By Nick Burnham.
“Our boat really gives our family a focal point. When we’re at home, people are often doing their own thing but the boat really brings us together, it’s something we do as a team. A perfect example is that, like most parents, we’re very careful to monitor and limit phone and iPad screen time. But on the boat, screens barely even get looked at beyond maybe watching a little TV of an evening. Last weekend my eldest was fishing off the back of the boat until bedtime”.
I’m talking to Kathleen McDougall who owns a Princess F49 called ‘Cara Bella’ with husband Andrew. The London based couple and their two boys, Alex aged 9 and William who is 11, spend most weekends aboard all year round. “We’re fair weather boaters, we’re not interested in heavy weather or endurance boating, I value my life and my sanity too much! But we’ll be on board in December or January if the weather is suitable. For the first couple of years we’d rarely stay on board but once we moved to flybridge boats it’s rare not to stay over. The ability to slide the doors shut and be inside but on the main deck rather than down among the sleeping accommodation was transformational for us”.
Currently on their third Princess yacht, their first boat was a Princess V42. They moved up to a Princess F43 flybridge cruiser “we find it way more suitable for all year British boating” before moving up again to their current boat, a Princess F49, which offers even more space aboard. “We stumbled across Princess by accident” Kathleen tells me. “We were looking at a Broom boat on the Norfolk Broads. It was perfectly nice, just not our style. The salesman suggested we look at the boat alongside which was a Princess and we were instantly hooked. My husband works right around the corner from the Princess Motor Yacht Sales office in London. They introduced us to Mark da Costa at the Swanwick Princess office (where we planned to keep the boat) and the rest is history. Mark is on my Christmas card list now” laughs Kathleen. “All the Princess guys have been brilliant. Each boat we’ve owned has been secondhand, but the aftersales care has been genuinely exceptional. Any issue we have had has been dealt with quickly and efficiently. We honestly would not buy any other make of boat now. Each new larger boat feels very intimidating to begin with but after two months they seem to shrink and become normal. And modern technology has really helped our progression, our current boat has IPS drives and a joystick that makes docking so easy that it feels like cheating!”
The family use the boat mainly in the Solent, with Cowes, the Beaulieu River, Yarmouth and Lymington among their many favourite haunts and destinations. But they have ventured further afield. “Last year we joined an organised Princess cruise to France. I grew up boating on a lake so the Solent seemed slightly scary to me to begin with. The idea of actually crossing the channel was very daunting. But joining an organised group took all the stress out of it. We were very lucky with the weather across the five-day trip and had the most fantastic experience, one of the best we’ve had afloat. But most of all, it gave us a huge sense of accomplishment and a huge amount of confidence in what the boat is actually capable of. We became aware that it can handle far more than we’d realised, and certainly far more than we would ever choose to experience”. Since then the family have taken the boat down the coast to Torquay on a seven-day trip and have committed to another Princess cruise in company, this year to the Channel Islands.
But the subject soon returns to what the boat means to them as a family. “Now the boys are a little older, they’re getting actively involved in the running of the boat. The youngest is in charge of safety equipment and the oldest helps with the lines when docking the boat. They’ve not progressed to driving it yet but it’s only a matter of time. Both are proficient at handling the tender. When we were considering a boat, my husband said to me, ‘we’ve only got the boys as children for maybe 10 years, after that they’ll likely be doing their own thing rather than wanting to do things with us. It was quite a shocking thought, but he’s right. Who knows, when they’re seventeen they might barely be speaking to us. But we’ll all have an ocean worth of family boating memories”.