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Rendezvous draws notable ‘visitors’

A “woodie” and the last Grand Banks 42 Heritage were in attendance at this year’s gathering

A “woodie” and the last Grand Banks 42 Heritage were in attendance at this year’s gathering

The annual Northeast Grand Banks Rendezvous drew 47 boats and 117 people to Essex Island Marina in Essex, Conn., from July 14 to 16. Local Grand Banks dealer Boatworks Yacht Sales hosted the event, with help from the independent North East Grand Banks Owners Association.

Activities included women’s on-water boat-handling lessons, seminars with industry professionals, flotilla participation, aerial photography of each boat, boat judging, and a lighthearted game called Grand Banks Survivor, patterned after the “Survivor” television show.

The rendezvous attracted many longtime attendees. Dick Arndt of Clinton, Conn., has come to the yearly get-togethers since a 1985 Grand Banks rendezvous in Mystic, Conn. — only missing one. He spent some time after lunch on the second day chatting with another veteran Grand Banks owner, Patricia Latte of Stamford, Conn., about what keeps them coming back to the rendezvous.

“The people,” says Latte, who is 66. “Seeing people I hadn’t seen in many years — and seeing the people you see all the time.”

The 62-year-old retired airline pilot cruises aboard Post Flight, a GB32, with his girlfriend Cheryl Croft.

Latte, who cruises with friends — and a couple of poodles — aboard a 32-footer called Sugar Bun, surely holds the rendezvous title for longest consecutive ownership of one boat. She bought Sugar Bun new in 1977 and has put 4,600 hours on its original engines — so far.

The oldest boat, and the only “woodie” at the rendezvous, was a 1972 Grand Banks 36 named Wild Goose. Bob Jones, 73 years old and a longtime sailor, lives in nearby Westbrook, Conn., but keeps his boat in Mystic. He has owned Wild Goose for just two years.

“They sure have pulled out all the stops,” Jones says of the event organizers.

Jones shared his take on the rendezvous attendees and Grand Banks owners in general.

“These boats seem to attract sailors with bad knees,” says the semi-retired architect, who searched long and hard for a wooden Grand Banks.

“I do all the cosmetic and carpentry work — none of the engine work,” says Jones. “I think when you work on your own boat you get to know it a lot better.

“The fiberglass guys are waxing them, and I think I can paint just as fast as they can wax. Plus, I’m a crusty old curmudgeon.”

On the other end of the spectrum, George and Cathy Williams of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., own one of the newest Grand Banks trawlers in attendance — and a notable one at that — as Paradis is also the last Grand Banks 42 Heritage.

George Williams says they were assigned Hull No. 1560 when they ordered it, as the successor to their Grand Banks 38 Eastbay HX, at a boat show in 2004. Over that winter, the company decided 1560 would be the last 42 ever built.

“I was concerned about resale, but because of the high cost of the new 44, I figured that would protect the resale value,” says Williams, who is 56. The new 44 Heritage was recently renamed the 47 Heritage. It has a planing hull and replaces the 42 in the Grand Banks lineup.

He says speed versus range was a big consideration in switching from an Eastbay to a semi-displacement trawler. They hardly notice the additional half-hour it takes to get from the Paradis’ homeport of Greenport, N.Y., to Block Island.

Letting the boat sit for even a week during the summertime is rare, says the couple, who cruise with their 16-year-old son, Ben. The teenager has his computer and guitar aboard, and when not cruising he races sailboats like his parents did. George Williams, who is in the corporate services industry, says most of what the family practices on board has come from their sailboat days.

“This is the closest you’re going to get to a sailboat,” says Williams. They will look into a 47 Eastbay for their next boat, and might consider a Grand Banks Aleutian series yacht when he retires, he says.

Although there were no Aleutians in attendance at the 2006 rendezvous, boats ranged from a handful of GB 32s to a 54 Eastbay.

Various seminars are offered at the Grand Banks rendezvous. Of those, Ely says the on-water piloting seminar for women gets 100-percent participation.

“We lose the men, and the women get a chance to handle big boats on their own,” says Ely, who serves as an instructor for the course, which offers training on single- and twin-engine boats.

Boatworks, which has locations in Point Pleasant, N.J., Rowayton, Conn., Essex, and Newport, R.I., alternates hosting duties each year with fellow Grand Banks dealer East Coast Yacht Sales, which has locations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.

NEGBOA is a non-profit social club, one of about five Grand Banks owners’ clubs throughout the country. It has about 70 members from New Jersey to Maine. ;