The Times, They Are A-Changin’

The view has changed outside my bedroom window. I used to wake to a brilliant blue square of sky, neatly divided by crisscrossing lines and often littered with circling sea birds. Now when I open my eyes I see waves of green, layer upon layer of tree branches with bright bursts of blossoms and behind, small homes clinging to the hillside.

The sounds are different too. Before I heard the static of the marine radio, the grumble of panga engines, pelicans diving for a meal and on the beautiful rare occasion, whales singing. Now I hear whirring fans, chirping bird calls, crowing roosters and the muffled sound of the local water truck hawking their aquatic wares.

Even the smells are different. Salty breezes laced with whiffs of engine exhaust and bilge decay have been traded for the heavy scent of burning trash and night blooming jasmine.

By now you might have guessed, we sold Velella velella and moved to land!!! It’s all very fresh and new; there is so much to adjust to. Two weeks ago I showered by jumping in the ocean, now I stand under a soft trickling shower head. A few weeks ago Etolin ran up and down the decks, pulling fenders behind him and throwing lines overboard to “fish.” Now he runs around our new patio and plays with toy cars on a floor that is startlingly still.

After 12 years of ownership, we have passed the keys and the dock lines for sweet Vv over to a brand new family! The universe delivered us absolutely incredible people to take the helm. A couple from the Pacific Northwest, not too unlike our own but with older children and a desire to explore the Salish Sea on an Ingrid 38, found our boat online and through our emails, photos and blog, decided this was the boat for them. Thus began a fascinating and involved exchange of information and possibilities, ending in the couple buying the boat and Rob sailing her with friends 150 miles south to Manzanillo where she was loaded on a giant ship and transported back up to Washington!! (Watch the VIDEO Rob made to see for yourself!) The journey that took us months in 2011 transpired in reverse in one week. (Nasty gales for Velella velella on the way up too, poor girl, but happily no knock-down nonsense this time.)

So, she’s back in her natal waters! With new excited owners! And we are landlubbers, just like that. The process has had its ups and downs but it never lacked in intrigue. It can be scary to open yourself up to big life changes like this. We were not in control of if she sold, when she sold, or to whom she sold. And we had a pile of worries about what life without her would be like. Would we wallow in regret? Lose our sense of identity as mariners and boat lovers? Many of the shared values we treasure are deeply imbedded in the liveaboard lifestyle: simplicity, charity, community, frugality, interdependence as well as self-sufficiency, global and environmental consciousness and an interest in time spent unplugged and offline. Would moving back to land diminish our dedication to these ideals? We had to take the leap to find out.

We are only a few weeks into this new chapter so observations may be taken with a splash of salt water. But so far, all we feel is lightness and peace. The new owners feel like just the right people to take Velella velella into her next phase of life and we even received the unexpected blessing of a standing invitation to take her sailing whenever we are in the area. Knowing our children can see and possibly sail in the future the boat that has meant so much to us certainly took much of the sting out of saying goodbye to her. The other surprising source of harmony is the serendipitous casita our friend found for us to rent for our remaining time in Mexico. It is small, tidy, quiet and tropical and a perfect location for hosting our friends, whom we fretted would become distant when we exited the saltwater world. So far, the opposite has held true. We’ve had more guests and visitors than ever before and we are thrilled they are accepting our switch from boat to terra firma with grace and a dash of humor.

There are some things we are learning to navigate as we go. We try not to talk about the sale with boat friends too much, unless they ask, as we don’t like to introduce potential doubts into other cruiser’s minds about the decisions they face as boat owners. I’ve been questioning my participation in the online forums I love, like Women Who Sail and Kids 4 Sail, as I’m technically no longer a cruiser or “raising a child onboard.” But I guess it doesn’t invalidate my past experiences so I can still share, with the preface “As a previous cruiser…” I broke down and cried a few times in anticipation of the final night we would sleep aboard Vv and the bittersweet act of moving off and I waited to witness Rob’s moment(s) of sadness. I have seen none!! He seems to have processed the emotional side of letting her go long ago and sees only bright skies ahead, full of hours NOT spent on engine maintenance, head tinkering, water hauling, dinghy tending, weather worries and intricate problem solving for issues that rarely accept simple solutions. I can see his whole body language is more relaxed and he has a bit of a perma-grin. Our new apartment can get hot, stuffy and buggy at times and he just laughs and says, “Let’s go for a swim!” So we walk the five blocks to the beach and jump in! It’s certainly not as unique or romantic-seeming as pulling up by dinghy, but no one has to haul any fuel cans or worry about the shore break!

Being 30 weeks pregnant with a 2-year-old also feels easier on land. I think Etolin napped better on anchor, with the constant rolling and rocking, but my stomach wasn’t keen on it and my belly and all her accompanying pillows were starting to outgrow our bed. Every time I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom in our new home (which is not infrequently), I marvel at how simple it is. Just sit up and then walk through the doorway? No crawling over sleeping bodies and then squeezing through a tiny (note: it wasn’t tiny before I got pregnant) hole to eventually tumble out onto the floor and then fold myself into the head? I also think my heartburn has lessened now that we can angle the head of our bed up just slightly. All of which tempers the heartache I occasionally get when Etolin asks, “Mama, where’s Velella velella?” and I have to explain again that a big ship took her to a new family to live on. We talk about it regularly and he now seems content to accept that we live in a “propeller” house, so named for all the fans on the ceiling. He was also pleased to hear that the new family had kids and those kids would have toys onboard. “Lots of toys Mama?” “Yes, lots of toys.”

As for Rob and I, we both see this time of not owning a boat as temporary. Already Rob is scheming about trailer sailors we could play on in the PNW and we both would love to bareboat charter when kids are older. Maybe we’ll even live aboard again, on a cozy motorboat that could take us up the Inside Passage to Alaska while staying warm and dry… Anyhow, no lack of dreams for the future! Between Rob driving whale watch boats, Grandma JaJa’s love of kayaking and paddle boarding, Grandpa John commercial fishing in AK and the rest of our family’s love of boats, we know Etolin and sibling will get plenty of sea time. No chance they’ll escape childhood saltwater-free!

Are we trying to have it both ways? Evade the stress and responsibility of boat ownership but enjoy the perks and pleasures of life on (and by) the water? Live a life of adventure and change while appreciating a foundation of stability and community? ABSOLUTELY! Why not!? At least we can try! And thanks to our friends and family who put up with our ever evolving plans and changing lifestyles, we feel love and support along the way. Without which, of course, we couldn’t do any of this. Thank you so much dear Loved Ones! You are our whole world!

So, here we are, adapting to personal changes as the world changes around us. We hope you too are feeling loved and supported at this time and know what you mean to us. And if you have a boat and need some deckhands for a day sail, you know who to call!

Love, the Beached Velellaz

Haul out for her marine survey

Velella velella’s haul out for her marine survey. Turned out to be our last day as owners!

Velella velella's last day in Mexico

Vv’s last day in La Cruz before Rob sailed her south to put her on a ship going north


Our final family photo with the boat!

The ship that carried her North

The ship that carried her North

She looks like a toy boat when she's 50 feet in the air!

Being hoisted 50+ feet in the air!

Securing her for the big journey

Securing her for the big journey

Adjusting to land living

Adjusting to land living

Boatless and fancy free!

Boatless and fancy free!

Back to Boat, Boat for Sale

When the days get short and the temperatures drop in the Pacific Northwest, our migratory senses tell us it’s time to pack our bags and head south. In November, with toddler in tow, we flew back to our other home in Mexico to resume life as liveaboards on our favorite sailboat. Humid, balmy air tickled our toes when we stepped off the plane and we found Velella velella to be in excellent shape after our summer away. No bugs and no mold! Bright varnished interior glowing and our cozy v-berth waiting for us. We are so happy to be reunited with our floating casa and excited to embark upon our SIXTH season floating around Banderas Bay, looking for whales, deepening our friendships and watching our son grow into a mini-mariner. Life is good…

But wait! If life on Velella velella is so perfect, why the title to this piece? Boat for Sale? Really!? I guess we have some explaining to do.

Newest crew member arrives in April!

Does this give you a hint? Yes, baby number two is well on its way! Etolin’s little sister or brother (we aren’t finding out which) is due in early April. With this impending family change, we have decided to release Velella velella back out into the world, to be sailed by other families, couples or single-handers, while we pursue life on dry land. It has been an extremely difficult decision to make because we love her and this lifestyle so much but we know we will always be around boats, working on them and playing on them, and we hope to cruise again with our family of four in the future. But having two kids under three sounds like an ideal time to be closer to family and our jobs in the States. So, with a mix of sadness and anticipation, the hunt for new owners begins! We can’t wait to see who comes along to take Vv on her next voyage and phase of life.

Until then, we’ll keep living aboard and I’ll keep blogging! I’m pleased to say the temperatures have been kinder to us than last year, hovering in the upper 80’s for our first week which gave us time to adjust and begin unstowing the boat without worry of heatstroke or the more common, Heat Irritability Disorder. We managed to get the booms back on (with help), water tanks flushed and filled, all electronics unstowed from the oven (their summer home in case of lightning strikes) and reconnected, propane hooked up and stove cooking, solar panels back on, tiller reunited with the rudder and the engine up and running all before the temperatures soared into the 90’s. Rob went aloft multiple times to scrub the masts, install a new LED anchor light and re-run all the lines (along with the booms and spars, we remove, wash, dry and stow below all our running rigging and canvas while we’re gone to limit UV damage). Sails went back on next as well as all the canvas and netting meant to keep Etolin and his various toys onboard. Now that he’s two we’ll see how successful they are!

Making her a sailboat again

Making her a sailboat again

The last week in Port Townsend and the first week back in Mexico are always surreal. Uprooting and saying goodbye to our NW friends and life, even just for the winter, is emotional and somehow only marginally gets easier each time we do it. Etolin handled all the changes better than we did. We talked a lot about moving from our “land home” to our “other home on a boat, remember?” and it seems he does remember. It helps that on the boat he has all kinds of books and toys stowed away that he hasn’t seen for six months. “My train! My cars! My life jacket!” etc. Now when we return from running errands to the boat he says “We’re home!” and he’s content to accept the reply “It’s at our land home” when he asks about books or toys we left up north.

Etolin helps us unpack his stowed toys

Etolin helps us unpack his stowed toys

We’ve decided to spend the majority of this winter in La Cruz instead of going back and forth to Punta Mita like we usually do. This way, we can get in more of a routine with our friends and stay more involved in both the local and cruiser communities. La Cruz has wonderful outdoor markets twice a week, yoga classes, surf a short bus ride away and my beloved writer’s group every Saturday. It is also home to the majority of our awesome friends down here, and has more social opportunities for E. “Where are the kids, Mama?” he asks almost every day. He misses his Co-op Playschool but I’m hopeful we’ll find something similar down here. Even a few hours a week of playing at a local pre-school would be amazing, especially in the language department. He’s such a chatterbox compared with last year so it seems like the ideal time to learn some Spanish. Since we arrived he’s learned Hola, Gracias, pantalones, camiseta, Adios and Amigo. He also does a mean El Gallo impression.

Very special Thanksgiving with friends

Very special Thanksgiving with friends

Experience has taught us the best way to move quickly through the leaving/returning transition period is to hang out with our buddies as much as possible. We are so happy to see our Mexican, American and Canadian friends again. The anchorage and marina are a little empty now compared to how they’ll be by Christmas but we have reconnected with some super fun “kid boats” (cruising boats that have kids onboard). Kid cruisers are used to playing with all ages of children so it’s fun to see Etolin get to interact with older kids more than he does in the States. He is really into playing pretend right now. “Would you like your phone, Mama?” he’ll ask and then hand me an invisible phone to make pretend calls on. “I got some pineapple fish, you want some? It’s for eatin’.” Once he gets comfortable with new kids, he likes to play pretend with them too. Last night we enjoyed a torrential downpour, courtesy of a tropical depression from Hurricane Otto and he was completely giddy running around the marina splashing in puddles with boat kids five times his age. They thought he was hilarious and enjoyed chasing him and playing pretend. Today the sun is back and we are drying out and making plans for future playdates and beach days.

Storytime as the temperatures rise

Storytime as the temperatures rise

Hope this finds you warm and dry wherever you are! If you know of anyone searching for a dreamboat of their very own, please tell them to email us! Till then, fair winds, calm seas and happy preparations for the holiday season!

The Velellaz

Our boat baby has become a real boat kid now!

Hasta Luego Mex!

Goodbye time already! We’ve packed up the boat, said our farewells and all that remains is to board the plane and fly north. What a season! Leaving is bittersweet. We had a very special visit this month with Rob’s mom Lynn and stepdad Robin. (Fun photos here!) Etolin loved showing them around his boatworld down here, swimming at the beach and pool and playing smash ball, a beach game Rob made up. Lynn claims to have taught Etolin how to say “pool”, “swimming” and “bye-bye” in just one week. I think she may be right. He also says “uh-oh” and “wine-o-rhino” which is the unique name of our good friends’ Tasha and Owen’s boat. We have not heard him say “velella velella” yet…

Speaking of VV, we just want to give her a little shout out, as we prepare to leave her for the next 6 months. She is such a good boat! We ask so much of her and she delivers tenfold. Here are some of the things we ask of her: “Take us to Yelapa Velella Velella! Wait patiently while we explore the jungle, in search of waterfalls and wild parrots. Hold us tight while we get thrashed by swell all night and almost collide with our neighbor. Now take us to La Cruz and shelter us through the rockin’ rollin’ thermal wind that blasts through the anchorage, every afternoon like clockwork. Keep that anchor wedged down snug. Now release it from the sandy bottom without protest and slip us quietly into the marina, between pangas, pelicans and sailboats and don’t scratch that mega yacht as we pull into a slip. Keep the tropical rain out, the heat out, the bugs at bay. But let our friends in, expand your cockpit to accommodate us all, echo our jokes and laughter over the water. Time to go to Mita? Raise up your sails, find us some dolphins! No wind? Start your engine, get us there by sunset. Hold our fresh water, hold our expectations, hold our hearts. And most of all, hold our son and keep his wily little body safely onboard!”

That’s a lot to ask of a boat. But she can do it, and much more. Three cheers for Velella velella!

Alright, they’re calling our flight. For those of you up north, see you soon! For those of you down here in Mexico, stay cool and see you next winter! Thank you for the magical memories.

xoxoThe Velellaz

P.S. Photos of our last month in Mexico here, including birthday festivities, visitors by land and sea and just general boat life happenings. Enjoy!

Abuela JaJa Visits

My mom came to see Etolin, I mean us, last month and if the mountains of photos she left in her wake are any indicator, she had a great time! She commandeered her own paddle board to transport her out to the anchorage where she could observe us in our native habitat. Etolin enjoyed showing her around, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies he likes to populate with Cheerios and toy cars. I imagine he was thinking, “Here are my books and my cars and the balls that move on their own across the floor when the surf is up. Here is the apple slice I placed under my chair and here is the winch and handle and here is my mom, asking me not to throw the winch handle overboard. Here is the new swim ladder. Say, why don’t we go down it and take a dip? Yes, I think that is a fine idea.”

What she heard was, “Dat? Car? Bahhh? Apple? Dis? Dah? Agua? AGUA???” followed by a colossal smile when we picked up his swim trunks and floatie and he knew he had been understood.

During Grandma JaJa’s visit we played on the beach in Mita, visited La Cruz by bus, took long walks and longer naps, snorkeled at Las Tres Mariettas with the masses and took the inflatable kayak for a spin. Etolin had his first SUP ride and cut his first molar and threw up all night for the first (but probably not the last) time. Nurse Grandma to the rescue! She took great care of him, and great care of me when I got it too. Thank goodness it was only a 24-hour bug and she and Rob escaped unscathed. Mostly we just looked for bodies of water and then put Etolin in them. Pool, shore, bay, ocean, bath tub, noooooo, not that mud puddle!

Etolin impressed with his expanding vocabulary, which now includes coco, diesel, avocado (pronounced “Ah-DOH-know?”) and please (in sign language) and his diverse and unique repertoire of animal sounds: dog, cat, duck, cow, dolphin, whale, lion, bear, fish, frog and El Gallo, Mr. Rooster.

Before my mom left I took her to the La Cruz Writer’s Group which I’m thrilled I’ve been able to attend regularly. It’s my attempt to keep my brain active and entice the words to flow. It is also my only guaranteed toddler-free time and no offense, Etolin, but I enjoy it! Thanks Rob for making it possible. And thank you to Alison and her son Chandro on S/V Kenta Anae who were Etolin’s first non-family member babysitters when Rob’s surf trip to Quimixto coincided with Writer’s Group. We are lucky to have such great friends and community down here. But don’t worry, Port Townsend, we still miss you!

It’s dark and stormy here tonight. Quite unusual to be so cold and rainy. As the squalls come in, we literally have to batten down the hatches. And pull out our sweaters and raincoats! Hopefully the weather will clear up in time for our birthdays. Till then, we are bundled up in solidarity with all of you experiencing a real winter up North!

The Velellaz

P.S. Feliz cumpleaños to Abuela JaJa today!!! We miss you! xoxoxo

Anchored Out

Ahoy my salty readers! Ready for another installation from your favorite jellyfish ship? We cut the proverbial umbilical cord and left the La Cruz marina to embark on the epic 15-minute journey to the anchorage. Our tactic of strapping E in his stroller (which we temporarily lash down on deck) for non-kid-friendly activities like docking and anchoring has granted us a degree of success but we’ve learned every task with a 16-month old is time sensitive. Woe be it to us if the anchor doesn’t grab the first time and we have to manually haul it up along with 125 feet of chain. To re-set again. And again. A certain crew member will let us know when they’ve had enough of that! If we find ourselves in this situation (we are picky about getting a solid bite) then we pull him out of the stroller and pop him onto our back in the carrier. It’s a little cumbersome but workable.

Once the anchor is set, life becomes enjoyable again. E dons his lifejacket, with or without clothes but always sunscreen, and we alternate who is watching him. Not surprisingly, he is far more entertained on a swaying, anchored boat than on a still one in the marina. After breakfast he lets us know with clear body language when he wants up the ladder to hustle around the deck, “helping” Rob drop the dinghy from its hoist and looking for dolphins, fish and pelicans. The netting Rob installed around the boat is a sturdy deterrent for Etolin going in the drink but he can still find other ways to get into mischief including throwing things besides himself overboard. We try to let him know that’s undesirable behavior and so far we’ve only lost 3 clothes pins to the deep. At least, that’s all we know of. We now encourage only buoyant toys above deck, especially ones that can be tied to something.

We celebrated Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s with merry friends and beach fires. A last minute invitation to some friend’s of friends on Christmas Eve ended in Rob carving a turkey and Etolin sitting at his first “kid’s table.” It was a delicious feast. Sailor Santa again paid us a visit, leaving E a little soccer ball (you must start them very young here), a book and some miniature bulldozers. We also wrapped up a bag of Cheerios and raisins as stocking stuffers and they were a big hit. After presents and pastries, we swam around the boat and E couldn’t stop squealing with glee. Such a water baby!

In January we took a short trip to California for a family reunion birthday gathering. It was very special getting to see relatives and loved ones and we boogied down at a spectacular dance party! When we returned we sailed to Punta de Mita, our other anchorage home in the Bay and visited with friends on boats and land. There were some big surf days combined with full-moon-influenced extreme tides so we had some exciting beach landings in the dinghy. Happily, there is a small jetty we can tuck behind that protects us very well when we actually reach the beach. We just have to make sure we approach the jetty at the correct time between sets. Etolin loves any chance to ride in the dinghy and when the ride ends at a beach, he is doubly pleased! Besides swimming and playing on the beach, his other passion is finding other kids to run around with. To that end, he had a blast at our last beach bonfire with our local friends who brought their whole families. Niños of all ages, even babies younger than he is! I got to hold the cutest 5 month old named Luis Renaldo. We had a fun time roasting sweet plantains over the fire and conversing in our ever-improving Spanish. When our words fail us, we get creative with hand signals and it’s entertaining for all.

The temperatures have dropped to their usual, pleasant winter range. Rob scraped, wire-brushed, primed and painted the engine and mounts so our Volvo Penta is now gleaming. His next project is making a ladder cover to keep E from climbing up when we aren’t ready to go on deck. The yoga mat we’ve been using is no longer effective. He can scramble right over it with his little monkey toes. I’ve been struggling with mal de mer (sea sick notions) due to rolly anchorages and I’m grateful Rob doesn’t mind picking up my slack when I have to parent from a reclined position. Thankfully Etolin doesn’t appear to have inherited my sensitive inner ears. And three cheers for our stellar flopper stopper! It hangs off the side of the boat and really reduces our side-to-side motion. You know your hubby loves you when he gets you a flopper stopper.

Today it’s calm and the oatmeal is ready so I better go. Hope all are well and thanks for reading! Next week Abuela JaJa arrives so we’ll have more stories then!

Love, ERK (Etolin, Rob and Kai)

P.S. To see our photos visit our homepage and click on the photo on the right.