Childhood memories and desires can be a powerful motivation. For some, these memories are just footnotes in life and desires become foolish dreams about what could have been. But for Michael Rushton, a childhood memory of helping a neighbor restore a sailboat and a desire to someday own his own boat remained embedded in his soul throughout his life. It wasn’t until his youngest daughter graduated from high school and went off to college that he even dared share this desire with his wife, Shirley.
Then one day, out of the blue, he confessed to her that he wanted to buy a boat.
“But we’re not boaters,” was Shirley’s reply.
Although the couple were both from Nova Scotia, neither had spent any time on a boat except for that very brief period in Michael’s younger life when he helped remodel a sailboat.
But Michael persisted, trying to convince Shirley that this was something he had to do.
Now that childhood dream has become a reality … and Shirley is also “all in” with life on water that has become a part of the Rushton’s lifestyle.
In 2010, Michael and Shirley purchased a 1986 Aluminum Motor Yacht that was on the water in Virginia. The Rushtons turned to YouTube to learn all they could about the boat and how to operate it. Then they traveled to Virginia, spent another 40 minutes getting a quick course in operation, handed over a check for the purchase of the boat and sailed off on the 1,000-mile journey back to Lake Ontario. That winter the Rushtons took the time to completely restore/renovate the Motor Yacht … a project that was not only challenging, but helped them to learn the ins and outs of boat designs.
“Between November and May we completely restored that boat, inside and out,” Shirley explained. “I hand-sanded the outside.” Since the boat was in a warehouse with other boats, the Rushtons weren’t allowed to use electric sanders. So Shirley sanded both sides (40 feet long on each side) and all the decks by hand.
Meanwhile, Michael was going through the electrical, where he rewired the entire boat.
“After we finished the project, it was in good shape so we sold it to a friend and bought this Neptunus 56 Express,” Michael explained. “The Neptunus is built in Saint Catherine, Ontario, just 45 minutes away. The Neptunus is a well-known premium brand that mainly sells in the United States.”
Shirley added, “When we decided to go for a bigger boat I said, ‘It has to be one we don't have to do anything to. I'm not doing that renovation again.’ So we bought a boat that we didn't have to restore. One restoration in a lifetime is enough.”
Michael said they had been looking at several different boats prior to the Neptunus, including a Carver Voyager and several Sea Ray models over 50 feet. “I had a list of 12 boats we considered and all would have been more affordable,” he said. “Once we saw the quality of the Neptunus interior woodwork and so many areas of superior quality, we increased our boat budget. It was Simply Irresistible.”
Since the Rushtons have a musical background, the song lyrics fit. Thus, they christened their new boat Simply Irresistible.
When the Rushtons first started boating, they would visit friends at Newport Yacht Club near Stoney Creek, Ontario. At first they would visit for a weekend. Then the weekends started to stretch from Thursday to Monday. Finally, they found a house in the marina and made it their home.
Newport Yacht Club History
Initially, the Newport Marina was conceived as a “boater’s dream” with the intention of creating a man-built harbor with more than 100 homes surrounding the marina. After the first developer went bankrupt, a group of developers took over the building of the homes and developing the area around the harbor. A group of local boaters and residents purchased the marina and turned it into a not-for-profit club in 2012.
The Newport Yacht Club offers members and transient guest facilities for mooring boats up to 50 feet long with 6-foot draft. The facilities include dockside water and 30 amp power, pump out, washrooms with showers, laundry and ice machine. It also has a book exchange library with a reading room, gas barbeque grills with picnic tables and several scheduled events throughout the boating season.
There are still plans to build a clubhouse and have other amenities for club members in the next few years. Newport Yacht Club is located just east of Hamilton, Ontario, at Stoney Creek. It is on the southwest end of Lake Ontario about 35 miles south of the U.S./Canada border. The club has a mix of members—some sailing, others power boating.
The Newport Yacht Club only has one paid employee, a dockmaster, who takes care of receiving boats and things during the boating season. All the other work to operate the club is performed by volunteers.
Michael is presently the Commodore. Over the years, both he and Shirley have served in various volunteer capacities with the club.
During the winter Shirley looks out her window at the marina, thinking in just a few months spring will be here. “We open up on April 15, but we keep busy all winter,” she said.
On The Water
The Rushtons are now avid boaters and spend as much time as possible for two individuals who still work for a living.
“We're not retired so we have to make our trips short,” he explained. “The longest one we had was 19 days aboard and that was going to New York and back.” For 24 years Michael worked for Sobeys, a big Canadian supermarket chain. But he decided to get his MBA and now he works for an audit firm that actually finds money for a lot of large companies around the world.
His job allows him to do a lot of his work at his home office when he’s not flying across the country. “I have my desk away from the window so I don't look out and daydream,” he explained.
Michael has even managed to use his boat to commute to a business meeting in Mississauga, just north across the western tip of Lake Ontario.
“We left at 8 a.m.,” Shirley said. “It's only like an hour away. We tied up and he took an Uber to the meeting. Then we had some of the business executives from his company come up. We took them for a dinner cruise to Toronto Island, barbecued and were back by 11 p.m.
Shirley also works from home doing accounting. “I've had my own business for 25 years, but always from home,” she said. “I'm almost retired. I only have a few clients left.”
But she too can work from the boat so that allows the Rushtons some flexibility in their time and more time to spend on the water.
During the past 14 months the Rushtons have owned their Neptunus 56 Express, they have logged 2,700 nautical miles.
“Many power boaters in the Great Lakes area only get 20-40 hours a year,” Michael said. “We picked up the Neptunus on May 28, 2018 and have logged 300 hours over a 14-month period with some of that time in winter storage.”
According to Shirley, the Rushtons have boated on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in 14 months.
“We went down to New York recently on the boat,” Michael said. “We went all the way to Stamford, Conn., on Long Island Sound. In June we sailed right past the Statue of Liberty.”
Just recently they spent five days on Toronto Island. “I don't know if you've ever been there but that’s an awesome place,” Shirley said. “You know in Lake Ontario off of Toronto it’s like a park-like setting but then you turn around and there’s the city skyline. It’s really neat.”
Last year the Rushtons sailed the entire length of the Thousand Islands on Lake Ontario to Brockville. “Then this year we went down to Oswego, N.Y., and on the Erie Canal down to the Atlantic Ocean, back into the Long Island Sound to the East River and up to Connecticut,” Michael said. “We’ve done a lot of miles in that boat in just a very short time. We like cruising long distances and exploring.”
Michael said since they’ve done the Canadian side of Lake Erie, he’d like to now sail the American side.
Both Shirley and Michael have their favorite locations that they’ve visited. For Michael, “Kingston, Ontario, was super nice,” he explained. “And I like Sackets Harbor in New York.”
High on both their lists is the scenic Thousand Islands area. And Shirley liked all the little towns scattered along the canal on the Mohawk River. “They had town walls, they had facilities and they were the nicest people,” she explained.
Even with all the sights they see and all the places they visit, the time on the water is still centered around their boat.
“The funny thing is, we visit all of these places, but we do everything on our boat,” Shirley explained. “Like in 19 days we only ate out twice. So you’re in a different dock but you're staying in the same place every night.”
Family & Friends
Although their boating lifestyle started after their kids grew up and moved away from home, the lifestyle is being shared with their grandkids.
“Our children didn’t grow up boating so they thought we were crazy when we told them we bought a boat in Virginia,” Shirley said. “But we have two grandchildren now. Although our grandson’s too young to know, our little granddaughter is almost four and she loves the boat. She knows right where the boat is when they come to visit. Last year she came and we had sold the other boat but we hadn’t picked up the new one yet. And she was like, ‘Where’s your boat, Grandpa? Can we go to the store and get another boat?’”
Michael said he regrets not getting involved in the boating lifestyle while his children were younger and still at home. But Shirley was quick to point out that at that stage of their life, they couldn’t afford it. “Kids aren’t cheap.”
During the short time they’ve participated in boating, they’ve enjoyed the lifestyle and the new friends they meet.
“If we’re going out on a Saturday, we just call around and see who’s available,” Shirley explained. “We’ll just call ‘Hey we're going out. Who wants to come?’ If you aren’t busy, load it up and out we go and we have a fun time. Everybody brings food. We often have 12 people on the boat. The time passes so quickly. You load at 1 p.m. and first thing you know it’s 5:30 p.m.”
Michael said Shirley is a great cook and has a gourmet kitchen on the boat with a four-burner AEG cook-top and a convection oven. It also has a side-by-side SubZero fridge freeze, wine fridge, beer fridge, etc. It has quartz countertops in the kitchen, granite and marble in the bathrooms.
It is a perfect place to gather and socialize. But don’t be mistaken, the Rushtons purchased their boat so they could travel about. “When we decided to buy a boat, it was to go boating,” Shirley explained. “It wasn’t to sit around.”
Michael said too often people buy boats so they can sit on the dock and drink beer. “That makes for a very expensive bar,” he explained.
Although fuel can be expensive, Michael pointed out that by the time you pay winter storage, summer mooring and the annual maintenance (“All boats require some maintenance,” he explained), then the cost of fuel really isn’t that much.
“Fuel costs might be a big expense for us during the past two years,” Michael explained. “But that’s because we went crazy and covered a lot of nautical miles. But for the average boater fuels not the big spend.”
Michael said it’s not good to let a boat sit around not in use. “The gas goes bad … we’ve seen that a few times where people had to take all the gas out of their gas tank because moisture had gotten in [due to it sitting idle so long]. Whether it’s power or sail or both, use the boat and use the motor and you won't have those problems.”
For now, the Rushtons are very content with their Neptunus 56 Express and love their relationship with the Newport Yacht Club at Stoney Creek. They have no plans of making any changes to their boat anytime in the near future.
“Our 56-foot is about as large as practical,” Michael explained. “Some day we may downsize, but once you get something this comfortable it will be tough to move smaller.”
That’s what makes this boat “simply irresistible.”
For More Information
8 Keefer Road,
St. Catharines, Ontario, L2M 7N9
Newport Yacht Club
711 North Service Road
Stoney Creek, Ontario, L8E 4Z5