It’s darn near impossible to combine Jimmy Buffett’s stomping grounds in the Florida Keys with an Irish pub frequented by Billy Joel and come up with anything other than an unusual, rock-star experience on the water. That’s exactly what the 65-foot Florida Bay Coaster Red Head is poised to provide as she returns to the charter industry for the first time in more than a decade.
She originally launched in 1988 as Key Largo, just the second of the Freighter Line built by the Florida Bay Coaster Co. and, ultimately, the largest Freighter that would be produced in partnership with naval architect Jay Benford. The boat chartered for a few years as Key Largo in Florida and Maine before being sold into private use along the East Coast, and that owner eventually sold her to Joel, who rechristened her Red Head. He made a number of modifications, among them lengthening the main salon, which he redecorated along with the adjacent, open galley into a proper Irish pub.
Joel sold Red Head to her current owner in 2004, and he too originally kept her for private use. He retained the name but otherwise made Red Head his own, including redecorating the pub into a guest area that now features a bar topped in metallic zinc slab, a brick-red Aga range and a matte-black propane fireplace that looks like a classic from a Nantucket cottage. The whole of the interior is now contemporary, with lots of whites, silvers and grays along with pops of color accents.
It was this surprisingly modern interior, along with Red Head‘s unusual exterior profile, that made her the talk of the docks at the 2011 Newport Charter Yacht Show. The last Florida Bay Coaster marketed for crewed charter was the 60-foot Irony, a good five years earlier, and_ Red Head_’s crew was preparing to bring the brand back to the market in style during autumn 2011.
“The owner now realizes that he will primarily be using the boat during the summer months in New England, with his family,” says Natalie Hannon, who runs the charter operation alongside her husband, Capt. Donald Hannon. “Our availability will be during fall in New England, and then during the school year in the Bahamas.”
The Hannons have a strong reputation in the charter business — as well as a predilection for working aboard character yachts, which Red Head most certainly is. Donald Hannon’s background includes more than 25 years of running boats from New England to the Bahamas, while Natalie has been boating since her childhood days with family in Fort Lauderdale. They most recently served as crew aboard the 77-foot Belle, a classic motoryacht built in 1929 by New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Co. and restored in the late 1990s, as well as aboard the 92-foot Innisfail, a late-1930s Mathis-Trumpy that was restored just a few years ago.
“Red Head is a different kind of special,” Natalie told me, “because people all say that when they come aboard, they don’t feel like they’re on a boat. They feel like they’re in a home, and a really nice home at that.”
The impression comes not only from Red Head‘s décor, but also from her design. Many of the guest areas have 6½ feet of headroom, creating interior volume that is impressive aboard a 65-footer. The two guest cabins are more like those in a house than on most boats, too. One has a king-size bed, the other a queen, with not a hint of upper-lower bunks or Pullman berths.
This makes Red Head ideal for charter by two couples, but Donald Hannon says there is extra space for children in the pilothouse, where the settee converts to a bed.
“If I were a kid, I’d be thrilled to sleep there,” he says. “The pilothouse is a really cool place on any boat.”
Red Head also has several features that will appeal to fun-seekers of all ages, including a drop-down swim platform, a hammock-filled forward deck and a private deck off the master cabin aft. The crew intend to have coffee and juice awaiting charter clients on that last deck, where mornings can be enjoyed in solitude with a gorgeous view.
“The owner wasn’t sure about charter at first,” Natalie Hannon says, “but now that the boat is so cool and dialed in with crew, he wants to use it and see it used.”
Red Head charters with four guests and two crew at a lowest weekly base rate of $15,000 plus expenses. Neptune Group Yachting, 954-524-7978; www.ngyi.com.