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Classic Cruisers Club: Holly O'Brien & Jeff St. Cyr

Holly O’Brien had lived her life near water but had never owned a boat. That changed in 2020, when she bought the 47-foot Gulfstar trawler Audrey. With her partner, Jeff St. Cyr, who has lived on and around boats all his life, the pair has moved Audrey to Florida and is planning exciting cruising adventures.

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Names: Holly O’Brien and Jeff St. Cyr
Ages 59 and 57
Current boat: 1976 Gulfstar trawler Audrey
Homeport: St. Petersburg, Florida
Years owned: 14 months

BEGINNINGS

My family moved often when I was growing up. I have lived near the water in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico; in Missouri near rivers, lakes and Lake of the Ozarks; in Texas; in the Pacific Northwest and most recently in Michigan, where one is never more than 6 miles from a body of water or 85 miles from a Great Lake. There, I spent the past 30 years raising my children and spending time “up north” at the family cottage on a lake. And although I am very active in, on and around the water, it is relatively surprising that this is my first boat. Even more shocking is that this is also the first time I have ever been at the helm of a boat.

My partner, Jeff, is from New England and was raised on a 40-foot Marine Trader. Whether handling a speedboat on Lake Winnipesaukee [in New Hampshire] or coastal cruising the Atlantic, he knows his way around a boat.

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THE BOAT

I found Audrey available near Albany, New York. Four months later, I was standing on the hard in Coeymans, New York, staring up at the largest boat I had ever been near, wondering what I had just done.

As soon as I climbed aboard, I knew I had made the correct choice. Audrey’s interior is original wood with a spacious, well-lit salon, an aft cabin with Desi and Lucy beds, and a complete head. Forward is a full galley and dinette, and a V-berth with its own half-head. A spacious fantail and a popular flybridge with seating for six make her the perfect boat for entertaining.

After spending a lovely five months at Coeymans Landing Marina on the Hudson, my captain friend, a first mate and I headed south on a snowy November morning toward the Intracoastal and my new beginning in Florida.

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COMMITMENT

Initially, it appeared Audrey was in tip-top shape. But alas, as with everything vintage and boat, she requires continual maintenance and repairs.

Both diesels have been gone through and repaired, transmissions checked, batteries replaced and bilges rewired. This summer we tackled brightwork: stripping, cleaning and oiling to bring out the beauty of the thirsty wood. Next are repairs to the fiberglass to alleviate leaks that are impacting the interior mahogany paneling.

WISH LIST

While there are always things to do on an older vessel, due to the prolific (but unrealized) hurricane forecast, we had decided to make this past summer “The Summer of Audrey” to ensure she would be shipshape for the fall cruising season.

THE LIFESTYLE

We are thrilled with our new lifestyle. There is not one thing I would change. We spend five to seven days at our dock and then feel the need to head out into the Gulf to “wet my soul” for a few days. Often our “overnighters” turn into five-, six- or even seven-nighters, as we cannot bear to leave our dolphin, turtle and manatee friends and head back in.

The journey from New York to St. Petersburg, Florida, was absolutely amazing and unparalleled in all of my travels.

WAYPOINTS

We are currently planning our journey to Key West and the mysterious, romantic Dry Tortugas over the holidays. As a newbie, I am still somewhat apprehensive of the trip across open water. I know Audrey was built to cruise and Jeff is an experienced captain. We will be fine!

After that, who knows? The Bahamas? New England and Michigan to see family? The Great Loop? The possibilities are endless.

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NEXT BOAT

No thoughts yet of any other boat except Audrey until she has earned her retirement.

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