In October of 2007 after our youngest had left for her sophomore year of college, my husband told me he was getting a boat. Not just any boat, a 29 ft, single engine Cabin Cruiser, its official classification is Motor Yacht. We are going to call her (all boats are female) Far Niente, he stated. Far Niente means “doing nothing” or “idleness” in Italian, he further explained. And so began our journey in boating.
That first winter, we kept the Far Niente in a marina on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. in the picturesque town of Madisonville. I was slower to warm up to the idea of boating than Capt K was. Honestly, the first few times we went out, I was terrified! We navigated the boat by touch, getting in and out of the marina with no damage to our boat or any others, just terror. Soon, I was able to relax while we were out in open water. To this day going in and out of slips is still stressful for me.
We slept overnight on the boat several times, both in the slip and at anchor. We spent lots of quiet lazy, days floating on Lake Pontchartrain as well as lots of fun party days with friends and family, drinking and dancing in “Party Cove” up-river on the Tchefunte. We experienced the delightfulness of “idleness” or as the Italians say – Far Niente. We bought a “boathouse” on the river and became regulars at local waterfront restaurants in Madisonville.
As I grew to appreciate the pleasures of the boating life, we continued to travel in Europe on water, choosing smaller ships over the mega-cruise ships. Viking and Windstar became our favorite cruise lines. In 2009, Capt K was transferred to Arkansas. We kept our roots in Louisiana through the boathouse and Far Niente, heading off on a new adventure with a new lake to explore. We bought a condo on Lake Dardanelle and purchased two wave runners. I insisted on my own. The second summer, we expanded our fleet, adding a flashy red, bow rider, the Tina Lou.
In 2010, we sought refuge from the midwest winter in the Caribbean on a Windstar Cruise. The cruise was St.Martin to St. Martin and we stopped at six of the most beautiful, smaller islands of the Caribbean. The waters were smooth, turquoise, and full of sea-life. The snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands was the most beautiful I had ever experienced. Vivid colored schools of fish, large coral formations and a sand shark or two added a new dimension to our time on the water. The island people were friendly and easy going. Walking around Jost Van Dyke for the first time, I knew I was experiencing what Blackbeard did as he walked around the shell packed streets of Nassua in the early 1700’s. In the evenings, we sat on the deck, enjoying the color saturated sunsets, with visions of retirement and bare boating dancing in our heads. We told ourselves “we could live down here.”
In mid-2010, we made another move. We packed up the jet skis, the Tina Lou and headed off to Jupiter, Florida. We discovered another treasure there. Jupiter is a boater’s paradise, with the right combination of a relaxed fishing village and upscale amenities for us. We expanded our boating knowledge of tides, currents, sandbars, and inlets with only a few minor mishaps.
In 2011, we took a step closer to making the dream of bareboating in retirement a reality. We chartered a 64ft. motor yacht with captain and crew out of Tortola, BVI. It was our 30th wedding anniversary. The trip was full of island exploring (no one knows the hidden treasures better than local captains), secret snorkeling spots and picking the brains of our crew. We were beginning to believe we could make our dream a reality.
We soon discovered …. we needed a bigger boat! So we moved the Tina Lou to Louisiana, sold the Far Niente and the house in Florida. We bought a townhouse in a marina in Jupiter, a boat slip, and the Far Niente II, a beautiful 40ft Sea Ray Sundancer. It had two engines and a bow thruster, and Capt K assured me this was the end of navigation by touch. We were now ready for the ocean. And while we never made it all the way to the Bahamas in the Far Niente II, we did take overnight trips with her, where we slept both at anchor and in a marina. We lazed away hours floating in the ocean, swimming off the back and spotting dolphins, schools of fish and sea turtles. We had hours of fun, paddle boarding, kayaking and relaxing with family and friends on that boat.
In June of 2016, for our 35th wedding anniversary, we returned to Tortola, BVI, for our first solo bare boating experience on a 48ft motor catamaran, Three Kings, which was in the Moorings fleet. Capt K has a cautious, safety first nature and a strong appreciation for the dangers of the sea. We went down two days early, checked out all the provisioning options, went to the port briefing twice, studied the charts, and had a captain for a half day to show us the ropes. Even with all that preparation, the first crossing of the Sir Francis Drake channel was enough to make me reconsider our dream of bare boating in the Caribbean. All of my boating experience was minuscule, compared to the knowledge it took to be a First Mate. I didn’t tie the dingy up correctly, I had no idea what a “rocker switch” was much less which one turned off the generator, and the 4-6 foot swells terrified me as well as made me feel queasy. We pulled into Great Harbour on Peter Island, a mere 5 nautical miles from our starting point. I made myself a Bloody Mary to calm my nerves and jumped into the water for a snorkel to remind myself what I loved about the BVI. Capt K was patient and started explaining things in greater detail. We started doing briefings before we moved the boat. By the end of the week, we were working pretty good as a team and have been improving ever since. Every time we hooked a mooring ball successfully, with minimal difficulty, we would say “No show today!!”. It truly was the best vacation, we ever took.
While waiting for our departure taxi, Capt K wandered into the sales office and talked to the boat ownership team. In November of 2016, we returned to the BVI for a sea trial on the new class of power cat, a 43ft., 3 cabin model. Of course, it is the perfect boat for us and in the perfect location, the BVI. In December of 2017, we put the Far Niente II up for sale and planned our first trip to the BVI aboard the Far Niente III, the newest Motor Cat in the Moorings fleet. (If you are interested in trying bareboating with or without a Captain or are interested in yacht ownership, direct message me. Moorings is an outstanding company to work with.)
We made two trips on the Far Niente III, in 2007. One with our son and his family and one for our 36th wedding anniversary. Each time, we have done new things as well as stopped at our favorite places. I do not think I will ever get bored of the beauty of the BVI. Sadly, in September of 2017, portions of the Caribbean were decimated by Hurricane Irma, including most parts of the BVI. The Moorings base was heavily damaged and closed for repairs until Dec 9th. Far Niente III was damaged but not destroyed and at the time of this writing, is still being repaired. We took advantage of the Moorings reciprocal feature in the yacht ownership program and spent 5 day in the Abaco Islands, Bahamas. Another magical place where we will return. The night we stayed in a cove, on Man-of-War Cay, is forever etched in my mind. There was bioluminescence in the water and shooting stars in the sky. The world truly sparkled that night.
As I write this post, we are completing our final preparations for our very first bareboating trip in the Mediterranean, as we are off to Croatia in the morning. Look for my next post sharing our adventures from Croatia – and happy cruising!!!