Getting To Know The Gracie Lu
It all started with a casual walk down the street. Jim and Maike O’Rourke stopped at their neighborhood MarineMax Naples store on a whim. Jim harbored a desire for a boat, but his wife had no interest. It would be over a year before the couple purchased a Boston Whaler 345 Conquest.
The O’Rourke’s picked up the Gracie Lu on a clear February morning, and left that afternoon for a MarineMax Boca Grande Getaway! The trip wasn’t terribly long, two to three hours by water with half of that on the open sea. The caravan docked on Gasparilla Island, known for a relaxed pace and Banyan tree lined streets. With several boats traveling together, there was confidence in numbers.
The first evening the couple enjoyed getting to know the other boaters over cocktails, learning more about their crafts, and hearing about other MarineMax Getaways! The next day, some of the group opted for a half-day fishing trip. The O’Rourke’s decided to stay on land and explore the island, meeting up with the group for a BBQ dinner in the evening.
The couple is new to powerboat cruising, but enjoyed the Boca Grande Getaway! so much, they brought Maike’s parents back the next month. Initially, her mom was terrified of being on-board the boat, but she warmed up to it so much that when given the option to stay on land instead of go ocean fishing, she opted to stay aboard, and join the fun.
“Taking the trip to Boca Grande with MarineMax Getaways! was a perfect introduction to my boat and cruising,” said Jim O’Rourke. “It was fun to get to know other boaters, and I gained the confidence I needed to make the return trip with my initially nervous in-laws.”O’Rourke had a Boston Whaler picked out from the very beginning. He was familiar with the brand and wanted a center console. But when MarineMax Naples salesperson Bobby McIntosh heard Maike voice a concern about too much sun, he suggested a walk around instead.
In addition to the protection from the sun, O’Rourke likes the steering on the 345 Conquest. Triple Mercury Four Stroke Verado engines with Joystick Piloting provide impressive power and control.
“It makes it easy for a neophyte boater like me to back into the slip,” said O’Rourke. He also prefers the simplicity and reliability of the up-board motors. A budding fisherman, O’Rourke is excited to have a serious offshore fishing boat. “We weren’t too successful in our first trip out, but we’re working on it,” he quipped.Beyond the physical features, what O’Rourke, who is also a helicopter pilot, likes best is the same thing that drew him to flying – navigation, planning and adventure.
Although a slow adopter, Maike is glad they have the boat too, and enjoys the simple pleasure of going out for breakfast in the mornings.
One of the couple’s favorite activities is entertaining on cocktail cruises. The boat’s forward-berth dining table, convenient cockpit prep station, huge storage and YETI cooler make it easy to store everything needed for the party.
One particularly memorable outing was an evening cruise to the classic beach bar, Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland, FL. The group spent a cool Florida evening on the boat deck listening to live music and people watching the unique crowd of locals and tourists.
An unexpected pleasure the boating lifestyle brings is watching the dolphins that follow them on their excursions. “They’ll come right up to the side of the boat, turn over and look at you,” said O’Rourke. “My wife totally digs it.”
In the end, Jim isn’t sure how much big water cruising he and Maike will do. Talking with fellow boaters on the Boca Grande Getaway! gave him the confidence to consider a trip to Key West or perhaps the Bahamas. He’s also looking to do more fishing. The couple is definitely considering future MarineMax Getaways!