Marilynn Katatsky had waited years for this day, but she never dreamed she'd say her wedding vows in a PFD.
Engaged since 2003, Katatsky, 62, and Rick Kaufmann, 67, were married June 4 aboard Patriot Games, their 2007 EdgeWater 245 CC. Garlands of white flowers trimmed the boat and a small wreath on the bow completed the look of a floating wedding chapel. The ceremony was held on Spa Creek near the Annapolis Yacht Club in Maryland.
The couple didn't want a big wedding. With family living out of state, they decided to keep it small and have 18 close friends and neighbors follow their wedding boat aboard a friend's fully dressed Grand Banks Eastbay 45 named White Eagle.
At 1 p.m., the bride walked down the dock, escorted by Kaufmann, while their friends - men in navy blue blazers and khakis, ladies in blue dresses - lined up to meet them on the beautiful late-spring day. A traditional bagpiper played the "Wedding March" by Felix Mendelssohn as they boarded the EdgeWater. They left the dock and cruised into Spa Creek, with the Eastbay following close behind.
"My good friend and the commander for the [Maryland Natural Resources] Police Academy, Lt. Joe Offer, happens to be an ordained minister, so he married us," says Kaufmann, a sergeant in the Maryland NRP and senior boating instructor at the NRP Academy.
Katatsky says Offer wore a PFD under his robes during the ceremony. The bride and groom wore inflatable PFDs.
"I was going to wear boat shoes as well, but my friends told me they didn't look good with the nice white suit I bought," Katatsky says. "But the PFDs were a must, as Rick always says, 'Boats float, you don't.' "
The periwinkle hull sparkled against the water as guests aboard the Eastbay snapped photos during the ceremony. Afterward, the couple decorated the boat with "Just Married" signs. The EdgeWater and the Eastbay, accompanied by two Maryland Natural Resources Police patrol boats, cruised to the Annapolis City Dock, commonly known as Ego Alley, where spectators at dockside restaurants cheered and other boaters honked horns. The reception was at the Annapolis Yacht Club.
"The best thing about the wedding was seeing Marilynn smiling from ear to ear," Kaufmann says. "In all the pictures, I'm looking nervous because I just wanted everything to go perfectly for her, but she's the happiest I've ever seen her."
Katatsky originally met Kaufmann in the Annapolis City Marina's parking garage, near her office building. Katatsky is a senior vice president and investment management consultant at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Annapolis. For two years, she could see through her office window the Vista 43 motoryacht where Kaufmann lived, but she did not meet him until late in summer 2002.
"He was coming back from being on duty with the Maryland Natural Resources Police," Katatsky says. "We got chatting and I gave him my business card with my number on the back. ... The next morning he wrote me an e-mail entitled 'Romantic Parking Lot Encounter.' "
Katatsky soon found herself cruising with Kaufmann aboard the Vista to favorite spots such as St. Michaels, Md. They were engaged in September 2003, but did not begin to plan for the wedding until last December.
"It seems we were a little slow, but this was a big step for the both of us," says Katatsky, who had never been married. "We just wanted it to be right."
Katatsky grew up in Kingston, N.Y., and she says boats have always been a part of her life.
"I grew up along the Hudson River. My uncle had a Chris-Craft and I looked forward to those beautiful afternoons on the river," she says.
In 1968, Katatsky was in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she took sailing lessons in nearby Dundalk. Meanwhile, Kaufmann completed his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins in 1965, then served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Katatsky traveled for years in a job at the World Health Organization, an arm of the United Nations. She earned a master's in business administration at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1980 and became a financial advisor in Washington, D.C., before moving to Annapolis in 1999.
"I just wanted to settle down and have a normal life after spending so much of my life traveling," she says.
Kaufmann says he grew up in Cape Cod, Mass., and was "fishing on Scituate Harbor when I was 5 years old." His family owned a 16-foot lapstrake-built wooden boat.
After earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam, Kaufmann served in Germany from 1971-74. He came to Boston in August 1974 and lived there briefly before moving to Chicago to work for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Kaufmann served in the National Guard and he remained passionate about boating. He sailed in the Mackinac race on Lake Michigan for several years through the Chicago Yacht Club, coming in last in 1985, sailing a 1969 Newport 30 that he co-owned.
"The entire racing fleet was already heading home," Kaufmann says.
He later owned a 1990 C&C 41 that he named Patriot, a boat he kept until he moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1994 to work at the headquarters of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. He retired from the Army in 1995 with the rank of colonel. A few years later, he sold his condo in Arlington, Va., to live in Annapolis at the city marina aboard the Vista that he bought in 1998.
Kaufmann entered the Maryland Natural Resources Police Academy in October 1998, and in September 1999, at the age of 56, he became the oldest person ever to graduate.
Katatsky says she and Kaufmann cruised together on the Vista for years until he bought an American Tug 34, where they lived from September 2006 until March 2007. They now live in a waterfront house on Duvall Creek in Annapolis with their Doberman pinschers, Chief and Jazzy.
"We bought the American Tug because Rick has to live on the water, but once we got our house we didn't need a liveaboard anymore," Katatsky says. "Both of us work full time and we wanted something smaller and trailerable."
The couple bought the EdgeWater this spring. There were only 50 hours on its 250-hp Yamaha outboard.
"I love it - just a great get-up-and-go boat," Kaufmann says.
The couple were grateful to the Annapolis Yacht Club for the reception it gave them and their guests after they returned to shore on their wedding day.
"We just had a lot of fun. We couldn't have asked for anything better," Katatsky says.
To see clips of the wedding, go to www.youtube.com and search "Marilynnkat."
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue.