Boston Magazine | New England Travel & Life
Wind Jamming

New England's waterways are brimming with sailing adventures and kayaking trips.

By Sarah Adams
Photographs by Madeline Polss

The word "cruising" usually conjures images of buffets, live entertainment and shuffleboard. But on the coast of New England, the word has a different meaning altogether.

SEASCOPE YACHT CHARTERS When most people think sailboat racing, the America's Cup comes to mind-and for good reason; this international matchrace contest began between the United States and England in 1851, and is the most highly respected round-the-buoys series in the world.

The 12-meterclass of sailboats, lean, graceful yachts whose beauty was matched only by their expense, vied for the trophy until 1992, when Cup racers officially began using even leaner vessels called International America's Cup Class IACC) boats. The 12-meters have certainly not been forgotten, though, immortalized as they are in the well-known Rosenfeld Collection of black-and-white photographs. And they reenact their racing schedule nearly every day in the spring, summer and fall in the deft hands of the staff at Seascopee Yacht Charters in Newport. This town is a fitting venue for Seascope's fleet of three 12-meters; Newport Harbor first hosted the America's Cup in 1930 (and also in 1983, the year the United States lost the Cup for the first time) and is home to the New York Yacht Club, Dennis Conner's former financial backer.

Long the exclusive privilege of blueblazered millionaires, America's Cup racing is now surprisingly accessible to the masses. An afternoon of racing aboard Gleam, Northern Light or Onawa, which all once campaigned for the America's Cup, costs $1,800 for up to 14 people (varies by boat) and includes snacks, soft drinks, and all the tacks and jibes you want. For avid yachtsmen and novices alike, it's an unforgettable experience. "You can see it in their faces," says crewman Nate Oberg. He and the other mates polish A the original brass before the guests board, an important part of maintaining these floating museums. A tour of Gleam belowdeckss reveals the original mahogany brightwork (wood), four-burner stove and clock that equipped the yacht when she was built in 1937 -- reminders of the 12-meter class rules, which required that the boats be reasonably comfortable. (Today's IACC yachts have been called the boating equivalents of Formula 1 race cars.)

After all the guests are aboard, Capt. Bob Tiedemann, owner of Seascope, assigns duties to the guests, who have now become crew. Some prefer to sit forward of the cockpit and grind in the jib sheets whenever the boat tacks or jibes. Others are content to sit in the cushy cockpit, trimming the mainsheet. Wherever they end up, though, these guests are sure to feel the intensity that sailboat racing can invoke.

This is a far cry from the common conception of yachting-lounging around in a deck chair with a cocktail and stogie in hand. Everyone here has a job to do.

THE DETAILS Seascope Yacht Charters, 103 Ruggles Ave., Newport, 401-847-5007 Four hours aboard one of Seascope's three 12-Meter yachts costs $1,850. Eight hours costs $2,450.

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