Special residences: Their blue heaven
Close-knit sailing families live aboard boats in Naples 'gated community' at City Dock
LYNNE HOWARD FRAZER, At Home contributor with photographs by JAMES M. PATTERSON
February 14, 2004
When Marlena Brackebusch heads home from work on the Naples City Dock as captain and owner of Island Sailing Charters, she merely walks down the dock — to another sailboat.
Behind the gate marked "Boat Owners Only," is privately-owned marina and more than 13 floating homes, including Rum and Tonic, a Pacific Seacraft 31 cutter-rigged sloop Brackebusch shares with her partner Toby Castellarin, also a professional captain.
In 1987, Brackebusch and Castellarin sailed their brand-new boat, named after Castellarin's favorite drink, out of Boston, Massachusetts towards the Panama Canal. Their plan was to sail to Australia, sell the boat and return to life on land, but after sailing Rum and Tonic half-way around the world, the sailing duo realized they had fallen in love with the boat — and with the live-aboard lifestyle.
"It's wonderful to have the freedom to be able to go where ever you want, and always have your house with you," Brackebusch said.
During their four-year circumnavigation, Brackebusch and Castellarin adjusted to their new home, learning to live comfortably in the narrow confines of a 31-foot boat. Despite their best efforts to solve the puzzle of stowing all the spare parts, food and gear needed for such a long trip, Brackebusch and Castellarin eventually had to modify the aft quarter berth, loftily labeled the "Captain's Stateroom" by the manufacturer, into what they christened the "Black Hole" for storage of things that just wouldn't fit anywhere else.
Today, beyond the still-full Black Hole, the welcoming open interior of Rum and Tonic is ship-shape. There are neat piles of clothes and books on the shelves above the v-berth bed and family photos and souvenirs of their round-the-world trip scattered around the polished teak interior. The top of the navigation station, which lifts to reveal a small refrigerator and freezer, is covered with photos of the Rum and Tonic and her crew in exotic locations around the world.
One of Brackebusch's favorite space-saving features is the pocket dining table, which slides out from underneath the v-berth to instantly transform the main salon "living room" into a dining room. Just one step away in this mini-efficiency is the galley sink and a stainless-steel two-burner stove and oven.
An enclosed head (bathroom) — with a shower, but no bath tub — completes the boat's amenities.
Homey hand-made curtains of blue cotton shield the cozy cabin from the hot sun, and perhaps from the eyes of too-close neighbors. But Brackebusch doesn't mind having neighbors just two feet away. In fact, one of her neighbors is her sister, Chris, who also lives aboard a sailboat.
"Being offshore, completely alone on the ocean, is much harder, weirder, than having boats close to us on the dock," she claimed.
In this "gated community" on the Naples City Dock set aside for live-aboard slips, the homes are close, and so are the neighbors.
"We have a real community here," Brackebusch added. "In a regular house on land, I think it's easy to become isolated and not feel part of a neighborhood."Copyright 2004, Naples Daily News.