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Tales from the Chartering Cockpit – Christening the Inside of the Boat

Fog and
more fog swirled from the sea to the tops of the masts of Avenir,
our twin-diesel ketch motorsailor that we had
recently purchased as our first charter boat. We were mostly motorsailing from Fort Lauderdale
to Newport, R.I.
to be a chartered spectator boat at the 1967
America’s Cup races. The fog
dripped from the sails, from the rails, from our chins. It teased, sometimes
giving us a peek at the flat ocean, but not often.

It was a
great relief to sight the Brenton Reef Light tower
and its bellowing foghorn outside Newport.
After entering the channel into Newport,
the fog skittered away, revealing a harbor crammed with yachts. There were many
well over a hundred feet, beautifully-maintained, elegant powerboats complete
with funnels and long, sleek sailboat hulls of a "certain age", to
sweet, saucy New England sloops and yawls and small powerboats with lapstrake hulls dressed in their brightest varnished trim.

There was
no end of heart-stoppers. Tall, lean schooners which
whispered at their moorings, hardly stirring the waters with their exquisite
skiffs, nautical works of art in their own right. Big
wooden windjammers, a class act of their own, every bit as appealing as their
more modern, more fashionably-designed, slender cousins. And, of course, hauled out at their respective barns, the
magnificent thoroughbreds, the Twelve-meters. We were looking for a
place to anchor when a runabout came alongside, its skipper enthusiastically
hailing us and waving a sack.

"I’ve
got some mail for you!" he said. "There’s lots
more at the Post Office. I just picked out the letters that I thought might be
important to you."

He was
the Newport Postmaster. A nice chap, the "garbage man," was another
one-man welcoming committee who came by each morning in his beautiful,
varnished, Chris Craft to bring us a paper and take our garbage.

Provisioning
for the ten-day charter for 24 guests from the Fort Worth Boat Club to watch
the America’s
Cup races was a bit daunting. This was our very first charter and we wanted to
make an outstanding impression. Fortunately, no one was supposed to stay aboard
overnight. We only had only to provide lunch every day there were races.

The first
day was to be the most important, the day to overwhelm them with a fantastic,
creative lunch of Veal Curry with stir-fried vegetables over well-seasoned rice
– something fairly easy to prepare beforehand and just warm up. We hoped to
serve it while we were stationed at a turning mark.

The
guests arrived and were enthusiastic about the boat. Knowing that they were
mostly drinkers, we stocked Avenir with
so much booze that she practically waddled. The weight seemed to help steady
her in what was literally washing-machine conditions
on the race course some ten miles from shore.

These rough
conditions were generated by the thousand or more boats that churned up the
waves. We bounced, dipped and ducked as we raced other spectator boats of all
sizes at top speed from one turning mark to another. It was almost a more
exciting race than the actual Twelve-meter race.

But serving the
lunch on the large, wide platters on the dining table in the salon was an
acrobatic experience. Some held the platters down while others served
themselves with one hand and the other on the hand rails overhead. Mike kept
the boat as steady as he could, but it was like steering a bronc.
Suddenly Avenir reared, plunged down a
tremendous wave, lurched violently from side to side and bucked.

The food flew
through the air, anointing the sole, the settee, the floor, the overhead. It
was too comical not to laugh. Everyone helped clean up, a fine feat itself,
considering the wild, lumpy seas.

After everyone
left the boat that day, we worked hard to get all the food stains out. But the
rice defeated us. It stuck to every tiny crevice like glue ,
from the overhead to the sole. Many of the grains were forever embedded.

That was the
day that the inside of Avenir was
christened!

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