Sailing Into Friendship: The Annapolis Impulse Buyers Club Story

It all started on a crisp autumn day, when four couples from four states flew to the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD …just to look … or so they thought.

This is the story of four couples, once strangers, who found themselves seated together at a crucial moment, on the brink of a decision that would reshape their futures indefinitely, all while simultaneously forming life-long friendships and creating cruising plans.


Nicole and Kevin O’Donohue:

3-Mar-07-2024-05-35-24-5017-PMBefore my husband Kevin and I departed Georgia, I reached out my hand and said, “shake on the fact that we are not buying a boat on this trip.” He answered, “No, I’m not shaking on that.” I laughed, he didn’t, I eyed him suspiciously. But, with veto power, I was confident we weren’t coming home with a boat! Kevin was still working as an executive in corporate America. I was busy with my real estate investment, renovation and management business, and our daughter had just started her freshman year at university. Life was in full swing, and retirement was far off in the distance. But it didn’t hurt to look … right?


Kevin had grown up sailing and had been meticulously planting seeds in my head about buying a boat and sailing around the world over the past 19 years we’d been married at the time. I did not initially share this dream, but I did enjoy our week-long sailing charter trips on monohulls and catamarans in past years.


The heeling of monohulls scared me a little, but on our last trip in the British Virgin Islands, we chartered a Leopard 44’ Catamaran with nine family members ranging in age from 10 to 80, and we all fell in love with the space, stability and livability of the Leopard! I saw the front door walk out as a necessary safety feature. Would this boat be the path to living the dream? As soon as we arrived at the boat show, we walked straight to the Leopard Catamarans.


In the meantime …


2-Mar-07-2024-05-37-19-5508-PMSarah and Ray Gasper from Arizona had been going to the Annapolis sailboat show for several years. They always had their eyes on Leopard Catamarans, but this trip felt a little different. Maybe it was the perfect sunny, breezy day or the excitement in the air, but they knew they were moving one step closer to an actual purchase.


Sarah was a Phoenix Police Detective who worked for both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security as a Counterterrorism Detective. Ray was a first responder with the Phoenix Fire Department. They were planning on retiring within the next year or two and were looking forward to sailing off into the sunset.


Sarah had purchased the house her grandfather built in Greece—which needed everything from floors and doors to windows and a roof. Once they had their boat, they would eventually head to the Mediterranean and start the renovation project. But first, they had to decide on the boat, and then they had to learn how to sail! That’s right … they had never been sailing! It was important to take the time to walk the steps and tour as many boats as possible, just to weed them out again. Is today the day it was meant to be? Kismet?


At the same …


1-Mar-07-2024-05-38-05-2563-PMMike and Kimberly Budreau from Oregon had also been considering a sailboat for several years. They were close to retiring from the Medford PD, where Mike was Lieutenant and Department Spokesman, and Kimberly was the first female Police Sergeant for the department. They were both also competitive water skiers in the past!


They were sporty and adventurous and were not planning on sitting on the couch in retirement. So, this trip to Annapolis was to take a deeper, more serious look at sailboats to consider the pros and cons of each. They had also never been sailing, but they knew they wanted to spend time traveling the world and adding life to their days.


Last but not least …


4-Mar-07-2024-05-38-55-9513-PMBruce and Brenda Craig—originally from South Africa but living in Texas—came to Annapolis to look at all the different styles of sailboats that could be possibilities for a future used sailboat purchase. Bruce, a homebuilder, and Brenda, a retired schoolteacher who still loved to substitute, planned on starting their sailing journey after their youngest son graduated from university and after Bruce retired from homebuilding.


No strangers to traveling adventures, Bruce and Brenda—before careers and kids—traveled around the world for a year with a 7’ by 7’ tent. Now, after kids and careers, they planned on traveling the world again, taking their ekhaya “home” with them but, this time, by sea!


The Meeting of Like Minds


All four couples who hadn’t yet met, wandered around the sailboat show jumping on and off boats, yet each had their eyes set on one particular sailboat: the Leopard Catamaran.


They had compared the beautiful new features to all other boats and recognized the genius in the layout of Leopard Catamarans. They immediately fell in love with the large windows; the clean, light, bright, airy, modern finishes; the storage and optimal floor plan, and the front door walk out! The true pièce de résistance was the roof-top lounge with pop-up mood lighting, an L-shaped settee, and built-in squares in the cocktail table to put your favorite bottles or cans on ice, while watching the sunset or moon rise or stars shoot across the sky. SOLD!


It must have been kismet that led us to the contract signing table at the same time! We were quiet, uncertain about the decision we were about to make and looked a little shell-shocked, until a question rang out, “So where are you all from?” That was the catalyst that started the conversations that led to laughter as we bonded over shared sailing dreams and fears. We found out that none of us came to the boat show to buy a boat on this trip. We all came “just to look,” but the Leopard was "just too enticing", so here we all were, signing contracts.


The following evening, we enjoyed a champagne celebration with the entire Leopard sales team, after which we four couples went out on the town. Before we all headed home, we exchanged contact information and Brenda set us up with a group text entitled Annapolis Impulse Buyers Club. And so, AIBC and the start of an everlasting friendship was born!


Why all four AIBC couples chose Leopard Catamarans


Brenda and Bruce, coming from South Africa, say they had a cultural bias towards the Leopard which, of course, is built at Robertson & Caine in South Africa. 


They had chartered various brands of sailboats over 10 years and decided that the Leopard was their top choice. They even toured the Robertson & Caine factory and were impressed with the robust build. They ordered the Leopard 45 and love the way it sails and the airflow from the front door walk-out. They also love the forward cockpit.


Sarah and Ray Gasper, Mike and Kimberly Budreau, and Kevin and Nicole O'Donohue all purchased the Leopard 42. We also appreciate the front door walk out for refreshing airflow, and also because it's a safe way to get to the bow of the boat. The financial requirements of the Leopard 42 were also within our reach and the Leopard 42 was a manageable sailing size for just two people. 


Mike and Kimberly also liked that there were no escape hatches which have doomed some boats due to failures at sea. The timeline fit perfectly with their upcoming retirements and their desire to travel around the USA in an RV before moving onto a boat and throwing off the dock lines. 


All four couples also love the roof-top lounge area with mood lighting. This is a perfect place to have snacks and a little cocktail hour at the end of a long day, to stargaze and to talk about the day's adventures and tomorrow's plans.


AIBC Sail in 2022


After the Annapolis sailboat show, we kept in touch as we navigated the building of our Leopards, which was taking place in South Africa at Robertson & Caine. There were so many choices and options to consider. We bonded over boat questions and all things concerning life. We were all about to make drastic life changes, and though it was exciting, it also came with a certain level of trepidation. AIBC became a support network for us to navigate the changes we were embarking upon.


Then in January 2022, Brenda sent a text, “What do you all think about sailing together in the Abaco Islands to work on our nautical miles for insurance purposes?” Need I even say it? We had two sailboats, chartered, and all flights booked within 24 hours! We are the Annapolis Impulse Buyers Club after all!


In March 2022, we spent a week sailing the Abaco Islands together! Bruce and Brenda had been there before, so they were in the lead as we buddy-boated from one island to the next. The two couples who had never sailed were divided onto boats with a couple that had sailed, so they could gain plenty of hands-on experience.


The good times, funny stories and laughter still bind us, but our friendship over the past years has grown deeper than just good times. We are there for each other during the tough times also. It’s a true support network that runs deep and will last forever.


Sailing into the future

Just think, your trip to the next boat show could be the trip that changes the trajectory of your entire future … for the better! So, when you feel you are jumping off a scary cliff into the unknown, just remember you are not alone. There’s an entire cruising community here to provide a safety net. Happy boat shopping from all of us!



If you want to see where everyone's sailing adventures take them, we invite you to follow along!

To follow AIBC’s journey on Instagram: @annapolis_impulse_buyers_club

Facebook: Annapolis Impulse Buyers Club

The O’Donohues, IG: @sailing_vessel_tonic

The Budreaus, IG: @sv_bluehaven

The Craigs, IG: @sv_ekhaya

The Gaspers, IG: @sv_kismet

Topics: Boat Buying Process, Owner Stories, Owner Privileges, Leopard 42

Nicole O'Donohue

Nicole is a Swiss-American who loves being a mom, owning her own business, writing, and sailing her Leopard 42, Tonic. She looks forward to sharing tales of sailing adventures with fellow cruisers.


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