Monthly Archives: April 2013

Who would have guessed? We like sailing.

It took more than ten years to make this trip happen, but finally Mark and I are here in the British Virgin Islands sailing around for a week, along with three of our New Zealand friends. Today is the last day on the catamaran and it’s time to sum up a few life lessons.

The crew: Matt, Mark, Erica, me, and Rob

The crew: Matt, Mark, Erica, me, and Rob


First of all, grabbing the mooring ball is not the easy task it appears to be. Every one of us tried it and every one of us screwed up at least once. If we did it right the Kiwis would give us an “Achieved,” but if not it was a “Not Achieved,” and we got a lot of grief.

Second, apparently when you are on a boat, things fall overboard if you don’t tie them down. We are getting better at remembering that.

Third, even though we are all seasoned drinkers, we still are able to get properly pissed and hung over just like the younger whippersnappers!  Willy T’s is a floating bar in the middle of the cove off Norman Island, and on Day 2 we headed over there after a delicious dinner on board.  Willy T’s isn’t the classy joint the name connotes, and in fact encouraged women to take off their tops by displaying TVs with photos of others who had. (Don’t worry, we didn’t).  I wish I could tell you what happened over there, but for some reason I can’t remember a thing.  The next day no one even made it up on deck until mid-morning and we were all moving very slowly. After coffee and breakfast Captain Shane wanted to know if we were finally ready to let out the sails and turn off the motor. Rob had been itching to get the sails up, and here was his chance. Unfortunately, none of us were at our best.  Mark, Rob and Matt assisted with the sails and Erica did some steering (all I could do was nap on the deck). Rob was green for most of the ride and Mark ended up chumming for fish once we finally arrived.  It was a bit ugly, but we made it.

Fourth lesson, this is the life! We felt like the rich and famous as we cruised up to each mooring, hopped over for drinks or shopping on an island, and then lounged luxuriously on the spacious, comfy trampoline over the hulls.  We kept saying things like “Who do we think we are?” and “Is this for real?”

Pulling up to Saba Rock Island, just around the bend from Richard Branson's Necker Island.

Pulling up to Saba Rock Island, just around the bend from Richard Branson’s Necker Island.


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Here are some of the highlights:

First night’s dinner under the stars at Waterlemon Cay in St. John

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay

After dinner we noticed a school of giant tarpon swimming under the boat so we jumped in

After dinner we noticed a school of giant tarpon swimming under the boat so we jumped in


Swimming and snorkeling at the Indians and the Caves at Norman Island

Erica and me looking for lost treasure in the caves

Erica and I looking for lost treasure in the caves


Indiana Jones-ing around the Baths and Devil’s Bay at Salt Island

See the Guiding Light, our catamaran, in the background?

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Matty’s action-filled birthday!  It started at 7am when we set sail for the 25 mile crossing from Anegada (most of which I slept through). Then we jumped off  the boat for a healthy 600m swim to Sandy Cay and a short hike around the island.


This was my favorite island–totally uninhabited, beautiful white sand, and turquoise waters!


Then we made a quick sail to White’s Bay where he proceeded to swim straight to the bar and order two Soggy Dollars, which would have been quite clever if that was actually a name of a drink rather than the name of the bar, although he did pay with the notorious soggy dollars from his pocket. This bar happened to be the home of the Painkiller, one of our favorite drinks of the islands.  In fact, Erica had three in that one sitting alone!


On our way to White’s Bay


Not too shabby of a bay!

Matty then kayaked around Great Bay before we went ashore for dinner.  We had a fantastic meal of conch fritters, pizza, tuna, and scallops at Corsair’s.

sm31 After dinner we ordered three 170 proof absinthe drinks that we were cautioned could be hallucinogenic, though none of us reported any of that but plenty of inebriation.

Apparently absinthe is an acquired taste

Apparently absinthe is an acquired taste

Finally we ended the night at Foxy’s in the early morning hours dancing to reggae music (along with one of our new local friends and his 30-year-old dreads), drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and crashing one of our neighboring boat’s party.

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Actually, there’s a bit more to that night than we actually shared with our Captain. Around 1am Erica and I were ready to head back to the boat, and I thought I could cleverly “borrow” the dinghy and get us back there on our own.  So I jumped in and miraculously figured out how to get it started. I yelled to Erica to jump in, but the practical woman she is, she said first show her I knew how to drive in a circle, then she would get in. It was a wise test, and I failed. I must have flooded the engine because all of a sudden it wouldn’t go. Luckily I was still in shallow water so I jumped out and dragged the dinghy back to the dock with my hands. We headed back to the bar (I was sopping wet) hoping none was the wiser. An hour later when we all stumbled back to the dinghy, we were giggling and praying that the captain wouldn’t notice. He did comment that someone must have been “messing” with the line, and we braced for it, but then the dinghy started right up and we all kept quiet!

Another highlight was the 15 mile sail to Anegada in 25-30 knot winds cruising at an average speed of  9 knots on a beam reach (I actually slept through the sail, but Erica tells me she steered for the whole trip) and then a 3 mile run on the white sandy road to the windward side of the island and lunch at Cow Wreck, which was completely empty due to the difficulty of sail that only our crew could manage.



Spectacular sunset at Anegada

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Swimming at Turtle Cove with our new best friends, the turtles (Rob and Matty got a bit intimate with them, as a matter of fact)


Rob with a turtle

shane_sm09Great run/swim/tour of the old Sugar Mill in St. John by Captain Shane

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Fantastic snorkel at the Cow and the Calf rocks where we saw an eagle ray, an eel, a turtle, an intimidating barracuda and then a bull shark!

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Endless inside jokes, including “eat an onion Mate”, me setting world sleeping records while at sea, deciphering between which of our tour mates was the “bloke” of the relationship, that the sheep-shaggers refer to us Yanks as Seppos (Is there any surprise that Kiwis refer to Americans as “Septic Tank Yanks” or “Seppos”?).  However, we know that Kiwis come from a land where men are men and sheep are nervous.

As for the six of us, I thought we made a great crew with very compatible interests and personalities.  Captain Shane was always calm even when our sailing skills didn’t impress him, and he was a patient teacher and excellent guide.  Erica’s sweet smiling face was a pleasure to wake up to every morning, and she looked after all of us like the mother she is.

last_sm03 We also were impressed to see her get more comfortable in the water, and I’ll always remember watching her dive down to the wreck below. Mark as usual was the all-around sportsman and I think everyone enjoyed watching his many exertions, and then later seeing him match them with the number of beers each night.

This looks awkward, but he nailed it!

This looks awkward, but he nailed it!

Matt’s even, mellow attitude kept us all calm and collected (and was a great balance to my Type-A personality), and we all relied on him for important information like the name of a song from 1962 or what year a certain country got its independence. last_sm01

And then there’s Rob.  He could have his own reality show I think.  His subtle humor had us all in stitches most of the time, and as I sit here I can still picture him shaking his head as he watches another sailor going by muttering something like, “That fella tacked a bit early, didn’t he, Cap?”


He’s probably saying something like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, get a look at this place.”


As for me, I have to say that in all my travels, this might be one of the best trips yet. Michaela is a happy, happy girl!



Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


It’s all good

It has been months since I posted, and I think I fell out of habit for two reasons: my pace of life has picked up so I don’t find myself with as much free time, and we have settled into a routine that doesn’t feel like travelling, so I’m less inclined to “document.”

More and more I feel the urge to be compellingly honest when I write these entries. I don’t want to appear that I’m painting my life in a rosy color, and I certainly don’t mean to be bragging.  Yet, the overwhelming thought that comes across my mind on a day to day basis is, “Damn, how lucky am I?”

My general contentment feels especially rich because of the bumpy couple of years before.  More than a year after Diego died I could still slip into a sobbing mess just by letting myself think about him.  And then last year I was feeling really lost about where Mark and I belonged. I was wondering if we were too “light and free” from traditional bonds that held us to a place and a community.  But lately, and I suppose this is the past few months, I feel like we have gotten back our rhythm. Here’s my theory on why.

First, we have carved out a new set of home bases that are really working for us: Rosarito-Mammoth-Akumal.  Currently we are living in Club Marena, Rosarito in a perfect little townhouse we rent for next to nothing.  Unlike our condo last year, this unique location is protected from the wind by a bluff, so we’ve had terrific weather all winter and spring, without a hint of fog or marine layer so far.  This means that we enjoy our outdoor life so much here. We eat all our meals on the patio in shining sun, Mark surfs right out front, I walk Pancha on the beach every morning, we both swim in the pool and enjoy the hot tub, and we’ve even been playing tennis together.   I can’t stress enough how important it is for both of us to be outside as much as possible. If there is a condition that means someone is addicted to the sun, we both have it. Yes, we still spend a good part of the day inside working on our computers, but we hurry with our work so we can get outside.

Sunset at Club Marena

Sunset at Club Marena

Another great part about Rosarito this year is that we got our Sentri passes, which means the wait at the border is less than 15 minutes.  So we can run up to San Diego for family events or a doctor’s appointment or just a drink with friends without having to plan three hours ahead and sweat it out at the border.  It is so much better!

And this year we get to ski again, which is so much fun. We took last season off so we could travel, but this year I was so anxious to get back to skiing. Our first ski day was delayed for weeks because of a hold-up in our condo purchase, but the deal finally got done and we headed up on January 28. Since then we’ve been up four times. Our schedule (which has been flexible based on various events up there or down here) is two weeks in Mammoth, two weeks in Rosarito.  It is pretty ideal because after ten days of skiing our knees are pretty shot and it’s time to do some cross training down here.  Our new condo in Mammoth makes the transition so easy, too. The rental company takes care of everything and rents it when we are gone. For the winter months we’ve even made a profit (though we expect the summer months to rent sparingly). Still, it seems too good to be true!

Finally skiing again!

Finally skiing again!

Mark's nephew Ben on his  first solo visit

Mark’s nephew Ben on his first solo visit

With the Avila-Gorostizas, enjoying the hot springs in Mammoth

With the Avila-Gorostizas, enjoying the hot springs in Mammoth

And then in June we will head back to Akumal, and stay for six months.  This is our longest stretch in one place but I think we both admit this is our favorite of all the locations.  We can live even more comfortably outside in Akumal, and both of us are just suckers for the tropical lifestyle.  Whether we are paddling, snorkeling, or just staring at the turquoise water, we are addicted to Akumal.

So, I guess we have created some roots and normalcy out of our gypsy lifestyle. We have “stuff” and familiar places to rest our heads in each place, so it takes less than a day to arrive, unpack, and feel settled in each location.  We also feel like we have a community in each place. In Mammoth we have a few local friends and on the weekends there seems to always be someone visiting from San Diego.  In Rosarito we are making more and more friends.  This week was eventful as the next door neighbor invited us to a really fun dinner party and then the next night we bumped in Mark’s old Kingsburg buddy and went to the Tequila Festival with his crew.

The Rosarito Tequila Festival

The Rosarito Tequila Festival

Learning about the agave root

Learning about the agave root

Meeting the band and sharing tequila

Meeting the band and sharing tequila

In Akumal of course we are slowly becoming integrated into both the local and “loco gringo” communities through sports, happy hours, my teaching, and the dog spay/neuter project.

Anyway, I just want to throw it out to the universe that I am incredibly grateful for my happy, happy life.  I know things won’t always be this rosy, and that makes it all the richer!

Here are few more photos from the last few months:

Mark took his mom to her first Laker's game to ring in her 70th year

Mark took Jason, me and his mom to our first Laker’s game to celebrate Diane’s birthday

I had almost TOO much fun at our track girls reunion in February

I had almost TOO much fun at our track girls reunion in February

Paola and me at good old UCSD getting Isabella some hurdle training

Paola and me at good old UCSD getting Isabella some hurdle training

Pancha and I visited Diego's tree

Pancha and I visited Diego’s tree

Spent some time with all my nieces and nephews up north including this cutie, Amelia

Spent some time with all my nieces and nephews up north including this cutie, Amelia

Found this puppy at the K38 taco shop and fell in love! We named her Villa, took care of her for a week, and eventually helped her make her way to her forever family in San Diego.

Found this puppy at the K38 taco shop and fell in love! We named her Villa, took care of her for a week, and eventually helped her make her way to her forever family in San Diego.

Joe took this gorgeous shot one evening in Mammoth Lakes. Ah!

Our buddy Joe Smith took this gorgeous shot one evening in Mammoth Lakes. So pretty!

And since it’s Saturday night, I’ll end with this: two of my favorite munchkins performing.


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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Uncategorized