Part 2: By trip’s end we’d all come to the same conclusion: team Indulgence rules.
By Ben Ellison — October 2002
Indulgence lacks flamboyant European styling and wild watertoys. Oh, she's comfy--bare-feet-in-thick-pile-carpet comfy--but what really sets her apart is Donohue and his crack crew. Chef Kris Erickson applied the serious skills he'd learned at the Culinary Institute of America and practiced at high-end restaurants around the country for our gastronomic satisfaction, and he succeeded, big time. Stewardess Kerrie Chouinard quietly dressed every table with her personally collected and cuisine-theme-correct decor and provided "white-glove service," which means subtleties like a damp towel left hanging over a teak deck chair magically becomes a dry, fluffy one. Meanwhile, Donohue and mate David Poore handled all our requests to get close to this or that intriguing waterfront estate or outstanding vessel with aplomb.
Beneath this crew's core chartering skills was something deeper, worthy of another digression. I fancy myself a student of the well-run ship, and I observed a couple of my theorems in action. First was the way Donohue conducted a thorough engine room check soon after we left the dock. He substituted a nifty laser thermometer for the finger-to-critical-hot spot technique I've seen used on tugs, but the intention was the same: getting intimate with the mechanics, hopefully catching problems early. Second was the way he mentored his mate and included him in command decisions, a level of respect shown to all his crew and key to managing a happy, high-performance team. These skipper skills may not seem particularly critical to chartering, but they are, as even these pampered megayachts are just big boats--full of systems that may break down and crews that might act up. The brokers aboard may not have done their analysis in quite the same way as I, but by trip’s end we’d all come to the same conclusion: team Indulgence rules. (By the way, it’s these brokers’ willingness to really experience the boats, pleasurable as it might be, that makes them valuable to the chartering process.)
In Bristol the team showed us how to anchor a megayacht in a tight harbor, which is to say carefully, and tendered us ashore for a walk before dinner. "Charming" is overused in reference to New England port towns, but Bristol deserves a dispensation, especially in the weeks leading up to its well-known Fourth of July parade, claimed to be the oldest in the country. We strolled back streets where brightly painted historic homes playfully competed for our attention with flowers and flags. The town's abundant antique shops also had an Americana rivalry going, and even the line down the middle of the quiet main street was done up in red, white, and blue.
The next morning we visited the Herreshoff Marine Museum, which occupies some of that family's old boatbuilding properties along the waterfront just south of the village. From 1863 to 1945, the firm built many of the country's finest and fastest yachts--power and sail--and founder Capt. Nat and numerous relatives earned eternal fame for innovative design and engineering. I was unsure what we'd find, however, having heard that the museum was a bit underfunded and down-at-the-heels, but that information turned out to be pleasantly old and wrong. We found all sorts of Herreshoff vessels, models, and memorabilia well displayed and wonderfully illustrated with black and white prints. The America's Cup Hall of Fame is also on site, appropriately as eight successful defenders were built here. The dock area has been renovated to snazzy standards, can be visited by vessels close even to Indulgence's size, and hosts an active sailing program for museum members and local youth. There's an enthusiasm about the whole place, especially expressed by the volunteer guides, that's just--well, charming.
This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.