From Sailboat to Powerboat: The Dream Fulfilled

Longtime sailors make a power shift to expand their cruising horizons.
Tennessee River
Sunrise on the Tennessee River is one of many inspiring vistas Great Loop cruisers get to experience. Claudette Chaisson and Rob Vincent

It’s been almost two decades since the phrase “quality time remaining” became our mantra. To us, QTR doesn’t mean we will live to be 100 years old; rather it reminds us how much time we have left to do the things we love to do. It’s our reminder to live each day as though it’s our last.

My husband, Bob, and I met through boating many years ago in San Diego. He was a former naval aviator, a longtime boater and a commercial airline captain at the time. I was working in the marine industry selling advertising into national boating publications, and sailing and racing as crew on other people’s boats.

One of the first things we did after we got married was join the San Diego Yacht Club and partner with friends in the ownership of Sunshine, a 1985 Brewer 42-foot pilothouse cutter. We loved that boat. Swinging on the hook was our favorite thing, and being on board was our happy place.

Jervis Inlet
Grand QTR travels through Jervis Inlet. Claudette Chaisson and Rob Vincent

We sailed Sunshine along the Southern California coastline to Catalina Island, the Channel Islands and parts of Mexico, and did a lot of bareboat chartering. We chartered in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Tahiti, Greece, Croatia and Sardinia, and we made three trips to the Pacific Northwest. Friends always joined us on these trips—which made the charter surprisingly inexpensive—and we all enjoyed our amazing adventures. Discovering a new place by boat has always been our favorite vacation.

Our first bareboat charter in the Pacific Northwest was in 2005 on a Grand Banks 36, where we joined the annual Mother Goose Cruise to Alaska, led by NW Explorations in Bellingham, Washington. Because we were both still working and had limited time, we went only as far north as Desolation Sound, the largest marine park in British Columbia. That was enough for us to fall in love with the area and to whet our appetite for what was to come. They say that you can cruise the waters of the Pacific Northwest your whole life and never see it all, and we believe it. The seed was planted, and we knew we wanted more.

We did two more bareboat charters in the region—one on a sailboat in 2013 and another on a Grand Banks 42 in 2016. By 2016, we were both retired, and it was on that cruise that we made the decision to sell our partnership in Sunshine and buy a powerboat for cruising. Although we are sailors at heart, we both agreed that a Grand Banks would be the perfect boat for us. Not only is it a lot less work than sailing for folks our age; it’s also more practical in the Pacific Northwest, where the wind is sporadic, at best. You can stay comfortable, warm and dry, all the while taking in the amazing views.

Cruising family
Introducing the grandkids to the cruising lifestyle. Claudette Chaisson and Rob Vincent

In December 2016, we fulfilled our dream and bought a 1990 Grand Banks 46 Classic in Seattle. We named it Grand QTR, and it has indeed been that. We have been having the time of our lives.

We found a slip in Sidney, British Columbia, a charming little town that has everything we need just 17 miles north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. From San Diego, we can take an early-morning flight up through Seattle, into Victoria, and be on board Grand QTR by lunchtime. It’s the ideal location, with easy access to both the Canadian Gulf Islands and the U.S. San Juan Islands. Beautiful views of Mount Baker are visible from Sidney. There are so many great harbors from which to choose, and all are so close by. Bob loves the challenge of navigating the waters and continually checking the tides, currents and weather, while I am always on “log watch” (and whale watch) when underway.

Our first two seasons on board were spent exploring our new backyard, with friends and family joining throughout the summer. By then we had two grandsons (we now have three), and we’ve found that there’s nothing more fun than sharing this incredible experience with family. We all love Grand QTR. Handrails and walk-around room outside the entire boat keep it safe for grandkids and grandparents alike, while the spacious main salon provides 360-degree views and plenty of room for entertaining.

During our first season, the highlight was a trip to Chatterbox Falls, where we cruised 50 miles up the gorgeous fjords of Jervis Inlet, through the Malibu Rapids at slack tide, and into Princess Louisa Inlet—a trip that had been on our bucket list. It is one of the most amazing places on Earth. There’s no cellphone service or Wi-Fi, only the pristine beauty of Mother Nature at her finest. It’s one of many places in these waters that can be accessed only by boat or seaplane. For us, just being there was a spiritual experience.

Princess Bay
Grand QTR takes advantage of a secluded anchorage in Princess Bay, Portland Island, British Columbia. Claudette Chaisson and Rob Vincent

The highlight of our Pacific Northwest cruising seasons was our summer cruising in 2019, when we buddy-boated up the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay, Alaska, with our Sidney slip mates. They were on their 2014 Kadey-Krogen 44, Mana Kai. Traveling with them made for a safe and fantastic journey. It was the trip of a lifetime for us, traveling 3,200 nautical miles over five months. The cruising grounds are pristine, breathtaking and nothing short of spectacular. The farther north you go, the more beautiful it is and the more wildlife you encounter. Seeing orcas, humpbacks, porpoises, otters, eagles, ravens, herons and bears is always a thrill. The Misty Fjords, like Glacier Bay National Park, was another spiritual place we will never forget.

When COVID-19 prevented us from getting into Canada in 2020 and 2021, we had NW Explorations deliver our boat to Bellingham and spent both of those summers cruising Washington state. We rendezvoused with Mana Kai and Water Dog, another Kadey-Krogen couple (and their two dogs) we met during our 2019 cruise to Alaska. Cruising with them, we had two fantastic, COVID-safe, Dungeness-crab-filled summers. Stunning views of Mount Rainier are a highlight of cruising in south Puget Sound, and visiting with friends and family who live there makes it even better. The diversity of the island hiking, along with a few online yoga classes, helped keep us in shape while cruising. We’re looking forward to getting back to British Columbia. There’s lots more to explore.

As long as it’s still fun, and as long as we’re in good health, we hope to continue living this dream. Not only is Grand QTR our happy place, but it’s also become our safe place. And with no TV on board, it’s a real escape for us. Floating someplace beautiful with people you love—that is QTR.

Finding Community

We attended the annual Grand Banks Rendezvous in Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington, in 2018 to kick off our second cruising season. We enjoyed the seminars, met like-minded cruisers, and reconnected with old friends from the boating industry, which made it feel like home. From there, we slowly cruised up the east coast toward Vancouver Island and into the majestic Broughton archipelago. Most of the marinas in the Broughtons have happy hours where cruisers bring food to share with fellow cruisers. It’s fun, and you meet a lot of interesting people that you see again down the road. It really adds to the QTR, as does the delicious seafood that’s plentiful at the get-togethers. Our cruising season is usually May through September, so for us, it is a four-to-five-month vacation every year.

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