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PASSPORT PROFILE: THE WIND EXPEDITION

by Marlene Shyer

A gay couple find each other in the air, marry on land, then head out to live a life on the sea. It sounds like a fantasy, but it’s the real story of Rafael Gondim and Court King.

The Wind Expedition is forty-six feet of luxurious sailing.  It is a Catamaran with four staterooms, a flying bridge and a love story!  Read on.

A gay couple find each other in the air, marry on land, then head out to live a life on the sea. It sounds like a fantasy, but it’s the real story of Rafael Gondim and Court King, who met as flight attendants working for United Airlines. They shared a dream: a more meaningful life. With that in mind, they left the friendly skies.

Court and Rafa

Rafael immigrated to the US from Brazil with his family when he was eleven, and after graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Design Architecture, he joined the Peace Corps and worked on various volunteer projects, then he became a school principal in Harlem.

A native of South Carolina, Court originally wanted to become a doctor. He lived in London, backpacked through seven continents, and also joined the Peace corps. Instead of studying medicine, he earned a Masters of Arts and became a founding teacher of Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens.

In 2017 “Rafa” and Court went to a boat show, and their life-changing dream became reality. They spotted a glamorous catamaran, pooled their savings, and had it shipped to them from France. Moving into this floating movie set was liberation. This was getting-away-from-it-all in high style, and much more. They prepared to live a life cruising through the waters of the world. Their endless vacation began in the Mediterranean with stops along most countries along that seacoast. Court is a licensed captain, but the men share equally in the housekeeping, sailing, and maintenance of the boat.

Island Life

The couple had adopted a son, Gabriel, from Foster Care in Brooklyn when he was five weeks old. Through city bureaucracy delay, the adoption was not finalized until Gabe was two, but fortunately no absentee parents tried to reclaim him. Their parenthood then became final and official. Their son, now eleven, is one reason the couple were intent on traveling the world. They thought the first-hand experience of seeing new places would be the most authentic way of educating him.

Gabe is a preteen today and all three share the experience as hosts on The Wind Expedition,” forty-six feet of luxurious sailing, outfitted with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a flybridge for “catching a breeze ,” 21st Century interior décor, and three glossy levels that would pass muster with any yacht snob. Creature comforts include mosquito screens, air conditioning, a washing machine, and an ice-maker. Nervous traveler? There’s the comfort of a twelve passenger life raft, radar, VHF radio, and a dinghy with an inboard engine for wind-free days.

 

Why choose a catamaran in the first place? A “cat” has two hulls instead of one, which makes it more stable in the water, with less rocking a particular advantage, especially at night when at anchor. For the same reason, there is extra stability in rough waters, and you are less likely to get seasick. The space between its two hulls offers more storage space as well.

Onboard Meal

If life on this nomadic dream, outfitted with every comfort above and below deck is also your idea of a good vacation, hop aboard. Paying guests are pampered with the culinary magic of “Rafa,” who is also onboard chef. He uses locally sourced food, fresh fish , the multicolor fruit of the tropics, and a well-stocked bar. Dining choices, allergies, food preferences are accommodated, and should you plan a travel party and charter the entire “Wind”, so are the destination decisions. A typical dinner menu includes items like grilled steak, mushroom risotto, clams in white wine garlic sauce. Dinner is served with wine, beer, or beverages of your choice.

After three years in the Mediterranean, Court and Rafa moved to the Caribbean. Mostly it’s been smooth sailing, but a near-disaster in Morocco is a difficult memory.

One night, without warning, a wild storm with gale force winds woke the couple, taking them completely by surprise. The anchor wasn’t holding and they jumped from their beds wearing only undies and were pelted with rain and frigid winds. Loud voices screamed at them in Arabic in the dark as they tried in vain to engage the motors and pull forward from the  large wooden fishing vessels only inches away. So it went throughout the night while the winds howled and the silt-like sand slid past the wedges of the anchor. Luckily this is a distant memory and it has been clear blue water and clear skies ever since; all safety protocols and equipment are now in place, and the crew is ready for the unknown.

Group Therapy Onboard the “Wind”

Each of their quintessential, off-the-beaten path discoveries in the Caribbean has its special appeal. Guests can enjoy spear fishing, hiking mountain climbing, kayaking, swimming with turtles, diving into turquoise water from the Wind’s trampolines, taking photos of ancient rock carvings, picking up souvenirs at outdoor village markets or just soak up the rays aboard ship, or sitting with a book in the shade of a palm tree on a quiet beach.

Sailing in the Caribbean

 

Asked what’s the best thing about this life, Court says, “Total freedom, staying wherever you like, being your own time manager, making your own life’s choices,” and Rafa echoes these sentiments and adds, “the pleasure of adventure, food. and meeting new people.”

Their 2023 season’s itinerary will be similar. A couple will have to pay between $12,000 and $18,000 for a week’s vacation, but the advantage of the “Wind Experience” is that it’s the only gay catamaran sailing holiday available. Even better: both Rafa and Court love hosting the LGBT community, so ahoy there, where there’s truly a “Welcome aboard!”

 

 

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