Formula for disaster? Not for one lifelong boater whose babyproofing kept his sanity intact while maintaining his boat’s design integrity.
By Diane M. Byrne — September 2002
Bill Koeppel couldn’t understand why his boat suddenly lost speed.
It was a beautiful summer day, during a cruise with friends on Long Island Sound, when Sahara, his 46-foot Hatteras, nearly ground to a halt. Koeppel checked the controls at his fingertips and, after seeing them still forward, was mystified. Then just as inexplicably, Sahara sped up again. What the heck was going on? Koeppel dashed down the flying-bridge ladder to check things out below decks.
No sooner did his feet touch the cockpit than he discovered the problem. There, at the aft-deck controls, stood six-year-old Andrew Giuliani, son of then-mayoral-hopeful Rudy Giuliani of New York, gleefully pulling and pushing the levers like joysticks on a video game.
Even though the incident occurred more than a decade ago, Koeppel remembers it as if it were just yesterday. For it was the moment this lifelong boater realized he’d have to completely re-evaluate his 46-footer from a safety standpoint when it came time to raise his own family of boaters.
And re-evaluating he is. Koeppel and his wife Jean welcomed a son, Harrison, into the world two years ago. Ever since, this New Yorker and a yardful of craftsmen who are dads themselves have been refitting Sahara to accommodate his child’s needs, as well as those of him and his wife as parents. Note the word refitting—he’s not just throwing on a sturdy-plastic cabinet latch here and a knob cover there. Rather, he and the other boater-dads are devising installations and adaptations that complement Sahara’s traditional nautical appeal.
It’s a good thing Koeppel began thinking about this well in advance, because Harrison came close to being born onboard. Three weeks before Jean’s due date, the couple was peacefully sleeping aboard at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club when she went into labor. Luckily an ambulance arrived in time to take her to a nearby hospital, but the couple realized they somehow had to get Harrison and the boat, which they berth in Stamford, Connecticut, home. When Jean asked the doctor how early a baby could be taken aboard a boat, he echoed the conclusion they’d already come to: Considering how they’d arrived in town, they’d have to return home the same way, giving Harrison an extra-early introduction to the lifestyle. So Koeppel picked up an infant’s car seat at a local store, and the new parents carefully made their way back to Stamford.
This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.