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What Now? Navigating Life in the Pandemic

Diane Cherry

Ricky T
Constellation
June 26th, 2022

“What happened to you during the pandemic?” one could ask. Who could have predicted that life would take such a crazy twist? March 2020 and news of the pandemic was filtering into our world in the boatyard in Guaymas, Mexico.

We were told to be ready to leave, and then things just went on hold. We could not finish the work we had started on our hull nor start any other projects. We had to be ready to head north with little notice. This situation held until the end of April. Most of the people in the boatyard had been here for months; many of us had already been sick and recovered. Few people wanted to head north where the news seemed so chaotic compared to life in the boatyard. Things around town did start to tighten up. Only one person per vehicle and only one person from a household was allowed to enter a supermarket.

Fortunately for us we had a decent supply of nonperishables and could pick up what else we needed just up the street at the Oxxo store. As lockdowns started in the US and Canada,  boats began arriving at the yard. The influx of people fed fears of more risk of someone bringing the virus and changed the situation there. New arrivals were given very little time to prepare their boats before they had leave the yard, and those of us who had been there all winter were making our plans. Some of the boaters drove north to their homes in either the US or Canada. Some preferred to launch their boats and either take their chances in the Sea Of Cortez or head north either doing the “bash” or via Hawaii. Our boat was not splash-ready; we had a motorhome with us so we left April 27 to begin the drive back to Canada.

Homeward bound via land yacht via Montana; working on the cattle farm in SE BC

Entry into the US went smoothly and driving through the States back to Canada was mostly quite pleasant. We could purchase fuel and supplies as needed and an RV gives you the luxury of stopping when and where you want. Most truck stops in the US are very welcoming to people parking overnight. The trip took us about five days. We crossed into Canada near Creston, BC on May 2. Having the motorhome allowed us a place to quarantine. We were very fortunate in being able to do the quarantine on a rural piece of property of a family member. We had locally-produced beef and farm-fresh asparagus delivered to our doorstep. The two weeks passed and then we were living and helping out around the farm. We had spent time the previous summer at the same place so we had many ways in which we could contribute to daily chores. The motorhome or “Land Yacht” as we prefer to refer to it was still our living quarters. The house on the farm did of course add much more luxury by way of a full kitchen and shower and laundry as well. We did not have to make too many trips into town and there were lots of side roads to walk for exercise. Sometimes you could almost forget the pandemic.

Creston Flats, Spring 2020

The summer passed, and although we were fortunate in the options we had of where to live during the early stages of the pandemic, it did not pass without some very harsh events. First there was the death of one of our sailing crew who had spent a month with us travelling from Victoria to Cabo San Lucas. Kevin was the youngest by far of our crew and had planned to continue sailing with us (along with Les, our fourth crew member) for part of the trip south.

Our hopes were still that we would be able to head south to our boat in Guaymas again in the fall of 2020. We did know people who were flying to return to their boats, but we had large items such as a 20 foot spinnaker pole, a new genoa and numerous other items that made flying unattractive for us. As summer turned closer to fall it became apparent that heading south was not likely to happen for us. If we did fly down to check on the boat and do what we could without the materials we needed, we were still very concerned about issues returning to Canada.

With a further hiccup of a health emergency, reality was setting in hard that we needed a place to winter in BC. The motorhome was too old to be allowed into a commercial campground. We purchased a newer and larger motorhome and started looking for a spot to rent for the winter. There was not a single lot available; two places agreed to put us on their waiting list. Somehow the prospect of spending the winter parking a motorhome on the street until we got told to move along was not appealing. A friend told us about a cooperative-type place where you could buy a share and thereby have an RV lot. We checked it out and decided that was our best option.

Qualicum Bay, home and a lovely view!

The plus side of this place in Qualicum Bay is that the location is beautiful. Steps from the ocean is not the same as being on your boat, but it certainly calms some of the anxiety a sailor feels when separated from their vessel. Normally, the various government bodies do not allow year round living in these campgrounds but with COVID other options were severely limited so the rules were modified.

Even beautiful Vancouver Island has its weather woes. This certainly was not how we had anticipated spending winter after sailing our boat to Mexico. We were fortunate that it did not snow more, but the amount of rain was hard to take after two winters of almost none. Spring did come at last and along with it came sunshine and hot weather. We spent time away in July in Vancouver, and then August was spent in the Kootenays visiting family. The larger motorhome went with us to the Kootenays. Being a “land yacht” it of course came with the same trials of travel as cruising often does.

Our second summer since the pandemic passed and, as fall progressed, there was finally an opening of the Canada-US border for driving. We packed up our van and headed south on November 15th, 2021. We caught what I believe was the last ferry to the mainland that day. The rain and the wind were definitely something to be reckoned with. We were very fortunate that although our drive to Seattle was slowed by the big storm, we were not impacted by it as so many others were. There was a stop in Seattle to visit family and do some shopping for boat supplies and, again, we headed south. The drive was not uneventful with one breakdown. It was not lost on us that the person who came to our rescue after many refused, including a tow company, was a man very much down on his luck but trying hard to climb back out. He put a great deal of effort into getting us operational again. We happily paid him for his work. He told us he was on his way north to the next state to do some tile laying. If not for our predicament he likely did not have enough cash to buy gas to get himself and his tools to the job. Certainly the accommodation of the RV was missed during the repairs but the actual driving time was reduced.

Working on and in the boat in Guaymas

November 22nd we drove into the boatyard In Guaymas Mexico and began sorting out what had and had not survived the 20 months, including two hot summers, of our absence. The length of time away had taken a big toll on the boat in many ways. The warm and dry weather was so welcoming to us. We set about trying to ready the boat to splash and cruise the Sea of Cortez. Finding supplies to work with, figuring out what stores sold what and how to locate them, hiring help for the jobs we could not do on our own, and trying once again to learn the language all proved extra hurdles to maneuver. We had brought a lot of items with us for completing our projects and paid heavily at the border into Mexico in taxes. We had planned to splash in February but projects took longer than expected. We decided to stop worrying about a deadline and enjoy the weather and surroundings. There were many people coming and going from the boatyard – old friends to catch up with new acquaintances as well. Six months passed quickly and once again it was time to head north.

We likely have another month of work to do to get splash-ready when we return in the fall. Having sold most of  what we owned to live aboard and having really felt at home on the boat, it has been difficult to have to leave our vessel behind and live on land for the summers. Many of the sailing community we met have chosen to attain either long term visas or temporary or permanent resident status in Mexico. For us, that is definitely something we are considering. Despite knowing that Mexico has summer temperatures that we would find hard to tolerate, there would be comfort in knowing that we did not have to leave our floating home.

Comments


  1. Donna Sassaman says:

    Thanks for the really interesting account of ‘What I Did during [my] COVID [vacation], Diane! Wonderful photos. Wishing you and Dave happy cruising adventures in the coming year.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent recounting of your trials and tribulations. Hopefully, it will be smooth sailing now.

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