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Along Alabama's Gulf Coast, a company's vivid cruisers bring colorful people together.

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aribiana sea skiffs merge contemporary materials and

traditional craftsmanship. Inset: With a wave of a salt water­dipped palm frond, company cofounder Lynn Rabren offers the blessing at the 10th anniversary gathering of proud Caribiana owners.

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bash

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lender skiffs painted blue, green, and red slip easily onto the sands of Pirate's Cove. The side-by-side hulls create a vibrant rainbow, brightening an already sunny day. "There's another one coming!" squeals 9-year-old Tristan Hazebrook. As the unofficial greeter of the Caribiana boat reunion, she rushes to the water's edge to wave in newcomers. Her mom, Lucy, says, "Tristan's been riding Caribianas since she was a baby." Lucky girl. These teaktrimmed boats represent the best of coastal cruising. While traveling the world producing

TexT By SArAH BrueGGemAnn PHoToGrAPHy By rALPH AnderSon

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TV shows, Lynn rabren and wife Joanne mcdonough became enamored of the Caribbean's classically lined workboats. unable to find a similar model in the American market, the duo decided to start an Alabama-based business. "When Lynn and I met, he was in Los Angeles and I was in new york," says Joanne. "But he's a Southern son, and he really wanted to show me the Gulf. It blew my mind that this existed here: the white sand, the bays, the bayou." This area also boasts a strong boatbuilding heritage. After extensive research, the couple joined with local craftsmen to make a mold. The result: a stylish, versatile skiff that's easy to maintain and inexpensive to operate. "Before we knew it there were six sold," says Joanne. "Word got out." Today, on the reunion's 10th anniversary, people who've heard the word embrace each

"It's the perfect blend of old-school design and modern functionality," says Chappy Hardy. "You can play bridge and talk while the Caribiana is going 30 miles per hour."

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n elegant yet unpretentious style keeps owners close to

nature. Some clients transition from large yachts, wanting to simplify their lives. "We've had smaller boats and bigger boats," says Dave Hull, "but this is the best." That loyalty keeps folks coming to reunion celebrations, where they admire the boats and line up for catered roast pig (near right).

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other with open arms. Some pitch umbrellas in the sand, sit, and listen to the lapping waves. others play volleyball or swim. Strangers from all walks of life and all parts of the country become friends, united by a passion for this distinctive boat. A musician from Trinidad and Tobago sets the mood with a steel pan. His island rendition of Sinatra's "my Way" might as well describe the process of buying a Caribiana. "All of the options were created by early customers," says Joanne. "Someone would say, `oh, I want a cocktail table,' or, `oh, I need oarlocks.'" each boat ends up as unique as its owner. What these folks have in common is an undeniable love for the water, and that includes caring for the environment. "It's the perfect vessel for those who are looking for leisure with dignity," says aficionado Chappy Hardy. "It's a refined approach to boating. you don't

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he now decade-old celebration

attracts revelers of all ages.

Musician Raymond Lowe Sr. (above, center) strums on his steel pan, giving the party a tropical feel. Pigtailed Tristan Hazebrook looks on as Joanne McDonough (in white bathing suit), Lynn Rabren's wife and business partner, leads the festivities.

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see Caribiana owners throwing beer cans over the sides." They also seem to share a quirky sense of humor and a laid-back outlook on life. When the scheduled minister can't make today's event, Joanne says, "Well, we'll just do our own blessing." Lynn, looking like a modern-day buccaneer in his paisley head scarf, takes the helm. He dips a palm frond in the salty water and sweeps it dramatically across the bows, spraying them with good cheer. Lynn stops beside the first craft he ever built, saying, "This was the start to all of this foolishness." He speaks to the hull gently, almost whispering, "may you have wonderful, magical adventures." Turning to the crowd, Lynn exclaims, "Bless everyone. Let's drink, let's eat, let's boat, let's have fun!" And with that, returned shouts of "Amen" and "All right, brother" fill the air.

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oat options include canvas bimini tops and long

tillers."Can you imagine any other boat that would inspire people to participate like this?" asks one owner. The lively group mixes drinks, plays sports, and chills out.

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Partygoers track a thick, sugary coating of sand onto a well-worn deck. Beneath a galvanized roof, guests dig into roasted pig with Jezebel sauce, sweet Silver Queen corn, and Key lime pie. "We also bring beach food, all that Baldwin County bounty: West Indies salad, peel-and-eat shrimp, smoked tuna," says attendee Charlene dindo. "And you know to always have your corkscrew ready." The wine flows as the group toasts the decade. But before things get too rowdy, everyone hops aboard and motors to the east end of ono Island, the skiffs slicing through each other's wake. once at the shallow mooring, the crew unwinds on a nearly deserted spit. As the sun starts its steady decline, one by one the boats leave the isle and head toward their respective ports. But regardless of where they go, Alabama's Gulf Coast, the birthplace of Caribiana, will always be ready to welcome the fleet home. For more, call 888/203-4883 or visit caribiana.com.

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