Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Night of the Lepus
By Michael & Windy

Our own bunny cactus in our yard.
Just when you thought you were safe... They come out of the desert at night: flesh eating bunnies. Just in time for Easter, the Movie Channel broadcast a cult-horror classic famous for its awfulness. Night of the Lepus features a town under siege from adorable bloodthirsty bunnies the size of grizzly bears. MGM shot the movie in Ajo, Arizona in 1972.

For the giant killer rabbit shots, they used regular rabbits stampeding through a model town (no CGI back then) and slowed the film speed to give the bunnies a seeming heft. It was a good idea, but the end result looked like giant friendly bunnies juxtaposed with the terrified faces of men, women, and children.

At some point in post-production, the studio heads realized the problem and addressed it with a marketing plan. They stripped all rabbit references from the trailer and posters and title (lepus is Latin for rabbit). They built hype by keeping the source of terror a mystery (“Buy a ticket for the big reveal.”)

I don’t think it was effective. Even the all-star cast was lampooned for their performances.

And like all good (?) stories it’s based on a kernel of truth. Ajo is overrun by bunnies. They are adorable and plush and have the cutest white puffy tails. They do come out at night (and during the day). In fact, at any given moment, you can look around and spot at least one. They’re regular-sized and they don't eat humans, but they do eat gardens, especially savoring tender new shoots as they eke out a life in this harsh environment. Each one looks like Peter Rabbit, and so we share our garden with them.

This is why Ajo is a good place to celebrate Easter.

--MR & WR

One of the many murals of Ajo. The rabbits in this
mural look silly, but they're much more terrifying than
those in the movie.

The official trailer.

Here's a clip to give you an idea of what the movie looks like.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Back to Mexico
By Michael

The FAA doesn't allow passenger rides
in ultralights in the United States. In fact
the only approved use of a 2-person
ultralight in the U.S. is certified instruction.
But, as though we needed to be reminded,
Mexico is not the U.S. That's me in the
red shirt, about 45 seconds prior to take-off.
It’s frustrating living in our shell of a house, with six weeks still remaining before we batten the hatches and head back to Fiji. I mean, I don’t mind being here, I really like Ajo and I often enjoy doing this work we chose to do, but it’s hard being away from home, from Del Viento. It’s especially hard when I’m in regular contact with friends and others casting off and heading across the Pacific for the first time. I know what awaits them, I can feel it like it was yesterday, the anticipation before the crossing, the exhilaration that comes a few days out when you’re in the groove and you realize you’ve made enough miles that the air temperature has gone up. There’s nothing like it. Manakai and MonArc and Terrapin and others are all feeling it.

And they’re all leaving from Mexico too, where we left from.

And we’re so close to Mexico.

And a family friend was visiting.

So we battened the hatches for a few days and went to drink some cold Tecate on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. After all, it's the reason we bought a house in Ajo.

It helped, a lot.


Full power and we were off the ground in about 30 feet,
and our ground speed was super slow, headed directly
into the afternoon onshore flow from the Sea.

I got a bird's eye view of the harbor at Puerto Penasco.
This whole place is like Cabo in the 1980s. Five
years from now this view will be utterly different.


I'd love to know how they came to have a twin-Beech in their backyard.

"But you got to ride in the ultralight, Dad."

My woman in her element: a drink
in each hand and close to the water.

These beautiful Katrinas were ceramic, the larger ones
about 3 feet tall.

Ally, Frances, and Eleanor on ground level, same harbor.

An excellent taco meal, I'm up playing soccer with the owner's kid.
He didn't stand a chance.

Eleanor, our dear friend Ally, and Frances.

The ocotillos were in full bloom, throughout the
Sonoran desert, but especially on the Mexico side.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Twists and Turns
By Michael

A is for Ajo.
There is no way we’re going to complete this house on schedule—on schedule meaning before we return to Fiji and Del Viento in early June. Part of the reason things are taking so long is that the house needs much more work than we anticipated. It’s going to be a gem when we’re done, but it’s gonna take longer than we planned. The other part of the reason for the slowdown is work related, like work-for-money-work related.

I’ve been freelance writing since we began cruising. It’s not paid the bills, but it’s certainly slowed down the burn rate (and it’s been a lot of fun). Then, just over a year ago, while in Tonga, I assumed the role of managing editor at Good Old Boat magazine. This job has demanded a bit more of my time, but it’s paid the bills and it’s been interesting and pretty easy to do, about a 20-hours-per-week commitment. It’s not really slowed us down.

Now, I’ve taken on the role of editor at Good Old Boat and it’s a great pleasure and excellent opportunity, but it’s a full-time job. Windy and I considered the offer carefully for about two weeks before I committed to it.

This house was my full-time job. Now I’ve got two full-time jobs.

In short, we’re making slow progress on the house, but I’m mostly spending my days learning my new magazine job.

I’ll be able to work just as easily from Fiji as I do from Ajo, thankfully, but I’m realizing that very long passages are not in our future. We could spend the rest of our lives living and working in Fiji, exploring her 300 islands and maybe even making passages to Vanuatu or the Solomons or New Zealand or Australia, but we’d long planned to head north to Japan and those plans are off the table. This is a huge blow to Eleanor, especially, who’s been teaching herself Japanese for the past 18 months.

Our plan now is to return to Fiji in June, swim and dive and sail and explore and assess and evaluate our lives as a family for a few months, and then return to the U.S. in October to attend the Annapolis sailboat show and finish this house.

We’re all still enjoying this unscripted path our lives are on. It’s with wonder that I recall where we were six years ago, on the precipice of jumping into the cruising life. Even then I could not have guessed at how things would have unfolded. And it’s still unfolding. And I don’t yet regret a single twist in our path.

We've been to four or five of these
bonfire potlucks in the desert near our home. It's
no different than cruising to look at a photo like
this from a couple weeks ago, and see a group of
people I know and call friends, none of whom I knew
just a couple weeks before this was taken.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Back to School Days
By Windy

Frances just celebrated her 11th
birthday. One thing about this cruising
adventure we embarked on is that
it marked time like nothing else,
 there's our lives before cruising and
our lives after cruising, nothing else is
like that. So the span of Frances's life
from the 5-year-old we sailed away with
to the 11-year-old we've got today is
clear as a bell, and I've enjoyed it
very much.
Having made the choice to raise our kids outside of the traditional school/home environment, cruising parents expose their families to an unusual level of scrutiny. We get kudos from fellow cruisers who perceive the education our kids receive while cruising to be ideal: "Cruising kids are so way ahead of their peers." And non-cruisers' perceptions, positive or negative, typically are a product of their ideas about homeschooling: Grandparents worry the grandkids will fall behind academically, family friends give pop quizzes mining for gaps, and total strangers take note when our kids make or do not make eye contact. And we, the cruising families, we are the harshest critics, or the staunchest advocates, or somewhere in between; sometimes it depends on the day.

The litmus test is re-entry. What happens when boat kids finally start or return to school? Are they socially awkward? Are they behind? Do they excel? Are they overwhelmed? Competent? Resilient? Bullied? Bored? Confident? Disorganized? Different?

Well, we now can speak from experience and the answer to all of those questions is: Yes.

Our kids started school three months ago in Ajo, Arizona. Prior to attending, Eleanor (13) had completed half a year of kindergarten and Frances (11) had never attended school. For the last 7 or so years we have homeschooled or boatschooled. We have not followed a set curriculum. We have not followed U.S. Common Core grade standards. Our kids have not taken standardized tests. We have provided support and materials according to their interests (art) and encouraged them to build skills at their own pace (writing). They have been expected to progress in certain subjects they might not love (math). And of course they are cruising kids and have benefited from a diversity of experiences that, when I look back over the years, is incredible.

Frances getting an academic
award from the principal and
So, based on our sample of two, I am going to make some generalizations about what happens when cruising kids attend school. Many of these observations may apply to long-term homeschoolers entering a classroom.

First, if your kid is disorganized in the cruising life, she will be disorganized in regular life. If your kid typically forgets her sun hat, she will forget her backpack when leaving for school. Seems obvious, but people are who they are, cruising doesn't change that.

Boat kids spend a lot of time with adults. They have adult friends. So the teacher/student hierarchy typical in classrooms is more blurry to them. For better or for worse, cruising kids are not reluctant to engage teachers.

Cruising kids are accustomed to mostly respectful interactions between and among adults and kids, and so the behavior they sometimes witness in the classroom will be shocking at first: teachers pushed to despair, kids treated like toddlers, bullying, profanity, cheating. That said, it will be shocking and it will be interesting. (To be fair, these are exceptions, their school here is great.)

Cruising kids, especially those whose families lean toward unschooling, will be out-of-sync academically. They have had more time to pursue their interests, and so will be ahead of their peers in the subjects close to their hearts (we are an arts and humanities family, all the way), and they might be behind in other subjects. But to a degree, that's all kids, right?

Cruising kids (particularly those who started young) will suck at team sports. Just yesterday Eleanor asked, "What's softball?"

Sometimes cruising kids will appear stupid to their fellow students. They will sit in the wrong seat. They will not respond to bells. They will not know the Pledge of Allegiance. They will turn in work they shouldn't, and their name will not be on it. They will ask what a "homeroom" is. They will ask if a 'B' is good, and what will happen to them if they get an 'F.'

The girls releasing one of
several pack rats we've caught
around the house.
Cruising kids will be surprised at how much of their day is eaten up by school and homework. Some kids will be so heartsick over their loss of free time that they will want to quit school. They will stick it out because their parents encourage them to give it a chance and ultimately they will come to a certain peace, but they will long for the hours spent in their berth buried in stacks of comics and sketchpads. Just saying.

So what happened when our boat kids went to school? A lot of different things. At the very beginning one of the girls experienced some trauma, some tears. The other was gleeful and fascinated from the start. Their response to the transition had everything to do with their individual personalities and very little to do with cruising or homeschooling. Academics have not been a big deal. They've either jumped right in, or they've learned what they need to know to be where they need to be. They've caught on to the ins and outs of school, classroom etiquette, schedules, and homework. They are different than their peers. They dress differently and they speak differently. They can't swing a baseball bat, but they can pick up a mooring ball. They have hiked to Trapper's Cabin, swum with sharks, and run from a hurricane. They have known the isolation of long ocean passages, and said goodbye to friends again and again. It all seems to have prepared them pretty well for school.

Frances with the Kindle reader she was awarded
by the Ajo librarian for the bookmark contest she won.
In the display to the left is Frances's bookmark,
featuring a picture she drew of Charlotte and Wilbur.

Here are the girls with another pack rat. I think they'd
have liked to keep each one we've caught. "Eye
on the prize, girls, no pets, we're headed back to Del Viento."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Writing Recognition
By Michael

This cactus just has a
je ne sais quoi, no?
I won an award at the Miami International Boat Show this month, a writing award from my peers at Boating Writers International, for a story I wrote for Cruising World. I’m pleased for the recognition, but judges are human and subjective and many of the other entrants deserve the same recognition.

I’m writing because as the managing editor of Good Old Boat magazine, and as a reader of and contributor to several other boating magazines, I’m in the thick of the marine journalism world and I’m surprised every year when this contest rolls around to see that there are relatively few entries.

The Boating Writers International (BWI) annual writing contest features 17 categories and awards $17,000 in prize money, plus plaques and certificates. What aspiring writer in this genre couldn’t use a little extra cash and recognition? Yet, of the thousands (and thousands) of stories that were published in English-language boating magazines and newspapers and trade journals around the world last year, and that would have fit neatly into one of the 17 categories, only a tiny percentage were entered. In its 24th year, the BWI contest attracted only 151 writers and photographers who together submitted only 378 entries.

Now, you have to be a BWI member to enter, and annual dues are $50, but members are entitled to two free contest submissions, plus other membership benefits, such as a press card that can be used to get into boat shows for free, a monthly journal, access to a job board, and more.

I will boast that Good Old Boat magazine had a pretty good showing in the contest this year. We encouraged our writers to enter and in the Seamanship, Rescue, and Safety category, “The Storm Trysail” (Good Old Boat, January 2016) earned the top prize for Ed Zacko, one of our contributing editors. In the Gear, Electronics, & Product Tests category, writer Drew Frye won first place for “Splash Test Dummy” (Good Old Boat, September 2016). Finally, under the Boat Projects, Renovations & Retrofits category, writer Connie McBride earned a Merit Award for her story, “Filling in the Blanks” (Good Old Boat, November 2016).

The biggest number of winning entrants went to writers of stories published in Cruising World, and stories in the following pubs were also recognized:

Anglers Journal, Boating,, BoatUS Magazine, Chesapeake Bay, Compass, International Boat Industry Magazine, Multihull Sailor, PassageMaker, Practical Sailor, Professional Boatbuilder, Sailing World, Sea, Sea Magazine, Soundings, Texas Fish & Game, SAIL, Showboats International, Small Craft Advisor, Sport Fishing, Yachts International, Yachting, Yachting Monthly,

That’s it!

There are at least 50 other boating pubs out there, nearly all of which weren’t represented. That’s likely a failure on the part of the editors at those pubs for not pushing their writers to enter. That’s a failure on the part of BWI members like me for not getting the word out.

And writers—and boaters who want to be writers! —there is a huge market out there for your work. In my book, Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines, I list most of the magazines in this market (with helpful contact info). Each magazine has at least one editor watching their email, waiting for writers to send them content they can buy. Why isn’t that you?

Get writing, get selling your writing, and next year you could be submitting your published story to the BWI Writing Contest.

Trust me, you can do it. Selling your writing is not magic, it’s just work.

Eleanor, Frances, Otis, and Oliver on a hike.

Frances and her visiting cousin, Oliver.


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