Mexican Coastguards with Machine Guns, No Wind, Charades, Still Life Painting and a Play.

0347. It’s stifling hot below decks still and barely enough wind to fill the mainsail. The genoa is furled away and the engine is still plugging us along. We’re at the Northern end of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, the place we were most concerned about with its violent winds and Neptune is kindly letting us pass through.

Wildlife abounds here – possibly some of the richest wildlife we’ve seen anywhere. We are passing by a steady stream of turtles who lazily pop their heads up out of the water to look at us and then amble along on their way, just floating on the surface. We counted 6 this morning in the space of 2 minutes. The dolphins too are incredible. It’s as though they have been trained to perform. Leaping way clear of the water, doing somersaults and flick flacking around. Sometimes one on its own – one did 9 consecutive leaps in our bow wake this morning. Sometimes in groups of 20 or 30 moving at fast speeds and all leaping clear. Stunning to watch every time. At the hot seat discussion this morning, we had a small bird who flew into the saloon and happily just perched on the chart table and watched the discussion. It clearly felt very much at home although when it started leaving us gifts on the chart table, it had overstayed its welcome and it was time to usher it out. Petrels circle the boat and take a good look at us.

We have seen no yachts since we left Costa Rica – we are certainly on the road less travelled. There is the occasional cargo ship plying its trade either heading North or South but thats pretty much it. Apart from the heavily armed Mexican Coast Guard. At 0730 this morning the shout came downstairs, Mexican Coast Guard. I was half asleep and moved to full alert in a nanosecond. Straight up on deck to see a 30 foot patrol boat with 6 guys all carrying machine guns about 30 metres away from us. The VHF crackled 4 times and I grabbed the handheld and went on deck. They spoke Spanish. I spoke English. The message was clear though. Stop the boat.

I put the engine in neutral and we slowed. We still had sails up. I called up and asked if they wanted me to drop the sails. By now, Frank, Mindy and Columbus were all on deck with me. I’m pretty certain they didn’t understand my question. At that point, the boat wheeled away and they spoke on the VHF in Spanish. We looked at each other. What dd they want. I called up and asked again if they wanted us to drop sails. By now they were motoring off and it became clear we didn’t look like their quarry. We surmise that drug importation along this coast must be a big issue and we didn’t fit the bill. Nothing like a shot of adrenaline to start the day.

Schooling has been varied and enjoyable. Yesterday Columbus performed his play. 8 soft toy animals, 8 individually written scripts, 5 voices to read out the scripts, 2 mountains, one river, one cave, one treasure chest and 2 pages of full scripted out notes covering 6 scenes. I have no idea where Columbus drew the idea from but it was truly remarkable. All of us squeezed into the aft cabin in sweltering heat, he moved the animals into positioned and choreographed each of us – he’d point to us in turn where we had to say our scripted lines for Basil, Flappy, Kai, Sandy and his various other assorted animals. A delightful piece of magic to watch as for 15 minutes he directed all 4 adults and 8 animals with intensity and purpose. The scripts are now laminated and to be treasured as a wonderful memory. The boy who hates to write created pages when the inspiration was right.

More followed today. We had a drawing competition. A bowl of fruit on the chart table. All with pens and pencils, we took our turns at creating pictures. No extra encouragement needed for Columbus – he just fitted in and got on with it. Literacy today was finishing reading the Elephant Whisperer – tomorrow we start the Last Rhino by the same author. Every day in the afternoon Columbus comes on deck with cut up pieces of paper and pens for us to write down the names of books and films. Charades has become his new favourite game and it happily absorbs all of us for a good half an hour.

The hot seats. While the adults engage deeply in discussion on a variety of topics – business, emotional understanding, life questions, Columbus is quietly playing minecraft at the chart table. I’m certain the discussions are not passing him by and I’m delighted he gets to witness what high quality debates are all about and the way they are conducted with incisive questions, calm, thought and rigour. Mindy was in the hot seat today and we went deep into the next chapter of her life. We have a very supportive trusting team and its fun to support each other. I’m next up in the hot seat tomorrow – testing and working all my ideas for getting our lives off the ground as we make our move to the Tech Capital of the world, San Francisco.

We continue to make good progress. We have 230 miles until Acapulco. Hopefully a fast pit stop to refuel, clear into Mexico and before we arrive a clear plan of whether we head offshore or follow the coast up to San Francisco.

Team Aretha sailing the Mexican Coast, Out.

PS. We’d welcome any other creative ideas for schooling that we can engage us all in – the play, charades and the artwork have been big hits. Any maths based games anyone can suggest, or indeed covering any other subjects,.

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  1. Hi Casper and Columbus. I’m now working at a school with year 3&4s and our kids love doing time tables shoot out. You may need to have a quick practise of your times tables first but the idea is two people stand up with their hands as guns, another person shouts out 10×2 whoever says the correct answer quickest shoots their opposition down, so another person stands up and tries to beat the man standing. If that makes sense? Also cooking is great maths! Weights and capacity. Mine love playing Mastermind – contestant sits in a chair and has 3 minutes to answer as many general knowledge and maths questions as possible before the buzzer (alarm on your mobile phone goes off), you can have more than one round and a specialist subject of your choice (in our house it would be Zac Effron but Columbus might choose sea fish or something!!) Maths games on iPad can be found on cbbc website or mathletics or active learn. Twinkl is also a good resource we use a lot. Oh and may be an obvious one but asking what time it is frequently and then saying now convert to 24 hour clock or in 1 hour 45 minutes we will have a snack what time will that be etc. Fractions you can do by dividing sweets or toys amongst the teddies, or slicing of cakes. “Please can you cut the cake into eights, I’d like 3/8ths of the cake how many eights are left?” Etc. Setting a shop up, he writes cost of objects then works out how much you owe and how much change you get out of £5 or £10 notes. Measuring stuff around the cabin or everyone draws around their foot he measures them first to nearest cm then to millimetre and puts results in a chart. I could go on but not sure this is what you’re after xx

  2. Don’t bother with the phrase “No hable espanoles”

    Something useful I learnt here in Peru:
    “No fumo spaniels !”

    Sounds a bit like I dont speak spanish, but really gets the point across, as it actually says:
    I don’t smoke spaniels -hahahahaha !
    Always works wonders here……….


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