Stand at the tip of historic Fort Adams National Park and you’ll see a lot more than a panoramic view of Narragansett Bay and Newport Harbor. Over an hour in early June, we saw everything from turn-of-the-century schooners, modern day sloops, 12m yachts and a flying fleet of Moths to a parade of megayachts and an assortment of privately owned sail and power yachts.
The activity would stay up for the next three months, making the summer of 2015 the busiest in recent years.
“It’s been a busy season for us, busier than last year, with larger yachts than usual,” said Eli Dana, general manager and dockmaster at Newport Shipyard, located adjacent to the Goat Island Causeway Bridge and offers dockage for yachts up to 350 feet and a full-service shipyard with 500-ton Marine Travelift, the largest in New England.
Chuck Moffit, director of waterfront operations and marina manager at the Newport Yachting Center, a 200-slip facility on Commercial Wharf in historic downtown that accommodates power yachts in the 90- to 150-foot range, agreed.
“Some of the yachts that came from the Med last year went back, while we got quite a few new ones over this season,” he said. “I noticed several of the big guys [yachts] in.”
Two of these include the 172-foot MY Big Eagle and the 130-foot M/Y Sima.
Although most of Newport’s marinas are open April 1 to Nov. 1, the busiest times traditionally span from Memorial Day (late May) to Labor Day (early September). This year, an estimated 125,000 spectators on land and more aboard a 500-plus strong fleet in the harbor who came in mid May for Newport’s first-ever stop on a Volvo Ocean Race jump-started the season, despite unseasonably cold, rainy and windy weather.
“We are usually sold out in June and July and this year we were sold out starting at the end of May,” said Chris Hartnett, assistant dockmaster at Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina, a 60-slip facility that caters to smaller power boats.
Yachts tended to cruise more and take extended cruises this season compared to last.
“Lower fuel prices made people feel more comfortable about going out more,” said Steven Sullivan, the 17-year dockmaster at Newport Marina, a privately owned 45-slip marina on Lee’s Wharf that can accommodate vessels up to 140 feet.
Improvements are in the works at several of Newport’s marinas. In early September, Newport Marina finished its conversion from wi-fi to in-slip wired ethernet cables that provide faster access speeds and eliminate wireless interference problems.
Upgrades to the bathrooms, showers and saunas will happen this off-season at Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina. Beautification projects, which will not affect marina operations, are planned at Newport Yachting Center.
“We will no longer host private events like concerts, comedy shows and festivals on property, however we will continue to host the Newport International Boat Show in September,” said Newport Yachting Center’s Moffit. This change comes in the wake of the Peregrine Group, a real estate development company based in Rumford, RI, taking over the center’s ownership in January.
In addition to bulkhead and dock replacement and improvement, Newport Shipyard has taken over the Newport Bucket Regatta. The Bucket, which was canceled this year, will resume next year as the newly named Candy Store Cup.
“Our teams here at the Shipyard and at Bannister’s Wharf have consulted yachts owners and captains and determined that a shift from late August to tentatively July 21-24, 2016, will make it easier for more of the great sailing yachts to be here for the Candy Store Cup,” Dana said.
Carol Bareuther is a freelance writer in St. Thomas. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.