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!