Retired & Afloat: Avi’s Boating Blog


From Prime Factor to Empty Nest

Prime Factor - Avi's Sailboat
Prime Factor: 2003 Catalina 400 MK II - Credit Avi Rubin

Boating is much more fun when you get to blog about it. As a new blogger at Marinalife, I’ll take this first posting as my opportunity to introduce myself. 

My wife Ann and I recently moved to Annapolis on the Severn River when we became new empty nesters. I’m retiring from my job as a Computer Science professor at Johns Hopkins, so we can spend more time cruising on our new boat that will be delivered next month. More on that later. I’m the founder, owner, and Chief Scientist of Harbor Labs, a computer security company and the funding source for my boating habit. 

For the last 15 years, boating has been central to my life. I don’t know why. I didn’t grow up boating and had very little exposure to it as a child in mostly land-locked Tennessee. In spite of that or perhaps because of it, I long for any opportunity to get out on the open waters. To give myself confidence, I studied for my captain’s license. I worked with a self-study kit for about a year and ended up getting a 100 Ton Master’s Captain’s license from the Coast Guard. Probably overkill, but now I have a backup career if I need it. 

In 2008, Ann and I purchased our first boat, a 40-foot 2003 Catalina sailboat that I named Prime Factor (yes, it’s a math joke) and obsessed over for eight years.

Prestige 560 Fly
Sababa: 2017 Prestige 560 Fly - Credit Avi Rubin

We had lots of fun sailing around the Bay with the kids, taking several week-long trips, sleeping on the boat, and exploring places like Oxford, Cambridge, St. Michaels, and Solomons Island. But when the kids got old enough to revolt against long family sailing trips, I decided to buy a powerboat and sell Prime Factor. 

In June 2016, we made the purchase and inaptly named it Lucky Break. The boat was a new 47’ Sea Ray Sundancer. It was much easier to handle than our sailboat, but obviously less fuel efficient. Honestly, not the greatest boat ever, but we enjoyed it for a year.

Ready to embark upon a serious boating adventure, I planned a three-week boat trip from Baltimore to Boston to visit our daughter Tamara and check out the major waterfront attractions on the way. Shortly before the trip, we came across a Prestige 560 Fly for sale, a significantly nicer, bigger and more comfortable boat, and decided to buy it. The opportunity to take our upcoming trip on a new, bigger, boat was a big factor in our calculation. We named the boat Sababa, which is a way of expressing that something is beyond fantastic in Hebrew and Arabic. “How are you doing?”  Answer: “Sababa” — couldn’t be better!

We enjoyed cruising on Sababa for five years. As I approached the retirement age at the university, Ann and I decided to plan a year-long boat trip. Our initial thought was to do the Great Loop. It was clear that Sababa was not suited for that journey. We would need a boat that could travel 350-400 miles without fueling, would have a draft maximum of five feet, but preferably four, would have an air draft (height from waterline to top) of 19’ 6” or less, and could comfortably accommodate us as well as any guests.

In February 2020, a month before COVID hit, I attended the Miami boat show to scope out Loop boats. While I had a tough time finding a boat the met all the required specs, including our budget and our taste, I did fall in love with a center console, an Everglades 295cc. I had been researching it as a day boat to get around the Bay quickly and for water sports with the kids. So, I did not come back from Miami empty-handed, and we purchased River Bet. Ann also decided she was going to be more careful about letting me go to boat shows by myself.

Outer Reef 720
Outer Reef 720 - Credit Avi Rubin

Ann and I did not like the boats we saw that were Loop capable. So, I decided that the choice of boat would have a higher priority than a particular itinerary. With that in mind, I began researching boats with a different set of criteria: seaworthiness, electronics, comfort at sea, comfort at rest, and ultimately, I ended up with the question: What is the most sea-worthy, largest, and nicest boat that Ann and I can handle as a couple and feel safe and secure in different sea and docking conditions? After several months of research, I came up with a shortlist. 

Having ruled out the Great Loop for now, I started planning a new itinerary: Annapolis, Baltimore, Philly, Cape May, Atlantic City, New York City, Cape Cod, Block Island, Newport, Boston, Maine, Nova Scotia, and then back to Annapolis in the fall, hitting all the places we missed on the way north. 

After a short stay in Annapolis when it starts to get cold, we would go down to the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Barbados, and then in the spring cruise back to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and then home in late April or early May. The Great Loop could wait.

At the top of my list was a Fleming 65. This is hands-down the best possible boat in the owner-operator size, the most beautiful, and the most desirable. Second on my list, after all my research, is the Hampton Endurance. After that, at a close third is a tie between the Outer Reef and the Marlow Yachts. Truly, I would be ecstatic with any of these. 

Initial sketch of Empty Nest
Initial sketch of Empty Nest

After several boat shows and multiple trips around the country to look at boats for sale, we decided to pull the trigger and put a deposit on a new build of a 2023 Endurance 658L. Overall length is 71’, draft is 5’3”, and beam is 19’2.” Exactly what we were looking for. We opted for the deluxe sky lounge feature where the flybridge is completely finished as an indoor space with the boat’s only helm. This lets us use the entire main deck level for living space, and we put a country kitchen in the forward area of the main deck. We designed it from scratch with so many features that we love about the boat that I could write several pages about them, and perhaps I will at some point.

Our new boat, named Empty Nest, was built in Shanghai, China, and on February 27, 2023, it set sail on a cargo ship for Miami. It arrived on April 6. As I write this blog, the boat is being commissioned in Ft. Lauderdale, and we expect to fly down next month for training and delivery. Then, Ann and I plan to sail it up to Annapolis. 

We now have one year to plan our big trip. 

In my next blog, I’ll describe Empty Nest and how we prepared for delivery. Stay tuned!

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