Testing the Waters

It all started with a $12,000 “piece of junk.”

The boaters:
Robert and Lisa Verdun and their three children, Gina, 18, Matthew, 15, and Jack, 9

Their boats:
A 45 Formula Yacht and a 20-foot Baja Outlaw

Grosse Ile, Mich.

Where they dock:
At the pier in their backyard

The Ford Yacht Club
in Grosse Ile and
the Crew’s Nest on

Their dealer:
Tom Raguso at
Sun Sport Marine
in Harrison
Township, Mich.

Hours on
the water:

100 a year on the Formula Yacht and 40 to 50 on the Baja Outlaw

That’s how Robert Verdun describes the first boat he and his wife, Lisa, bought eight years ago. Not knowing if they’d like boating and fearing the expense and time commitment, they decided to test the waters with an inexpensive boat. Turns out they did like it — a lot. “We’re on our fourth or fifth boat now. We just went nuts with it,” says Robert. “We didn’t know what we were missing.”

Robert’s favorite outing: Taking out the boat in the middle of the week with friends. “It’s like skipping a day of school,” he says. “It’s not the weekend where there’s a hundred boats out there. It’s a great way to catch up with friends.”

Lisa’s favorite outing: Each August, they take the boat north to Lexington, Mich., where Lisa’s sister has a cottage, timing the trip to coincide with the town’s Fine Arts Street Fair.

The kids’ favorite outings: Cedar Point, where the superb location of the dock allows you to get from boat to ride in five minutes, and Put-in-Bay, where the family heads five times or so each summer.

Always on board: Lots of water, pop for the kids, beer and, of course, margaritas.

What’s cooking: Lisa prepares for a typical dinner on the water by cutting up chicken and marinating it in a plastic bag that she brings on board. She then cooks rice in the boat’s microwave and cooks the chicken on the boat’s gas grill.

But ... Part of the allure of the lifestyle is docking and dining. The couple’s favorite Detroit-area restaurants include Portofino and the Signature Grille. They also like Duffy’s Tavern in Amherstburg, Ontario, for breakfast and perch dinners.

Song of the year: Every summer, there’s one tune that ends up getting a lot of play on board. This summer, it’s “Toes” by the Zac Brown Band.

On maintenance: “It was one of my concerns,” says Robert. “There is an element of work to it, but I can tell you that’s not the part I think about. I would not have a reservation about buying a third one. My wife would, but I wouldn’t.”

Biggest mishap: When the steering broke on the Verduns’ first boat, allowing only left turns. Robert didn’t know how to work the radio yet and his cell phone was dead. He made it back safely without any help, but learned a lesson. “Right then, I decided to take a boater’s safety class,” he says. “That was the best thing I ever did. It took my comfort level up 100 points and my confidence up 100 points.”

Not going anywhere: “If the weather’s nice, we just go and sit on the boat at home,” Lisa says. “It’s a nice view. It’s very relaxing.”

Up next: The Verduns are considering a trip to Florida. Robert’s still planning the voyage, but he anticipates traveling via the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario, then down the Intercoastal Waterway to Florida.

The best part of boating: “You’re all together,” Robert says. “It’s like piling in a big RV. The journey is every bit as much fun as being there.”