(Note: the following text is from 2004, when we first started out website for the Zora refit and trip.)
Neil and Stacey Collins met in Portland, Maine in 1994. In 1996 Olivia was born, and our lives were focused on raising our daughter and renovating the old house we bought in '97.
A few years later, we had some cash in hand from our part-time business buying and selling mid-century modern antiques, and were contemplating buying an expensive leather couch. One day Olivia and I were at the waterfront and happened to see a small sailboat with a "for sale" sign on her, for less than we were about to spend on a couch! I thought about my wonderful childhood memories of sailing, and resolved to talk to Neil about it that night...
When I was 6 we moved to Cape Elizabeth, Maine, from Boston. A neighbor gave us the use of his day-sailor, and my Dad and I explored Casco Bay in little Perspective. Soon Dad bought a Tanzer 22, and somehow the whole family (6'8" Dad, Mom, baby Josh, and I...sometimes with aunts and uncles and cousins along, too!) would squeeze in that little boat and go cruising up and down the Maine coast. We lost her in a storm a few years later, and for a while we sailed on friends' boats, including a lovely Tartan 34. When I was a little older, my parents decided to take us to Europe, and what better way to travel than by boat! We built a custom Corbin 39 and sailed to the Mediterranean and back for 15 months. By now my family had been bitten hard by the cruising bug and after I went off to college they traded the Corbin in for a 56' McCurdy & Rhodes aluminum cutter. They sailed her around South America, and I was lucky enough to be aboard for much of that trip as well.
So....suddenly all these sailing memories came flooding back. Here we were, living on the coast of Maine: we should be out on the water! Luckily, Neil agreed. Although most of his childhood experience had been aboard power boats, he also had fond memories of childhood on the water in Pemaquid, Maine. We wanted Olivia to have memories like that, too. We started looking at boats. We looked at Pearson Ariels and Tritons, Bristols, and finally, in Rhode Island, found a lovely little Tartan 27. After a very short season of fall sailing on Casco Bay, we were completely hooked, and very excited about fixing Shearwater up over the winter and having a long summer sailing the next year.
But life was about to change drastically. In late October Shearwater's mooring lines parted in a fall storm, and she went up on the rocks, her centerboard and hull damaged beyond repair. We immediately began looking for another boat, even going as far as Annapolis in our search, and were about to send in our deposit check on the boat we fell in love with, a Tartan 30, when we got very bad news. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2001. We immediately were thrown into the whirlwind of surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. We decided to buy the boat anyway, and it was definitely therapeutic to get my mind off my the uncertainties and discomforts of my illness: gentle sailing that summer did me a world of good.
By fall, the worst of the treatments were over, I was feeling a little better, and I began to feel strongly that life really ought to be lived for today. What was the sense of putting off doing the things you wanted to do when you might get hit by a bus tomorrow? We had always (even before we got our first boat!) had a far-off dream of going cruising to distant places. We decided not to put it off!!! We spent months researching what we wanted in a boat, and scouring the internet and boatyards for boats for sale. One beautiful day in Long Island, New York, we stepped aboard a Mariner 39. Immediately we looked at each other and said, "This would be a great boat for us!" This one, however, needed a lot of work. We looked at a couple of other boats, but kept coming back to the Mariner. We'd renovated a house, why not renovate a boat? We bought her in May, 2002.