Michael and Jeanne Wilkins had no intention of buying a bigger boat. He had owned 31- to 42-foot Sea Rays, and they went to see a brokerage listing about the same size. “The boat was really tired and run-down, and it was raining that day,” Michael recalls. “Right next to it was this Hampton, a 54-footer. It looked huge to us, but we went aboard to see it, really just to get out of the rain. It seemed like the biggest thing in the world, that we could never handle a boat like that.”
They kept her in Dana Point, California, about an hour’s flight from their home in Las Vegas, then spent two years cruising the San Diego area, including Newport Beach and Catalina Island. They learned as they went, biting off bigger cruising chunks each time. “Every weekend, we’d be flying to California,” he says. “It was great.”
In 2011, they saw a 2008 Ocean Alexander 64 at California’s Newport Boat Show. Again, as Michael says, “it was daunting.” But they traded up and figured it out, enjoying the learning process.
Four years later, they so loved the boating lifestyle that they had sold their vacation home in Laguna Beach. They started looking at Ocean Alexander 68s. Their broker suggested they build new instead. “I said, ‘Gosh, we’d never order a new boat. That’s just not going to happen,’” Michael recalls. “He said, ‘Let me just put something on paper,’ and I said, ‘Whatever, knock yourself out.’”
This past winter, in Seattle, they took delivery of their Ocean Alexander 72. It was customized with the galley layout Jeanne preferred, the open flybridge steps Michael wanted and a redesigned flybridge layout for dinner parties.
“Again, heart in throat,” Michael says about taking the helm of another larger boat for the first time, “but we did it and cruised all the way to Roche Harbor and spent the night. … We’ve had the time of our lives. We’ve been to Sydney, Roche Harbor, Campbell River, Dent Island up north, at least 200 miles north of Seattle — all kinds of places. It’s spectacular.”
And When They’re Not At The Helm…
Michael and Jeanne Wilkins love being owner-operators in the Pacific Northwest, but some boating just screams out for crew. “On our engagement, we went to Europe,” he says. “We got engaged on the Amalfi Coast, but before we went there, we decided we had to go by boat. We chartered a 62-foot catamaran in Italy with another couple. We did Amalfi and Capri and Positano, but Amalfi was the first night, and that’s where we got engaged. We fell in love with boating, literally.” Just as with owning larger and larger yachts, crewed charter was new to them, and they didn’t know what to expect. “It was so great,” he says. “When we were in Amalfi and it was time to go to Positano, we just put on a robe and went up, and they took us there with a cocktail in our hand.” They returned to Europe for their honeymoon, chartering the same catamaran, and explored the south of France.