32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Vero’s Grady Bunch heads off on a summer adventure

Photo: A parade of Grady-White boats approaches the Alma Lee Loy Bridge en route to the Bahamas.

At last, you can sign up for a club membership that will actually take you places – if you have a Grady White boat.

That’s the theory behind the Vero Beach Grady Bunch, a brand-specific boat club created nearly 30 years ago. With no apologies to the cast of the 1970s sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” this endeavor is somewhat simpler than merging two single parents with a collective six children. And Grady Bunch members have more fun.

On Friday, Vero Marine owner Brian Cunningham led the way as club members took off on their latest excursion, captaining an eight-boat navy that sailed into the Indian River Lagoon, headed for the ocean and the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. Other boats joined the group as they cruised south toward Stuart. In all, 45 people were aboard the eventual dozen vessels making the trip.

The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that include several dive sites with underwater caves and coral reefs. Marinas dot the coast, making it convenient to cruise the shallow, yet navigable Sea of Abaco.

The annual island trip is family oriented, and almost a third of this year’s participants are children under age 15. That number is encouraging to Cunningham, who recognizes their potential as the next crop of boaters and boat owners.

Local cardiologist Charlie Celano is among those bringing the entire family. In previous years his wife would fly ahead, but this year was joining her husband and their three daughters aboard their 33-foot Grady-White.

“The cruises began as a ‘how to’ on boating for our customers,” Cunningham explained in an interview. They were the brainchild of his late business partner, Bruce McIntyre, and the club was among the first of its kind in the pleasure boating industry.

From humble beginnings in 1988, the Grady Bunch began to grow. Membership now numbers more than 200, though about 40 are regulars in the group’s activities. Each member must own a Grady-White boat purchased at Vero Marine Center.

As the club expanded, so did the trips. In addition to the Bahamas, Cunningham guides groups to the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico to visit Florida’s west coast.

He admits it took time to pare down and hone the excursions.

“About 15 years ago we took 20 boats [to the Bahamas],” he recalled. “Some of the islands lacked the facilities needed for that many people. Hotels, if there were any, were small. Some people had to stay on their boats overnight. Worse, there were few docks, so some boats had to tie up to other boats. In a few cases you had to climb across someone else’s boat to get to yours.”

The lesson? “We found that 12 boats is the perfect number,” Cunningham added.

The Grady-White vessels sold at Vero Marine Center range in length from 23 to 37 feet. They don’t come cheap. Retail prices for new 2016 models range $113,000 to nearly $600,000.

Cunningham bases the excursions on what the smallest boat in his flotilla can handle comfortably. Nor does he try to ride out storms if they can be avoided.

“If it goes bad, we turn around and come home,” Cunningham said bluntly. “Safety is always first.”

This year Cunningham faced a potential threat working its way west in the Atlantic.

According to a July 5 bulletin from the National Hurricane Center, a low pressure system then located about 850 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands was producing showers and thunderstorms.

It ultimately became a tropical depression, and the National Weather Service expected the system to grow and organize as it headed toward Florida. Cunningham was skeptical about that prediction and he turned out to be right.

Two days later – the same day the Grady Bunch shoved off from Vero Marine Center – the system weakened. With clear sailing ahead, the group headed out to sea, and by Friday evening, the tropical depression had dissipated

Mike and Marie O’Reilly are veterans of the Bahamas excursions. This year’s event will be their seventh.

“We like the trips. It’s a bunch of nice people,” Mike said. “Particularly on a long trip, there’s safety in numbers. There’s also a nice balance between being together and people doing things on their own.”

Celano has made the journey at least a half-dozen times. He said his daughters love the snorkeling and swimming, adding that the trips are also educational.

“You always learn something,” said the cardiologist.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Carl Simon. He is one of four captains making the trip for the first time this year, piloting a 33-foot Grady-White.

“It’s a good bunch of people,” he said. “That’s part of the attraction.

“I’m excited about the experience, though bad weather is always a concern. If something crops up, you head home. In a hurry.”

Simon said a boating trip was always on his wish list, but as an executive at IBM and then a board member for several British companies, he lacked the time. He moved to Vero Beach in 2015.

“When I returned to the U.S. 8-9 years ago, I had made 140 plane trips across Atlantic Ocean. The idea of sailing on that ocean appealed to me.”