Boats Create Bonds
Chris and Andrea Stewart, Prestige 500 OWNERS
This article orignially appeared in Soundings Magazine's June 2019 Issue. Article by Gary Reich
Boatload is about as good as a boat name gets when you have six kids and two parents aboard. Chris and Andrea Stewart cruise a Prestige 500 by that name from its homeport in Dunedin along Florida’s West Coast and over to the Keys.
“My husband and I have a long history of going out and exploring and fishing the Gulf Coast of Florida,” Andrea says. “Each of us started boating young, and we spent lots of time in high school poking around the area with smaller boats. Once we’d started our family, we ended up in center consoles fishing quite a bit. But as our family grew, we knew we needed to start looking at bigger boats. A Sea Ray 43 was our first attempt at making everyone comfortable, and the kids just loved it. We spread them out in the different staterooms and the salon, and it worked out well.” Though they thoroughly enjoyed their 43, the Stewarts outgrew it.
The Prestige 500 underway
“The kids wanted their own spaces where they could sleep,” Andrea says. “We ended up with a Prestige 500 Flybridge that we purchased from Galati Yacht Sales in Tampa Bay, Florida, and it’s been a great boat. It’s got all the room we need, is plenty quick, and the aft cockpit and swim platform are perfect for having kids in and out of the water when we’re anchored out. Also, everyone now has their own space to sleep and keep their things.”
The Stewart family on a recent trip in Florida.
Their six children now range in age from 5 to 15. “Three of our kids are our biological children, while their brothers and sisters are adopted from West Africa,” she says. “All of the kids love boating now, but it took time for our adopted children to loosen up on board. But that’s to be expected, considering how overwhelming the experience of coming from another continent is. Now, they’re born naturals on the boat. They all love it. We can give them some board games and cards, and they’ll spend hours together laughing and having fun. That’s not easy on shore with all the distractions, including television and smartphones.”
Andrea and Chris have been boating since a young age.
The Stewarts like to hop from marina to marina on their cruises, wearing out the kids so the couple can relax after their children go to bed. Trips to the Keys for the lobster season are an annual tradition, and the Stewarts are now planning a larger adventure. “We want to make a trip to the Dry Tortugas, which will require more complicated logistics and independence,” Andrea says. “We’re going to add some fuel bladders to expand our range and anchor out, explore the area with the dinghy, and do all the other things we usually do together when on board as a family. We’re excited about it.”
All in all, she says, life on the boat is great: “I really can’t imagine any other way we’d like to spend time with our kids.”