By Pat Young
For Hometown News
On a sunny Sunday morning, Rachael Reynolds is busy in her kitchen brewing a cup of green tea.
The only indication that this is an unusual venue might be the waves gently lapping at her boat, a 40-foot Jersey sport fish named Lady's Choice, docked at Adventure Yacht Harbor in Wilbur-by-the-Sea.
A native New Englander, Ms. Reynolds wasn't necessarily raised around boats, but her love of the open water came early. She had a 19-foot power boat to take out on nearby lakes in Massachusetts by the time she was 19 years old. She soon graduated to a 30-foot boat that was ocean worthy and on which she could spend the night.
"That's when I just fell in love with the idea that I wanted to be on a boat more than anywhere else," said the tanned, attractive 40-year-old with long blond hair and a ready smile.
Ms. Reynolds was a baker at the time she got her 30-footer, but soon graduated to boats full time. She took a class at New England Maritime to get her 100 gross ton Master Captain's license and soon had a job running fishing charters.
"That was just so much fun," she said.
She would take half a dozen people out fishing every day in the summer. In the winter she would travel around to sportsmen's shows recruiting clients for the next summer season. During the off-season, she also helped teach the captain's course from which she graduated.
She supplemented her income by working with a friend detailing boats. She met some people who wanted their 75-foot boat detailed and just happened to be looking for a first mate. She signed on. The yacht spent summers in Boston and winters in Fort Lauderdale. She eventually became the yacht's captain, cruising the owners throughout the Bahamas as well as up and down the east coast.
After five years, the yacht left the area and Reynolds concentrated on getting her own boat down to Fort Lauderdale. She had bought the 1984 Jersey sport, which she still owns and lives on, in 2000. When she decided to relocate to Florida with her partner, Vance Sfaelos, a carpenter and shipwright, they decided it would be cheaper to truck the boat down, so they set about dismantling the fly bridge for the journey.
After arriving in Fort Lauderdale and putting the boat back together again, Mr. Sfaelos got a job in the Daytona Beach area. They relocated again, first at Inlet Harbor, then to Adventure Yacht Harbor where they now reside.
Ms. Reynolds captained a fishing charter boat in the Daytona Beach area for a year or so until that boat left the area. She is currently secretary at the Countryside Lakes clubhouse in Port Orange, but her heart is still on the water.
"Boating is empowering," she said.
As a boat captain, she is responsible for all of the maintenance, keeping everything running smoothly. On the water, she is responsible for all the passengers and must react to any situation. She must have the knowledge and skill to navigate, handle the boat in and out of docks, judge the weather or anything else that arises.
Her own boat, which she lives on with Sfaelos and her little fox terrier Charlie, is efficiently laid out for a seafaring lifestyle. Below decks are two 300 HP diesel engines plus a generator, which make the boat fully capable when out on the water for days. On the fly bridge is the helm, complete with captain's chair and navigation equipment.
"It's a beautiful, private place to watch the sunsets," she said.
Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Sfaelos also have a 13-foot skiff and they spend a lot of time fishing. Needless to say, they eat a lot of seafood.
"I love the unexpected nature of fishing," she said. "It could be the next one is a trophy fish."
Ms. Reynolds has had plenty of misadventures -- losing one engine while out on the water, rough weather, a few seasick passengers, relocating the boat to a safe haven during tropical storms. But this female captain has found what she wants in life.
"She's the only female boat captain I know," said Adventure Yacht Harbor Master Jim Boren. "She's tenacious and she knows what she wants."
Ms. Reynolds said she knew what she wanted when she bought Lady's Choice back in 2000.
"I like the freedom and the mobility. I never want to live in a house again," she said, flashing one of her friendly smiles. "Land is just not for me."