Family gets feet wet in worldly adventure

A catamaran floated through the air Thursday.

A crane lifted the 35,000-pound vessel over the side of Lido Park Drive and placed it into Newport Bay between Lido Isle and the peninsula, launching it for the first time.

Courage and Shannon Winter, along with their six children and Courage’s brother Loyal, watched their new home float. They’d moved out of a hotel that morning and planned to sleep on board the 58-foot craft Thursday night.

In March, the family from Bakersfield will head south to Mexico. Then they’ll decide where to go next.

“It’s something we always wanted to do,” Courage said, with family and friends gathered around him to watch.

The Winters’ life on water has been decades in the making — much like their new boat, the Lil’ Explorers.

In 1990, Gil’s Catamaran in Costa Mesa started work on the custom vessel that would run about $1 million at market price, the shipyard’s owner, Wayne Iwamoto, said.

Eight years later, the man from Utah who contracted the work was inundated with medical expenses. He decided to sign the partially completed catamaran over to Iwamoto.

For more than a decade, the boat sat at Gil’s waiting for a buyer.

“It takes a special person for this boat,” Iwamoto said. “It’s designed to sail around the world.”

Eight months ago, the Winters contacted him after seeing the catamaran online.

“When we found the boat we said, ‘Well, you could live on that,’” Shannon said. She and her husband decided it was time to follow through on their ambition to live at least part of their lives circling the globe.

“We’re both a little bit nontraditional,” she said. “We both love to travel and definitely we would like to do this sort of thing.”

Shannon and Courage have six kids between 6 months and 14 years old. Their names offer a glimpse of that nontraditional bent.

Cassidy, Intrepid, Integrity, Innocence, Vitality and Valiant will join their parents and uncle Loyal sailing south.

They have no timeline, no ending destination, Shannon said. They will homeschool the kids, maybe find a mission along the way.

“This is just a much better way to learn geography,” said Shannon, an emergency-room physician. “And I would love to do some humanitarian work, if we can figure that out.”

She left a private medical practice in February and started working part-time soon afterward in order to stay home with the kids. They’ve technically been without a home the last two weeks while they waited for their new home to launch.

In August, Courage handed over management of his real estate brokerage and started working full-time with Loyal to get the catamaran in shape. They poured about $300,000 into it, Shannon said.

Loyal, the second of nine Winter siblings in his generation, and Courage, the fourth, spent part of their childhood growing up on a boat.

From 1972 to 1979, the Winters voyaged from San Francisco to San Diego, Panama, the Cayman Island, Maryland and Florida.

But that ended when a fire burnt their trimaran home and everything in it to the waterline, Loyal said. They moved back to California.

Since then, he’s had a wanderlust for the sea that he couldn’t satisfy with other travel.

“With the car, you’re restricted by road,” Loyal said. “Here, you’re only restricted by water.”

Shannon doesn’t have that same sailing experience, but she wants to be closer to her children.

Friday they’ll motor to Long Beach to get a mast, and through the next few months, they’ll prep the vessel for the journey they’re hoping to start March 1.

“I just want to be home with my kids enjoying life, not just watching TV. This fits my criteria, and it’s my husband’s dream,” Shannon said. “I’m ready.”

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck