Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In Solidarity with Rebel Heart

When we first heard about the tragedy that had befallen our friends on Rebel Heart, Vlad and I were just heartbroken. We had watched their boat leave the marina in La Cruz for points west on a family voyage that honestly I was a smidge jealous about, and it is wrenching to see that dream deferred.

It was also wrenching to hear people say nasty things about our friends on the internet, hyberbolic things like having kids on a boat is "just nuts" or "irresponsible" or "unfair." And they were saying this about every single family living on a boat, families that we have met all throughout our travels, families, incidentally just like we are now. We've met families with brand new babies and others  with teenagers. Some were traveling with children with disabilities. Some had large catamarans. Others traveled in less than 30-foot boats across oceans.

In other words, living on a boat with a kid, while certainly not for everyone, isn't a rare occurrence, despite what the internet thinks. We've personally met around fifty kid boats on our travels, and not a one of those kiddos seemed upset with their circumstances. That includes the teenagers, people! In fact, all of the kids I've spoken to were excited about their lives, their travels, different languages and new people. Not a one said, "Geez, I wish my stupid parents hadn't taken me sailing."

As for the babies, though they might not ever remember their time onboard or the specifics of the journey, they get a very rare gift in this world - two parents who are with them pretty much all the time. We read books, talk, play the ukulele, listen to music, and go on walks with Jari every day. He also spends an abundance of one-on-one time with his dad, walking the docks and talking to people and intently watching Vlad fix things. In short, he gets a lot of attention from both of his parents. That doesn't sound deserving of a CPS call, now does it?

And a bunch of people have put it much better than I have. Here is a list of blog rebuttals to the internet maelstrom:
Behan on S/V Totem who is currently sailing around the world with her children.
Brittany on Windtraveler who raised one baby girl aboard and is about to do the same thing with their new twin girls. And here's a great post she wrote last year: "On Boating with a Baby and Being Irresponsible Parents."
And here's Tamiko's take on Landfall.
Cidnie from Our Life with Ceol Mor has uploaded an excellent sailing with kids video. And it even shows Charlotte baby wearing Jari aboard our boat. 

Also, Charlotte and Eric lost their home and all their possessions and need help getting back on their feet. If you would like to make a donation, here is the link to the Help the Kaufman Family fundraising page.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Big Decision

And the winner is ... the Sea of Cortez! We will be heading up into the Sea for a couple of months this spring and summer, and we are so looking forward to it. While I've appreciated all this dock time - what with the C-section recovery and the new baby and Vlad working - it will certainly be nice to head back out into the wide open world and actually do some traveling again. Plus, we will get to see a completely different landscape from the usual lush tropical vista. Think fewer palm trees and more cacti.

As for the Pacific, well, it's not going anywhere. We seriously considered just going for it, but Vlad was concerned about getting our boat ready while also working on other people's. There just wasn't enough time. And after watching all of our fellow puddle jumpers, I'm kind of glad we didn't go the super stressful route. We also really want to explore the Sea of Cortez with its small, dusty towns and bare mountains and clear, fish-filled water. If we crossed the Pacific now, we would probably never get come back to see this particular spot.

On the down side, we have heard horror stories about the heat, but we will see how it goes. We will, however, escape at least one of the hellish summer months with a trip to Guadalajara because as it turns out we have to get Jari's birth certificate fixed there. (See our latest paperwork drama here.) They can't amend it in PV. I'm guessing this has to do with the fact that his birth certificate is actually in a file in a stack in the specific office where we registered him, and the whole thing is strictly analog. On a similar note, we did get the baby's American passport (yay!!) last week, and we didn't even have to call our congressmen. The paperwork drama is almost finished.

But our travels with our new crew have just begun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Epic Fail: Mexican Passport Edition

Why won't anyone give this kid a passport?

We just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to passports. Yesterday, Vlad, Jari and I went to San Vicente to get Jari's Mexican passport squared away only to return to the boat with a good dose of "what the heck do we do now," and it's all because of my name.

You see, in Mexico children take both their father's and mother's last names, and all paperwork reflects that custom. So the form that Vlad filled out in the hospital asked for my first name, my father's last name and my mother's last name. This form, which he was told was my admitting paperwork, is actually a very important piece of paper. It's the form upon which all of Jari's other paperwork is based in Mexico, and Vlad filled it out as it directed and yet also incorrectly.

To make matters even more confusing, my middle name is my mother's last name, so the lady at the birth certificate office was just baffled by me and wrote my name down as Attila Berry Loving instead of Attila Loving Berry on Jari's birth certificate. She was insistent that I have my mother's last name tacked on to my last name, and I went along with it, thinking that was just how they did it in Mexico. Add to this the fact that we had just had a really intense experience. I was recovering from a C-section and could barely walk, and we were adjusting to life with a week-old baby. So you can understand how this mistake went down. What's in a name anyway?

Now, however, thanks to a woman at the passport office, we see things differently. My actual name has to be the name on Jari's birth certificate, not the name that I would have if I had been born in Mexico, which is the humorous sounding Attila Loving Berry Loving. Nope, that's not how it's done. Had we been able to get Jari's passport started in Guadalajara, we could have fixed this mistake right away, but because he was two weeks late we just didn't have time.

So what to do about this latest international incident? The lady at the passport office suggested hiring a lawyer. Vlad thinks the simplest way is for me to change my name to Attila Berry Loving, which has a certain work around appeal. But I think we might have found our answer thanks to Jess and James, who had pretty much the exact thing happen to them. Because of a similar middle name/last name conundrum, they had to get Rocket's birth certificate amended, which basically means finding the right guy with the right stamp. (And you know how much we love stamps!) So our next adventure is finding the magical stamp man, and then maybe, just maybe, our kiddo will get a passport.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cloth Diapers on a Boat

*Disclaimer: This is post describes an adventure in old school domesticity. If such throwbacks don't interest you, please feel free to read other, less poop-filled items.

While strolling the docks with Jari, I have had multiple people come up to me and say, "Oh, a baby on a boat. You're so brave!" I'm never quite sure how to respond to this since living on a boat with a baby doesn't seem much different from living in a house with a baby. Sure, it's smaller and a bit more wobbly, but it's just as much a home. What they should say is "Oh, cloth diapering on a boat. You're so crazy!" And that is pretty much how I feel every time I'm scrubbing a load of inserts.

Some of my earliest memories are of "helping" my parents fold my little brother's cloth diapers, and I always planned to use them when I had a baby. They are, after all, more economical, and they don't fill up landfills like their disposable brethren. I did not plan, however, to have a baby on a boat, a boat without a washing machine and with only a 50 gallon water tank. A limited water supply was never a factor I considered.

But to my surprise, I have been cloth diapering like a madwoman and have developed a daily washing ritual, despite my undying hatred of doing laundry on a boat unless it's up a river in the Kuna Yala with plenty of crocodiles to keep things sporting. Not only am I doing it, but I actually get a strange sort of satisfaction out of seeing those diapers fluttering on the lifelines in the afternoon breeze, like, yeah, I've actually accomplished something. Would I trade that feeling for a washing machine? In a heartbeat. But it's nice to know that I have the capability to not completely hate this often times gross daily activity.

So just in case there are other crazy people out there who want to cloth diaper on a boat (you maniacs!), here's my daily recipe for poop stew, as I fondly call it.

First, I rinse the diapers in fresh water, though you can easily use salt if away from the dock. Then, I soak them in diaper detergent and boiling water for a couple of hours, and just to make it even more old school, I scrub them in the sink using a small washboard that my mom and Bob found for us. This surprisingly removes most of the stains (Did you know that baby poop is a bright 1970s mustard yellow? Yeah, neither did I.) and I rinse them a couple of times in fresh water, wringing them out each time. And finally, and this is the best part, I hang them up in the sun, which magically bleaches out any leftover stains.

I use two types of diapers: the old, old school flat kind that your grandma probably used and microfiber inserts. Both have their ups and downs. The flats don't hold as much pee, which means more washing, but they dry super quickly in the sun and catch the more liquidy poop better. The inserts take forever to dry and aren't so great in the poop department, but they are super absorbent.

Here's Jari sporting a flat diaper with an origami fold.

Of course, washing diapers has upped our water use, but I think you could use salt water for most of the process except the final rinse. When underway, people also throw dirty diapers in a mesh bag or tie them to a line and drag them behind the boat. We will have to experiment further once we get off the dock, but we plan to use gDiaper disposable inserts while underway. They are biodegradable, contain no plastics and can be tossed overboard. That means you don't have to use fresh water for washing diapers while away from land, and you also avoid arriving at your destination with an extra special present for the local populace. Nothing says "hello" quite like a trash bag or two full of poop and plastic.

I've also been trying out a fancy, hand-cranked washing machine that Jess and James on Adamastor gave us. It's gotten mixed reviews from other cruisers, and Jess didn't like it much. However, I'm enjoying it at least at the dock, and if it works better than the washboard, I'll let you know. For further reading on this utterly engaging subject (c'mon, you know you liked it), please check out these sites.

Jess, James and Rocket got an awesome sponsorship with gDiapers. Check out their adventures in cloth diapering here, here, here, herehere and here. And here's a link to their Mothership page, which details other good baby-on-a-boat products.

Once Upon A Time has a nice description of washing diapers while sailing the South Pacific.

And a special thanks to Terra Tots, the baby store in Fayetteville, AR. They convinced me that flat diapers would be where it's at on a boat, and they were so right. Thanks for all the advice, guys!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

And Even More Birthday Goodness

Happy Birthday!

February is always a big month for the crew aboard Bettie because Vlad and I both have our birthdays within a week. Last year, we had just made it through the Panama Canal, and this year we are living it up in Mexico with our own brand new Mexicano. Who knew a year could bring so much?

Alas, Vlad's birthday didn't include a Sayulita extravaganza, but, thanks to Bethany on S/V Lilo, we did have an awesome baby-free lunch. (I don't know how he does it, but Jari always picks meal times to get fussy. Must be a baby spidey sense or something.) Other than that, we pretty much spent the day in a family cuddle pile, and then Vlad made us birthday pot roast in the pressure cooker. That's right. Vlad made his own birthday dinner, and it was delicious.

This has nothing to do with birthdays, but here's a quick update on Jari's passport situation. I spoke with the embassy in Guadalajara again, and all is well. We should have his full passport here in time, but if we don't they can make up an emergency one the week before. This response is much more acceptable than the one I got from the guy in Puerto Vallarta with the "walking your three month old across the border" mumbo jumbo, and hopefully this is the end of our bureaucratic mess. Which, come to think of it, is not a bad birthday present.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Epic Fail: U.S. Passport Style

Who would deny this guy a passport?

Here's our international incident for the week. You may remember this post about our adventures in paperwork when trying to get Jari's passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad. Well, the folks at the consulate in Puerto Vallarta told us that they would contact us if there were any problems, but otherwise we would hear from them in six to eight weeks. A week ago, we received an email from them saying that one or both of our documents had arrived, and Vlad went to pick them up on Monday.

But there was one slight hitch. Evidently, the passport photo we took wasn't up to State Department snuff. The guy Vlad spoke to at the consulate said he had tried to call and had emailed us about the problem, which is odd since they didn't have our phone number and I only received the aforementioned email from them. But whatevs, Consulate Man.

Anyway, we went into the consulate yesterday with a lighter photo, and the same guy said it would be six to eight weeks until Jari could have a passport. This is a big problem. Vlad and I have to leave the Mexico for our visas at the end of March, which is four weeks away. So I start asking our dear friend at the consulate what we do about this conundrum. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: Can we get an expedited passport?
Consulate Man: No. You can only get an expedited passport within the United States.
Me: Well, how do we go about getting an emergency passport?
Him: The embassy in Guadalajara makes those decisions, but it's only for real emergencies.
Me: So us having to travel to the United States without our baby doesn't qualify as a real emergency?
Him: Ummm, let me go talk to my boss.

The conversation kept going around like this for a while. Basically, all I wanted to know was how the process worked, what my options were and just some reassurance that the United States would in no way leave it's citizens stranded in this position, but Consulate Man wasn't much comfort. He said things like "It's out of my hands" and "Let's keep our fingers crossed." You know, stuff you really don't want to hear when you need to travel with your baby in four weeks.

At one point, he said that the worst case scenario was us having to walk Jari across the border, which just sounds like a logistical nightmare to me. ** (To get an idea, this would entail either a plane or bus ride to Tijuana or the war zone that is Juarez, a taxi ride to the border, a two-hour wait to cross, being stranded in San Diego or El Paso without a car and finding our way to another airport to catch a flight to Arkansas all with a three month old.) I mean, really, is that the best that our gov can do? I pointed out to him that the British government will issue an emergency travel document to their citizens who don't for whatever reason have a passport. Our friends on Adamastor did just that to get their baby girl to Canada when she was a few weeks old. But Consulate Man shrugged his shoulders once more.

In the end, I'm guessing this will all work out and that our conversation with Consulate Man was an unfortunate fluke. I called the embassy in Guadalajara yesterday, and the woman I spoke with didn't seem fussed about it. However, at this point I am a little nervous about the whole thing and will be harassing the main embassy until we get that little blue booklet in our hands. And if it doesn't work out, there will an onslaught of calls to various members of Congress, two really angry Americans and possibly a blog post about our walk across the border. Fingers crossed, right?

** Minors are allowed to travel to Mexico without a passport by land and sea but not by air. Also, he can't travel into the U.S. on his Mexican passport because, to put it bluntly, we treat Mexican nationals like crap. He would have to get approved for a visa that happens to be very expensive, and the process takes two months anyway.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Best Birthday Ever

We celebrated my 33rd (the big tres tres!) in Sayulita this weekend, and it was pretty darn lovely. Really, how could it not be when I got to celebrate it with these two cuties.

And with our wonderful friends Jess, James and Rocket.

Needless to say, I loved it. We had fun times on the beach, fancy iced coffee, a good wander around town and my favorite fish tacos. The only thing missing was all our friends and family, but since they have been calling for more photos, here's a heap of pictures. And, yes, every one of them has a baby in it.