Sunday, March 23, 2014

A visit to the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI




This weekend I rented a car (Chevy Spark--tiny!) and drove an hour and a half south to visit my younger brother, Matt, who is a student at the International Yacht Restoration School, or IYRS, in Newport, Rhode Island. I've been looking forward to this visit for some time, but scheduling and weather thwarted earlier plans. Luckily this weekend worked out great for both of us. Bonus: great weather! I didn't even need my heavy woolen coat while walking around the town!

Matt showed up a bit late -- he'd been running a race in Connecticut early Saturday a.m., then shredded the tire on his truck driving back to Newport -- so by the time we got to the school, it had just locked up for the day. Bummer, because I really wanted to see the small boat he and his team were putting together (I did get a peek through the window). Luckily the building where IYRS's restoration of the Coronet was open, so I got an expert tour.

The first thing I mentioned to Matt was how much it looked like Noah's ark. I guess my powers of observation aren't that original because not five minutes later, someone else came into the building and exclaimed, "Oh, it looks just like Noah's ark!" It's truly impressive to see up close how carefully and lovingly this piece of American shipbuilding history is being restored. When the yacht first arrived at IYRS many years ago, it was in terrible shape and a lot of the original craftsmanship had either been pillaged or damaged. However, a few objects remained, like the tile stove, above, and they were tagged and set aside along the boat for further restoration. I have to admit, I liked looking at the pieces of furniture and utility objects the best.

I wish we could have gone into the workroom, where the anchor above was, but it was roped off and Matt wasn't willing to break rules to let me in, LOL.

The other half of my visit to Newport was to visit some of the pubs. Matt had told me a few of them poured excellent pints of Guinness, so I had to test that out for myself. When I think of Newport, I think high society and inherited wealth, not Irish pubs, but there are quite a few Celtic watering holes. I didn't take any pictures, and besides, but the end of the night, I'm not sure I could focus that well. The good news is that I ate pretty much all day--lobster, cupcakes, pasta, bread--that the alcohol didn't affect me too badly, plus I had Matt with me. He's like a Hoover vacuum and finishes up anything I can't cope with, drinks included. Although I enjoyed my two pints of Guinness, my favorite beer was Shipyard Old Thumper, an English Bitter brewed in Maine. We had it at Malt on Broadway, which also happened to be the favorite bar we visited that day. The Shipyard was that day's cask beer, and it was quite nice! I wish we had gotten some food there, but I was still full from the lobster and cupcakes.

I also had wanted to go to the White Horse Tavern, but it was full ... and I have to admit, when I walked in, I felt a spooky presence. It was so strong that I ended up waiting for Matt at the front door while he was using the loo; I decided to "hold it." When we were walking down the street afterwards, I mentioned it to Matt, and he said last time he was there with his girlfriend, she had asked about ghosts and the staff said there were ghostly happenings all the time at the Tavern. Spot on ghost-sensing, Di. ;) (Well, not much of a surprise -- a quick Google check shows that the Tavern is one of the mostly haunted places in Newport, and given that it has been serving for 350 years ...)

My least favorite pub was The Fastnet just because I was definitely the oldest person in there. I would have liked it 20 years ago, though! We also visited a tattoo parlor and looked at the artwork. Matt was semi-seriously trying to convince me to get inked again--I have an olive branch tattooed above my left ankle, a gift from him for my 40th birthday--so I mentioned to the artists that this was my 50th year and maybe it was time for another small one. I loved it when one of them exclaimed that no way was I going to be 50. Hee!

Matt is leaving IYRS at the end of May after finishing half the program. He was offered a firefighting job out in Oregon with the forest service, something he did last year and really enjoyed. It'll be sad seeing him go, but I'm looking forward to visiting him in Portland this fall. I've always wanted to drive across the U.S. and it looks like this may be my chance to finally get to those states I'd never visit singularly, like South Dakota, Montana, or Idaho. I'll probably rent cars to drive across, then fly back.

But back to Newport ... it was a lovely time and great to spend so many hours with my brother. We have such an easy camaraderie--serious talk interspersed with some hard-core ribbing--that always leaves me feeling relaxed. I've been feeling rather anxious and stressed lately, so a day of eating, drinking, and good conversation was just the ticket. :)


  1. I really enjoy seeing the craftsmanship in the small details on boats. It is great to see that there is a school teaching how to restore these treasures.

  2. Yes, I enjoy that, too. Perhaps it's because we sew/knit and can appreciate the care that goes into creating. :)

  3. What an interesting course of study (the boat restoration, not the haunted bars). :-)

    If you come out west this summer you should make a detour up to British Columbia. Or maybe we could have a meet-up in Washington if the timing works out.

    And what is it about the stress/anxiety thing right now? So many bloggers I read are suffering from it, and I'm sorry to say I am too. I hate worrying, but just can't seem to get on top of it. I'm sorry to hear it has you in its grasp, too.

  4. Kristie, I would love a meetup. :) We're planning a route through Minnesota/North Dakota/Montana/Idaho/Washington (Spokane), so BC is a possibility.

    As for the stress/anxiety, I'm sorry you're in its grip too. I'm hoping that once it warms up here on the East Coast, I can get back to biking and get rid of the stress; I really miss my physical activity.

  5. My mom lives in Spokane, so there's a chance we could meet up there, depending on the timing.

  6. I mentioned in my post that I'd be going out in the fall ... buuuut, now my son wants to go with me, so it looks like the summer, which is probably better for driving through the mountain passes. :) I'll keep you posted ... it would be so much fun to finally meet.


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