Unexpected homecoming


Our visit with Pegi in Picton was sometimes painful – she was clearly so uncomfortable.  She called the experience of ALS “torture”.  She didn’t want to live like that anymore….

I know she was happy to see us, especially Liam and Neli.  Her face would light up whenever they were near.  Overall, I know it was important.  Being back at her house again felt comfortable…  nostalgic….  Many things were the same as I remembered, but more things were different.  She was different, I was different, everyone was different…

There it is:  In life, we can never truly go home again.

Pegi and I talked a bit about what might happen ” in the afterlife”…  For a long time she had believed that when you die, that’s it, lights out, that’s the end of everything.  I told her of the book I read recently, by Deepak Chopra, Life After Death.  In it, he provides stories, anecdotes and analysis of various peoples’ near death experiences from many countries and cultures around the globe.  The conclusion that seems to be drawn at the end of the book is this: whatever you believe will happen to you after you die, that is what you will experience.  Pegi liked this idea.  She decided to believe that she’d be with my dad again, that’s what she wanted to believe would happen.

Maybe that’s the difference between life and death, in death you can go home again, yet in life, the natural changes we experience cannot allow us to feel we ever get there.

Pegi passed away on March 10, 2016.  This came as a shock, especially since we were just there visiting her at the end of February.

I travelled to Picton again at the end of April for Pegi’s memorial service, just me this time.  My good friend Mary-Kate Gilbertson from Guelph came with me for the weekend.  She was my “memorial midwife” for sure…  She helped me with many things but especially helped me to allow myself to feel included in the Pickering Clan.  This had been one of my great fears, and the story I made up was that I wasn’t really part of Pegi’s family.  As I held onto that story,  over the years I was committed to finding lots of evidence to support it….  I had to say goodbye to that story and also say goodbye to most belongings that I’d had at Pegi’s place.  All these things that helped me feel connected to her home, my home, were now unnecessary clutter…  The phrase “Does this bring you joy?” became my mantra as I went through the process of deciding which items would be let go… Digital photos became my saving grace – into the cloud!!


I can’t share all of the details on the specifics of it all, but I can share what I’ve learned so far, which is this:  1. The stories we make up and hold to be true (our beliefs!) dictate our experience, 2.  Home is an idea in the heart that changes over time, and yet we all yearn for reunion, and 3. Love is what matters most and it’s there  to be felt if we allow it.

On showing up

This sailing lifestyle is suiting me pretty well…. And by that i mean it’s fairly effortless.  I love sailing…  The wind and water are elements I find very comfortable…  Therapeutic even…  Showing up here is easy for me.  Some people think I must have a lot of courage to set off across oceans…  This is laughable to me.  And leads me to face a reality I don’t like to look at very often.

I’ve just learned that my stepmother has been diagnosed with ALS.  As long as I can remember, she has feared something like this.  Her appearance has always been impeccable, her idependence extremely valued and her social graces always something I admired.  Apparently now, she is living with the fact that she cannot show up in the world the way she wants to, the way that’s been so easy for her…  She’s been forced completely out of her element.

We are going to visit her in a few days.  This upcoming trip being the passage that I don’t feel prepared for…  Don’t feel equipped to respond to appropriately…  I recognize the irony here: this passage that seems to be a part of so many people’s ordinary experience is what feels like a scary ocean crossing for me.  This is the epitome of effortful, for me.

Brene Brown is a (famous) researcher in Texas.  Her work focusses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame.  You might have seen her TED talks or seen her on Oprah.  One of her quotes is yelling at me right now through a megaphone

“Normally, when someone we love is turning away from a struggle, we self-protect by also turning away. That’s definitely my first response. I think change is more likely to happen if both partners have common language and a shared lens to see problems. “~ Brené Brown

I think this often happens in families… It’s happened to me… Distance grows…  And sometimes grows so vast that it becomes the largest, most frightening ocean in the world.  How do I prepare for this one?  I feel like I might not be able to weather the storm of judgment by some people I know I’m going to see soon.  Brene Brown calls it a shame storm…  How can I possibly respond to it so it doesn’t sink me?

I am provisioning for these things…  Crossing this ocean… Unsure how it might unfold…  Worrying that I might not be worthy of the situation…  And yet I know I must summon the courage to try.  Maybe we’re all in a sinking boat anyway, and the whole point is to recognize it!!  And to try to be that “good mariner” who will offer assistance wherever and whenever in a position to do so..

I think Brene Brown tends to start with this one, but I’m inclined to bring it to my ending here:

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. “

Pegi, I’m on my way.

Islas Espiritu Santos, Partida, Los Islotes, Balandra

Together with our friends on Yare, we traveled and explored the islands for 10 days.  Beginning at Playa Bonanza on Isla Espiritu Santos, our next anchorage was Caleta Partida.  It was very protected from the northers that were strong at that time.  There were two fishing camps there but no one was actually there when we made it ashore to meet them….  A fantastic cave was found just north of there on the southeast corner of Partida.


Fishing camp, Caleta Partida
Fishing camp, Caleta Partida
On the way to the sea cave, Caleta Partida
On the way to the sea cave, Caleta Partida
Cave, looking out
Cave, looking out


Caleta Partida
Caleta Partida


Next anchorage was Ensenada Grande, just to the north.  There was an awesome beach and maintained hiking trail that lead to a lookout over 100m up over the east side of the island.  Jess and I (the moms) made it all the way to the top while the others were ready to get back to the beach.

Ensenada Grande, lobe #3
Ensenada Grande, lobe #3


Beach lobe #3, Ensenada Grande
Beach lobe #3, Ensenada Grande

Before heading back to La Paz to reprovision, we made it to Los Islotes to swim with the sea lions.  They are surprisingly friendly and accepting of swimmers and snorkelers!  It was magical to get to touch a real live WILD animal in its element.  They swam nearby often nibbling on Liam and Pete’s fingertips, apparently amazed that they don’t have webbed hands :)

Los Islotes
Los Islotes

Once back in La Paz we were eager to stock up again on items from the grocery store Chedraui.  It felt familiar to go there then…  Ice cream at Fuente’s was a treat too.  Although our little buddy Odin had to stop by the hospital to get stitches to mend his chin while on the way!!  More info here : http://svyare.blogspot.com/2016/01/la-paz-medical-care.html?m=1

Fuentes yummy-ness
Fuentes yummy-ness


After only a couple days in La Paz we set off bound for La Cruz.  We really miss our friends on Yare.  Traveling together through paradise has been a fantastic experience.  We hope to see them again in the spring overe here on the east side.

Goodbyes to our dear friends of sv Yare
Goodbyes to our dear friends of sv Yare


On the way, we stopped at Bahia Falsa and also Belandra (north of La Paz) and got to reconnect with our friends Scott and Tanya from Kialoa.  We’ve known them for three years, were in Fleet together (Bluewater Cruising association).

Running down the dunes, Balandra
Running down the dunes, Balandra
Kialoa joins in!
Kialoa joins in!

And then, like a dream, it was over.  We set off across the sea towards La Cruz.

Sailing southeast into the sea of Cortez
Sailing southeast into the sea of Cortez

Into the Sea

Sea of Cortez that is…

We arrived in La Paz December 11 just in time to go for ice cream and dinner with our friends on SVBanyan.  They were heading out the next day so it was great to have a chance to visit with them before they went.  We also met up with Linger Longer finally!  After years of trying ;). Kris and Kirk were neighbours from the inner harboir in Victoria.

La Paz has all the services you might expect in a city…But finding them might be tricky.  The morning cruisers net on vhf channel 22 is super helpful.  Also Club Cruceros, a little expat community cruisers club running on the grounds on Marina de La Paz, is super helpful too.

Christmas decorations RTT style



Christmas dinner complete with our 2nd ever puzzled turkey (so it can fit in the oven) was fun. We got to share it with our new friends on SV Yare (kid boat!!).  And it was really great.

Puzzled turkey phase 1
Puzzled turkey phase 1
Puzzled turkey phase 2
Puzzled turkey phase 2


Liam’s birthday party, by the Club Cruceros playground was fun too.  All the kid boats came :). Made for a special time – piñata and all!!

Happy birthday Liam!!
Happy birthday Liam!!
Liam's strong hit broke the stick!  Luckily after all the kids had a few turns :)
Liam’s strong hit broke the stick! Luckily after all the kids had a few turns :)
Thanks for the gifts!
Thanks for the gifts!

I think due to sugar overload (Christmas then birthday) we got knocked down by a nasty cold or virus of some kind… Not fun but didn’t last forever.  This has led us towards a much healthier diet in the hope of staving off future illness…  We’ll see how long that lasts ;)

The last day of 2015: Horseback riding at Rancho el Cajon was fantastic.  Neli and Liam were in heaven.  Kim, the guide, originally from Oregon, was excellent and we had a fun time.  A three hour ride was only about $28 CAD each.


Neli in horsey heaven
Neli in horsey heaven
Heading back to ranch, Liam in the lead
Heading back to ranch, Liam in the lead


We left La Paz January 5 to head north into the islands for a bit before heading towards the mainland and Banderas Bay.  We are buddy boating with SV Yare.

Riki Tiki Tavi anchored in Bahia Bonanza with Yare and Hoku Pa'a
Riki Tiki Tavi anchored in Bahia Bonanza with Yare and Hoku Pa’a
Playa de Bonanza
Playa de Bonanza



Surprising that we have cell coverage in Isla Espiritu Santo area, but that’s Mexico it seems…  Surprising.

Big Dollar continued

Please remember that when Pete returned from fishing, his mind was on the fish he caught…  And it was calm, no waves or wind, so he was not putting much attention on how he secured the dinghy.  We feel quite strongly that the dinghy got away for this reason.  In those dark moments in the night when the dinghy was gone, (which also had Pete’s bag full of things like his wallet, credit cards, driver’s license, etc.) if someone where to ask, would you pay $50 to have it all back again, like it had never left?  We would have been so happy and  relieved.  This is what José did for us – he made it so all was as it was before…  And so, $50 is the value of Big Dollar in this case :).

This experience has invited us to realize how much we value our dinghy.  We are taking much better care of it now!!  And have also finally found a name, which we will soon have put on the transom: Big Dollar.



Big Dollar

After Pete’s awesome catch from fishing in the lagoon at Bahia Magdalena (two spotted bass and a finescale trigger fish) he was so excited!  The kids were excited too, Neli wanted to begin dissections and Liam was keen to clean and fillet…

After dinner I was sleepy, my bedtime has become 7pm or so since I was used to beginning my watch at 3am.  I heard the fenders banging a bit so asked Pete if he could move the dinghy back to the stern and pull the fenders right out of the water for the night.

Pete:  Where is the dinghy??  The dinghy isn’t here!!!!

I went out on deck and sure enough no dinghy to be seen.  It was dark by this point.  No use even trying…

In those moments before sleep came, Pete and I both realized how much we rely on that dinghy!!  And now it’s gone…  How could we even replace it in rural Mexico?  We didn’t know…

Luckily it was a northeast wind that night, so theoretically it might just have washed up on the beach closer to the town of Puerto Magdalena…  There was a little hope…  But maybe it was stolen…  We were right there the whole time but over dinner or who knows when, maybe someone took it?

I woke up at 4:30am (slept in!!) and began writing out phrases to ask Gregorio’s the port Captain.

My dinghy is missing (mi dinghy ha desaparecido)

Have you seen it? (?Ha visto mi dinghy?)

Our dinghy is adrift (my dinghy esta a la deriva)

Can you please help me? (?Puede ayudarme?)

And so on….  I wanted to say “we” but the phrase book we have seems to prefer the 1st person singular….

Then sunrise came.  Daylight!!!  I was out on deck with the binoculars scanning the entire horizon… Nothing.

7am Pete got up and we started to mobilize.  We’d go over closer to the town, drop anchor, go in the kayak to shore to plead for help from Gregorio.

We were getting underway when Gregorio’s panga came roaring up to us.  Once he was close we could hear him saying “tu dinghy!!!!”. Yes!!  He knew who’d found it, José at the palapa restaurant, we should go find him, he had it pulled up there.  But don’t give any money, we thought we heard him say…  And then he was off, to the town of SanCarlos on a fuel run.

Relief!  Off we went to find José 2 miles away.

Town of Puerto Magdalena

We dropped anchor near the palapa and got the kayak in the water.  Liam and Pete went to shore and pulled up near the palapa restaurant.  Liam was holding the “Spanish for Cruisers ” book.

Pete:  Buenos dias!!

José: (in Spanish) is this your dinghy?

Pete:  Si!  Muchas gracias!!  We were worried!

José: No problema (points at dinghy) Pete thinks he then says, big problem)

Pete: Gracias!

José: something something something donero… something

Pete: Money?

José:  Si si si

Si Si Si!
Si Si Si!

Pete:  Um… Gregorio said no money

José: (in Spanish, but what Pete understood was:) But, pulling up on the beach and out with my boat, was a lot of work.

Pete:  So you want money.

José:  Si, si si, no problema.

Pete:  Wait, no problem?  So you don’t want money?


José: silent but with that look…


Pete: Soooo you do want money

José:  Si si si

Pete: So, Americano? or pesos?

José: No problema

Pete: what?  so you don’t want money?



Pete: So how much?

José: in the clearest English yet; BEEGH DOLLAH

Pete: Big dollar…

José: Si si si

Pete:(in English and sign language, taps on chest) I go back to boat (points to our boat) to get the money (rubs fingers with thumb)

José:  Si, OK

Pete:  I’ll come back.

So Pete and Liam came back with the dinghyand the kayak and filled Neli and me in on what went down.  Big dollar..  so how much is that??  I asked…

Pete: I think $100

Sara: what??!!  no way!!  Gregorio said no money!!

Pete: well, he does want money…

So, here’s my question to you, dear reader, how much would you think “big dollar” should be in this situation?

We’ll fill you in on how it unfolded in the next post :)


Photos, Mag Bay to Cabo

Swimming!!  Mag Bay
Swimming!! Mag Bay
Fishing in the lagoon
Fishing in the lagoon


Bringin' home the bacon (fish actually)
Bringin’ home the bacon (fish actually)



Fine scaled trigger fish and sea bass for dinner
Fine scaled trigger fish and sea bass for dinner


Village at Man of War Cove, Port Captain Gregorio's town
Village at Man of War Cove, Port Captain Gregorio’s town
En route to Cabo San Lucas, skipjack tuna
En route to Cabo San Lucas, skipjack tuna


In Cabo, hauling our groceries back to the dinghy
In Cabo, hauling our groceries back to the dinghy


Sara finally goes swimming - it's warm enough!!!
Sara finally goes swimming – it’s warm enough!!!


Among many small tour boats at Land's End, Cabo
Among many small tour boats at Land’s End, Cabo


The famous arches at Land's End
The famous arches at Land’s End

Next stop: La Paz

Hola Mexico!

 It was just 70 miles or so to get to Ensenada from San Diego so we thought an overnight trip would be best. We also wanted to get there early enough in the morning so that we could complete all of our check in procedures during office hours.  We arrived at Baja Naval marina at 9am.  Jose the man at the marina ofice was very helpful with getting us organized to present to the harbour master and all of the other offices.  Luckily the offices are all in the same buikding in Ensenada as opposed to scattered all over the town like in many other Mexican ports of entry.  Our friends Doug and Lyneita Swanson from Comox, BC on board their Coast 34 Ka’sala were at the marina too!  In Ensenada we were surprised by how much garbage was strewn around the streets, sidewalks and harbour…  Everywhere we looked, it seemed, there was garbage. And nobody seeed to mind or even notice!  So we tried to stop noticing too…  when in Rome, as they say….

The following day we went to the bank (Scotia Bank no less!) to get pesos and also go grocery shopping.  We thought we lost our hand cart in the grocery store at one point (panic!!!) but we found it again.  The walk back to the marina all loaded down with our stuff was an adventure.  The sidewalks were cracked, uneven, had huge potholes and sometimes were nonexistent…  but we made it and it was fine.  I wish we’d known how much cheaper provisioning would be in Ensenada…  they have everything we expect in a grocery store… and much much cheaper than San Diego…

The idea was to leave for Turtle Bay the following day.  Our friends on Ka’sala left the marina at 10am on Nov. 28th while we left at 11:45.  Once we were out there, and the weather was so good (north wind 10-20 knots at various times) we decided to keep going to Magdalena Bay.  Pete and I decided to do 6 hour shifts through the night. This would allow each of us to get 6 hours of uninterupted sleep at a time.  I think this worked better than our 3 on 3 off from before.  Three hours of sleep at a time over many days becomes very difficult to live with…  Even though Pete took maclazine for this part of the trip too he still felt seasick most of the time…  he’s noticed that wheat (gluten?) makes him feel worse,which made for limited options for snacks and meals…  this was difficult.

We arrived at Bahia Magdalena around noon on December 3.  It is like a desert oasis here.  Sand dunes right beside the sea shore… White powder sand…we have been swimming and snorkeling near our Anchorage in Puerto Magdalena, hoping to get over to Bahia Maria for a bit of boogie boarding later today…. Surprisingly, there is cell coverage here so our T-Mobile service is working.  Its spotty though so we are not renewing it.  We’ll probably get a telcel Sim card in La Paz.  I can’t load any photos right now so that will have to wait too… Hope to add them in La Paz.  Not much farther now :)

Adios San Diego


San Diego was comfortable.  Although the port authority is quite strict, regulating every boat’s anchoring activity, it was easy enough to get the various permits required for both the cruiser’s anchorage (A9) and the La Playa anchorage (closer to yacht services at Shelter Island).

First, some of the not so-fun-stuff:

Saying goodbye to Jocelyn.  Joss became a much beloved member of our crew and we were sad to see her go… It takes a very special person to join a family of 4 on a small sailboat for almost a month.  Joss, you are one of a kind and we love you!!!  Hopefully she’ll be able to join us again at some other point along the way…

Air pollution.  The A9 is close to the huge airport…  Major fumes were aggravating for us all but especially Liam and his environmentally induced asthma. We thought we’d be free of that after leaving the inner Harbour in Victoria… ahem.

The exchange rate.  Ouch. The Canadian dollar has been quite weak lately… this makes everything 30% more expensive.

The zoo.  Our hearts felt heavy after witnessing so many large, majestic wild animals in captivity… From the perspective of the animals, how is their experience any different from imprisonment?  I can’t see the difference…  Anyhoo…. Apparently it is impolite to frown upon the San Diego zoo too much.

On a happier note, some of the fun stuff included:

Legoland.  One thing about southern California is wow! (as Pete’s friend Wes pointed out) they really know theme parks!  Legoland was excellent and surprisingly not over the top!  Lots of fun there!!



Liam with a huge Lego guy
Liam with a huge Lego guy


Sunroad marina and visiting with Gramma Reen.  We stayed here while my mum (Gramma Reen) was visiting for 10 days.  Our new friends on s/v Mei Cheng were super fun and also the swimming pool and hot tub were definitely enjoyed!

Meeting and hanging out in the anchorages with our new friends on s/v Banyan.

Liam would say San Diego Games and Comics.  And meeting his new friend Scott, who seems to like Magic the Gathering as much as he does.

The playground and fountains at the county administration building.

Trader Joe’s.  Wow!!

Receiving mail and packages at Downwind marine.

Neli receiving a birthday present from her friend Jade
Neli receiving a birthday present from her friend Jade

On craigslist we got a small sailing dinghy, a Naples Sabot.  Super fun!!  It lives aft of the mast and forward of the dodger when we’re underway…  On deck there are now: a tandem kayak with 2 paddles, RIB dinghy, and sailing dinghy…  I think it will be hard to put any other craft up there..  although I should never say never ;)  [tried to post a photo but after 25 mins of trying I’m giving up]

Next stop: Mexico!




We said farewell to many beloved friends in BC in early September.  We knew that the window was closing for sailing from the BC coast…  Typically the book end for the season is September 15…  We left Sept 17.



In Esquimalt we did the last of our provisioning (thanks Holly!!) And picked up Jocelyn there.  We were then a crew of five.  Next we set off for Port Renfrew.  The plan was to sit there to wait for a favourable weather window to carry on to San Diego.  As it happened, we waited there for 2 days.  Warren came up with an awesome grocery delivery and lent us his computer!!


We left Port Renfrew Sept 21st bound for San Diego.

Pete is a certified HAM in more ways than you can imagine, including with Industry Canada.  With the help of Warren’s computer and mono cord, Pete was able to pull in weather fax info everyday.


The crew morale at this point was quite good.  Seasickness was only moderate…  Kids were getting a bit of gravol (called Dramamine in the US) and Jocelyn and Pete were taking Meclazine, of which I got 200 tablets in the States in late August since it can’t be purchased in Canada anymore (?).


Up until this point Pete has tried everything else for seasickness,; Sea bands, garlic, ginger, Gravol, scopolomine…  Nothing seemed to ever be effective..  Until Meclazine!!  This was a blessing beyond measure.  For both Joss and Pete, the side effects seem to be dry mouth, ear pressure, slight mind fog, but compared to seasickness, much *much* better.


Near Newport, Oregon we learned that the weather was forecast to come up big and strong from the south…  We dicided to wait it out in Newport.


Checking into Newport was straight forward.  While approaching, Neli thought we were going to get to meet the President, since she thought that was who would be the official greeting us, who we were busy preparing for…  Turned out it was Officer Hanna who came.  Happily, he allowed us to keep all of our food stores and provisions which was a good thing since the only grocery store in walking distance was a truck stop like place that sold mostly beef jerky, soft drinks, cigarettes and lotto tickets.

The weather was favourable by September 23 so we set off again.  We knew we wanted to give Cape Mendocino lots of room, since the wind seems to get accelerated there…  We chose to stay 150 nm offshore at that point.  As it was, we still had gale force wind from the north around the latitude of Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino.  The tow generator was excellent, as was all the equipment actually.  The only issue was that the staysail window blew out since there was such back and forth force on it with rolling in some of the waves with gusts up to 40 knots.

Pete, Joss and I set up a night watch system of 3 hours on, 6 hours off, with Joss taking the first shift til midnight, then Pete when he’d pull in faxes at 01:00 followed by my watch 03:00 to 06:00 and Joss would come on again.  Throughout the day Pete and Joss would get naps as required.  I didn’t seem to nap much although my memory is foggy on that now….

What did the kids do?  Lots of audio books helped.  And movies…  And seeing dolphins :). We had a halfway party when Neli and I made carrot cake muffins with icing and everything, but most people were too seasick at that point to enjoy them…  A few days later though once things calmed down a bit we had a nice evening meal out in the cockpit and got to savor it all a bit.





On October 4 we arrived at San Diego :). We had only used half of our fresh water (~150 L since our capacity is 300L) and we still had about 100L of diesel fuel.  At the police docks which is right beside the customs and immigration docks, we tied up and breathed a big sigh of relief.  We had made it!!!  We did it :).