Stephanie Colotti Ferrie came home from a long run with a wild idea several years ago.

She said to her husband, ‘We should buy a boat and sail the world and homeschool our kids.’

Stephanie Colotti Ferrie Photo courtesy of Kevin Ferrie

“I said, ‘You’re freaking crazy. No one does that,’” Kevin Ferrie said. “She starts pinging me on texts and messenger all these families who are doing this.”

Colotti Ferrie put those dreams on hold at first when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015.

But after a radical hysterectomy, 28 rounds of radiation, and five weeks of chemotherapy, she was more determined than ever.

In September 2018, Stephanie, Kevin, their three girls, one boy and two dogs left Portland Harbor and set sail on their great adventure.


Colotti Ferrie, who spent two years sailing with her family and documented their journey on her blog, Live the Voyage, died April 17 following a reoccurrence of cancer. She was 43.

On the day she died, her husband penned a poignant tribute to his wife, calling their decision to live on a boat and cruise the Caribbean “a conscious choice to live with conviction and take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.”

“Steph has lived her voyage and has seen all she needs to see on this earth,” he wrote. “This morning just before 6 a.m., she set sail towards warm waters, fair winds, and beautiful sunsets. It was a brutal, unfair battle; one even the toughest woman I know couldn’t overcome. Sail on my love. Stand the watch you were born to do, and I will see you on the other side. You gave your kids enough love for a lifetime. I will make sure they always know that.”

Colotti Ferrie was a loving and fierce supporter of her children: Mairead, 16; Lilah, 14; Clara, 12; and Callum, 11. She homeschooled her kids for eight years. She took her kids skiing when it snowed, and to the beach to swim and explore when it was hot. Her husband said she wanted them to live and not just sit in classrooms. He said the kids would attend school for music class, gym or special programs and then go home.

“They were the luckiest kids,” he said earlier this month. “She was dedicated. All she ever wanted was to be a mom, truly. That’s the hardest part in all this. In the three weeks that she’s been gone, my daughter got her driver’s license. We bought a second home in Bethel to ski because that was another of Steph’s dreams. Callum is playing Little League now and she missed his first at-bat. That’s the stuff that really stinks.”

No one would have loved those moments more.


When Clara was 4 years old and quite shy, she took a ballet class, Kevin Ferrie said, choking up. During a rehearsal, her sister Mairead got on stage with her. At the recital, Clara carried an oversized teddy bear onto the stage and hid behind it during her performance, he said.

“One of the moms said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry for what happened to Clara.’ Steph said, ‘Sorry? That’s the proudest moment I’ve ever had for my child. She got on that stage.’”

“Stephanie was steadfast that every child develops on their own time,” Ferrie said. “She knew her child.”

When Callum was born, he had PPHN, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, a condition in which a baby may not get enough oxygen after birth. Colotti Ferrie, who was a labor and delivery nurse, stayed with him for 11 days in the hospital and insisted that she be there to breastfeed him.

“He had a miraculous recovery,” her husband said.

“Stephanie raised her children to be independent and strong willed,” Lilah wrote in her mother’s obituary. “Her children will forever miss her and will use the knowledge and wisdom she gave us to live a life we want and love.”


Stephanie Colotti Ferrie, her husband, Kevin, and their kids, Mairead, Lilah, Clara and Callum Photo courtesy of Kevin Ferrie

Colotti Ferrie was an avid runner and triathlete, who competed in several Tri for a Cure Maine women’s triathlons. In June 2016, about three months after finishing a grueling cancer treatment regimen, she ran the Maine Cancer Foundation’s Twilight 5K. The following month, she finished the Tri for a Cure.

“The swim was tough. The bike was wet. The run was wetter. But chemo and radiation were tougher,” she wrote on Facebook. “I crossed the finish line feeling strong with the love and support of family and friends along the way, the exact same way I finished treatment for cervical cancer. I’m so lucky to be alive and feeling great.”

This year, Mairead is competing in the Tri for a Cure in her mother’s memory.

Colotti Ferrie had HPV-related cervical cancer and was an outspoken advocate for the HPV vaccine. She shared her experience in a 2017 WMTW news story, in which she urged people to get the vaccine.

“HPV does not discriminate,” she said in the interview. “It’s out there, and a lot of people have it and don’t know it. I was one of those. … I didn’t realize I had HPV until it was too late.”

Colotti Ferrie loved the ocean and sailing. Her husband said after her cancer treatment, she felt the urgency of living out her dream. He had retired from the Coast Guard in 2015 and gave up his job as manager of a marine import/export terminal.


“She was a doer and I’m a dreamer,” he said. “She said, ‘We need to do this.’ I said, ‘I’ll support you on your endeavor.’”

The couple bought a 44-foot Jeanneau sailboat named Serendipity. They rented out their home in Scarborough and sailed out of Portland Harbor in September 2018. Their early journey included stops all along the East Coast.

On the blog, Colotti Ferrie chronicled their stops, describing, for instance, how they visited New York City and saw Times Square, the Museum of Natural History, and the Statue of Liberty.

“What NYC did for us is reiterate a large reason why we have decided to ‘escape the rat race,'” she wrote. “Cruising for us is not just about traveling and ‘seeing the world’ but getting away from the commercialism that feeds the American culture. … You don’t need things to make you happy. We have an intense desire to connect with others on a more personal level, to take time to learn about new cultures and the world around us, without spending $34 to go to the top of a building, or to eat expensive M&Ms just because they’re in a popular city.”

“She truly wanted to live a life by design,” her husband said. “She didn’t believe in the rat race.”

Sailing, he said, “There’s no Target. There’s no distractions. Life is raw. … We met friends all over the world.”


Stephanie Colotti Ferrie Photo courtesy of Kevin Ferrie

The family sailed throughout the Caribbean and explored the islands of Grenada and Curaçao. The kids fished and went diving and exploring. In October 2019, Colotti Ferrie and her daughters became certified PADI open water divers. The kids learned new cultures and participated in the Grenada carnival.

“As we travel, our kids are becoming competent sailors, navigators, scientists, explorers, swimmers, snorkelers, hikers, cooks, bakers, fishermen, free divers, and the list could go on,” wrote Colotti Ferrie. “You see, our children may not have star soccer player or swimmer on their high school resume, but they’ll hopefully have a plethora of other amazing life skills they can share with their friends and family as they grow old. Stories and experiences to share for a lifetime. ”

The Ferries sailed home to Portland in June 2020 and spent that summer cruising around Acadia. They had plans to take off again soon to the Bahamas. But a few days after arriving in Portland, Colotti Ferrie went to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center, where she learned that her cancer had returned. Doctors discovered a brain tumor and spots on her lungs. She received chemo and radiation but had setbacks.

She died at the Gosnell Hospice House with her husband and parents by her side.

In September 2020, she wrote to those considering doing something wild and crazy in life, “Don’t wait. Do it now. I am so glad we did. We don’t know what the future holds for our family and neither do you.”

The obituary written by her family ends this way: “In lieu of flowers, Stephanie would ask that you stop making excuses, and get out and live the life you imagine. Go live your voyage.”

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