Two and a half years on the hook

The Hogan family in Portobello: From left back row: Mark, Sara, Ruth, Kathryn and Zachary. Front row: Isabella, Hannah and Connor

This post is also available in: Spanish

On-the-Water by Ilene Little

Our correspondent shared with us that “On the hook” means anchoring out vs. being tied up to a mooring bouy or being tied up to a dock or having your boat in a boat slip in a marina. It is a lifestyle choice to not be dependent on boat marinas or finding a dock to tie up to. You just throw out an anchor and rely on what you have onboard.”

This is the story about Ruth and Mark Hogan, a professional couple from Texas who bought a boat and set sail with their seven children in 2012 ending up in Panama… for now. The journey is still as exciting to them today as it was when they made the decision to sell everything they owned and buy a boat.

Living off the grid

The Hogan family in Portobello: From left back row: Mark, Sara, Ruth, Kathryn and Zachary. Front row: Isabella, Hannah and Connor

The Hogan family in Portobello: From left back row: Mark, Sara, Ruth, Kathryn and Zachary. Front row: Isabella, Hannah and Connor.

When Mark’s employment in the Oil and Gas Industry was going to force the family to make a major move, he chose instead to change their lifestyle.

“He woke up one morning and said, ‘It’s time to buy a boat. It’s time to go sailing,’” said Ruth. “That was in April 2012. We owned a boat by June.

“Because we have such a big family, the prospect of moving onto a boat and having a normal life was pretty challenging,” admitted Ruth.

Like all families, the children had busy social schedules. “Sara had just become a cheerleader, Connor and Hannah were playing soccer, and Zachery was starting his freshman year in high school,” said Ruth.

“I was homeschooling our 4th child, Kathryn, and the youngest, Isabella. Kathryn and Isabella and I worked to get the boat prepared while Mark continued to work at his job. That allowed time for the older kids to finish the first school semester,” Ruth said.

In November of 2012, they moved on their 41ft Morgan Out Island sailboat and sailed out of Houston for the Caribbean in December. In July, they will have been in Panama for two years.

Teenage lifestyle on a boat

“We’re not big Internet people because half the time we don’t even have a connection,’” said Ruth. “Our kids have seen and done so much in the last year that when they read comments from their friends on Facebook – like about a big event being some semi-formal dance – they say it sounds ‘terribly boring,’” Ruth said.

“Nobody wants to go back to the States and do the same old thing as everyone else,” she said. “Two of my kids are out surfing by 7a.m. None of them can imagine sitting in a classroom again.”

Where to next?

“Our friends asked us when we left, ‘How long are you going to be gone?’ We told them, every year we are going to reassess, and if we like it, we’re going to keep going,” said Ruth.

Their next likely stop may be Bocas del Toro, a destination high on the Hogan kids’ surfing list.

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