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Making fantasy a reality

Would you like to escape to some faraway place, indulge fantasies long held and see a longstanding project to completion after years of toil?

Dr. Steve Hansen can answer all these questions in the affirmative. He and his wife recently completed the decades-long construction of a 49-foot yacht named “Escape Fantasy.”

A diagnostic radiologist at El Portal Imaging Center in Merced and an Atwater resident, Hansen and his wife Karen started on the voyage to construct the yacht in 2007 and only completed the project last August. He didn’t intend for the project to take that long but there’s a lot involved with an undertaking of this sort.

The two-deck 20-ton yacht is the equivalent of a two-bedroom apartment on water, with all the comforts of home. It is berthed in Marina Village in Alameda. Hansen signed up for the slip 2 1/2 years before he actually could use it. 

The vessel is so complex and intricate that it has a 41-page manual describing all its features and how to operate it. So far Escape Fantasy has taken the couple on excursions mostly in the Alameda Bay, San Francisco Bay Area waters and up the Pacific Coast but longer excursions are in the works down the line. They go up to the yacht about every other weekend. 

“So far everything’s great. The idea was to be able to get somewhere that’s out of the way, out of the ordinary, an escape,” Hansen says.

In 2007, the Hansens were looking at boats at a boat show in Anacortes, Wash. They also got a copy of the book “Voyaging Under Power” by Robert Beebe. Soon Hansen paid $400 for a set of plans to build this yacht and his father-in-law, who lived in Catheys Valley, scraped out a spot on his mountain property for construction to begin. After that boat show Hansen admits he got hooked and said now it’s looking pretty cool.

At least one other boat like Escape Fantasy has been built and it’s used for charters in the South Pacific. 

In January 2008 they started construction and it got in the water last summer. 

He first went to a San Francisco lumber yard where the mahogany timber was ordered, then trucked to Catheys Valley for the board-by-board assembly process to begin. 

After a couple years Hansen hired brothers Gus and Sven Larsen, contractors living in Atwater, to help with the project. They had built boats with their father when they were in high school and Hansen was happy to get their expertise. The Hansens are still helping with maintenance on the yacht. 

The hull of the boat weighed 8,000 pounds and it had to be turned over while construction proceeded. It has over 6 feet of headroom and the cockpit is 6 feet by 13 1/2 feet; the pilot house is 10 feet by 12 feet. 

It is powered by a six-cylinder inline diesel engine that produces 250 horsepower. It also has a 40-horsepower “get home” auxiliary motor in case the main engine malfunctions. 

When he was in college Hansen had a 21-foot sailboat which went by the wayside as his medical studies advanced. Karen Hansen grew up with boats as her family had a houseboat on Lake McClure. 

“I like the planning part of it. It’s very relaxing for me. It’s my therapy,” Hansen says.

A few cosmetic touches remain to be done with Escape Fantasy. The wooden railing still needs refinishing which Hansen is glad to do since he enjoys woodworking along with metalworking. Travis Baumann of Catheys Valley also helped with fabrication and welding on the yacht. 

“It has taken about three times longer to get it done than anticipated. but the experience itself has been really positive. My next-door neighbor at the marina is a retired radiologist. People who like boating tend to be easy to get along with,” Hansen says.