For one couple, home is a 52’ Steel Trawler

Published 12:13 pm Saturday, April 15, 2023

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By Clark Curtis for the Washington Daily News

For nearly two years now Brian and Linda Werder, along with their Portuguese Water Dog, Rory, have called the ‘Vahevala’ home. A 52 foot custom built Kristen Steel Trawler, which is named in honor of their first meeting at a family party in Buffalo, New York. “There was a group of girls at the party that seemed quite bored and ready to leave,” said Brian. “There was one in particular that I didn’t want to see go, so I put on Loggins and Messinas’ 21 minute version of Vahevala and asked her to dance. She said, “You can’t dance to this song.” But we did for the full 21 minutes, and we have been married now for almost 40 years.”

Both had family backgrounds in boating and shortly after they married they purchased their first runabout boat. It was then that they learned of the Great Loop, which is a circumnavigation of the eastern third of the US by way of a continuous waterway system. It includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of Americas’ heartland “We set sail on Lake Ontario and headed west on the Trent-Severen Waterway, a backcountry system of rivers and locks which would lead us to Lake Michigan,” said Brian. “From there we made our way south, eventually making it to the Gulf, the Florida Keys, a side trip to the Bahamas, and then back up the east coast to Lake Ontario. That trip made us realize just how much we enjoyed living on the boat and being on the water.”

They decided that they had had enough of the cold harsh winters in western New York, so they sold their home and moved to Florida.  And after three years they decided it was time for the “big” move. “We realized that after three years there, we had only spent about one full year in our house and the rest of the time traveling on our boat” said Brian. “We sold our house and boat, purchased the Vahevala, and set sail.”

While ported in Urbanna, Virgina they learned of Washington. “When speaking with some of the locals we had mentioned that we were thinking about traveling to New Bern, North Carolina for part of the winter,” said Brian. “A gentleman told us while there that we needed to check out “Little Washington”, as he had grown up there and that it had really changed along the waterfront and the downtown area. “I think you might like it there” he told us. “We took his advice and we have now been here since November.”

For Linda and Brian, Washington has been the longest stop they have made in any one place in over 20,000 miles of traveling. “We love it here,” said Linda. “It is very diverse and the people are so welcoming and friendly. We hadn’t been here more than 48 hours before we are asked to join a local exercise group. We love the historic downtown and the fact that it is so dog friendly here. And we have the added bonus of living right across from the Gazebo, which offers daily entertainment in itself.”

Brian and Linda added they don’t really feel like visitors as they are becoming a part of the community. “Brian is a member of the F3’s, and I have joined a local exercise group,” said Linda. “We also do volunteer work at Eagles Wings food pantry, which has been quite rewarding in itself, as it gives us a chance to help others and be involved in the community.”

As lovely as it has all been for Brian, Linda and Rory, it is time to lift anchor once again, as the Vahevala is telling them it is time to go. “We really love the peace, quiet, and solitude of being on the water,” said Brian. “There is no better feeling than to be able to drop anchor somewhere and to look up into the night sky, or to see shark or dolphins swimming by the boat. We have also made some friends for life along the way, which has made the experience even more rewarding.”

Added Linda, “It is all about the peace and quiet and freedom to go wherever you want. It’s like having a piece of waterfront property wherever you go. And if you find a place that is really beautiful you can stay for three or four nights. Or in the case of Washington, five months!” she said with a big smile.

Brian, a retired chiropractor, and Linda, a retired music teacher, plan to make a return visit to Washington sometime in the Fall of this year with the hope of seeing some of their newfound friends. And though neither is ready to give up their life on the water just yet, they both know that there will come day when they will be done with boating life. And they certainly have not ruled out Washington as their final port of call. “We are half backers,” said Brian with a smile. “People who grew up north, got tired of the cold, moved to Florida, didn’t like it there, and moved halfway back. When we do finally get a dirt home again, its probably going to be right here around Washington.”