Nothing says summer on the North Shore like a day on the shores of Lake Michigan, big blue sky overhead, and waves lapping gently on the sand. A pair of Winnetka natives says, as boys they practically lived on Tower Beach—waterskiing and swimming and boating.
Memories were made, season after season. Then, they grew up and started families of their own, spinning tales of their idyllic childhood on the shore, and talking about that “someday” when maybe both families might own a yacht together and sail all the way around the lake.
That someday became a reality in 2011, when the two families, both who now live near Belmont Harbor in Chicago, purchased a 1969 Chris Craft Commodore from a couple in Canada. But “Dig Deep” (as she was christened by her original owner, a contractor whose work was digging deep holes) needed a total renovation to get shored up and into shape for these two adventure-seeking families.
“Aesthetically, it felt like a cave,” says the wife of one of the men, explaining how they discovered local interior designer Anthony Michael, who turned the old ship into a stunning vacation home on water. “We are a family of seven and they are a family of four so we needed a lot of storage for food, gear, and towels.”
Michael says even though this was the first time he’d worked with either family, as soon as he learned more about the boat, he knew it was meant to be.
“When I learned that the vessel in question was the exact year and type of yacht that I had spent many a summer onboard, I immediately fell in love with the project and took it on as a labor of love,” he adds.
And a labor it was. While the boat had been renovated several times through the decades, the interiors were, as the wife noted, dark and gloomy.
“The previous remodel was done poorly and without any regard for the superb craftsmanship of what was surely a lost art—a hand built boat with all the original teak details,” explains Michael. “The galley was dated and filthy. The head was definitely not a place you’d want to shower in, the bunker was dark, and the master stateroom felt more like a dungeon than the sleeping quarters for a captain.”
As a specialist in yacht interiors, Michael was eager to take on the challenge. All finishes were marine grade to prevent mildew and mold. But the fun part was the concept and design, a sophisticated homage to popular culture at the time the ship was built.
“I won’t lie,” jokes Michael. “I was inspired by the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family sitcoms of the later 1960s and early 1970s. There is a sense of warmth and comfort that those sitcoms evoked. I wanted there to be a cheerful, carefree, inviting feeling with a certain naivety and gesture to childhood innocence and wonderment.”
The wife says the two families could not be more pleased with the results. “Now we have wonderful outdoor entertaining areas on the forward and aft decks with couches and aft decks with couches and chairs. And there is space for several adults to sit at the helm. Many times, we’ve had more than 20 people out for a sunset cruise to watch the fireworks off Navy Pier,” she explains, adding that in addition to sailing around Chicago, they often take the boat up to meet friends who have smaller motor and sail boats in the Wilmette harbor.
However, this is more than a Sunday cruiser. With the renovations, the ship can comfortably sleep eight people. There are two larger staterooms suitable for the adults, a bunk room that sleeps two, and the option to fold down the kitchen table into a bed. There is a simple galley kitchen with a stove, portable oven, and dishwasher. There are also refrigerators and freezers in the kitchen as well as built into the bar area by the aft deck, making this vessel prime for weekend entertaining.
“Our greatest pleasure is traveling,” the wife adds. “We love to take it to New Buffalo, South Haven, and Saugatuck in Michigan and try to make at least one trip every year.”
Last summer, the family set out for their greatest adventure on Dig Deep yet, spending 21 days circumnavigating Lake Michigan with stops in Door County and Little Traverse Bay.
“It was a great way to spend the night out at anchor, under the stars. We’d pull into small ports that many people don’t have the time to explore and experience summer festivals in small, coastal towns,” she says. “We met so many wonderful people around Lake Michigan.
It is one of our favorite bodies of water and we love that we call it home.”
In fact, after spending five months on a different boat—homeschooling their five daughters while traveling around southern Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba—she says they have determined that “boating on Lake Michigan is on par with ocean boating any day.”
Michael says he is thrilled to hear the stories of how the two families are enjoying the boat and is proud of the environment he created for them.
“It is one that will be the setting for many more family memories, just like the ones I used to know.”
For more information about Anthony Michael interior design, visit anthonymichaelinteriordesign.com