All for the life of the rolling sea

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 10:45am

A sleek and fast looking 70-foot motor yacht backed out of her slip on a sunny Sunday, in Newport Harbor. It was 3 July, 2008. As the sexy and shiny rig was making her way into the busy fairway, a loud,  thumping Latin rhythm could be heard — booming. Aboard, there was a bevy of bikini-clad beauties wildly dancing. I’m not sure what kind of dance these ladies were doing; however, I don’t think anyone who witnessed this scene really cared. Docked next to this boat was another yacht — a bigger yacht — called the Continental Drifter III. She must’ve arrived in the wee hours as I slept aboard our sailboat Reverie. There were several folks sitting at the stern of the Drifter watching the dancing ladies slowly pass by. After a tour around the packed and festive harbor, it turned out that the 124-foot Continental Drifter III, is owned by the singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett; he was performing that day at the Newport Folk Festival.

Having sailed my boat out of Newport Harbor for many years, I can easily remember some of the more distinctive looking boats that have called there. 

For example, the late record-breaking adventurer Steve Fossett’s 105-foot catamaran Playstation spent a winter in Newport next to where I dock Reverie. I got a tour of this cutting-edge design by an Aussie who crewed aboard her. He said that there was so much torque in the rig that the boat “hummed constantly.” 

Also, French sailor Bruno Peyron’s Orange II was in Newport in 2005, gearing up to break records with his slick catamaran. 

I met a Parisian guy who crewed aboard her, and after I cobbled together a few sentences of French, he gave me a tour of this savage design of stainless steel, carbon, fiber, and kevlar. 

“Fast, mon ami,” he said, “tirty-eight knots, off da wind.” 

Oui,” I said. “Tres fast, mon ami.” (That summer Peyron left Newport and blew all of the around the world sailing records out of the water.) 

With Newport being a popular sailing destination, we can see stuff like this all of the time.

In the harbor of this city by the sea we can observe offshore fishing draggers, lobster boats, jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, rowing dories, traditional J-Boats, 12 meters, Shields, 420s, Oldport Launches, tour boats — sail and power — of various designs, kite boarders (outer harbor), windsurfers, small foiling sailboats called WASZPs, fuel barges, houseboats, ferryboats, canoes, tenders, catamarans, trimarans, small cruise ships (Fort Adams), big cruise ships (outer harbor), floatplanes, (outer harbor), Optimist sailing dinghies, tall ships, schooners, tug boats, high-speed catamarans, (ahem, covert SEAL craft), Coast Guard utility rigs, The Harbor Master. And a pu pu platter of international cruising boats. There is lots to see in this little harbor town.

Last August, while sailing back from Potter’s Cove on Prudence Island, I noticed something huge in the outer harbor. I could see this thing from the north end of Jamestown, and couldn’t figure if it was a cruise ship, a small freighter, or a private yacht — this thing was big. As I sailed under the Pell Bridge on my last tack, I figured I’d sail under the stern of this yacht, and get in its wind shadow so I could lower my sails. Moreover, I could glance this thing. It turned out to be a privately-owned superyacht called Vava II — she is 314 feet long. 

This yacht has a plumb bow, nice lines, and a great aesthetic for this kind of thing. It sports a Eurocopter, which is a classy touch; however, it does not upstage Vava II’s overall design. This yacht cost a lot of dough — over 200 folks worked to build her — and requires lots of per diem for crew to operate. You need very deep pockets for this kind of craft — it costs 250,000 scoots just to fill her up with diesel. I took a few snaps off the stern of Vava II, where there was what appeared to be a bar on a big tailgate. 

By the way, the QE II also anchors in this part of the outer harbor when she calls. Wink wink, nod nod.

People who own boats usually love them; there are some who may also lust after bigger, newer, or shinier ones. That’s why boat shows are so popular. Looking at a brand new, right out of the box, pristine sail or power boat can give us a sense that all is right in the world.

On the other hand, there are people who simply love to be on the water — getting the wind in their faces — and could care less what the boat looks like. At the end of the day, boats are a hell of a lot of fun to mess around with. 

A bad day on a boat is a lot better than a good day at work.

Sail on!