Production to Paradise
if you need to be out of the sun or from a rough day on the water,” David notes.
“It also allows you and your guests to use virtually every part of your boat — from
bow to stern — for entertaining, water sports, island hopping; all the things that
I think everyone enjoys on boats”
Hailing from a long line of Great Lakes-minded yachts, with more than 60 years and
three Slikkers generations worth of production experience, the Q44 marks a new type of
“adventure yacht” from Tiara. The design of this yacht — built on the Tiara 44 Coupe
hull — moves towards increased outdoor space, ideal for day cruising (especially for this
rendezvous) with a wide-open, single-level deck. The best part… I’d get my chance to
try a hand at captaining this adventure yacht the very next morning!
by Kate Bush
Lakeland editor Kate Bush takes an adventure
aboard the all-new Tiara Q44 at the Walstrom
From the marina, we made our way up to the Mackinac Island Yacht Club — a
prestigious club established in 1937 — where a line of rendezvous attendees
awaited the next horse-drawn carriage to shuttle them from the cocktail hour to
the Grand Hotel; yes, the Grand Hotel.
We were treated to fabulous cuisine as we took in the astounding views of
the worlds longest porch. It was the perfect environment to chat with some of
Walstrom’s customers, like the Morand family for Tawas City, Michigan, who
was attending the rendezvous for their first time.
Ralph and Cheryl Morand invited their 13-year-old granddaughter Allie
Morand and her friend Emily Young, to the event. Though the storms deterred
them from bringing along their Sea Ray Express Cruiser, they were excited for
the opportunity to meet new boaters.
“I really like the fact that the young adults were invited to the rendezvous because
they’re really our future boaters,” Ralph says.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do the last few years is invite our grandchildren
out on the boat,” Cheryl adds. “We’ve let them all have a trip because that’s the
only way to have them get involved and to love boating — by being around people
who can teach you.”
After our feast, and speeches from Walstrom staff members, we took a carriage
ride back to Shepler’s dock and awaited the arrival of our private, chartered sunset
cruise back to St. Ignace under a breathtaking, picturesque night sky.
here is a universal theory widely accepted by boaters: the more you cruise and
spend time aboard your boat, the more likely you’ll keep it long-term. And it’s
a fact that cruising with other boaters has the power to reignite your passion for boating.
That’s what Walstrom Marine — a full-service marina in northern Michigan
— attempts each year at its rendezvous, by encouraging boaters to cruise. The
family owned and operated marina, with locations in Cheboygan, Bay Harbor
and Harbor Springs, has been in business for 70 years and has a passionate troop
of boaters that can vouch for them.
At this year’s rendezvous, which took place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was
joined by more than 100 Walstrom customers and staff, and had the pleasure of meeting
the Slikkers family and staff behind the Holland, Michigan-based S2 and Tiara Yachts.
Making an appearance
The first thing to catch my eye was the bicycle positioned on top of the yacht. As
we stepped closer, the openness of the Q44 is unlike any Tiara I’ve ever seen; the
bridge and cockpit blend seamlessly into the outdoor island galley, and then into
the full-beam swim platform.
“It is a unique boat for the Great Lakes in that it offers you some protection
(From top to bottom) Walstrom Marine hosts its annual summer rendezvous up in
St. Ignace and Mackinac Island, Michigan; Walstroms’ Rick Venner at the St. Ignace
Municipal Marina after facing the storms; A group of rendezvous attendee’s sit on the
Shepler’s Ferry; The streets of Mackinac Island are filled with horse-drawn carriages
and bicycles; The Q44 makes its public debut in a slip at the Mackinac Island Marina.
photos courtesy of walstrom marine; grand hotel porch photo
by ralph morand; sunset photo by Kate bush
Captain of the ship
ferry and mackinac island photos by Kate bush; all other photos
courtesy of walstrom marine.
As I drove over one of the world’s largest extension bridges, I entered into the
quaint town of St. Ignace, Michigan, where the start of the rendezvous was to
take place. While the weather seemed a bit dreary, I had no clue that storms
ravaged parts of northern Michigan earlier in the day, delaying or canceling some
rendezvous attendees plans to voyage north.
“I led a group of boaters up and we got caught in some rainsqualls,” Walstrom’s Rick
Venner says. “But we really didn’t miss a beat. Most people joined us despite the weather.”
The first thing on my schedule: hop aboard the famous Shepler’s Ferry with Tiara
marketing director David Glenn, and photographer Marc Montocchio, and make our
way across Lake Huron to Mackinac Island. This island is a rare destination that allows
you to take a step back in time. Once on land, we made our way past a plethora of
shops baking up some sweet, world-renowned fudge, through a maze of bicycles and
horse-drawn carriages, and finally to the docks at the Mackinac Island Marina. Sitting
front row and center, for all to see, was the all-new Tiara Q44 hull #2 — designed by
founder Leon Slikkers — making its first public appearance. With a clear view from
the porch of the Mackinac Island Yacht Club, where rendezvous attendee’s were
sipping wine and snacking on hors d’oeuvres, the Q44 dazzled in the marina slip.
Bright and early, on day two of the rendezvous, Walstrom and Tiara hosted a red-eye
brunch on the docks of the St. Ignace Municipal Marina for the brave rendezvous-ers
who were continuing their journey to the North Channel and the Soo.
After some coffee, croissants and a captains meeting, I hoped aboard the Q44
hull #1 with David, Marc, Leon and his grandson Alex Slikkers. As the sun peaked
out behind the clouds and the temperatures started to rise, we left the St. Ignace
Marina and headed due east to Drummond Island.
This yacht, unlike hull #2, was optioned with gorgeous teak flooring and onyx
topsides. As we began our journey, the boat rode like a dream. While Lake Huron
was in no way choppy, the Q44 slipped gracefully through the water alongside a
herd of Pursuits and Tiaras.
My place on a boat is always the bow, so I made a beeline as soon as I hopped
aboard; settling into the spacious, forward loveseat, I watched the sun rise over
the lake. The wide port and starboard walkways made it possible to access the
bow even underway. Better yet, as we neared the De Tour lighthouse, I got to
try my hand at captaining ship; with the joystick, it was a breeze. We cruised at a
(From top to bottom) Rendezvous attendee’s wait in line outside the Mackinac Island
Yacht Club; A horse-drawn carriage transports attendees up to the Grand Hotel;
The view outside the Grand Hotel; Members of the Slikkers family, and Rick Venner
(second to right) at the Grand Hotel dinner; Allie Morand and Emily Young stand on the
Grand Hotel porch; A view from the sunset cruise from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace.
comfortable speed, but the Q44 can get you up to 32-33 knots with the standard
twin Volvo IPS 600.
“We’ve been experts in the field of matching IPS Volvo Penta drives to Tiara
hulls and delivering a consistent boat that performs well while cruising,” David
says, “Or, if you get in a sticky situation, you find yourself with a 65 knot gale
blowing you down the lake or offshore, you can be confident that you’ll be just
fine with the build and design and the engineering that goes into the hull.”
I peeked at the Glass Cockpit, with pinch-to-zoom GPS display, as we passed the
private islands dotting Drummond Island, with names like Wreck, Gull and Bacon.
With the electrically actuated port and starboard sliding doors open, I sat at the helm
and could revel in the unspoiled, lush landscape, while getting some fresh air.
With Leon taking the wheel, I found a comfortable spot on the rear-facing L-shaped
lounge overlooking the island galley, back sunpad, and aft swim platform area.
Below deck, the Q44 has a simple, yet beautifully designed cabin that, at first
appearance, looks like U-shaped lounge; this area is designed to serve as either
double twin berths, or convert into a full queen berth. The cabin also features a
pantry-style galley, and separate head and shower.
“This Q series product is very appealing in a broad sense for a lot of different uses,”
David says. “Someone could look at it and say, ‘I could go fish with this boat with
the grandkids,’ ‘I could picnic with this boat, with family and friends,’ or ‘I could
go to an island of my own and throw my mountain bikes off and go trailblazing.’”
Michigan’s Ultimate playground
Drummond Island, which calls itself “Michigan’s Ultimate Playground,” is the second
largest freshwater island in the nation and was our next destination. After our 60 mile
cruise from St. Ignace, we approached the Drummond Island Yacht Haven Marina to
pump out, fill up and tie off.
The remainder of the day was spent exploring this unique paradise, while Leon
took down his bike from the top of the Q44, pumped air into the tires, and took
off on a 2-hour trip around the 133-square-mile forested landscape. Meanwhile,
Bob and Barb Slikkers — who joined us on this leg of the rendezvous aboard their
Pursuit OS — invited us to their cottage on Drummond Island, while Alex enjoyed
a round of golf, and Marc photographed the lush, northern Michigan landscape.
We ended the night with a meal at Pins (with the best pizza in town) and a scoop
of homemade Drummond Island ice cream.
By day three, I was officially on the time schedule of a dedicated cruiser as we
took off from the docks around 7 a.m. The lake was so calm; it looked like glass
and barely rippled as we headed west for St. Ignace.
As we cruised back near the Mackinac Bridge, the trip came full circle back
to the St. Ignace Marina docks. There is nothing like meeting new, enthusiastic
boaters, voyaging to unique Great Lakes waypoints and cruising on a beautiful Tiara
Yacht (that traveled from production to paradise) to remind me how stunning,
exhilarating and peaceful Great Lakes cruising can be.
“When people aren’t using their boat, they ask themselves, ‘is this the right boat
for us,’” Venner states. “This event creates a bond between boaters. We want to
encourage new people to come, and we want people using their boats. We want
them to feel confident using them so that they can become better boaters, and
then lifetime boaters. There is nothing like getting away and running a boat to
wake you back up to boating.” H
(From top to bottom) Walstroms’ Hi Stover directs the captain’s meeting for the cruise
to the Soo; The Q44 hull #1 sits outside the Drummond Island Yacht Haven Marina;
Leon Slikkers drives the Q44 over Lake Huron’s calm water; The aft galley features
a large island; The Q44 features an open, airy layout; The view from the portside
walkway on the Q44.
photos by kate bush.
Smooth as glass