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6 ways to cruise

The dream is to one day step aboard your boat, cast off the lines and go — cruising and living aboard, putting in where you please, moving on when you please, and doing things you never had time to do.

The dream is to one day step aboard your boat, cast off the lines and go — cruising and living aboard, putting in where you please, moving on when you please, and doing things you never had time to do.

It is an enduring dream, cruising. For the people you’re about to meet — all Grand Banks owners — either the dream has become a reality, is near to being a reality or, at least for one couple, the dream still is in a kind of twilight zone. It might become a reality. It might not.

We met these cruisers and dreamers earlier this year at the Grand Banks Rendezvous at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla., as beautiful a location as you’ll find for savoring the cruising lifestyle.

K.C. and Pat Moorelast summer attended their high school reunions by boat— his in Cleveland, hers in Utica, N.Y. — while cruising the Great Lakes. The Moores are retired at WindmillHarbour on Hilton Head Island, S.C., an ideal base for cruising, K.C. says. Their dock is just minutes from home and Calibogue Sound, with easy access to both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic.

The Moores for years lived in Cleveland, where they owned sailboats and cruised with their sons on the Great Lakes. Since retiring, the couple have owned two Grand Banks yachts, the first a 42-foot Classic that they cruised for 10 years and put 3,600 engine hours on. They have cruised three times to the Great Lakes, six times to New England, and many times to Florida.

“We live on the boat three or four months in the summer and usually spend every single night on it,” says Pat. Their favorite cruising: Canada’s Georgian Bay and North Channel.

They just bought an Eastbay 49, Arete, with a planing hull and more power than the Classic. “We decided we needed a faster boat,” says K.C. The couple want to cruise to Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk, Mass. “We’ll be going outside [on the ocean] a lot more,” he says. “In a slower boat, you can’t justify the in and out time.”

David and Betty Henderson of Punta Gorda, Fla., have logged 27,300 nautical miles since buying their Eastbay 38 Hardtop, Synergism, in 2000. The Hendersons are former sailors as well. In fact, they sailed out of the same Cleveland club as the Moores — Mentor Harbor Yachting Club. The two couples knew each other, went in different directions after retirement, and met up again on the water through their cruising.

After retirement the Hendersons lived for 15 months on their 37-foot Tartan sailboat, cruising from Cleveland to Key West to North Carolina, where they built a house in Herford. “We’d go up to the Chesapeake Bay after Labor Day,” David says, but the going was just too slow on a sailboat. “We spent way too much time on the water and not enough time where we wanted to be.” So they bought the Eastbay, then moved to Florida for the warmer weather.

When the Hendersons cruise, they keep moving. “Why go somewhere and spend three months there?” asks Betty. “Three days and we’re ready to move,” adds her husband.

The Hendersons, who keep their Grand Banks at the Burnt Store Marina just 50 feet from their condominium, have done the Great Loop up the East Coast, through the Great Lakes and down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico. “We spent a month in the North Channel,” says Betty. “We absolutely loved it.”

They also enjoy Florida gunkholing on Tampa and Pelican bays, and cruising to Clearwater, Naples, Fort Myers and Fort MyersBeach. “It’s what we wanted to do,” says David. “We enjoy every aspect of it.”

After nine years of hammering, sawing, sanding, painting, varnishing, gluing, replacing wire and doing all manner of other work, Al Stevens is about ready to go cruising with his wife, Murphy. He’s pretty sure he has just about finished restoring their 29-year-old Grand Banks 42.

“If I had known it was going to take this long, I probably never would have bought it,” says Al, of Sarasota, Fla. But he’s a general contractor who renovates houses for a living, and he thought he had a pretty good idea of the scope of this job. He thought it would take him a year to complete. Nine years later, “We’re finally talking about taking it up to Maine,” he says. “We have a house in East Boothbay.”

He hoped to head up there this summer, cruise Maine and bring it back to Florida next summer. But Al still works, and his plans were contingent on him not getting a contract he had bid on. One day he hopes to be able to say: “I’m not bidding that job. I’m going cruising.”

Murphy is ready to cruise. “I love the boat,” she says. “I love it now. When he bought it, I thought he was crazy.”

Al gutted the boat. He rebuilt the saloon, put in new cabinetry, settees, counters, appliances, electronics, canvas, and installed a stainless steel sink, air conditioning and new marine heads. He has varnished hundreds of board feet of wood three times but has yet to cruise.

“I like old houses and old boats,” he says. “It’s been fun. It’s like my hobby. Some people play golf; I work on the boat.”

For Tom and Barbara Moloney, Dawn to Dusk is not just their home for 15 to 20 weeks a year. It is the family’s summer cottage, a weekend retreat for the kids and grandkids when the boat is in New England.

Dawn to Dusk is a 72-foot Aleutian. “It’s an expensive habit,” says Tom. “You’ve really got to be sure you have the time and interest to use the boat. We see a lot of good-sized boats around. They just sit there. They don’t get used.” The Moloneys, however, use Dawn to Dusk.

They keep the boat in Portsmouth, R.I., during the summer. Tom is on the committee for the New York Yacht Club Cruise, so the boat goes on the club cruise, visiting Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk, Mass., Block Island, R.I.; and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The children and their families come down to the boat on weekends and use it as a summer home. In winter, Tom and Barbara live aboard at Ocean Reef and cruise to Key West and the Bahamas. They live on the Aleutian four or five months a year.

“We do the 72 ourselves,” says Barbara. “He’s the captain. I’m crew.”

Tom has taken up a second “career” learning how to maintain the big Grand Banks, a job he says he enjoys. He also is obsessive about plotting courses first on paper charts before punching destinations into his chart plotter, in case his electronics fail.

“It’s fun,” he says. “I lay out all the charts and courses and do it on paper first. I never go anyplace without my paper charts.”

Ruth and Wally Naget, owners of two Birkenstock sandal stores in the Florida Keys, have lived in a cruiser’s paradise for 15 years, yet their story is akin to that of the shoemaker whose children have no shoes.

The couple own two Grand Banks yachts, an Eastbay 38, Bay Bee, that they bought in 2001, and a 49-foot Classic that they recently bought as a fixer-upper. “We originally intended to fix it and sell it, but I’ve fallen in love with it,” says Ruth.

The Classic obviously is slower than the Eastbay, and its draft is deeper — which can be a problem in the keys — but Ruth loves the trawler layout. “It would make a great cruising boat,” she says.

Yet the Nagets seldom use either boat. They are too busy working. “We’re working on that,” says Ruth. “We’re thinking of selling the business. We’ve built the business up. It’s a good business; it’s a fun business.”

But they want to go cruising. More and more, they have been turning day-to-day control of the stores over to their daughter. “We hope to get away a little more,” Wally says.

The Nagets want to do the Great Loop, but they’ll probably have to do it in sections since they can’t take the time off to do it in one cruise. They’ll cruise a section, leave the boat, come back, do another section and so on until they finish. “We know there are people that do it that way,” Wally says. “That’s the way we’ll have to do it.” Their goal now is to finish work on the 49, sell the Eastbay and maybe start their dream cruise in summer 2008.

The Nagets, who owned a car dealership in Milwaukee, sailed and cruised Lake Michigan for 12 years on summer weekends and two-week vacations aboard a 30-foot Pearson Coaster — a “great” sailboat, Wally says. But more often than not they wound up motoring to keep their tight schedule, so now they have two cruising powerboats.

“We have not used them as much as we would have liked,” says Ruth. “Hopefully that is going to change.”

Michael Huck and his wife, Bobbi, raced E-Scow and J/24 sailboats together until his arthritis became so bad he had to give it up. The couple used to live on a houseboat in Annapolis, Md., when Michael, a former pilot, worked as a staffer for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Washington, D.C. “The Chesapeake froze over two years in a row, and I said, ‘That’s enough,’ ” says Michael. “I turned toward the Keys, put the compass on south, and waited for palm trees. It was the easiest move I ever made.”

Semiretired on Merritt Island, Fla., the Hucks continued to race J/24s as long as they could, then bought their first Grand Banks and took up race committee work. They kept busy working J/24 regattas, the 1996 Olympic sailing events in Savannah, Ga., Key West Race Week, the SORC and Regatta Time in the Abacos — five years running. “That kept us in contact with all our friends who still were racing,” says Michael.

One year, “We took a cruise [locally in Florida] that was a lot of fun,” he says. “We just relaxed. No regatta at the end of the trip.” It was an eye-opener and the beginning of the end of their race committee work. “We just cruise the coast now.”

They spend three to six months a year on board their current boat, a 1980 Grand Banks 49. They cruised to Chesapeake Bay in 2000, up the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Knoxville, Tenn., in 2003, and did the Great Loop in summer 2006. “That was the most wonderful trip we’ve ever taken,” Huck says. “There was such a variety of everything — the foliage, the architecture, the people, the terrain. It was just an absolutely marvelous trip.”

In fact, he and Bobbi — who has a 100-ton captain’s license — probably will do it again and stop at places along the way they would have spent more time on the first cruise, he says. “Cruising for us is waking up in the morning with absolutely nothing to do and realizing by cocktail hour that we’ve only done half of it,” says Michael. “We do it leisurely.”