|A Bronx Tale|
Just over a decade after their “MasterCard wedding,” this Irish couple is living many a boater’s version of the American dream.
By Kim Kavin - November 2003
Sean O’Sullivan emigrated in 1986 from a fishing village in southern Ireland. He missed his rowboat and his family, especially the grandmother who smiled every time she saw him. No matter that she was milking a cow with one hand and cradling a baby in the other, using every skill she had to make ends meet. She was happy, and he’d grown up just the same.
Making a fortune in America would be easy, he thought. The dark-haired mailman’s son with dancing blue eyes knew a fair bit about the European mortgage business. As it turned out, though, the business in the United States was different, and it took O’Sullivan a half-dozen years just to get his broker’s license. He ended up selling cars, working construction, and tending bar in his adopted hometown of the Bronx. Good jobs, but not ones that tended to produce the millions of dollars he dreamed about.
On his off days, O’Sullivan drove to nearby City Island to help maintain a 22-footer—not for pay, but to satiate his need to be on the water. “Right over there,” he says, pointing from his slip at South Minneford Yacht Club. “I’ve always known that if you’re stressed or whatever, you come to City Island. It’s cheaper than going to a therapist.”
That might’ve been true back then, but today, when O’Sullivan piles into his Jaguar with his wife, Jacqui, also an Irish immigrant, and their two boys, it’s to spend time aboard their Cruisers 5470 Express, High Jinks, the largest boat to call South Minneford home and one of the biggest boats on all of City Island. Earlier this year—just over a decade after they had to charge their wedding on a MasterCard—the O’Sullivans put down $500,000 cash and brought the builder’s flagship home to “The Seaport of the Bronx.” They’ve been living many a boater’s version of the American dream ever since.
City Island is a 230-acre marine magnet. Back in the 1700’s and 1800’s, workers from its shipyards would pour onto the main drag in search of a pint at quitting time. World War II saw the construction of PT boats, tugs, and minesweepers, and after the war City Island craftsmen built three America’s Cup defenders.
By the time O’Sullivan started visiting the island in the late 1980’s, condos had replaced many boatyards and tourists were pouring over the City Island Bridge in search of day charters and french fries, but the nautical essence remained. In fact, when the state designated 17 historic maritime communities last year along Long Island Sound, City Island was the only New York City locale to make the list. The place just has the soul of the sea about it, like a bit of a distant land proudly misplaced—kind of like Sean O’Sullivan himself.
Next page > Part 2: “I had a briefcase in the trunk of my red Chevy Cavalier,” he recalls. “That was my office.” > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.