Sunday, October 19, 2014

We aren’t the Rockefellers? Now are we?

We house sat for a few days way up in the hills overlooking Potter Valley
As I sit here looking over the green and gold farmland in the valley below I take pause to consider what has brought me to this time and place.  We made some decisions a couple of years ago that led us down many paths since that time.  I didn’t realize back then what a big life change it would be and the extent of the challenges we’d face.

The hills here in northern California are dry and when the sun is out, which is almost always, the countryside positively sparkles. I don’t know of a more perfect landscape than here. The land is massively hilly, covered in Oaks, Manzanita, and Madrona interspersed with brittle golden fields of grass.  We are house sitting for a few days up in the hills north of the California wine country and isolated as we are, it’s a perfect time to consider the road behind us.  Now I don’t mean the actual dirt road that leads up to this eagle’s nest of a house. I mean everything that has brought us here. 

I had grown tired of the Seattle city life.  When I met Connie and brought her to my house to live she admitted that she wasn’t happy in the city either.  Seattle is much more hectic and crowded than her Olympia and the culture shock which she was bravely facing every day working at Pike Place Market was showing.  So we hatched a plan to get out of the rat race.  And so, if you followed our blog, you’d have read about our decision to buy a boat, quit our jobs, and sail the blue waters of Pacific Mexico.   It was a good decision and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

 Maybe I’d do some things different but the goal itself was a good one and I’m so very glad we made the leap.  For these last two years we have roughly followed the standard gringo drill of cruising Mexico November through May and hiding from the heat by returning to the states for the summer.  The Mexico waters are full of Canadians and west coast U.S. ex pats cruising through the winter in sail and power boats. But also the beaches and coasts are sprinkled with RV camps of the same, same idea, different mode of transportation.  

Our standard plan has been to cruise in the late fall, winter, and early spring; leave the boat somewhere safe in Mexico; visit friends and relatives for a while; then head down to California to pick up a little work on the farm for a month. Then we gather up supplies for boat projects and provision with food and wine to take back to the boat in Mexico by early November when the heat finally subsides there.  It’s strange but we wear socks and long pants in the summer and shorts and sandals all winter. 

This family was visiting just outside our RV door
 Being nomads like we are there is a cost we pay, there is something missing.  We have no sense of permanence, no real home, and no place where we can kick back and totally relax.  We are always on the move, always looking a little bit forward to prepare for the next thing.  I suppose this keeps us on our toes but it is somewhat tiring.  When I weigh it out though, would I like to spend five days out of every week doing the commute from hell, spend the day in front of a computer, and get home exhausted to enjoy my few hours of free time before bed or would I choose this crazy life where I do what I want but also do what is necessary to keep all the balls in the air that supports a life on the run?

Getting back to the “what to do different” thing…  One of the gotchas we’ve run into is the difficulty getting Traveler in shape for all the demands we put on her.  Of course I’ve read the books and articles that talk about how you should expect to spend half again as much as you paid for the boat getting her upgraded.  And I’m here to tell you that is the truth!  We’ve plowed another 50 large into our dear Traveler over the last two years and only just now are thinking she’s about ready for a big ocean crossing.  Something I didn’t place too much emphasis on which I wish I had was the difficulty getting repairs and upgrades made in places far, far from home.  Oh how I wish that I’d had Traveler tucked into a little marina on Lake Union while I was still employed, money coming in while money was going out. 


It would have been more expensive to ship Traveler up to Seattle from San Diego and some of the upgrades and repairs would have cost more in that expensive town, not to mention the exorbitant slip fees.  Truth be told, we’d probably still be there, working away, trying to pay for that new genoa, water maker, solar panels, wind vane, blister job, and electrical system.  Having done all that, we know now that the Perkins diesel would have died going down the coast.  And I’d still be working… and work be damned!

My advice today, as I sit on this mountain-top patio, would be to save your money, get yourself a solid boat, and plan on spending a few years getting her seaworthy. Either bring her to your town of residence or make arrangements to move to where she is.  Plan on spending time getting to know all the systems, learn a hundred different things you never knew about boats, and learn how she sails and motors in all sorts of weather.  We know that some people get caught up in all the preparing and never get off the dock.  I think there is some sort of happy medium, somewhere between what we’ve done and what that couple is doing who have their boat moored in Shilshole for the last five years getting her totally ready for the sea. They’ll be there for another five if they keep it up. You don’t have to be totally ready, just enough ready.

And the sense of impermanence?  Well that’s something you can live with or you can’t. For those who can’t, figure out a way to keep the house so you can come back to some place that is comfortable and safe.  For us, that’s not an option.  We aren’t the Rockerfellers now are we?
Our home on the mountain

The immediate future: 
As we wind up our “north of wine country” tour we’ll soon leave the farm and head down to Santa Monica and Long Beach to pick up some things and visit friends.  Then we’ll drive the little Dolphin across to Phoenix and down the coast to Guaymas.  Once the boat is ready, we’ll bring the Dolphin back across the border to Phoenix and leave here there in cheap storage.  Then we’ll do another Mexico coast cruising tour through the winter months, ending up in Zihuatanjo for the guitar festival in March.  After that, if we feel confident, we’ll head offshore, maybe heading to Hawaii and then up to the Pacific Northwest for next summer.  We think it would be fun to have Traveler in Puget Sound for a little while.

If you want to come visit us in Mexio, send us an email.  We are always up for entertaining guests.  If you want to help us on the Hawaii four week crossing or the later jump to the PNW let us know.  We could use the help.

Connie Drives the Rhino
For those of you wondering what happened with the new engine, I can tell you that it arrived safely in Guaymas and our man there has begun the install.  Of course, we are very happy about that.