We had a little celebration, although I’m not certain my parents think of it that way.
The day had finally arrived: their boat was sold, and the new owners, a lovely couple from Anacortes, Washington, had arrived to bring their new boat across the country to her new home. It was the passing of a torch. Mom and Dad and Tom and Ellie took the Willard trawler, formerly Vide Poches and now Raffamuggin, out for a ride together on a top–ten-gorgeous-day around Narragansett Bay and Newport Harbor.
We fired up Esmeralde and cruised down the bay to meet them. We wanted to celebrate. My parents had cruised many, many miles in Vide Poches, throughout New England, up the Hudson to the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, into Canada, up to Ottawa and Montreal, down through Lake Champlain, and down the ICW into Florida and back. A well-travelled boat and a well-travelled couple.
We knew this would not be an easy day for them, their last day on board. We hoped to inject a bit of fun into the atmosphere. The Newport scene cooperated perfectly.
After rendezvous-ing at Jamestown Boat Yard to take some pictures, our two boats proceeded side-by-side towards Newport Harbor for the quintessential harbor tour. It was Sunday morning, clear, sunny, warm and flat-calm. Everyone in Rhode Island appeared to be out on the water enjoying the lazy scene.
This Newport harbor tour is something that I have been doing on a regular basis since I was an infant. It is in my blood, and equally in my parents’ blood. It was on one of my first Newport Harbor tours, as a two-year-old, that I was dropped in the drink as my Mother attempted to pass me from one moving boat to another. She, of course, jumped in after me and all ended well, albeit wet. The photograph of me sitting there in my life jacket soaking wet with my lower lip protruding proves the story. I wish I still had that picture.
Fast forward about 55 years. We passed Fort Adams and looped south into Brenton Cove. When I was little, there were few moorings and we regularly anchored overnight deep in the cove, enjoying the views of the steep shoreline and elegant mansions. Now, of course, the cove is wall-to-wall moorings and no anchoring, and those mansions have morphed into condominium complexes of strained architectural value, but it is still a lovely spot and makes for excellent sightseeing.
We then cruised by the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court, an elegant facility if there ever was one. Completed in 1906 by the John Nicholas Brown family, it was sold to the New York Yacht Club by the Brown children, Carter, Nick and Angela, and commissioned in 1988 as the Club’s waterfront facility. Dad had been at Harbour Court while serving as a deck hand during various NYYC summer cruises back in the 1950s. I worked there for several years when the NYYC first took it over, my parents had lived in one of the carriage house apartments for several months while their own house was being renovated, and Bruce and I were married there, right on the dock. Fond memories.
From Brenton Cove, we passed close by Ida Lewis Yacht Club on Lime Rock, where the famed lightkeeper Ida Lewis was credited with saving more than 18 lives from the 1860s until her deal in 1911.
We picked our way through the eclectic collection of anchored vessels and proceeded past The Spindle, then along the thickly-packed marinas of Newport’s downtown waterfront. The yachts seem to become larger and more elaborate each year. We tried to pick out the wharves that “used to be” iconic Newport institutions, such as Williams & Manchester, The Pier and Christie’s. Time and rampant development make this an increasingly difficult exercise: so much new stuff.
The one truly beneficial addition to the waterfront is the International Yacht Restoration School, founded in 1993. IYRS has developed into an impressive organization which, according to its mission statement, “…provides experiential education, preparing students to enter a global maker and manufacturing workforce. IYRS teaches the art and science of making, building, restoring and maintaining, and in the process, helps its graduates build both careers and more meaningful lives – inspired by the knowledge that in their hands and through the use of technology, they have the power to build almost anything.”
Continuing on… The Yachting Center, Bannister’s Wharf, Bowen’s Wharf, the Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina, Newport Yacht Club, the State Fishing Pier which now has a lobster shack…
And then the Newport Shipyard, which has developed into an incredible facility that currently hosts the most impressive collection of superyachts that I have ever seen on the eastern seaboard. This is a Do Not Miss spectacular. It’s inspiring during the daytime. At night, the rigs soaring high into the sky are lit like a small city of skyscrapers. Impressive.
It was a great day. Bittersweet, I’m certain, for the senior citizens, but Newport and mother nature collaborated to make it near-perfect in every other way. Here’s to Tom and Ellie and their future adventures aboard Raffamuggin, and here’s a hearty toast to Mom and Dad and Vide Poches, and their lifetime of fun, adventure and family aboard their fleet of vessels. May they soon find their next vessel to continue the tradition.