On July 6, 2012, the Internet went quiet for a few hours. Well, Club Sea Ray did, anyway, while a few dozen of the 26,000-member forum’s most active users did something different. They talked face to face, shared cocktails, met old and new friends and ate lobster while their kids played and spouses chatted—all with the Manhattan skyline standing over them. This was the 2012 Club Sea Ray Rendezvous at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s an independently organized event, but on this day, mother Sea Ray was watching.
These guys are the characters that post in the forum several times a day. In planning the rendezvous, they accumulated more than a thousand posts. As 410 Sundancer owner Rick Boyles explains, the compulsion to talk to fellow boaters online daily comes from an infatuation with being out on the water. “All of my spare time is spent in anticipation of getting off the dock,” he says.
Rick is not alone. This year’s cruise marked the fifth successful rendezvous for the club. The fleet has grown each year, thanks largely to activity in the forum. This year’s Liberty Landing group boasted 23 boats and 75 people from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and even Virginia.
Boyles and Ron Lumachi, a 340 Sedan Bridge owner known as “The Cruise Director,” do a lot of the legwork. That means everything from finding a marina that can accommodate the large group, to making nametags, to carefully orchestrating the Friday night potluck dinner, which the group affectionately calls “The Table of the Gods.”
So with growing appetites on Friday afternoon, the families idled into the marina one by one, the Freedom Tower and Empire State Building standing over their shoulders like badges of honor.
By four o’clock, the marina had become Sea Ray City. The place was abuzz with activity and laughter as families relaxed together, guys talked maintenance and upgrades, and sets of kids branched off as they were reunited with their “boat friends.”
Still, much of this year’s chatter surrounded the contents of two large coolers aboard Susie and Gary Warren’s Four Suns. On the web, the code word for the contents had been “hot dogs,” and Gary had joked, almost daily, that he was going to travel from his home port in Virginia past New Jersey to Eastern Connecticut to pick up the hot dogs. They would be his contribution to the dinner, but there would not be enough for everybody. Clearly, something was up.
As it turns out, there was a new addition to the Table of the Gods this year. Further, there was a surprise guest to share in the feast and fun. The higher-ups at the company were so impressed by the independently organized group’s traction, brand loyalty and plain old love for cruising that they sent two gourmet gifts and an ambassador to the party: 100 lobsters, 200 oysters and the company’s famous yacht delivery captain, Rusty Higgins.
And so, the group enjoyed the good life at their dinner party aboard an antique lightship with the Manhattan skyline majestically lit in the background. What an unbeatable combination.
The boats along the docks ranged from a couple of 260 Sundancers all the way up to a 580 Super Sun Sport and a 580 Sundancer. No matter the size or age of the boat, the owners all shared the same boating values: cruising, family and making friends. As Wendy Cohen on 260 Sundancer Knot for Sale puts it, “This is a way of life for us.” They value the friendships and camaraderie that the Club Sea Ray provides, sharing that during a rendezvous when the group had chosen to stay on moorings, Ron and Wendy had generator envy, and ended up rafting Knot for Sale to a larger Sea Ray and plugging in!
Longtime Club Sea Ray member and much-respected forum poster Dominic “Dom” Annunziata and his wife, Linda, cruised to Liberty Landing aboard One Sweet Day. The beloved 410 Sundancer was their fourth in a series of Sea Rays, and the trip their latest in a long history of Club Sea Ray voyages. In fact, Dom was instrumental in the club’s first rendezvous in Baltimore years ago, and as things grew he became known for his claim, “I’m not bringing the lobster this year!”—soon a running joke among the group.
Newer to the club, 260 Sundancer owners Michele and Michael Zeplin of Plainview, Long Island, just started boating last year. Their daughter, an emergency room nurse, came along with them on Voyager of the Zs to enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation. On the dock, Michele was glowing from the opportunity to spend time with her daughter. “It makes the family closer,” she says with a smile.
A couple of docks over, Alex and Jelena Fishman were aboard their 420 Sedan Bridge Inspiration with their two children. This is the young family’s fourth Sea Ray over 13 years. In the early days, Alex and Jelena trailered their 18-footer all over the East Coast, including trips to Canada and Florida. Now, with the kids, Inspiration is a family boat, and Alex and Jelena are thrilled to give their kids an appreciation for the boating experience.
But what about the hot dogs? Here’s the story: the lobsters did arrive on Four Suns, in those very coolers, and Gary enjoyed telling the tale of picking them up at the not-so-commodious commercial fishing dock in Stonington. Rusty Higgins arrived in style on Mark Kushner’s new 580 Sundancer, Luminator, out of Brick, New Jersey. As soon as he stepped off the dock, Rusty was welcomed with open arms, as several group members relished a chance to get the scoop on some of Sea Ray’s newest models. Owner Mark, now on his fourteenth Sea Ray, was rightfully proud of his new ride, explaining how Sea Ray knows how to build a luxury speedboat like nobody else.
As the weekend came to an end, the online forum began to thrive again. Stories from trips home were shared, hundreds of “Sea Ray family” photos were posted and good times were recounted. Members boasted about interactions with Rusty and expressed gratitude to Sea Ray for making the group feel truly appreciated.
And yes, next year’s rendezvous has already been brought up. Alex Fishman says it best: “I can’t wait.”