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Fairbanks residents take an Olympic voyage of a lifetime

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Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010 4:22 am | Updated: 1:37 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

• For complete Olympics coverage, visit our Olympics page.

• Matias Saari is in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. Get the Alaska perspective here.

VANCOUVER — Combining the water of Vancouver with the snow of Whistler made perfect sense to Jay Ver Hoef.

“When I saw that the Olympics were going to be on the water, I thought ‘Boating and the Olympics, what could be better?’” Ver Hoef said Monday from North Vancouver.

Coming up with a novel concept is one thing. Executing it is another that took 1 1/2 years of effort.

First Jay and wife Mary, both of Fairbanks, needed to secure tickets to events at the Olympics. That took them three tries in a lottery system.

Then they needed a boat, and after some research settled on the Regal II, a 53-foot charter fishing boat rented from Anacortes Yacht Charters on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.

Next they had to locate a place to dock it. Finally last November — after they’d started looking into housing options — they secured a slip at Mosquito Creek Marina. They even got a relatively good deal — only triple the usual price, as opposed to the quintuple that many other marinas are charging during the Olympics.

“It’s probably a little cheaper than actually getting a house,” Jay said.

And it’s more fun for the Ver Hoefs, aquatic lovers who own a 40-foot boat in Valdez.

Finding friends to join them and offset the cost was the easiest part of the project.

A sizable group that includes three other families from Fairbanks signed on.

Eric Mayo and Susan Kerndt along with their four children — ski enthusiasts all — didn’t hesitate. And when Gretchen Kerndt, Susan’s sister, found out about the Olympic vacation, she wanted in as well.

“I weaseled my way in by familial association,” Gretchen said.

Her boyfriend, Tim Prusak, found out he’d also be going when Gretchen gave him a Vancouver 2010 water bottle with an Olympic ticket “voucher” for his 50th birthday.

“These guys (the Ver Hoefs) did all the footwork,” Prusak said after returning from the cross country skiing team sprint race at Whistler Olympic Park on Monday.

Except for the elimination of the general admission seating at Cypress Mountain — which means the Ver Hoefs will miss two events they had planned on attending — things couldn’t have worked out better.

The group all met at SeaTac Airport near Seattle last Friday, traveled to Anacortes and shoved off quickly from there. They motored north and spent the first night in the San Juan Islands. The next day they arrived in snowless Vancouver.

On the approach, they first spotted the giant Olympic rings downtown. 

“And then there was the (Olympic) cauldron. To see if from the water was really special,” Mary said.

Their location is perfect, as they look directly across Burrard Inlet at the scenic downtown, which is lit up at night. If they wish to go there, it’s only a few minutes ride away on the SeaBus from Lonsdale Quay.

And Lonsdale is conveniently a transportation hub for Olympic busing. They’re only a two-hour direct ride from Whistler, where most of the snow events are being contested.

“We were interested in the outdoor events so this made a lot of sense for us,” said Jay on Monday, two days before the family traveled to the lively Whistler Sliding Centre and watched North Americans sweep the podium in women’s bobsled.

And if they choose to stay boat-side for the night, there’s adequate entertainment.

“There no Wi-Fi, but we have satellite TV to watch the Olympics,” Jay said as he sipped a glass of red wine.

The boat has a grill on the upper deck — so far they’ve had steaks and kebobs — along with a comfortable living/dining room, an adequate kitchen and space for bodies to be strewn about upstairs and down.

“It’s a four-bedroom house. Well, a four-bedroom cabin,” Jay said after considering that three of those rooms are quite small.

One surprise is that more folks aren’t doing the same thing. The marina is mostly filled with unoccupied boats presumably shut down for the winter. And if other people are using a boat as a floating hotel, they’re not at Mosquito Creek.

“We haven’t talked to anybody else who’s doing this,” Jay said.

Contact staff writer Matias Saari at


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