Sandingo, family sailing adventure to Mexico


The crew of Sandingo high atop Isola Isabella, a tiny bird sanctuary island in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. Only about 4 boats can anchor here at once, ours is boat on right.

This is our first winter, out for 5 months 1998-1999. Dennis and I were already bluewater sailors when we met in Antigua in 1978. These 9 months sailing in Mexico were the result of a 10 year plan which included building Sandingo from scratch. She is a 42 foot Ted Brewer custom design aluminum sailboat which Dennis and boat builder John Dearden built in 19 months, launched 1993 in Gibsons, BC.

Crew are Dennis, Jake 13, Ben 11 and Paula, ageless...

Sailing techie stuff....

Dennis took this photo from the top of the 50 foot mast on the delivery trip from British Columbia to San Francisco which he did with 3 other fellows. They were friends before and remain fast friends after their rip-roaring 4 day trip down the coast, something not all bluewater crews can say. They enjoyed 30-50 knot winds and spent most of the trip with a triple reefed main tied central and the 2 foresails poled out to each side. Their best GPS speed over land was 15 knots which is very fast, considering hull speed is about 8 knots.


Jake and friends. Jake took correspondence Spanish both winters. The kids did their schoolwork pretty much every morning from about 9 till 1. After that, Jake would take off, his skateboard under his arm and head off. He made friends easily and went completely native, sometimes only coming back from his Mexican friends homes around 10 or 11 at night.

This 13 year old had been a bit "full of lip" before the trip, but being aboard a 42 foot boat meant there was simply no room for crap and so it evaporated. A big plus - NO TV!!!


One of our BIG neighbors, a humpback whale easily bigger than our boat. These leapt and smashed into the water all around us, and even swam down underneath us, a little unnerving but so exciting!!


Hauling the boat out for the summers between winter trips in San Carlos. We headed home for the summer between our two winters for the kids to continue their regular schooling and work on Pavelka and during this time, we set everything in place to launch KidzSmart as soon as we returned in 2000.We eventually brought the boat back to BC on a truck instead of sea via Hawaii.

View overlooking our favorite spot, Chacala. Nayarit. It is a great destination for a family sailing adventure with a perfect crescent beach and warm and friendly people.
We stayed in Chacala 3 weeks. Although we had a desalinization watermaker unit for drinking water, eventually the laundry and sheets needed to be done, and more than what I usually did daily in a meager few inches in the bottom of the sink. I took over our friend’s backyard washtub and washstones and hung our sheets up over the simple earth yard. Imagine camping with a big aluminum tent and you get the picture.
Of course I had a sewing machine aboard! Here a friend repairs some canvas work.Our nine months aboard were a wonderful family adventure and I heartily recommend it to anyone. I also recommend to NOT bring a TV. You meet so many more people when you have to make your own entertainment. Our first Xmas potluck which started as 6 boats getting together grew to a fabulous party at an abandoned hotel in La Paz with 130 people, 27 children and 5 piñatas. Huge fun! Our gifts to each other were a sarong, a bamboo backscratcher, a People magazine and a couple of other tiny things. Perfect, priceless and simple!


Jake enjoying the water, in his kayak which he used to get ashore by himself and swinging out over the side of the boat on a rope swing. We had no TV or computer and had to make our own entertainment.


Ben was more shy and was not able to learn as much Spanish as Jake. He’s a big reader and we spent lots of time playing board games and cards. We made many friends in the cruising community and a few ashore, too.


With friends from Chacala, Nayarit where we spent our 2nd Xmas and also saw in the new Millennium. The pineapple drinks were at the Xmas feast of pig roasted in a earthy pit covered with hot rocks and buried for 24 hours to roast slowly.


Views of quiet bays we explored. Exquisite…


Mexico is HOT so I had made this big canvas tent to tie up overhead to help keep us cool. We put it up at every stop we were spending more than one night in. We almost always stayed out at anchor, choosing to go to mainly very small and humble places instead of bigger cities and marinas.