You’ve got a friend in me

(On Friendships)

A couple months ago, during our hurricane season break, I had the opportunity to attend a get together from my middle school in Brazil and reconnected with friends I had not seen for 30 years. There was a common amazement of how easy and sweet it was to reconnect with peers from such a special period in our lives – like reconnecting with the essence of what we were.

During this event, a friend of mine asked: “What about your kids, what are they going to reconnect with when they are our age? What will they have instead of their middle school class? How do you feel about them not having the opportunity of something this regathering?”   I am not sure my friend made explicit this last question…but for sure it was placed there in my mind.

I immediately went on balancing the trade offs of having the lifestyle we currently have. Yes, they miss a couple of things… and yes, they gain many others. As mostly any decision we take in life, we can’t have it all – there are always pros and cons.

Yet the question remained with me for a couple of weeks…as the “socializing of our kids” was (and still is) one of the most important aspects Alex and I are constantly considering in our boat life. Before we moved to the boat, we looked carefully to what other family boats reported – how kids were able to socialize, find friends and develop connections in any part of the world, while moving. It sounded special but yet uncertain.

with sv Enough in an artist’s shed in Hanavave, Marquesas

 

Now 3 years “on the road” (I mean “sea”), here are some of my perspectives and learning from our experience.

 

Yes, the kids experience isolation from time to time (during long passages or simply when we stay on anchorages by ourselves). And they don’t like it when it is too long. And not matter how much we, parents, try to compensate and be their buddies, we can’t …they need their peers around. As adults need it too :-).

 

On the other hand…the kids also experience strong belonging. The kids connect with other local kids in the places we go. But they need more than than that – they need belongingNot surprisingly, there is an adorable community of kids living on boats, and they easily connect and relate to each other experiences. We became “hunters” of boats with kids – through social media and emails we always learn about other boats with kids coming into the region… We plan our routes and trips to maximize the time for the kids being together.

Meeting with our friends from sv Sangvind in Tonga. Again, after the Sea of Cortez, La Cruz and French Polynesia.

 

They are open to engage and cherish friendships. From experiencing moments of isolation and constant change, the kids deeply understand the value of cherishing friendships. They have learned to be more accepting and they engage pretty easily with other kids from 6 to 16 years old (our are currently 11 and 13). Many times they have played together without talking the same language. They enthusiastically receive each other every time they reconnect.

Not all is perfect. There are differences from time to time, but there is willingness to work them around as well.

Experiencing working at the restaurant Ballena Blanca in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, MX

 

They don’t waste time. It is amazing – when we stop in an anchorage and spot a “new” kid in another boat, it does not take more than 5 min for the kids to jump into the water and start playing together. Sleepovers will most likely happen in the same day…. And its lovely to note that all parents are invested so much as we are in creating space and opportunities for them to be together. It is different from the rhythm and pace it takes to build strong relationships at land….as we are all aware we can’t waste time as we are not sure how long we will be sharing the same anchorage.

Playing a board game with sv Muktuk in Daniel’s Bay, Marquesas

 

They get the full pack of relationships – the good and the bad. As I said before, it is not all rosy. There are challenges from time to time: emotions get in the way, there are misunderstandings and we need to support them in dealing with certain situations… And I consider that healthy and needed – we grow through relationships.

 

At the end, they develop strong bonds. A few months ago, I remember us doing a land trip and as I spotted some kids around, I instantly said to Paulo, “Don’t you want to go to play with them?” to which he responded: “Mom, I don’t need more friends, I just want to meet the ones I already have”. I confess it gave me confidence to hear that from my son. He finds himself plenty of friends, he has this precious treasure (and he just wants more time with them).

Getting ready to hike to the top of a volcano in Colima, MX with sv Enough

 

Luckily since we left La Cruz in Mexico, some vessels like ‘Enough’ and ‘Sangvind’ have been a recurring beloved company. A few others we have met frequently and hope to meet again in the seas soon – ‘Coastal Drifter’, ‘Terrapin’, ‘Cape D’ and ‘Muktuk’. A few others like ‘Sarita’, ‘Adagio’, ‘Day Break’, ‘KantaAnae’, ‘Shawnigan’, ‘Bateau’, ‘Nogal’, ‘YOLO’, ‘Agamere’ and ‘Dulce Vida’ – where extremely present at some point in our journey and have now followed different routes. There is excitement with new friendship with ‘Be and Be’ and ‘Skylark’.

All of them are part of our extended sailing family and we hold deeply in our hearts. The kids constantly talk about them and I consider them their mid school network.

If I go back to my friend’s question that trigged this writing, I would say with confidence that they have a very special class of mid school friends to remember and cherish for growing up together!! I have no doubts they will carry some strong friendships for life out of this experience. Of course, it might be a bit challenging for getting all of them together, but …Come on! It took us more than 30 years to reunite with colleagues that lived in the same city (some even in the same neighborhood)! I am sure they would cross and ocean for theirs.

 

Waiting for a Panga (water taxi) in Barra de Navidad, MX with friends from sv Enough, sv Yolo and sv Coastal Drifter

 

A boatload of boat kids in Mexico. Sailing Vessels represented here are: Pesto, Terrapin, Enough , Yolo and Cape D

 

Another boatload of kids, this time with sv Nogal and sv Enough in Hanavave, Marquesas

 

With sv Coastal Drifter in San Diego, CA

 

Playing with dolls with sv Shawnigan

 

Playing Heads Up with friends from sv Terrapin

 

Sleepover at the front cabin with friends from sv Agamere and sv Shawnigan

 

Some serious make-up in the making in Mexico – with sv Sarita and sv Shawnigan

 

Playing mini golf with sv Skylark and sv Be And Be in Niue

 

With sv Adagio and sv Sangvind in La Paz, MX

 

With sv Daybreak, and sv Dulce Vida and others in Taiohae, Marquesas

 

Visiting Museo de la Ballena in la Paz, MX with sv Coastal Drifter and Plane-to-Sea

 

Having a lifetime experience in Marina La Cruz, MX

 

Why we were meant to depart a second time

Our first attempt to do the Pacific Puddle Jump (the way the Pacific crossing to French Polynesia is known in the sailing world) was an enigma for us for a couple of days.

Despite the decision to come back was a clear call (we had problems with the backstay structure that holds our mast in our second day of the passage), we were very frustrated with it. After all, we had invested so much time in getting Pesto and us ready for this passage. For at least the last 6 months, our main objective was to get everything settled for the crossing. Alex told me he felt even embarrassed when we had to come back, since we had such a solid boat and had overinvested in planning and preparing. “ I gave her so much love and tender…how she dare to do this to me…”

But things happen for a reason!

We might have had a hard time making meaning of the first attempt. But now, a few weeks later, and with the crossing already on our back, this is why I believe we were meant to restart our journey.
 

Balancing doing with being.

The week prior to our first departure, Alex and I were basically exhausted. We had huge to-do lists to accomplish before setting the sails for the long passage (including the endless maintenance aspects of the boat, planning and purchasing our provisioning, preparing homeschool program for the next year, filling the taxes… and the list goes on). As we got closer to departure, we felt our stress levels going up as it sounded impossible to be ever 100% ready to leave for a passage like this. And truth is, we are never 100% ready to depart.

The boat needs to be solid and reliable, and the crew needs to be confortable and excited. But you are never 100% ready. There is not such comfort zone in sailing. Departure is always a mix of happiness and butterflies on the stomach. There will always be unexpected challenges along the way…and you need to be ok with that and ready to deal with them. That is why doing only is not enough; you need to invest on being ready as well.

After returning to La Cruz to get ready for our second depart, we managed to get the backstay in shape very quickly. And as we had a few days to leave again, Alex and I agreed we would do the final preparations in a different mood – more easily, in a more relaxed way while enjoying our final days in La Cruz… with the intention of being fresh rather than exhausted as we departed. Our final days were more on the being ready for a long passage than doing stuff for it.

Our agenda for our final days included watching Superman vs Batman, enjoying meals in our preferred spots in La Cruz , enjoying the local festivities of Easter including the amazing Fresh Market on Sunday .

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Boat kids at our second – and last – farewell dinner in La Cruz

 

Jumping together.

On our first departure, we left from Barra de Navidad, where just another sailing vessel was also departing for the Puddle Jump (S/V Athanor). While we were blessed to have company of S/V Coastal Drifter, Terrapin, Cape D and Shawnigan, they were not unfortunately doing the crossing this year. And this was indeed one of the reasons we decided to depart from Barra: to be able to focus more on our preparations while getting less distracted with the so many festivities and socialization from La Cruz (where majority of jumpers were based).

However as we came back to La Cruz for the repairs in the backstay, we realized how much we missed the place and how much we appreciated the connection with the other sailing vessels that were also embarking in the journey.

On our second departure, we left on the same day as S/V Enough, and they became our family in the big ocean. As much as we felt alone out there, it was reassuring to connect with them. Our distance from them varied from 50 to 200 miles depending on our strategies to approach the crossing of the Equator. But the sharing of experiences and challenges (the endless squalls, lack of winds) and joys (the gorgeous sunsets) was so comforting!! It is really indeed a bonding experience to connect with other vessels that have done a similar crossing and share similar dreams.
During our passage, whenever we managed to join the daily radio (SSB) network for doing the check in of boat positions and status, I felt warm in my heart as we listened to SV Sarita, Enough, Batu and Athanor.

We were not alone! And what a difference it makes…

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With our friends from sv Enough

 

Clearing the space.

As we mentioned before we spent a good amount of time getting Pesto physically ready for departure. Likewise, we also invested time getting the crew both physically and emotionally strong for such a long passage. No wonder we were so concerned with what was ahead of us – despite having been living on the boat for more than 1.5 year, the longest passage we had done was 5 days long (from San Diego to Los Cabos in Mexico). In total we had sailed 4,000 nautical miles. We were now about to sail more than 3,000 nautical miles at once in a 20 days passage! It was definitely a first long offshore sailing for us!

Before our first departure we did a ceremony at Pesto to set our family intention for the passage and our journey on board the boat. Each one of us made drawings and wrote about what our intentions were, and based on that we created a family intention. We also requested support from God, the spirits and ancestors to support us on having a safe and enjoyable journey towards French Polynesia in a small ceremony with the four of us.

For our second departure, we felt something was still missing and that had to do with cleaning the energy from Pesto and creating space for a new story. The boat had 3 other owners prior to us and we never really did a ceremony for getting her ready for our family story with her.

I had the help (indeed the lead) of my dearest friend Allison from S/V KantaAnae to clean the energy from Pesto. With her help we invoked the support of the Universe and spirits to clean any fear, doubt, suffering or negativity that could still be present on Pesto and welcomed love, joy, friendship, safety, creativity among other qualities to be present. It took us about 3 hours going through every single space of the boat, opening all drawers, spreading smoking sage and playing drums to move the energy.

At the end we were exhausted but could so much feel the different energy on Pesto. We had cleared her space for our story to unfold.

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Our letters of intention and the lovely “messages in a bottle” that we received from family and friends

 

A few weeks later, now that we have completed the passage, the episode of coming back in our first attempt seems irrelevant in our journey.

Any feeling of loss that we might have had by coming back was so much compensated by what we gained and created instead.

Tomzinho

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Beloved Tom,

Impossible not to acknowledge you in our blog, as you have been part of our family and journey for the last 14 years.

Your were a birthday gift of mine to Alex. You put end to our dispute of whether we should have a dog or a cat (We used to say you were both of them. Indeed you were much more than any of them).

You were our first baby. And then you received our babies Paulo and Raquel at home and became their first pet. You moved and lived with us in Brazil, Singapore, India, Mexico and the USA. Adapting to each circumstance with us.

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But above all you were Tom – playful, friendly, wise, extremely charming and easy going with everyone. And sometimes moody. No compliments here would honor your personality. Always amongst us. Always willing to play. Always knowing who was in need of your company.

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It was extremely hard for us to say first goodbye to you when we moved to Pesto and we realized it would be too much change and stress to you at that point. It only made easier to know you were in such good care and love with Zeze and Dani.

It is even harder now to say goodbye to you this time from this world.

You will always hold a special place in our hearts.

To the most charming honey eyes ever,

Our love

Raquel, Paulo, Adriana & Alex.

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Happy birthday “Captain”!

Alex once told me that when he was about 15 years old, he visited St. Kitts (Caribbean) in a cruise ship. Astonished by the beauty of the bay from the top of the mountains, he made a pact with himself, promissing that one day he would come back there on his own boat.

Alex turns 45 today. From 15 to 45, many things happened: he became an engineer, met the love of his life (that is me!), had a sucessful corporate career, became father of 2 amazing kids, made friends in different parts of the world. Not to mention that he became more handsome and a great cooking chef.
Accross these 30 years and the many changes in life, I dare to say that Alex kept true to the person he is in many ways (and I truly admire him for that). Two examples of this are:
1) No matter what the circunstances are and how much pressure there is, he is always this kind and easy going style person (and you colleagues from his corporate life can tell me if my judgement is poor).
2) He also never abandoned sight of the pact he made to himself. And kept feeding it in many ways.

The pact turned to become our retirement plan. And by different matters, it was antecipated in many years (the Pact, not Retirement) and became a journey we are living together with our kids. We are on our way to the Caribbean and St. Kitts!
Ironically we are very far from Pesto (our sailing boat) today, dealing with the many issues of not having a traditional fixed address on land anymore (and those that live under the same circunstances will probably relate to this). But it does not matter… We are already living his (that became ours) dreamed journey.

Today it is the day to celebrate our “Captain”. Alex does not call himself a Captain, but a Skipper. He says it is a sign of respect and recognition to those that really have the formal education to be a Captain. He says it is like calling yourself a doctor if you dont have a medical degree.
OK, I get that. Still, today I allow us to call him a Captain because, to the 3 of us, he is Pesto’s Captain. Our Captain and our Dreamer.

We would not be where we are without the dream and lead of this man.

Alex: We love you and love to be in this journey with you…

Adri, Paulo & Raquel