Hola from Loreto – Update 20 March 2017

For those of you following along, we survived the drive from San Diego to Loreto, B.C.S., Mexico. We didn’t get out quite as early as we intended on Tuesday the 7th. We crossed the border around 5 pm, which is about the same time the rest of San Diego was trying to cross to Tijuana. So we made it as far as Ensenada day 1.

We were transporting some building materials for our missionary friends, Don and Lorraine Karsgaard. It ended up being a blessing, since we declared the materials and paid the tax. I have read varying rules about how much is allowed to be carried across the border without tariff. If the $300 per person amount was to believed, we would be all right since we had seven passengers. However, some sources said that only applied to adults. That might have been a little more of an issue. The problem is that there seems to be no definitive answer and much seems to be at the discretion of the agents. It is not that we were smuggling anything, but it might have looked like it. Picture the Hulk (our lifted green 1997 Suburban) with two cargo boxes on the roof and the cargo area literally packed to the top with our belongings. It could look suspicious. Suspicion could mean they wanted to inspect everything and that would mean a painful and time-consuming unpacking and repacking job. But, since we declared our building materials and paid the tax, when we were directed to secondary inspection, I was able to present our receipt and we were waved through. Praise God. So the whole border crossing took less than three hours.

We stayed in Ensenada at a super cute villa right on the water next to Marina Coral for less than $100. (Thanks to Brandy’s awesome travel and internet skills.) Unfortunately, there was no central heating or cooling, but they did provide wood for the fireplace. I finally got the fire burning about 30 minutes after everyone was in bed. The next morning we had to re-pack anyway because one of the cargo boxes had slipped sideways and nearly off the rack (saved only by the bar endcaps). A quick stop at Costco for a couple of liters of coconut oil, more peanut butter, other staples and fine dining at the Costco Cafe and we were headed South again.

We drove through hours (and hours and hours) of a Preserve which meant little traffic, poor roads and nowhere for bathroom stops. Pretty, in a desolate sort of way. We stopped for the night in Guerrero Negro, but unfortunately with the long stretch of desolate beauty was also a lack of cell towers. So, we had to find a room old-school – by driving through town and looking for a “nice” place. It was around 10 or 11 at night and we just wanted to lay down. One of the down sides of traveling with a horde is that we need mucho room. Not many suites available in Guerrero Negro. We did find the Cowboy Motel that had three double beds and a foldout sofa. It had a rustic look. So we decided to would be satisfactory. Apparently, it wasn’t just a rustic look. The toilets flushed into the cesspool literally three feet from our door. The room consisted of three double beds side-by-side and a couch. I refused to let anyone sleep on the sofa bed or the couch. When we pulled the cushions off, the trash between them was revolting. It was a vintage couch, and not in a cool, hipster way, more of a disgusting crack-house way. I got my sleeping bag and pad out and slept on the floor which I felt had at least been swept since it was installed circa 1972. Not many complaints from the kids, but they were asleep when we got there anyway. The morning shower included a neat feature – after your shower was done, you stepped into a quarter-inch after shower foot bath on the bathroom floor courtesy of a shower curtain that was 6 inches too short. 

Back on the road with a few more military check-points manned by armed Federales. Standard questions: where are you coming from, where are you going, how many people? At least that is what I think they were asking in broken English. To their credit, my Spanish can’t even be called broken, more like shattered or demolished. By then end of the day, I answered “San Diego, Loreto, and seven.” Not really sure what they asked. One guy looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe he thought driving 5 kids through the Mexican desert was crazy, maybe I told him my name was San Diego, I was feeling Loreto, and the heat was 7. Either way, he stepped back and waved us on. We got back to the boat by about 4 on the third day.

When we stepped inside, Hope’s first reaction was that she liked the way the boat smelled. I thought it smelled predominantly of black-water tanks and stagnation. But hey, I guess that’s what home smells like to our boat kids. Everyone was happy to be back to their beds and stuff they hadn’t seen in three months. I realized how normal being away for that long seemed to me but was utterly foreign to the rest of the family.

So now, we are unpacking and trying to find places to stow all our stuff, repairing broken boat things (holding tanks, yay!), getting the boat ready to set sail again for our journey around Baja. We took a quick trip to drop Brandy and Hope off on some friends’ boat (Waponi Woo) for a Ladies Only Sail (girl power!). The other 5 drove to La Ventana to retrieve our fish tank, plant and surf boards from David and Kenyon. I am helping Don out with some projects around the house and will be preaching for him so he can share at a prison in La Paz. I will be driving the Hulk back to San Diego Sunday, flying from Tijuana to Loreto Tuesday afternoon and then heading South in the Sea of Cortez after I preach on Sunday the 2nd. We anticipate arriving back in San Diego by the end of April. Hopefully, we will be able to post vita Twitter throughout April, so stand by for more updates soon. We look forward to hearing from you.

Semper Gumby

Well, we haven’t posted anything in a while. Momentum is a powerful thing. I keep saying that we need to post a chronological account of our ministry. That has kept us from updating and has kept you from knowing what is going on with us. So, we will post our travelog in time, but in the meantime, we want to let you know how you can pray for us.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” -John 3:8

For our military folks out there, “semper gumby” is part of your daily vernacular. For the rest of you, it is the unofficial motto of many a military organization, Latin for “always flexible.” One of the meanings behind our website name is that we are available to be led by the Holy Spirit (pneuma), to be blown wherever the wind (pneuma) takes us. One of the blessings of our current situation is an inordinate amount of flexibility – no deadlines, schedules, or demanding bosses. We can truly be led by the Lord with relatively little competing demands for our attention and obedience.

We left Ankyrios in Loreto, Mexico in December in order to take care of final retirement details (hello, DD-214!) and to do some networking. We got to reconnect with friends from the years and across the country. Special thanks to Jerry & Kathy Shelton (Brandy’s parents) for letting the plague of locusts AKA our family of seven take over your home. Also, thanks to Abby Winborn, Lee & Sharon Henson, Lee & Blair Linton, Jim & Holly Proctor, Ricky Kelly & Blair Countryman, Mark & Jodi Torres, Dave and Jerian Pahs, Steven & Angie Tabat, Jeff & Molly Armstrong, Glen & Mieka Pugh, Doug & Kristina Steinmetz and Brad & Jen McKenzie for inviting us into your homes and making us feel like family (and saving us, literally, a ton of money. It would probably be literally a ton if we paid in, like, pennies). I know taking in seven people can be daunting, but these brave souls faced their fears and blessed our socks off.

Another bit of admin was submitting my VA claim. Supposedly, if it is submitted while on active duty, it goes into an express pile and is supposed to be processed within 90 days. We came back to CA and thought we would have been able to take care of at least some of the VA stuff in February. So far, nothing, but they have a couple more weeks.

The plan had been to be back on the boat by the first of March, but if you glance at the calendar, you might notice that it is after the first of March. We are planning (as of this moment, subject to change, possibly even before I publish this post) to drive to Ankyrios leaving Tuesday, arriving Thursday. We will plug into the ministry of missionaries Don and Lorraine Karsgaard in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico for a few weeks, which brings us to a change of “wind” direction.

We hadn’t known what was next after Loreto. (How we got to Loreto is another neat story of God’s leading. More on that another time.) We seem to have some direction now. This plan is written in chalk and it could rain any moment, but we are planning to leave Loreto at the end of March. I will drive the truck back to San Diego and fly to Loreto. We will then begin the next leg of our missionary journey – back to SAN DIEGO!!!

Don’t worry, we are not giving up and selling the boat. Though there was a day when Brandy was certain that was the next step, we got past that. (That was during 30 knot winds, 15 foot seas and 15 knots speed over ground. If we survived, we would never sail again. Fight or flight is not the time to make big life decisions.) No, we are continuing our missionary work, just not as far away for now. We have some missionary contacts in Ensenada, as well as a number of ministries in Tijuana. 

A number of factors influenced this next step. First, already mentioned, the outstanding VA claim. Second, we still have some outstanding medical things with Brandy and the kids (nothing serious) that we would like to get resolved before we head out “for good.” 

Finances are certainly a factor as well. Flying between Mexico and the States, while relatively inexpensive, would begin to add up over the next 6 months or so as we took care of these medical needs. One thing we discovered was that Mexico definitely has a lower cost of living than San Diego, as long as you do things Mexicans do. Mexicans do not live in marinas, only rich foreigners who can afford to part with “mucho dinero” do. The marina where Ankyrios currently sits costs about double what we paid in San Diego and it is one of the more reasonably priced ones. It doesn’t make sense to pay for the boat to sit empty in Mexico and for us to pay for lodging and rental cars in the States. We want to be good stewards of what you have entrusted to us and spending that much money on marinas and transportation doesn’t seem like good stewardship.

When we left in October, we weren’t quite ready materially. Everything is safe, but there are some things we needed to do on the boat. (Jeff and Nathan Stickel helped us out greatly with some projects. Thank you so much! But, with all things boat, the projects are never ending.) We considered buying the parts in the states and either shipping them to Mexico somehow ($$$) or delivering them ourselves and taking our chances with arbitrary “import taxes” imposed at the border. Some of the parts could be procured in Mexico, but there is a significant mark-up for the rich foreigners as mentioned above. Another option is to bring the boat back and save some of the hassle and expense. We realized on our trip that our battery bank is due for replacement and our water maker isn’t as sufficient as we thought.

Hurricane season plays into our decision to return. Our insurance frowns on our sailing in Mexico during hurricane season. Once the season begins in June, we would need to stay close to the dock until the end of the season in November. That would severely limit our options and preparation if we were to attempt a Pacific crossing in Spring 2018. Having the boat back in Southern California eliminates hurricane season from the equation and allows us freedom to do some extended offshore sailing / training. 

So, for these and other reasons, we will be heading north, essentially retracing our path. However, the voyage will be far from easy. The trip is affectionately known as the “Baja Bash.” We will be fighting both the winds and the waves once we round the tip of Baja California. It can be a very uncomfortable trip. For that reason, we are asking for your prayers, specifically for calm seas and cooperating winds. We ask that you pray for the kids (and Mom and Dad) that they would be comfortable and in good spirits. We intend to take it nice and easy and anticipate arriving back in San Diego by the end of April. We will hopefully be sailing with another kid boat (s/v Mango) whom we met on the Baja Haha rally in November.