This month - An spacious trawler serves as a floating home in Old Town
"Carpe Diem" - Owned by Gayle and Steve Materne article and photographs by Ellis Anderson
The dream began with an eight year old girl.Her uncle bought an old Chris Craft and invited the family aboard.
“The first time I stepped on that boat and smelled diesel fuel, I was in love,” says Gayle Materne.
Fortunately, when the little girl grew up and got married, her husband liked the idea too.Both Gayle and Steve grew up in New Orleans.He’s a CPA and she’s the owner of The Transportation Revolution – European Motorbikes New Orleans. While they’d owned several smaller boats, the dream of something bigger - something like that classic Chris Craft - niggled in the back of their minds.
In 2001, the couple took a trip to Italy with their sons, who were singing in the St. Louis Cathedral boys choir.They both were taken with all the Vespas zipping through the streets.Steve, who had always owned motorcycles, wondered if they could get a Vespa dealership.The couple did a quick internet search.Yes, Vespa WAS looking for dealers to carry their product in the U.S. but they only wanted passionate people to represent them.An essay explaining why it was important was the first step in the application process.
“So we opened a bottle of Chianti and wrote a passionate essay,” says Steve.
They opened the dealership in mid-city in 2001.The business thrived, so they purchased a larger building in the CBD on Julia Street.They were renovating that space when Katrina hit.Like everyone in the region, plans screeched to a halt.The shop in Mid-city flooded and during the next few years, the couple worked overtime trying to get back on track.When a friend suggested they de-stress by “getting away,” the dream of owning a boat reemerged.
Researching and shopping for boats became their new hobby for the next two years.After lots of internet reading, they decided a trawler would suit them best, something large enough to live aboard comfortably as a vacation home, yet small enough for the two of them to handle.They set their parameters for shopping as far east as Panama City, so it wouldn’t be an ordeal to get the boat back to New Orleans.
The first boat they looked at was a 44’ Marine Trader built in 1986.It was docked in Long Beach.Its name was Carpe Diem.They eventually looked at 21 more over the two year period. In 2010, the couple decided it was time to buy one of the boats they’d looked at.The problem was, the more they’d learned about the process, the more complex the decision was.So they each made a list of their top three choices.When they compared notes, Carpe Diem was first on both lists.They’d worked with boat broker Greg Whelton when they were shopping and he helped them sail it to Madisonville where they docked temporarily.
While it took them a long time to “seize the day,” living with and sometimes on the boat over the past four years has validated that they made the right decision.It’s roomy enough so they don’t feel crowded.The master bed is accessible from each side, so it’s even easy to make up. There's built-in storage in every conceivable nook and handsome cabinetry. Carpe Diem is a “sun deck” trawler, meaning all the outdoor gathering spaces are covered.
They've learned more about handling the boat by attending trawler fests, which turned out to be wonderful places for novices to learn more about boating and to meet people with similar interests.Short trips to destinations like Pensacola have honed their skills too.
Steve says they’re more comfortable with their boating skills now, although they’re “coast huggers.”“It’s challenging, but running a motorcycle shop and a CPA firm are pretty challenging too.So we’re up to it.”
While owning a boat was a long-held common dream, so was spending time in Bay St. Louis.Both their families once had summer homes in the area.The one Gayle’s family owned when she was a child was just to the east of the “Pirate’s House.”
“When we heard Bay St. Louis was building a marina, we were thrilled,” says Gayle.In fact, she admitted to calling the city frequently during the construction process to keep tabs on when a slip would be available.They moved the Carpe Diem into the harbor this summer and spend most weekends aboard the boat in the Bay.While their two adult sons stay busy with the family business, Jezzabella, their four-pound Yorkie always comes along on the weekends.The Maternes say she loves the boat and even has a little life-jacket.
“We love the walkability and the small town feel here,” says Gayle.They both enjoy having restaurants and shops right in the neighborhood.And the couple even has folding bikes aboard so they can ride down the beach path.Gayle raises an eyebrow and smiles, “We tried, but we can’t fit the Vespas on the boat.”