By the Editors of Power & Motoryacht
Marine Corps helicopter-maintenance officer John DeGrasse was intent on having his family—and especially his nine-year-old son, Hunter—learn to love the water and boating the way he had growing up. “Since my wife from Ohio had never been on the water in her life and I grew up in Maryland where we were always trying to be on the water as much as we could, she wasn’t really keen on the idea at first,” DeGrasse says. “Then my cousin, who owns a 31 Tiara with a big cockpit, was talking to us about boating with kids.” The cousin pointed out how the cockpit on his Tiara was like a playpen. His kids could be outside and on the water, and of course they had to be monitored, but they couldn’t climb out of the boat, just like they couldn’t climb out of a playpen.
The DeGrasses started with a center console, which they enjoyed on weekends and on after-work evenings. Eventually, they bought a Sea Ray 330 Express.
“A lot of people with kids get stuck,” DeGrasse says. “They stay in the house all the time, don’t go anywhere. On a boat you’ve got the food, a place for the baby to lie down, all these things.”
Fast forward to the present day. Hunter helps DeGrasse take care of the boat. “We gave him a title—deckhand—which kind of gave him some responsibility,” DeGrasse says. “So now, whenever we pull in, my wife handles the lines and he scrubs the boat down—that’s his job and he enjoys it. If you try to help him, it gets on his nerves.”
Of course, caring properly for a boat goes beyond washdowns, and DeGrasse wants to impart those lessons too. “Fixing things and preventative maintenance is a big deal for me,” DeGrasse says. “I know if I can do it now, I don’t have to worry about it breaking on me when I’m on the water.”
To simplify the many maintenance tasks, Degrasse uses VesselVanguard, a cloud-based boat-maintenance management system that uses data compiled for a boat’s equipment list and usage log to e-mail schedule updates and assist in completion of maintenance tasks. Father and son work together. “Obviously he’s not the one pulling up the hey-this-needs-to-get-done-this-week messages from VesselVanguard,” DeGrasse says. “But he does know that the strainers need to get cleaned, for example. I help him pull the covers off, but he removes the baskets and washes them out. Whenever I’m going to the boat, it’s not like I can walk out of the house and just go. If my son is home, he always wants to go too.”