Love Story Page 2
Part 2: “I had absolutely no idea how to operate a charter business and didn’t want to go broke in the process.”
By Elizabeth Ginns Britten — July 2004
At the time Gauthier took ownership, the mooring was rented to a tenant whose boat, a 65-foot Malahide North Sea Polar Bear Class trawler named Ursa Major, was being refitted in a nearby yard. The tenant left for California, planning to return in the fall to take Ursa Major to California. Gauthier volunteered to oversee the work and made arrangements for the boat to be moved from the yard to her mooring. During the course of the summer, her sister Cami Cash, who had minimal marine experience, moved onboard to help workmen finish the project.
Fast-forward to 1997. Ursa was still under renovation on Lake Union when the tenant fell ill and ended up in the ICU, unable to make payments on the boat. Repossession ensued, and the tenant, now Gauthier’s close friend, was too sick to handle the subsequent legal battle. So, to get Ursa Major back, Gauthier agreed to buy Ursa on the condition that the tenant would buy it back from her when he fully recovered. Only he never fully recovered, and suddenly the beautiful moorage she’d fallen in love with that glorious Sunday seemed like a mistake of gargantuan proportions. “I legally took hold of the Ursa Major in 1997,” Gauthier told me, “but I didn’t emotionally accept her until 1999. It was too big for my needs, and I didn’t really have the ability to pay for it. It was tough.”
Gauthier established January 1, 1999 as a “drop-dead date,” at which time she’d decide to either sell the Ursa Major and cut her losses or keep her and put her into charter. “That New Year’s Eve was a real struggle for me. On the one hand, it was my sister’s home still, and I didn’t want to leave her homeless. On the other hand, I had absolutely no idea how to operate a charter business and didn’t want to go broke in the process.”
That same night, she happened upon a book entitled The Hidden Coast: Kayaking from Alaska to Mexico. She flipped through the first chapter about Alaska’s Prince William Sound and, as she says, “realized I was too old for this kind of sleep-with-the-bears, adventure kayaking, but thought I could do it with a support boat.” Her decision was made: She’d turn Ursa Major into a charter yacht, to fulfill her own dream of adventure kayaking. She says, “Today, when I think of my boat, I think of a kayak; the Ursa’s just a really big kayak. Kayaking is still part of my dream, and Ursa helps me achieve that dream by taking me to places I can explore by kayak.”
Gauthier spent the summer of 1999 overseeing the seemingly endless refit work and testing while Cash found work as a crew member onboard Ursa’s sistership, the 60-foot Malahide Explorer. Ursa’s first charter season was the summer of 2000. Cash brought the experience she gained aboard Explorer and served as crew, Gauthier took care of the “business end of things” and hired a captain. Gauthier recalls, “Being the new kid on the block and with the southeast Alaska cruising grounds so inundated by the cruise ship industry,” Ursa had only five charters that summer.
Next page > Part 3: “The history was out there, in different minds, in bits and pieces, we just had to find it.” > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.