Transitioning From Charterers to Live-A-Boards

Robert and Toni aboard Our Time. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman
Robert and Toni aboard Our Time. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman

Robert and I caught the sailing bug while watching sailboats from the shore of Cinnamon Bay Campground in the USVI over 30 years ago. Robert grew up in Ft. Lauderdale motor boating but it took ten years after Cinnamon Bay to finally start our sailing dream. We stumbled upon Castle Harbor Sailing School in Matheson Hammock Park in Miami, Florida where we started with a Christmas gift of sailing lessons on Biscayne Bay with our three boys. We received our Basic Keelboat Certification and became the typical charterer guests. Over the years our sailing skills improved as we chartered monohulls off the Florida coast and catamarans in the Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and Antigua with a few different charter companies.  

Our story seems quite similar to many charter/new boat owners that we meet; we all want more of the experience. Somewhere around age 55 we realized that although we may not feel like we have enough money to own a boat, we sure as heck knew that we will run out of time to physically handle a sailing lifestyle. Our new philosophy: any day on the water is better than a day in the office; no matter the weather there is always something good. 

Our first night aboard Our Time away from the nest of the charter company. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman
Our first night aboard Our Time away from the nest of the charter company. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman

There is always a story
Let’s face it, we have a reputation to overcome. Not all charterers are equally qualified. Everyone has a “you should have seen…” charterer story to share.  In fact, I am willing to share our own less than glorious moments: backing over our safety swim line; crunching a corner of the boat on a metal dock in high winds; and, racing for a mooring ball in the Virgin Islands to avoid being on anchor. Lessons learned! Oh, the shame …

Our path to ownership went through the Miami boat show in 2016 where The Catamaran Guru, Stephen Cockcroft, facilitated the purchase of our Lagoon 450 F. We choose a catamaran as I battle seasickness and the cat offers great stability. Robert flew over to France in November and was part of the three-person crew delivering Our Time from factory launch to her new home as part of the Dream Yacht Charter fleet in English Harbor, Antigua. The Atlantic crossing was Captain Andy’s fiftieth and one of his most weather intensive. Yet the experience has proven invaluable to building confidence in both our Lagoon 450 and Robert’s sailing acumen.

Our last day in harbour splurge, lunch while still keeping an eye on Our Time in the distance. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman
Our last day in harbour splurge, lunch while still keeping an eye on Our Time in the distance. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman

Character and kindness matter
Our Time arrived in English harbor on December 29 2016 to do her one year ‘Peace Corp’ service to others as Robert and I returned home to sell our business and prepare for our new life adventure. Over the past year we visited her twice for one month stints to acquaint ourselves to boat living. We do not underestimate the efforts of so many who aided in our growth from charterers to owners; from past charter base personnel and others in the sailing community who helped us attain our dream. (U-tubers, keep the videos coming!) Many willingly shared their personal experiences and have given us courage to step out and experience this lifestyle. We tip our hats to all of you. The highest thank you we can give in response is to become safe, caring and equally sharing boaters.  We are ready to go—well, almost. 

The Rubber meets the Road or the Rudder meets the Sea
What do you say when the moment arrives for you to cut the proverbial umbilical cord from the charter company, launching into being totally independent? Perhaps, “Oh my God, what were we thinking?”  Or, “Yea! Bon voyage.” In our situation it is probably a bit of both. A critical factor for us is the confidence we have in the boating community to help one another when in need based upon what we have already experienced. We have received top notch care from the Antigua Dream Yacht Charter base manager Thierry Ote, his wife, Isabelle and their entire team. Getting Our Time shipshape has taken a lot of their time for attention to details, maintenance and negotiating vendors and customs.

Andrew Dove of North Sails and Robert attach our new Code Zero furling system. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman
Andrew Dove of North Sails and Robert attach our new Code Zero furling system. Photo by Robert and Toni Erdman

Safety First
Our top priority has always been safety.  Having the boat in great repair prior to our departure has been overwhelmingly important to us and honestly a lot of pressure on the charter company handover team. We have been treated with true professionalism and patient kindness. Besides the boat herself, our next big investment was a Code Zero asymmetrical sail for our trip back towards Florida. Andrew Dove from North Sail Antigua was as creative, inventive and entertaining as they come. I consider the many individuals who had a hand in preparing us to depart Antigua our friends. 

Dinghy Over
Robert and I know that as live-aboards we will continue to grow in our sailing and boating proficiency and continue to contribute to the high standards within the boating community. We noticed in the past that many live-aboards know one another, visit while at anchor and sadly shunned charter guests and catamaran lovers, a tad.  We are no longer ‘marked’ as a charter boat; however, we do love our catamaran, no apologies there.  So, if you see us at anchor, whether you are a charterer, a live-aboard, a monohull or catamaran lover, please stop by, we are eager to meet you and to hear your story.

 

Toni and Robert Erdman hail from central Florida and plan to spend this year sailing Our Time to Ft. Lauderdale, introduce her to family and friends and then continue north to Annapolis. [email protected].com [email protected]