Beautiful waters surround Pensacola Bay, dotting the horizon with dozens of marinas and thousands of boat slips. Pleasure boating plays big role in Pensacola’s economic and cultural scene, and two people have a lot to do with that. Val and Ray Russenberger own several boat landing locations, including Palafox Pier Marina, Baylen Slip Marina, and Seville Harbor. They’re also the proprietors of The Oar House Restaurant, overlooking Pensacola’s Bayou Chico. CLM staffers were recently invited aboard the Russenbergers’ personal boat, a 2003 Fleming 75 purchased in 2009. It’s an obvious source of pride.
“We’ve always been huge Fleming fans; even back when we had a 128-foot custom yacht, we loved Flemings,” says Val. “This boat is perfect for our family, and for the kind of travel and entertaining that we do these days.”
As we board, the first thing we notice are the beautiful finishes throughout the main salon, with rich wood tones and gleaming granite. The carpeting has recently been replaced throughout, and Superior Granite was brought in to restore counters and other surfaces. From the cockpit, with its ergonomic leather chairs, to the aft deck, and with its casual dining and open space, all things point to the Russenbergers’ eclectic interests and their love of entertaining. A music corner, complete with keyboard and stringed instruments, is proof that Ray is an accomplished musician. And oh yes, Val loves to sing!
A compact and well-equipped galley is open to the salon so no one is left out of the fun. There are three staterooms, plus crew quarters, although the couple usually prefers operating the boat themselves. “Something always needs repairing on the boat, so we stay very busy, and Ray is quite handy with most of the systems, even the Caterpillar 4312 engines,” says Val. “He is the captain and engineer, and I am the galley wench and scullery maid.”
“We frequently travel with children and grandchildren, or with friends,” says Val, “and we carry lots of toys! We have paddleboats, kayaks, water skis, and fishing and SCUBA equipment. We’re always prepared for an adventure.” Their favorite destinations are the Florida Keys and the various islands in the Bahamas, and many other destinations await them.
When the boat is home, the Russenbergers engage in the Pensacola civic, cultural, and boating communities. Val has long been active in community theater, and Ray’s passion is fishing. They’ve generously provided sunset cruises complete with food, drinks and music to benefit some of the causes they support. “The boat is gone so much now that it becomes harder and harder to schedule these things,” says Val.
When asked about the boat’s name, Val laughs. “Our last boat was Lady Val, and when we thought about naming this one, we decided to do something different. Since Ray and I are both pilots, and this is a Navy town, some of our friends gave us ‘call signs.’ Ray is Stingray, and I am Valkyrie, as is the boat.” Their next springtime destination is the Florida Keys. As Val pauses to reflect on their travels, she says, “There are so many more places we want to see. All we need is time!”