Voyage of Traveler / Blog

January 16, 2012

Voyage of Traveler: A Three Year Circumnavigation 2007-2010

Voyage of Traveler: A Three Year Circumnavigation 2007-2010
Part 1 of 4 (Click the Play button on the screen and then the video will begin after 40 seconds.)


Part 2 of 4


Part 3 of 4


Part 4 of 4


November 22, 2010

William Lobdell: Chase those Dreams

Read Micheal’s interview in the Daily Pilot
By William Lobdell
November 22, 2010,0,262038.story?page=1

October 25, 2010

The Voyage of Traveler came to a spectacular finish on July 3

Newport Beach, CA
October 14, 2010                                      Be sure to view Traveler’s links to Picasa photo gallery

Ahoy, Traveler Family and Friends,

The Voyage of Traveler came to a spectacular finish on July 3 when we completed a three-year circumnavigation by crossing our out-bound track and sailing into Newport Harbor.

What a wonderful celebration it was, with Traveler a riot of color, proudly flying the flags from the 61 countries we visited on six continents. We had many friends on a dozen boats come out to the harbor entrance and join us for a short boat parade, honking their horns and shouting out,
with the Harbor Department’s fire boat spraying water and leading the way to the Balboa Yacht Club. At the BYC Scott Schubert organized the Homecoming Party with about 150
family and friends joining in a cheerful (and for me, a tearful) champagne toast. Please check out the Traveler website ( and click on the link, through Picasa, to the YouTube video of our Homecoming.

I was so thankful to have Barbara back on board for the final leg, and really needed her for the rough ride up the coast, aptly called the Baja Bash. Barbara has been so much more than my girlfriend since we met on Transpac 2005–the best five years of my life! She was also my partner and co-captain on this voyage, and she was deeply missed when she had to go back to teaching–after sailing with me more than two-thirds of the way around the world. Thank you, Barbara, for everything.

I had much to think about as Barbara, my son Brian and I made our final passage up Baja California. It was truly an emotional cocktail for me: a shot of accomplishment, to be sure, as we approached our home port and could “smell the barn,” plus a double shot of relief as the reality started to sink in that we made it. We sailed through harm’s way so many times, without serious problems. But that mixed drink of emotions also came with a dash of melancholy. It’s strange, but just as much as I wanted to finish the circumnavigation, I also did not want my life’s dream to come to end.

I have much to be thankful for, and want to take a moment to express my appreciation to all those who joined us on the Voyage of Traveler and made it possible–call it an early Thanksgiving. First, all those who helped me re-fit Traveler in the Spring of ‘07 and get her ready to go to sea: to name a few, Bob Kieding (yacht broker), Ventura Harbor Boatyard, Lido Boat Yard, Ullman Sails, Peter at Forespar, Mark Silvey, Spectra Watermaker, Craig at Maurer Marine, Shea Weston, and of course Barbara and her friends Diane, Sue and Cat for all the provisioning, and Barbara’s
brother Gary for logisitical support in his dinghy at the start of Transpac. I also want to thank Bis Houssels, Harry Wallace and Richard Higbie for all their help while I was gone; and special thanks to my Voyage Of Traveler webmaster and email postman, Jim Palmer.

Next, I want to thank the Transpac Crew: Barbara Burdick, Scott Schubert, Dave Beek, Jim Palmer, Kathy Smith, Philip LaPlante, and Kurt Roll. What an awesome experience, with
all the ups and downs, as we raced across the Pacific Ocean together for 2,250 nautical miles and smiles. And we trophied, placing second in class!

I also want to thank all the other crew who joined us for a leg or two, making it a more fun and memorable voyage. In chronological order: Robbie Buck (Hawaiian Islands), Dan Bornholdt and Larry Sharpless (Hawaii to Tahiti and for Larry also across the Atlantic from Canary Islands to St.
Lucia), my sisters Melissa McLeod and Dana Stewart (Moorea to Huahine), Barbara’s sister-in-law Leslie and niece Claire (Raiatea and Tahaa), Dave La Montagne (Raiatea to
Bora Bora), Dave Lee (Tonga to Fiji), Filippo and Emma (a backpacking hitchhiking couple, from Vanuatu to Australia), Susan and Sue (Bali), Yansen (Bali to Singapore, and again Tangier to Jamaica), my Mom and Stepdad, Chris and Bobby (Singapore and again Sorrento to Rome), Brandon (another backpacking hitchhiker, from Singapore to Aden), my son Scott (with his friends Natalie, Christina and Jillian in Greece, and then again in Mexico), Barbara’s friend Teresa
Torti in Greece, my daughter Kellie (with her friends Amy and Priscilla from Croatia to Italy,and again in the Caribbean from St. Martin to Cartagena), Jake Kalwitz (Nice, France
to Tangier, Morocco), my sister Melissa (for her second leg on Martinique, Dominica and Guadelope, and her third leg with Charlie and Eliza from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico), my brother Drew (St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica), Bill and Marsha Horsfall (Panama Canal), and my nephew Ryan (Puerta Vallarta to La Paz).

Also, a very special thank you to my son Brian, who was a huge part of the voyage, with three long legs: from Waikiki, Oahu across the Pacific Ocean to Papeete, Tahiti; then from Singapore across the Indian Ocean to Aden, Yemen; and finally from Nice, France through the Med, across the Atlantic Ocean, all through the Caribbean and transiting the Panama Canal, and then up the Pacific Coast all the way back to Newport Beach. How many 21-year-olds can say they have sailed across three oceans and visited 40 countries?

We have about 2,000 photos. I selected the Best 50 Photos for each of the three years, and posted them on the website. I hope you enjoy them.
I learned much, about my boat, the world and myself. As my crew member Larry Sharpless said to me as we were crossing the Atlantic together, “Michael, it’s only after you finish this voyage around the world that you will have the required experience to do such a thing.”

In the previous two or three Postcards, as we were beating our way up from Cabo San Lucas, you may recall I wrote that the “End Is Near.”

Well, after 31,145 nautical miles, as my final log entry I report to you, both sadly and joyously, that the Endless Summer of the Voyage of Traveler, as all good things, has come to a successful and glorious end.

We did it. We lived the dream.

Michael Lawler

P. S. What’s next? Hmmmm….
It is back to work. I need to replenish the cruising kitty. But Barbara and I are considering sailing to Hawaii on Transpac ‘11, which starts July 4, 2011. I’m working with a video producer to put together a mini-documentary about our voyage.

July 5, 2010

Traveler Homecoming July 3, 2010

July 1, 2010

Traveler Postcard: On Passage To Catalina

Traveler Postcard: On Passage To Catalina
July 1, 2010

Traveler Family and Friends,

On our last night in San Diego, we went out with our friends Kurt and Susan Roll, and Kurt’s brother Mike, on their Catalina 32 to watch a couple of hundred boats hoist their spinnakers as they rounded the weather mark in the Wednesday night Beercan Race.  We then went out to dinner at the Bali Hai–what a spectacular view of San Diego Harbor!  We had a great time.  But I got a little emotional when I realized this was the last time on this voyage that we would  be going out to a restaurant for dinner (our last two nights in Catalina will be a barbecue on the beach.)

The End Is Near!

Over the past month or so, as the end of this incredible circumnavigation was drawing near, I would do certain tasks and realize, Wow, this is the last time I’ll do that on this voyage.  For example, the last time:

* I raised a foreign country’s courtesy flag (between Guatemala and Huatulco, Mexico)
* I changed the engine oil (Mazatlan)
* I got a haircut in a foreign country (La Paz, Mexico, $4)
* We did the laundry (or had it done for us, in La Paz, $4/load)
* I varnished the teak (La Paz)
* I caught a fish (mahi mahi, on passage between Mag Bay and Turtle Bay)
* I took the crew (Barbara and Brian) out to dinner in a foreign country (Ensenada)
* Cleared Customs and Immigration (San Diego)

Just a few hours ago, we cast of the dock lines at our guest slip at the Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego–for the last time (we will be at anchor in Catalina for the last two nights.)

We are now on a night passage, and I am taking the graveyard watch from 0300 to 0600–for the last time.

Brian went off watch an hour ago and I read in the Log Book: “LAST LOG ENTRY BY B-LAW! BEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE! THANKS DAD!”

Well, this may be my last Traveler Postcard to you.  I have very much enjoyed writing the Postcards, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

I just picked up Catalina on radar (it goes out 24 miles.)

Barbara and Brian are off watch, asleep.  I am so pleased and thankful that Barbara was able to rejoin me for the final leg up from Cabo San Lucas, and to have Brian with me since last August.

Brian said it well in his toast at our dinner in Ensenada: “Finish strong!”  And we are, finishing strong together.

We are motoring in calm seas, doing 8.0 knots, and the engine is running well.

In fact, all is well on board Traveler.

And The End Is Near, Indeed.

Living The Dream,

P.S.  You’re invited–and it’s okay to bring friends and tell others, too–to the Traveler Homecoming and Crew Reunion at the Balboa Yacht Club on Saturday, July 3.  I expect to be pulling up to the dock at 2 pm sharp, so you might want to get there a little early, say about 1:45. And if you have a boat and want to join us on the water as we cross the “finish line,” we will be at the Bell Bouy at the harbor entrance at 1:40 pm. (Monitor VHF Ch 69.)

June 30, 2010

Traveler Postcard From San Diego

Traveler Postcard From San Diego
June 30, 2010

We’re back in the United States of America!  After a very rough Baja Bash clawing our way into the wind and waves, against the current and up the coast from Cabo San Lucas, Traveler is safely in the Guest Slip at the Southwestern Yacht Club, where we are very much enjoying our stay. The club was recently totally rebuilt and is gorgeous.

Last night Barbara and I took the dinghy across the San Diego Bay to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner then walked over to Petco Field to see the Colorado Rockies play the San Diego Padres.

After a whole world full of amazing experiences in 61 foreign countries on six continents over the past 36 months, it felt strange NOT to be in a third-world county.  San Diego is one of the world’s greatest cities.

I’m having mixed emotions about the voyage coming to an end.  To be sure, I am more than a bit travel weary and ready to return to reality.  On the other hand, I will greatly miss all of the exciting ports of call and days at sea.

Tonight, at about 11 pm, we will cast off the dock lines for the last time and depart San Diego and motor through the night to Catalina, arriving there Thursday morning, and staying at anchor at the Balboa Yacht Club’s station at White’s Cove for two nights, Thursday and Friday.

On Saturday, July 3, we weigh anchor for the last time and cross the Catalina Channel, an easy 26 miles and the final leg of our 30,000+ mile, three-year, around the world voyage.  We expect to arrive at the entrance to Newport Harbor at about 1:40 pm, where we will be joined by some friends in their boats as we cross our outbound track and complete the circumnavigation by docking at the Balboa Yacht Club for our Traveler Homecoming and Crew Reunion Party, beginning at 2pm.

Hope you can join us in the celebration.

Michael, Barbara and Brian

June 29, 2010

Traveler Departing Ensenada

Midnight, June 29, 2010
Hotel Coral and Marina
Ensenada, Mexico

We just departed the Coral Marina after a short but very busy layover.  In just 30 hours we:

1. Had an engine failure on arrival and had to be towed in for the last 200 yards to the Coral Marina.  The engine stalled due to algae in the fuel tank, which turns to black sludge and clogs the fuel filter. We got the tow from some other yachties in their dinghy.

2. Got a junior suite at the Hotel Coral and took a long, hot shower, had a great dinner and a fabulous night’s sleep.  The Baja Bash really took its toll on Traveler and crew, and a nice hotel room was a much deserved treat.

3. Got up early and tackled a full day of boat repairs and other chores.

4. Removed the faulty starter motor and took it to a repair shop to be rebuilt.  The work was completed in just four hours turn around time and cost only $75.  Then we reinstalled the starter with the help of a nice neighboring yachtie.

5.  Pumped the diesel fuel out of the tank and disposed of the sludgy contaminated fuel.  Vacuum cleaned the bottom of the fuel tank.  Also changed out the fuel hose from the tank to the dual Raycor fuel filters, replaced the filters and cleaned the filter bowls.  Brian and I did all this work by ourselves, and it was a filthy job.

6.  Got an outboard mechanic to come to the boat at about noon.  He took the Yamaha 8hp outboard to his shop to clean the dirty carburetor and replace the fuel hose. He got the work done and returned the engine within three hours.

7.  Barbara fixed a propane leak and changed out the propane tanks.  Then she tested the starting and house batteries and found that one of our four house batteries has a weak cell.

8.  After completing all repairs, we motored over to the fuel dock and filled up the tank and the jerry jugs with diesel.

9.  Checked out of our hotel room and then completed the check out procedures with the marina, Immigration and the Port Captain.

9.  Cleaned the boat, inside and out, so we were good to go!

10.  Enjoyed an after-sunset swim and Jacuzzi at the hotel’s pool.

11.  To celebrate a good work day and our last night in a foreign port, we went into Ensenada for a nice dinner of fish tacos, and had a four piece band of strolling musicians play ‘La Bamba’ and ‘La Cucaracha’ for us.

We are now well on our way to San Diego, motoring through the night, taking two-hour watches, and should arrive at the Customs and Immigration Dock around 0800.  We will then motor over to the South West Yacht Club where our friend Kurt Roll is a member and he got us a guest slip for a couple of nights.  We plan on watching the Padres and Rockies baseball game Tuesday night.

But for now, Barbara is on watch and I’m exhausted, so my head is about to hit the pillow.  I have a couple of hours rest, then it’s my turn to stand watch.

Be home soon,
Hasta pronto!

with Barbara and Brian
Team Traveler

June 27, 2010

Traveler and Crew Are Baja Bashed

Sunday, June 27
Traveler Family and Friends,

Yesterday was a rough ride.  Traveler and Crew are thoroughly Baja Bashed, and we are so ready for dry land and hot showers.

The worst part of the passage from Cabo San Lucas to Ensenada is behind us now, and we are motoring in much more comfortable weather and sea conditions.  Because the wind is down to 18 knots apparent and the waves are moderate, we are able to do 7.5 knots, and at 0600 we are just 82 miles SSE of Ensenada.  It is still cold, but we can deal with that.  We expect to arrive at the Coral Hotel and Marina, just N of Ensenada, at about 6pm this evening.

An interesting thing happened at 0400 this morning while I was on watch sitting in the cockpit. We were approached by a speed boat from the stern, with no running lights on.  They came right up to our stern, just a boat length behind us, and then turned on their high-powered spot light and running lights.  When their big spot light lit up my cockpit and I realized there was a boat right on my ass, it really startled me. I jumped to my feet, spilling some of my coffee.  I woke up Barbara and told her it looked like someone wanted to board us.  I called on VHF Ch 16, but no response.  A couple of minutes passed and I tried to reach them again on the radio, and again there was no response.  Who are these guys, and what do they want?  I told Barbara that I suspected they were navy and were planning on following us until daylight and then would board us for an inspection–but that was just a guess.  But recent reports of piracy on the Mexican coastline raced through my mind.  I asked Barbara to monitor the radio at the nav desk while I watched the situation from the cockpit.  Were they really going to try an board us? At night? Who are those guys?  Eventually, after 20 minutes or so, they identified themselves, in English, over the VHF as Mexican Navy and asked how many people we had on board.  I told them we have just three persons onboard, all US citizens, and that we are a US-flagged vessel with all the required US and Mexican documents and that we are on passage from San Jose del Cabo to Ensenada.  They asked if we needed anything, and I said no thank you.  Then they said have a safe passage, and turned their boat away in another direction.  An hour later, in the early light of dawn, I scanned the horizon but could not see them.

Melissa, I am half way through reading “Getting Stoned With Savages” and love it.  Barbara read it first and loved it, too.  Thanks for the great book.

Kurt, thanks so much for getting us a berth at your YC in San Diego.  It will be great to get back to the US! Hope to see you there.  If not, then at the BYC on July 3.

with Barbara and Brian (both off watch and sleeping)

June 26, 2010

It’s wet, bumpy and FREEZING!

Traveler Family and Friends,
Saturday, June 26
28-32 N, 115-13 W
210 miles S of Ensenada
COG 322M, SOG 3.5 to 5

Right now, it is 0300, we are ten miles N of Cedros Island, I’m on watch, and we are just getting the shit kicked out of us in rough conditions.  We’re motoring uphill (sure feels like it), against a strong current and straight into 20 to 25 knots of apparent wind, with waves breaking over the bow, washing over the deck and smashing into the dodger. And it is freezing cold!

The waves hitting the bow really slow us down, like from 5 to 3.5 knots. Then the engine slowly makes way against the wind and chop, fighting the current, to give us a full 5 knots speed over ground. Then BAM–another horrendous crash! Hit by yet another wave, and our speed drops back to 3.5 knots SOG.

It’s like being in a low-speed car wreck every two to four minutes, and being on the Indian Jones ride at Disneyland in between the car wrecks. Nonstop. While shivering in your foul weather gear. Maybe when the sun comes up it will at least seem better, and we’ll be able to see what is going on.

The radar is not working.  But we’re thankful the engine, autopilot and chart plotter are all working well again.  And we just re-fueled at Turtle Bay.  With the autopilot keeping us on course, we are back to one person on watch at a time, so the watch schedule is three hours on, six hours off.  But it’s somewhere between very hard and flat out impossible to sleep in these conditions.  If you do happen to doze off, it is just for a couple of minutes, then BAM!, another wave hits.  You can’t sleep through these ‘car wrecks.’

Bottom line: A lot of noise and bouncing around on a wet, bumpy and freezing ride.

Barbara, Brian and I are all very much looking forward to Sunday evening when we arrive Ensenada and taking a long hot shower. Then we celebrate our last night in a foreign port.

The end is near, and I can smell the barn.

bb here for a postscript:  Many of you wonder if there will be a last chapter to my tales of laundry in foreign ports. Nope! I didn’t bring any clothes to wash!! What was I thinking?? I threw in a bathing suit, a sarong, of course, and not one piece of clothing to keep me warm!! Therefore I borrow M’s stuff and since we do separate laundry, well, there you go . . . why didn’t I think of this before???? Hugs to all, bb

June 25, 2010

Traveler Baja Bash Update 2

Traveler Baja Bash Update 2
Friday, June 25, 2010
42 miles SW of Turtle Bay
270 miles S of Ensenada


Wow, what a turn around of luck for Team Traveler, and all good!  We got the engine running and the autopilot working well again, and then we caught a mahi mahi, all within 15 minutes late yesterday afternoon!

We are now (0920 hrs.) headed for Turtle Bay, with just 42 miles to go.  With the engine working again, we can safely get in and out of that tight natural harbor, and will buy fuel.

Sailing conditions are good: wind is NW at a comfortable 15 knots, seas are moderate, and we are sailing on a beam reach at 7 knots.  But is COLD out here! Inside the cabin it is just 65, and much colder out in the cockpit.  Even with the dodger and the side curtains zipped tight, you need a fleece vest under the full foul weather gear. To paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous saying about weather in San Francisco: The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I sailed up Baja California!

We plan on stopping at the Coral Marina and Hotel just north of Ensenada to refuel and plan to spend the night there.  After 3 years and 61 countries, this will be our last night in a foreign country.

Life is good and all is well aboard Traveler!

See you soon,

with Barbara and Brian

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