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A sailor’s independence streak runs deep

From Buzzards Bay to blue water voyaging, skipper looks to make his mark in ‘water-centric’ development

Bay State native Alan Worden considers himself more of a competitive sailor these days — he favors hard-charging regattas over slow-lane cruises — which would be expected of a successful real estate investment banker who carved out his career in New York City.

Alan Worden has channeled his competitive spirit into regattas, and his philosophy of self-sustainability into real estate development.

But after years of deal-making, Worden shifted careers — “took a year off” — and he and his wife, Nicole, double-handed their way some 14,000 nautical miles from Nantucket, Mass., to New Zealand.

“It was a challenge: Could I get a boat halfway around the world with a wife that was new to sailing,” he says of the 1999-2000 voyage aboard Windwalker, a Lyman-Morse Sequin 46.

His meticulous preparation and self-reliance were critical factors.

“My sail to New Zealand was, obviously, a seminal event,” he says. “First of all, a project like that demands a huge amount of research and practice, a strong measure of faith in a world which is largely unknown, and — like life — a Plan B. If problems arise, what is the minimum I need to survive and continue on?”

An unreliable watermaker was the first system ripped out of the boat. They carried 120 gallons of water and about 15 gallons in emergency bottles in the galley.

Provisioning was fairly straightforward, Worden says. They bought local produce and seafood when possible and stocked the boat with a fair amount of canned food.

“You end up learning that you can happily exist living a sustainable life,” he says.

“Being off the grid,” led Worden, 43, on a different career path: from the canyons of Manhattan toward a New England island and a life dedicated to sustainable real estate development with an eye toward architectural preservation and authenticity.

Changing course

Worden developed his love of sailing on the waters of Mattapoisett, Mass., sailing Sailfish and Sunfish.

After majoring in architecture at Hobart College in New York, he earned a master’s degree in real estate from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. In 2004, Worden formed Scout Real Estate Capital with offices in Nantucket and Manhattan, and he has since turned his attention to becoming a developer of waterfront property.

Worden is working to make the Harbor View Hotel & Resort on Martha's Vineyard a water-centric resort and welcoming port for boaters.

Worden partnered in building The Westmoor Club on Nantucket, plans to open the Southampton Beach Resort in Bermuda in 2011 and is conserving 5,800 acres of former sugarcane property on the Big Island of Hawaii.

On Martha’s Vineyard, Scout purchased the Harbor View Hotel & Resort in December 2006. The Victorian-style shingled hotel on Edgartown Harbor opened in July 1891 and remains the grande dame of the island’s hotels, along with the nearby Kelley House.

After the purchase began a multiyear, $77 million renovation to reinvent the hotel as a first-class resort with a twist — suites among the nine renovated captain’s cottages are available for about a million dollars as whole-ownership units. The cost to the owner is offset by rentals fees when the owner is not on the island.

Boaters welcome

The ultimate goal, however, is to turn the hotel into a water-centric resort and welcoming port to cruising boaters.

That began with Stardust, the 31-foot 1966 Bunker & Ellis picnic yacht Worden had restored to become the resort’s signature boat.

The Harbor View Hotel & Resort next purchased Scout, a 31-foot Stamas center console powered by twin Yamaha 225-hp outboards, which Skipper Doug Heil uses to take guests anywhere on the island or the 45-minute ride southeast across Nantucket Sound to Nantucket.

The resort has eight slips plus four slips for transient boats on its 200 feet of dock space and a water depth of 9 feet. Guests can tie up for $6 per foot in-season.

Making headway

Even in a tough economy, Worden says the long-term development will continue, including renovating “every single room” at the nearby Kelley House, which dates back to 1742.

“Many travelers are looking for a ‘drive-to’ vacation versus a ‘fly-to’ vacation, so Edgartown should have a strong summer,” Worden says.

A personal side project to the hotels on the Vineyard is a “green” cottage Worden has built on Esther Island, a small wild island off the western tip of Nantucket. The house will be used as a Worden family hideaway as well as for entertaining clients. With no electricity or running water on the island, the home required self-sustaining electric, heating, cooling and plumbing systems powered by wind and solar power.

The project at Esther’s Island gives Worden a chance to revisit that self-

reliant lifestyle he enjoyed during his months under sail to New Zealand. “Since it is totally off the grid I often thought of the house as a boat,” he says. “Energy comes from solar, a vertical axis wind turbine, and a propane-driven generator.”

Boaters visiting the island — known to local cruisers for its infamous lack of slips and mooring and long waiting list — can call (508) 627-7000 to inquire about a slip. Dinghies are also welcome on the dock for boaters wishing to dine in either of the hotel’s restaurants.

See related article: Stardust's restoration

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the September 2009 issue.