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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Crazy, Crazy Story about the Universe

This story involves a giant leap of faith, luck, sailors, Cruising World, and Trans-Pac winner Peter Hogg. But it really all starts with Mark Schrader and Ocean Watch.

Ocean Watch is a 64 foot cutter that left Seattle in May 2009, headed north around the Artic Circle, down the east coasts of North and South America, around the Horn, and back up the west coast, on its way back to Seattle. An amazing 28,000 mile journey funded in part by the likes of the Tiffany Foundation, in association with the Pacific Science Center and Sailors for the Sea. Its mission is to document/research the challenges our oceans face with pollution, acidification, global warming, etc. Their journey has been covered over the months by Cruising World, Latitude 38 and other news sources. Ocean Watch is pulling into La Cruz tomorrow, her last foreign stop before hitting the States. A big deal, and very cool....but why are we so excited? Because the man who is our Patron Saint of Sailing is the captain of Ocean Watch, Mark Schrader.

You may think we are overstating our gratitude, but honestly, when you hear the WHOLE story of how Mark has helped us, you will see that he really is the one man responsible for getting us out here on our boat. It is one crazy story of the universe providing everything we needed to make our dreams come true, and Mark was a big conduit.

We came to know Mark since he is a personal friend and business partner with Patrick's brother, Neil. We knew he was a SAILOR, having circumnavigated solo not once, but twice. Once for himself, and once in the BOC Challenge (an around-the-globe-alone sailboat race). He's a real sailor, one who bleeds salt water. At the time, he was the only person we knew who even owned a sailboat. When our life on land started dragging us down, we started kicking around the idea of casting off the lines, but it just seemed so HUGE. Could we do it? Mark's answer was simply "yes." A small kick in the pants, but a good one.

Our biggest concern was that we had virtually NO sailing experience. A problem that Mark solved by inviting Patrick to help him crew Mark's new boat (the future Ocean Watch) up from its place of purchase in Mexico to the States. In April 2007, Patrick took two weeks off work to be one of the crew for a leg of the trip. The other crew members included Herb McCormick, editor at large for Cruising World and Dave Logan, all very experienced sailors.

It turned out to be a two week, personalized sailing school. And it yeilded other rewards. In one famous conversation on the boat, Patrick got Herb and Mark to debate about what type of boat we should buy. Mark (having seen some of what the ocean can dish out) wanted us to have "a boat that would take us to Hell and back." And Herb wisely pointed out that we didn't WANT to go to Hell and back. Herb is the man who pointed out that we really needed a catamaran. Months after we were cruising, Herb wrote a nice article about our decision for Cruising World on-line back in February, 2009 ( http://www.cruisingworld.com/cruising-life/living-aboard/it-took-them-just-a-minute-to-buy-the-boat-and-head-south-1000069046.html )

We started actively shopping for a catamaran after our house sold in June 2008. There weren't a lot of them on the West Coast - just three in our price range (if we stretched the range out almost double of what we were going to spend!) We found one in the San Francisco area that looked really promising - a 2001 with less than 50 hours on the engines! We went to see the boat and meet the owner's agent. Negotiations proceeded over weeks to the point of the test sail. But again, we were stumped. We didn't know anything really about what you should look for when buying a sailboat, let alone a catamaran. We had only been on a catamaran once before, for four hours (we had chartered one with a captain just to see what it felt like sailing on one). How could we be sure that we were getting a "good" boat? What to do? Mark had the answer again.

We told Mark that we had found a boat that looked promising in CA, and that we were going to go down for the test sail. Mark said, "I have a good friend in San Francisco that could go out with you on your test sail. I'll give him a call." And that is how we had the amazing fortune to have Peter Hogg, five time winner of the famous Trans-Pacific yacht race, multihull division come out with us on the future Just a Minute for a sail around San Francisco Bay! Peter builds and races multi-hulls and so he KNOWS his way around catamarans. It's like having Mario Andretti come and help test drive a car you are thinking of buying.

What an honor, and what a guy! Peter is an imposing, rangy (more than 6'3"?), guy with a sun/wind touched face and a left over Kiwi accent. And to make things even more amazing, his good friend had been coincidentally hired to be our boat surveyor, named Francoise. When Francoise found out that Peter was going on the sail with us, she asked to come along, too! So the cast of characters for our test sail included the boat owner's skipper, the boat broker, Peter, Francoise, Patrick and myself.

It is hard to describe that surreal day spent sailing around SF Bay. For Patrick and I, it was a lovely tourist's dream. We could have easily been sipping champagne as we sailed past Alcatraz and the Gate, not even lifting a finger, just enjoying the sights. Meanwhile Peter and his friend (our surveyor) tore the boat apart, opening every compartment and checking out all the systems. And Peter is not a shy guy. He grilled the owner's skipper, asking lots of very tough questions. He was brilliant and ruthless. The poor skipper had no idea what hit him. At one point Patrick turned to me and whispered, "Peter's an asshole." I whispered back, "Yeah, and he's our asshole!" Peter and Francoise spent hours and hours with us on that day. It was so amazing, and so kind.

At the end of the day, Peter turned to Patrick and I and said quietly under his beath, "She's a good boat." That was all we needed. We had an iron-clad endorsement, and we purchased our new home without qualms a few days later. The rest of the story has been documented over the last year and a half in our blog, so you don't need to hear that again.

The universe loves tidy circles, and this story is proof of that. Today we sit in Mexico on our beautiful boat, eagerly expecting the arrival of Ocean Watch and her crew (including Mark, Herb and Dave) here in Banderas Bay. They were there to nurture our dream and here now to see the "completion" of our dream. We have been in contact with them throughout their voyage Around the Americas (their website is http://www.aroundtheamericas.org/ ) and arranged to meet.


  1. We're glad that Mark & crew have their very own welcoming party to greet them. We've been following their travels online. Enjoy your time together! KR&G

  2. Great story on Just-A-Minute's inception.
    What city is the Zoo in?
    How much mileage are you getting from the CEMEX shirts in Mexico? You can have mine.
    Buena suerta.

  3. Yes, the universe loves tidy circles. Great story. You never know who you're going to run into around the corner...or wave.