Sailing from Hawaii to San Francisco video

January 5th, 2011

I’ve taken the daily videos of our passage from Honolulu Hawaii to San Francisco in July 2010 and compiled it into a 14 minute clip. Susan wrote about our crossing from Hawaii to California here. Here’s the video:

Read the rest of this entry »

Sailing from Mexico to Hawaii video

January 3rd, 2011

I’ve taken the daily videos of our sail from Frailes Mexico (in Baja) to Hilo Hawaii in May 2010 and compiled it into a 12 minute clip. Susan wrote about our crossing from Mexico to Hawaii here. Here’s the video:

Read the rest of this entry »

Shark Conservation Act Passed!

December 21st, 2010

Great news! Apparently we have readers in the Senate, as they were surely swayed by Sequoia’s article to pass the Shark Conservation Act! The house also passed the Senate’s version of the bill… so it will soon become law! A great day for sharks, the oceans, and people that love them.

Sharks: Delicacy or Keystone Species?

December 18th, 2010

Editor’s note: Sequoia wrote this article for her school newspaper. We hope you enjoy it, and then go get your Seafood Pocket Guide here, or download the Seafood Watch iPhone app.

On July 1, 2010, the state of Hawaii banned shark finning. It is no longer legal to own shark fins, fish for sharks, or sell shark in Hawaii. This is currently the strictest law in the United States, but it only applies to Hawaii. On both a national and international scale, shark finning remains a threat to sharks and our ocean ecosystems.

great white
Shark finning is a practice that involves cutting off a shark’s fins, then throwing it back into the ocean while the shark is still alive. The shark then dies through blood loss, drowning, or starvation. The fins are often made into shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy selling for as much as $100 dollars a bowl.

“Shark finning is inhumane- itʼs a cruel practice,” said Zack Bradford, an Ocean Policy Research Analyst at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Youʼre catching and harvesting a whole lot of sharks for one part of the shark.” Nearly 89 million sharks are killed each year just for their fins. “It kills sharks for one small part of the body, and really isnʼt worth killing them for,” said Xenia Rangaswami, 8th grade. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to Latitude

October 23rd, 2010

We wrote a letter to Latitude about Cruising and Unschooling. It was published in the October issue and is also included below:


In response to Christine Currie’s letter in the August issue, Latitude wrote, “No cruiser has ever told us that home schooling was easy.” Well, we’ve homeschooled our daughter, Sequoia, for the last five years, including two seasons of cruising in Mexico, and it was certainly easier than dealing with the public school system in San Francisco!

Unfortunately, parents may think that ‘homeschooling’ involves re-creating the school environment at home, or on the boat, with the drudgery of textbooks and worksheets that have little relevance to the real world. It surprises me that many cruisers, who tend to think ‘outside of the box’ when it comes to their lifestyle, don’t question whether our ‘one size fits all’ education system is right for every kid. We always felt sorry for cruising parents who spent hours a day butting heads with their kids over school work.

We adopted the ‘unschooling’ approach. Rather than following a traditional school curriculum, we looked for learning experiences in our day-to-day lives. Cruising in Mexico offered so many opportunities! When shopping, Sequoia calculated prices in pesos versus dollars. When we bought diesel, she converted liters to gallons. Baking was a great way to work with fractions, as we halved or doubled recipes.

In terms of science, we had identification books for fish, birds, and marine mammals, so Sequoia was our resident naturalist. After snorkeling, she’d identify all the fish she’d seen. When sailing, she’d scoop up jellyfish in a net. When dolphins rode our bow wave, she’d be on the bowsprit, cheering them on. And though she never wrote a report or took a test on cetaceans, I have no doubt that seeing these creatures in the wild has made a lasting impression on her and her life.

And though the cruising life can be full of activity, there is a lot of down time. Reading was a big part of everyday living for the whole crew. With the availability of great service, we also had lots of time for games. Multiplication War is a variation of the old card game that taught Sequoia her times tables. Bananagrams, a speedier version of Scrabble, is a family favorite. Scrambled States is a great way to learn U.S. geography. And trivia games like Brain Quest were a perfect diversion when we were underway.

Sequoia also spent time knitting and making jewelry. She bought a recorder at a swap meet in La Paz, found two books about how to play it by asking on the morning net, and taught herself to read music. This is not to mention all the knots she learned to tie, how to drive the dinghy, and all the cool sailing stuff she would have never learned in school! The only task we gave her was to keep a travel journal. Because there were so many exciting things to write about, she was generally happy to comply.

One of the great things about cruising is that everyone is trying something new. Whether it’s how to surf-land your dinghy or fix a finicky outboard, the learning process is a part of daily life. When your kids see you take on new challenges, struggle, fail, and (hopefully!) ultimately succeed, they’ll be better prepared to do the same.

In terms of Christine Currie’s particular situation, I can’t say whether homeschooling is the right choice for her family, but I agree with Latitude’s opinion that “most active young boys would get a better and more useful education cruising on a boat than they would caged up in almost any classroom in America, at least until high school age”.

It seems to us that most kids are happy cruising until they are about 12, at which point living on a boat with your parents loses some of its appeal. Indeed, our daughter decided she wants to go back to school and will be entering eighth grade this fall. Compared to the dread with which I faced middle school, her enthusiasm is remarkable!

I’ve always tried to approach giving parenting advice the same way that one should go about giving anchoring advice. In other words, keep it to yourself! What works for some families may not work for others. But I can say that for our family, cruising and unschooling went together perfectly. We encourage other families to cast off the dock lines and figure out what works for them!

Susan Detwiler & Todd Huss
Sugata, Hans Christian 38
Emery Cove Marina

Latitude 38’s Response

Susan and Todd — So much of the education system in the United States seems ineffective and/or dated. About five years ago, we watched a KTVU 2 news segment in horror as the head of math for the Oakland Schools repeatedly declined to attempt to solve a grammar school-level math problem, such as what’s 3 times 30. She begged off, saying it had been a while since she’d gone over such material. Had she seen it, Mrs. White, who did such a great job teaching us geometry at Skyline High in Oakland in the mid ’60s, would have been furious.

Our son and daughter were lucky enough to be able to attend excellent public schools until middle school in Southern Marin, where most of the administrators, teachers and parents really cared. What a rarity! Even so, it wasn’t a good fit for our son — and a lot of other boys — who seemed to be too kinetic to thrive in such a restrictive environment. We’re sure our son would have gotten a better education if we’d taken him around the world on our boat, where he could have learned by doing and observing.

Education methods haven’t seemed to progress much in the last 100 years, but some brilliant folks finally seem to be doing something about it — and at a pittance. Better yet, they are doing it in ways that are ideal for kids who are going cruising.

Consider 33-year-old Sal Khan, who was born and raised in New Orleans by a Calcutta-born mother and a Bangladesh-born father. Using basic and inexpensive equipment — we’re talking a $200 Camtasia recorder, free Smooth Draw 3 software, and an $80 Wacom Bamboo Tablet on a PC — Khan has personally made more than 1,600 educational videos on everything from basic arithmetic through the most sophisticated biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics, to a four-part series on the French Revolution. These courses — which are taught in 10-minute segments — are available to everyone in the world with internet access . . . for free! Khan says that since he already has a beautiful wife, a hilarious son, two Hondas and a decent house, his goal in life is to create the world’s first free, world-class virtual school, where anyone can learn anything. He’s gotten enthusiastic reviews from the likes of Bill Gates.

Could it be that the old education model of tens of thousands of well-intentioned, but perhaps not always the most talented or inspired, teachers facing an overwhelming number of distracted students in prison-like settings might be in for a change? What if all students could receive instruction from the most gifted 1% of the teachers in the country, and for a fraction of what education is costing today? And get education in areas they are really interested in?

If you’re about to go cruising with a child, we recommend that you check out the Khan Academy, or something similar. If you check the list of free classes, we’re pretty sure you’ll see some you’d like to take yourself. And would that set a great example for your child?

By the way, we consider our iPad to be one of the finest educational tools ever. As long as you have internet access on your boat — which is getting more common and better all the time — you can find the answers to almost anything from science to history, and learn to appreciate things like music and art, while lying in your bunk. Over the years we wasted a lot of time reading junk novels while cruising, but now we’ve got a whole-grain diet of stuff to read at our beck and call. And very often for free.

Back at Home

August 22nd, 2010

We did it! After 27 days at sea and over 3,000 miles under the keel, we sailed Sugata back under the Golden Gate on August 1. This closed the loop on the journey we started back in October 2007. We felt an interesting mixture of emotions: joy, relief, a sense of accomplishment, sadness that our trip had ended, and perhaps foremost, an intense desire for a shower!

The passage from Hawaii to San Francisco, while not without its challenges, was a cake walk compared to our passage to Hawaii. Our experience runs counter to what popular opinion would have you believe about the two passages; everyone says that the trip to Hawaii is easy, and coming back is hard. It does seem true that the weather on the trip back to the mainland can vary greatly from week to week, and boats separated by just 100 miles can have really different winds.

We had great weather leaving Hawaii, with moderate winds and seas. While it made the passage slower, we really enjoyed being becalmed near the Pacific High, with nothing but flat seas stretching as far as the eye could see. Things got a little challenging psychologically when the Pacific High jumped over us and left us beating into headwinds, but other than a period of about 6 hours of gale force winds (which we could thankfully ignore just by closing the companionway and hanging out below), it never got really rough. So luckily, seasickness wasn’t a problem this time! Read the rest of this entry »

Land ho

July 31st, 2010

We’re currently 89 nautical miles west of the Golden Gate and if all goes well (knock on wood) by tomorrow evening (Sunday) we’ll be land ho’s tied up in slip B-30 at Emery Cove!

730 Miles to Go

July 25th, 2010

In case you’ve been following our position, and have noticed that it hasn’t been updated in the last couple days, fret not! The winlink database is just down right now.

What started out as a fun game of leap-frog with the Pacific High has turned into a frustrating game of tag! Just when we think we might be far enough from the high to get some more favorable winds, the darn thing moves closer to us. What’s a crew to do? We’ve been sailing as close to the wind as possible, which means we’re beating into the wind. But luckily it isn’t too uncomfortable.

We have just about 730 miles to go to the Golden Gate! If all goes well, that means just about another week at sea. While we’ve had a great passage so far, I think we’re all feeling ready for hot showers and a little more variety in our diets (rather than just a different flavor of ramen). Not to mention that we can’t wait to see our friends and family back home.

Luckily we still have plenty of margarita makings on board, and our nightly conversations with our buddies on other boats remain a highlight of our days. For tonight’s net, Capn Fairwinds has prepared a fake weather report. Imagine a computerized voice saying something along the lines of “the sailing is great everywhere, except where you are, where it will suck”. (I guess it’s funnier if you’ve heard to the forecasts on the VHF. To us, it’s hilarious!)

Miles down: 2262
Miles to go: About 730
Beer remaining: 50? (we lost track a while ago)

Fish On!

July 17th, 2010

The last few days of this passage have been just about perfect! We’ve had calm seas and nice wind during the day. At night, the wind dies off, so we just drop our sails and sleep. It was frustrating at first not to be moving, but then we started to look at it as being just like anchoring for the night. I’m thrilled to report that not only have I stopped taking pills for sea sickness, but I’ve even been able to read without feeling queasy!

We think these next couple days will be the “crux move” of this journey. We are flirting with the edges of the Pacific High, and it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll manage to scoot around or get caught for a while with no wind. Thanks to all of you psychics out there who helped push the High south- it worked! We’re optimistic that even if we do get stuck, it will be for just a day or two; and it’s more fun to hang out here than to sail north, only to have to sail south again near the Pacific Coast, where we’re likely to have gale conditions.

Today was a shower day- I’ve declared that we will bathe every 3 days whether we need to or not! With the sun and light winds, it is quite a pleasure.

Other excitement lately: we’ve seen a couple of tankers pass about 5 miles away from us. We also had a small bird (a storm petrel, I think) fly into the cabin and land in the sink! Ron scooped it up and set it free. These petrels love to hang around our boat at night; they seem to be attracted to the light. In fact, Capn Ornithology went out on deck with a headlamp on, and a bird flew right at his forehead. Todd managed to get his hand up and fend the bird off, sparing the poor creature from certain death on the rocky precipice that is Todd’s brow.

But our biggest news is that Ron caught an albacore tuna yesterday! I had been debating about what to make for lunch: pasta or rice to go with the (as yet uncaught) fish. Ron said not to count on fish for menu planning. After an hour or so I decided to go ahead with the pasta, and just after I’d dug out the pot, I heard the handline knock. “Fish on!” I yelled. Ron let the fish run just a bit, then brought it in steadily. We all crowded around the cockpit to catch a glimpse of it as he reeled it in, and were so excited when we saw that it was a tuna! Ron landed it and killed it quickly. “Pasta’s off, rice is on!” I yelled. The fish was maybe a ten pounder so it fed us all for two days. Ron’s already declared that tomorrow is another fishing day, and I’ve been thinking of how I might scrape together a fish curry. I love yelling “Fish on!” in a high, quavering voice, so I kinda hope he gets a lot of strikes before ultimately getting one to the boat. We’ll just have to be careful about eating too much tuna because of the mercury levels. After we hit Hilo, Todd and I joked that we had eaten so much sushi, that when it got hot outside, we grew taller! But seriously, I’ve been told the symptoms of mercury overload are irritability, forgetfulness, and… damn it! I can’t remember what else!

Miles sailed: 1524
Miles to go: 1343+
Beer remaining: 90 or so

Homeward Bound

July 12th, 2010

After all of our sightseeing and surfing, we were ready to set sail for San Francisco on Saturday, July 3. But then Todd scrutinized the weather and decided it would be better to wait a day, to let a low pressure system pass through the North Pacific ahead of us. And since our spot on the Aloha Dock of the Hawaii Yacht Club gave us front row seats for the fireworks on the 4th, well, we decided we might as well stay til the 5th.

So last Monday morning we hit the Wailana Coffee House for all-you-can-eat pancakes (including Capn Sugar High’s favorite coconut syrup!) with our buddies on Isis. I was a little embarrassed to order a third plate of pancakes when Ron and Todd had stopped at two, but I’d spent the last month on Oahu porking up for the return trip and wasn’t about to hold back on our last morning in port!

After showering and cooking up 3 DiGiorno frozen pizzas (dinner and lunch for a couple days), we hit the fuel dock for a little bit of diesel and then were on our way! We had great sailing out of the Ala Wai and around the west side of Oahu. Things got a little rough that night in the channel between Oahu and Kauai, but since then it has been pretty much ideal conditions, with plenty of sunshine. And today has been the best day yet: the wind on the beam and the small, well-organized swell have made for a smooth ride. Hooray! The guys even managed to reduce our beer stock by upwards of a dozen.

To get back to SF, we have to sail north, up around the North Pacific high. Our friend Rick has been sending us weather updates, letting us know the high’s position. Unfortunately right now it is pretty far north, so we invite those of you with psychic abilities to envision it moving south. (Those of you without such abilities, well, how about you start saving your pocket change so you can buy us burritos?)

Rick has also been giving us important news updates. A couple days ago Todd came up into the cockpit and announced, “Rick told us who is in the World Cup finals.” Excited to know, I asked “Oh, who?!” Capn Total Recall scratched his large forehead and mumbled, “Uh, I don’t remember.” Hoping to give his thought process a helpful push, I offered, “Well it is either Spain or Germany and either Uruguay or the Netherlands.” Todd shook his head. “Nah, none of those. It was something like Peru or Chile or one of those countries.” I was left wondering which was more appalling- his short term memory, or his failure to understand the concept of “semi-finals”.

I will give him this though: he learned from our provisioning mistakes of the last passage. This time, we’ve got plenty of easily-prepared (but somewhat disgusting) foods like Chef Boyardee ravioli and Hormel chili. Our mainstay is ramen; we even did taste-tests of the many brands available in the Japanese stores of Honolulu. Sequoia made up a ramen chart with star-ratings and comments about each brand, and she ruled out one of them based on the amount of sodium it contained (astronomical as opposed to sky-high!).

Todd also bought a ridiculous amount of Pringles, much to Ron’s both joy and misery. When he signed on, Ron thought this would be a great opportunity to lose weight. But a tube of Pringles is never far from reach, and they tempt Ron with their siren call. We’ll hear Ron yell, “Oh, damn!” and the next thing you know, he’s elbow-deep in sour cream and onion.

Miles sailed: 987
Miles to go: Depends on where the high is (think SOUTH!)
Beers remaining: About 105 (yes, he bought more this time)