The Grady Bunch

By Tom Neale, 5/1/2012


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"Having Fun Since 1988" claimed the large blue banner on the side of the YaBut's cabin. She was tied up at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, which we consider to be one of our favorite marinas. She wasn't alone, but part of a small flotilla of Grady Whites, ranging from around 25 to 36 feet. I'd noticed these fleets in past years while cruising in Florida and noticed a singular commonality: they were, as the banner said, having fun--a lot of it. You see it when you see them, and if you follow them off to a "talking channel" on VHF you hear it. They call themselves "The Grady Bunch" and they've been doing their thing since 1988. It was easy to pick out the boats, not just because of their make, but also because of a bouquet of roses on each.

The Grady Bunch We Met At Camachee Cove.
Their thing is to go on cruises, long and short, be safe and have a great time. They frequently stop in marinas where there are shoreside lodgings available, as is the case at Camachee Cove. This provides an option for those who prefer to not sleep aboard. The group now has around 200 boats. They're based in Vero Beach, Florida, but that doesn't limit them. One of the boats at Camachee came down from Jacksonville, more than 200 miles to the north of Vero.

The Ring Leader was Bruce MacIntyre who owns Vero Marine Center ( which sells Grady Whites and other products at Vero Beach. His is the YaBut which, I am told, reflects a recurring comment of his wife in response to some of his ideas. Some, looking only at the math, might consider him to be a Senior Citizen--but not if they knew him. The same is true of various other members of the group, although age, if relevant, runs well into the lower numbers as well. There were two lovely young granddaughters in the group we met.

Grady Bunch Boat Is Easy to Identify.
They try to choose good stops. Camachee Cove was ideal for many reasons including that it's in a protected basin with no current and floating docks, there are two loaner cars, there's the Camachee Yacht Yard and the well known First Mate Yacht Services on premises, there's a great restaurant (Kingfish) as well as deli on premises, the beach is easy walking distance and there's a Publix about 3 minutes drive away.

The cruises don't necessarily involve long leaps. For example, they sometimes have "Secret Lunch" cruises. The cruise will be announced but not the location. "This," says Bruce, "is to make it impossible for anybody to cop out and come by car. This is about boating." When we met them at Camachee they were at the end point of the cruise. They'd been at the marina for 3 nights enjoying St. Augustine. Sunday morning they headed out, most bound back to Vero, around 175 miles to the south. They planned to do it in two days. Why rush?

Other cruises are more adventurous. There are regular cruises to the Bahamas, mostly to the Abacos, all the way out to Man O' War, for example. They've also gone to Bimini. For those who think these boats are too small for this trip, consider what the Bahamians typically use to get about. The key is to have the boat in good shape with proper safety gear, to be well briefed on navigation, and to fastidiously watch the weather. Don't go if it's gonna blow…or whatever.

Tom’s Tips About Cruising Groups

1. It is possible to plan trips to allow for boats of varying size and speeds. For example, have discretionary intermediate stops for slower boats but a stop for everyone, farther away, the next day.

2. Stress to each skipper that group cruising doesn’t necessarily mean safer cruising. While members of the group will certainly be helpful to each other if needed, in a bad storm or other circumstances, each may be, of necessity, on his own.

Click Here for More Tips

They've also cruised to the Florida Keys like to Hawk's Cay Resort, which is around 250 miles to the south of Vero and to Charleston, South Carolina, around 500 miles to the north. While these trips are generally in the relatively protected waters of the ICW, the Bahamas trips involve wide open ocean crossing, including the Gulf Stream which can be notoriously dangerous in the wrong kind of weather - which is the kind of weather they don't go in. The Abacos trips also involve running a long distance across the Bahamas Banks after you leave the ocean. The Banks are also wide open and quite desolate and that passage is around 100 miles. But the Bahamas Banks are unbelievably beautiful in good weather. This trip is a good example of how you can plan well, go far and be safe. The boats can run down to a jumping off point at Lake Worth Inlet (Palm Beach) inside the ICW. At this point there are plenty of marinas and shoreside lodging if the weather goes bad. The trip from Lake Worth Inlet to the western rim of the Bahamas is around 60 miles, which isn't a bad run for boats such as these in calm conditions. That run brings you to Grand Bahama Island's "West End" where, again, there's a protected marina and shoreside facilities. If needed, the trip can be delayed here to wait for weather. The bottom line is that with well planned cruising, you don't need to have a huge yacht burning refinery loads of fuel every hour do so some serious cruising and have some serious fun.

North, South and East aren't the only compass points traveled. The Grady Bunch has also cruised across the state of Florida and explored parts of the Gulf Coast, including Captiva Island and Ft. Meyers Beach. To do this they "crossed the lake" which, translated, means taking the dredged passage from the St. Lucie River and crossing Lake Okeechobee to another dredged canal, passing through locks on each side of the lake. Many don't know that this route takes you on a surprising trip through Florida cowboy country. The passage runs into the Caloosahatchee River which opens just to the south of beautiful Pine Island Sound. It's a "whole ‘nother world over there" of cruising possibilities.

I'm telling you about this group for several reasons. The first is that, as you've probably figured out, I think they're a cool bunch of folks. But there's a lot more than that. Almost every day I hear people complaining about boating. It's too expensive. It's too much work. You have to have a huge yacht to have fun. There's no place new to go that's not too far. And on and on. It doesn't have to be that way, and these folks, along with many other groups into the same sort of thing, prove it. We met these members of the Grady Bunch visiting Camachee Cove this spring and really enjoyed talking with them. But most of all, we enjoyed seeing, once more, a real life real time reaffirmation of what you and I love to do.


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