|Isn’t She Lovely?|
Part 2: Sophie has become something of a home away from home for the couple.
By Eileen Mansfield - November 2003
Besides being the source of a humorously contentious yarn, the storm spotlights why the couple now owns a powerboat. “My idea of sailing is if you have a gorgeous day—perfect weather, perfect wind, no heeling, and no taking orders,” Van Susteren says. “John’s idea is near-death experiences. So that really wasn’t compatible.” A powerboat seemed like the best option.
The couple’s love of Trumpys, however, is mutual. “There is a taste of history here,” Van Susteren says as her eyes wander around Sophie’s saloon. “You can imagine the craftsmen putting it together... the Trumpy history.” When asked why they didn’t go for a newer, fiberglass yacht, Coale says it is a Trumpy’s rare beauty: “I love it when you can go two blocks away, look back, and go, ‘Oh my God.’ You don’t get that with other boats. You go two blocks away and say, ‘Which one’s mine?’”
Sophie has become something of a home away from home for the couple, even accompanying Van Susteren on a business trip a few years ago. It was Election Day 2000 when she got a call from CNN, where she worked prior to Fox News, saying she was needed in Palm Beach, Florida, for the recount. Sophie was in a yard in Fort Lauderdale having a little work done. Rather than staying in a hotel room, Coale called the crew and told them to bring Sophie up to Palm Beach. They docked the boat near the courthouse, and the couple lived on her for three weeks. Coale worked from the boat, and Van Susteren had a home to come to every night. She even had sandwiches delivered at lunchtime, thanks to Coale and their scooters. “It was the best remote location I’ve ever been on,” she recalls.
Sophie also became a safe haven for them on September 11. They were on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., waiting for their flight to New York to take off when an announcement said an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. They watched the news in the airport for a while, then headed for their car. Coale kept telling his wife that something was not right, but she remained calm. In fact, she was about to turn and “tell him he was a big baby and that New York was 200 miles away” when she heard a plane swoop low overhead. “Airspace had been shut down, and I looked up but didn’t see anything,” she recalls. Seconds later she heard a violent explosion and turned to see a mushroom cloud rising from the Pentagon. Mutually convinced that something indeed was not right, the couple drove to Annapolis and watched the news in Sophie’s saloon. It was a safe place and the only place they could go at the time, having been cut off from their home and offices in Washington.
But fortunately not all their memories aboard are as extreme. Sophie may call Annapolis home, but the couple has taken her as far north as Maine and as far south as St. Petersburg. The boat winters in the Clearwater area. “We actually use the engines we paid for,” Van Susteren says. “We hardly ever just sit at the dock,” Coale adds.
Although various Kennedys and Clintons have been guests onboard, Sophie is now rarely used to entertain. Mostly the couple spends quiet summer weekends away from the crowds that occasionally peek through the boat’s windows, just like they used to do with Sequoia. They do, however, get the occasional sideways glance from their cat Ozzie, who lives onboard full time and seems to wonder who these strange people are.
Ozzie, a gift from Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne, is just one of the many pets the couple has had. There’s Charlotte the German Shepherd, Fat Jim the 29-pound cat, and Jim’s mother, Alice.
And then there’s Sophie, Van Susteren’s dearly departed springer spaniel, after whom S.S. Sophie is named. Although Coale likes to say the S.S. stands for “Stubborn Springer,” mostly to get a rise out of his wife, the portrait of the lovely Sophie above the stairs in the saloon tells a different story altogether.
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.