‘It would be the ad­ven­ture of a life­time’

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He’s the cap­tain, and she’s his first mate. Or is it the other way around?

The roles were fuzzy when Brid­get Nu­gent and Dean Reineking em­barked on their first date — on a boat. Af­ter night­fall. She was the am­a­teur fish­er­man who caught the red snap­per; he was the host who left his matches at home and re­sorted to light­ing their camp stove with the boat’s en­gine bat­tery.

“Yes! MacGyver!” Dean thought to him­self at the time. Mean­while, Brid­get sat wait­ing at the other end of the boat, none the wiser that her date had al­most set him­self on fire.

They had met in the fall of 2013. Dean, 28, was com­plet­ing a master’s de­gree in ar­chi­tec­ture at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami, and Brid­get, 27, was start­ing a fed­eral clerk­ship at the U.S. Dis­trict Court for South­ern Florida.

Brid­get wan­dered into a gath­er­ing at a lo­cal Catholic church in the hopes of mak­ing new friends, as she had just moved to the city. In a room of about 50 peo­ple, “she stood out as a new face,” Dean says. He im­me­di­ately in­tro­duced him­self.

“He looked like he had just come back from a run,” Brid­get re­calls. “He looked fresh. Vi­brant.”

Dean has another word to de­scribe his first im­pres­sion of his blue-eyed fi­ancee: beau­ti­ful.

“I sawthat right away,” he says. “And then we just had good di­a­logue that has never stopped.”

As it so hap­pened, Dean was work­ing part time at an en­gi­neer­ing firm next door to Brid­get’s of­fice. Two weeks af­ter the church event, she gave him a tour of the court­house, and he in­vited her to go fish­ing on the ma­rina that night.

The ex­cur­sion would fore­tell their ex­ploits to come, as the two dis­cov­ered their shared pas­sion for the new and un­pre­dictable.

“He ba­si­cally told me that I had to fish for my own din­ner,” Brid­get says with a laugh. “I had never done that be­fore.”

But she suc­ceeded where her sea­soned fish­ing part­ner failed, and they shared a meal of fresh fish with le­mon, rice and as­para­gus — cooked thanks to Dean’s re­source­ful­ness spark­ing the stove.

Af­ter din­ner, they talked un­til 4 a.m. It was the per­fect first date, but for one de­tail: “He cer­tainly took his time to kiss me!” Brid­get says.

The two soon be­came insep­a­ra­ble, spend­ing much of their time to­gether ex­plor­ing the nat­u­ral beauty of South Florida. They went for runs on the beach, found quiet places in the Ever­glades and kayaked in a boat they named “Fury.” With so many of their ac­tiv­i­ties cen­tered on wa­ter, Brid­get took to call­ing Dean “cap­tain,” and she was his “first mate.” Nei­ther had ever met some­one with whom they felt so at ease.

“Right away, I saw that he was strong and had a strong sense of self,” Brid­get says. “He knew who he was.”

Dean ap­pre­ci­ated Brid­get’s au­then­tic­ity. “Right away, there was just a com­fort with her. She was very real. We flirted of course, but I never wor­ried about whether she was go­ing to call me back.”

Af­ter Dean’s grad­u­a­tion in May 2014, he took a job in Washington at David M. Sch­warz Ar­chi­tects, a firm with a spe­cialty in his­toric preser­va­tion. Be­fore he left, the two ex­pressed their de­vo­tion, both af­firm­ing that they were in it for the long haul de­spite hav­ing dated for less than a year.

Dean handed Brid­get a map, a com­pass and a hand­writ­ten note that read: “Dear­est Brid­get Rose, as first­mate and ship’s nav­i­ga­tor, I leave you in charge of trea­sure re­cov­ery in Mi­ami and her en­vi­rons.” It was the first clue of many in a scavenger hunt that Dean had de­vised a cou­ple of weeks be­fore, with the goal of con­tin­u­ing their ad­ven­tures even while liv­ing apart.

As Brid­get fol­lowed Dean’s in­tri­cate hunt week by week, they grew closer than ever. The puzzles, which made am­ple use of his ar­chi­tec­tural and de­sign back­ground, were elab­o­rate: They in­cluded cyphers, mes­sages in­Morse code and clues left with friends who wouldn’t re­lease them un­til Brid­get com­pleted cer­tain tasks (one friend de­manded frozen yogurt). The notes took her to places that were im­por­tant to their re­la­tion­ship, such as the ma­rina.

The end of the scavenger hunt co­in­cided with the end of the sum­mer and, with it, a visit by Dean to Mi­ami. He ar­rived to help Brid­get move to her next fed­eral clerk­ship, in New Jersey, which was ideal tim­ing be­cause she was stuck on the last clue.

They went to the golf course at the Bilt­more Ho­tel, where they had gone on their first run to­gether. It had been a clan­des­tine run — in the dark, past clos­ing time — and af­ter­ward, they had carved their ini­tials into a tree.

There, un­der­neath the tree, Dean di­rected Brid­get to the fi­nal prize. As she dug for the trin­ket-filled tackle box that he had wrapped in lay­ers of plas­tic bags and buried three months ear­lier, he got on one knee.

Brid­get turned to face Dean, who was hold­ing a diamond ring.

She didn’t say yes. In­stead, she told him, “It would be the ad­ven­ture of a life­time.”

With the trea­sure re­trieved, the cap­tain and first­mate turned to their next big pro­ject: Turn­ing Brid­get’s child­hood home on Long Is­land, a 19th-cen­tury Vic­to­rian rav­aged byHur­ri­cane Sandy, into the wed­ding re­cep­tion venue of their dreams.

With the help of their par­ents, fam­ily and friends, Brid­get and Dean com­pleted the re­pairs over 11 months and count­less D.I.Y. projects. With Brid­get work­ing in New Jersey and Dean in Washington, the en­deavor united them on the week­ends, their bond deep­en­ing as they re­placed pipes and painted walls.

It also served as Dean’s of­fi­cial in­tro­duc­tion to the fam­ily. Brid­get is the old­est of three daugh­ters, and her en­gage­ment was hard on her fa­ther, she says. But his wor­ries dis­si­pated when he saw first­hand how ded­i­cated Dean was to their fu­ture.

“It was won­der­ful to be work­ing side by side, shoul­der to shoul­der with the peo­ple who are go­ing to be my fam­ily,” Dean says. “If we had just rented a venue, we wouldn’t have those ex­pe­ri­ences.”

On July 11, Brid­get and Dean were mar­ried at St. Martin of Tours Church in Ami­tyville, N.Y. They ex­changed tra­di­tional Catholic vows be­fore 200 guests, fol­lowed by a backyard re­cep­tion at the house they had re­fur­bished.

Ever the ad­ven­tur­ous pair, Dean and Brid­get hon­ey­mooned in Letchworth State Park in Up­state New York, hik­ing, camp­ing and kayak­ing. Then they took a trip to where it had all be­gun: Mi­ami, where the judge Brid­get Brid­get Nu­gent and Dean Reineking were mar­ried July 11 at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Ami­tyville, N.Y. They held their re­cep­tion at Brid­get’s child­hood home on Long Is­land, with seashell bou­quets and other dec­o­ra­tions with a nau­ti­cal theme. The cou­ple, along with fam­ily mem­bers and friends, re­fur­bished the 19th­cen­tury Vic­to­rian home for the oc­ca­sion af­ter it was rav­aged by Hur­ri­cane Sandy. had worked for was cel­e­brat­ing his 25th year on the bench.

But this time there would be no sep­a­ra­tions, no scavenger hunts to keep each other busy un­til the next re­union. Af­ter Brid­get com­pletes her clerk­ship in late Au­gust, she will start work at the Washington law firm Latham & Watkins, and the pair will move into an apart­ment in Ross­lyn — their first place to­gether.

“What I’m look­ing for­ward to most is be­ing able to say good­night in­stead of good­bye,” Dean says. “I just can’t wait to say, ‘Hello, good morn­ing.’ ”

“What I’m look­ing for­ward to most is be­ing able to say good­night in­stead of good­bye.”

Dean Reineking

MICHAEL HARD­ING

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