Adventures in SoCal: Oxnard and Marina del Rey

Dakota’s crew continues to journey through and around Southern California.  After Santa Barbara, we travelled down to Oxnard to visit friends of Ryan’s mom at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club.  Our time in Oxnard was short (we intended to spend one night there and then continue onto Marina Del Re) but we ended up staying two nights to rest and recover.

As we pulled into Oxnard a little late in the day (right around dinner time), our short evening was spent with KD’s friends enjoying a personal tour of the club and a casual dinner upstairs. We also did a little “meet-n-greet” with the club members who were intrigued by our journey. Afterwards, we put two tired kiddos (and ourselves) to bed. The next day we learned that one of the club members had organized a half-day sailing camp specifically for homeschooled kids – and they invited Elliott to join. Naturally, we were excited for him to have the opportunity to practice sailing in a small boat (like the bath-tub sized kinds, like Optis or El Toros) and be with other homeschooled kids, so we encouraged him to join in.  After a bit of finagling, he ended up participating (mostly learning with/from Daddy), but he ended up enjoying it and soaked up the 1:1 time with Dad.

After a run around the local neighborhoods (I learned there wasn’t much in the way of trails or outdoor attractions near us), I took Finley paddleboarding around the harbor and we checked out the cool electric boats that he was fascinated by, paddled out to see the sea lions chillin’ on the fuel dock and then “raced” Elliott and Ryan back to Dakota before dinner.

Going to dinner as a family on foot is an interesting endeavor. What I’ve learned in our short tenure living afloat is this: When you’re a cruiser, paradoxically your world becomes bigger and smaller at the same time.  It’s bigger with regards to the freedom to explore new surroundings, the ability to set sail to see new places and faces and to some extent, ownership of one’s time.  Yet it’s smaller with regard to your immediate surroundings and how you’ll get around, i.e., what’s entailed with getting there, as well as how you will transport whatever items you acquire while you’re out (or at a minimum being mindful of how much you’re buying because you’ll have to carry it all back!).  So, in Oxnard, while I had time to go for a run, my local running area was limited to the 4-5 miles in my immediate vicinity because I no longer have the luxury of a car to drive to other running spots.  Similarly, with dinner out as a family, we needed to consider the little legs in our family and time of day we were trying to go enjoy dinner ashore and plan accordingly – and as such, our world gets a little smaller.

I suppose these are not constraints particular to our style of life right now.  But it has been an interesting observation to note how much we relied on our cars in our previous life and how much more dependent on our locale we have become as we travel on Dakota. (I’ve also found myself curious with the correlation between our experience here in the US/California and what we might experience once we arrive in Mexico.)

It has also prompted us both to pause and give more thought to how we will transition even more to life afloat as we continue along.  For example– getting groceries.  Since leaving San Mateo, we have been lucky enough to either be walking distance to a decent grocery store (and not need to do a major provisioning run) or be in a town where we have access to a car (and can thus do a major provisioning run).  But getting the groceries themselves is not the only challenge.  Rather, getting the groceries on the boat is, in itself, a chore and sometimes the biggest challenge involved.  In Santa Barbara, the harbor is humongous  (it’s the only show in town, so literally everyone that wants to dock a boat has to do it there).  And naturally, guest slips are relegated to the furthest (and most inconvenient) reaches of the harbor, particularly when the vessel is over 40 feet.  (I know, I know, first world problems).  Still, a half-mile or more walk *just to the dock entrance* is a lot for little legs.  And even more so when the adults are loaded down with groceries, laundry or bags of other essentials and simply can’t hoist our smallest crew member on our shoulders or mount him to a hip (he’s gotten far too heavy for that regardless!).

At our home dock (and other clubs we have visited along the way) we have become accustomed to easy access to a rolling dock cart with which to transport our groceries (or laundry) back to the boat. But for some reason, one we never could quite figure out, in SB the dock carts were always missing or stored, locked away.  So of course, when we had gads of groceries to transport back to Dakota, not only was there a complete lack of dock carts, but also a massive sea of people milling about the docks enjoying the “34th Annual Wine and Boat Tours” event taking place the exact day I had decided to go grocery shopping.  (bonus!)

After that “adventure,” I found myself wondering what we will do when we aren’t at a dock? (even one that’s a bit inconvenient in terms of getting things on board) What is our plan for when we’re in Mexico and perhaps needing to take a bus to do some big provisioning and need to get all those groceries back on the boat – which is at anchor?  Hmm….

Our time in Marina del Rey gave me the opportunity to see how our fellow cruisers are managing the task.  Mango, another family doing to Baja (with their 2 kids and 2 dogs no less!) has an “Instacrate” system–they have two folding, stackable crates, they take in their dinghy and then roll on shore with a folding, rolling cart (think: banker box rolling cart).  Bloom, another family of 3 (with a dog) are using the simple backpacking system–they just truck around with their wares in backpacks and dry bags.  We are finding that everyone creates a system that works for us… and we needed to find something that works for us. Soon!

At first, we thought the Instacrate system would work for us. Mango kindly offered to let us try out their crate system on a quick run to Ralph’s and West Marine in Marina del Rey.  And while we loved it (was super easy to drag everything around, plenty of room in the dinghy and in the crates, and the crates neatly folded up after we were done with them),  we felt needed to come up with a system that would account for longer runs that involved more walking.  Finley, as robust and energetic as he is, almost always down for the cause, still is *almost* 4.  His little legs just can’t go as far or fast as the rest of us. And even when we take into account the possibility of single-person trips for various errands, there will inevitably be times we will need to go all together (or want to!)….. so the search continued.

After talking to Lisa (mother/crew member aboard Bloom) one afternoon on the docks in Redondo Beach, she mentioned a folding wagon might work for us because we could put Finley in the cart when he got too tired to walk.  Eureka! Sure, I had looked at those same folding wagons (like the ones you see on the fields on ‘soccer Saturday’)…. but had sort of put them on the back burner because they seemed too big/heavy to be a good solution for us.  But when Lisa reminded me that we could actually transport Finley in it, I was pretty much immediately sold.  And after discussion with the hubs later that night, we went ahead and bought one.

The morale of the story? What we’ve found as we go down the coast of California (which is effectively our shake-down cruise) is that everything is in a state of flux.  The homeschooling plans I had so carefully researched, planned for and purchased needed some rejiggering and tweaking.  The grocery/provisioning plans we kiinnda forgot to think about in our whirlwind preparations to throw off the dock lines needed some TLC.  And the more we spent time with other cruisers and saw how they were doing it, i.e., what tools they integrated into their daily lives and their decision-making process, the more we have learned about what might work for us.

Like any new endeavor of this magnitude, the learning curve is steep and hard at first.  There are times when I’ve cried “uncle” and decided land life sounded way better.  But, as my best friend in the world reminded me, “This is not the first time you’re doing something you thought would make you happy but may not be yet.”  Touche.

I remind myself that our joint committment to this journey is the driving force that we keep coming back to. We both want to continue on, albeit for likely very different reasons.

For now, the word that describes our experience aboard Dakota is “dynamic.” And ya know what? I feel ok with that.  It feels a hell of a lot better than “static.”

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