Living the Dream

By Peter A. Janssen

Peter A. Janssen

If there was ever a time to live the dream, this was it. The bad news was that I had just gone through a divorce; the good news was that I had a chance to start my life over again. First off, I needed a place to live. At the time, I was the editor of a major boating magazine, Motor Boating & Sailing, with offices in New York. The sane thing to do probably would have been to get an apartment in New York and live there, but I’d already been there, done that. And where was the adventure in that?

So, I bought a yacht, a classic Grand Banks 36, with the master stateroom and head aft; the guest stateroom (for my kids) with its own head forward; and the salon, with its iconic Grand Banks teak table, in the middle. Seemed a perfect fit. Everyone would have their own private areas. The only problem was that the yacht I loved was in Fort Myers, Florida.

But that too became part of the adventure. After moving the yacht to Fort Lauderdale for the winter (I bought it in November), I flew my kids down for New Year’s vacation and we cruised down to the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. It was one of the best times ever; we stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve playing Monopoly in the salon.

Then, starting on April 1, with help from my colleague and friend, the late Dan Fales, I brought the yacht up to its new home in Norwalk Cove, Connecticut. At 8 knots, that took a while, but as a former sailor, I thought 8 knots was a pretty good speed. And the truth was that after a few days I realized that life at that speed was about enjoying the boat, the environment and the (slowly) passing surroundings. I was happy.

After we got to Norwalk, I really didn’t have to do much to start my liveaboard life. After all, I’d been living aboard for about 1,000 nautical miles since Fort Myers. Other people worry about paring down; I’d already pared down. I just brought my New York suits and good shirts and shoes and put them in the aft hanging locker. I did have to find room to keep my bank accounts and financial statements and things like that for my taxes, so I just got a moving box and kept them in the trunk of my car at the marina. (I wrote about that once in the magazine, without realizing that my accountant was a subscriber; he thought it was pretty funny.)

But the best times were with my kids, who lived nearby in Westport. They loved the boat and would come down with their friends; it wasn’t everybody’s dad who lived on a yacht. I even brought the family dog down occasionally, until I realized it really was hard work at low tide lifting an 80-pound yellow Lab up to the dock at dawn so he could do his business on shore.

Another perk? I was always ready to go. I’m fairly neat by nature, but living in a small space forces you to keep everything in its place. I did, and I was ready to cast off the lines and unplug the shore cord and start cruising in a New York minute. The only thing I had to put away was the coffee maker, which I simply tucked under the blankets in my bed.

Living on board during the winters in Connecticut can be challenging. I occasionally would slide down the ice or snow on the gangplank at the marina coming home from work in my dress shoes. And filling the water tanks (two tanks in the lazarette holding 85 gallons each) wasn’t particularly fun since I had to run a hose about 30 yards up to the only faucet that the marina kept open all winter. But I’ve never been so much in touch with my life, with my surroundings, with the other people nearby. I was happy watching every sunrise. In the summer, we would always take family cruises, with highlights in Essex, Newport, Cuttyhunk, Nantucket. Those times were wonderful. And I didn’t have to unpack or leave the yacht once we got back home; that was better yet.

Editor’s Note: We’d love to hear your Grand Banks memories. Share them with us at georges@grandbanks.com.