"Looking at boats is like looking at puppies. You never just look."
Sara Gebhard said with a chuckle, but for her and her husband Peter, the quote rings true. In 2012, after 16 years sailing a 44-foot boat, the life-long sailors started looking for a new boat, not realizing how the decision they were about to make would change their lives and enhance the education of their two youngest daughters.
It all started during a meeting with a boat broker in Dana Point, California. When the couple asked why one of the boats was for sale, the broker explained the owners had specifically purchased the boat to travel the Big U, from Alaska, down the pacific coast, through the Panama Canal, and back up along the eastern seaboard of the United States to Maine.
"The idea was born the moment we walked on that dock in Dana Point and heard about this couple," Sara explained. "It was the sort of thing that just happened. Click! That makes sense! We were in a good place with our children's education and our professional development so we decided to go for it."
The Gebhard's planned to depart from Juneau, Alaska, on their fun-filled and educational journey that would last 425 days.
Sara and Peter would be joined on this adventure by their youngest children, daughters Charlotte and Frances. Taking this trip would require them to be away from school during their fifth and seventh grade school years, but school officials were fully supportive of this different kind of educational experience and allowed them to continue their studies while at sea. Sophisticated electronic and communications gear on the boat, along with satellite phone and satellite internet, also allowed Sara and Peter to work remotely.
This unforgettable trip took the family to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States via the Intercostal Waterway (ICW). The trip even included passage through the Panama Canal.
"This trip gave our daughters the opportunity to learn from a point of view you just can’t get from a textbook," said Peter. "They learned Spanish as we visited villages in Mexico and followed the gold shipping routes the Spaniards took. They embraced the local culture by learning how to play baseball. And as we travelled further north, they learned more about the history of the revolutionary and civil wars. They now have a much better understanding of the history and social issues that helped shape the world we live in today. It was a living textbook for them."
Before their 22,684-kilometer (12,249 nautical-mile) journey could begin, Sara and Peter had to decide on a boat that would comfortably accommodate their family of four. It didn’t take long for them to make the decision to purchase a Krogen Expedition 55.
"We felt the Krogen was more suited for our requirements," said Peter. "It is an expedition-style boat, with full width salon, and a spacious engine room with twin engines. With the Krogen, we also had the ability to customize the layout, which ensured an adequate amount of space for our family."
When deciding on what engines would power the Krogen, Peter and Sara focused primarily on two factors: reliability and the ability to get spare parts and service in every leg of their journey. "I’ve been very happy with the John Deere PowerTech 4045AFM85 engines we selected for our vessel. The service and support we received throughout our journey was outstanding. It also helped that John Deere kept all my records on file and I could access my service records directly, when needed," said Peter.
This trip gave our daughters the opportunity to learn from a point of view you just can’t get from a textbook.