Our first stop is at the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol. The 30-minute taxi ride from downtown Newport costs $60 or more, but a one-day public bus pass costs just $6. The museum's campus is located on the waterfront, and transient slips and moorings are available by calling 401-253-5000. We start our tour in the Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff room to get a historical perspective of the Herreshoff family and company. Next is the Hall of Boats exhibit with a dozen or so yachts of various sizes. There's enough eye candy here to stir reckless thoughts about buying and restoring another wooden boat, but my wife, who has a much better memory than I do, gently brings me back down to earth. All in all, there are seven main exhibit areas, so we spend a good part of the afternoon here.
It's hard to find a really bad restaurant in Newport, and over the years we've come to rely on two of our favorites: the Clarke Cooke House and the Bouchard Inn & Restaurant. But tonight we feel like getting out of our comfort zone, and we try Tallulah on Thames, recommended by a local. While casual and unpretentious, this is a place for special occasions. We choose its three-course, prix-fixe menu, and we take advantage of the wine pairing service.
Our fascination with restored classic yachts has been tweaked at the Herreshoff museum, and the next day after breakfast at the Franklin Spa, a casual breakfast and lunch joint (try its eggs Benedict with lobster), we stop by the Newport campus of the International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS) on Thames Street. Founded in 1993, the school offers courses in wooden-boat building, yacht restoration, marine systems and composites technology. The programs run from six to 20 months. After seeing the complexity of the numerous projects being worked on and the skill levels of the student body, we are more optimistic than ever about the future of American boatbuilding.
As part of the IYRS, the Museum of Yachting offers lectures and exhibits that celebrate the sport's history and tradition. It also maintains one of the most extensive marine libraries in the country, and it is open to the public. With more than 3,000 titles on yachting, sailing and boatbuilding, one could easily spend an entire day here, reigniting old dreams and vicariously living through the adventures of others.
Inspired by an art exhibit at the Museum of Yachting funded by Hunt Yachts, we stop by Onne van der Wal's photography gallery at Bannister's Wharf. Having worked with Onne during my days in the advertising business, I'm always struck by his creative eye and technical skill. His digital prints truly capture the essence of sailing and the beauty of the sea.
The Newport International Boat Show is about to begin, and we are eager to see what's new. The stagnant economy has not been kind to the boating industry, but the companies that have survived have done so by introducing innovative and exciting new designs. Best of all, we plan to roam the tents where we'll surely discover a piece of gear or an accessory that we absolutely must have before we head south.
The leaves are ready to change, so our next stop will be Baltimore, Maryland.