|Setting the Scene|
Whether in New York’s tony Hamptons or Connecticut’s historic Mystic Seaport, the 81-foot Burger Lady Elizabeth is a classic to be seen.
Written and Photographed by Kim Kavin - October 2003
Some of the raft-ups are already ten boats across by the time the mid-July sun sears Three Mile Harbor. Bikinis and beer bellies abound as boats snake along the channel single-file and jockey for anchoring space amid the long-taken mooring balls. The annual fireworks will explode over the water in just eight hours, and each captain wants the best view of one of New York’s most exclusive enclaves: East Hampton, Long Island.
It’s a scene for boats to be seen, including a stunning blue-hulled 1976 Donzi launch and the 1929 motoryacht Belle, a beautifully restored, wooden 77-footer that calls Newport, Rhode Island, home. As the big boats vie for room to drop their hooks, dinghies meander through the maze with skippers pointing out the profiles of their dreams. Few fail to crane their necks for a better look at the 1971 Burger Lady Elizabeth, which at just over 81 feet LOA is the grandest dame at the show before the show.
The captain of the Viking motoryacht Crown Jewel, on the hook to starboard of Lady Elizabeth, can't resist striking up a bow-to-bow chat with Capt. Mike Nesbitt about the tight squeeze. Nesbitt, a slow-talkin' Southerner, responds with a grin as big as his home state of Texas. Crown Jewel's skipper says he’ll be careful not to swing into our classic beauty should the wind change so much as a hair.
"Well," Nesbitt hollers back, offering to do his part to avoid bumping, "this just looks like a Grey Poupon boat. We’re really a French’s yella."
I couldn’t have said it better myself. A week aboard Lady Elizabeth is an experience in style—the elegant kind embodied by the dapper doyenne's pretty lines, and the endearing kind that radiates from crew working hard to make sure guests feel at home. Whether in New England, where I cruised courtesy of her owner, or in the Bahamas, where she is scheduled to spend her first winter charter season following extensive renovations, Lady Elizabeth will charm her six guests with good fun and good folks—and at a good price to boot. She's priced at a base rate of $15,500 per week, which includes the owner's 12-foot inflatable and Nesbitt's center-console Dusky. "We should be a very attractive price," he says, "especially with a 25-foot tender."
My charter party was the first to spend time aboard, just a few weeks after the revamped yacht's debut at the June charter yacht show in Newport. The excitement about Lady Elizabeth's rebirth was palpable. As we cruised at 11 knots off Block Island, Nesbitt took two charter bookings via cellphone in just one hour.
Lady Elizabeth started out as Encore I three decades ago and has since been through five owners. The second changed her name to Firefly, and the next two called her Isabella. Each added his own touches, which gives her the kind of idiosyncrasies that can take a new captain a while to decipher. As Isabella, those idiosyncrasies combined with half-finished renovations and rotating skippers to give the boat a reputation for breakdowns and problems. "When the owner got tired of paying for the boat, he also got tired of paying for the crew," Nesbitt explains. "They walked off in the summer of 2001. There were already a bunch of charters lined up, and the captains who came onboard couldn't figure out the boat in time."
Next page > Part 2: The work that was done on the interior and systems shows. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.