Carefree Cruising

By Katie Faulkner
Photography by Morgan Nowland

“Being on the water is great medicine for the soul.”

– Fred Land


Though their last name is Land, this family loves being on the water. For Fred in particular, their yacht, Private Beach, is a soul-soothing retreat. Fred and his wife Georgia have been married for 27 years and have four children and four grandchildren. “A main part of the attraction of getting a large boat was finding something to enjoy with the grandkids,” Fred says.

When their children were young, he and Georgia owned a ski boat. “It was fun to get out and play around on, but then for many years after we didn’t own a boat of any kind.” However, in 2014, Georgia told Fred she thought they would enjoy having a boat again. As they began to shop for their ideal boat, Fred realized he wanted something larger, especially with a growing family. They initially purchased a 40-foot sedan bridge yacht, but after a year of learning to captain a large boat, they traded it in for an even larger 56-foot Meridian 540 which they named Private Beach. “I just loved the lines on Meridians and thought their configuration was beautiful.”

In Private Beach, they have found a favorite recreational vehicle that the entire family loves. “I wanted to find a vessel that had both a fly bridge and an interior pilot house, so that we could take it out no matter what time of year it was,” Fred explains. He also decided to make some significant modifications to the boat’s electronic systems. He updated the operating and navigational systems in both the fly bridge and the interior pilot house. “I put in a new multi-function display and updated all of the charts. So on my screen the channel is marked, the water depth is noted, and hazards are shown. Having the water depth always available at a glance is important, because this boat has an almost five-foot deep draft, and there are several parts of Chickamauga Lake that are too shallow,” Fred explains. Beyond the updated navigation system, he also installed a backup camera because the back of the boat is not in view from the fly bridge. “It’s very helpful to back into our tight slip at the marina,” he shares. Synthetic teak makes for a cooler, more comfortable deck material, and a Sea-Doo was added to the top deck and can be lowered by a crane into the water. “Shallow water restricts where this larger vessel can go, so when you want to explore, it’s great to have that Sea-Doo and be able to jump off and go exploring!”

Adjusting to a large boat came with a learning curve. Fred says getting the boat in and out of the slip was always an ordeal the first few months. However, the Lands enjoy being part of a marina community that is helpful and always ready to offer assistance. “I dubbed myself ‘The Moron of the Marina’ when we first got it,” Fred jokes. “It was just a learning process, but we’re so fortunate to have great dock neighbors. They’ll give us a hand with anything.” After the first few months though, Fred became a natural. “We used it a lot, so it didn’t take too long to get used to it,” he confirms. “Our thinking is, boats are expensive to operate and to maintain, so you either need to go all in and enjoy it, or don’t get one!”

One of Fred’s favorite memories in the boat was the trip home after purchasing it.“I had to get the boat home from West Palm Beach, Florida, and I wanted to go by the waterways,” Fred explains. Unfamiliar with the new Meridian and the aqueous route home, Fred thought it well worthwhile to hire a captain who had navigated the route before. The journey took 10 days, and included some memorable events. “My son came with us, so it was just the three of us on this boat for almost two weeks. We would have to go into port on occasion to refuel and get supplies. One night we ran into this horrible storm just south of Tampa. My son and I both got so sick. It was terrible. But luckily, the captain, who I guess was more accustomed to it, came through it steady. We had to dock early, and we actually ran it aground on a sandbar on the way in. We had to replace both propellers, so that added some time to our trip,” Fred recalls.

Despite the stress of the storm, Fred loved the trip. “I’m fortunate in my job and life that I get to travel often, but that has to be one of the most enjoyable trips I’ve ever made. America becomes a different country when you’re on the water. It’s a lot less civilized, and it’s just beautiful.”

Some of the Lands’ favorite activities include taking Private Beach to Dallas Bay at Chester Frost State Park. They like to load up the kids and grandkids and head over there. They set anchor and leave the generator running for air conditioning, television, and other amenities. “Being in the middle of Dallas Bay is just magical. The 360-degree view is remarkable. The kids love to jump off the deck and swim, ride the Sea-Doo with their parents, and we can even camp out there and sleep on the boat,” Fred says. Several birthday parties and family gatherings have been hosted on the boat, which sleeps about seven comfortably. So taking the kids and grandkids camping is an easy and enjoyable activity.

Fred & Georgia Land with several of their children and grandchildren. (From L-R) Jack, Vanessa, David, Fred, Georgia, Dexter, Michael, Stephanie, and Lennox


Fred has also taken Private Beach to Knoxville, to Fort Loudoun Dam and Lake, and several other areas. He hopes to take it to Paducah, Kentucky, one day, which would complete his navigation of the entire Tennessee River. He also hopes to head back down to the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy the beauty of international waterways. Still, whether the Lands are navigating channels on their way to a different destination or simply enjoying the boat locally, Fred knows that from his office to the experience of the open water is just 20 minutes.

As he puts it, “Cruising, even at just 12 miles an hour, is really amazing. The freshwater we have here in Chattanooga makes this area extraordinary. And I love knowing that if I’m sitting in my office having a stressful day, I can be enjoying that peaceful cruise in minutes!”

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