In the early '90s, he worried about boating jobs on Long Island. "First there was the luxury tax and then the recession. I wanted to keep talented people working. I wanted to get involved. I didn't want the boatbuilders to lay off people." He teamed up with Doug Zurn and Peter Needham at Coecles Harbor Marine and, in 1996, introduced the 38-foot Shelter Island Runabout. So far, 39 have been sold (base price: $356,800).
Then he wanted something bigger for himself. "There are two subplots here," he said. "Trying to revive a local builder, plus reviving a tradition of great commuter boats."
Why the name Vendetta? I asked. "Because living well is the best revenge," he laughed. "I live in a Gatsby-type house, now I have a Gatsby-type boat. I enjoy that lifestyle."
Vendetta was started at North End Composites in Maine, the hull built with SCRIMP technology, vinylester resin infused with a DuPont Kevlar hybrid cloth to keep the weight down. She has a slender (15-foot beam) modified-V hull with straight aft sections designed to smooth out the Long Island Sound chop. "I like to go about 45 mph," Billy says. "I don't care about the wind blowing in my hair. Hell, I don't have any hair left anyway," he laughs and takes off his tan captain's hat to show that he's speaking the truth.
Last fall Vendetta, with the hull and deck laid up, was moved down to Coecles for finishing, but Coecles suddenly had more orders for the Shelter Island Runabout. This spring Gene moved it to Derecktor's. Billy saw the boat there for the first time at the launch ceremony on a hot Sunday afternoon in July. The boat was on stands in the yard. "I love it," he said. Then he stepped back 20 yards or so, putting his fingers over his eyes to measure the view. He was bothered by the curves at the aft end of the eyebrow and the superstructure. "My eye doesn't know where to go," he said. "The curves don't match; they fight for your attention." He started to look for Doug Zurn, then broke out laughing. "On a boat, I never leave anything alone. I'm like a wife, always chipping away, always trying to make things better."
A few minutes later I ducked under the boat with Zurn. She has twin Power-Vent surface drives tucked under a torpedo stern. "These give you the effect of power ventilated surface drives, like Arnesons," he said. "But you don't have the machinery hanging off the end of the boat. And you end up with 6 percent more efficiency."
In truth, Vendetta is a beautiful yacht; the tumblehome alone is enough to set her apart from anything else on the water. The sweeping sheer; black Sterling paint; white cabin sides; teak accents on the cabin, toe rail, dorade boxes, mast and boom, plus the thin gold stripe along the top of the hull side, are simply elegant.
On the bridge deck, four STIDD chairs, two by two, offer plenty of commuting comfort; and there's another STIDD settee back by the mast. A Raymarine customized package includes the E-Series multifunction network displays. Below, the cabin is open; the only door is for the head, all the way forward in the bow. There's a beautiful teak dining table (with gold striping) to starboard, a small galley to port, and two settees forward. "Less is more," Gene commented. "People ask, 'How many beds are there?' Well, it's a commuter. How many beds are there on the Long Island Rail Road?"
On the first sea trials, with full fuel and water, the twin MAN 1,300 hp engines pushed Vendetta to an even 43 knots at 2370 rpm. "That's pretty good," said Zurn. "We'll tweak the props and get a little more." The seas were flat that evening, but at high-speed turns the boat was solid as could be; the ride was soft, comforting.
As we left Oyster Bay on that warm summer night, a green light was blinking on a can in the harbor. Remembering Billy Joel's comment about living like Gatsby, I flashed back to F. Scott Fitzgerald, to East Egg and West Egg, to Jay and Daisy. Vendetta picked up speed and I looked at Gene. We both broke out into big grins.
Contact: Zurn Yacht Design, (781) 639-0678; Info@zurnyachts.com.