Ah, Newport, RI! Goodbye, projects! Hello, fun! Time to head to our favorite boating destination for some much needed R&R! What beckoned us to head out on September 9th was the prospect of attending the Newport Boat Show which was happening between September 12th and September 15th. We hadn’t been able to attend since 2015. As in previous years, this year the show was divided into two separate venues: a brokerage show (free admittance) at the Newport Shipyard which featured over 100 used quality sail and motor yachts ranging from 40′ to 140′, and the main venue featuring 600 exhibitors and 340 boats spanning the waterfront of the main harbor. The main venue required tickets and showcased new power and sailboats, accessories, equipment, electronics, gear and more. But more about the show later.
It was an awesome cruise (at least to us, for Sparky hiding down below, well, not so much) surrounded by a bright blue, sunny sky, flat calm seas and a comfortable temp in the low 70’s. Love boating this time of year, except for a few quahoggers and an occasional sailboat, it was just us, Narragansett Bay, a few seagulls and a very occasional pot buoy. Years ago we would have to dodge hundreds of pot buoys as we neared Newport, this year only about ten. Not sure if they were lobster pots or something else. Climate change has caused the waters off the RI coast to warm enough that the lobster population has shifted northward to cooler waters. Lobsters sold in the area today are mostly from Maine and Canada.
Having been to the Newport Boat Show on several occasions by boat, we typically would rent a mooring in the harbor from Oldport Marine Services. But in prep for the show, the docks have to be reconfigured to accommodate the arrival of boats/yachts participating in the show and that requires moving portions of the existing docks to transient moorings owned by Oldport. Knowing that, we were nervous about the availability of a transient mooring for the week.
Instead of dealing with Oldport, based on a recommendation from our neighbor at EGYC, we decided to give Newport Moorings a call (BTW, the only way to contact them is by phone, they no longer monitor the VHF channel despite website info to the contrary). Whew, no worries, the owner, Neill, assured us that he had a mooring available for the 10 day length of our requested stay. He then spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Rob guiding him to the mooring (#1110). And if that wasn’t enough, the fee was significantly cheaper than the $45 charged by Oldport! Good deal! For anyone familiar with Newport Harbor, this mooring was between Ida Lewis Yacht Club and what is known as ‘The Spindle’ which is a day marker at a cluster of rocks in the southeast corner of the main harbor.
For boaters who might want to stay on a mooring or on the hook (anchor) in Newport harbor, be aware that the Newport Maritime Center at Ann Street Pier offers restrooms, showers (pay), laundry facilities and free wi-fi between the hours of 7:30am-8:00pm from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
Newport has a floating dock in the harbor where you can temporarily dock your boat or dinghy to fill your water tanks or water jugs (we have a couple of 5 gallon collapsible jugs). Knowing that our 100 gallon water supply probably wouldn’t last for our entire 10 day stay, we were alarmed to find out that the water had been turned off at the water dock, perhaps because of the boat show or maybe because it was after Labor Day. Fortunately we were able to fill up our jugs several times at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and at the end of the Anne Street Pier (note you must go inside the Newport Maritime Center and ask them to turn on the water for you).
Although we have been to Newport many times before either by car or boat, there’s always a lot to see and do whether cruising the harbor by dinghy, window shopping in the market areas or enjoying the breathtaking views and luxurious mansions along the famous Cliff Walk and eating at familiar and/or new restaurants. As many times as we have been here (see our posts from 2017 and 2012), we’ve never grown tired of any of it.
Around and around we went at various times, on various days, in various weather, doing our favorite thing – cruising around the harbor in our dinghy, ogling the megayachts and constantly exclaiming – wow! As always, it just boggles our minds to see so many humongous yachts in one place. How many millions or probably even billions of dollars are docked in Newport at any given time during the summer? For the owners of these magnificent vessels, not only is there the cost of the yacht itself but also everything associated with it – dockage, fuel, staff, maintenance, etc. etc. All good for the economy of Newport or any port they visit. I guess if you can afford the yacht in the first place the rest of the costs are probably mere incidentals to the owners!
And speaking of the economy, one of the more lucrative revenue streams for the city comes from the cruise ships that stop here as the city collects a port tax of $6 for every cruise ship passenger who disembarks in Newport to tour the city. Considering that the number of passengers range from 100 to 2400 (not everyone disembarks however) and 91 cruise ships were scheduled to visit Newport in 2019 (48 between September and November), that’s a lot of revenue! In addition, the tour companies, restaurants and other businesses benefit from these visiting ships (and probably charge even more additional taxes).
During our 10 day stay, four different ships arrived on separate days. Two were smaller American Cruise Line ships which docked at the South Alofsin Pier at Fort Adams State Park.
Two larger cruise ships, the Aurora (P&O Cruises) and Star Pride (Windstar Cruises), moored just outside the harbor, tendering passengers from the ship to Perrotti Park near the Newport Visitor Center where they disembarked to either walk around town or to take a tour.
In terms of the private yachts docked in the harbor, the most impressive on this visit at 266 feet in length was the superyacht, Grace (renamed by her new buyer in 2018, formerly she was named Kibo), docked at the Newport Shipyard. She made all the other megayachts look like dinghies.
Unlike many of the other megayachts in the harbor, Grace was not for charter. Too bad, we could have relaxed on any of the five decks which BTW are accessible via a glass elevator, invited 10 of our friends and family who could sleep in any of the 5 additional staterooms and enjoyed being pampered by the crew of 23. Oh well!!
Docked at Fort Adams was the 200 foot, 13.5 story tall, three masted, square rigged vessel, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, the largest civilian Sailing School Vessel in the United States. It is named for Battle of Lake Erie hero and RI native, Oliver Hazard Perry who is credited with saving the American cause in the War of 1812. Besides that he is also known for the phrase “Don’t give up the ship!”
Looking at the vessel, which is built of steel, you might think that it is a replica of some historical ship, but it isn’t, although it does bear a resemblance to American naval vessels of the early 1800s. Seeing it at dock was awesome, one can only imagine how majestic it must look at full sail!
Nearby towards Bretton Cove, the waters were abuzz with racing and associated festivities. This was the week that the New York Yacht Club held the 2019 Rolex Invitational Cup, a biennial regatta in which twenty teams from 14 countries and five continents compete utilizing the Club’s fleet of 20 IC37 raceboats. Fun seeing the boats sailing by and watching all the other activity!
Touring the harbor, it was surprising (and somewhat dismaying) to see so much construction happening along the main waterfront area. Next to the Marriott, a boutique hotel, the Brenton Hotel, is being built, expected to open in spring of 2020. Around the same time, another hotel will occupy one of the last slivers of open space on the downtown waterfront. The 84-room Hammetts Wharf Hotel will rise on the Newport Yachting Center property at the foot of America’s Cup Avenue. With these two new hotels, Newport will have a total of 2360 rooms.
All the construction is dismaying because it seems that every square inch of the waterfront is occupied by a building, making it difficult to see much of the harbor walking along America’s Cup Avenue. (Note: for those of you visiting by land, we highly recommend purchasing an all day hop on hop off ticket, currently $12, for the Newport Harbor Shuttle, that is a great way to see the harbor and all those megayachts inexpensively). When we met with Neill, the owner of Newport Moorings and a long term resident of Newport, to pay him for our stay, we learned that Newport residents are not happy with all of the recent construction, feeling that it was ruining the character and beauty of Newport Harbor.
Speaking of that conversation, Neill told us to be on the lookout for one of the newer town residents, Jay Leno, former host of the Tonight Show and current host of “Jay Leno’s Garage” who frequents many of the establishments in Newport including Gary’s Handy Lunch where we have had breakfast on numerous occasions (not this trip though). Despite numerous walks around town and visits to several restaurants, we never saw Jay!
Back in 2017, on an impulse, Leno purchased a mansion, Seafair, on Ocean Drive for a mere $13.5 million! He estimates that he will only spend a total of 18 days in 2019 (boy, that’s a pretty high per night cost!!) at the mansion explaining to one of the tabloids that the reason for the purchase was to not only provide a place for he and his wife to stay but also give his extended family (he grew up in Andover, MA) and friends to visit and stay. Maybe if we ask nicely, he’ll adopt us???
Being a car connoisseur, Leno is involved with Newport’s newest museum, the Audrain Automobile Museum. We walked by the museum, window shopping but didn’t actually visit it. Leno was event chair to Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week Event held from October 1st – 4th.
Anyway, enough of the rich and famous!
As mentioned earlier, our main reason for visiting Newport in September was to attend the Newport International Boat Show. On Thursday, September 12th, we attended the free brokerage show at the Newport Shipyard. A variety of used boats were on display. Since we continue to toy with the idea of upgrading to a newer trawler type boat at some point in time, we were hoping that there would be a few at the brokerage show. But unfortunately there weren’t any that we were interested in, at least in our price range. But it was fun anyway. And just for more fun, we went on board the 64′ 1966 Pilothouse Burger Motoryacht, Penelope, where we were given a tour by the captain who pointed out the numerous renovations that had recently been done by the owners. Lots of room and lots of wood! This yacht was for sale at $385K with or without the captain. Yes, you read it right, the captain came with the boat. Kinda felt bad for the guy, who was in charge of potentially ending his employment. He is a Texas native and said he would go back home if the new owners didn’t want to hire him. Interestingly (to us anyway), the new paint on Penelope’s decks and hull was the same Awlgrip paint and color (Oyster White) that we just painted the decks on Quantum Leap!
On Friday September 13th, with perfect weather and cool temps, it was a perfect day to explore the main show. Always fun looking at all of the boat related wares ranging from mattresses, to boat decor, to engines, to anchors, to dockage at local marinas.
Hopping on and off the boats provided us with an opportunity to see what features each manufacturer had to offer. If we were to upgrade to a newer boat, which features are a must have for us and which ones are merely nice to have items? Whether you are interested in purchasing an RV or a boat, there is never one that has it all. Offering a very unique and beautiful design were several models made by Galeon Yachts from Poland. Some Galeon models are the first boat we have ever seen with fold down bulwarks – kinda the equivalent of slide out rooms on an RV – a section of the side rails folds flat making the boat wider with extra deck space. See this video at about the 30 second mark for an example. Very impressive but well out of our price range. It was a fun but exhausting two days. And inexpensive – fortunately our plastic stayed in our wallets.
Of course, a walk along the 3.5 mile long Cliff Walk (see map) bordered on one side by spectacular views of the rocky coast and gorgeous luxurious mansions on the other, is an absolute must for anyone visiting Newport. And even though we have walked it numerous times, it was just mandatory for us to walk it again.
To save on the wear and tear on your feet, visitors can do what we did – purchase a ticket on the RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) Bellevue/Salve Regina trolley (#67). The cost is $2 (per ride) or $6 to hop on and off all day which is what we did. Tickets can be bought in person on the trolley or at kiosks at the Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center, we took the trolley to the corner of Narragansett and Bellevue Avenues where it was just a short distance to the Cliff Walk.
Our first stop along the walk was Forty Steps, a dramatic stone staircase that drops about 2/3rds of the way down the side of the cliff to a balcony over the sea. According to my research, these steps were originally built by David Priestly Hall so his children could get to the beach from his property. He gave a public right of way to the steps to the City of Newport in 1840. These steps later became a meeting place for the workers at nearby estates during the Gilded Age. The steps, originally constructed of wood and then iron, were destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938 (which destroyed much of RI). They were rebuilt again in the 1990s.
Our plan was to walk to Flo’s Clam Shack, a RI restaurant famous for their seafood especially their clam cakes and chowder so we headed to the north end of the walk towards Memorial Boulevard and Easton’s Beach.
Located across the street from Easton’s Beach (First Beach) in Middletown, it’s a very casual spot, a place where you find a table, then order at the counter and pickup your order when your assigned pager beckons. Note it is only open Wednesday through Sunday until December 2nd.
We shared a cup of RI (clear broth) chowder with three clam cakes ($8.50) and a lobster roll ($17.95). The chowder and clam cakes were excellent, definitely would go back again for those, but we were disappointed in the lobster roll, too much lettuce, not enough lobster meat and what was there was pretty tasteless.
After lunch, we retraced our steps along the Cliff Walk, continuing past Narragansett Ave enjoying the views of Salve Regina College and several mansions including The Breakers, former summer cottage of the Vanderbilts.
At the corners of Ruggles and Bellevue Ave, we picked up the trolley for the return trip back to town.
Another worthwhile attraction in town is IYRS (International Yacht Restoration School), a private nonprofit school with a 3 acre campus on Thames Street. The school currently offers four accredited programs; Digital Modeling & Fabrication, Composites Technology, Boatbuilding & Restoration, and Marine Systems. What is most fascinating is climbing up to the balcony where visitors are allowed to watch the students (when in session) building and/or repairing boats using techniques and hand tools.
Behind the school is the building where the Coronet, a 131 foot schooner is being restored. Built in 1885, the school acquired her in 1995. Here’s a little bit of history about Coronet from the Soundings website, “Under her first owner, Rufus T. Bush, the 133-footer in 1888 became the first U.S. yacht to round Cape Horn, then went on to beat Caldwell Colt’s schooner Dauntless in the first trans-Atlantic race. Other milestones include completing two circumnavigations and carrying members of the first joint Japanese-U.S. scientific expedition to Japan to view a total eclipse of the sun in 1896.”
We were very happy to see that a lot of restoration progress has been made since our last visit in August of 2017.
Newport has a wide assortment of dining establishments covering the gamut from very casual to fine dining. No fine dining for us on this trip, we so enjoy hanging out on the boat in the evenings, watching the sunsets, rather than being in town.
But breakfast is a different story. Nothing unusual at our first breakfast ashore at the Franklin Spa, a place we had been to previously. But after that, we discovered the small, eclectic Scratch Kitchen & Catering, a place that professes “real cookery from scratch, due to a love of cooking and a disdain for the pre-fab foodstuffs which pollute the modern marketplace”.
And this sign that was hung on their wall grabbed our attention! Perhaps it provides an incentive for their customers to eat there since they specialize in everything grilled cheese. Interesting stats reported in a number of publications (Time Magazine, Huffington Post and the LA Times. Hmmmm, who out there likes grilled cheese?
If you go, be aware that it is very small with maybe 10 tables inside and a few more on the sidewalk outside. It is very popular so expect to wait in line especially on weekends.They are open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., breakfast is served all day.
Oh yum! It was so good we went back a second time as yours truly had a hankering for their chicken and waffles ($10) which was served with fried chicken, melted sharp cheddar, and a maple mustard dressing between two waffles. Listed under the Frittata section was a Hashtatta ($6) which was house braised corned beef/diced potato/sauteed onion/hollandaise sauce/cheddar cheese. Can you guess who had that? Don’t let the word Frittata fool you, this is not your typical one instead it is a savory egg custard baked to perfection and couched in a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
Located on Casino Terrace, a short distance from the Tennis Hall of Fame, Cru Cafe is another restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch all day. W were surprised to find out that the restaurant is owned by Russell Morin, the owner of Morin’s, a restaurant in Attleboro, MA that we went to occasionally when we lived in Norton, MA. We met some of his relatives there who gave us that scoop.
Cute place with seating inside and out. Order at the counter, display your number on your table and when it is ready, your order is delivered to you. More hash for Rob served in the Irish Wake Up breakfast ($7.95) and the Maine Crab Burger ($10.95) which was Maine crab meat burgers served with Asian coleslaw, spicy remoulade sauce on a signature soft and crusty po’ boy roll. Rob loves Tater Tots so we had to share an order of Fancy Tots ($3.50) with our meal. Deliciousness for sure!
It seemed like we had just arrived, then suddenly, it was time to leave! On our last night, we enjoyed another gorgeous sunset! The trip home was into a northerly wind so a little rougher but, uneventful. Bye, Newport, see you next year!