By Published: June 1, 2017

men on the boat

It was the nights that most unnerved Dan Mackin (ElEngrCompEngr’08).

“Staring off into the blackness is really an unsettling feeling,” he said.

The sensation was most acute in the middle of the Pacific, as the 34-year-old IT executive, his father and two shipmates sailed from Hawaii to California on a 38-foot Lagoon Catamaran “the size of a studio apartment that you can’t leave.”

The voyage, last July, was his father’s idea. Tim Mackin, a retired civil engineer in Parker, Colo., had been sailing for nearly five decades and still nursed an ambition.

“An ocean crossing has been on my bucket list. I just wanted to do one before the end of my days,” Tim, 60, said in a short YouTube film about the voyage, Trans Pacific Crossing, filmed by Dan and edited by his brother-in-law, Jeremy Dubs.

For Dan, of Lafayette, Colo., the main appeal was having a grand adventure with his father. This was the man who’d taught him to sail — on lakes near Keller, Texas, where they’d lived, and on trips in Belize, the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and Sea of Cortez. But they’d never lost sight of land for more than a day.

With two other crewmembers contributing mechanical and nautical skills and good cheer, the team set sail from Oahu and arrived in Oxnard 22 days later — about a week late due to rough waters.

“I went into it with a plan,” said Dan, who loves plans. “Immediately, it was useless.”

Being in control and having a plan are great traits for the chief operating officer of the Boulder IT security consulting firm AppliedTrust. Out on the open ocean, plans reveal what they are: Mere intentions.

They encountered days of strong waves and high winds with intermittent lake-smooth days offering brief respite.

After each churning of the sea, they picked off marine life that had washed aboard. Some creatures found their way into crannies. Stench haunted the boat. Sometimes it exuded from Dan, who found showering futile given the constant damp. Then one of the toilets broke. A few times they had to troubleshoot and repair technical issues amid tossing seas. They slept in three-hour shifts.

An anomaly in the high pressure system pushed them 600 miles north of course, taking them nearer Alaska than California.

But then there were the sublime moments — calm, moonlit nights, long father-son chats, insight amid isolation.

“It made me realize how small we are as individuals,” said Dan.

When they reached California, father and son agreed that arriving was the trip’s high point.

As so often is the case, it was the journey itself that provided lasting lessons. Dan reflected amid that vastness on what mattered most to him: relationships, communication, being a better person, a better husband, making the world a better place.

“I also realized,” he said, “that maybe I’m not as much of a sailor as I thought I was.”

Photo courtesy Dan Mackin