Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend & Return to Grace
It seems this year flew by and now it’s time to celebrate the year that was. I just returned from Vintage Weekend. I know I have said this in the past, but this year was particularly spectacular. There was a great lineup of yachts that included three Trumpy yachts including two Auroras and “Flying Lady,” two pre-WWI antique boats including “Nymph,” a 1910 Mathews owned by Tom Robinson. This is an absolutely masterful restoration, taking her back to the original design. He had to see through all the add-ons and modifications such as the poorly fitted flybridge to the cabin house.
The other antique was the 1917 Consolidated “Blue Mist.” Her owner Allen Zwickel has done a fine job of bringing her back to her old glory. This boat is beautiful and he has made a lovely home of her. If you love wooden boats and a great party, this was a happening. The band was hypnotic with that irresistible Miami beat. The theme of the party was “Wet & Wild,” so the costumes ranged from mermaids to sea dragons. Everyone was toe tapping and the dance floor was full.
The nice thing about arriving early to Vintage Weekend is watching boats arrive. One of those was Cigarette No. 1, the first of Don Arnelle’s famous racers. It was a stripped down version of a prototype of a production formula boats, 23.3 feet long, built with a racing motor, a 409 Kiekhaefer custom engine, one of two built. She was and still is one tough boat. Even the Beatles rode aboard this boat in Miami in 1964 on their first U.S. tour. The Denisco family found the boat and restored her and have shared the experience with other admirers.
So when the brothers Donald and Scott Denisco asked if I would like to take her for a spin, I jumped. I looked across at my friend Lou Jedzimer and asked if he could come too. Off we went, with the throb of the racing motor. The seas were slight, just a little wind out the inlet. Once Don opened her up, the boat took time to wind up but then she skipped on the top of the water. I was asked if I wanted to take a wheel. Would I! We slid into Angelfish Creek, then slowed down a little. I had held her back on the throttle. Once we had turned around and were out in open waters, Don said run her at whatever speed you are comfortable with. So we went faster, faster, skipping higher. Lou looked a little red in the face. We turned down the channel full steam.
Ahead was the slow, no wake sign and just before I reached it I had pulled back to idle and she coasted off a plane. Both of the brothers said I did it like a pro. Wow, what a ride! After returning to the dock, and as Lou and I walked back to Aurora II, my heart was still racing. I wasn’t alone. “I’m still vibrating,” Lou said. I’ll never know how racers stood at the helm for five to seven hours. But I do now know the thrill of gripping tight on the wheel of a cigarette racing boat. Thanks guys!
The air show at lunch was outrageous. These retired colonels and captains thrilled with heart-pounding, death defying aerial stunts, plunging toward the water, barrel rolls and loop the loops. It wasn’t until the awards ceremony that I realized these daring aviators were in their 70s and older.
When all was said and done, I am still smiling just thinking of the weekend. I did a presentation on “Grace,” a project we completed on the oldest U.S. Coast Guard certified passenger vessel, the 1913 New York Yacht, Launch & Engine Co. We played a short documentary “Return to Grace,” that her owners commissioned. It’s a beautiful little film that is heartfelt and speaks to “Grace’s” place as a beloved member of the Palmetto Bluff, S.C., community. The speaking hall was full, I got a lot of questions so I knew I didn’t bore everyone to sleep.
I flew back to North Carolina to attend to the count-down stage for splashing the 75-foot Trumpy M/Y “America.” She was hauled out for maintenance repairs and whole lot of sanding and painting. We also splined many of her cracked seams. Contract 420, built as “Jimiana” for James L. Knight of Knight-Ridder Corp., in 1965, “America” is truly one of the most beautiful Trumpy yachts built.
While on the sea trial to check the shafting in motion, I realized how quiet and smooth they sounded even with the floor boards lifted. Coming back into the pilothouse, every time I am aboard, I am always amazed at howgraceful this yacht runs. She slices through the water leaving no wake. She just glides. After the captain dropped us off at the dock, I stood there awhile to watch “America” slip away.
There is another Trumpy yacht, in my opinion, the greatest of all of the modern Trumpy yachts that remain, the “Eskimo.” At 83 feet, she is the largest of the modern houseboat Trumpy yachts. Her sleek lines are longer and even more graceful. It’s time to find someone that can see the dream in her. I only have so many more major projects left in me and “Eskimo” is one of them. I want to bring her back to life and she needs someone like the owner of “Nymph,” who can see through all the nonsense slapped on her over the years. One who is willing to restore her back to the refined grace she once had when she was commissioned by John “Jack” Kimberly of Kimberly-Clarke.
I hope that person still exists.
So around the yard, we have been busy painting boats, plumbing, servicing engines, replacing pumps, all the while working on the Trumpy M/Y “Jenny Clark.” When you do restorations on old wooden boats, there is always a better and worse side. Usually the worse side is the starboard side. That side has the most problems because we drive cars on the right side of the road so we park our boats on the starboard side as well. The fact is in the early days of yachting, the portside was for the crew to walk down when tending to docking or servicing. The starboard side was the owner’s side, the side tied to most often and also the side that received the most wear and tear on ribs and planking.
On “Jenny Clark,” it is no different. The starboard was in worse shape. Now that we have replaced all the aft ribs, floors and rudder blocks, we are ready to plank her up. One last story. When I interview a job candidate, I always make a point of shaking their hand first. It’s not a formality. I want to feel the roughness of their palms. If they know hard work. This year, we have hired many new men. It’s not easy to find people that are dedicated to getting the job done, listen to direction and pay attention. This has always plagued our industry as well as many others.
We have had the good fortune this year of hiring veterans from the U.S. Marine Corp., the Navy and the Coast Guard. These military vets know how to assess a situation, take direction and work as a team. Most importantly, they take pride in their work and in getting things done. I’m not saying all the veterans we hired worked out. But the ones who did - Brad, Jonathan and Clifford - have come through with flying colors and make me proud. If you are hiring, I would highly encourage you to give military veterans a shot. It’s not just about patriotism. It’s about the caliber of their character and work.
Until next time,
P.S. Happy holidays and here’s to a very good New Year.