Finding real adventurers in the digital age isn't easy. There are endless social media 'personalities' bombarding our screens with the same tired script. It's so saturated it makes you suspicious -- in the quest to be unique, it all feels the same. Realism is scarce.
That might be why it's so easy to slip into viewing rather than venturing. It's easier, and more comfortable, to watch someone climb Everest than attempt it yourself. It's easier to say "I've seen the highlights" than to hop on your boat and attempt The Great Loop. But, as any true adventurer will tell you, that lazy attitude never satisfies the soul.
If you look hard enough through the digital haze, you can still find ramblers and rovers who invigorate our sense of adventure. Or, in this case two people who, rather than following the same tired routine, bring viewers on a journey that captures what it means to be a boater.
Enter Mike and Sarah Howe, the duo behind Howe2Live, an energetic pair devoted to proving that the average boater can do extraordinary things with a little motivation, a zest for life, and a willingness to occasionally be late for work on Monday morning. A valuable life lesson shines through when watching them push the boundaries of what it means to be a 'weekend warrior' -- if they can do it, I can do it.
In early July, Mike and Sarah embarked on their latest in a long string of bold endeavors -- racing down the Eastern Seaboard fast enough to have breakfast in New York City and dinner in Miami.
To understand how the average boater could even attempt such a thing, you must first know a few things about the pair.
First and foremost, both have fulltime jobs -- boating is just their hobby. Sarah is a fulltime police officer with an extensive resume that includes work as a SWAT negotiator, and Mike owns a defense contracting firm that works with the U.S. government. That's a full plate in its own right. But, somewhere around 2018, Mike's innate camera skills and penchant for pushing the envelope started getting people's attention. Once the intrigue reached critical mass, they decided to bring viewers along for the (part-time) ride.
It's quite a ride, too. The couple's latest vessel is a 2023 MTI 440X catamaran with twin Mercury Racing 500R outboards. That's not for noodling around the local lake looking for a place to picnic. But there's a reason for all that horsepower.
Their latest mission was as follows: to race from their home in Maine, to New York City, to Miami as fast as their boat could take them.
That particular route has opportunities for multiple world records for offshore performance boats, outboard-powered boats, and time trials. Currently, there are existing and corroborated records for the fastest time from Maine to New York, from New York to Hatteras, and from New York to Miami. Those records are held by names like Tom Gentry and Reggie Fountain. In other words, the pair decided to try setting multiple world records over a single weekend. Not bad for a part-time gig. We spoke with Mike and Sarah, and the plan was to answer one basic question -- how can two part-time boaters do this stuff? In the course of our conversation, we covered everything from how they got started in boating, what it's like prepping for a world record, how they linked up with MTI, dealing with adversity on the water, how the new Mercury 500R outboards performed, the nature of starting your own boat company, and what the future holds. (Editor's Note - this interview was conducted before the release of the video series depicting the record attempt. The first episode is at the end of this interview.)
S- For viewers that are unfamiliar with Howe2Live, can you give us a quick rundown of what it is and how it came to be?
Mike- "Howe2Live is a life adventure channel. We started four years ago by accident. I had my own Discovery Channel show for a couple years back in 2010, so I had a bit of editing and production experience. Over time, we also became involved in boating in a more serious fashion. Sarah and I have both been boating since we were kids, but around 2018 we started to buy some serious boats. We did a fun run with Stuart Jones (president of the Florida Powerboat Club), who's well known. We did a couple videos that went viral, and then we did a fun run that we titled "Miami to Bahamas in a Speedboat" and it went super viral. It was a five episode series and we just had an amazing amount of support and viewership. And then the channel just grew exponentially on Facebook and YouTube. We couldn't be happier."
S- With the fast growth you've had, and with the buzz surrounding your latest trip, have you been able to make the jump to doing this fulltime?
Mike "Oh geez, I wish (laughs). Sarah is a police officer."
Sarah- "I'm a fulltime police officer. I've been one for 18 years. Mike also owns a defense/military contracting business, so he's still there full time. I've had a lot of different roles with policing -- SWAT negotiator, Special Olympics liaison, elder abuse investigator. So that's still our full time jobs. This just kinda came about as a part time thing."
Mike- "people always ask 'When's your next video coming out?' People don't realize that Sarah and I have fulltime jobs and we're doing the best we can. That's how it was the first couple of years, especially after the Bahamas series. We had so much viewership that we felt compelled to create better, more engaging content even though we have our full time jobs. I'm a military contractor for a very large defense firm and I sold my original company. So, we just do this for fun. We don't make any money at the end of the day, but we do it for the passion of adventure. Once you get some viewership, you feel obligated to give them a product that's better than the last. That's how it grew."
S- You've had a long history with MTI. How did that relationship start?
Mike- "I've owned several of their boats. I love MTI. They're a great company. I know the whole crew personally now. I just fell in love with their boats, with the company, and with how they treat their buyers. One of the first times I met Randy (Scism, owner of MTI) was at a boat show, and I'm a dork. I'm a scientist and an innovator. And I met this guy in a 42 MTI. We started talking about all of the innovative devices he had on the boat, like that wing door, and even the door hinge he developed. And I was just super impressed. That's the kind of boat I wanted to own. I wanted to own a boat that had a lot of innovation in it."
S- What was your first MTI?
Mike- "My first MTI was a 2016 42'. Before that, I've owned Donzis, Fountains, I've owned all the typical offshore old school powerboats. And I gravitated to MTI, I considered that an upgrade. That was my first big boat. I sold my company to a military contracting firm, and I was able to afford an MTI (laughs)."
S- Now you've got an even bigger MTI with the 440X. You've been running high performance boats for years now. What was the inspiration for doing the Maine to NYC to Miami run?
Mike- "The inspiration for us was adventure. At first it wasn't about breaking any records or even attempting any records at all. For us, it was a husband and wife adventure. We have a unique boat and situation. The 440 is big enough to handle offshore seas, and its fuel efficient enough to travel really long distances and not need a huge fuel tank. Then we realized, maybe its fast enough to break offshore records, and its comfortable enough to get there and not want to jump overboard (from a rough ride). So, there's all these things that lined up with the 440. And you multiply that with our adventure-type mentality, and Sarah and I were pumped to do it. Somewhere along the lines the idea of having breakfast in New York city and dinner in Miami popped into one of our heads."
Sarah - "He comes up with the ideas, I just hang on (laughs)."
Mike - "I think I had to convince her a little bit because it's a big endeavor. And then we started to get involved with, 'Are there records?' 'What's the Chapman Trophy?' that's when we started to really dig into how we would do this."
S- A lot of offshore records use a strict format with all kinds of regulations and tracking. Is that something you wanted to include as well?
Mike- "I should touch on the issue of sanctions. We decided not to do sanctions for a couple reasons. One, we just wanted to do it ourselves. We're just independent people. We didn't want the pressure and the extra cost. We just wanted to do this weekend trip ourselves. We also wanted to make sure we documented everything very, very carefully. We had dual GPS, real-time GPS. We have 16,000 waypoints (from the trip) marked with all our timestamps and coordinates. We have timestamped photos. So even though we didn't go with sanctions, we were very careful with how we documented it so that if we got there, and it was a big 'if,' we would be able to document a world record."
S- Even if you weren't thinking about a record from the outset, did you have a particular goal in mind, or a time that you thought you could complete this trip in?
Mike- "The original concept was just breakfast in New York and dinner in Miami. We knew we'd have to leave really early and it would be a late dinner, but technically it would be within that span of a single day. We had some weather issues that popped up, which you can't predict. Having an open cockpit and having auxiliary fuel tanks on deck makes it very risky to go through a thunderhead, and we hit a couple of those. So we didn't end up breaking the New York City to Miami record, but we did still have breakfast in New York City, and we had dinner in Florida, but it ended up being St. Augustine. We didn't quite make Miami but we can officially say we had breakfast in New York and dinner in Florida."
S- Given how it all went down, and having to overcome all those unexpected obstacles, what was the biggest surprise for both of you?
Mike- "Honestly, it was that the boat and the motor held together. That might sound bizarre to some people. But as a boater, you're about to take a boat offshore and you're going to hammer it hard for 22 hours. And to not have a single loose bolt, a single rattle, and we had some really bad seas. We got thrown around for hours. I was seeing white flashes when we were coming down on waves after a while. When we ended the race, I was so elated that everything functioned so perfectly. That's a testament to Mercury Racing, and that's a testament to MTI."
Sarah- "I didn't have to hand him one single tool the entire time. I didn't grab a headlamp, or a wrench, or a ratchet. I can't believe that after we've had so many boats. We've owned so many brands. There's been so many times we've had a battery problem or where we've had to do some repairs while on the boat. I didn't hand him a single tool in 22 hours."
Mike- "Interesting fact -- we love music. You can see when you watch our videos we put a lot of effort into it. Music adds emotion, gives it character. And we realized that when we hit Georgia we hadn't turned the radio on once. We had been in the boat for 16 hours and had never turned the radio on. Because it was so stressful. You needed to hear everything. You needed to listen to the motor. I was listening for sounds. When we finally got to Florida, after all the weather, we were like 'Let's turn the music on' and then we both went 'Woah, woah, woah. We are not gonna do that. Things have been going well for 16 hours' (laughs)."
S- Now that you've had time to decompress and go over things, are there any plans about attempting the record again?
Mike- "We had that conversation recently. I asked that question to Sarah, because I put her through a lot. There were a couple times when we were on the water and I thought 'Man, what have I done putting her out here?'"
Sarah- "I never get seasick. The only time I feel seasick is when we're on the hook when we're deep sea fishing and it's rough water. So I was really surprised that I didn't feel well. I didn't feel well a couple hours after we left New York. But then I realized, it was rough, it was dark, and I was focused on the FLIR on the screen. And it's like reading in a dark car when you're going around curvy roads. And that's what did it. I was pretty uncomfortable and didn't feel better until we got to Hatteras (laughs)."
S- Was it the screens or the bumps, or both?
Sarah- "I've spent hours and hours in that cat (catamaran). But basically, we didn't eat for 34 hours, we'd had one bottle of water between the two of us in 19 hours because it was too bumpy to do much else. Neither one of us slept the night before because we were both too excited. We tried to go to bed around 6 pm, and we just tossed and turned. We looked at each other around 9 pm and went 'I wish we could leave right now' (laughs)."
Mike- "The most nerve-wracking part was leaving New York. What I saw approaching that last bridge in New York is that the city was lit behind us, but nothing in front of us. You couldn't see with your night vision. What was in front of us was a black wall. No lights, no boats, no support on the water, no Coast Guard, just me and my wife and a black curtain in front of us. And I knew it was going to be two-and-a-half hours before it got light out. I was nervous. I knew we had to do 70-80 mph. At that point I knew about the Hatteras record that Reggie Fountain laid down in 2008, and I did want to break that. But we had to do 70-80 mph the whole way. But they left at sunrise, so they had light the whole way. Our New York to Hatteras run was basically made in the dark."
Sarah- "One of the biggest warnings we got was watch out for New York Harbour. There's so much debris in the harbour that you have to be really careful."
Mike- "I ended up seeing a couple huge logs as we were leaving New York, too. And that was scary."
S- You both have a lot of experience in dealing with stressful situations from your jobs and your careers. That moment leaving New York sounds like the moment when it got real. Did you feel prepared for what lay ahead?
Mike- "Looking back on it, there's things I would change. I definitely would have tried to get a small radar unit. My other factor was that I didn't want to modify the boat. It's a very expensive boat, I wanted to retain its resale value. I also wanted to prove that a stock boat could do this, aside from only adding auxiliary fuel tanks. So I didn't want to modify anything or change too much. But now, I would definitely go with radar. Other than that, we felt very prepared minus a lack of sleep. We had emergency gear, we had our EPIRB, we had an emergency float raft, we had a ground team that was mirroring us the whole way. But we were faster than them. We trusted they could stay ahead of us, but they couldn't even though they left 12 hours ahead of us."
Sarah- "I would 100% do it again now that I feel more prepared. But next time, I want to do it in somebody else's boat (laughs)."
Mike- "One thing that really surprised me was how smooth the waters are (as you get further south). I know some people will get mad at me saying that, but it's child's play compared to the water in New England. In the northeast, the water is so dark and you just can't see, and the swells build up so high that you can't get up to speed. There's a lot more debris and buoys from fishing pots up here (in the northeast). I was surprised at how much more challenging the water was in New York compared to down south. I decided I'm not going to bring my 440 up to Maine. It's going to stay in Florida. That's the water that is beautiful for that boat."
S- Let's talk engines. I know your boat has had both Mercury Racing 450R's and 500R's, which just came out. You made this record attempt with the 500R's, which is probably the first real-world test we've seen since their release. I've also seen videos showing you tweaking the 450R's. Tell us about your motor setups.
Mike- "So the work that we did (in the video about fine tuning the 450R's), we didn't alter the 450's themselves at all. In fact, I wish I could re-edit that video to make it more clear. But it's a stock motor. The 450's weren't modified in any way. The only thing we did to increase the performance of that vessel was to raise the motors in the boat so we could work with prop selection. Just from doing that, the boat went from being about a 120-ish boat (mph) to a 130-135-ish boat."
S- So you were able to tweak the props on the 450R's and get that much difference in performance?
Mike- "Showing that on a video caused a bit of a ruckus. To me it was extremely important to show what the boat could do. Do I run the boat like that all the time? No. Is it capable of doing that right now? No it is not. It's like taking a Mustang and putting fat, sticky race tires on it and taking it to the drag strip. But you don't drive it like that every day. You couldn't get those numbers without those big tires. It was the same with the 450."
S- But now you're back with the 500R's on the boat?
Mike- "I have a good relationship with Mercury Racing and I consider myself a brand ambassador in some ways, and the reason is because I love them. But the 500s really are more durable. We decided to go with the 500s for that reason. As an endurance race we felt it was a good decision. They are stock, and the max the boat has seen from me is 128 mph and I don't have any intentions of pushing it any further. But in Maine waters you can't go that fast anyway. But the way we configured it for the run is that we went upsize in props to bring our efficiency numbers higher, even though we were a little heavier with all the fuel." S- We haven't seen much about the 500R yet, at least from consumers. It just came out. What can you tell us about it?
Mike- "I feel confident in saying with the 500R, most people will see a noticeable increase in performance from the 500 compared to the 450. It's not gonna be like going from a 300R to a 450R, but we're talking about a noticeable jump in boat performance. The biggest difference is in the acceleration, and that's the low inertia flywheel and the bigger throttle body. You can do a lot of work on it and it'll do a lot for you. Also, apples to apples (450R to 500R), you're still going to get a much more durable lower unit because you're going from a 1.25" to a 1.5" driveshaft, which is a big deal for these boats because its hard to keep the lower units in the water with these boats at these speeds. So when you bark them, and when you gotta lower the prop quickly, you need that extra driveshaft. But, it's also not apples to apples, because the 500R is noticeably more sporty than the 450. And now I'm sitting on two 450's that I have to sell, so it doesn't help me to tell you that (laughs)."
S- You've already had one heck of a summer. What are your plans for Howe2Live in the near future?
Mike- "We're so busy but that's how we live. I've developed a new boat called the DSK, which is a luxury supercat, 52' feet long. We're getting ready to rig it with quad Mercury 600's next week. That'll be my focal point for the rest of the summer and get that to market. It's a new company and I'm excited. We're dorks, we look at it like a science, and we want the most efficient and highest performing boat on Earth. So that's DSK. I'll also be getting the episodes for this journey out soon. We have some amazing photography, we had stunning drone footage of the 440 in New York City at three in the morning. And the drone footage in Miami is really, really top notch. Of course, we've gotta go through the storyline and explain this entire trip over one weekend. Explain all the trials and tribulations."
Sarah- "The more we talk about it, the more I want to do it again (laughs)."
Like many weekend boaters with a zest for adventure, Mike and Sarah are a great example of how to live. We wish them fair seas and following winds on their next journey. You can keep up with their latest adventures on Facebook and YouTube and you can watch the first episode from their record setting attempt below: