The Story of Akela

Akela is a two-masted sailing boat called a Hardin Sea Wolf ketch made in Taiwan in 1977.  (“Akela” is named after the lone wolf in Kipling’s Jungle Book.) The Burge family acquired Akela in San Carlos, Mexico in 1999 and spent 15 years cruising aboard Akela in the Sea of Cortez while maintaining a seemingly normal life in Tucson, Arizona.


It all started out as family adventures with little kids: Charlie was 8 and Max was 6. We had a number of weekend trips along the beautiful 30-mile coastline around San Carlos with family and friends. Once or twice a year we would take several weeks and make the 80 mile trek across the sea to explore the Baja coast. The Sea of Cortez is an amazing place, and there is no better way to experience it than by living in it. Learning the hard way, we became able sailors, mechanics, and fishermen. Over the years, we learned some things about ourselves as well. Jim thrives on the uncertainty that comes with traveling aboard a small boat to new places in uncertain weather – Laura not so much.

Akela under sail off San Carlos, Mexico

During this time, we had an extended group of friends that would join the sailing adventures and help out with boat maintenance. Akela was kept year round on a mooring subject to regular wind, corrosion, birds, bugs, and barnacles. Every few years she was hauled out for maintenance and some major repairs.

All this time, we had the idea of someday crossing the Pacific. So in addition to replacing all the stuff we broke on Akela, we beefed up the hardware and added a number of systems for the big trip.  Also, during this time, our lives changed. Charlie and Max grew up! They went from being happy children excited by adventure to know-it-all teenagers who seemed to enjoy disliking everything and ultimately transforming into men with their own lives and their own adventures. Jim stayed on the career track that took him from research scientist to tenured professor to entrepreneur. Laura spent much of her time and energy as Mom, and has also had gigs as occupational therapist, city council aide, and hospital volunteer.

     max and fish        IMG_1132

Fresh tuna caught by young Max and Charlie.  15 years later Max still loves tuna!

In 2014, we sailed Akela from San Carlos to San Diego, which includes the dreaded “Baja Bash” – 800 miles upwind in choppy seas from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego where Akela has been moored. Sailing in San Diego has been mostly boring, but visiting San Diego has been a blast! Between concerts and trips to microbreweries, we have been preparing Akela for the next big adventure.

In February, 2018 Jim and Max plan to start a 1-year cruise across the Pacific Ocean while Laura and Charlie hold down the fort in Tucson. The details of the trip are still coming together. We plan to sail Akela to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, which will take nearly a month. From there, we hope to meet up with friends and family for visits while we go island hopping across the Pacific. By the end of 2018, we expect that we will have made it either to New Zealand or possibly will have made the return via Hawaii to the US. From there, …. Who knows????

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5 thoughts on “The Story of Akela

  1. We may have some nice photos of Akela. I will look and see what I can find. We were very lucky to visit Akela in San Carlos before.

    Good luck Jim and Max. It will be a fun and exciting journey. Please stay safe and sound!

  2. I’ll be following your grand adventure here and making sure Laura and Charlie are well here in the desert. Bon voyage, Jim-may and Maximiliano Bourgeoisie!

  3. I know you’ll have a blast ill keep reading and get in touch with me from time to time I have been meaning to come back to Tucson or AZ to visit family at least. It might be nice to get the old gang back together if your up for it. I know I want to see Ian again he has a wife and kid now. XD good luck, safe journeys, and I hope to hear back from you. XD take care

    sincerely- Hippie

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