Monday, March 6, 2017

Back to School Days
By Windy
AJO, AZ


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
superintendent.
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.

--WR
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
AJO, AZ


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, Boats.com, 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, Yachtworld.com.

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.

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

Frances and her visiting cousin, Oliver.

Cactus.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hello From the Other Side
By Michael
AJO, AZ


A few nights ago the girls left Phoenix
to spend a week with their Auntie Julie
in Washington state. They fly
unaccompanied and make
their way through security and then
find their gate and board when it's time.
Funny thing we learned is that
kids do not need IDs when traveling
domestically. Last time we sent them
with their passports, this time nothing.
February 14 I surprised all three of my Valentines with a trip to Mexico for dinner.

I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but our Ajo sojourn is intended to accomplish two goals: create another income stream for cruising and test the waters for a future life whereby we spit our time between land and sea. Ajo offers a home base only two hours from the Sea of Cortez.

Of course, that puts us only 35 minutes from the Mexican border. Yet surprisingly—or not surprisingly—we’ve been so far too busy to make this short trip—until the other night.

We cleaned up, piled into the truck, and headed south on I-85. Ten minutes later we passed through Why, Arizona, which locals refer to as The Why, because the tiny hamlet is apparently named for the Y in the road where the 86 to Tucson branches off the 85 to Phoenix. Another few minutes and we were in the thick of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Then, Mexico.

Sonoyta is the town across the border. It’s small and tidy, not a tourist destination.

“It smells like Mexico.” One of the girls said smiling.

There is something comforting about being in Mexico for all of us. I can’t really say what it is. The place just feels like a second home.

Being a border town, Sonoyta is a supply depot and jumping off point for undocumented migrants headed north into the States. Driving around town, even just hundreds of yards from the U.S. border crossing, we saw a dozen sidewalk vendors selling camouflaged backpacks and canteens and all the survival equipment someone would want to have before starting a treacherous journey across the Southern Arizona desert.

That’s a weird juxtaposition against our family of four, dressed up for Dia del Amor, who drove freely south across the border, only pausing to say we’re going to have dinner and not being asked to show any form of I.D. or anything.

The one restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed and our second choice was packed with 3 dozen Federales who arrived just before we pulled up. Ten or so of their trucks were lined up outside, one unlucky soldier stuck waiting in the bed of each, standing vigilant behind the vehicle-mounted machine gun.

No, no, lo siento mucho,” said the waitress, motioning to all the Federales and explaining why she couldn’t serve us.

Crap. But to make something of our trip, we pulled up the nearest OXXO, bought two 18-packs of Tecate, a handful of avocados, and about 20 limes. Because the peso/dollar exchange rate is a crazy 20:1 right now, the savings on just this stuff more than paid for the fuel we burned to drive down.

Crossing the border back into the States just meant getting our passports scanned, then we continued on home, where we enjoyed Valentines dinner out at our favorite Ajo craft brew pub, 100 Estrella.

--MR
The Southern Arizona Sonoran Desert is so beautiful.
This is just a random stop on the side of the road, about
halfway between Ajo and Sonoyta.

Entering Mexico.
This is our new friend, Yosie (l) who drops by the house
to give us juggling lessons. Yosie is also teaching
an entire classroom of kids at the Ajo School to juggle.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

In Pursuit of the Green Flash
By Michael
AJO, AZ


Eleanor watching the sunset in Fiji.
Definitely not a green flash night, too much
atmospheric haze and likely distant clouds;
note how dim the sun is at its base.
I’ve seen the green flash so many times, I forget there was a time when it was a mystery to me. Before ever seeing it, I'd heard references to it and I wondered exactly what it was and whether it was real.

It is real. But it’s also a bit of a misnomer because it’s not a flash in the sense of bright light, it’s a flash in the sense that it’s over in a flash. It makes more sense to describe it as, “a green smear that you'll miss if you blink.”

There are precise atmospheric conditions necessary to produce this phenomenon, and I’m not sure what they are, but I know that when I’m someplace with no mountains or clouds or too much haze obscuring the horizon and the setting sun, it’s likely I’ll see a green flash. To be clear, the sky can be solid overcast, but as long as there is a clear band at the horizon, conditions may be right.

Especially for folks living on the East Coast or the interior of the U.S., seeing the green flash is not easy. An ocean horizon to the west offers the best hope. Cruising in the Pacific offers plenty of open horizon opportunities. On the contrary, here in Ajo, we've got too much terrain to get a clear shot of the sun setting behind the horizon.

I saw a green flash soon before we left Fiji, while photographing the sunset, and decided to share exactly when it’s visible and what it looks like. There are better photos online, but these are what I’ve got (and I missed the flash).



Okay, this looks like a green flash night--so long as the
sun, which, as it sets, does not set behind that island
(the sun will move from left to right in this frame).
As it drops beneath those clouds, it will
reveal either a clear horizon, or distant
clouds we cannot see now.

Great, horizon looks clear, but I'm concerned about the island.

Damn the island.

Wait, it might set well to the right of the island, in the clear.
The horizon looks perfect for a green flash.

Waiting.

Definitely gonna clear the island. I still can't stare at
the sun with the naked eye at this point, just catching
glances. (But you do need to be staring at the time
the green flash happens.)

Now I'm catching more frequent glances, sunglasses coming off.

I'm almost staring constantly at this point, I don't want to miss it.

Any millisecond now.

I'm not blinking.

And this is the last photo I have that shows anything.
I saw a great green flash this night, but the camera didn't catch it.
But, this is exactly what it looks like, only green--a distinct, brilliant
green smear in place of this white light. It's the last thing
that can be seen. It's very quick, but unmistakeable.
And like dolphins at the bow, you really don't get tired
of seeing them.
And if you’re intrigued by the green flash, I offer a story from my friend Mike Litzow aboard Galactic. While I’ve seen my share of green flashes, Mike has seen a handful of doubles, and even triples. Do you even know what that means? Check out his post from the middle of the Atlantic a couple months back.

--MR

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sailor Attacked in Fiji
By Michael
AJO, AZ

Unfortunately, I just learned that a fellow cruiser, a singlehander, was recently attacked with knives aboard his boat at anchor in Suva, Fiji, about 200 miles south of where Del Viento is now (in Savusavu). Here is a link to the story and a way to donate some money to help with his medical bills: https://www.gofundme.com/jim-van-cleve-sailor-attacked

I don't know Jim Van Cleve (Kalokalo) well; we saw him around Savusavu while we were there and talked to him briefly several times, but my friend Meri (Hotspur) does know Jim well and she set up the site (5 hours ago, as I publish this) to aid him. Please donate if you're inclined.

It's the kind of news I hate hearing, especially because it feeds the misperception that stems from our 24/7, "if it bleeds, it leads" media, the misperception that the world is such a dangerous place that you're only safe parked in front of your TV watching everyone else get robbed, blown-up, assaulted, and raped. But the truth is that while I feel generally safer in the places we've spent time cruising than I generally feel in the U.S. (and my friend Behan just touched on this), crime happens everywhere, to varying degrees.

--MR
Jim Van Cleve


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...