The first day of our navigation from La Paz to San Carlos, the wind was coming from the north, as usual. However, it was very light, so we could head north using the motor. On the second day, the wind picked up, so we crossed the Sea of Cortez, with a full crosswind. Pinocchio glided on the water wonderfully all sails up! We had a pleasant passage on this nice sea, protected from the swell. Hundreds of dolphins joined us, jumping high into the air on either side of Pinocchio! Then, we reached a windless area as we arrived on the mainland side, so we smoothly continued north using the engine. In the end, it took us only three days, without any stops! We therefore have plenty of time to prepare Pinocchio for the haul out! The anchorage was quite crowded, but we still managed to find a little spot to anchor.

The mornings were nice and calm in the bay, but the afternoons were always windy. It’s often like that on the water. It’s usually better to travel by dinghy early in the day and to be back before noon. After paying the marina fee for parking the dinghy, Marcus and I went on a “date” at the grocery store without the kids. We found beautiful fresh avocado, tomatoes, textured soy protein and corn tortillas! All at a reasonable price!

—There you go! That will make an excellent Mexican dish for dinner!

The children were happy! We never go to the restaurant because it’s too expensive for our family of nine. But I always make sure we get to taste typical dishes from the country visited by cooking it myself, using local recipes and ingredients.

The same day, our friends from the Bleu Nomade bus arrived in the area! We therefore spent the next 10 days with them in the nearby bay of Playa del Piedra! Here is a short video of the ascension of Mont Tetakawi with them.(See also the text written by Charlotte: Good time with friends!)


Back in San Carlos, we continued to get ready for hauling out.

—Take out the screwdrivers, Felix. I want you to remove everything you find on the walls.

—I want to do it too, said the two youngest.

—I’ll remove the Marshallese handicrafts, said Alice.

—I’ll remove those from the San Blas, added Juliette.

—Hey! Don’t touch the knife from the Kiribati islands, insisted Felix.

All these souvenirs accumulated over the years, as we travelled from one country to another, added something special to our interior decoration… Without them, the walls of the boat suddenly looked so dull. But that was only for a while. It would look much nicer once we put a fresh coat of paint, believe me, after more than six years of travelling! Marcus had given a few touch-ups and repainted the floor in 2020, but the paint didn’t hold. This time, we planned to scrape off the peeling paint, sand the surfaces, clean with vinegary soapy water and dry with methyl alcohol. Paint is better to stick! It’s so much work … and money!

—Should we remove the cleats for the ropes that hold the books in the library? Florence asks, as perceptive as ever.

—Yes, my dear! We remove everything!

Beware! The Wheels are Sinking in!

Meanwhile, Marcus and I went back to the grocery store. As we arrived to the marina, we noticed that major work had been undertaken on the boat launch. All the concrete had been removed and the descent was completely unusable. It was Tuesday and the haul out was scheduled on Thursday. There definitely was something wrong! Yet, when I talked about my concern to the marina’s manager, he told me that everything would be back to normal soon enough. Hmm… Marcus looked at me and said:

—Let me doubt it!

So, on Wednesday evening, Marcus went to the ramp with the dinghy. The steamroller was levelling the gravel in the launching area, but still no concrete was poured. That wasn’t reassuring! Besides, the wind didn’t calm down in the evening. It blew forcefully all night. Marcus couldn’t sleep. He imagined Pinocchio, swept away by a squall, crashing into the large yachts shining like mirrors, all lined up perfectly in the marina.

—I can’t believe they’re planning to haul out our boat in such conditions. I’ll cancel everything tomorrow morning. It doesn’t make any sense! Imagine how bad it will be, with all this wind! I don’t see how I could maneuver in this tight space. Pinocchio will be pushed by the wind and…

—But the wind is usually calmer in the morning. Let’s just wait and see how it goes when the sun rises, I whispered, trying to reassure him without waking up the kids.

—Yes… But normally, it’s quiet at night too. In any case, at daybreak, I’ll go with the dinghy to check it out. It will prevent me from going there with the boat for nothing.

The night was long. We wondered what we should do.

—Should we give up, find another place, or wait a few days?

At dawn, Marcus left. I woke up the children. They came to eat the last slices of dry bread baked two days before. I didn’t inform them of our hesitations. But they knew. One of them had heard our discussions, having been awakened by the wind whistling in the stays during the night. The walls have ears on Pinocchio! Marcus quickly returned and said the wind wasn’t felt in the marina. Plus, the descent had been well flattened, although still without any concrete.

—Take out the mooring lines and the defences. We will go to tie up Pinocchio to the dock in front of the boat launch. We’ll see what happens then… At worst, we will come back here to drop anchor.

Everybody started to ask questions. The captain was exasperated.

—It’s not time to hold discussions, he insists. We must act quickly and be punctual to our appointment!

The kids aren’t used to strict schedules. Well, some of them attended school a few years before we started the voyage, and our two oldest boys worked several months in Ucluelet. Otherwise, we all have been living a fairly “relaxing” life on the boat for the past six years. All the same, everyone got to work. After so many years sailing together, we all knew our roles and held our position without needing explanation. I barely had time to tidy up the kitchen that the anchor was lifted and Pinocchio arrived at the entrance of the marina.

—Johanne, I want you on deck, Marcus told me. Be prepared to intervene with the boathook, just in case.

Soon, the lines were launched and attached to the cleats. Our dog, Brume, whimpered and ran in all directions, looking for a way to jump on the dock. Alice and Florence also begged me for the authorization to disembark.

—You must first prepare your bag with a bottle of water and a snack. We will have to stay on land during the haul out and while Pinocchio is towed to the boatyard.

—I’m the one holding Brume on a leash, insisted Florence, enterprising as always.

—Oh! Don’t forget the poop bag, says Felix, always so ingenious.

The tractor finally arrived. Alerted by the beep, beep, beep, everyone ran up on deck to watch the hydraulic trailer back up into the water. Suddenly, everything stopped and the workers all plunged their eyes in the water at the same time.

—What are they doing? Juliette worries.

—I think the wheels sunk into the mud, I explained. It’s not surprising. In my opinion, they won’t be able to haul out Pinocchio until the boat ramp is covered with concrete.

Indeed, one of the workers came to us and explained with regret that the appointment had to be postponed to the next Monday. Well, oh well! We therefore returned to the anchorage.

—It will have given us the chance to practise, said the captain.

—Yeah! And we were like real pros too! added Thomas proudly.

—That’s right! We did great, approved everyone.

The next few days, we had time to bake a new batch of bread, chocolate bars and date cake. I knew we would be very busy on the boatyard. I wondered how we would have time to cook…

Pinocchio in the Boatyard

Finally, Pinocchio was hauled out of the water. It was funny to see our boat travelling on the road between the marina and the boatyard. Once we arrived, we were given identity cards to have access to the fence and we were all set to start the work.

Hours of work awaited us. It took a lot of strategy and logistics to prevent children and Brume from leaving footprints on the fresh paint on the deck, but also inside the boat. Before we could undertake repainting a room, we first had to empty all its content in another room. The inside quickly became very cluttered and limited in space.

—Uh, where did the plates go?

—And, where do I sit to eat?

The atmosphere in the boatyard was very special. Most people there lived on the water for 6 months and returned home leaving their boat there at the boatyard the other half of the year. Many of them had a car. Noreen and “X” offered me transportation to Guaymas so I could buy the material we needed for the work and get some grocery. Greg drove Marcus to a shop to get the alternator repaired and do some grocery. I finally found whole wheat flour! They were very generous people. Greg gave his cameras to Raphael, another sailor gave Juliette his ukulele, Chantal gave a craft class to the four youngest, and she gave them a gift for Christmas.

We even had a very special visit: Canadian sailors who were in the Marshall Islands at the same time as us in 2020–2021! This couple is over 80 years old and has lived on SV Apolima for many years. They first travelled with their four children, then returned to Canada in order to work a few years. As their desire to be at sea never left them, they decided to sail out again once the children had grown up. I wonder if our desire to be at sea will be gone when we reach their age, or if we will become like them, old seadogs...!

Talking about dogs, Brume really enjoyed her time on land. She could walk around and even had a few visitors, nice little dogs passing by with their owners. But what impressed her the most were the horses on the other side of the fence! Every day, a herd of five or six horses would pass by to go and graze just across the field. They were very pretty! The kids were even able to feed them with pieces of apples on a stick!


In the morning, it’s always cold. But the last one was the worst! We put on our pants, two fleece jackets and our tuque to go to the toilet room. The caretaker of the boatyard laughs at us by the gate!

—Ha! Ha! I’m not the only one freezing tonight! Even the Canadians got dressed warmly!

It’s surprising how warm it can be during the day and how cold it can get at night out there, in the Mexican desert!

So after two weeks at the boatyard, Pinocchio was looking young again and was ready to be launched back in the water! A lot of people had left the boatyard by then. Many had returned home to Canada or the United States for the holidays. It reminded us that winter was coming… And Christmas time too.

It was now time to decide where we would spend the holiday season…

(…)

Charlotte prepared a short video to show you what it is like to work on Pinocchio in the boatyard in San Carlos.

An Inspiring Holiday Season

Pinocchio was finally afloat again! It felt so good to feel the rocking movement again! The weather promised a fairly stable wind from the north. We therefore undertook a beautiful three-day sailing across the Sea of Cortez. Everyone was happy to meet again with the crew of the sailboat Renard in San Juanico Cove, where we decided to spend Christmas.

—We’ve prepared little gifts for you, Juliette announced, unable to hold surprises!

—We have something for you too! It’s hidden in one of our bags, laughed Marie-Michelle as she embarked on Pinocchio.

—Here, I made a Mexican shepherd’s pie, and Marie-Michèle cooked something special for you, said Simon.

—I made a lime and coconut dessert, announced their daughter Charlotte.

The table was covered with a mix of semi-traditional Quebec dishes. I replaced meat pies with empanadas to make it more Spanish! And to conclude the evening, our friends offered us a delicious cane of maple syrup as a gift! Yummy flavours from home! We really enjoyed it!

The next day, we were all invited on Jacques and Françoise’s sailboat. This sailor spent nearly 30 years building his boat before leaving France. Wow, how courageous and perseverant he has been. And what a splendid home! For about ten years now, he has been living permanently on his “baby,” as he calls it. He never returned in France. He had no children. His boat is his whole life.

—That’s an inspiring story, I said dreamily to Marcus. I would feel like continuing to live on the water for a long time too…

—Yes, but I would do like the others in San Carlos: stay 6 months in Quebec in a camper and 6 months on the water in a sailboat…

Mexico seems to have great waters to explore for cruisers. It would be great to come back every year in good season! Speaking of season, as it was winter, the climate there in the north of the peninsula wasn’t so warm. I wore my jacket most of the time, even in the day now. Our children played on the beach, but they didn’t swim. The water was too cold. Day after day, we continued our exploration towards the south passing from one anchorage to another, with the family of the sailboat Renard, always in search of warmer water. Sailing with following winds was pleasant and comfortable. It reminded me the feeling of sailing in the ocean in the trade winds! Looking forward to it!

We next anchored at Salinas Bay, on Isla Carmen, and visited its abandoned village near the salt pans.

Then, we went down to Bahia Aqua Verde where we met a young family who has been travelling in a camper for six months. They were in Alaska at the same time as we were during the summer of 2022 and we had met them a few days before Christmas in San Juanico! Their daughter Zoé and her father came to visit us on Pinocchio on a paddle board. We discussed our lifestyles, our reduced size home, our itineraries… It was inspiring to listen their stories, too…

—Perhaps it gives me ideas for our retirement, Marcus suggests. Why not live full-time in a camper and spend six months in Mexico and six months in Quebec?

—It’s true that it would be simpler than having a sailboat and a camper… No plane and boat storage costs… However, we would somehow be more limited in our movements…

—Yes and no, Marcus replied. Think about it…

During our short stop in Isla San Francisco, Charlotte decided to paint at the top of the mountain. We then stopped for a night in Bonanza Bay in Espiritus Santo where Charlotte went for another hike! 

The New Year had begun, and our time in Mexico came to an end. The next day, we went to La Paz to do the formalities required before leaving a country. Time had passed by too quickly.

Thus, it was time to say goodbye to our friends on SV Renard. They accompanied us to La Paz and prepared a big surprise bag for us, filled with small packages to open on specific days during our navigation. What a generous thought! Thank you folks! We will think of you every day in the Pacific!

Will Get There in Time?

On January 9, 2023, at dawn, the whole family went downtown to do the clearance. We knew that we always have to stamp our passports at the immigration office. We also are usually asked to go to customs and the port authority office. As the latter seems very important here in Mexico, we first went to the office del Capitania del Puerto. It was a thirty-minute walk from the dinghy dock. There, we were asked to fill out forms. Next, we had to go and pay the anchorage fees in a small API office near the lighthouse in front of the municipal wharf. Then we had to return to the first office with proof of payment. It was a 40-minute walk round trip. Then we were asked to go and have our passports stamped and get another form signed at the immigration office. That was an hour’s walk away. Once there, we realize we had the wrong address. The new immigration office was 15 minutes further. We finally entered the establishment, but it was unfortunately crowded with people.

—We’ll never be able to get through before 2 p.m. to be back at the Captain del puerto before closure, worried Marcus.

In the end, the agents called us before everyone else, because we weren’t there for a passport application, only to stamp our passports. It was two different departments! Whew! Good! Well done! We now had to cross the entire city again to finalize everything at the harbour master’s office.

—I’m tired of walking, complained Alice, who had blisters on her feet.

—And I’m starving, added Juliette. We still haven’t had dinner, let me remind you!

—The kids don’t need to be there for this last step, I whispered to Marcus. We should let them go eat something on their way to the marina and meet them at the boat.

Thus, we entrust the youngest to the older ones. We asked them to buy something to eat with the last pesos I had left in my wallet. Marcus and I then walked as fast as possible to arrive before closure. I worried and prayed for the children. Mexico is Mexico… It’s not always safe everywhere… The walk was long. My legs couldn’t keep up the pace. I saw the hands of my watch ticking about…

—We won’t make it, Johanne, Marcus said. We’ll have to start all over again tomorrow to have the right dates on our papers.

—Oh no, it can’t be possible! We should still try our luck. As I understood it, the office will be closed for new applications, but the harbour master might still be there for a while…

When we finally arrived at the door, it was locked. We collapsed on the concrete sidewalk, discouraged.

—If we didn’t get everything done today by leaving the boat so early, how will we succeed tomorrow?

—Qué necessito? asked a voice behind us.

Oh! The harbour master was still here! He must have seen us out the window! Whew! What a relief! Everything was finally settled. We went back to meet the children at the marina, but they had already gone back to the boat. I therefore called Raphaël on the VHF and he came to pick us up with the dinghy. Once on board, everyone was talking at the same time!

—Raphaël chose the biggest jar of ice cream at the grocery store! said Juliette.

—Then we went back to the boat to eat it, Felix added.

—It was so good! exclaimed Alice

—Thomas had to clean his backpack, because melted ice cream flowed everywhere, Florence admitted.

—Shh! It wasn’t necessary to say that! Charlotte scolded.

Oh dear! Kids are kids! That clearance day will be long remembered!

The next morning would be the great departure for new adventures in the Pacific Ocean! We weren’t sure which route to choose yet. Would we opt for going south or north of the equator?

Bye Bye La Paz!


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About the Author

Je suis traductrice et je navigue autour du monde avec mon mari Marcus, nos 7 enfants et notre chienne Brume sur notre voilier Pinocchio à la découverte des océans, des îles, des gens, de la flore, de la faune, des insectes, des poissons, de la culture, de la musique, des arts, de l’histoire et des saveurs d'ailleurs...
I am a translator and I travel around the world with my husband Marcus, our 7 children and dog Brume on our sailboat Pinocchio to discover the oceans, islands, people, flora, fauna, insects, fish, culture, music, art, history and flavors of faraway...

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