Originally this story was supposed to be all about Peter Lehrer, a highly regarded New York City construction maven whose resume includes Big Apple skyscrapers, Euro Disneyland, infrastructure for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and restorations of the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, and Ellis Island. I'd been told Lehrer had recently purchased an Alden Yachts 53 Motor Yacht, a custom vessel with significant design contributions he'd made himself. This all seemed like an excellent premise for a profile: a great guy and his great boat.
Problems arose from the get-go, though. I'd envisioned the accompanying photography to be of Lehrer and his 53 in New York Harbor, backgrounded by the skyline he's left such an imprint upon. But logistical and security concerns put the sea boots to that idea. I'd also envisioned photography of Lehrer on the streets of New York, a sort of yachtsman about town. But scheduling conflicts put the sea boots to that stroke of genius as well. Eventually, as further complications intruded, ranging from bad weather to bureaucracy, it seemed like the universe itself was conspiring against a New York venue.
So I switched. Instead of Gotham as the backdrop, I went with Long Island Sound and the nifty little marina Lehrer's new 53 calls home. The decision turned out to be fortunate, as it brought Eileen, Lehrer's wife of 34 years, onto the scene. If I learned one thing from spending a day with this pair, it's that they're just that—a pair. The 53 is neither his nor hers. She's theirs.
The boat's story starts a couple of years ago with Peter and Eileen on the verge of an Italian vacation, with only one day prior to departure to decide whether to buy a 53. Peter had sea-trialed an Alden Yachts 56 in New England some weeks before, had been pleased with her three-stateroom, two-head layout and traditional-contemporary styling but was unable to get away for a second look because of business in New York. Eileen, on the other hand, had worked herself free of a regimen of graduate classes in child development at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and was ready to pay her first visit to Rhode Island-based Alden Yachts.
"So I asked Eileen to make the final decision," Peter grinned, as the three of us sped across Long Island Sound with the 53's twin Caterpillar C12s going great guns with autumnal scents in the air and the sun rising spectacularly dead ahead. "Peter said sign the contract and give 'em a check if I liked what I saw," Eileen laughed infectiously, casting an appreciative eye toward a rosy-hued island whooshing past. "And I did, of course. I loved the old-world craftsmanship, the straightforward way Alden Yachts does business, and the flexibility they offer in terms of customization."
Work commenced shortly. And just as shortly—almost as soon as the Italian vacation had ended, in fact—the couple got deeply involved in the design process, visiting Alden Yachts monthly and periodically firing off sketches and notes.
The Lehrers were in no way neophytes with impractical notions. Although the 53 was their first custom vessel, they'd owned several other boats together, from a 16-foot Century purchased second-hand at an auto-repair shop to a 44-foot Viking motoryacht that had sustained them and their children on weekends and vacations for almost 18 years. Moreover, they'd gone all sorts of places, cruising Long Island Sound, chartering in the Caribbean, and exploring the coastal waters of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
No exterior teak—that was the first suggestion they lobbed over Alden Yachts' transom. Although the company had never faced such a request before, a positive response came quickly. Traditional style lines inherent in varnished-teak fitments would be replicated either with King StarBoard (joined with the same elegance as teak) or polished stainless steel rails and caprails.
Anigre, an exotic golden-brown wood from Africa, was another biggie. Alden Yachts typically offers interiors in ash, teak, mahogany, or cherry, but Eileen wanted something more welcoming and vibrant, like the striking wood she'd encountered earlier in one of Peter's construction projects. Again, although Alden Yachts had never faced such a request before, a positive response came quickly. Anigre veneer was purchased from a Midwest supplier, shipped east for inspection, shipped to California for lamination onto marine ply, and finally shipped back to Alden Yachts for installation.
It's gorgeous. When I arrived at the stern of the 53 much earlier that day, in the predawn darkness favored by photographers, I had a chance to appraise the anigre interior from the dock by looking through the open companionway hatch into the saloon. With the lights on, the paneling and corner posts glowed with a gorgeous vitality. "See the grain?" Peter asked once he and his wife had welcomed me aboard. He ran his fingers over a cabinet fascia in the galley. "See how it gives the wood such life?"
Of course, I don't expect any of these little details and observations will really explain why Eileen and Peter own and enjoy their 53. The fact that the boat maneuvers dockside with the same fluency and grace she marshals underway is not likely to suffice, either. Styling preferences, customization successes, and spirited manners ring rather hollow, after all, at least when stacked up against a deep and abiding emotion.
No, to get a true picture of the relationship the Lehrers have with their boat and with each other, you have to look at the name on the transom: Second Love.
Says it all, I believe.
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This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.