Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Over the Edge
By Michael

Eleanor and Frances in front of our
new temporary home in Ajo. I took
this yesterday, early in the morning
as they started their walk to their
first day of school--Eleanor's first
day since leaving kindergarten in
D.C., Frances's first day ever. The
prospect of attending school while
in the States was a highlight for
both of them. Note the fleece!
I'm wearing socks for the first
time in years.
Nearly two years ago, we left Mexico and sailed straight into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“What’s your plan?”

“How long are you going to be in the South Pacific?”

“Are you circumnavigating?”

People asked these questions and we didn’t have answers. (I certainly didn’t imagine we’d spend multiple seasons in the South Pacific and make two trips home from the South Pacific.) Not only did we not have answers regarding our plans, but we cast off faithfully heeding Hayden’s oft-quoted admonition that our voyage, “must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest.” (I don’t think anyone would credit Sterling Hayden for his financial wisdom, but the dude had a pretty good pulse on what matters in life, and he certainly lived it the way he saw it.)

So there we found ourselves in the Marquesas, five years into our cruising life and running out of money and writing, writing, writing to offset some of the outlay. When I got out and about, I noticed that we were among a new community of cruisers. Yes, there were the familiar Canadians and Americans who’d crossed that year like us. Yes, there were the unfamiliar Europeans who’d been banded together for months, since the funnel of the Panama Canal served to acquaint them all. But then there were the boats that were just there, denizens of the South Pacific who’d arrived many seasons ago. They could answer everyone’s questions and mine was: “Is it possible for an American to find work in the South Pacific?”

Someone pointed out a green steel schooner at the end of the bay. “Go talk to Vagrant, they’re Americans and they’ve worked for years in the South Pacific.”

I couldn’t row over to Vagrant fast enough.

Tina and Shane were pleasant, but their answers weren’t encouraging. They’d lived and worked in the Kingdom of Tonga, Guam, and the Marshall Islands, but in years past. They told us we might get lucky, but they’d found most of their success chartering their own boat and doing work I wasn’t qualified for: managing the construction of a hotel and teaching SCUBA. “You’ve got to have pretty specialized skills that are in demand and be in the right place at the right time.”

But despite the let-down, Windy and the girls and I liked Tina and Shane a lot. And we kept running into them. Months later, in the Tuamotus, we crossed paths again and Tina came by in her dinghy.

“You love garlic?” I said to her.


“Your hat, it says Ajo on it.”

“Oh, no, it’s a place, in Arizona—Ajo, Arizona—we have a little house there.”

So we talked about Ajo. Later, Windy and I talked about Ajo. In the months that followed, Windy and I read and talked more about Ajo. We asked more questions about Ajo. We were intrigued by Ajo.

The girls walking to school on our
mesquite tree-lined street. I think
ours is the only house for blocks
without a tree in front.
Ajo’s a small, former copper mining town in Southern Arizona, right on highway 85. It’s two hours south of Phoenix, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, 35 miles north of the Mexican border. It’s surrounded by BLM land and national parks. It’s depressed and charming. It’s desolate and beautiful. It’s a 2-hour drive from dipping my feet in the water of the Sea of Cortez, at Puerto Peñasco. It’s relatively close to our West Coast families. It perfectly fits into a future Windy and I have imagined for ourselves, in which we cruise the Sea of Cortez for a part of each year with a home base we can visit in the States.


The nearest town is Why. Somebody didn’t waste any syllables naming these places.

“What if we bought a little house in Ajo, something that is really decrepit, at a price we can afford? We fly there and fix it up really nice, rent it out, and then return to Del Viento with a tiny income stream to add to the others.”

“No way.” I said to Windy.

Less than a month later, we were in a Suva, Fiji, lawyer’s office getting our signatures notarized on closing docs sent to us by an Arizona title company. Our firm low, low-ball offer on a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house we’d never seen in a place we’d never been, had been accepted. Because I guess that’s the way we roll.

This is a project. The house was foreclosed on years ago and has been vacant since. All the appliances—everything including the kitchen sink (and countertops)—are long gone. There is no heating or air conditioning. Even the gas company disconnected service and removed their meter (good thing because all the gas lines are cut off behind walls. We might be able to save one window.

We expected this, we knew this is what we had gotten ourselves into. We’re ready to tackle it.

The bigger questions loomed: How would we get to Ajo from Fiji? And, what would we think of Ajo when we got there?


Monday, November 21, 2016

Getting Resourceful
By Michael

If you're not so into life
in the USA under the reign
of a P.G. president who
mocks people with disabilities,
Sara's book offers an escape.
(Oh, I'm sorry, the P.G.
 is for Pussy Grabbing)
Cruising is a rich and inexpensive way of living. And while we’re blissfully free of domestic encumbrances like insurance, mortgages, car payments, utility bills, phone bills, and replacing a roof, we aren’t living without costs. We still have to buy groceries and shoes and alcohol. We go out to eat on occasion. We pay for taxis and buses and occasional marina expenses. We pay for internet access wherever we are and given all the regular wear and tear we put on Del Viento, we regularly open our wallet for blocks and pumps and filters and running rigging and haulouts and much, much more.

So our way of living requires some money. Like many folks, we started cruising as newly unemployed people with some savings and no income. We knew this model was not sustainable (we’ve even proven it!) and so began looking for an income source.

It seemed there were two options for us: Either return to the rat race or get resourceful. Not one of the four of us has (yet) expressed an interest in the former.

My resourceful friend Mike (aboard Galactic) does science (and writes stories for the sailing magazines). My friend Meri (aboard Hotspur) has taught school along the way, so far in at least American Samoa and Vietnam (and she writes stories for the sailing magazines). Her husband, Jim, runs a paper airplanes website. Besides co-authoring Voyaging With Kids with me, my friend Behan and her husband, Jamie, (aboard Totem) offer personal coaching for prospective cruising couples and families. Jamie is also a sailmaker. All of these folks have been out cruising (with kids) for more than 8 years; as far as I know, none of these folks are independently wealthy.

I’m not a scientist, teacher, sailmaker, or coach, but I like to write and I love to edit. Before leaving we were building a small audience with this blog and I’d already sold a couple of stories to magazines, so freelance writing was where I put my focus. Since we’ve been out, Cruising World and other sailing magazines have been receptive to my story pitches. Then I co-authored Voyaging With Kids and wrote Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines. Then early this year, I was hired on as the managing editor of Good Old Boat magazine (a magazine I love and recommend to anyone with a fiberglass sailboat who does most of the work on it themselves—most cruisers). Today, these income sources provide the means by which we get by.

But getting by doesn’t mean saving for big contingencies (like travel home, off-the-boat excursions, and new engines). We wanted another income source, but we also realize there are only so many hours in the day and the cruising life is a demanding one in terms of time (picking up groceries for the family is always more involved than a trip to Safeway with the minivan).

So, we’re pursuing two ideas.

As an extension of my writing interest and as a means to parlay my love of editing, this year I started a publishing company: Force Four Publications. I used this company successfully to launch Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines. Last month, my friend, freelance writer, and Voyaging With Kids co-author, Sara Johnson (formerly aboard Wondertime) launched her new book, How to Move to New Zealand in 31 Easy Steps, under the Force Four Publications imprint. (So my little company has doubled in size!)

As I alluded to in a recent post, we left Del Viento in Fiji and came to the States for a short time for a big reason. That reason is the second idea. It’s a rather pedestrian endeavor, but major in our little world. Details soon—I want to give it the attention of a full post.

So we were sailing between islands in Southern Fiji when I
spotted this pretty Alajuela 38 under full sail about 5 miles
away headed right at us on an opposing course. We both
maintained our heading and I got the camera out so I could
take and pass on a photo to the unknown sailors. Well, I'm
snapping away but stop because I heard the guy aboard yelling
at me. He was yelling, "WE LOVE YOUR BLOG!"
It was such a cool experience, total strangers from the UK.
A couple weeks later we got to meet Ruth and Duncan of
Impetuous Too in an anchorage south of Latoka. We only
had time to chat from our dinghy, side-tied, for a few minutes. Ruth
was clearly pregnant. They looked rested and healthy and relaxed. We
learned later that only a few hours afterward, she gave birth to Ravi, their
first child! Check out their harrowing post from a few months ago.

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