Second generation cruising family returns to Panama

This post is also available in: Spanish

By Ilene Little

Shannon and Courage Winter bought a fixer-upper boat in March of 2012, launched the boat on January 24, 2013 and set sail with their six children from Newport Beach, South California to Mexico, arriving on the Pacific coast of Panama in September 2013.

Shannon Winter waves from the stern of “Lil’s Explorers.”

Shannon Winter waves from the stern of “Lil’s Explorers.”

My interest was piqued to see how this family was getting along. They invited us out to Las Brisas Marina where they are anchored in preparation for sailing to the South Pacific and back to California in time for their oldest daughter, Cassidy, to attend her school of choice.

What I saw was “Lil’ Explorers,” a 58ft catamaran that is home to an extended family of 10 who are the second generation of a family of 10 children who sailed Panama in the 1970’s on a 48ft trimaran built by Courage’s father.

The Winters chose to invest $45,000 in a 58 x 30ft catamaran in extreme disrepair.

The boat designer, Kurt Hughs, was consulted regarding interior modifications that might affect the structural integrity of the boat, and the boat was inspected regularly by the Coast Guard.

The family launched “Lil’ Explorers” in January, 2013, setting sail with six children and four adults when the boat was barely functional.

“We motored in the Channel Islands of California before we even stepped the mast,” said Shannon. “On the day we left for Cabo San Lucas, we installed the dinghy davit, the solar panels and windmills while underway.”

When we came aboard, we met five of the six children, ages one and a half to eight, romping around and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island in the 350 sq. ft. center salon, the equivalent of a family room with a cut-away kitchen in an apartment.

Making friends makes a better world; 7 year old Integrity Winter with a friend from the La Chunga Embera village from Rio Sambu in the Darien region.

Making friends makes a better world; 7 year old Integrity Winter with a friend from the La Chunga Embera village from Rio Sambu in the Darien region.

The galley is finished with a full stove, counter-tops and cabinets you would expect to see in a nicely furnished apartment. Many shelves are open, and there are open-end stacking baskets you would not expect to see on a boat.

“My friends are always amazed that I can keep my pantry goods on open shelves. The boat is so stable that we have not had to secure our belongings when underway.”

“One hull of a boat might lift in response to a wave,” said Courage, “but it doesn’t yawl to the degree where objects are rolling off counters or you’re bouncing off the walls.”

Living Spaces

Living and sleeping spaces are built-in, rearranged and decorated en route as the cruising experience reveals what is essential and works best for the family dynamics.

Everyone has his or her own bunk and cabin space. The forepeak is decorated as a nursery for the toddler and bunk beds are designed and decorated for the girls and boys. The 15 year old teenager has a door to her private cabin.

The starboard side is for the immediate family of six. The port hull is for the extended family: Courage’s mother and brother. That makes three members of the original cruising family on board for this repeat life-adventure.

“The ‘big back yard’ is a great selling point for us,” Shannon said. “We love the freedom of being able to come and go as we please and where we please. It’s such a great way to travel with kids because you have your house, and the comforts of home, nearby no matter where you are.


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