Quality Time Cruising

By Katie Faulkner
Photography by Rich Smith

 

Jim and Michelle Curtin have always enjoyed escaping to the water and decompressing with the wake. When they married five years ago, they had a smaller vessel they enjoyed. “That was really my boat,” Jim says. “It was one I had before we met. So when we decided to upgrade, I named this boat for Michelle.” My Belle is a nod to the Beatles song, “Michelle My Belle.”

Married for five years now, the pair was enjoying a Sea Ray 340 but decided it was time for an upgrade to their current Sea Ray 40-foot motor yacht. With four grown children, demanding careers, and a network of friends, My Belle has become a haven for retreat as well as an ideal place to enjoy entertaining guests.

The pair found this particular vessel on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. “We took a trip down with our broker to look it over and have it surveyed,” Jim explains. After deciding to purchase it, their first real adventure on this boat began. “We had to get it home to Chattanooga, and that’s about a nine-day journey through the waterways. It’s appropriate to hire a captain for this type of trip, so we had Captain Ron Harr from Chattanooga help us bring the boat home,” Jim shares. On the way up the rivers, the vessel encountered large barges, which have to be expertly navigated. “We made it into tidal waters and encountered other vessels and scenarios on this new boat that would’ve been very challenging without Harr’s expertise,” Jim adds.

Once the boat made it home, the Curtins immediately began dreaming of all the things they could enjoy on their new yacht. One of their biggest goals is to complete the Great Loop, which would take them all the way through New York channels into the Great Lakes and Canada, then back down into the Gulf of Mexico. “That’s our dream, but it would take weeks and weeks and lots of planning,” Jim says.  For right now, they’ve been enjoying things right here in Chattanooga, including heading downtown to dock and have a lovely date night, being members of a local yacht club, and parking at the dock for Riverbend.

“We love to have friends and family on the boat and have a good time, but honestly, we really love being on the boat just ourselves too. It’s a great way to get away from the stress of everyday life together.”

Michelle Curtin

Michelle and Jim Curtin with their miniature dachshunds, Layla and Jim Boeheim (Bae)

“My sister loves to come hang out on the boat. In fact, she even came down and did part of the trip home from New Orleans with us,” Jim says. “She loves to be on it for Riverbend and even stayed overnight on it during Riverbend one year.” Michelle adds, “We just like any excuse to take it out, whether for downtown date nights or sailing up river.” Their local yacht club has allowed them to make friends with similar interests and enjoy organized yachting events. For two very busy professionals who travel a lot for their careers, being on the water is the best way to decompress. “We love to have friends and family on the boat and have a good time, but honestly, we really love being on the boat just ourselves too. It’s a great way to get away from the stress of everyday life together,” Michelle says.

My Belle has features that make it more enjoyable for the two of them together, as well as for when they like to entertain. They have space in the cockpit to be together and plenty of room for their friends, four adult children, and even their 3-year-old grandson to visit. The ship features two state rooms, two full heads (bathrooms) with showers, a full galley, couches and reclining chairs, and an oversized cockpit.

As Michelle says, “The large, enclosed cockpit was our favorite feature and one of the main reasons we chose to purchase this boat. It allows us to be together while one of us is navigating. In fact, the salon area right off the cockpit is usually where one of us sits. We keep the door between the two spaces open, and that way we can talk to each other, watch television, or relax. It’s also the best view!” The cockpit being enclosed allows the Curtins to enjoy My Belle year-round. The space is heated and cooled, so every season is comfortable.

Downstairs in the rest of the quarters, luxurious features such as the cherry wood cabinets and granite-look Corian countertops create another beautiful space to relax and entertain guests. The leather upholstery offers high quality and durability in their sofas and reclining chairs. An entertainment center features a television, sound system, and all the comforts of home. The Curtins decked out their new vessel in royal nautical colors of navy and gold.

Stepping down into the guest bedroom, gold bedspreads continue the classic color scheme. Dual beds provide ample space for guests. The master suite plays up the same colors, with additions of dark navy velvet pillows with cut-gold designs. A vanity and nightstands flank the bed, while a draped window provides natural sunlight. The interior colors pull in the boat’s shiny, impressive dark navy hull, which accentuates the nautical feeling.

With all the beautiful amenities, the Curtins have plenty of reasons to cast off and head out to drop anchor. They enjoy the chance to stay on the boat overnight and treat it as a mini vacation. Last year, they began what they hope will become an annual tradition. They spent the night on My Belle on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas morning together on the water. “That’s one of our favorite things that we’ve done so far. We were able to put a Christmas tree up and decorate it,” Michelle shares.

Jim concludes, “We met on a boat, many of our most treasured moments together have been on a boat, and now we just want to spend as many weekends as we can traveling, enjoying food and wine together, anchored up somewhere new.” CS

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