One of the key steps when purchasing a boat is the survey and sea trial. Being that Sea Shifter was located in Puerto PeƱasco, Mexico, we had to make some quick decisions about whether this boat felt right for us, and whether it was worth the time and cost of Stu travelling to see her in person, which ultimately meant:

  1. Fitting it into the remaining time we had Kennedy hanging with us (as Erin was still working full-time);
  2. Expense of flights, hotel and food;
  3. Expenses of engaging the surveyor, dropping Sea Shifter into the water, conducting an engine oil analysis, and returning Sea Shifter to the ‘hard’ in the boat yard; and
  4. Stu having to self-isolate within our home in order to comply with the Government of Canada quarantine obligations upon his return (which included sleeping in a separate bedroom, mask-wearing and social distancing within our own home, which has its challenges with two small children)

With a modest amount of reflection (fit in between work, wrangling kids, sorting and purging everything we owned and preparing to move by the end of November) we decided it was worth everything for Stu to make the sojourn.

Stu rocking the window seat on his near-empty flight from YVR to PHX

Stu’s journey from Whistler, B.C. began with an early start at Vancouver’s International Airport, YVR. Travel was smooth and easy from their to Phoenix, Arizona, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place and a near-empty plane. From there Stu caught a shuttle with Las Nenas Shuttle Company, which took him from Phoenix straight to the USA/Mexico border crossing at Lukeville, AZ. We had wondered if Stu would be permitted to enter Mexico via the land border, but he was able to walk across with the border guard not even opening passport (but conducting an obligatory drug-smuggling check of his carry on luggage). From there it was a Mexican minivan ride to Puerto Penasco surrounded by cacti a colourful sunset, typical of what we’ve seen before on the Baja.

An example of a sunset not atypical to the Baja, taken on our first adventure to the region, just outside of Los Barrilles

Stu and the owner of Sea Shifter, Ken, met up for some tacos and beer and share stories of Ken’s ventures aboard, and our dreams for the future. The next day start bright and early (for Mexico) with meeting the boat surveyor, Tim, and heading to the boat yard to start the process. While Tim and Ken chatted, Stu had time to do some exploring and start exploring the items we needed to discuss about Sea Shifter’s condition. Sadly there was little wind for the sea trial, but Stu did get a few minutes on the beautiful Sea of Cortez to see how the sails hoisted and a catamaran performs. Items were identified, lists were made, discussions were had.

The owner of Sea Shifter, Ken, and all the condiments awaiting the tacos!
Sea Shifter sitting in the slings at the Cabrales Boatyard, awaiting the sea trial.
Stu checking out the helm station on Sea Shifter.

Soon the day was over and Stu was meeting up with our new friends and coaches, Behan and Jamie Gifford of SV Totem. For an example of an incredible family and their adventures, as well as a plethora of information and advice, check out their website here.

Siobhan, Mairen, Jaime and Behan Gifford from SV Totem.

The next day brought about further inspections and discussions, as well as discussions with the awesome owner of Cabrales Boatyard, where the boat is currently being stored, making sure we’d be well-sorted for storage ‘on the hard’ (out of the water in the boat yard) until we are able to get to Mexico. Stu was able to enjoy some more tasty Mexican fare with Ken, as well as another visit with SV Totem and the family from SV Pablo.

The adventure really took off when Stu started his journey home. We had suspected that there might be difficulty for Stu crossing the land border from Mexico into the USA, but we’d heard mixed reports from a variety of sources, so figured it was worth the attempt. Unfortunately, our fears became a reality as Stu approach the boarder crossing and the very kind border guard stopped Stu as soon as he saw the front of his passport. He very kindly acknowledged there wasn’t much logic about the fact Stu could cross by airplane into the States, but wasn’t allowed to cross by land, but that Stu would be best to find a bus to a larger city some six hours away, Hermosillo, and to catch a flight home from there. What had been slated to be a 12 hour journey home then turned into a 42 journey, including taxis, buses, and aeroplanes. Stu made it to Hermosillo by nightfall, and waited out the night at the very lovely Hotel Lucerna before catching a flight to Phoenix the next morning. The next day started with the Uber trip to the airport, the flight from Phoenix to Seattle, and then from Seattle back to Vancouver before the drive back to Whistler where he finally arrived safe and sound at 1am the next day.

Sea Shifter ‘on the hard’. Hopefully she won’t be there much longer and we’ll be ‘splashing’ her soon to start our new adventures.