I started writing this letter just leaving Key Largo but there’s more to share so if it’s a little jumpy, that’s why. I am writing you from the deckhouse of Aurora II. We have just passed Fowey Rocks light just off Key Biscayne.
The winds are soft, 5 to 10 mph, out of the west and the waters are a beautiful shade of emerald green with clear skies. What else could be better?
There are three great houseboat Trumpy yachts together headed north, SS Sophie, Innisfail and Aurora II. As we cruise north, the Aurora has rocked to sleep our motley crew. It wasn’t so tranquil the weeks leading up to Vintage Weekend. I removed all the stops. The list seemed to get longer and longer.
Bernard Smith, our patient painter, told me, “Jim, you need to prioritize and stop adding things.” He was right. I’ve said the same words to owners when the list gets longer, but not the time to do them in. Besides, the weather was starting to act up. As the clock ticked, I emailed Vicki Goldstein at Ocean Reef and asked which direction do you want the bow to face. Her reply was to the east, portside it was. We didn’t have time to do both sides, so we concentrated on the port side and touched up the hull paint. Three times we painted the deck and each time, it rained. The second time, it rained so hard that paint splattered into the varnish on the house sides.
Wednesday, at sunrise, we cast our lines. Capt. Jim Sabin and old friend Webster Rhoads and I brought along carpenter Atif Ali for a part of the trip south to Key Largo. He has been working on Aurora for the last few months. We had boxes of hardware and the weather cloth and paint splatter to deal with while the boat was underway. We worked reassembling and cleaning the boat while we cruised south. When we reached Fort Lauderdale, Atif would jump off and Nate Smith would get onboard. My wife, Stephanie, picked Nate up at the Palm Beach airport and drove him down to Bahia Mar, where another old friend, Marty Isenberg would jump aboard. After the change of crew, we kept heading south. By sunset, we were just off the city of Miami. We tucked into the old Miami arena and set anchor. The wind had turned cold, Florida cold. This place had been a part of my childhood. We had gone there to watch the hydroplane races in the very early 1970s. Now defunct, it still was a beautiful place. The sun set on the city skyline was our backdrop.
As the temperatures dropped, I found out that Aurora has a/c and heat. We left at sunrise, wind out of the northwest lapped our aft quarter. We were still installing hardware when one of the wing door knobs went overboard. I had a lump in my throat. Where would I find one of those? Sliding through the clear waters of Angelfish Creek on a mid tide, we were excited. Just around the corner, finally we were getting to Ocean Reef. The air was buzzing with excitement. Frank Lynch’s Innisfail and John Coale’s SS Sophie were tied to the seawall, on their starboard sides. But my touched up and painted hull was on the portside. But as luck would have it, we were on the corner sea wall so Aurora and Sophie, both 1947 Trumpy yachts were bow to bow.
Later, BB Sea would join us to make the Trumpy corner complete. This year was the greatest Vintage Weekend yet with four Trumpy yachts, 5 Huckons, 10 Rybovich, Jonathan IIII, and 1927 Jackson Peterson.
About a year ago, I had gotten a call from Dave Cantera. He had found a Trumpy serving plate on Ebay and bought it. He asked me to give it to the rightful owner. I offered to pay for it, but he was steadfast in his refusal. So for the last few months, it sat in our offices and I think that everybody took a shot at polishing this 1947 aluminum tray. So at the award ceremony, I told my door knob story and how hard it is to find original parts, then about Dave and his amazing find. And the tray went Capt. John Russell, who accepted for the 1947 SS Sophie. I only wish that Dave had been there. It was a special moment.
After a terrific weekend, we left Key Largo with the wind out of the west. We made Palm Beach in nine hours. All the preparation was worth it. Now, Aurora II is ready for a busy winter season and many more adventures.
Next, Dune returns.
About 15 years ago, we got involved with a 68 foot Trumpy, Georgeann. Two young men from Long Island bought her but their budget was limited and she really needed help. Her keel had been pushed in 6 inches into the boat and all the floor timbers aft were broken. It was Nate Smith’s first Trumpy project. She would go to New York and four years later, have a new owner and return to us again. The new owner lived in Argentina, Switzerland and Tanzania, Africa. We had to learn how to use digital photographs and email in a hurry. We were rebuilding her to go to Africa. We replaced most of her bottom and aft keel. When it came to glassing her bottom and building a modern interior, we bowed out on the project. We restore these yachts, and these changes were too radical for me. For ten years, there were no photos in my portfolio of Dune. So when I got an email from Simon, I was taken aback.
Dune never went to Africa but had spent time in Florida and the Caribbean. It was what he said that made me smile. “All the work that you did is as good as the day you did it. I can’t say that for most of the people’s work after.” He asked if we would install the bow thruster and other things. He didn’t want anyone else to pierce the hull we rebuilt. I, of course, said yes. Sometimes, it takes a long time to come full circle. Seeing her out of the water makes me proud of what we did so long ago and I know it does the same for Nate. He asked that we send him a picture of his first girl.
Nate got married, of course, on a Trumpy. Nate and Renee moved to North Carolina four years ago and they have been so busy building a life and a business together that they never got around to getting married. They decided this year, it was time, and planned to go to a justice of the peace at the courthouse. The Bergers, on Washingtonian, wouldn’t hear of it. They offered the use of their beautiful yacht for the ceremony. And, Judy pulled off an incredible wedding in 48 hours, a two-tier custom wedding cake with white chocolate sea shells and coral, and a reception with plenty of food. Stephanie was able to be there and sent me beautiful photographs. I couldn’t attend because of a medical procedure that turned out fine.
With Stephanie out of the way, I thought about Christmas shopping. A friend I met works at a furniture store and knew I was looking for a particular sofa. There was a big warehouse sale that featured the couch but it was down in Miami. So on Saturday, I took the big work van and headed south. I found the right one and loaded it up and off I went. At Sample Road, the truck started knocking and it was overheating. After letting it cool down, I was able to get off the turnpike and found a gas station. I tried to fill up the radiator but the water kept running out. I didn’t know where the nearest garage was because I don’t know the area. There was a man named Tony selling stone crabs but he was from Everglades City, on the west coast, and he didn’t know either. But with his GPS locator in his phone, he was able to pull up every repair shop within five miles. It was 5:30 and no one was open. I called Chet “McIver” Gallinari, my can-do guy, for help. Tony asked me if I wanted to try some stone crabs while I waited. It was so fresh, I bought a pound bag and sat by the side of the road, eating them, while I waited for Chet.
Chet arrived and it turned out to be a heater coil hose. So with a ballpoint pen and some duct tape, I was back on the road with a dinner of stone crabs. Life is good.
Finally, The Washingtonian received its full COI as a U.S. Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel and will be ready for charters of up to 38 people in January. So if you are thinking of a wedding or a vacation from the cold, you couldn’t charter a finer Trumpy, which will be in Palm Beach and the Chesapeake.
Until next time,