A couple has chosen the sailor’s life, ruled by ropes and pulleys, wind and tides rather than the almighty dollar or family expectations. KC Gunn and Troy Roberts are raising their two daughters aboard a Polynesian-style catamaran that has a six- to seven-foot draft.
Roberts was born in Birmingham, Ala. and learned about sailing by hanging out at docks, finding the oldest among the “old salts” and picking their brains for knowledge. A former motorcycle stunt man, he said, “Sailing is the only thing that’s fun at six miles an hour!”
After buying a sailboat, he called his father to tell him, “I’ll never live on land again.” Roberts considers sailing “active meditation: you have to cooperate with the atmosphere.”
Gunn, born in Anderson, Ind., never saw the ocean until she was 18. But once she did, she earned her masters diving certificate in the Philippines and worked as an underwater commercial photographer. She had been working as a fashion photographer in New York City and needed a change.
The couple recently landed in Islamorada in the Florida Keys, where they met originally, because they missed their fathers more than they thought they would. They are helping their retired fathers to refurbish their own sailboats (Gunn’s father has a 1970s-era 42-foot Wharram), in order to join them on an adventure to the Bahamas.
Three-year-old Naia Gunn Roberts and seven-month-old Mira Gunn Roberts have grown up on a sailboat. “They don’t know what they don’t have,” Roberts said. What they do have is quality time with their parents, a rope swing and a few toys for entertainment, and an expansive ocean vista. The couple plans on homeschooling them, especially with access to curriculum geared to “sailing kids.”
“I want them to prosper and grown in their own way,” said KC. “We like to keep moving. We want to circumnavigate, and the kids will have friends all over the world.”
The family also has a pit bull-mix dog named Kona, procured from an animal shelter.
For three years now, Roberts has owned his James Wharram-designed catamaran with double canoes as hulls. In the mid-1950s, Wharram, nominated as 2016 Yachtsman of the Year by “Classic Boat” magazine, built his first off-shore catamaran in Britain. Roberts likes the design because it utilizes ropes and pulleys and not a lot of hardware that can rust. He said he and Gunn overbuilt the beams and riggings to ensure seaworthiness and safety.
The family uses a motorized dinghy for shore excursions that can be lifted completely out of the water by a pulley system to be stored beneath the hull. The dinghy has a 20 horsepower motor. When in the lowered position, it can propel the entire sailboat or help stabilize it in case of extreme tides or narrow channels that make navigation challenging.
On a recent excursion to the Bahamas, the couple learned that solar power and refrigeration were desirable. After spearfishing for three hours to find a fish for dinner, they had no way to refrigerate it and ice was hard to come by, so they ended up sharing their extras with fellow sailors. They returned to home base in the Florida Keys to buy and install a refrigerator.
Part of their appreciation of the sailing life is that they have sailed 500 miles with $10 on hand; when they reached their destination, they still had the $10.
The family planned to participate in the Hui Wharram May 20-22 in North Fort Myers, Fla. Departing May 18, they looked forward to swapping tales, learning from others and sharing a few tips of their own. After voyages through the Windward Passage and to Haiti and the Virgin Islands, the couple intends to have two extra deckhands in their growing daughters, and then sail through the Panama Canal on their way to the Philippines.