Zane Grey is often credited with pioneering the concept of cruising to far-flung fishing holes on a big ship. He pushed off from a California dock in the 1920s aboard a 190-foot schooner with several small craft on deck. Since then, owners and crew have continuously evolved the mothership experience, going to great lengths to battle gamefish in remote places. Some of the most audacious have chased exotic creatures from motherships built solely to reach the edges of weed lines that everyday anglers rarely prowl, either hauling, towing or running fishboats in tandem. Recently, one crew took the concept to the next level. They embraced the idea that when it comes to trolling the globe, you can take a lot with you, including a tender that is nothing short of a luxury yacht. And in the process, they completed what’s being called an epic, and possibly historic, voyage.
Steve and Dorothea Green have been cruising and fishing the world aboard motherships for 18 years, traveling to more than 75 countries and logging more than 140,000 nautical miles. Along for every one of those miles has been Capt. John Crupi, charged with the care of their fleet and piloting their mothership. Since 2011, that mothership has been Dorothea III, a 147-foot Cheoy Lee.
Dorothea III’s tender? The first was a 35-foot Cabo; a few years later, the Greens upgraded to a 45-footer from the same builder. The mothership towed both, and ate up the ocean miles. In 2016, it was time again for a new tender, and Green and his captain were ready to try something different. “The towing had just become too fatiguing, for everyone,” Crupi said. “So, we decided to look for a sidekick that could run alongside the mothership. We needed a boat with the seakeeping ability to do long-distance trips on its own bottom, and it had to be comfortable for Steve, too.”
Those criteria don’t seem too demanding—until you realize how this crew defines a long-distance trip. The tender would join the mothership on a world tour with lengthy, nonstop runs. One of the most challenging runs would be a nine-day, 1,985-nautical- mile push across the Atlantic from Bermuda to the Azores, requiring fuel transfers from Dorothea III while underway.
Power: Twin 1,622-hp 32A Caterpillar diesels
Fuel: 1,900 gals.
Displacement: 102,000 lbs.
At Hatteras Yachts in North Carolina, Green and Crupi found the GT63. The convertible, named Post One, is a production boat, but Crupi worked with Hatteras to customize the vessel. Some things were modified for the sake of comfort and convenience, others were changed for pure operation, according to Crupi.
“We upgraded a lot of machinery to make it more robust and allow for continuous use,” he says. “We increased the boat’s capacity to pump fuel, for instance, and enhanced fuel purification systems. Cleats and deck equipment were upgraded to allow for mooring in areas with more surge. Water-making capacity was increased, and the electronics suite at the helm was designed to resemble what you see on an expedition yacht. We did a few things just for fishing, too, like adding more refrigeration in the cockpit for bait. We even took one of the staterooms and turned it into a tackle room. If you put this boat beside a conventional GT63, the two would look similar on the outside, but the differences are in the details. Post One is sort of supersized from a mechanical standpoint.”
Post One launched in early 2018 and left Florida in January, running gunwale-to-gunwale with Dorothea III. At the helm of the Hatteras was Capt. Josh Heater, a 26-year-old from St. Augustine, Florida, who had obtained his 1,600-ton USCG license while working on commercial ships in the Gulf of Mexico.
The shakedown cruise was from Florida to Mexico, where the crew put in several days of sailfishing off Isla Mujeres. (While there, Post One made easy work of the head seas on the daily 50-plus-mile run home from the fishing grounds.) The boats then traveled through the Panama Canal and chased marlin in the Gulf of Chiriquí before heading north along the Pacific coast of Central America to Costa Rica. In May, the boats came back through the canal and prepared for an Atlantic adventure.
The first time Crupi and his crew transferred fuel from the mothership’s diesel reserves to Post One at sea was on a run from Panama to the Bahamas. “Planning for that was a huge deliberation,” Crupi said. “The chief engineer, Josh and I were all involved. We talked about it, drew diagrams and tried to do it multiple ways until we came up with something that worked. I mean, you can’t just Google it. Once we figured it out, we made the parts and pieces we needed, which included a specially adapted fuel fill on the Hatteras.” The crew also determined they would need to refuel with the bow of the Hatteras off the ship’s stern. They had tried the process running side by side, but there was too much wake motion between the two boats, making it difficult for the captains to keep them steady.
The procedure was a success, but the real test would occur during the long run from Bermuda to the Azores, during which they would have to refuel three times, transferring close to 1,500 gallons of diesel each time between the two boats. Fortunately, the weather was with them. Thanks to savvy routing, the crew enjoyed a high-pressure system with light winds and relatively calm seas. The conditions made it a bit less tricky to pass fuel hoses via messenger line from Dorothea III over to the Hatteras, but even so, the procedure was a nail-biter.
On the Hatteras, Josh had three crew, including his father, Jay Heater, who is a U.S. Coast Guard Master Unlimited and retired container ship captain. Jay—who took Josh offshore for the first time when he was 18 months old, cradling his infant son in a cooler—was on the bridge to help with communications.
“It’s not easy to run alongside a ship while you’re fueling,” Josh said. “For me, it required a lot of concentration. I had to come up 20 feet from Dorothea’s stern, running off her starboard quarter, while making 8 knots. That was as slow as we could go since we needed both engines in gear to steer. But it looked like I was driving into her transom, and Dorothea’s prop wash was pushing me all over the place. I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel. Dad was there to give me the distance and communicate with the rest of the crew. The longest fill we did was over an hour. In six-foot seas.”
When Dorothea III and Post One arrived at Faial Island in the Azores, both yachts were in excellent condition, needing only a washdown and interior cleaning at the dock. The crew was even able to prep fishing gear en route, so the Hatteras would be ready to troll for blue marlin on the Azores Bank.
Once the boats were tied up at Horta Marina in Faial, Crupi and crew learned they had just made history. At least that’s what port agent Duncan Sweet told them. He said their Hatteras GT63 was the first production-built fiberglass yacht to make that particular transatlantic crossing on its own bottom.
“A lot of things could have gone wrong, and we had put a lot of contingency plans in place,” Crupi said. “I mean, you’re talking to a guy who has been struck by lightning twice and burned by an engine that exploded when we were underway. A bad day for me is ending up in a life raft. None of that happened on this trip, so we’re pretty stoked.”
The boats remained in the Azores for a few weeks. But soon it was time to cast off lines again. In August, Crupi was at the helm of Dorothea III, running beside Post One with Heater on the bridge of the Hatteras. The boats were heading east from the Azores. Their next stop was Madeira. From there? They’ll make a couple of stops, including a run from Cape Verde to Brazil. “That one is about a thousand miles longer than the crossing we just finished,” said Crupi. “So we’ll just see how that goes.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.