Southeastern Canada is definitely an off-the-beaten-course destination, one that bursts with harbors and history from the border of Maine up to Newfoundland and beyond. In other, more popular cruising destinations like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, you might cruise by in a sleek new motoryacht to enflame the envy of everyone ashore. But up in this part of the world, it is a boat's own story, not her flashy new styling, that brings the coveted "oohs" and "aahs" from onlookers as you tie off your lines.
What better place, then, to become one of the first people to charter the 60-foot motoryacht Fredrikstad, a renovated Norwegian rescue ship whose lineage dates back to a good quarter-century before this part—or any part—of the Americas even had gotten the idea of forming a Coast Guard.
The story of Fredrikstad begins well before the boat's own birthday in the mid-1960's, all the way back, in fact, to July 9, 1891. That's when the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue was founded with a simply stated goal of saving lives at sea. Donation-raising entrepreneurs wanted to help the Norwegian fishermen who were getting hurt or killed onboard their traditional 20-foot workboats while plying the Arctic waters between the Russian and Swedish borders. They raised enough cash to launch their first rescue boat—powered only by sails and oars—in 1893.
More efficient designs followed as marine technology improved. Each rescue ship was given the designation R.S. followed by a sequential number. Today they are up to about R.S. 140, with a new class of ships coming online as you read this.
Fredrikstad began life as R.S. 77, named in honor of the city of Fredrikstad, which is south of Oslo. During the boat's time in service—20 years, before being decommissioned in 1988—it helped to save 11 lives and performed more than 600 rescues.
With its life as an official hero over, the boat passed through several owners' hands in Scandinavia before being snapped up in 1996 by Peter de Savary, a British entrepreneur who made his fortune developing properties like the St. James's Club in Antigua and who led the British America's Cup challenge in 1983. "He transformed it in Penzance, on the south tip of England," Capt. Andrew Naylor told me during an exclusive interview onboard. "He's done a lot of boats like this, old tugs and such. He finds them and converts them into gentlemen's clubs, and then he sells them."
De Savary's client this time turned out to be an American couple who'd never owned a vessel of any kind, let alone one so rich in history. They spent about 45 minutes onboard Fredrikstad in New York Harbor before buying the boat on the spot in June 2000. For the next six years, they enjoyed exploring the Eastern Seaboard with family and friends, giving Freddie, as they came to call their little ship, a whole new life as a proper cruising boat.
Finally, late last year, the couple decided it was again time to put Freddie back on the public stage—only this time as a crewed yacht available for charter in those oh-so-interesting harbors of Southeastern Canada.
I could clearly envision the stir Freddie would create on the docks full of cruisers and commercial fishermen alike as I poked around the boat with Naylor. He's been at Freddie's helm since the new owners took over about seven years ago and has come to love the boat as fondly as most fathers love their sons. "You can't hardly call this boat a ‘she,'" Naylor says with a strong British accent. "It was King Frederik before it was the town. It's not a girl."
That characterization, I must say, fits Freddie in more ways than one. The boat's proud, navy-blue bow and stout, work-ready deckhouse belie the gentleman's-club atmosphere inside, where rich woods and brass fixtures complement plush, dark-red fabrics. If smoking were allowed onboard, this would be as fine a place as any yacht club for friends to chat over cigars.
Freddie can fit eight charter guests in sleeping quarters, but the galley's output ability and dining spaces are better suited for parties of six—which is the most the yacht will accept for charter. Naylor's Swedish fiance, Belle Rothfjell, serves as the boat's self-taught chef, providing attentive and friendly service that is perfect for a laid-back group of family members or friends.
"I'm a vegetarian, but I like cooking anything and everything," she explains. "I like Asian and Thai, sushi and curries. Traditional food is also fun, pastas and Italian food."
On deck, Freddie certainly lacks the sun-worshipping spaces more typical of new motoryachts with hot tubs. While you'll find lovely alfresco dining areas and comfortable seating for sightseeing underway, you won't find PWCs or sprawling sunpads, which, frankly, you probably wouldn't miss in New England and Canadian cruising waters anyway.
What you will find onboard, though, are clues to the boat's past that will be far more memorable for anyone who appreciates character boats and boating history. In Freddie's pilothouse, for instance, hangs one of the original collection plates that the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue members passed around to raise money to build this and other rescue boats. Nearby is the original radio on which volunteer skippers and mates coordinated rescues at sea. "Oh yes," Naylor says proudly. "It still works."
He's not joking, as the official uniform among this charter crew is embroidered with "Fredrikstad: Still Saving Life and Property." Naylor once used Freddie's water-pumping ability (and new VHF, of course) to keep flames at bay onboard a 50-foot sportfisherman until rescuers arrived on New York's Hudson River. In Bermuda he used Freddie's towing strength to save a small, sinking powerboat at a marina. In the Virgin Islands he helped a bareboater push off a shallow reef.
"We help do whatever we can do," Naylor explains. "We have a sturdy little boat with an emergency pump, and we end up in the right place at the right time to do it."
I surmise that an off-the-beaten course like Southeastern Canada will also be the right place and right time for Fredrikstad, though the only mission will be rescuing guests from the stresses of their workaday lives.
Thank goodness Freddie's not anywhere near ready for retirement yet. There are still a lot of us out there desperately in need of its new brand of help.
Fredrikstad takes six guests with three crew at a base rate of $18,500 per week plus expenses.
Editor's note: A new crew was poised to come aboard at presstime.
Newport Yacht Management
This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.