Roam to Know

Aboard Mermaid Monster

Exploring together on a Nordhavn 55

Inspired by their love of the sea and their desire to Roam to Know as a family, Southern California couple Brooke and Braden Palmer decided not to wait for “a better time” to live the lifestyle of their dreams. In July 2018, they bought an oceangoing 2008 Nordhavn 55 motoryacht, packed up their two young children and two dogs, and moved aboard full time.  “I grew up on boats, and so did Braden, but we had never owned a boat together. We went from never owning a boat to a 55-foot Nordhavn. The first year, we were just trying to get acquainted with our new home, and figure it all out,” Brooke said.

Naming the boat was the easy part. Their daughter, Rooney, aged six at the time they left, is the “Mermaid”. Her mischievous younger brother, Penn, then four, is the “Monster”.

Since they set out in 2018, Brooke and Braden, both captains, have driven Mermaid Monster more than 10,000 miles, exploring the U.S. East Coast and The Bahamas. When we spoke to Brooke in April, 2021, Mermaid Monster was anchored out in George Town, at the tip of the Bahamas’ Great Exuma Island.

Rooney and Penn adapted easily to living aboard, transferring their curiosity and imagination from the small screen to the wide world outside the boat. Brooke is home-schooling the kids on board the Nordhavn, following the Oak Meadow curriculum, but the most valuable lessons come from the environment, both natural and cultural, whevever the family happens to be voyaging. “With home-schooling, we need to focus on reading, writing and math. Everything else kind of falls into place just by what we are doing,” Brooke said. “Charting, routing – the kids are learning math through that – and navigational skills are awesome for little kids. They are super patient, very adaptive, and very good at problem-solving.”

As they cruise, the family is recording a highly successful YouTube video blog called “Aboard Mermaid Monster” that has more than 22,300 subscribers. They have posted over 120 episodes of their adventures so far.

A frequent platform for their videography is Mermaid Monster’s new Highfield Sport 460 tender, equipped with a 70-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard, which Brooke and Braden took delivery of in Stuart, Florida, in January 2021. The RIB, which has an LOA of 15’1”, a 6’10” beam, and holds nine people, not only features Highfield’s rugged aluminum hull, but it also offers a big step up in volume over Mermaid Monster’s previous 14’ tender. “It’s longer and wider and holds more people. We always have friends and visitors on our boat,” Brooke said. “Highfield has really upped its game with this new model. We are big fans of the diamond stitching as well as the extra-wide front boarding step. Durability is huge for us and the company has thought of everything when it comes to that.”

The Highfield RIB has become an indispensable part of the Mermaid Monster cruising program. “We use it every day – It’s our car. When we are leaving to run errands, I tell the kids to, ‘go hop in the car’, which is actually pretty funny now that I think about it,” she said. “We try to anchor out as much as we can just to save money, which automatically makes us reliant on our tender. We load dogs, kids, humans, groceries, boat parts and whatever else you may think of into our water car!”

The RIB also lets the Mermaid Monster family enjoy a wide variety of watersports, thanks to its sport arch option. “It not only looks awesome, but it is so useful for our family,” Brooke said, adding that she likes the tender’s deck plan because it allows them to stow wakeboards and skis to port of the helm console. “Braden loves to wakeboard and wake skate off the back of the tender, and I love to waterski. The kids love tubing and knee boarding and have both just started water skiing off the back as well. We have a neat underwater scooter that is small enough to toss into the tender. We also do lots of snorkeling and all sorts of watersports from our tender.”

The Highfield provides an essential tool for voyaging as well. “The main advantages of having a RIB for our family is that it gives us more freedom and control while living on the boat. It allows us to explore more freely. There are many, many times when we are somewhere with notoriously shallow water (like The Bahamas), that we need to scout before bringing the big boat into it. We use our tender’s depth finder to make sure the charts are in fact correct. We also use it as our ultimate exploration vessel. Having a tender has allowed us to explore up rivers, into inlets, through various coves, etc., that our Nordhavn would not be able to squeeze into.”

Brooke added, “A RIB also allows us to have an extra measure of safety. With a tender, we have another way to exit our big boat if something happens to it.”

What’s next for Mermaid Monster? Part of the fun lies in being spontaneous. “We have ideas in mind, but are not sure how everything will play out,” she said. “For the time being, we plan to stay in tropical waters – The Bahamas and Caribbean. From there the goal is to get the boat through the Panama Canal and explore the Pacific!”