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The Outer Reef yacht glistens in the Florida sun as Dan Kirsch and Sandy Williamson stand at the bow of the Sandana. With champagne bottle in hand, Sandy makes a ceremonial strike, sending off a bubbly cascade and an eruption of cheers from the crowd of well-wishers at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.
Soon the yacht vessel is abuzz: A flamenco dancer twists to the strums of a live Latin guitarist while guests frolic aboard amid food, drink, and laughter. "We rocked the place," recalls Dan of the celebration last November. "Many said it was one of the best parties at the boat show."
For Sandy and Dan, Sandana's christening marks the beginning of a shared dream — the first of a bucket list of experiences this liveaboard yacht promises to check off in the coming years.
"When Sandy and I met, we both had the same vision," recalls Dan. "I said to her, 'My dream later in life is to sell everything, buy a big boat and cruise,' and she said, 'Mine, too.'"
After three years of researching vessels, Dan and Sandy decided that a 19-meter (61-foot) Outer Reef had everything the couple wanted in a liveaboard yacht — comforts of home with a stand-up engine room, plus space to store standup paddle boards, scuba and fishing gear, and fold-up bicycles. There's also an office for Dan who continues to work as a full-time sales trainer and consultant.
Dan likes the Outer Reef 610 motoryacht's efficient, semi-displacement hull. Paired with twin 373-kW (500-hp) John Deere PowerTech™ 6090SFM85 marine engines, Sandana cruises 9 knots, with the option to go faster, if needed. "We cruise consistently at low speed, but have the power to run 14 knots when needed to get to our destinations faster or outrun a storm."
Sandana is Dan's first diesel-powered vessel, and he freely admits to not being aware of the John Deere engine's clout beyond the farm gate. "I went to my first Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show a couple of years ago and saw John Deere engines in a boat, and I'm sitting there asking, 'John Deere? In a boat?' I then showed them to Sandy and asked her, 'What do you see?' She said, 'Not much; they're really simple.' I said, 'Exactly. Simple is good for a boat.'"
At the same boat show, they met Vince Rodimista, sales marketing manager with John Deere Power Systems, who bent over backwards to provide him information about John Deere marine engines. "We had just signed a contract for buying the Outer Reef, and I had a long list of questions for Vince. By the end of the show, he had answers for all of them. His follow-up just really impressed me."
Outer Reef's shipyard in Taiwan purchased the John Deere engines from Taiwanese engine distributor EMTL. The shipyard mounted the twin 9.0L marine engines, which drive 86x65-centimeter (34x25.5-inch) 4-blade props through ZF marine gear. The starboard engine also drives hydraulics for the stabilizers.
Having spare parts onboard and a network of John Deere marine dealers up and down the coasts are comforting for Dan and Sandy as they begin their travels. R.A. Mitchell Co. in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Ocean Power in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, already offered support. In fact, Ocean Power installed a new John Deere electronic control panel in the wheelhouse. "We were very impressed with their knowledge and interest in supporting Sandy and me if we ever needed anything as we travel," says Dan.
Over the next five to seven years, the two adventurers plan to visit the San Juan Islands of British Columbia, Alaska, Panama Canal, and the Caribbean, gleaning good advice from fellow boaters like Ray Cope, owner of a 65-foot Outer Reef. "He's a very, very knowledgeable boater and a great resource for many other Outer Reef owners because of his extensive travel experience."
Dan recalls a recent conversation with him. "Ray asked me, 'Hey Dan, what do you have for engines?' When I told him John Deere, Ray replied, 'You're a lucky man.'"
"That's because he has them in his boat, too — and he loves them."
When Sandy and I met, we both had the same vision. My dream later in life is to sell everything, buy a big boat and cruise.