I grew up in Southern California, until age 12, when dad and mom decided to move the family to North Carolina to be closer to my dad’s mother. My parents were restless in any case; I guess that is where my wanderlust came from.
In North Carolina, we settled into an amazing house located right on Brice’s Creek, near New Bern. I absorbed the lifestyle, running a 14’ skiff with an oversized outboard. Water skiing off the family runabout, I learned to operate and keep boats running.
Grandbonie, Dad’s mom was murdered when I was 16. The event cast a dark cloud over my Dad, from which he never fully recovered. I now know he suffered from a severe depression, and we moved away from my paradise to Yucca Valley, Ca.
I took up SCUBA diving at UCLA, and began to reattach myself to the ocean. After my sophomore year at UCLA, I transferred to UC Santa Cruz where I did much better at school and became more involved in SCUBA. I landed a job at a dive shop located in the Santa Cruz Harbor. I was at this time a NAUI Assistant Instructor. I enjoyed the job, and helped with the SCUBA programs after work and on weekends when not working.
On a whim I applied for a SCUBA instructor job in St. Thomas. I received a phone call inviting me to come to St. Thomas to interview and for a trial period as an instructor at Virgin Islands Diving School. I was engaged at the time, so after an accelerated wedding ceremony, the two of us fly off to Paradise, at ages 22.
VIDS (Virgin Islands Diving Schools) was a great way to gain teaching experience. We took an accelerated Instructor course with VIDS, and were now full-fledged instructors for PADI, NAUI, YMCA, and SSI. After 6 months (equating about 5 years- experience), we took instructor jobs at another dive operator, St Thomas Diving Club with several locations around St Thomas.
I took my US Coast Guard exam for a license to run boats. And soon I was an official Captain and dive instructor.
I learned of a day sail role at Pineapple Beach, running an Irwin 36 , Second Time Around; the job including living on board for free. And so I took the job. Each day I set up the boat for ½ day sails, and cocktail sails, and single handed the boat with up to 6 guests.
After about 6 months or so, we took a Captain and Wife team role on a full-fledged charter boat, a Bombay Trader 46 named Valkyrie. We were pretty unique at the time as a sailing charter boat with SCUBA instructors on board. And so we had several pretty successful years doing trips from St Thomas to the British Virgin Islands and back. We upgraded to a larger boat, and Irwin 65, called Verano Sin Final (Summer without End) owned by Ted Irwin.
Thinking that as we were now approaching our 30’s and that we should get serious about life, we returned to the US, for real world stuff; children, IRA’s, mortgages and the like.
So we packed up our stuff after 5 years in the Virgin Islands, and headed to Vista, California in North San Diego. We started up our own dive store in Oceanside, Pacific Coast Divers.
The real world was not so much fun, and we sold PCD after three years. I found a SCUBA dreamer who envied our romantic lifestyle. And Jane and I went off to Little Cayman Beach Resort, in the Cayman Islands as Dive Instructor/Captain (me) and Assistant Manager (Jane).
Over the next 10 years we took roles as Dive Operations Manager and assistant Manager in Turks and Caicos (Dive Provo, and Beaches Resort) and then to Cayman Brac (Reef Divers, Brac Reef Resort). We had purchased Defiant, an Offshore 40 sloop while in Provo and lived on board her as our home.
The child thing became an issue for us during this entire journey. It finally lead to a divide we could not cross and we split up, Jane went back to Vista, and I stayed at Cayman Brac, living on our 40 sailboat, Defiant.
I met Jenny while at Cayman Brac, and we hit it off immediately. She is a Kiwi, but lived in London for the past 10 years working in corporate roles. She came to Brac on a diving vacation, and I took her for a refresher class. The rest, I guess, is history. Jenny and I decided to take some time and get to know each other. We took Defiant from Cayman through Southern coast of Cuba, across to Florida, to Ft Lauderdale. The trip was about 3 months long and Jenny took to the boating lifestyle extremely well.
The rest of the year we spent in Christchurch together, where I grew to love New Zealand. We got to work together remodeling her house near the beach. And I got to fly fish some of the best trout fishing rivers in the world.
But after a year, we needed to earn some more money and I packed up and flew to Ft Lauderdale, took Defiant out of mothballs and found a place in one of the canals in Ft Lauderdale to dock her as our home. I took a sales role at Seascooters, selling underwater scooters to the diving and superyacht markets. We were acquired by ZAPP and took on electric land scooters, and electric bicycles. Jenny could not work legally in the USA, and she joined me in Ft Lauderdale, spending a scorching summer on Defiant. She eventually headed back to London to find work.
Our long distance relationship continued for about 6 months, when I took on a short term project with some ZAPP customers in Poole, UK. Jenny and I got to spend weekends at her flat in Wapping, London, and I was miserable trying to get electric bicycles and scooters sold in the UK.
We did some soul searching when the project disappeared, coincidentally around the time of 9/11, and came to realize that we could move to NZ and I could work and live in New Zealand due to our long term relationship. We returned to New Zealand in 2002, and settled in Auckland where I landed my first NZ job as a yacht broker. I then found work with an Australian marine supplier, opening up in New Zealand. I also got to work as a freelance marine writer for Boating New Zealand.
About six months after arriving in Auckland we bought a beautiful home on Auckland’s north shore, and also purchased a one bedroom apartment in the building where we had rented, as an investment. Jenny had easily found work back in the corporate world.
Jenny and I had the opportunity to invest in a kayak manufacturing and RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boats) manufacturing business. I took a role with the business and went to California for several months at a time where we purchased the California distribution of Cobra Kayaks. After working for over 5 years at Aquatx/Cobra, I realized I was just too miserable. The separation from Jenny and the stress of the business and the financial strain on us personally was too much. I gave notice to Aquatx and returned to New Zealand.
I took casual work at a marine chandlery for a few months, until I found a sales role at Sealegs. Sealegs is a very unusual company that manufactures and sells amphibious RIB’s. I sold Sealegs all over New Zealand, to some of the NZ richest people. I did demonstrations, made deliveries all over the country, taught customers how to operate their unique craft.
After 5 years of very successful New Zealand sales, I was shocked to learn that Sealegs board decided that I was earning too much money, with over half my salary boosted by commission on the sales of the boats. I negotiated a staged exit for the end of 2016.
This marked a turning point for us, a date at which we decided we would embark on our Nordhavn journey. The Sealegs situation was about a year earlier than our five year plan dictated, but as it turned out, it was good timing. We learned that Southern Star was going to be for sale. The value of the house in Beach Haven had appreciated 3 fold and the NZ dollar was very strong against the USD.
And so the countdown began. In 2016 we sold our yacht, Defiant. We met Robbie and Jo, owners of Southern Star and surveyed and sea trialed her in Baltimore. We returned from Baltimore and put the house on the market. We had garage sales to get rid of items that we did not need in our new lifestyle. We sold furniture, cars, tools, dishes, and everything that would not come with us to our new home.
On 30 November 2016 we boarded Air New Zealand with 4 large duffle bags, and a 1 cubic meter pallet sea freighted to Palm Beach Florida, to move onto Southern Star.