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Keys Homes
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Winters on Water

By BARBARA BOWERS Special to the Citizen

In Paradise, sometimes ocean views aren't enough; living right on top of the water is the preferred lifestyle.

"There's really no comparison between the cost of buying a house and the cost of buying a boat," said Kurt Winters, a native Floridian. "Boats in the 45 to 60 foot range are at an all-time low."

And big preowned boats, with the kind of character, mystery and elegance that big used houses in Old Town boast, are real steals: Winters says he recently found a 48-foot Viking built in 1988 on sale for $99,000.

"Where in Key West can you own a place to live for that price?" he wondered out loud.

Kurt and his wife Mary Ann own a couple of houses on the mainland and they own a few boats, too, of which their 42-foot Viking named "Therapy" is docked at Galleon Marina. They lived on it from the time they purchased it in 2010 until February of this year, when the Winters expanded their living space on water to include an apartment on William Street.

Why get land legs, when both Winters love boats and fishing?

"The problem was living on the boat and fishing on the boat," explained Mary Ann. "The two didn't always mix."

Initially, the Winters addressed the problem of gearing up for fishing and taking their home out into the choppy brine by "bolting down, gluing down or Velcro-ing" most everything in sight. For instance, TVs are attached to walls; all lamps are bolted in place, keeping everything upright.

Because Velcro is to houseboats what duck tape is to home-owning landlubbers, Mary Ann applies sticking power wherever unlikely sounds develop. Consider Therapy's vertical accordion-cloth shades in the cabin's big picture windows.Although they are lightweight, they have metal bases, which while underway, clang metal on metal.

When Mary Ann attached Velcro to shade bases and to window sills, ocean-motion problem solved.

No issue with fishing rods, either. In home mode, they double as cabin-ceiling sculptures and when fishing, they're easily accessed from the fighting chair in the cockpit. In fact, all fishing gear and tackle claim cubby holes as specialized as the galley's storage spaces.

Bait and fish odors? No problema -- plenty of coolers on board.

So the real clash of living on board and fishing on board really ties into the international business the Winters own -- Hydraulic Power Systems: Seems that many of its clients are watermen, and the mix of business and fishing in Key West is as powerful as business and golfing in Phoenix.

The couple enjoys entertaining, of course, and son Dan, especially granddaughter Lily, retains berth space in the master stateroom anytime they visit. What's more, the Galleon's suites directly behind the boat are most convenient for housing guests, but "somehow fishermen just have to fill a cup to the brim of Captain Morgan and Coke," said Kurt. "The trail from the bar across the white rug is pretty well defined."

The boat bar is located in the cabin at the entrance from the cockpit. As convenient as it is charming, the bar and ice maker tuck seamlessly into teak and mahogany panels that line the interior bow to stern. The cabin's big picture windows with white shades, white leather furniture and, yes, that white carpet brighten things up and contrast beautifully with dark wood the way Dade County pine accents décor on shore.

The step down from living room to galley creates a generous open-floor plan, where a dining table seats eight comfortably, or lowers to become a queen-size bed, if needed.

Most often, though, the table is Kurt's desk: "It's a laptop office, linked to my offices in Palm Beach and Kansas City," he said. "My IT guy set it all up."

Like most luxury boats, this one comes with highly technical equipment for navigation. But because the Winters frequently live on water in the Bahamas, where facilities are limited, their boat features satellite phones, satellite Internet and every gadget essential for safety, comfort and convenience.

Everything that is, except a washer/dryer: "I needed the closet space more," said Mary Ann, who opens the full-length shutter door next to a most uncommon boat feature -- a full-length refrigerator/freezer: This galley is designed to serve well, and serve many.

Then Mary Ann relates exactly how many: She says one weekend this year started with two days of fishing followed by an on board dinner party, wherein son Dan cheffed and served pasta osso buco for 12 Super Bowl guests.

"I opted out of that weekend's festivities," Mary Ann said.

It goes without saying, though; that's she when she started hunting for an apartment in Key West.

Barbara Bowers is a Key West writer and host of a radio talk show about owning and maintaining property in the Florida Keys. To suggest a home to be featured in the Keys Homes section, send an email to barbara@bbowers.com. Homes listed for sale may not be considered.

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