Before Katrina washed it away, Bunkey and Kate Prechter King kept a vacation home in Pass Christian, Miss. Today, their “house on the water” is of the floating variety –– a spacious, ocean-going yacht with a salon, three staterooms, three-and-a-half baths, a kitchen, a pilot house, a fly bridge and a rear deck. “We love being on the water,” says Bunkey, owner of Coastal Mortgage Corp. and a lifelong sailor. “It’s always changing. No two days
are the same.”

The Kings’ yacht, a 25-year-old DeFever 52 designed by renowned naval architect Arthur DeFever, is not the first boat they’ve owned, but it is the largest, with room to sleep six comfortably. They encourage Kate’s 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, to bring friends aboard and can easily entertain as many as 20 guests for the day or evening. They’ve taken excursions to a variety of places including Palm Beach, Fla.; Biscayne Bay; Tampa, Fla; Pensacola, Fla.; Orange Beach, Ala.; Lake Pontchartrain, the Tchefuncte River; Biloxi, Miss.; Destin, Fla.; Key West, Fla.; and the barrier islands of Mississippi.

“My favorite time to be on the boat is the afternoon until sunset,” says Kate, an attorney, who bought her first boat, a Sunfish, after law school. “It’s the most beautiful time of the day. It’s cooler and kinder.”

The former co-owner of a company that supplied soft goods (fabrics, carpet, slipcovers and curtains) for commercial interiors, Kate lightened the yacht’s salon by covering its weathered paneling with durable Sunbrella fabric and the floor with a sea grass rug. She also rearranged the kitchen cabinets and added granite counters and new appliances to the kitchen and custom bedding and window treatments to the staterooms. “I wanted a traditional look, but I wanted it to be fresh,” she says. With limited space for cooking, she favors the ease of what she calls two-pop entertaining (“Pop open a package of sushi and a bottle of champagne,” she explains), grilling outside, prepping ingredients at home and keeping things simple.

“Having a home on the water can be both extremely rewarding and more work than you ever thought,” says Bunkey, who sums up the more romantic side of the equation with a favorite passage from the classic book The Wind in the Willows: “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats … or with boats …. In or out of ‘em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it.”