My first recollection of being on a boat was at the age of 5 in the bow of our family cabin cruiser as Dad was heading out for a fishing trip. I’d lay there and listen to the water skirting off the sides, it was so comforting to me that I fell asleep lying on piles of wet anchor line. I learned to sail at the age of 10 by waiting until no one was looking and ‘stealing’ community prams lying on the beach next to the Atlantic… When I was a young boy our family lived in a small village just north of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida called Sea Ranch Lakes. Sea Ranch was a down to earth upscale community which was divided by A1A, the beach road. All the homes were on the west side of A1A between the road and the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), the Sea Ranch’s beach club was on the east side spanning from the roadway to the Atlantic Ocean. The beach club had a huge Olympic size pool, men and women’s locker rooms with showers, a huge entertainment room for events, a kitchen, and a half court basketball hoop. The staff would put out all the community toys for the residents to play with each morning, which included a number of sailing prams at the ocean’s edge. While swimming at the pool I would see adults take the prams out into the ocean and I thought it looked like fun. Normally the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida is like a bathtub, same temperature and the water is flat as a pancake. One day I went down to the beach and pulled one of the prams into the water and as I was about to get in when one of the beach club staff ran to the edge of the grass and shouted at me that ‘the sailboats were for the adults not the children’. Ahhhh crap. Over the next few days I kept my eye on the prams to see who was using them and when. I noticed a pattern on the weekends… none of the staff was watching anything going on at the beach as they were too busy tending to the residents at poolside, so I concocted a plan. On the next Saturday around 1:00 pm I made my way to the beach and hid out of sight until no one was walking by or looking at the beach. I pulled one of the prams into the water, hopped in lickety-split, and got out of the sight as fast as I could. No radio, no PFD (life preserver), no chart, no nothing just me and the boat. Did I consider what I would do if something went wrong? Hell No! It took awhile but I soon got the hang of how to make the boat go where I wanted it to go. I sailed around south of the beach club for about 45 minutes and then returned undetected. That was the start of 3 months of sailing during summer vacation, on each excursion I would go further out and further south. Soon I was out of the sight of land for long periods of time, and loving every minute. The sailing was great, seeing the fish (barracuda, sharks, colorful fish over the reefs) and listening to the birds, the sound of water lapping against the hull of the pram, it was all magical, I loved being out on the water. Through out high-school and college there was little opportunity to sail or any other kind of boating as there more important matter to attend to, like being at the beach trying to ‘pick-up’ girls. In college all my free time was working so I could save up to get married after graduation. I graduated and moved to the town of my betrothed inland, very far inland, Western Pennsylvania inland, it was 6 1/2 hours from the Atlantic Ocean that bummed me out, but I was happily married. As the years went by and our family grew I longed to be out on the water again… teaching my kids to love sailing as I did. Some how I needed a boat and a place to sail, and a 6 1/2 hour drive one way was not doable, especially with young kids.
In my early 20s I built a cubby-cabin 17 foot trailerable fiberglass sloop in my garage, and no I did not have to tare the garage down to get the boat out, that’s armature ship builder lore and insulting! I am an engineer for god sake… I only had to take an inch of molding off the two sides of the doorway, and grease the sides of the boat to get it out. sheesh.
We sailed the 17 footer every weekend on the lakes in PA until the kids got too big and the boat got too small. My next boat was a 27 foot Watkins which I kept off Middle River north of Baltimore and sailed the Chesapeake every weekend for 13 years, a drive of 4 1/2 hours one way. I was never a racer I have always been a cruiser, always going to new places and meeting new people. I’ve sailed in rivers, lakes, bays, sounds, and oceans and loved every sailing minute. Owning a sailboat or any boat for that matter means that you either have have buckets of cash to maintain your vessel or you learn to be handy with tools. Since I’ve never had buckets of cash, I opted for the tools and being self sufficient (as most cruising sailor are), the plus side is you do develop skills.
With all the kids grown I asked my wife if we could move closer to the ocean… to my surprise and delight she said yes and we decided to move our manufacturing business and family to North Carolina. Rather then take the time to sail my 27 foot sailboat to NC, time I did not have to spend, I sold it. The reason for moving the business to North Carolina was two fold; first, I was escaping the high cost of operating a business and living in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania the Land of Taxes) Second, and more importantly, my next sailboat would only be 5 minutes from my new house, not 4 1/2 hours.
We moved and it took every hour of everyday for four years to reestablish the business, but we did it and I started to have some free time… Which meant a sailboat… I found a project boat at a good price, a Pearson 28 and this boat was in my wheelhouse, I started working on the Pearson in 2011.