Mariners Impressed by City and Harbor Beauty, Amenities

New Bedford Reaches Out to Boating Elite — And Their ‘Deep Pockets’
NEW BEDFORD — There were swells in the harbor Thursday, all of them aboard the New Bedford Fast Ferry for a slow-speed survey of the waterfront and all that it offers the flotillas of the yacht clubs of the Northeast.
Some of them, such as Steve Taylor, Padanaram summer resident and secretary of the Cruising Club of America, were already intimately familiar with New Bedford Harbor. “I’ve had a mooring here since 1985, and at $125 I feel very well treated,” he said.
All four dozen or so recreational mariners who took up the city’s invitation to have a look around had some knowledge of the port. But the aim of Mayor Scott W. Lang and other city officials aboard for the tour was to get New Bedford included among the ports of call of the sailing and cruising elite.
The mayor’s sales pitch ran down a long list of amenities and improvements that have occurred both in and on the water in recent years along with attractions downtown, including 39 art galleries.
Former Mayor John K. Bullard, head of the Sea Education Association, was aboard along with his wife, Laurie, who entertained the group with an alphabet list of all the things the harbor has to offer the boat owner. Later, as an encore, she did it again, with all the things, A to Z, that the city offers ashore.
Access to the shore being of prime importance, the yachtsmen (and women) on the tour peppered Harbor Development Commission Director Kristin Decas with questions about such things as dinghy docks (a new one is nearly ready near Leonard’s Wharf, they were told, and more are on the way).
The nearly ready hotel development by LaFrance Hospitality held the spotlight as the first hotel downtown in 40 years, and easily accessible because when it opens a year from now, according to the plan, it will be within easy walking distance from the waterfront.
“We have $200 million in projects going forward” in the city, Lang said. His pitch included not only the recreational possibilities — including a crew course coming to the upper harbor — but also economic development, in the event one of the guests was so inclined.
Economic Development Director Matthew Morrissey ran down the list of agenda items for the city’s economy: renewable energy and clean technology companies, medical devices, biotech, marine science technology, and lastly the creative economy and tourism.
James Russell, president of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, at one point took the host’s microphone and used it to offer personal greetings and encouragement to those attending, many, if not most, of whom are familiar to him as past head of Newport’s Museum of Yachting.
Russell recalled that before he became head of the whaling museum, “a couple of years ago, I had my own red carpet experience” on a visit to New Bedford. And Lang offered to “set up an itinerary” for anyone who wanted one, which Thursday would have included “taking you to see Willie Nelson” at the Zeiterion Theatre.
But Russell, who enjoys a reputation as a first-rate fundraiser, cut to the chase when he observed to the gathering that “folks with boats also have deep pockets,” and they will be quite welcome in the city should they include it on their ports of call for their flotillas during the high season.
Steve Urbon is senior correspondent of The Standard-Times.
Contact Steve Urbon at
April 17, 2009
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