Love at First Sight

Fifteen years ago (December 8, 2007), our family drove to Ft. Lauderdale to look at a catamaran called Take Two. Sometimes when opportunity knocks, you chicken out (we almost bought a monohull called Katie Rose), but, if you’re very fortunate, it may knock twice and give you a second chance. When we found Take Two, we just knew she would be ours and that our lives would never be the same. The following is an excerpt about finding our floating home from Leaving the Safe Harbor: the Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat, available here or wherever books are sold.

First look at Take Two Dec 8 2007 2

“Losing Katie Rose had taught us that regret feels worse than fear, and meeting the Tuckers showed us what was possible with a large family with young children. Our kids were growing fast, and we didn’t want to miss the chance to travel with them while we worked through a slow, multi-step process. No matter how much practice we had on small boats in inland waterways, no matter how many baby-steps we took, there would still come the unavoidable moment when we would need to actually buy a blue water boat in order to take our family out sailing on the unforgiving ocean. Regardless of preparation, that would still feel like a sink-or-swim moment. We wouldn’t know whether we were ready, or capable, or even whether we would enjoy it, until we tried. And not trying would mean always wondering, and possibly regretting. With crystalline determination, we decided to skip the baby-steps and take a giant leap. We began looking for a liveaboard boat, opening up the search to catamarans. Though we knew a multihull might be more expensive than a monohull of similar length, it would provide enough space for our growing family and maybe even satisfy my husband’s desire to go fast.  

“That is why I got so excited when, several months later, Jay came home from a week-long business trip and announced, ‘I think I found the boat.’ Not a boat, but the boat. He opened his computer to show me and, at least on the listing, Take Two looked perfect. She had four cabins with double beds, a spacious interior, an enclosed cockpit (safer with small children), inboard engines with prop shafts, a generator and watermaker, and beautiful lines. She ticked off so many of our boxes and looked so attractive that we felt that we should pursue the next steps, ready or not. We knew the cost of hesitation and didn’t want to end up like so many other planners, armchair sailors, and readers-of-adventures.

“All the same, we were naturally a little nervous about buying a large, custom-built wooden catamaran, built in Europe in the nineties, which had sat unwanted in Florida for three years, sustained some damage in a hurricane, and cost more than our first house. It was a risk against which we could not measure the benefits. What if it cost too much to fix? What if we hated living on the boat? What if we changed our minds and then couldn’t sell it? But then, what if it was wonderful? What if this boat was the answer to our hopes and prayers? What if this was a second chance at adventure—the boat’s name was Take Two, after all!

“We reminded ourselves that we weren’t committing to anything yet. We didn’t have to buy a boat, just go look at a boat. Anyone can get in their car and drive to Ft. Lauderdale—it doesn’t take much courage to do that! We buckled our four little people into their car seats and drove our van across “Alligator Alley” between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. We invited Jay’s dad and stepmom, Al and Mary, who were also boat-owners, to come along and give us their opinion.

“Looking at Take Two was like falling in love—sometimes you just know it’s the right one. All the things that had scared other buyers away excited us. She was custom-built, cold-molded marine plywood and epoxy. The designer, Dirk Kremer, had thought of everything; lots of built-in storage, a roomy galley in the main cabin, an enclosed cockpit with lots of seating. But, unlike a name-brand production boat, there would be no manual, no warrantees, and no company support. Parts would have to be special-ordered or manufactured. The electrical system was European, fifty-hertz, and needed upgrading. In fact, everything needed upgrading—it would be a labor of love, but if we took on the project, it was an opportunity to make the boat our own. Her bones were good, her lines sleek, and the space was perfect for a large family. It was as if she had been built just for us.

“While Jay was lifting every hatch and discussing systems with Al and Mary, I was corralling three excited kids while holding a baby. To them, the boat was just a new playground. After a while, I gathered them up and climbed off the boat so the adults could get down to business. At last, Jay climbed off the boat and I asked if he could watch the kids so I could have some time to look around all by myself. The next twenty minutes would likely change my life. I walked slowly around the boat, imagining what it would look like if we lived there. I climbed up into what could someday be our bunk and just lay still for a while. Even at the dock, I could feel the boat swaying beneath me. Does a person get tired of moving all the time? I wondered. I couldn’t answer that question, nor any of a dozen others. Soon it was time to get into the car and drive back to Clearwater. It turns out that just looking can be dangerous; we found ourselves buzzing with excitement on the drive home as we contemplated the next risky step.

“There was unanimous agreement about, and enthusiasm for, Take Two. She would need an out-of-the-water survey and a sea trial to tell us if she was sound, but we knew we liked her, and we felt that we could be happy living aboard. She was spacious, without the space being wasteful; she looked fast, but comfortable; and she came equipped to sail across oceans, a real blue water boat. To be fair, the kids didn’t really know what they were signing up for—they thought the boat was a new jungle gym, and they imagined that they were heading out to sea like a band of pirates. What little kid wouldn’t be enthusiastic? Jay’s parents approved, too. But there were risks—the boat would be hard to sell if we changed our minds. There would be no turning back. Added to the fear of the unknown, there were the known fears, like bad weather, endless repairs, and seasickness. Before we could even buy the boat, there would be questions to answer…” –Chapter 3: Sink or Swim