Crossing oceans, redux

Thu, 12/17/2020 - 5:15pm

Newport Harbor has always been a place where boat people come and hang for the summer; however, once the weather turns and the thermometer drops, some yacht owners will move their boats to warmer climates. These owners must rely on yacht transport services, and have their own professional crews deliver their boats for them. Note the following examples.

The M/V Scheldegraght from Amsterdam was recently — 6,7, 8 December — in the outer anchorage of Newport Harbor. She is a general cargo ship with one of her cranes standing by to rig up the straps, and lift the classic yacht Atlantide onto her decks along with some other boats that were also standing by to load. This ninety-year old yacht has a storied history along with her sleek lines and classic aesthetic. She is a boat that must be handled with care; mistakes are not acceptable. (google the Atlantide for more intel) As I watched the crane operator from a close vantage point at the tip of Fort Adams, it was apparent that this was a very delicate lift for the guy at the controls. It’s all on him when the vessel is lifted out of the water. Once the Atlantide is over the deck of the ship, the loadmaster will guide her to her cribbing — blocks of wood — which will carry the load of the vessel. Once the vessel is in place the support hardware, jack stands, or cradle will be positioned to distribute the load of the yacht; it’s imperative that the vessel’s load lies heavily on her cribbing. Later, the stands will be welded to the deck of the ship and the vessel will be strapped securely to the ship’s freight deck. This process will continue until the loading diagram is filled with boats. There were two other large sailing vessels off Fort Adams flying Union Jacks, that were waiting to be hoisted onto the M/V Scheldegraght. I figured she was heading for the Mediterranean when she plucked her last awaiting yacht.

While the Dutch ship was getting ready to leave Newport, another yacht was being moved on a similar cargo ship down in Florida — both transport vessels are owned by the same company. “They lifted me with a crane and two Kevlar straps. The loadmaster had me at 68 gross ton. They made it look easy, from the water to the deck in 15 minutes. I never heard the crane creak and the cable never showed the stress of our load,” said Captain Mark Pagano. Pagano hails from Great Island and was a student of mine at Narragansett High School. Mark has been making his living on the ocean since I first met him in 1981. He is as professional as they come, and is a well-informed and very sharp ocean billfish tracker, tagger and fisherman. Captain Mark Pagano is a true hunter by nature. In a recent phone conversation with Mark, he was preparing for a flight to Costa Rica to connect with the Sport Fisherman he commands called Eight Eights. He schooled me as to how the math works getting this fully provisioned and rigged 72-foot boat to its destination. Mark broke down the logistics of the trip from Jupiter, Florida, and through the Panama Canal to Golfito, Costa Rica, on a ship exactly like the one I’d seen in Newport. Pagano talked about the: distance over ground, prevailing winds, fuel expense and consumption at a certain cruising speed, food expense, insurance, and wear and tear on the vessel and souls on board.

After crunching out the numbers, it became obvious that the trip to Golfito on the cargo ship was less of a cost-benefit-dilemma for the owner, and for the long game, much easier on his boat. Moreover, Pagano explained how he prepared the boat for its winter’s stay in Costa Rica. The amount of supplies that would be placed on board in a very specific manner speaks to the organizational skills this captain possesses. He has a tremendous responsibility to deliver this boat to her destination, before the owner, his wife and the boats other anglers even drop a hook into the ocean. Pagano is a man who knows his job well, which is weighted with authority, focus, and risk management.

In addition to having a yacht shipped on the aforementioned type of general cargo vessel, there is another yacht mover which also calls in Newport. Dockwise Yacht Transport is a completely different ballgame. Dockwise has ships designed for a float on, float off method of pick-up and delivery. In the past, I’ve drifted off the stern of this type of vessel in Narragansett Bay and watched the process. First, the ship’s Master does a controlled sinking of his ship, and thereby creates a floating boatyard. This semi-submersible ship allows different types of yachts to float into the ship and be secured to their diagrammed spaces. Secondly, the yachts are assisted by a team of divers who will guide the boat to its cribbing blocks, and then they will move the cradle hardware in to position. This is hard work on the divers and they use lots of air. Thirdly, once the ship’s loading diagram is full of boats, and the loadmaster gives the go ahead, the ship’s Master will blow his ballast tanks and the ship will rise. Finally, once the cradle hardware is welded to the deck, and the boats are strapped down and secured, only then will the ship weigh anchor, and begin crossing oceans with its expensive cargoes and their professional crews to be dispatched at their warmer destinations.