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

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Cruising - It's Not Just the Tide

In the beginning of our cruise, we were overwhelmed with the positives.  The weight of the world had slid from our shoulders and every day we would marvel at our good luck.  All of the usual stresses that the average American relates to were suddenly gone.   Patrick and Jack saw  the biggest changes. Jack was no longer moved to tears almost five days a week by the frustration a dyslexic faces at school.   For Patrick the change was remarkable - suddenly no Blackberry glued to his hand morning and night, seven days a week filled with work calls. Today's technology means you are ALWAYS at work. The biggest change for me was losing the hassle of Jack's school and all the hours it took getting him there on time, dressed, with homework in hand and  a lunch. (If you have a kid who hates the school experience, you know what I mean!)   Let alone all the time spent on extra school activities like sports groups, field trips, helping in the classroom, and fund raisers. Suddenly all those hundreds of hours were free since the demands of homeschooling were negligible in return. 

Other things that caused stress that I hadn't even noticed were gone, too.  Suddenly I didn't have a huge house to clean, maintain and improve - no huge kitchen with tons of appliances to keep clean, no huge closets waiting for "fashionable" clothes, no daily pile of laundry since we all changed clothes several times every day, no house-cleaner to hire, no enormous fridge and freezer to be filled with food from Costco trips, no servicing the car, no shopping for stuff to fill all that space.  Let me repeat that - NO SHOPPING for clothes, furniture, linens, towels, home theatres, decorating doo-dads, the latest "must-have" item, electronics, toys for the Jack, computers - you name it.  We didn't need it anymore, didn't want it, and didn't have room for it anyway.

No TV sucking up dozens of hours of "down time",  no newspapers, and very infrequent internet made a big change, too.  Suddenly, without all that awful "news" of  break-ins, violence, murder and rape constantly bombarding us, we lost  that underlying sense of fear and distrust that haunts so many people.  And more importantly, without all that non-stop marketing ramming down our throats, two big changes happened.  First, since we were no longer stressed out and unhappy, we didn't need to buy ourselves some new advertised "treat" because we "deserved it".  Second, we didn't need to impress anyone, any more.  Sadly, I didn't even realize that we had gotten into the trap of competing with the Jones's.  We had to leave the trap, to see we were in it.  We were giddy like school girls.

Suddenly our life was filled with something we had kept at bay - nature.  The American life does a lot to keep nature from interfering with our lives - air conditioning, lights, heat, snug homes and buildings,  and cars all insulate us.  You rarely have to even get wet if it's raining.  Living on the boat, we became attuned to nature and it was a gift.  We rose with the sun, and went to bed with it, too.  If it was cold we put on clothes, if it was hot we went swimming.  If it rained we got wet.  We paid attention to the wind patterns and clouds, analyzed wave/swell directions, and knew the changes of the moon and the tides.  We floated on a tiny oasis in the middle of the vast sea and we marveled at the life around us.  We caught our own food, went on long hikes, snorkeled for hours every day, slept outside under the stars.  We lived in nature, hour after hour, year after year.  It is an amazing experience to be so connected.

I don't think we can ever be the same, and we are grateful for it. Our cruise solidified our family into a very tight knit unit. It gave our son a wonderful education in the world, opportunites for great responsibility and the idea that dreams are goals that can be achieved with work. It taught all of us that "things" aren't important. We learned how to repurpose, recycle, make-do or go without on a whole new level. Jack was allowed to grow up and become his own person without the pressures of a relentless peer group forcing him to "fit in".  For Patrick and I, it gave us time to discover ourselves, and strengthen our marriage. Every minute of every day we worked side by side on our common goals whether it was anchoring, sailing, provisioning, repairing items, trouble shooting, cooking, or parenting. It was a very fun marriage-encounter weekend that lasted four years. Patrick is my best friend, and this experience cemented the bond, permanently.  Another amazing lesson we've learned is to just let things happen and stop worrying about future events.  Never having a schedule and being ruled by weather and breakdowns has completely taken away the feeling that we have control over our lives.  We don't - so stop worrying and planning.  (This lesson would be impossible to live in society, but  is still a valuable thing I will try to remember.)

So what could possibly be the down-side of cruising?  The negative of cruising is that it is a very indulgent lifestyle.   It's self-absorbed and based on pleasure.  Get up when you want.  Go where you want.  See who you want.   Move over there.  Move over here.   Have a potluck.   Meet some people, make some friends.  Go sightseeing.  Have cocktails.   Swimming?   Read a book?   Fishing?  Hiking?  Whatever feels good, dear.  You rarely have appointments to keep, or obligations to fulfill.  It's very social, very fun, and with few worries other than keeping your boat working, your crew fed, and the homeschooling accomplished.   It's bliss.

What's the negative, you ask again?   Honestly, it can be kind of boring.  Oh, you're busy all day long out cruising.  Your day is filled to the brim with mundane tasks, homeschooling and pleasure.  It's just not very challenging mentally, anymore.  After several years of this life, we've figured out most of the conundrums and challenges and the newness of life on a boat has worn off.  It's boring because it's so perfect, so free of stress, so effortless.  It's the boredom of ennui - a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement.  It's a feeling that only a very privileged person (read spoiled) could feel.   We still enjoy finding new anchorages, meeting new people, seeing new sights, but.... (I cringe to say it), "The thrill is gone, for now."

Even if we had won the Lotto and money was no object, our time cruising would be ending for now.  I think the biggest challenge we'll face as we move back onto land will be to keep what we've learned about living a simple, non-materialistic life, and take it back into America with us.  We'll feel bombarded and overwhelmed at first, of that I am sure.   However, I have a feeling we won't be feeling bored for quite some time. 

And after we've lived on land, restocked our money pile, gotten Jack started on his own road, then.....you better believe we'll be back out cruising again.  We love boating, we love the water, we love cruising.  Where?  Who knows.  Mexico is always going to be a love of ours, but we'd love to cruise in the Inland Passage  of Alaska/Canada, or maybe the Mediterranean, too.  It's all good and it's a big ocean. 


  1. This is a very good post! Good luck back on land. GOD bless, JC

  2. Thank you very much for your kind words.

  3. You've pretty much covered the cuiseing life.Nice job.I can't wait to get back there.Tell Jack not to worry about the Dyslexic thing to much.I'm Dyslexic and look how good I turned out. ;)

  4. Hi Jesse,
    You are so kind, I am so glad we got to see you in Loreto. And you are right, once a dyslexic makes it through school, then they usually do very well in life. You just have to make it through.

  5. I can't say for sure how we'll feel when we've been cruising as long as you, but I appreciate your input on this. Since we haven't left yet, it's an unknown. I suspect age has a lot to do with the boredom factor. At my age, I'm ready to be a little bored - I've been living a whirlwind for years and I could use a little staring at sunsets and endless blue vistas.

    Thanks for your consistently good information. We've benefited from it tremendously.

    S/V Kintala

  6. Hi Deb,
    We didn't even begin to feel the down side until the third year or more. Before that we were just giddy with it, so I certainly would just get ready for the time of your life. You are going to love it. I also think that if we had been able to move past Mexico (mostly because of the big dog), we would not have felt it as quickly. New areas, countries keep you on your toes. I definitely think the age difference plays in, too. We knew coming out here that we had to go back to work, so that was always our mind set.
    So take care and have a wonderful time.

  7. Superbly done post...you should consider submitting to sail mags. I cant remember where we met up with just a minute, perhaps just on a morning net, but now I regret not getting to know her crew better. Good luck on your new landing.
    Sv Ashika

  8. Than you very much for your support and kind words. It means a lot to us. There are lots of great people out cruising around - we're just one of many.