A Tale Of Trailers And Sailors


Pocket Cruisers Come To Havasu Feb. 13-20

By Sean Mulligan

My name is Sean Mulligan. Please let me lead off with, I drive a fire truck for a living. I am not a promoter or publicist. However, I want to tell you about some wonderful people who have changed my life, and I think that there is something a little unique, if not odd, going on in the dead of winter in the middle of the Arizona Desert. Here’s the story:

Boats near Lake Havasu City
Photo Credit – Keith Bennett
AHEAD AT HAVASU — The “Tale of the Trailer Sailor” is amazing and this year’s version of the now-annual Pocket Cruisers’ Convention is growing rapidly (at press time, over 140 boats and 160 crews registered) and includes some excellent seminars, according to organizer Sean Mulligan. Boats will gather Feb. 13 through 20 at Lake Havasu.

Desert Dweller/Sailor

I have been an avid recreational sailor my entire life. Strange I suppose, because I have always lived in the desert. Lucky for me, I reside on the banks of the Colorado River, Lake Havasu City, to be exact.

Believe it or not, when I was growing up here, sailing on Lake Havasu was a pretty major deal. There was a lot of interest in it to the point that the local resort allowed folks to keep their sailboats stored on the beach for a mere pittance.

Alas, though, little Lake Havasu has grown up over the past 40 years and the summer tourist crowd that comes here has changed drastically. Havasu has become known as a “Mecca” for loud, large, and fast powerboats, jet-skis, and the Spring Break “anything-goes” atmosphere.

Sailboats were left in the dust and eventually sailing all but died here save a few hardy souls who sail in the winter time when the “boys of summer” are nowhere to be found.

Travels Begin

In an effort to find others who shared my passion, my wife, dog, and I began traveling in search of others of similar tastes. You see, we sail a type of boat called a Trailer Sailor or a Pocket Cruiser.

This is a very capable sailboat, but it is still small enough to be towed behind a vehicle. This makes trips to far-away places a much more realistic endeavor for folks like us, working folks, with limited vacation time and funds.

The trailer sailor allows us to travel at highway speeds (instead of sailboat speeds) to new locations, rig and launch our boats, and then set out to explore a new area.

We had heard of some groups of trailer sailors who met regularly in different locations for adventures ranging from a simple a day-sail, to multi-week long adventures that covered hundreds of miles on the water. We tried it and were hooked.

Next thing we knew, Dauntless (our sailboat) had seen 20,000 highway miles pass under her keel as we traveled the West Coast — San Diego all the way to the San Juan Islands of Washington, and even up into the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Each location we met with other sailors for adventures on the water.

My story, though, is not about me, my wife, or our travels with our boat. It’s about what came of that. Something I never would have expected or envisioned that involves literally hundreds of people, from all walks of life.

They come from across the U.S., Canada, and even other countries. We are talking such a diverse group that it is mind boggling. Doctors, professors, executives, police officers, plumbers,you name it, all linked by a common bond. I hope that you will read on.

While we were on a 2 week long, 200 mile cruise through the San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands with 17 other boats we made incredible friendships there was an unexpected bond that developed. Of course every night at whatever port we happened to find ourselves in we’d visit with one another for hours on end. One thing that became very evident, very fast was that many of our new friends dreaded the onset of winter. Winter meant to them that it was time to put their beloved sailboat under the tarp for 4, 5, or even 6 months. The only adventure and interaction that they’d have with sailing would be catching up on reading about it until the summer sun once again thawed the frozen waters. They were intrigued that ‘Jo, my wife, and myself were going to head home and that our local sailing season really didn’t begin until November. That’s when all the powerboats and jet-skis have long since vacated our lake, the temperatures moderate, and the winter breezes blow. We’d be sailing all winter while they would only be dreaming of it.

And so it began.

That next winter, they came ….only a handful of them at first. ‘Jo and I set some dates and invited the sailing gang that was going to be “frozen in time” to come play with us for a three day weekend. About 10 boats/crews took the bait. We had a wonderful time when they arrived. They reveled in the fact that it was February and here they were sailing! Three days came and went and although I thoroughly enjoyed it, that was pretty much the end of it..….. I thought.The next summer the same scenario played out. We traveled with “Dauntless” during the summer and come the beginning of winter, we left the invite open for our friends to return.

They did….twice as many.

Next summer, same thing…. Except ….. it doubled again. Hmmmmmm

At this point the economy was taking the big turn for the worse. My town’s economy is based on tourism and the town was hurting, severely. The more I thought about this gathering, the more I wondered where we could take it. For a time in my life I flew corporate hot-air-balloons. Each year we would travel to Albuquerque. When we arrived there, as balloonists, I remember we were treated like kings. In the year 2000, 1000 balloons converged on Albuquerque from around the globe. The City receives a tremendous financial boost from the 10 day event. Now, this sailing event differs from Albuquerque in that it does not have the same spectator draw. However, there are hundreds of times more trailerable sailboats out there than there are balloons. Could we get them to come? The idea was hatched. The Havasu Pocket Cruiser Convention was born.

Last year in February, 2011, 129 sailboats and around 350 people hooked up their boats in the dead of winter. The drove through snow, sleet, and rain, with their sailboat in tow to the most unlikely place, the middle of the Arizona Desert, where they gathered to celebrate their friendships and the Art of Sail. The event is now a full 7 days in duration and includes, cruising/camping, seminars, educational classes, speakers, racing, and social events. There is NO CHARGE to the attendees to participate in the event. It has bucked the economic trend doubling in size every year with a greater than 90% return rate. So far for the 2012 event , which is still 3 months away, we have 105 boats and 113 crews (crews consist of anywhere from 1 -3 people) registered . We expect once again to exceed last year’s attendance figures. The sailors registered so far are coming from 17 different states (the furthest so far being Douglas Alaska, a 2700 mile one way drive) and five countries including the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, The Netherlands. We even have one of our presenters, Howard Rice( who sailed around Cape Horn, the Everest of Sailing), coming all the way from Micronesia. They will arrive with just about every make and model of trailerable sailboat you can imagine. Their presence in Lake Havasu has changed the face of this lake in the winter time. Once again sailboats cruise the waters and the silent beauty that is “sail” takes over for a week from a Lake that is nowadays used to the roar and rumble of 180 mile per hour “hot-boats” and whine of jet-skis, and scores of half-naked teeny boppers.

The story I am suggesting to you has nothing to do with me or even the event proper. It is a human interest story on the tie that binds these people together and causes them to flock to Lake Havasu year after year. This is not a regular “sailing” event or “regatta”. It is a social event based around the common love of sailing. The relationships that have formed are strong and long lasting. These folks find ways to get together around the country in sub –groups throughout the year, but the big gathering is here. ..Every year. For a working couple to give up a full week and half to two weeks of vacation, not only one time, but year after year to attend the same function, I think is a telling thing.

The event is completely run by volunteers. Nowadays it is a six month full-time labor of love to organize all the seminars, classes, social gatherings, promote the event, get permits, build web sites, etc. etc. etc. The volunteers have gone to the industry that the event supports, the small sailboat industry, for the funding. The industry has seen the value of the event, the interest it has stirred in the sport, and have come forward to collectively provide the funds to give these folks a first class event. Not a single tax dollar is spent to put this event on. We rent a resort convention center right on the water with its own marina. For one week a year the London Bridge Resort Convention Center becomes Pocket Cruiser Headquarters and Lake Havasu City welcomes sailors with open arms. In return, the participants support the town financially, eating at the restaurants, booking resort rooms, and spending their tourist dollars. Everyone wins.

This year, the participants are stepping it up a notch. In an effort to give back to the town that has given them so much, they are coming together to donate financial support to a locally formed Sea Scouts group. What better “pay it forward” could there be? All these folks know how a life on the water has changed and enriched their lives. And now they are going to give that gift back to the youth of Lake Havasu. No, this story is not at all about me or this event. It is about this group of middle aged to, well maybe a little “more than middle agers”, their love of sail, knowledge of how it has enriched their lives, desire to share, and friendships. This event belongs to the sailors. It is the only event of its kind specifically tailored to them, the small boat sailor. It is run as a convention with all the different aspects from small trade show, to seminars, to fun races, boat shows, social gatherings, etc. This event is for them, the average guy (not the million dollar “yachtee” crowd). Because of that they take ownership in it. They buy into it and they do whatever it takes to help me put it on. I have people on my volunteer “staff” all over the country. In fact..I asked them to help me make a little video to help me promote the event this year….and …well….click the link below and see what we did. It’s all about fun and friendships. No blue blazers allowed! The common man is taking back sailing as their sport!

For more information on this year’s upcoming event I would direct you the web site at: www.sailhavasu.com To see promotional videos and links to write ups about last year’s event you can click on the link that says “Recap of the 2011 event” or click below to go direct: http://www.sailhavasu.com/page1.html There you will find links to videos and articles that have been written about the 2011 event.

Just this month (November 2011 issue) and not included in the list of the writes ups on the event, the international sailing magazine “Cruising World” published a three page write up. This is amazing as “Cruising World” caters to mainly to the wealthy “cruising crowd” in large boats that are financially out of reach of the average middle class man. Two other international sailing magazines will be attending the event this year, “Good Old Boat” magazine, and “Small Craft Advisor”, both well read journals of small boat sailors. Both have come aboard as sponsors.

A recent newspaper article can be read online at: http://www.havasunews.com/articles/2011/10/18/news/doc4e9d085d6f723032792500.txt.

And, an article from the same paper written on last year’s event can be found at this location: http://www.havasunews.com/articles/2011/10/31/news/doc4d55ff9795abe275067692.txt

I hope you will consider our event for a human interest piece on the “On the Road” series. I would be happy to provide you with any other information that you may require and look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you for your time.

Sean Mulligan (just a guy?)
Havasu Pocket Cruiser Convention 2012


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