Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Patrick has since joined the Sales Team of Marine Servicenter as a boat broker. Whether you are looking to make your dream of sailing away come true, or ready to sell your boat he can help. He can be reached at http://marinesc.com/about/crew/patrick-harrigan

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A response to Kirk

This posting is more of a response to a very nice comment sent in from a man in Toronto (you can see it in the comments section under the last posting.) We love writing this blog and it makes me really happy to hear from people who enjoy reading it. Thank you. This posting is going to answer some of his questions,. If you have questions, write them in. We will try to respond to them in the blog.

In our last posting, I said we would be leaving that day to head out into the islands. Well we didn't. The last thing we did that morning before casting off the lines was to listen to the weather forecast on our single side band radio which is like a ham radio which covers long distances. Six days a week at 8:15 am on the Amigo Net (a radio forum for cruisers) a man named Don Anderson in Oxnard, CA does a weather forecast for mariners on the west coast of Mexico from CA to Guatemala. We listen to him every day and base our decisions on his predictions.

Yesterday morning, Don predicted a wind storm starting on Thursday and dying on Saturday that would produce winds up to 30 knots right in the area where we wanted to travel. So we decided to stay put. Our number one priority is safety and watching the weather is top of the list. Since we have no time frame and no schedule, it is very easy for us to base our travels on the weather. There is no reason to stress yourself, your crew, or your boat out in foul weather if you can avoid it. People can get in trouble when they have a schedule (like guests coming). We have heard several stories of cruisers getting in trouble when they are pushing themselves to make it to a particular area on a time frame.

So all of our passages are made first with an eye on the weather. We don't leave unless it sounds optimum. Because of this, every passage has been pretty mild and enjoyable. The passages we have made - La Paz to Mazatlan is 240 nautical miles, Mazatlan to Isla Isabel was 80 nautical miles, San Blas to Teacapan and Teacapan to Mazatlan are each 60 nm - have mostly been by motoring. They are all day, or overnighters and so speed is of the essence. We never turn off the engines since we are trying to make it as quickly as possible. We do about 6 to 8 knots per hour with our engines at a comfortable RPM. There usually isn't enough wind to even bother putting up the sails. Now that we are on the Baja side of the Sea, there are a ton more anchorages and we won't be making any more long passages.

Despite our caution about weather, Jack and I both still get sea sick when we are first out in the swells. Thankfully the feeling passes after a couple hours. Jack is one tough kid and does not complain. But because of this, our cruising style is different from most others. When we find a place to lay anchor, we tend to stay longer than other cruisers. Lots of cruisers will stop for one night at an anchorage and then leave the next day. We tend to stay at least three to five days. Our plan up north is to find a good spot and settle down for a couple weeks. We plan to be more anchorers than sailors.

Regarding Patrick's handiness, I am passing this over to him.

First, I would like to elaborate on Jack being a tough kid. Usually our passages begin at first light so by the time Jack wakes up we have been underway a couple of hours. Normally he puts his life jacket on. comes out on deck, announces he does not feel well, asks why we ever bought a boat and then proceeds to throw up on deck (usually near the bucket). After which his li'l brother Rudy gleefully cleans it up. After a couple of puking sessions he generally feels better and wants to get the meatlines in for fishing and have some M&Ms. That's it - about one complaint per passage.

The question was raised "if I was handy" Those of you who know me should stop laughing. I would not say I was so much "handy" but more capable. Capable of taking something that works fine and making it not work at all. However, generally I have time to tackle projects at my own leisure, unless of course they fail underway (which happens). It took me three days last week to change one fuel filter. I hate grease under my finger nails and I hate most tools more complicated than a screw driver.

However, in the cruising community we are always surrounded by many experts and a few of them even know what they are talking about. I just choose carefully on who I consult. My most leaned-on sources have been Ken on Summerwings, Colin on MamaBird and most of all by far, Bill on Sunbaby. After meeting someone I decide has a great deal of knowledge and experience I generally throw any pride I have to the wind and with great humility, or at least as close to great humility that I can muster, begin asking the dumbest questions possible. Bill has a lifetime of sailing experience, comes from a family of sailors, and also owns a Lagoon Cat. He claims that he is new at this but generally I know I am getting really good advice when he says "I have no idea about that, but if it were me...", or "My brother once told me...", - then I know it's pure gold.

Occasionally I or Laura has tripped up and begun this process with someone we shouldn't. This happened quite a bit in our early days. The result sometimes cost us a whole day with some man spending lots of time on our boat creating projects that were not on our list. Another source I lean on is good ol' Duane Desrosier from Cemex. Duane and I worked together for many years and I have never met a more mechanical individual. I called Duane the other day when I was struggling with bleeding the fuel lines after changing the fuel filter. Duane does not own a boat yet was still able to describe my filter and where to find the prime pump on my Yanmar as if he were on the boat with me.

Lastly I rely on Jack. Whenever I begin a project Jack becomes quite the skeptic. He usually sits quietly behind me and supervises in near silence. He holds the proper amount of faith in my mechanical abilities (not much). Then I hear "I see a problem" and he patiently explains to me that what I am doing won't work and why. And I have to say he is almost always right. I have come to rely on him when shopping for boat supplies and parts. He has an ability to think through the project in steps and see the potential pitfalls. I generally see the pitfalls once I am in them.

So no, I am not that handy but I am willing to try. We don't know how to sail but we are learning. Since we started this adventure I have torn down the carburetor on our dinghy, changed oil and fuel filters, built a water filtration system for dock water, wired solar panels, battery monitor, stereo, two new breaker panels, gps, etc. Lots of wiring. Yesterday I tore apart all of our winches and serviced them. That was scarier than hell, about 63,479 moving parts all wanting to jump into the sea. But, Bill came over a couple times to supervise and I had a book, so I was able to tear down, service and reinstall all three winches. I have not worked up the courage to tackle the other fuel filter yet. Sitting inside a cramped engine room, lathered in diesel, in the blazing sun is not my idea of a good time.

Systems, systems, systems... the boat is full of them and they all need attention. So I am afraid that this life requires a little discipline. Whenever we are on the hook, Jack and I spend some time with spatulas, snorkeling around the boat cleaning and scraping the hull. Barnacles grow so fast in warm water. The first of each month, I have a check list of things to inspect. One of the things are thru-hull fittings. A thru hull fitting is a pipe with a valve that goes through the hull of the boat to either let water in (fridge coolant, engine coolant, or water maker supply) or let water out (bilge, sinks and heads). They are great for breaking and sinking boats. The day before we left California, Ralph our captain was looking at one, said "This one looks good to me" and gave it a tug. It broke off in his hand. I stood mouth agape, while water came shooting into the boat. Good thing Ralph has a big thumb. We had to be hauled out that day and had 9 of 12 thru hull fittings replaced. I also inspect and clean every water filter, strainer and pump. And every month, as we get more experienced the list gets longer. It sounds like a lot and there is always something that stops working but we have lots of time in this new life. So, if it isn't affecting safety, or Laura's comfort, it can wait until I feel like doing it.



  1. Wow. That's all I can say. So kind of you to take the time with such a fantastic explanation of the questions that I asked of you!

    Everything that you outline is exactly how I've envisioned things. Take your time, don't rush, wait for the weather and generally things will be ok.

    Patrick: your "handiness" factor is exactly the same as mine and gives me hope. Relying on smart and talented people who are happy to help is key as you mention. Thanks for pointing out the potential pitfalls of that approach.

    I love your description of how Jack helps. Our son's name is Jack as well and he's a thinker just like yours. I can see those same traits with him. It was fun to read about it.

    I feel grateful that you took the time to answer. It's so helpful to hear about real-life situations and if they match your expectations.

    If you're still cruising 18 months from now I'll bring you over a bottle of tequila as payback.


  2. Patrick, Laura and Jack,

    We've been all reading the blog since the beginning, but haven't had the ability to post before - due to Mom's lack of computer skills. We have really enjoyed keeping up with you guys and Evan has especially enjoyed reading about Jack's adventures. We certainly miss you guys, but really are enjoying your writings. Evan's bday is coming up and he was reminded the other day of going out with Jack to the Comicon and the movie. Happy sailing, looking forward to reading more. Camille and the kids!

  3. I wonder if I'm allotted time for another question? Presumptuous I know...

    What systems do you have on your boat? Generator, AC, radar, water-maker, washer/dryer, solar panels, wind generator?

    If so what are you using and/or what are you finding you wish you had?

    Thanks again.