the journey

Costa Rica to Mexico


June 1, 2011

Location: La Cruz Marina, Banderas Bay, Mexico

Our emotions are rolling like waves. Buoyed and bursting with delight and plunging into the deep dark depths of our own abyss.

Our stores are full. We have food for a month, the month we were supposed to head north to the US. We have mangos, bananas, apples, cabbage and dozens of eggs on board, green beans, bread, chicken and frozen meat from Carnes Del Mundo, all await our consumption. We were ready to go four days ago. Then we tested the bilge pump and discovered it needed to be rebuilt. Gar wedged himself into our tiny lazarette and worked as a contortionist and mechanic for over three hours during the heat of the day dripping with sweat. In some ways this was a gift. The good news is that the bilge pump is rebuilt and works again, an important piece of gear for the next leg ploughing our bow through big seas. The bad news is that Gar's breathing was more than challenging during and afterward.

So, we are still here. We watch our small weather window slipping away from us and battle with our own desires to be moving north and the responsible smart choice of waiting this out and trying to get Gar better. I won't lie to you. We have both been filled with emotions ranging from deep sadness, to writhing frustration, and a little flaming anger. We are sad that this is how we are ending our circumnavigation, sad we aren't celebrating with nights of margarita-filled festivities, and joyful reflection. We are frustrated that we are so close to finishing what we aimed for as our last legs and not being able to leave now, at not knowing what is going on and how to fix it, and of Gar just not feeling like himself. We are angry and we are working to transform our anger.

Also, I should mention that we are grateful. Grateful that we are here. That we completed our circumnavigation. That we are so close to good medical care. That so far, all of Gar's medical tests taken during the last two weeks in San Francisco show he is very healthy. That we are so lucky. That we have had an incredible four and a half years exploring the world on DreamKeeper. That we are together.

Three weeks ago, on May 7th, in the darkness of night and with a blazing trail of bioluminescence, DK turned the corner around Cabo Corrientes and entered Banderas Bay, home of Puerto Vallarta. It was dead calm and very surreal. With sleepy eyes and a quickly surfacing sun, we dropped the hook on the far edge of the 10 or so boats anchored outside of La Cruz Marina. We settled into the cockpit with a cup of coffee and tea to watch the pelicans dive for their breakfast as the reality of what we had just accomplished tried to sink in. This was the big one. This was what we had been working towards for a long long time. After a bit over four years from lighting out from this bay for the South Pacific, we were back.

And what does it all mean?
It means we have officially crossed our track and sailed around the world.
It means we traveled to 35 countries on DreamKeeper.
It means we put approximately 34,000 nautical miles under our hull since leaving San Francisco, CA, in the fall of 2006. And if we continue up to San Francisco, another 1400 miles more as well.
And, most importantly, for us, it means we did the whole loop together, just the 2 of us the entire way, living in a very small space, almost 24/7 for 4 1/2 years, and we are still together and still in love. And that, to us, is what has made this huge journey a success.

You will never find our journey in any record books. We aren't the youngest or fastest or the most adventurous sailors by any means. We took a fairly well-traveled path and took four years to do it. We didn't do it for anyone but ourselves, a very selfish path to choose, one that many people will never understand.

This choice we made to strike out and commit to a big loop around the globe has consumed about 8 years of our life. It took us a bit over 3 years to prepare and figure out how to do it, change our life and priorities around, renovate and sell our houseboat, find a sailboat, outfit the boat, plan our route, and for Nicole to learn how to sail and, me, to learn how to sail better and more competently. Instead of most people we know who were in their early to mid 30's, and almost all our friends, having babies and working on their careers, we were on a complete opposite track and in many ways not so easy to connect with. We knew that would happen, but, I guess if you knew us before we ever hatched this plan, you'd say we didn't really fit into what society expected of us anyways.

As we sit here in a hot Mexican marina still trying to figure out what is wrong with my breathing and unable to start the final leg homeward bound back to California, we are riding a roller coaster of emotions. We have always had the plan to end the journey in San Francisco with a tough bash up the Baja and southern Californian coast. And we are still aiming for that goal. But, if there are two huge things we've learned on this journey, it's to be patient and flexible. Type A personalities out here on these sailing adventures don't do so well. You need to learn to roll with the punches. And those punches could be anything from poor health, bad weather, broken boat parts or super slow officialdom in foreign countries. It all happens and the more you are able to let go of your own time-line, make new plans, and learn to chill out, the more you are able to persevere.

It's nice we have met some new great people here in La Cruz, as well as running back into old friends like Rob and Kat of SV Blackwood and now, SV Katrina Liana, who saw us off 4 years ago in Marina Vallarta. And then there's our good friends on SV Magnum, Uwe, Anne, and Kara, who just finished their circumnavigation in Zihuatenejo, while we were in San Francisco. Big big congratulations to them too, especially with the reality that Kara has been on Magnum since leaving San Francisco at age 4 and will be returning after an around-the-world loop at age 8.

Magnum and DreamKeeper have been following each other around the world since our Pacific Crossing to the Marquesas, sometimes meeting up in places where we get some fun reconnection time and can share stories and adventures. And now we are both here in La Cruz, both of us tired, and both of us still planning on going through with the last leg back to California.

So we sit here in a holding pattern, still unsure what our future holds as we continue to try to diagnose my medical issue. We have just officially sailed around the world, but it has so far been bittersweet. Hopefully there will be some positive changes soon and we will be on our way north, embracing the Baja bash with smiles on our faces as we reef in our sails, don our foul weather gear, and migrate north into the temperate waters of California for a true more celebratory finale to our adventure. Thank you for staying with us.

Earning It

March 28 - May 6, 2011

Location: Golfito, Costa Rica, to Barra de Navidad, Mexico

It's been over 6 weeks since we've written a log. I'm pretty sure this is the longest stretch since we struck out on this journey almost 4 1/2 years ago. As much as we have enjoyed creating this site and sharing our stories, it's still work, and we're not getting paid for it. You see, we don't claim to be great writers. And we're not working on the next best seller and we didn't set out on this adventure so we could have something to write about. We're not sponsored and we're not on assignment. The writing for us is just an after effect. A job that sometimes we take seriously giving us pleasure, allowing us to vent, share, inspire, and create, and at other times, we feel just needs to get done. Like any article, paper, blog, or letter crafted to your friend, the more exciting your subject, the easier it is to spin the yarn and free your fingers on the keyboard.

And that brings me to today, Friday, May 6, where we find ourselves waking up under hazy skies in a shallow tranquil estuary at Barra de Navidad, Mexico. The last 6 weeks since we left Golfito, Costa Rica, have been a whirlwind. Not a whirlwind of excitement, but a whirlwind of movement and of mixed emotions. We have been "on the run", so to speak. We've been pushing north fast, dodging weather, with always the possibility of early seasonal tropical storms on our mind. Play and fun have gone from our itinerary. Like we wrote about on our last log, our mindset had changed in Panama and we have turned into "sailors", not "cruisers". Besides one day of surfing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and a few nights off the boat in Mexico for my birthday, we haven't had one other fun adventure. No fun dinghy excursions, no kite surfing, no other surfing, no diving or snorkeling, no random mis-adventures with new friends, no fun photography's been all about making miles and getting far enough north into Mexico to feel safe enough to relax again.

And then there's my little issue, medically speaking. Seems I have an upper abdomen enigma. Sailing from Costa Rica to El Salvador I started feeling a strong uncomfortable pressure pushing into my diaphragm that affects my deep breathing. It hasn't gone away. We went to a hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador, and I had an exam and some tests. The doc manipulated a rib he said was out of place. He said that was definitely the problem. I still had blood tests, x-rays, and even an ultrasound just in case (can you believe all of this cost us about $ joke, top notch hospital and equipment too...makes you consider not coming back to live in the U.S.), and all turned up negative. So we left optimistically hoping that over time the swelling from my rib would decrease and I would be back to normal. Almost 3 weeks later, it's still the same. Most likely we will soon be flying out of Mexico to return to San Francisco for more tests and doctor visits. Not what we want to do to celebrate our circumnavigation. Not at all.

We know many of you who read this want to read the truth. You want the real story, the nitty-gritty. We get it. When we read other people's sailing blogs, we are bored stiff after the first paragraph when it's just another typical sailboat travel blog...first we went here, then we went here. Then we had sundowners on our friend's boat, SV so and so. Then we woke up and did it again...blah blah blah...
To each their own, but, for me, I can't read these types of blogs anymore.

So here's the deal, with the reality of needing to push north to Puerto Vallarta before mid-May, which is the marked beginning of hurricane season, my on going medical issue, and the very real feelings of both of us being affected by "smelling the barn door",
we are kind of exhausted. There hasn't been balance.

All those fun adventures we had lined up didn't work out:
*Hiking thru the rainforest in Costa Rica in cool places like Drake's Bay (where I once came face to face with a mountain lion) and Bahia Santa Elena. No time and bad weather.
*Surfing at Ollie's Point. Bad weather.
*Kiting in Bahia Salinas. Stuck in the bay with Papagayo winds blowing in the 30's and 40's. We couldn't even safely launch the dinghy to get to the beach.
*Stopping in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, to visit one of Nicole's close friends, Tim. Sailing in pumping Papagayo winds...with sadness we passed the bay entirely.
*Having my friend Dan visit to play and surf with us in Costa Rica. Felt we had to keep pushing north too fast and move with the good weather windows. Told him another time would be better. Really bummed, but a good decision in hindsight.

But here's what did work out:
*We had a good enough internet connection to skype from DK's hammock at anchor in Golfito. it's the little things that matter, right?!

*We made it safely through the worst lightning storm we have ever been in. Ever. 3 hours of continuous onslaught in the middle of a night passage along the central Costa Rican coast. Torrential rain. Thunder deafening. Blinding lightning striking all around our boat with sparks flying and burning smells. Soaking wet. Cold. Radar not an option. Very very scary, but we persevered.

*We finally pulled the boards out and rode some waves in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. It had been a while. We even managed a safe, but very touch and go, surf landing in town to eat a proper Costa Rican "tican" breakfast filled with, my favorite, Lizano salsa. We have 5 bottles onboard now. Delicious.

*We punched into the waves and winds to safely arrive in Bahia Salinas, Costa Rica, right at the beginning of a cranking 4 day Papagayo wind blast. Even though we couldn't kite, we hunkered down at anchor and watched the wind gauge hit 40, very happy to be around the dreaded Cabo Santa Elena in a non-rolly secure anchorage.

*We have seen more turtles and dolphins along the Central American coast and in southern Mexico then anywhere in the world. Anywhere. Dolphin pods pretty much daily and some days we sail by over 50-100 turtles just floating on the times right next to DK. Very very cool to see this much marine life.

*We successfully took DK surfing 'over the bar' and into the estuary of Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, with the help of Bill and Jean of SV Mita Kuuluu, who organize the El Salvador Cruiser's Rally there each season. We had some very needed rest there in the peaceful estuary and, with Bill and Jean's help once again, dealt with the logistics to get me up to the hospital in San Salvador. Thanks again guys.

*We had a successful and safe run through the notoriously scary and windy Gulf of Tehunapec, a 4 day, 450 mile non-stop passage from El Salvador to Huatulco, Mexico. Besides one day and night bashing into the wind and big wind fetch, the rest was painless with the Yanmar burning diesel and pushing us forward. Big relief to have that behind us and be back in Mexico again.

*We had our first ever (at least that we saw and knew of) crocodiles swim beside our boat in Marina Ixtapa.

*And we had a great relaxing break for my 40th birthday off the boat in Zihuatenejo, Mexico. Yeah, that's right, I just turned 40 in Mexico with only 600 miles from having sailed around the world. A massive birthday present to me! We booked into a hotel, ate copious amounts of delicious mexican food, had intense deep tissue massages, and melted under our warm showers, cozy, non-rolly bed, and soaked up the cool temps of the A.C., all luxuries we haven't had in some time (it had been 4 months since a night off DK).

It all sounds like such a rough life, you might be thinking. Team DK is just getting soft.

You're totally right. Sailing and living on this boat isn't that tough, and sometimes it's downright luxurious. In fact, like every path in life we have our good times and our bad ones. Everything cycles. You have to have the yang to get the yin.

But, regardless, these last 6 weeks have been one section of time out of so many that show you that sailing around the world isn't always about coconut trees and foofy rum drinks. You have to earn it. You have to compromise. You have to suck it up and beat into the wind and waves, run through lightning storms, and attempt to sleep in rolly anchorages and passages because there's no other option. You have to constantly fix everything that breaks and when you do have a day in port, you have to spend that day running around dealing with provisioning, laundry, fixing broken boat parts, changing engine oil, and finding a place to have your propane filled. But didn't you see all the tourist sites? Yeah right. One thing you learn quickly when you live on a boat and take it around the world, is you are not a tourist. You are a traveller and they are very different things.

But that's what earning it means. That's why there are only a couple or perhaps a few hundred of us boats out here truly "sailing around the world". It's not easy and it's not always dreamy. It is work, and we wouldn't want it any other way.
It is lots and lots of time stuck on the boat. It's lots and lots of time stuck on the boat in bad weather and in places where you don't want to be. It's lots and lots of time stuck on the boat with only ourselves for company. And it's lots and lots of time stuck on the boat with little connection to family, friends, the internet and the outside world.

Of course, sometimes "stuck" is relative too, and sometimes being isolated away from all that stuff is a very very positive thing. It's all part of it. It's been like this for us now for 4 1/2 years. Sailing a boat around the world, you have to earn the foofy drinks. You don't just hop off a plane and take a shuttle to your palapa on the beach and dip your toes in the gin-clear water watching a gorgeous sunset. Because sometimes there are no beaches. Sometimes the water is disgustingly foul and smells like crap. Sometimes you don't even see the sunset, it just disappears within a dark mass of squally clouds you know are soon going to descend upon you with lightning and thunder and the wrath of the Gods. Sometimes the only foofy drink waiting for you after a difficult passage is a broken toilet or 5 liters of dirty engine oil. It's why most people can dream about this life from the confines of their cozy couch or laptop screen, but so few commit to it. It just ain't for everyone.

So, like I said before, here we are in Barra de Naividad, Mexico.
We are exactly 130 miles from sailing into Banderas Bay, Mexico, home of Puerto Vallarta, crossing our track and officially joining the few who have 'sailed around the world'. The last time we were here was almost exactly 4 years ago when we were preparing for our first ever long blue-water crossing towards the Marquesas Islands of Polynesia.
Yeah, you heard me correctly, we are almost there. For real.
Emotions are flying around. It is still very surreal for us....not sure how to feel or what to feel. Elation, excitement, relief,'s all there at once for me, for us. Like any end to any big adventure, it will take time to sink in.

The last 6 weeks haven't necessarily been "fun", but in the scheme of things, it is only one small segment of our almost 8 years planning and living this journey getting to where we are now. Because sometimes life just isn't fun and you have to work to earn it. But, let me tell you a little secret, if you ever commit to a journey similar to ours...if you ever totally change your life and commit everything to something big and powerful and amazing, intense, and scary and go for it. You will earn those foofy drinks. And as you sip those foofy drinks and at the end of your journey while you watch the golden orb sink into the depths of the horizon and dip your toes into that sweet water, they will be the best damn tasting foofy drinks you will ever have.

Cheers to all the dreamers out there! And Cheers to all of you that make it happen!