The Casket - - Front Page - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­ald@the­cas­

When the Hang­time landed in Ari­saig, it be­came a lo­cal con­ver­sa­tion topic in Ari­saig – and by ad­mis­sion of its own­ers, Karen and Brad Cook, the sub­ject of a lot of gawk­ing from lo­cals.

Suf­fice to say, a 47-foot cata­ma­ran stands out among a crowd of fish­ing boats – the ma­jor­ity of the other crafts at the wharf in Ari­saig on a sunny Septem­ber morn­ing.

"We’re def­i­nitely a fish out of wa­ter with this cata­ma­ran," Brad said, as a pair of lo­cals stood at the edge of the wharf, ad­mir­ing the large two-hulled boat as it sat placidly in the wa­ters at the Ari­saig wharf.

That be­ing said, it’s all part of the fun for the Cook fam­ily, who had, by their own ad­mis­sion, an amaz­ing sum­mer.

"The weather def­i­nitely helped the equa­tion here, and hav­ing fam­ily on­board through­out the sum­mer has been pretty mag­i­cal," Brad said.

Some of that magic was the plethora of ques­tions the Cooks were asked about their boat – and the way they live. From the hospi­tal­ity of Antigo­nish County to crowds of on­look­ers who lined up with ques­tions in Mur­ray River, P.E.I., the Cooks have spent the sum­mer meet­ing many new peo­ple, shar­ing in their en­thu­si­asm.

"It’s a lot of fun. When we pull up to these wharfs, they’re not shy to tell you what they’re think­ing and they in­vite them­selves aboard to tell sto­ries,"

Brad said.

"We’re happy to have them aboard – it’s al­ways fun," Karen added, not­ing that one time, an en­tire boat­load of peo­ple ap­proached them near Crib­bons Point. When they were pre­pared to take their pic­tures and leave, Karen re­mem­bers call­ing them back, and invit­ing them aboard, say­ing, "you came all this way. Come on­board and see the boat."

Lo­cal sup­port

Karen and Brad were em­phatic about the tremen­dous amount of gen­eros­ity they ex­pe­ri­enced from the peo­ple of the Mar­itimes, through sup­port and hospi­tal­ity, which­ever port they ar­rived in, be it Mur­ray River or Ari­saig.

"Ev­ery place has its own unique­ness, so it has been re­ally fun to ex­plore Cape Bre­ton, Nova Sco­tia and Prince Ed­ward Is­land," Karen said. "I’m al­ways happy when peo­ple ask where we’re from. I’m from William’s Point, and peo­ple al­ways think it’s cool we’re from here, in­stead of from the States or some­where else."

Karen noted that she thinks peo­ple are a lit­tle more open and gen­er­ous be­cause of that lo­cal con­nec­tion the Cooks have to the area.

That gen­eros­ity in­cludes of­fers of food, a place to stay, and even in some cases, peo­ple of­fer­ing to let them bor­row their wheeled ve­hi­cles to run er­rands.

The de­ci­sion the Cooks made to pur­sue full-time sea­far­ing came af­ter con­sid­er­ing a litany of se­ri­ous ques­tions about the kind of life­style they’d live, how they’d run a busi­ness and man-

age to home­school their two sons, Ben and Char­lie.

Karen and Brad had to make sure their liv­ing ar­range­ments were com­pat­i­ble with their ca­reer – they both own an en­gi­neer­ing firm called Struc­tural Com­po­nents, based in Den­ver, Colorado, that fo­cuses on cel­lu­lar tower sand en­gi­neer­ing in­spec­tion, de­sign and con­struc­tion services across the United States.

They own in­vestor visas, which al­lows them to own their com­pany, work and live in the States – some­thing they have been do­ing since 2001.

"It has been re­ally good.

There re­ally haven’t been any ma­jor is­sues. When the kids were young, we trav­elled for two years by plane and tra­di­tional meth­ods, and that was a lot harder than this," Karen said. "Liv­ing like this, it’s like you have your whole house with you, on your back, wher­ever you go."

Look­ing back on their sum­mer sail­ing the Mar­itimes, Brad re­called a mo­ment that stood out to him; sail­ing "within a few hun­dred feet of Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell’s house, while in Cape Bre­ton. It was pretty ex­cit­ing to be right in front of it."

The be­gin­ning of an ad­ven­ture

The Cooks pur­chased their boat, a Saona from Larochelle, France-based Foun­taine Pa­jot, last Novem­ber. It wasn’t long be­fore the boat saw its first voy­age – from Europe to the Ba­hamas.

"I took the boat from France to the Ba­hamas in De­cem­ber (2017), and it sat in the Ba­hamas through the win­ter," Karen ex­plained. "We took the kids down on March break, and the fam­ily cruised for two weeks there, to kind of do a warmup."

Then, this past June, Brad took the Hang­time to Hal­i­fax from the Ba­hamas, and the ad­ven­ture be­gan, with the fam­ily mov­ing onto the boat, full-time.

What en­sued was an ad­ven­ture that spanned the Mar­itime prov­inces, with the Hang­time dock­ing in the many ports avail­able in the area.

The first spots the fam­ily vis­ited were along the South

Shore – post­card lo­ca­tions like Lunen­burg and Ch­ester were on their itin­er­ary. The Cooks even­tu­ally made their way up to the Northum­ber­land Strait, just in time for the Antigo­nish High­land Games in July.

From then on, the fam­ily sailed to a series of des­ti­na­tions that in­cluded P.E.I., an ex­cur­sion to the Mag­dalen Is­lands that lasted a cou­ple of weeks, and a thor­ough ad­ven­ture through the Bras D’OR Lakes in Cape Bre­ton.

"We toured the Mag­dalens, and then we did Cape Bre­ton, go­ing through the (Canso) Cause­way, tak­ing the St. Pe­ter’s Canal, to the Bras D’OR Lakes with my mom, two aunts and un­cle – that one ended in Bad­deck," Karen said.

The Life­style

One thing that is im­me­di­ately no­tice­able about the cata­ma­ran the Cooks live aboard is that it doesn’t quite feel like sin­gle-hull boats. There is lit­tle of the usual list­ing and rolling un­der­foot that can be ex­pected to be felt on the deck of most boats.

Seated in­side the main liv­ing area, which also con­tains a kitchen and a nav­i­ga­tion sta­tion, Brad re­marked that the best mea­sure of the boat’s sta­bil­ity on wa­ter can be seen in Char­lie and Ben’s ea­ger­ness to play "a good game of Jenga" on­board, ex­plain­ing that the two hulls their boat has helps it sta­bi­lize in wa­ter far bet­ter than ves­sels with sin­gle hulls.

The cata­ma­ran is open and airy, and houses a bath­room and sleep­ing ar­eas below decks in its two hulls. It’s liv­ing in tight quar­ters, but com­fort­able ones.

Brad spoke rev­er­ently about the rhythm of life at sea – some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent than what a fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences on land.

"You get into a rhythm where ev­ery­thing slows down. You can do a 10-hour pas­sage and it feels like two hours, and it’s like, ‘where did the day go?’ When your at­ten­tion is at the sea life, you’re more in tune with your sur­round­ings – the waves, the wind, the wa­ter," Brad said.

You no­tice the cur­rents and tides. You can look at your speed, see that if you have a good wind, but are only do­ing five knots, there’s some­thing you need to do with the sails and what’s go­ing on around you."

Sail­ing is very much a life­style, and Karen said she takes it upon her­self to live it fully, de­scrib­ing the phys­i­cal de­mands of man­u­ally chang­ing and set­ting up sails to ac­com­mo­date the whims of the weather.

Although the Hang­time is equipped with elec­tric winches to aid in rig­ging sails, Karen prefers to do it man­u­ally – and that means a heck of a work­out.

"It can be quite a job to raise the sails. I en­joy do­ing it, but it has a lot of work to get the main sail up. It’s big, heavy and you have to put a lot of time into it," Karen said.

"I think sail­ing is sport, and you do it to stay fit. The winches are still there, if you need to get some­thing done quickly," she added, not­ing it takes about 20 min­utes to get ev­ery­thing set up.

It is no sur­prise that the

Cooks are as com­fort­able as they are at sea, with Ben and Char­lie climb­ing around the boat and, in Char­lie’s case, into his fa­vorite perch, on top of the boom that juts out from the mast, sit­ting on a bun­dle of furled sails.

Aside from the labour of set­ting up sails, the Cooks are scrupu­lous in mak­ing sure they are prop­erly pre­pared with food and fuel for their long jour­neys. Any guests who ac­com­pany the fam­ily are briefed in safety pro­to­col as well.

Most im­por­tantly, Karen noted, they keep abreast of weather con­di­tions, wher­ever they go.

Scary squall

While their ad­ven­tures at sea have been a great way to spend the sum­mer, the Cooks both re­call one fright­ful mo­ment while in Cape Bre­ton that stuck with them, and drove home the im­por­tance of be­ing pre­pared. This mo­ment oc­curred when the Cooks were pick­ing up rel­a­tives in Troy for a sail.

"We had the boat at an­chor, and Brad took the dinghy to pick them up. The kids were play­ing on a pad­dle board, and we packed ev­ery­thing up. We were get­ting ready to go through the cause­way," Karen said, de­scrib­ing the day.

Then, within a mere 10 min­utes, "this wall of weather came through and we had this mas­sive squall on a beau­ti­ful Au­gust day," she said.

The squall, which blew in at a whop­ping 54 knots into the Strait of Canso, was ac­com­pa­nied by hail and even threw their bar­be­cue over­board.

"It was in­sane, it hap­pened so quickly," Karen said. "I was at the helm, just smil­ing, say­ing ‘it’s fine,’ try­ing to keep ev­ery­body calm. But if we had the sails up, it would have been a dis­as­ter."

Eyes on the hori­zon

The Cooks are un­daunted by the odd, ad­mit­tedly fright­en­ing, burst of poor weather, for they have plans to sail south as the au­tumn ar­rives.

Leav­ing the Mar­itimes for the win­ter, nat­u­rally, is the next plan for the Cooks, as the days be­gin to shorten and the nights be­come chill­ier, with Septem­ber near­ing its close.

"It’s time to go south – we have to," Karen said. "We’ll cruise down the east­ern seaboard, and try to find that sweet spot for the next few weeks."

That find­ing of a sweet spot Karen re­ferred to means find­ing a spot that is far enough north that they don’t end up sail­ing into a hur­ri­cane zone, and at the same time, far enough south that they can con­tinue liv­ing com­fort­ably aboard a boat on the wa­ter.

Although Karen an­tic­i­pates they won’t be see­ing quite as much gen­eros­ity as they have seen in the Mar­itimes, as they travel south, Brad said they ex­pect to be in the com­pany of more boats like their own, and sailors like them­selves, as op­posed to be­ing the lone cata­ma­ran at a wharf full of fish­ing boats.

"We feel that as we make our way back to (the Dis­trict of Co­lum­bia), we’ll find our tribe – the kinds of boats head­ing south for the win­ter," he said.

On that note, Brad lamented the lack of other peo­ple avail­ing them­selves of the beauty of the Mar­itimes by sea and other wa­ter­ways.

"One thing that has al­ways sur­prised me is how few other sailors there are. The Mar­itimes are an ab­so­lute par­adise for sail­ing with the hospi­tal­ity and an­chor­ages you can go to, the sights you can see, the food, the nat­u­ral beauty and sea life," Brad said. "We saw maybe four or five dif­fer­ent cruis­ers the whole time, and most of those were day sailors com­ing from Char­lot­te­town – there’s huge po­ten­tial out there."

On the way south, the Cooks hope to check out des­ti­na­tions such as Bos­ton, New York and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., show­ing Ben and Char­lie the mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions along the way.

"Hope­fully, by the time we’re fin­ished, hur­ri­cane sea­son will be mostly fin­ished," Karen said. "Then, we can go fur­ther south to Florida – and on­ward."

Sam Mac­don­ald

Brad and Karen Cook, and their two sons, Char­lie and Ben, aboard the Hang­time, a 47-foot cata­ma­ran. The fam­ily spent the sum­mer sail­ing around the Mar­itime prov­inces, liv­ing full-time aboard their boat.

Sam Mac­don­ald

Brad and Karen Cook, and their two sons, Char­lie and Ben, aboard the Hang­time.


The Hang­time, a 47-foot cata­ma­ran Karen and Brad Cook pur­chased in France. They have been sail­ing around the Mar­itimes with it all sum­mer long.

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