Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which way do we go?

How do we decide where to go?
We let Jake drive, of course!

How do we decide where we are going to go?  That’s a question I’ve gotten quite often since we’ve been home.  And the answer isn’t very straightforward.  Sometimes, we go with the flow (Mexico, French Polynesia, Cooks).  Sometimes, we purposely go off the beaten path (Kiribati, Marshall Islands).  And sometimes we go with the wind (Micronesia).  We rarely research things more than a few countries ahead of time because not only might we change our mind, but the information starts getting all mixed up in our heads and the result is that we have a lot of information but can’t remember which country it goes to so we have to do it all over again…total waste of time. 

Sometimes, though, you need to at least pick your general path if for no other reason, than to have something to look forward to.  After Pohnpei we’re heading to Yap (we may stop at Chuuk but that’s still under debate) and then Palau.  From there, well, we are at a crossroads.

We originally told everyone we were going to cruise for 5 years.  We’re halfway through that timeline and nowhere near done.   The question is, do we stick to that timeline (maybe pushing it out to 6?) and get home to spend some time with the family, let Jake go to school and we get jobs (by “we” of course you know I mean Andy), then buy another boat when Jake is in college and do the other half of the world? Or…do we keep going and play it by ear, risking disappointing family and friends patiently awaiting our return?  I can hear all the diehards now screaming at us to not worry about what others think and “live out our dream!”  Well, I hear you…but…that’s easier said than done.  Andy and I are both very close to our families (and each others) and would hate to totally miss out on our parents golden years (don’t worry Papa’s…I don’t have you in your graves yet, just a figure of speech) or for them to have to watch ALL of Jake’s growing up via the internet (not to mention, we have to watch our nieces and nephews grow up the same way.

What this means for our route is that we have to decide between a few options:
1) Leave Palau and make our way back towards the Solomons fairly quickly (route to be determined), making our way through Vanuatu, New Caledonia and then ultimately Brisbane, Australia.  Take the pulse of everyone both on board and on land…sell the boat, go home.  We’re figuring this could be done in 2-3 years.

2) Leave Palau and go to the Philippines.  Explore South East Asia thoroughly, head the wrong way back through Indonesia, PNG, and the Solomons, ultimately ending in Australia.  Sell the boat, go home.  Really no idea how long this could take.  The open windows for moving from country to country shorten in this part of the world, due to unpredictable weather patterns.  But darn, it sounds fun.

3) Basically do the same as option 2, but pick a few countries in SE Asia and make them our priority.  Skip Indonesia and high tail it to Australia.  We could fit this in our 3-year plan but would miss more than we would see (and we would be acutely aware of that).

4) Throw caution to the wind, sail through SE Asia and keep on going until we hit the east coast.  Not likely, but we’ve never fully marked this off our list.

For now, we’re leaving it open.  But that decision is going to come upon us very soon as time flies when you’re having fun, right?  How will we choose?  I would like to tell you that we will consult numerous sailing books, write pro and con lists, weigh the risks vs. rewards, and make an educated decision.  That would be the prudent way.  In reality, we’ll probably have a 10 minute discussion based on emotions and gut feelings, agree fairly quickly, and point the bow in the decided direction.  That’s the Andy and Monica way.  Regardless, stay tuned…we have a lot ahead of us and regardless of the decision, it promises to be interesting.

In the meantime, I'm leaving you all with the latest pictures of Jake living it up in sunny California! Andy will be back on the boat in a couple of days with Jake and I to follow in another few weeks.

Jake and Gigi waiting for breakfast at Lake Arrowhead

Jake and mommy in the bumper cars (not a bad way
to let off a little stress if I do say so myself :).

Outside the Children's Science Museum in L.A.

Watching his hair stand up on ends.

Building a wall.

Friday, August 17, 2012

School Days

I've been seeing all of these cute pictures on Facebook of everyone sending their kids back to school with titles like "First day of 1st grade,"  "First day of Middle School," "My baby's in high school!"

It got me to thinking about our school...what grade is Jake actually in, 1st or 2nd?  Should we continue year round with intermittent breaks or take a long summer break?  Are we doing enough?  Do I have the right curriculum?  Blah, blah, blah....  This summer has been good for me.  It's allowed me to get a good look at how Jake is doing compared to others (i.e. how I'm doing as a teacher) and also to remember why we chose to homeschool in the first place (besides living in the middle of the ocean on a boat).  And finally, to remind me to quit comparing him to others (I know, that's the first thing I did).   I'm not going to go too deep into this...not because I'm afraid of the arguments but because I'm still working it out myself.  See, I like rules.  I like to follow rules and I like to check boxes off of lists that show that I'm following the rules.  I'm having trouble with this as a "boat"schooling mom (incidentally, sometimes I have trouble with the lack of routine for myself!) because rarely can we check the boxes nice and neat like.  But what I can say is that I have gotten more compliments here on his manners, how articulate he is, his vocabulary, and just what fun he is to be around.

So when an opportunity to have some fun came up this week, guess what we did?  We ditched the books and went on a field trip!  Jake and I drove down to San Diego to see some of our cruising friends who were also home for a visit.  We hadn't seen Rutie, Neal, and Corie (s/v Rutea) since American Samoa so it was really nice to sit down and hear about their travels to New Zealand and Fiji and share our travels further north.  In between visits, Jake and I managed to take in the U.S.S. Midway (one of Jake's favorite ships) where he received his "Junior Pilot Wings" and then we spent another 4 hours at the San Diego Zoo.  Both of us slept like a rock last night.

Jake made me take this picture :)

Today we're back at the books with a boring old Math test and some mandatory journal writing (something I'm trying to make him do after our "field trips"), but the spirits are a bit higher and the student is a bit more agreeable.

I've vowed to quit worrying so much about how we're doing by everyone else's standards and just follow my gut, which has served me well in the past.

Last weekend, we went to the U.S.S Iowa with Papa and Gigi to kick off our
week of field trips.

On a totally different subject...Andy has two more weeks left in Afghanistan and he is counting down the days.  He'll be back in Pohnpei by the first week of September and we'll join him shortly after.  He sent me a picture of him and his co-workers so I"ll leave you with that....the next picture I post of him had better be in a bathing suit, a tan, drinking a beer on Savannah!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Confessions of a Shopaholic (that would be me)

One of cruisers favorite hobbies is bragging on how they can get things cheap or even better, free.  This post is not to criticize those people - I think it's great - but to confess that I have never been and apparently, never will be a good bargain shopper (I'm going to go out on a limb and speak for the captain here as well...never used a coupon, I'm pretty sure).  Oh, I've had my moments when I thought I was a convert...like buying Jake a new/used button up in Pohnpei for $2.  Or buying some really cute used surf shorts for $.50 at Kwajalein's bargain basement.  But looking back, I'm pretty sure that was because I have an inherent need to buy things and those were the only places I could find anything I liked (after all, Target has yet to expand outside of the U.S.). I. Love. To. Shop.

With that all out on the table, it won't be a shock that I might have gone a little overboard being in the States for three months (incidentally, according to the credit card bill, Andy's suitcase will be a bit heavier when he returns as well).  To my defense, we won't see these things again until we get to Australia, and we have no idea when that will be.  Enough said...I have a problem.

The first two months were more personal type purchases, mostly bought at outlet malls and Target...bathing suits, tank tops, tshirts, toys for Jake, etc.  But now that we're getting down to the wire, I've made a list of necessary items and this might actually be useful to some of you (I'm going to turn this into a productive post if it kills me).

  • Long shorts - For women traveling in remote areas, these are a must (or long skirts, but I don't need any more of those).  I find shorts to be more comfortable on our hiking trips and days out in town.  I only had one pair of long ones...and they were red.  I think all of the locals knew me by my shorts (or my smell, by wearing these shorts every day, not sure which).  So now I have three more pairs, including two black pair - good for dirt as well as wearing over and over without people noticing (maybe).
  • Large Drybag Backpack - Ever since I saw our friends on s/v Eyoni with one of these in Mexico, I've been envious.  I finally bought one today.  These are perfect for bringing laundry back from the laundry mat and not getting them wet in the dinghy or from the constant rain.  Laundry mats in Micronesia are pretty cheap so we use them frequently.  The fact that this is a backpack adds a second bonus in that it won't kill my shoulders when I'm trying to carry it back and forth (or Andy's - he usually does the lugging if I ask nice enough).
  • Collapsable Bowls - I already had some of these but two years of nonstop use have worn the rubber down and created tiny (and not so tiny) holes about midway down the bowl making pancakes in the a.m. a very messy ordeal.  This time, I bought a pricier version from Target as they appear more sturdy than the ones I bought last time online.  If they last more than two years, they'll be worth it...we'll see.
  • Water shoes - this is a no brainer and apparently I have no brain... I don't have any.  Andy uses his scuba booties, but I have fins that fit my feet so I never needed the booties.  I wear flip-flops every time we go trekking through a river and you can imagine how that turns out.  I found these Teva's at REI on clearance and love them.  They look like regular shoes but have holes for drainage on the sides and are extremely comfortable.  I almost spent the $100 for a pair of Keens but after trying these on (and taking into account the "stinky" reputation of Keens), I went with the much less expensive Tevas.  I have high hopes.

  • Wine stoppers - Andy will say this is a waste as we never leave a bottle half full, but I think they're necessary.  What if we don't drink the whole second bottle?
  • Various replacement wires - We have discovered that almost every wire we have onboard (for electronics like TVs, iPods, computers, etc), have corroded at the two year mark.  So I've bought new ones and sometimes two of them.  One of Andy's military sayings he's brought aboard is "one is none and two is one."  I think it applies here.
  • Wifi booster antennae - We have one of these and it's been an absolute necessity for us, but.... it's dying a slow and painful death.  I'm on the search for one that not only boosts the signal going out, but coming in as well.  I haven't bought this yet, so all suggestions are welcome.
The list goes on and on (a whole new suitcase full), but I guess that's enough confession for now...I still have a month and a half left....ugh...  The good news is, we've paid off our debt and everything from here on out is money back in the kitty....so all is good.  My rationalization is that we'll be back in the land of nothing before we know it, right?

In the meantime, Andy is wrapping up his gig in Afghanistan and thinking about travel arrangements to go home.  Keep up your prayers and nice thoughts...I think they're working.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Photography by Andy

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll know that Andy was a professional underwater photographer in the Navy and in retirement, has moved on from submarines to sharks.  We're constantly asked if he's ever going to sell his pictures.  Well, we've finally gotten a website together to share with everyone.  We still don't have an official "name" for it (all suggestions welcome), but we have his best photos up and available to everyone.

Even if you aren't in the market for underwater photos, they're beautiful just to browse.  Take a look and feel free to pass it on to friends and neighbors.  There's a slideshow on the front page, but if you click on the "galleries" link, you'll find hundreds more pictures.

Right now, we only have the basics available.  But as word gets out and we understand more what people are looking for, we can expand the offers.

All feedback is welcome!