When Hannah and Bill Owen of Alexander County bought their 45-foot boat, Hannah named it Irony, because, she said, “I was not happy when Bill bought it. I wanted to buy an RV and go out West and see all the national parks. I said it would be highly ironic if I wound up liking the boat.”
It was a well-chosen name, since Hannah now admits she likes the boat, even “to a great extent,” she said.
Hannah and Bill, Maryland natives, have been married 45 years. Hannah retired in 2009 as youth services librarian at Hickory’s Patrick Beaver Memorial Library. Bill retired in 1998 as manager of manufacturing engineering at General Electric.
Bill said that partway through his retirement, he realized he wanted more of two things: boating and music. Bill had spent his childhood summers with his grandparents who lived on the Chesapeake Bay, but “I never went out to see this wonderful bay,” he said.
“This was the driving force,” said Bill. In 2008, he bought a 22-foot, all-aluminum, inboard diesel dory. Bill spent the next 11/2 years refurbishing the 1980s-built flat-bottom boat.
“This was supposed to quench my thirst,” said Bill. “Instead, it made it worse.”
In January, 2011, he bought Irony, a steel recreational trawler built in 1974. “A trawler is a subset of ocean capable motorboats,” said Bill.
Irony came with a new engine but its interior was stuck in the 1970s: avocado green, orange, yellow, and brown. “It even had shag carpet,” said Hannah.
With the help of a carpenter, welder and painter, Bill did much of the remodeling and updating, improving the vessel’s structure, systems, appearance, and comfort.
Irony has 11/2 bathrooms or “heads.” There’s also a galley and an assortment of sleeping spaces, including a cabin with a queen-size bed. Hannah and Bill control the boat from either of two steering stations, one that’s open to the weather and one in the pilothouse.
The 28-ton boat resides in Seaford, Del. The couple frequently make the 500-mile drive and then live on Irony a week or so as they cruise. Bill said Irony burns 11/2 gallons of diesel per hour, making it economical. “Top speed is 8 knots,” said Bill. That’s a little more than 9 mph.
“We’ve been to D.C. twice by water,” said Hannah.
“When you power into Washington, D.C.,” said Bill, “you pass under I-95 with all that honking and congestion, and we’re just chug, chug, chugging at a relaxed pace, and we feel that we’re in a different world.”
The Owens were surprised to come upon the U.S. Capitol from the perspective of the Potomac. “That was shocking,” said Bill. “When you see it from 3 miles away, you see a line of trees, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol.” Nothing else.
Viewing life from the water is part of the reason Hannah has grown to enjoy life on Irony. She called it “a pleasant perspective,” such as when she and Bill cruised up the Potomac for two days and then “pulled up to George and Martha’s dock,” as Hannah described it. “To see Mount Vernon from the water was beautiful.”
Also beautiful: July Fourth fireworks. “We saw the national fireworks display from the deck of the boat,” Bill said.
One thing Irony doesn’t have is high-tech docking equipment. While newer boats pretty much dock themselves, Bill has to park his trawler the old-fashioned way. “I spent much time practicing,” he said. “I’ve never hit anything.”
From childhood, Bill knew much about boating: “Being mechanically oriented, I’m comfortable with the mechanical aspect of the boat.”
His comfort level was challenged, though, when he and Hannah planned a trip from Oxford, Md., to Annapolis, Md., this May. The official weather forecast offered no warnings, and they found themselves rocked by gale force winds and heading into 6-foot waves. “The forecast was wrong!” Bill said, adding that he couldn’t keep on his hat or glasses.
The Owens changed course and made their way to a nearby harbor, which soon filled with other folks. “The wind blew (nearly all) the water out of the harbor,” Bill said. “It was an abnormally low tide due to wind direction.”
Sometimes friends or family join the Owens, who have two children and two grandchildren. Their mixed-breed dog, Jerry, always comes along. The Owens carry two bicycles for exercise and sightseeing after docking, many books, light meals, and a dinghy named Paradocks.
“What we do is cruising,” said Bill. “What we aspire to do is passage making.” A long-distance voyage is calling Bill – maybe the Bahamas or Costa Rica. Hannah, on the other hand, is deaf to the calling, at least for now.
As for Bill’s other desire – more music in his life? The Owens found it through boating: outdoor concerts in cities where they’ve docked and in Seaford, with a large group of retirees who dance every night. “We dance a lot,” said Bill. “It’s a way to get music into our lives.” The Owens enjoy East Coast Swing and ballroom dancing.
So what about Hannah’s bucket list? “We’ll buy an RV when we’re too decrepit to go on the boat,” Hannah said.
Mary Canrobert is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Mary? Email her at email@example.com.
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