Hubby decided he had worked hard enough and it was time for a fun day. We were not entirely certain what we were going to do, but for the love of God it was going to be a blast. I mentioned to him the Petrified Forest we had been informed about at the TI. It was in Calistoga, so would require a bit of a drive, but what’s that to intrepid explorers of our caliber?
We hoped into the rental car and began our quest for ancient stone-ified trees. Even though the street signs were pointed the wrong way, we found our destination with little trouble.
Five minutes before opening time and there was already a small line of cars. That’s a good sign. We paid our entrance fee, familiarized ourselves with a map of the grounds, and took off on the path. Quickly, our eyes trained themselves to recognize the many pieces of petrified wood scattered all over the place. They ranged in size from tiny slivers, to chunks, and even full stumps. Then we arrived at one of the excavated trees.
There’s something quite disconcerting about touching a piece of wood that feels nothing like wood. We were even able to count the rings! This site is the location of the largest petrified trees in the world. The forest on this location 3.5 million years ago included relatives of the Giant Sequoia, Pine, and Oak. To see these mammoth trees, now stone, was awe-inspiring. We also got a nice little nature walk to boot!
Back to the gift shop and the kiddos were on a high. Since we live on a boat, souvenirs are pretty much a no-go; there simply isn’t room. Luckily, we can take photos and walk away with the best souvenirs of all, great memories and new knowledge. Sometimes the best homeschooling is done on the road.
Back to the boat yard, and Reverie was sporting a new color. The job was well done, and we were back in the water in no time. The next day, we stared our sail back to Redwood City, our hulls ready for another two years of fun on the water.
There comes a time in every boat owners life when they have to haulout. For us, that’s every 2/3 years. We finally hit that mark, which means: “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to haulout we go!” Unfortunately for us, our beam (the width of the boat) is 23 ft. Most boatyards can’t handle us. Napa, however, can.
For my husband, this means a week of boat projects and tinkering with his tools. For the girls and I, it’s more of a combination supportive role and vacation.
This haulout, we got a room at the Sheraton Springhill Suites in Napa and rented a car from Hertz. It was a little pricey, but I don’t feel comfortable staying on the boat while it is on the hard. It’s scary for me to watch my kids on a skinny ladder 12-ish feet in the air, knowing a fall could be serious or even fatal.
Anyway, the thing about Napa is that it is not around the corner. We have two days of sailing to get there. Four days of travel and three days on the hard equals a whole week off of work. That’s if everything goes to plan. A missing part for repairs can extend our stay for an uncomfortable amount of time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We took off from Redwood City in light winds and decided the time was right to do some Genaker sailing. Our last run with it was nothing short of awesome, so I was looking forward to it. It was great for a while, but wind is a funny thing, it has a tendancy to change. The wind increased in speed and changed direction to the point that we should have pulled down the genaker. Instead, we decided to tack. (turning the boat into the wind) This proved to be a poor decision, as we ended up hourglassing the sail. It seriously looked like a massive strand of DNA. This is when the wind decided to blow harder. We fought to get the sail down. (I was lifted off of the deck momentarily) It was absolutely crazy. I stuffed that genaker into it’s bag like I was giving one of the kids a timeout. That sail stayed in that bag for days.
Anchoring at China Camp was a no brainer, it cut our time to Napa down to 3 to 4 hours the next day. I was bummed that we were in such a hurry, as China Camp is a really neat place to explore. (I’ll write about that another time.) The next morning, we hauled up the anchor and headed towards the Napa River. We passed underneath a handful of bridges, only two of which we needed to have raised to accommodate our 60 ft mast. My favorite part of the Napa River is the old Mare Island Navy Shipyard. It’s closed now, but all the cranes hang over the water like they are expecting their next project at any moment. Across the river from the shipyard are rows and rows of newly built homes. It strikes me as poetic.
Finally arriving at the Napa Marina, we hit the fuel dock to top up the tanks and pump out the heads, then headed to the guest dock. We’ve been to this marina before, and found the staff there very helpful; this trip was no different. The guys popped out to help us dock up right away.
The next day, we had to wait for high tide before being pulled out. Since that wasn’t going to happen until 3pm, we had plenty of time to get a few jobs done. Hubby pulled out the Sailrite sewing machine and we tucked into some canvas work. A few straps were replaced as well as fasteners and we started prepping for the work we planned to do once we were hauled out.
A knock on the hull notified us that the guys were ready to haul us out. We dropped the dock lines, motored into position, and were maneuvered the rest of the way to the cradle by what can only be described as a wooden dinghy that thinks it’s a tug boat. I had an incredible amount of respect for the little craft, as well as it’s expert handler. Mike knocked on the hull to locate the bulkheads (the strongest part of our vessel) and got us strapped to the cradle.
This was the point where we were required to disembark. We stepped onto the little dinghy, another step onto the dock, and we were back on land. The winch was fired up, and Reverie slowly crawled out of the water.
I love my boat, but it does not look right on land. It was like looking at a nude statue; I could see the artistry of the piece, but felt a little embarrassed for it. The power sprayer was pulled out, and seeing my daughters intrigue, one of the gentlemen let our girls have a go. I think they did a pretty good job!
By this time, Hertz had delivered a car for us. I loaded the kids up, got us checked into our hotel, and took the kids swimming. Meanwhile, Hubby and the guys finished powerspraying Reverie’s hulls. When the girls and I returned, we all decided to walk around the boat yard. We found a seaplane, and some kind of house boat that captured my imagination.
The girls and I had dinner at the Oxbow Market. It was a short drive from the marina, had a great number of options to choose from, and even had a counter that was %100 gluten free! That’s pretty much a no-brainer. The place was called “C Casa”. I had a green salad with loads of fresh crab, and each of the girls had very unique tacos. Dinner did not disappoint. I picked up a beef sandwich, salad, and macaroni and cheese at the Five Dot Ranch (also in the Oxbow Market) for Hubby thinking for some reason he might want to eat as well. It turns out, I was correct and boy was he happy.
The next day, we dropped Hubby off at the marina to work, and I took the girls to find something to entertain them. We went to downtown Napa and accidentally found the local TI. A lovely lady gave us the lay of the land, a map, and highlights of the local area. “Playground Fantastico” jumped out of the list at me as a distinct possibility. We found it with a little difficulty, as it is tucked in next to a school and only accessible via a tiny driveway. But find it we did, and as usual, the girls found some lovely playmates. After an intense game of tag, we picked up some quick lunch and headed to the hotel for some swimming. When we finally made it back to the marina to pick up Daddy, we found the Reverie sporting a new look.
We pulled up our anchor and motored the short distance south to Capitola, making certain to avoid the kelp. (that stuff is SOOOOOO strong!) After breakfast, we dropped the dinghy and made our way to the dinghy dock.
If I were to sum up Capitola in two words, it would be “quaint” and “beachy”. We hit our favorite coffee place there, Mr. Toots. It has a really great vibe, and a balcony in the back that has a view of The Venetian, a really cool beach side hotel. Each unit is a different shade of relaxed blue, pink, or coral.
The girls were dying to get some beach time, so after walking the town and getting some lunch, my husband and I hung out in the sand while the girls chased the waves.
After cleaning the girls up at the public showers, we picked up some ice cream for the kids right next door. They finished their treats and we made our way back to the boat.
The next morning we realized we had to begin our trek back to Redwood City. We made our way to Half Moon Bay, and decided to do a little exploring. We walked over to Mavericks, of surfing fame. It was much smaller than I had thought it would be. When we were there, the waves were practically nothing, but the seashells on the beach were really lovely. Girls love seashells. It’s odd, because that’s the skeleton of a deceased animal. On one hand, that’s gross; on the other, I’m a little jealous my skeleton isn’t jewelry-worthy.
A lovely nature trail led us all the way to the city of Half Moon Bay. We spotted lizards, butterflies, bunnies, snakes, and a host of birds. A friendly lady informed us that the whales were out. By this time, the girls had seen whales and dolphins at such a close range, they were decidedly unimpressed and responded with an obligatory “Ok. Thanks.”
Half Moon Bay was a sweet, sleepy town with very few restaurants, but we did find the Half Moon Bay Feed and Supply. In the back was a hatchery for chickens. Dozens of baby chicks peeped and hopped about in their enclosures like walking balls of fluff. My daughters were enchanted. A kind gentleman who worked there gave them a crash course on raising chickens, and even let them pet one. Then he took us outside and showed us the adult chickens in the cleanest coops I have ever seen. They are sold once or twice a year in the “chicken rodeo”. He told us that people line up around the block so they can come pick out their chicken of choice from the flock. One of the most interesting tidbits he shared with us is that every chicken is born with the number of eggs she will lay in her lifetime. Once they are all layed, she has none left to give. That really blew me away. While the same is true for mammals, it had never occurred to me that avians would have a finite number of eggs. It made me appreciate that carton at the grocery store even more.
Heading back to Reverie, we parental units were bombarded by requests for food from our offspring. Luckily there was a taqueria. Once the children’s stomachs were satiated, we boarded our dinghy and whisked away to the boat.
We took off the next day with some trepidation on our way back to Richardson Bay. We were going to have to go through the Golden Gate again. The forecast was for mild conditions, but forecasting is more art than science, and mistakes are made. We were sailing along merrily when suddenly my husband called out that there were whales. We were pretty used to this now, so it had lost a lot of novelty. The girls and I looked in the direction my husband indicated. Before we knew it, we were surrounded. Literally, there was a HUGE humpback whale 30 feet off our bow, a mother with her calf to starboard, another large whale on our port, and a couple behind us. I could have hit any one of them with a thrown projectile. (this is saying something because I am a lousy shot.) We have a 40 foot catamaran, and these animals dwarfed our boat. It was simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying. One hit from a creature like this could sink our vessel. My husband called out to me “What do I do?”. He couldn’t speed up, slow down, or turn in any direction as we were completely surrounded.
“For the love of God, don’t run them over! They’re endangered!”, was my decidedly un-helpful advice. After some research, I confirmed they were indeed humpback whales, of which there are only 800 left in the world. So we kept our course, hoping for no collisions.
The whales eventually tired of our company, but were immediately followed by dolphins, who found our intrigue fleeting. As the dolphins left, my little one saw a shark bearing down on us. “No one fall overboard, there’s a shark!”, I yelled. It was probably not big enough to devour a human, but I had no desire to test it’s bite force. It too, quickly tired of us and moseyed on to wherever sharks mosey on to.
After this experience, the kids wouldn’t even respond to calls of whale spouts in the distance, or leaping dolphins. The bar had been raised too high. We continued on, but once we reached Point Reyes, a call came on the radio warning of high whale concentrations. There were over 2 dozen individuals, and they were all around us. As we passed under the Golden Gate bridge, we saw whales spouting and flukes next to Alcatraz. A couple of whales were following us into the San Francisco Bay, and a mother with her calf was on her way out, heading straight towards us. They dove just as they reached our starboard side. The whales behind us came within 10 feet. I was overwhelmed by the experience; it was a once in a lifetime occurance.
We made it back from Richardson Bay to Redwood city without incident, but with our lives enriched.
Our first day for this particular cruise brought us uneventfully from Redwood City to Richardson Bay. We anchored and hit the hay early, with apprehension as to what the great Pacific had in store for us.
Awaking the next morning, we had our coffee while admiring the cascade of fog enveloping Sausalito. It’s one of my favorite views in the Bay Area. Finishing our morning beverages, we started off, unable to avoid what was obviously going to be a rough passage.
I already covered how horrendous this first trip out of the Golden Gate was. (See the Buckets on Board post). Once we turned south, we were hoping the grey that had descended oppressively upon us would lift. Alas, a sunny, pleasant sail down the coast of the Golden State was not in our future.
We sailed on to Half Moon Bay and were greeted by a large, safe anchorage. As we saw it, we could burn a day exploring on land, or gain a day and maybe find some decent weather further south. The final decision was made: get a good night’s sleep and sail on!
After breakfast the next morning we started to pull up the anchor. Unfortunately, we had anchored in a kelp bed. A normally five minute job stretched to over half an hour.
The wind and waves were semi-cooperative on this day three, but our DDs were still plagued with seasickness. So far, this “vacation” was sorely lacking in anything remotely approaching fun.
That was when Daddy pointed out whales off our port side. Those who have little girls will understand without description the squealing, shrieks of happiness, and general mayhem that ensued. Even from our distance, these things were obviously huge and they put on a fabulous show. Though outside it was still horribly grey and cloudy, this experience lightened our mood and felt like the official start to our vacation.
We made it to Santa Cruz, anchoring in the dark. Unfortunately, we woke a sleeping pair of sea otters all tucked into their floating kelp bed. They didn’t seem bitter to share their magical location with us. What great little neighbors!
In the morning, we moved and anchored on the other side of the pier to give my youngest a view of her beloved Boardwalk. It’s basically a carnival. If you haven’t been, you should. Blue skies were still in short supply, but we decided to go adventuring anyway.
We took the dinghy over to the Santa Cruz marina, left it there in a dinghy dock with approval of the very kind Harbor Master, and hoofed the length and breadth of the beach town. It’s a little touristy for me, but still a fun little place to explore.
On our way back to the dinghy, the girls kindly asked if they could go fishing. We found a nearby bait shop and made the necessary purchases. That was a great incentive for them to walk quicker!
After getting back aboard Reverie, I started grilling an early dinner. “Dolphins!” I heard yelled on the starboard deck. I looked over, and there were certainly a number of dolphins swimming right next to our boat. As we watched, they started swimming in large circles. The circles became tighter and tighter, until the fish were actually flopping at the surface. Seabirds suddenly arrived enmass, picking off the poor fish at the top of the water, while periodically, one of the dolphins would zoom through the middle of the bait ball. What an exciting show!
That’s when we decided to do as the dolphins were doing and try our hand at some fishing. We’ve tried before but never been successful. This time was going to be different. I gave it a go first and very quickly caught my first fish! It was about a four inch long anchovy. I turned to my husband and ask “What do I do now?” The poor creature was flopping around while I received instructions on how to dehook the unfortunate fish. Eventually I was successful, but took to long. It sank into the water. Oh dear. I told the kids that it was in shock and will probably start swimming in a minute. I handed the pole to my youngest daughter.
No sooner did the hook land in the water than she was reeling in another fish. She proudly pulled it onto the boat and I dehooked it more gracefully than the previous go. Now it was my oldest daughter’s turn. She had to wait for a while. All of a sudden, she was reeling in not one, but TWO fish! I dehooked one, but couldn’t find the hook in the other one. Calling out to my husband, he took one look and informed me that it needed to be cut free. Ok, that just seemed mean to me. I tried harder to dehook the fish, but it had swallowed the hook. As soon as the blood started to show, the kids stared freaking out. Great, we were not doing well with catch and release. Finally deciding my efforts were futile, I cut the fish free and watched it sink into the water. Santa Cruz had been amazing, but we were looking for more adventure.
As I begin to chart our coursework for the new year, I feel it’s important to go over what was accomplished in the previous year.
DD1: My oldest is 9. She spent the year learning to type, beginning programming concepts in Java, and her absolute favorite: soldering electronics. She also started on the clarinet, but our progress was interrupted by the need for braces. (We’ll revisit this when her mouth stops hurting.)
DD2: My baby is 7. Her year was spent focusing on addition/subtraction, typing, and increasing reading proficiency, and violin.
In addition to their independent focuses, we used Story of the World for history, Beast Academy for math, Rockit Science for science, Which Way USA (a Highlights magazine that teaches about the states), tennis, and an art class.
While I had tried to integrate foreign language this year, I found our schedule was packed. We were able to learn how to count in Spanish to the number 40, some colors, and few other tidbits. This was accomplished by listening to audio Spanish classes in the car while driving to the girls out-of-home classes, in addition to a workbook. I found taking advantage of our commute time invaluable. In addition to foreign language, we listened to some fun audio books and classical music. As a sidenote, when the girls are engaged mentally, peace tends to reign supreme in our household!
Looking back, I think that one of the most effective choices I made was sticking to a schedule. The primary aspect of our schedule was ensuring everyone was out of bed by 6am. We finished our bookwork early, and were able to spend the rest of our days hanging out at parks and libraries in addition to our afternoon classes. I found when we get up early, we just get things done. It frames the rest of our day, and leaves the girls exhausted by bedtime.
I know some homeschool families who simply can’t get out of the house before 10 or even noon. Frequently (NOT ALWAYS) they are the ones complaining that they are behind or not getting things done. Getting up early, we are usually finished with our work BY 10, leaving the rest of the day for enrichment and exploration. I feel this also teaches an important life lesson: work first, then play. I also learned that it is very easy to forget that we are not on vacation. Avoiding the “just another 10 minutes in bed” trap takes some real fortitude. Having things scheduled outside of our home is very helpful.
Taking my lessons from last year, I’m ready to plan the upcoming one. Wish me luck!
“Are these your kids?” It’s a question I tend to get frequently, usually with a kind of sense of wonder and amazement. I guess we just don’t look like we go together.
“Yes these are mine.” I already know where this conversation is going, I’ve had it many times before. I’m blessed with two daughters who are naturally very kind and polite, but we have worked hard to nurture this wonderful tendency. While they are far from perfect, their strengths are noticed by many casual observers and I tend to get the credit. I’m so proud of my little treasures.
The girls are not shy at all about our lifestyle, and love to tell people they are homeschooled on a boat when I am quizzed regarding the school they attend. Responses have always ranged from confused, to outright disdain, and everything in-between. For the last couple of years, though, I’ve noticed an increasing trend. More parents have been responding with: “Oh, I’ve considered homeschooling too!” Suddenly, my counter-culture lifestyle is cool and trendy.
The reasons people homeschool are as varied as the families themselves. Some of them cite religious reasons, others have special needs they feel the schools can’t address, and yet others just don’t like their local school. So we all take on this grand experiment in educating our own children. At first it is completely overwhelming. The amount of knowledge they are expected to attain feels monumental and if our kids don’t grow into successful, happy, socially responsible people, we can’t point fingers at anyone else. A special kind of bravery is required to take the plunge and challenge the status quo.
Why do I homeschool? It’s pretty simple, I live on a boat. As time has progressed, though, I find I have so many other reasons to continue homeschooling. My kids are helpful at home, they get along with one anther because THEY HAVE TO, and we can spend as much or as little time on anything as we want. We have a great relationship and work out our differences while trying to focus on our family’s core values; my kids have had a lot of experience figuring out compromises and treating one another with love and respect. They hang out with other children who likewise have been socialized by their families. This has created in my daughters an expectation of how others SHOULD be acting and they are, as a result, selecting their friends based on this expectation.
My daughters first pointed out to me that kids on playgrounds at school sure yell a lot, whereas the kids in homeschool groups tend to be very calm. They have a lot more free time to run around, and frequently less homework to do in general. Homeschool kids I interact with are incredibly respectful, and usually delightful. I’d like to add that includes kids with all kinds of disorders. ADD, ADHD, ODD, spectrum and 2E kids are all capable of fantastic behavior with devoted parents willing and able to work with them and pay attention to their constantly changing needs.
Homeschooling is hard work. I’m working harder now than I’ve ever worked in my life. But as they say, nothing good comes easy.
“What’s the first thing we do when we cook, girls?” I asked, hoping for a specific answer.
“We wash our hands!” came the exuberant reply. The girls ran to the sink and washed for all they were worth. I meanwhile, focused on disinfecting the counters.
Next came the lemons. Not just a few, no. We had an entire Costco bag of lemons, and they needed to be mushed into something tasty and sale-worthy. That’s right. The kids begged me for a lemonade stand. At first I thought it would be a great way to keep the kids busy. Then suddenly, the homeschooler in me spoke up. “Dear lord, woman! Do you know what a great learning opportunity this is?”
Living on a boat means we don’t have a garage. That doesn’t seem like a big deal until your kids want things like bikes, skateboards, scooters, and lemonade stands. Necessity being the Mother of Invention, I had an idea. We picked up a dispenser from Costco, along with the lemons and paper cups. After a quick trip to Whole Foods, we had Stevia for our sweetener and everything was prepped.
The girls squeezed lemons for what they described as “about a million years”. This means they were actually at it for about ten minutes. “Mommy, can you help us?” No one can resist a request to get elbows deep in lemon juice. I jumped in, quickly discovering that squeezing a massive bag of lemons actually IS work. Who knew?
Into the beverage dispenser went our water, lemon juice, and stevia concoction. We loaded up our wagon and went for a walk. Our first paying customer was our much adored Harbor Master. He asked the girls what they were charging. Oh dear, they hadn’t thought of that. He suggested 25 cents, to which the girls quickly agreed. They were so excited to have made a sale, we hot-footed it over to a public trail next to a nearby business park.
I figured we would run into people on their lunch breaks, and boy was I right. One of the first potential customers was saddened to inform us that he had left his wallet in his car, but offered some advice. “People here don’t usually carry change. If you charge a dollar and give half to your favorite charity, you’ll double your profits right away.”
The girls seized upon this idea and immediately thought of completely different charities, both refusing to compromise with each other. Sensing a headache initiating argument on the horizon, I suggested the girls each give half of their portion to their own charity. Problem solved.
Our first time out, the girls brought in $10. Not bad for a lemonade stand. A week later, we gave it another go and they brought in $31.25. I whipped out my laptop and introduced the girls to Excel. They are now tracking expenses, logging sales, and after we have a few more days of sales to log, we’ll get into charts.
It’s things like this that make me so happy to be homeschooling. My daughters are building their confidence, learning a little bit about how businesses work, and learning computer skills in a pertinent and relatable way. So awesome.