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Dreams can come true aboard a Riviera 505 SUV in the Bahamas

by Riviera Australia 11 Aug 10:22 PDT

A two-month sojourn in the Bahamas has seen Brian and Lisa Sims' dreams come true. Recently retired with a new 505 SUV underfoot and the Caribbean on their doorstep, the couple are overjoyed.

"You know," says Brian, "we've been dreaming about this for more than 20 years. We used to sit on the bed and look at boats on the computer. When we were fortunate enough to sell the company, it became a real possibility to choose exactly what we wanted. I feel like the happiest, luckiest man in the world."

The Sims took possession of Whatever Bytes, a Riviera 505 SUV, in September last year. After some modifications to suit Brian and Lisa's passion for fishing, they set off on November 10 for the first Bahamian adventure with their deckhand-friend Bob and their beloved German Shepherds Buster and Maui.

"We had outriggers put on the side of the hardtop so when we're running lines there's no issue with turning and getting caught up. We also added another seven-inch Volvo Garmin screen in the cockpit and outlets for electric fishing reels, which makes the deep drops much easier. We'll be getting an ice chipper as well because getting ice in the Bahamas can be tricky. We got a compressor for scuba tanks and more storage for oil as we plan to spend a lot of time at anchor so will be running the generator a lot. On this first trip, we put 650 hours on the generator."

From their homeport in Punta Gorda, Florida, the party of three and canine companions cruised to Marathon and then on to Key Largo, staying mostly at anchor along the way. Through the inter-coastal waterways, they came out at Key Largo and hopped across to Bimini in the Bahamas.

"We stayed there for a few days and fished for wahoo, which I hadn't fished for before, so we were getting hits but kept losing the fish. We talked to the Bahamians and figured out the set-up that I needed, but there was nowhere to buy anything. We did manage to get some lures from the locals, and then we had the wahoo hitting the lures at 65mph! We'd planned to stay for a week, but a good weather window opened up, so we headed over to Chub Cay where we really started to have a lot of good luck fishing... wahoo! I've got rod holders on the dinghy as well, so we mucked about and had a good week there before a 30-mile run down to Nassau on a beautiful morning."

Based at the Atlantis Marina in Nassau for Thanksgiving, the crew sourced more fishing gear, did the 'tourist thing', hung out and recharged for a few days. Having spent a few weeks on the water, Brian and Lisa decided to send Bob back home and try things out on their own.

"It was great; by then we'd handled different situations and the Riviera, in a lot of ways, is easier to handle and dock than our previous 34-foot, mostly because of the joystick. That was one of the things that I'd researched and wanted - pod drives," says Brian.

After the hustle and bustle of Nassau, the Sims cruised south-east to the Exumas. "We were ready to go and stay on anchor, away from everybody and everything, and try it out alone. We cruised down to Highborne Cay - what a beautiful place with crystal-clear water and miles of private beaches for us and the dogs. We'd get up, cook breakfast, dinghy to the beach and play with the dogs, go snorkelling, exploring, play games and just enjoy it; it was idyllic."

Brian admits the luxury and comfort of the 505 SUV is affording them a life they'd not imagined possible on the water. "We even love the galley, the washing machine and the dryer! We're really enjoying the dogs on the boat, the sunrises and sunsets. We follow the sun; if it's up we are too, and when it's down, we go down. It's a simple, pleasurable life; the lifestyle we like. And on the docks, we have fun meeting new friends, playing games, sharing meals and exploring new places together."

The couple continued to Norman's Cay and then Hawksbill Cay with fewer boats in sight each day. "We made it from there to Staniel Cay, Farmers Cay and down to Great Exuma where we met Rick from Sailing Salacia Star, a new buddy on a sailboat from Australia. Yes, we tried Vegemite and it wasn't bad; I'd eat it again!"

There were mixed emotions on the cruise home. They struck good conditions for the most part, with the exception of a few hours of five-foot seas, which the dogs were not thrilled about. More than a thousand nautical miles later, the Sims arrived back at homeport, confident on Whatever Bytes and ready to continue exploring.

"At first, we didn't think we could live full time on a boat," says Brian. "But now we've spent some time on the Riviera, we really feel that we can. Even when we've had a party of friends onboard, there's space for everyone, with the mezzanine opening out into the cockpit, it's so spacious and inside it's full of light; you don't feel enclosed at all. The full-beam master stateroom also makes a huge difference. I'm 6'4" and over 200 pounds and the shower is still big enough for me; I don't feel cramped at all. So, I've rented the house out and now we live on the boat."

Perhaps equally as important, the dogs appear to enjoy boat life. "I was worried about how the dogs would do and if there would be enough room for them. But after living with them on Whatever Bytes for several months, they have adjusted and have plenty of room to play and enjoy themselves, even when taking a relaxing day sitting on the boat. They love the water and always want to watch for fish or sharks from the back of the boat. Sometimes on the dinghy they will get excited and just jump in before we land at the beach and swim in."

Over the summer months, the Sims will travel up the east coast of the US through Florida and into Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Boston. "Maybe three or four months and then possibly, we'll head down to Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands," says Brian.

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