Nov 1, 2023

Jules Kariher: Making adventure a family affair

After restoring their 33-foot Cape Dory sailboat, “Julie Rose,” Jules Kariher, along with her husband, three sons and two dogs, set sail for the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas, going island to island for a month.Photo by Kate Treick Photography

Once upon a time in Fort Lauderdale, Jules Kariher was walking her beloved Jasmine, a Lab/Weimaraner mix, by a New River marina when she stopped dead in her tracks. She spotted a “really cute” shirtless man with long hair on a sailboat.

As the story goes, the fateful meeting with her future husband unfurled.

“Christopher was living aboard a 25-foot sailboat,” Kariher recalled. “I told him I had always wanted to learn to sail. He offered to teach me. The rest is history.”

The couple has been married 23 years and have three sons – Cole, 21, Dylan, 18, and Fisher, 16. Kariher is chief advocacy officer for Ascension Florida in Pensacola, and her husband is a Pensacola architect.

Reflecting on her marriage, Kariher completely credits her husband for pushing her out of her “comfort zone.”

Before getting married and honeymooning on the couple’s sailboat “Nautical Mystic” in the Florida Keys, Kariher taught aerobics and was into rigorous fitness-oriented activities such as the AIDS Ride – a challenging three-day bike ride.

But her life quickly became more adventurous, Kariher said.

“Christopher and I vowed to never stop adventuring when having kids; we were determined not to stop what we were doing,” she said. “We wanted our lifestyle to continue and to take our kids along for the ride. This has turned them into adventurers, too.

“My oldest, Cole, teethed on the wooden tiller of our sailboat and learned to sail at the age of 5. Dylan learned to sail around the same age and bought himself a 25-foot Cape Dory sailboat at age 13.”

As years moved on, the adventures multiplied.

“When the boys were young, I dabbled in triathlons,” Kariher said. “I completed about eight Half Ironman Triathlons, two Ironmans and a lot of marathons, including completing the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon in 2009.”

Then, life suddenly changed.

“Around 2012, I had a serious bike accident on the Garcon Point Bridge,” Kariher said. “I was riding a triathlon bike going about 20 miles an hour and hit a divot in the road. It was a bad wreck, and by the grace of God, no cars were involved.”

Speaking softly, Kariher added, “I had an awakening; I felt God was telling me something, that I needed to spend more time with my family. I believed God was telling me to stop, and that’s when I stopped riding and running, and we shifted gears.”

Kariher said this life change didn’t mean forgetting promises to live an adventurous life with their children.

In 2015, while looking for a different sailboat, Kariher’s husband discovered a 33-foot Cape Dory sailboat that had good bones but needed some TLC. While inspecting the vessel, he saw the boat’s name, Julie Rose.

“My real name is Julie Ann,” Kariher said. “It was destiny.”

Thanks to family effort, the time to take destiny for a sail finally arrived.

“In 2016, after spending nine months completely restoring Julie Rose, the five of us and our two dogs set sail for the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas,” Kariher said. “We spent a month sailing from island to island, in and out of storms, alongside sea turtles and dolphins, and witnessing stars like we have never seen before. It was an amazing trip.”

The future with Julie Rose includes another 30-day Bahama cruise and finally “living our dream to retire” on the beloved classic-looking sloop, Kariher said.

But hold on! Life for the Karihers includes so much more than sailing.

“With our whole family and friends starting in Blue Ridge, we hiked 30-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail over a long weekend with just our backpacks,” Kariher said. “We slept in hammocks and averaged 13 miles a day.”

And, for gosh sakes, let’s not leave out Pikes Peak – one of Colorado’s “54 fourteeners, mountains more than 14,000 feet above sea level.”

“The latest adventure was with my son Dylan, who left for college this year,” Kariher said. “We hiked Pikes Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range. Dylan and I slept in our hammocks at base camp, at an elevation of 10,000 feet, and then hiked 13.1 miles to the summit with our packs on the following day.”

Kariher said that after reaching the top, they hiked back down all 13 miles, which isn’t something many do.

“It was an amazing hike and very tough,” Kariher said. “At the beginning, I told Dylan I didn’t think I could do it. But he looked at me and said, ‘Mom. You did Ironman.’”

No, no, no. This story isn’t finished yet.

“That same trip, we mountain biked in Boulder along Boulder Creek and in the surrounding mountains,” Kariher said. “We also white-water rafted down the Arkansas River.”

Of course, you did, Jules Kariher.

You are an adventurer.

Jules Kariher hiked Pikes Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range with son Dylan. They slept in hammocks at base camp at an elevation of 10,000 feet and then hiked 13.1 miles to the summit the next day. Photo provided