4 MONTHS IN – STORMY WEATHER
Scott Leonard with Zoe Alexander
You know when you're trying to get the family out the door to go to a birthday party...you're in the car with the motor running but perhaps your wife forgot her cell phone and she has to run back inside. Then, one of the kids needs to change a shirt because his brother spilled his juice box. And then, finally (ten minutes later) as you're pulling out of the driveway, someone has to run back inside and get the gift, which is (naturally) never where you left it...that's what it's been like navigating our trip, except the delays aren't as simple as grabbing a cell phone or a birthday present- we've been waiting out tropical storms and hurricanes. Even though you're ready to go, all you can really do is muster patience and wait for the right conditions to get on your journey.
I knew there would be lots of unforeseen variables when we planned to sail around the world. So far, the biggest variable is the weather; and not only because we're ship-bound, but because every time we wait for a storm to pass, we're delayed in our route. I made some assumptions about how quickly we could sail from place to place. The goal was to be in the southern Caribbean by September, possibly Aruba. This location is out of the main hurricane tracks. However, we've been in Salinas, Puerto Rico, which is right in the midst of those very hurricane tracks. The area has had two close calls already. We spent them in a "hurricane hole" - a supposedly safe place to ride out a hurricane, if there is such a thing.
What I've truly learned to appreciate is that even when you have ideal conditions, the weather is always shifting. The rule is that you never "need" to be someplace, so if the weather is not good enough to sail through, then you wait. Similarly, you never need to "stay" someplace either, so if you have an opportunity to make a passage, you take it. As a southern California native, I am used to the weather being fine or stormy. When sailing, we actually need some storms to change the general trade winds and current. And when the trade winds come through, it is NOT good sailing weather. You need to adapt to the fact that the weather is always a work-in-progress and factor this into your route.
What I also learned is that while I can accurately plot the time it will take us to get from point A to point B, I was ignorant of the downtime we'd encounter as we waited for decent weather to depart from point A. Initially, we planned to sail from Florida toward Puerto Rico, and from there we would make a big jump south. However, as that track is mainly east, it places us right against the trade winds. So not only did we sail slower than I'd hoped, we had to wait out for little lulls in the prevailing conditions in order to move on. The wait was usually only 1 to 4 days, but that adds up. Also, since we were anxious to "stay on track," we didn't really enjoy the locations as we could have, since we were always waiting to leave.
In addition to Mother Nature, the other issue is timing. We either started too late, or too early- depending on your navigational perspective. So now we'll wait out the rest of hurricane season where we are. And in November we will be on track with the more "typical" cruising plan. While I always knew the trip would be dictated by weather, I was not aware how much it would affect our day-by-day sailing. This is a factor especially when heading east (which will be seldom from this point on).
If you'd like to track our progress to date, click on this link to our website and note that the right-bottom side contains a map of our ports-of-call, with tracking provided by our partner GOST.
Three Little Birds
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10/11/2011, Puerto Rico
Click here to see the September 2011 photos from Puerto Rico
Scott Leonard with Zoe Alexander
10/04/2011, Puerto Rico
When was the last time you played hide-and-seek? Or built a sand castle? Imagine your daily calendar as follows: snorkel, read the morning paper, email office and clients, build sand castle, conference call, play hide-and-seek. That's my work/life balance.
It's easier than I thought to mix work and family. And, as our lives are much simpler - no after-school commitments, TV, or play dates - we have more time to spend together. After dinner we take walks along the beach.
Technology has really liberated me in how I approach a work/life balance. My office on the boat resembles a little nook at the Mac store. I am connected to the California office via my iMac, iPad and iPhone. Being connected this way enables me to handle the boat and the kids while being available to the office. This multi-tasking energizes me because it keeps my contact with the business lean and focused and I am able to participate in most of the boys' daily activities. Our days are structured around their school, which starts promptly at 8:00 AM. Jake and Griffin have Math first, so I sit between them, read the Wall Street Journal on my iPad, have coffee, and help them when needed.
A big part of our days are spent at the family table, either with school or meals; and it is where the Leonard family multi-tasks best. We eat most meals together, so we use that time to review school assignments. Many of the boys' assignments provide discussion sections, so Mandi and I lead the discussion topics, and the boys bounce ideas off of us as well as each other. This process has helped build critical thinking skills in the boys - a valuable skill to encourage at any age. The "round-table" nature of these discussions also really helps ensure that they grasp the material.
We have always been an active family, and discovered that morning exercise helps the boys sit through school. That job has fallen to me. Also, during the school day, we try and take a recess to expend some more energy. Again, my job. And it's a win-win because I get to exercise with the boys. Yeah, I could drink coffee and greet the day in front of a screen, but this routine brings harmony to the day. Some of the activities we enjoy are walking around the local towns, kayaking, stand up paddleboard, Pilates on the boat, swimming, snorkeling and water polo.
One of the best parts of our trip- and it is by design - is that there are so few life distractions that we just spend time together. I love walking down the beach at night, holding hands with my boys. Or when we sail at night and one of the boys can't sleep, we watch the stars and contemplate life on other planets. And, after we put the boys to sleep, Mandi and I have time to be together to talk. Sounds simple, but we rarely did that on land- we were either too busy or too tired. Striking a work/family balance involves navigating each day by what is truly important, and being able to wear many hats. You'd be surprised how efficient balance is if you take time to think it through. Trust me, it's worth it.
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Medical Training with MedAire
While planning our three year, sailing adventure on a fifty foot catamaran, my husband Scott and I felt we had all our bases covered: boat-check, home schooling-check, route-check, provisioning-check, electronics-check, but, unfortunately, when it came to our medical care solution there was a big, fat hole. This made me, a mother of three very active boys ages 5, 9, and 11, not to mention being married to an extremely injury prone husband, incredibly nervous; nervous to the point of rethinking our entire plan. Was fulfilling our dream of sailing the world for three years worth putting our family's wellbeing in jeopardy?
Then, in walks MedAire. While frantically searching the net last winter for some sort of solution we stumbled across MedAire's website. It seemed too good to be true. Not only do they provide the medical kits needed for a trip such as ours, but training to go along with it. The best part, doctors are ready to assist anywhere, at any time via satellite phone to MedAire's 7/24 call center, MedLink. An added bonus, they keep all of our medical as well as important travel information, copies of passports, birth certificates, in their database for easy access. This will allow us an extra layer of security as we travel between different countries.
On July 28th, a day after our family arrived in Ft Lauderdale to start outfitting our boat with the final necessities for the voyage, Scott and I began a three-day intensive training session that ended in an additional half day of training with our three boys. Renee Kempf, our instructor, began with a general overview of what we were to expect during the next few days. Then, we moved to an overview of basic anatomy and a description of the major systems of our bodies. Even my EMT husband admitted he learned a lot. Renee was patient and is obviously an extremely knowledgeable as well as a gifted trainer. We went over CPR and acted out real life scenarios such as, Scott is unconscious on the front deck so what should we do? While one of the boys raises MedLink on the satellite phone for assistance, I check to see if he is breathing and then administer CPR. No pulse? Then maybe we need the defibrillator. He regains consciousness, then it would help to administer oxygen, and so on. We covered inserting IVs, suturing (pigs feet, darn I didn't get to practice on Scott), burn treatment, fevers, food poisoning, bites and stings from dangerous and not so dangerous animals, breaks, sprains, spinal injuries, tourniquets, rashes, and much more. All of this training comes with the knowledge that we will have doctors and experts available to us 24/7 for advice and guidance.
The boys' favorite part of training was practicing abdominal thrusts used to aid choking victims. Renee had a contraption for training that would propel Nerf like bullets into the air when you accomplished the procedure correctly. Lots of fun! They asked if they could keep the training tool
After three and a half days of Renee's guidance, a peace of mind and a feeling of empowerment came upon me to which there is no comparison. We can do this trip and be safe. I can take care of my husband and kids in an emergency if necessary. We can do this and have experts behind us the whole way. Phew... Thanks Renee and thanks MedAire. I hope I never have to talk with you in the next three years, (well Renee, only if it is to visit for fun) but, if I do, I feel certain we will have the tools, and the expertise of the MedAire staff behind us, to help guide us through any challenge. Boy voyage!
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