Hard to believe but we've been in Chula Vista nearly three weeks already. We brought a car down the coast and, at first, it felt weird to have a vehicle again but it has turned out to be a nice to have in this area because the harbor is so far removed from the rest of the world. This is a good thing for day to day living but a bit of a challenge when it comes to restocking the refrigerator, getting haircuts, picking up medicines, or other key essentials that you don't think twice about normally. Overall we are really enjoying our stay here, primarily because it has such great amenities like parks close by, a pool and hot tub, laundry facilities and really nice folks both at the office as well as liveaboards all around us. Our plan was to be here a few weeks and then keep heading south to Ensenada, Mexico for the winter to give our kids a bit of culture, because the slip was dirt cheap and because it offered the full amenities of a resort and spa.
As I started to prepare things for our continued trip south I realized we were up against a few more challenges then I had anticipated. First concern was internet and cell phone coverage. I had assumed that AT&T would offer some type of coverage, and they do....for an arm and a leg. That left me relying 100% on internet at the marina which has been a total nightmare the whole way down the coast in the US, I couldn't count on Mexico being better. At the urging of our neighbors, the Lyon's, we decided to take a drive down to check it out first (a 1.5 hr drive vs a 15 hr boat trip). We left Mason home with Molly and took our two youngest on a day trip down into Mexico. We arrived at Marina Coral in Ensenada a few hours after departing Chula Vista and actually drove by it the first time because it was so small. We talked to the facility manager who welcomed us with open arms. We talked with him about internet and found that the dock had WiFi and so we walked over to check it out. As it turns out, it was rather consistent with all of our other marina WiFi experiences....pretty spotty. With a sinking feeling in our hearts Keith and determined that the final leg would have to wait for another day/month/year when I could cut the umbilical cord to work. We headed back towards the US and had quite an adventure at the border for the three and a half hours it took to get back across to where the boat, Mason and Molly awaited us. The next day we had to say goodbye to the Lyon's as they headed south to Ensenada and then on to the Sea of Cortez where they are spending their winter. The kids, all of them, are feeling the loss of the Lyon's and the camaraderie.
We finished our registration today to stay for a few months in Chula Vista while the winter sets in and the holidays approach. They have a huge harbor "light up" coming up that the kids are excited about and we've started to talk about how to decorate the boat. Also looking at other community things the kids can participate in as it's obvious they are all missing some social aspects. Meanwhile we continue with our homeschooling curriculum, some days seem to go better then others depending on the behavior of the kids which I cannot for the life of me gauge from day to day. Yesterday we managed to make it through Math, Grammar, Literature and even made it to an art project. Today....we are still at the starting line. I guess this is the advantage of doing it on our own schedule, we can adjust each day as needed.
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.
We left Morro Bay at 5:30 in the morning, it was a mass exodus of almost all of the boats on the yacht club dock as we were all waiting for the weather window to either head north or south. For us, we were planning to make it around Conception also known as "The Cape Horn of the Pacific". It can get extremely nasty there during storms and as our kids are all fair weather sailors we were waiting for the lull which happened to be this last Saturday. It said the winds should be variable 5-15 but I think 5 was even an overestimate. We literally motored the whole way there without even the option of putting up a mainsail because the wind was on our nose down the coast. We had a following sea with 10-12 foot rollers that would come through every ten minutes or so. Just when you think it's calm, your world turns sideways. This is what took out my french press :( a major downer for this coffee lover, and also what sent a gallon of milk flying.
We arrived in Coho Bay where we stopped and anchored in the late afternoon. The little boys and Keith immediately threw on their wetsuits, booties and grabbed a surf board to head to the beach. Me, the nervous Nellie, stayed with the boat to make sure it's anchor was set. It really didn't help my "Nellie" habit that there were TWO sailboats up on the beach from some previous not nervous enough person! After a bit Keith came back and picked up Mason and I and we explored the beach, the creatures, the sand dune and the boats up on the beach. It felt great to get out and run and stretch our legs but I was anxious to get back to the boat to whip up dinner and call the day complete knowing we had another day of sailing ahead of us on Sunday.
Sunday we left a bit later, the distance being much shorter, and were anticipating light winds but again were treated to just about zero wind. We did get about an hours worth of true sailing in with both Jib and Main but then the wind died and we were relegated to motor-sailing with just the main the rest of the way. We pulled into Santa Barbara right around 2pm which turned out to perfect timing because a few boats had left and they actually had a slip for us available which they didn't when I called earlier in the day. So here we are in Santa Barbara for a bit, getting ready for the work/school week and, with a West Marine literally at the end of the dock, I suspect it will turn out to be a boat project week for Keith.
Call me a whiner but this next leg wasn't one I was particularly excited about. It is suppose to be quite pretty from the water but I also know it can get kind of crazy and there isn't any place to duck in out of the storm. So Saturday morning we started out into what we knew was a southerly, not ideal, but it was suppose to clock around to a westerly in the afternoon. We figured we were motoring in the morning anyway so not a big deal if a slight southerly was on our nose.
Coming out of Monterey it was a bit like a washing machine. Big rollers coming through and then the southerly wind going the opposite direction made for some chop but it wasn't too uncomfortable so we chugged on and around the point and headed south. Mason asleep in our bunk and the two little guys in the cockpit with us, it wasn't bad but it wasn't warm which I didn't care for. About halfway through the day Keith said we weren't making our speed to get into San Simeon before dark, in fact, it was going to be a really long day and we'd pull in around 9:30 or so. Ugh....was what I thought, but we could do it. Mentally I'd already set myself up for a long day of entertaining kids. Then the fog rolled in and the wind turned off and the water turned to glass. It was sort of surreal actually. About this time we saw Orcas, which is my first sighting and pretty exciting for the boys. We kept on heading south and the sun started to set. We were going through the Otter Sanctuary and saw dozens of them wrapped up in kelp patties. Soon it was full dark, thick fog and we still had another two hours to go. Thankfully the kids kept themselves pretty busy down below playing Lego's but every once in awhile a head would pop up and check it out. Mason said it was "Pretty Spooky" and it was! I kind of wanted to freak out...and in fact, had Keith shown even a glimpse of nervousness I probably would have lost it....but he didn't.
Soon it came time to turn into the anchorage and we couldn't find the marker, supposedly a green light buoy. We drove in circles and went right over where it was suppose to be but it wasn't there. Finally Keith decided to head into the cove using GPS and the depth gauge. We chugged in slowly and when the depth got to 30 we dropped anchor. All around us we could hear waves crashing and could smell campfires burning yet couldn't see a thing. We decided to take watches throughout the night which turned out to be Erika checking every 30 minutes and then kicking Keith out of a bed a couple times to make sure I was right, we were held tight. The fog burned off enough in the night for me to see the wharf and some lights on shore and determine that given the crazy fog we were in a pretty decent place.
Around 5am the boat started rocking like mad, a 15 swing from side to side which meant we were sitting parallel to the surf. Seems the swell had come up and our anchoring had us outside of the protected area so we tossed around the idea of moving the boat but ultimately exhaustion won and we opted to suffer through for more shut eye. Around 8am we pulled anchor and tucked way further into the cove where it was really deep still. Totally protected now I could see why it was popular. The little boys, Keith and I jumped into the dinghy and did the boys first beach landing in the surf in the inflatable, it was impressively smooth. Then we walked down to check out the tourist area with signs of history etc. After a short play time on the beach we all headed back to Steadfast to head south.
The wind to Morro Bay was directly behind us, and we made good speed on broad reaches, but Steadfast didn't like direct downwind. We dinked around with different sail positions and configurations but nothing seemed to work perfectly. In addition, the furler seems to need some changes as it really didn't want to furl or unfurl easily, so we'll need to figure that one out. The weather was pretty nice, though the swell was big it was manageable since we were going with it and the wind held at about 15 knots until the last hour or so when it built up to 20-25 and the troughs got a little big as well. Luckily we were close and managed to get Steadfast into the harbor at Morro Bay and raft up at the yacht club where we met up with my brother and his family. We'll be here a bit as we do school work, Erika work and probably a little boat work before heading on south. The next leg takes us past Point Conception...another snotty one if not timed correctly.
One of the concerns I've had with this endeavor of ours is how to manage living with kids with special needs when your home is constantly moving. The primary concern being access to doctors when needed and access to get medication. Today we managed through the second hurdle with a whole lot of legwork.
Yesterday I had noticed there was an Urgent Care very near the harbor here and since I needed to refill two prescriptions I popped in with the kids nearly empty medication bottles and asked if they would be able to give us a new prescription. They took one look at the type of prescription and said they wouldn't do it but that Doctor's on Duty would be able to do it. So I put it off for another day as this would be a brisk couple mile walk for the kids and I.
Today Keith and I with the two youngest in tow started out early and walked down to the Doctors on Duty where they proceeded to look at the medication and promptly said no, they wouldn't be able to refill them. So we hiked all the way back to the boat and I looked up where the nearest ER was to see if they could do it. Later in the afternoon all the kids and I walked to a nearby mall, thinking they had a transit to the hospital which was an hours walk away. Unfortunately the bus that we needed only came through a few times a day so I broke down and paid for a taxi to take us to the ER where they completely understood our position and proceeded to give us refills for our prescriptions.
Lesson learned here: #1 Yes, it will be an adventure just as expected. #2 Just focus on going to the big facilities where the doctors are comfortable writing prescriptions for strangers. The kids for all their hiking managed to earn themselves a smoothie and a sushi night so they were pretty happy. I earned a beer. ;)
After what seems like months of endless boat projects we are finally weighing anchor and heading south. Ok, well, not exactly 'anchor' this year as we've been spoiled on E dock. Perhaps we should say 'disconnecting our power and water' but then that is soooo not nautical.
We headed off to Monterey around 11am and were sent off by so many of our new E Dock friends wishing us well. It was sweet...especially when Loren kept telling everyone "I'll miss you!" and he surely will because the folks there are endlessly patient with his lengthy stories and boundless energy. When we left Santa Cruz little did we know that we would be heading into such a fabulous day on the bay!
We first spotted whales just past the mile buoy and we enjoyed the show for more then half of the six hour trip. The marine biologist on board said we were seeing humpbacks, and risso dolphins, not to mention the bazillion jellies and dozens and dozens of dancing sea lions. In all my years sailing in Monterey Bay I have never seen such a spectacular show. This helped us pass quite a bit of the time but as with any sail greater then one hour in length, the gang starts to get restless so we have to get creative.
The wind was very, very light at one point so Keith decided to launch the inflatable for a photo op with the new sails up. He and Mason jumped on board while the little guys and I hung out and trimmed sails. We ended up with some really great video and photos.
The boys all played Toss Up, a simple fun game that they got for Christmas last year and one of the very few games that Loren can play along with everyone else since the rules are so simple. They only had a slight challenge when the boat was heeling...dice wanted to travel a bit further then they wanted them too.
Elliot and I snuggled up for some quiet reading time while Loren hung out with Dad and watched for things with the binoculars and Mason played games on his phone.
Towards the end, when Mason got his internet back on his phone, he played DJ for awhile and we were able to dance away to some thumping dub step.
All in all...a really great start to our journey down the coast. We'll stay in Monterey for a bit while I work and the kids get some local education at the aquarium and such before we keep on moving.
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.