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 28, 2011

Broken Down in La Paz Ain't Sooo Bad....

Honestly, if you have to be broken down, it's not too bad a place to choose. It's certainly a lot better place to find ourselves than our friends on Ceilydh who are 200 miles from the Marquesas with only one rudder (just like us with one engine, a catamaran really isn't meant to only have one rudder!) Jokes aside, we are worried for them and are sending them the best as they make their way to safety.

Anyway, La Paz is a lovely town and the weather is warm and sunny with pretty benign winds. The harbor at La Paz offers a safe place to anchor without incurring marina fees. There are several other teens around for Jack to hang with. There is a great beach for Rudy to play on. And there is a nearby bar with good internet for me. (You know it's bad when the bartender comes around to shake your hand and kiss you on the cheek every time you come into the bar!)

And so, we sit here in La Paz figuring out our plan. The sail drive needs to be completely replaced which would mean a $5,000+ USD bill for us. So that would be about 3 or more months budget - Ouch! Unfortunately, that sail drive would be the 4th completely new Yanmar sail drive placed on the boat in 2 and half years by certified Yanmar mechanics. Not counting the one that was simply rebuilt when it failed after one month of use. Believe me, it is a long story and it will be coming to a computer near you soon!

But in the meantime, we are enjoying our predicament as best we can and counting the many blessings we have.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Secret Beach

(We are currently still in La Paz waiting for a resolution to our sail drive issue, but we found this beach before our breakdown.)

One of Jack's and my favorite activities is beachcombing. Patrick loves it too because it means he gets the boat all to himself while we beachcomb. Jack looks for fishing lures (it's amazing how many rapalas he finds in good shape) and I look for shells.

Since this is our third season in the Sea, our goal is to seek out the "unknown anchorage." We're going to try to be more like our friends on Eyoni who are always heading off the beaten path. We've already seen many of the no-brainer anchorages that are well known, well-written about and often crowded. Anyone looking at a map could figure out that they would provide good shelter. This time we are consulting the old guide books and Google Earth to see if any little indent looks promising for a good night's sleep and a new experience. Since they aren't the deepest of coves, you have to be a little more careful of your weather conditions and always post a "rock watch" to make sure there aren't any free-standing obstacles or reefs in the anchorage.

There are two advantages the unknown anchorage offers - no neighbors and less-walked beaches. In this lower section of the Baja, we didn't think we would find anything very interesting since there are so many cruisers in this area right now. After all, this is the "cruising season" of the Sea of Cortez. The area is crawling with cruisers and the popular anchorages have up to 18 boats in them. Most everyone is finished on the mainland coast for the winter and they come here for a few months before packing up the boat and leaving it in a marina before the hurricane season. By June, the part-timer cruisers will be back home, leaving the Sea to all the crazy people willing to brave the heat and hurricanes.

So, it didn't seem possible that we would find a beach that someone hadn't walked just that morning. Oh, but we did! We went to a little indent on an island that we couldn't find mentioned in any of the cruising guides we have on board. Our reward was finding a beach that had more amazing shells than I have ever seen on any other beach. One type of shell (the one with the triangular markings) I have never found any place else! Most beaches offer up one or two shells in good shape, but usually sun bleached, their deep colors often faded to cream with faint markings. On this beach I found a hatful of beautiful shells with deep colors, and shiny finishes. It was amazing. I felt like a kid on an Easter Egg hunt - one beautiful treasure after another.

The pictures show a close up of the shells with the triangular markings (I don't have a shell identification book so I don't know the names). All of the shells on the blue cloth are the ones that I found on our Secret Beach in just an hour of looking.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Broken Down and Back in La Paz - A new adventure begins

We just set the hook down in the harbor of La Paz, about six months earlier than we intended. It's pretty disappointing, but like anything in life, every situation has a good and bad side.

We left La Paz all excited to start our continued exploration of the Sea of Cortez about two weeks ago. We were having a great time hitting new anchorages, and finding a new one of our own. Then one morning, we were messing around trying our hand at sailing off the anchor (how I wish sometimes that there was a salty old sailor stuffed in a closet somewhere on the boat that I could pull out for consultations!) We got it figured out and were sailing off but the wind was a little light to go very fast so I started up one engine to give us a boost. (I know, it's cheating, but sometimes you just want to GET someplace. My friends call me the Deisel Queen.) And then Jack came out on deck and said, "That doesn't sound right." Patrick came out, lifted the engine hatch, and hollered for me to turn off the engine.

The curse of the sail drives had returned. We've been dealing with a little salt water intrusion in our sail drives since we bought the boat. It's a very common occurrance on multihulls. We've been hauled five times and had the sail drives changed twice in the last two and a half years because of it. The current sail drive has had salt water intrusion for about the last year. We had two different mechanics look at the current sail drive in the last couple months and both said it looked ok and to just watch it. Well, the ball bearings finally are giving out. The engine is making a lot of noise but the transmission is not shot yet.

Since that moment we have been working to get back to La Paz, against the wind. Many mono-hull owners have smugly said to me over the years that we have struggled with our one sail drive, "Well, we only have one engine and we do just fine." News flash for Leaners (people who own monohulls) - catamarans are meant to have two engines and they can't manuever in confined spaces with one. Believe me. We had a couple exciting experiences getting our boat off the anchor in the last few days on one engine, in the wind, without hitting other parked boats or the rocks. It's taken us five days to get back since we got pinned down by a strong south wind.

As I said, we haven't been here long enough to have any answers about our repairs. We have a lot to figure out. We may have to go to Mazatlan. Thankfully we have lots of time and no constraints - no visitors are scheduled and the hurricane season won't be a problem for us for another couple months. So we will keep you posted, but for the mean time, we are back in a beautiful city that we are only beginning to know. How many more great taco stands are waiting for us to find?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Make the Leap

We recently received a very nice comment on our blog that I've been thinking about since I read it. I started a private email back to them, but then thought to turn it into a blog post. The comment read: Love your blog! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience. I spend most of my free time dreaming about what you are doing. My family of 5, me being 38 and no where near retirement makes this seem so far away. Maybe you can tell us/me what my wife and I would need financially to get rid of everything and sail away like you? We have agreed that in 10 years when the kids are gone we will sell everything but that doesn't tell us how much residual income we need to have each year to stay "afloat". I am concerned we'll never save enough for this. Any thoughts? Jay and Patty I never really blogged about our jump into this life since we did it on hyperspeed over six months and we barely had time to breathe, let alone blog about it. Our blog starts out on our trip south on our boat. There are a couple blogs I follow right now that deal extensively with all the decisions and steps to disentangle yourself from your present life. I'll give the links here to the stories of one couple who is out now doing it on Zero to Cruising and the other who is a family working toward leaving on Del Viento. You might find those interesting. The biggest thing you need is the guts to jump and will to do it. It's scary and everyone you know is going to be telling you that you are NUTS. Don't believe them. There are lots of people living this life all over the world and they aren't (for the most part) millionaires. Once you have the guts and will, the rest is easy. Well, relatively. It is hard to try to figure out what you will need to be happy in this life when it is so hard to even conceptualize what the life is like. We've been out 2 1/2 years now and we finally know what we need to be happy living on a boat. It's different for everyone. But there are a few bites of wisdom I can tell you that will help you figure out how much money you will need to be happy out here living this life. You need a boat, obviously. The boat you choose has a big impact on your cruise. Keep it simple or you will be sorry. Sailboats are cheaper to run since they sip fuel and wind is free. Buy the smallest sail boat that you will be comfortable on. Two people who like each other don't need a lot of space. If you follow that rule, then you save in several ways. Most importantly, the boat will be more affordable. It will be cheaper to place in marinas. It will have fewer components (heads and the like). Therefore you have less maintenance. Which also means you have more time to play and less time and money spent maintaining. Try as best as you can to own your boat outright. You will make your life much more enjoyable. The simpler you keep your boat, the easier/cheaper/less time it is to maintain. Beyond that bit of advice, the rest is just too dependent on you and what kind of cruising you want to do. Some people love being in marinas and so they will need a lot more money. Some people want to travel the world which is going to be more expensive than hanging around in a relatively cheap area to live. The longer we spend in Mexico the more we figure out how to save money. Right now we are very comfortably living on about $1500 per month. There are several sailing families who publish detailed info on their budgets. One is our friends on Hotspur and the other is our friends on Third Day. I can tell you this with certainty. There are LOTS of retired couples living this life and having a great time. It is completely possible that you and your wife can finagle your way out here and have a great time, if you want to. Save your money, cut back now on your silly expenditures and save, save, save. Stay focused. One of my favorite quotes is "Chance favors the prepared mind."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back on the Baja

We've been back on the Baja (our favorite place) about three weeks now. It feels so great to be here. We have been filling our time with little projects and lots of goofing off. Once my sister's visit was over, we spent a few more days hanging around La Paz, and then decided that we needed to get the heck out of Dodge. We headed back out into the islands around La Paz, mostly lazing around but getting a few projects done. I spent two days re-stitching and repairing the dinghy chaps (the sunbrella cover that saves our Zodiac dinghy from sun damage and Rudy's claws). They were made for us two years ago in Mazatlan, and they were definitely showing their age. I have also been spending hours trying to learn everything to pass the upcoming Ham radio test that is scheduled for April 6th. For those of you hoping to cruise some day, I really encourage you to get your Ham License before you go. But that really is another blog for another day.