forward to his memory banks on the second day. Luckily the internet has a plethora of options out there and I just have to find those that best subsidize his learning style. All in all, it's a wee bit challenging and I'm always looking forward to the end of day distraction.
Today we walked downtown to explore the area and found ourselves at the end of the wharf and a fountain. The kids insisted they they needed coins to toss to get their wishes. Elliot's wish? That he would be king of the world. (no joke!) Loren's wish? That he would get a marshmallow gun. I had to tell them that, unfortunately, once you tell what you wished for it won't come true. Loren wanted to wait around for "..like five minutes..." to see if it would show up.
I'm the wife of the captain, a mother of three boys and a PM in the corporate world. This blog is my view of life and activities related to our boat.