As Debbie Piper and Todd Stopher readied their 42-foot motor yacht to depart from the docks at Wildwood State Park last week, the couple was not casting off for just another lake cruise.
The power boat, affectionately named Seaveyor after Piper’s late husband Jay, made its maiden voyage under the new Little River Bridge marking an important milestone in the couple’s history.
Piper snapped photos as Stopher steered the Seaveyor under the bridge past ongoing construction work to remove remnants of the old Price-Legg Bridge that once made it impossible for boats the size of the Seaveyor to pass under it.
“We’re making history,” Piper said excitedly.
The Seaveyor was the first boat of its size to pass under the new Little River Bridge last Wednesday, and with the new accessibility, Piper and Stopher have embarked on a new business venture.
The pair are now welcoming customers onboard the Seaveyor, where they are offering lake cruises of all kinds, including sunset cruises which are Stopher’s favorite, moonlight cruises, day cruises and day rentals. Other business ventures include a Captain and First Mate program, which specializes in vessel relocation or delivery, emergency transit, and training and instruction.
But the inspiration for the idea to start the business came from their time spent in the out islands of the Bahamas on the Seaveyor.
“After being there on your own boat, I would never fly to the bahamas just to visit ever again,” Stopher said. “Doing the out islands and being out where it’s desolate and sparsely populated was just so awesome and the water is 60 feet deep and you’re looking at the bottom.”
But the Seaveyor has an even more impressive resume.
In September 2015, Piper and Stopher traveled full circle to port in Charleston, S.C. after traveling more than 9,000 miles over 15 months around the Eastern portion of the United States via intercoastal waterway in what is known as The Great Loop.
It was a trip that was taken in honor of Jay Piper, who was Debbie Piper’s childhood sweetheart and husband of more than 32 years and also Stopher’s longtime best friend.
Both Stopher and Piper were with Jay when he took his last breaths in 2013. After his passing, Stopher said they found a list with Jay’s will containing 50 places he wanted his ashes spread. Piper said the pair had always been avid travelers and Jay had made it clear he wanted Piper to continue to live her life and travel even after he was gone.
Piper eventually moved back to Georgia to be closer to family and friends and she and Stopher decided to keep their word to the beloved husband and friend. So they began shopping for a new boat.
“The boat was a labor of love, it didn’t look like this when we got it. It had been neglected, but it was mechanically sound and everything worked on it and we sort of took some time and sort of dressed it up the way we wanted it.”
The motor yacht was soon equipped with all the creature comforts of home including Jay’s surveying equipment positioned just above the flat screen TV in the boat’s salon.
“He was a land surveyor,” Piper said of the apparatus. “That’s the reason we named the boat Seaveyor. That’s his total station that he used to survey with.”
And so far, Piper and Stopher said they have a few more stops to make before completing the list with Jay’s ashes as promised. The couple said they also plan to make a second trip around The Loop sometime in the next three to five years.
But their love for Jay and the Seaveyor, is what has ultimately motivated them to pursue a business to share with others what they love most.
“We just love sharing our world because it’s fun and it’s different,” Piper said.
And as Stopher sounded the Seaveyor’s horn passing under the new Little River Bridge, the pair said it was another gratifying mission completed in Jay’s honor. It’s a mission in rememberance they hope to be able to continue.
For more information about cruises with The Seaveyor contact (706) 614-8402.