We Needed a Bigger Boat

A cruise with the in-laws is made possible by chartering a larger vessel.

During a summer 2017 cruise, my son-in-law, Jamieson, suggested we put together a joint family cruise. I thought the idea sounded great and went to work on it. After a bit of discussion, we decided a crew consisting of his parents, Ian and Cheri; he, my daughter, Tiffany, and our grandson, Winston, would join Melody and I for a summer 2018 cruise in the San Juan Islands.

In previous years, Melody and I took our boat, Mucho Gusto, on the outside of Washington up to and back from the Salish Sea. I am a delivery captain, so I am familiar with the route across the Columbia River bar and outside, having done it many times. But we had a problem.

While Mucho Gusto is a powerboat of more than 50 feet in length, it has but two staterooms, so our first order of business was to find a vessel large enough to accommodate seven people comfortably. We wanted to find, charter and operate a boat with four staterooms, at least two heads and plenty of living space for six adults and a child. I figured a 60-footer, at minimum, was required.

I sent emails to several charter companies to explain what we were looking for, but most were unable to give us any viable options. One person, however, came back with a positive reply and a willingness to help us find what we were looking for: Laura Bendixen at Bearfoot Charters in Lynnwood, Wash. She started searching and came back in a couple of days with several private vessels in our size range that were available for a bareboat charter.

After looking at the pictures and specs for the various vessels, we settled on Silhouette, a 63-foot Viking cockpit motoryacht with four staterooms and three heads. During a series of emails we worked out the details and price, and the owners checked my Coast Guard documents and references. We had a boat for our family vacation.

Our itinerary would keep us moving most of the week. We planned our route such that we were on the move only a couple of hours most days. We tied up at marinas all but one night. Our longest day on the water was little more than four hours.

We wanted to make sure there were activities that would appeal to guests who ranged from 6 years old to more than 50 years old. A pair of Citizen walkie-talkies kept the 6-year old busy for hours. We made Winston the “second watch officer,” and he spent a lot of his time assisting the captain by going around the boat and checking on the status of activities and the location of various crew members. He also watched for nearby vessels and reported their location by radio to the captain.

For the older crew, we included a mix of shopping and sightseeing in the ports we visited, and we explored the waterways via kayak and tender. We were busy. That’s not to say we didn’t have downtime; after all, that’s what vacations are for. A quiet afternoon on the upper deck reading or relaxing was also a part of the experience.


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