I could tell you about what we've been doing this last week or I could just post this entry from Joss' daily journal.
A celebratory post this morning! For the past year and a half of sailing I've been writing my first novel. Every day, while Mom and Sarah teach the girls, I bust out the laptop, headphones, and crank words. When I started, my goal of 80,000 words seemed impossible. The longest paper I'd ever written was a 5,000 word paper for music history class in college. I read books on craft and listened to podcasts, then dove in. When we hit Panama, I took advantage of rainy season to pound consonants. The offshore passage to the Galapagos was good writing time and put me across 100,000 words(!). Once we got quarantined in Santa Cruz, I put all my video editing aside and focused on using our mandatory anchor time to write. After forty days confinement, we raised anchor and headed for Mexico, 2000 miles away. My goal was to finish the first draft by landfall. After 22 days at sea, we pulled into Mexico, and I was half a chapter from finishing. As of yesterday, my first draft is FINISHED. It took ages, but averaging around 500 words per session, I finally crossed the finish line with 134,651 words (things got out of hand). We celebrated with ice cream, of course:) If you enjoy my writing on IG and want to follow my journey to producing a book, you can follow my author IG account @ditoabbott It's going to be a long journey, but it feels great to take the first giant step:) And yes, that is my real hair. Going for the Doc Brown look.
Today I explored my fourth grocery store for provisioning. It was a 25 minute walk from the marina, plus a five minute dinghy ride. These numbers became very important when I discovered THE FIRST MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM I HAVE SEEN IN OVER A YEAR! Fortunately I brought an insulated backpack. After some rapid calculations, I bought a bag of ice, 2 liters of mint chocolate chip, and two liters of cookies and cream. I poured the ice in the bag and hit the road, hoping to make it back to the boat before everything melted. Fortunately it wasn't super hot today. Plus my feet were empowered by the purity of my purpose, much like Hermes, the Greek messenger god. I wish you guys could have seen the girls faces when I pulled nearly a gallon of ice cream out of my backpack (nothing melted!). Since we don't have a freezer, we had the perfect justification to eat it all in one go. Then we collapsed in sugar comas. A wondrous day all round.
WE ARE OFFICIALLY CHECKED INTO MEXICO! We earned this one. Broke our old record by one day (current longest passage mark now stands at 22 days), so suck it, 1995 versions of ourselves. You think you're so cool with your fanny packs and CD walkmen. You just got served a bowl of salty dawg blue water French fries with extra creamy tartar sauce (I have no idea what that means but it's too late to change it, gotta keep rolling). I went to the grocery store today (once again, the rest of the crew is confined to the boat during quarantine). It was somewhat overwhelming. I got lost in the pastry section and needed a search and rescue crew to rappel in and show me the way to the produce aisle. Evidently in Mexico they organize vegetables into a mountain range. It was intimidating until a friendly Sherpa helped me scale the Carrot volcano. From there I was good to slide into Banana Explosion, taking care to avoid falling into the Avecado Crevasses. Nearly crushed by an Onion Avalanche but I grabbed the bottom of a passing shopping cart and an old lady drug me out. Of course, all that really mattered was buying ice cream - and in this mission, I excelled. Went the extra mile and sprung for a celebratory Haagen-Dazs. I could tell you so much more about how all the Mexican people we've met have been helpful, joyful, and fun to hang with. Or how we saw a giant dead sea turtle that turned out to be a humungous upside down sea lion. Or how Sarah, the girls, Mom, and Dad STILL haven't set foot on land (65 days and counting since the start of quarantine in Galapagos). But it all comes down to helado in the end. And tacos. Stoked to be in La Paz! Grateful for a successful, safe passage. Dito
HOLA FROM THE LAND OF TACOS! This morning, after an 18 day passage, we pulled into Mazatlan. The crew rejoiced as we prepared to motor through the breakwater. Then a swell pushed in from behind us and broke in in the middle of the channel - full-on, 4-5 foot crashing waves. We stopped rejoicing, examined our life priorities, spun the boat around, and anchored. A few phone calls later (Google Fi), we talked to someone who knew someone who had a cousin who had a boat who might be able to help us get fuel. Thirty minutes later, I was rocketing through the breakwater at Mach four with my new Mexican friends and fifteen empty Jerry jugs. It took almost an hour to fill them up. When I went to pay, the bill for roughly 105 gallons was $8,250. My jaw dropped. Horrified, I read the receipt out loud, Eight THOUSAND DOLLARS? The fuel guy laughed in my face. That was when I learned they use Mexican Pesos here. Huge relief. In Panama and Galapagos they use US dollars for everything, so my mind had to switch over. Once we made it back to the boat, we siphoned fuel into our tanks, cleaned everything up, and got the boat ready to go. Since the breakwater is so sketchy, we are heading north west to Baja this afternoon. NORTHWEST FOR TACOS! Points of interest: - we may break our Longest Passage record of twenty-one days, assuming we don't dock ourselves for dropping the hook for a few hours today - I'm still the only person from the crew to set foot on land in sixty days now, which incidentally is roughly how long it would have taken to sail straight from Galapagos to New Zealand. - Mazatlan is ghost town, but not a mask or gloves in sight. Super weird after the quarantine in Galapagos. - we are down to three potatoes. Everyone stay calm. If you aren't following our real-time travel map while we sail, you are missing out on our daily blogs. Dad writes relevant stuff about sailing and I write about my dreams, 1980s TV shows, and rank Neil Diamond's live albums. Just go to maxingout . Com and click on where are they now? Take it easy and stay healthy. Dito
NORTH! NORTH TO TACOS!!! After forty days in quarantine, we are off! Many thanks to the wonderful people of the Galapagos for sharing their islands with us and for being so generous to cruisers in a difficult time. I hope we can come back someday when the world is ready for tourism again. Our next stop is Mexico. 1700 miles or so - a two to three week sail. You can follow our progress on our website www.maxingout.com. just click on the where are they now? To see our satellite transponder location in real time, even with some notes from us about the day. Stay safe out there. See you on the flippity flip. Dito
You bring joy to every room you walk into. Were I a snake charmer, I would make Merry and Pippen, my twin Egyptian spitting cobras, entwine in a valentine shape as you walked past in the Marrakesh market. But you wouldn't notice, because Habib and his accursed fire-breathing Look-At-Me, Look-at-Me routine would distract you at that exact moment. So I would kick over my largest snake basket and release Frodohno, my Burmese python, who would entangle your lovely legs and start wrapping around your torso. Then I would pounce and wrestle Frodohno, prying open his jaws with my bare hands and throwing him into the awestruck crowd. You would gaze in wonder as I was silhouetted against the sky, biceps flaring, every picture the snake wrestler of your dreams. Then I would reach down and help you to your feet and invite you for coffee. We would fall in love, marry, and have nineteen children. Then one day you would come across old newsclippings advertising El Dito's Magical Serpent Caravan Spectacular, showing me holding Frodohno on my shoulders, and you would discover my secret. WHY OH WHY DID I THINK YOU WOULDN'T FIND OUT? I would beg you for forgiveness but you put your finger to my lips. Then you would call me into the attic and pull out a treasure chest full of doubloons and pirate daggers and tell me you needed to confess something, too. At the bottom of the chest would be a photo of you AND FRODOHNO(!), who you had raised from a hatchling when you were growing up in Borneo. GASP. Your father sold Forodohno to an aspiring snake charmer boy knowing that someday your paths would cross again AND THAT SNAKE CHARMER WAS ME. GASP AGAIN. We would fall into each other's arms and promise never to lie again. Then you would take me to the main staircase of our castle and reveal that THE BANNISTER ON OUR STAIRCASE WAS ACTUALLY FRODOHNO IN DISGUISE THE WHOLE TIME I'M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU AGAIN BOY AND THIS EXPLAINS WHY ALL OUR CATS HAVE BEEN GOING MISSING BUT I FORGIVE YOU FRODOHNO, I FORGIVE YOU! Happy birthday Sarah. You are loved by many, but the most by me and I will fight anyone who says otherwise, including our children. Dito
Day 38 quarantine Preparing to leave Galapagos is whipping me into shape. I'm still the only one going on shore since we are taking quarantine very seriously, as we don't want to have any medical issues while offshore on a three week passage. Highlights from today: Listening to freakin' HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS bust out Power of Love over the PA while I stood in line at the grocery store. And when I thought I couldn't love this store's music selection more, they followed it up with Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes. WHO CHOOSES THIS MUSIC AND CAN I BE THEIR MAS MEJOR AMIGO? . I found hamburger patties! They are packaged in pairs, somewhat grayish in color, and appear to be partially grilled (?), so the jury is still out on exactly what is going on there. I'll let you know. At least they are circular. . Sarah made pizza and cream puffs today!!! And the best whipped cream I've had in my life. We are living large, y'all. . Yesterday, while at the top of the mast, I discovered our headsail had a two inch rip in the luff tape at the top of the sail. Given enough force and time, it could have ripped the sail clean off the furler while we were at sea. No bueno. Today we dropped the sail and Dad hand-sewed heavy duty nylon webbing into the tear. Four hours later, it's as good as new and twice as strong. SO glad we sorted that one out without a mid-ocean fire drill. . I'm listening to my parents try to explain the rules of Old Maid to the girls. But Joss will not be disuaded from her steadfast desire to finish the game holding the Queen. I'm pretty sure she thinks she's winning. . I got emotional today while waiting for a water taxi back to Exit Only. It might have been the fifty pounds of groceries (cans of beans add up quickly) or possibly the sea lion frolicking alone in the bay, but it hit home how much I love the Galapagos. Four months ago we were debating whether it would be worth coming here, given the exorbitant entry fees they charge cruisers. I'm so glad we bit the bullet. Our brief time in Galapagos gave me memories I will cherish for a lifetime. I'm going to miss this place. Stay healthy out there. Dito
Day 36 quarantine Coming to terms with the reality that our Pacific Crossing dream is, if not dead, then on life support. The weather is optimal to head West but countries are closed for business. It's looking more like Mexico is the move. French Polynesia and the Pacific are just too large a gamble. Fortunately, in spite of strict quarantine measures, Mexico is currently willing to allow cruisers to self-isolate at anchor. Today I bought some lovely vegetables at the market. In the islands you have to buy whatever is in stock, so when I saw avocadoes (haven't seen any in three weeks) I bought four. Not sure what we are going to do with our bathtub of guacamole, but it's going to do wonders for our skin. When I buy veggies, I just tell the lady what I want and how many. She selects and weighs them, then gives them to me. Normally I prefer to select my own fruit and veggies, but life is different in covid country. The upside of this technique is that I get to practice Spanish. The down side is that the lady often picks fruit I would pass up. Today she handed me six tomatoes. One had a bruise so I pulled it out and told her in Spanish that I wanted to swap it out. She said okay, then went to a different box of bigger, mostly green tomatoes, grabbed a large one, weighed it, and added it to all six of the tomatoes I already had. Basking in my complete failure to communicate, I paid for all seven tomatoes. Nailed it. Spanish is easy. We did laundry the last two days. A growing number of cruisers nowadays seem to have washing machines on board. We are old school. Hand washing, hand wringing, all day long, baby. I like it when we hang out clothes out to dry because our deck looks like it's adorned with prayer flags in the Himalayas. I bought frozen fish fillets for the first time today. Sarah busted out fish and chips (sliced, baked potato wedges). I have to say, we lived large today, my friends. Seven tomatoes and four avocadoes large. Stay healthy out there. Dito
Day 31 quarantine The local radio station is holding a two day fundraiser to help locals who are struggling to make ends meet during the quarantine. Through cultural miscommunication (or possibly autocorrect) it was presented to me as a marathon and my first reaction was head-shaking disbelief that anyone thought a 26 mile running race was a good fundraising strategy during a pandemic. A couple of hours later I learned it was a telethon, which made way more sense. Fueled up 13 Jerry jugs with diesel today. In the regions we aim to sail through, the doldrums (inter tropical convergent zone, where competing weather systems meet in a windless, squally ceasefire) change in size every day, so we have to be prepared to motor a significant distance or float in squally weather interminably. Thus, we pulled out a one hundred liter inflatable fuel tank we haven't used in twenty years, topped off our main tanks, and loaded every jerry jug we can find. Today I walked into a grocery store and everyone at both cash registers, from cashiers to customers, froze and stared at me in complete silence. It was pouring outside and I'm a foot taller than everyone else, so I figured maybe I cut an intimating figure with water cascading from my mile-high backpack - yo soy el gringo gigante. I slow-stepped, looking directly back at the stares as I crab walked to leave my backpack beside the lockers (they don't allow bags into stores). No one blinked. I exaggerated my big steps to a comic degree, never breaking eye contact with my audience. Maybe I could make them smile. Nothing. It was like I'd walked in during a robbery and someone was standing behind me holding a gun. I gave up and entered the store. I asked the lady who makes sure we are wearing masks and santized, Abierto? (Are you open?), while secretly jerking my head at the still-frozen people. She laughed and said they were, but the checkout computers were down (Las machinas no functionados). At that exact moment, reality kicked in like someone had rebooted the Matrix. Computers came to life, people started talking again, and the black cat stopped glitching. Weird. Stay healthy out there. Dito
Day 29 of quarantine. Crew morale improved a few days ago when we realized we can swim around the boat between 10 am and 3 pm without inviting sharks to the party. Not sure where they go but I'm not too invested in chasing that thread down. Just grateful to have a chance to swim. The girls LOVE it, especially since we can jump from the boat (we were making them slide quietly down the ladder before, since the baby sharks seemed to regard splashes as fascinating). I'm starting to recognize people when I go ashore every two days for supplies. There's one dude who is always standing at a street corner, leaning against a tree and looking at his cell phone when I walk by. Normally he wears a vietnamese-style triangular straw hat but today he was rocking a baseball cap. I realize this anecdote was lame but it's too late to do anything about that now. The ladies at the veggie market have gotten way more militant about forming orderly lines, which I appreciate. Not everyone feels the same degree of sanitation is necessary. Today I passed up a crate of perfect tomatoes because a gloveless lady insisted on touching Every. Single. Fruit. In the Bin. One month into a quarantine. On an island that has Coronavirus cases. Where people have died from Covid19. Possibly because they Touched Every Single Fruit In the Bin. It's a good thing my command of Spanish is limited so I couldn't scold her. Sure, I could have waved my arms in her face and screamed, DONDE ESTA LA BIBLIOTHECA? (Where is the library?), but to what end? What would we gain? Aside from learning the location of the library, I mean. The crew is doing well considering tomorrow will make thirty days without setting foot on land. Looming hurricane season in the northern hemisphere has us keeping an eagle eye on the Baja peninsula to see what happens there with Coronavirus. Things are beginning to tighten up as the Mexican government gets serious. Reports of towns and anchorages closing as quarantine measures go into effect. Cruisers seem to be hunkering down and adjusting to rules that are changing every day. Thankful we have FB to keep abreast of developments. Stay healthy out there. Dito
Six years old. Six! How is that possible? All parents say that, but it's a cliché for a reason. Wasn't it just yesterday I was standing in our bedroom at 3 am, cradling Joss in my arms and begging her to go back to sleep? Today I cradle her in my arms to forge memories while I'm still strong enough to lift her. Six years flew by in a blink of an eye. Two years of boat life accelerated things even faster. Word on the street is that I ain't seen nothin' yet. One reason we pulled the trigger on cruising was to prioritize family (after three weeks and counting in quarantine, it's safe to declare Mission Accomplished. Great job, everyone. Way to go the extra mile. Now please drop the spearguns.). Mom is fond of reminding me that I was sailing in a basket at a few days old (pretty sure this refers to their Westsail 32 sailboat in Puerto Rico, not a baby Moses-type situation, but you never know. I've never had the courage to ask). I remember eating grilled cheese sandwiches and listening to Jimmy Buffett songs on that boat. My high school years were spent on the boat I'm currently typing this on. Sarah sailed with us from Australia to Spain in a year and a half that tested and refined our relationship in the Flames of Perpetual Seasickness (not gonna say who, but her name rhymes with Bearuh). When Sarah and I considered what prioritizing our family life would mean, it was only natural that we turned to cruising. Watching the girls mature and grow over the past twelve months of liveaboard life only confirmed what I already knew: a global perspective is a blessing, time together is priceless, and kids make life infinitely richer. Joss, if you ever read this, remember that the day you turned six, we were quarantined in Galapagos...but you wrote down an agenda for the day and ticked activities off as we did them: Bake a cake Pour 20,000 calories of frosting on said cake Mac and Cheese lunch Presents Trivia game with friends Swim Watch a movie You were one fantastic kid when you were six. I'm fully confident you blossomed into a woman who picks ME up. Also, you invented jetpacks and gave me one. Happy birthday!