Yachts for tots

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Staff photos by Emmy Errante 

 Guests relax on the docks at MarineMax at YachtVenture 2013 to benefit the Children’s Museum of Wilmington on Saturday, Oct. 19.

With more than 350 attendees and about $60,000 in revenue, the Children’s Museum of Wilmington’s third annual YachtVenture fundraiser was bigger than ever.

The dockside event, held at MarineMax on Saturday, Oct. 19, gave partygoers a chance to tour 14 private yachts, costing up to $25 million and ranging from Easy Peace, a 31-foot Bertram up to the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s 65’ research vessel, the R/V Cape Fear.

The fundraiser benefited the Children’s Museum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a hands-on, interactive learning experience for children 10 years and younger. Logan White, the museum’s director of development and marketing, said on Oct. 22 the event is a way for the museum to continue to cover operating costs during its slower times, usually from mid-September through October.

“It was a brain child of some board members and former board members,” White said. “They were trying to think of a really unique event to Wilmington, and the thinking was, ‘we have this beautiful ocean and all these supporters with these beautiful boats,’ so it turned into this unique event that people will remember and is very special to Wilmington.”

Against the bluegrass backdrop of Wrightsville Beach’s L-Shape Lot, guests mingled over free drinks and a spread, which included cheese and crackers, oyster shots and other hors d’oeuvres as well as a dinner spread featuring prime rib and club sandwiches, fried chicken and side dishes. Down at the dock, yacht owners and their employees were on hand to show off their vessels, which covered a range of styles and uses.

Dr. Ken White, a local surgeon, grinned as he indulged his audience in the newly remodeled Future Self V, which he acquired in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., eight weeks prior.

“We stumbled on it in Fort Lauderdale, and it was a no-brainer,” White said. “You find an obsessive-compulsive engineer; that’s just what you hope and pray to find someone like that. He just babied it and loved every minute of fiddling with it.”

The $2.5 million 58-foot yacht cost White $450,000. Since purchasing the craft he has updated the interior living space and added new light fixtures.

He was more than happy to acquire the yacht in time for the event, which he called one of the “premier fundraisers.”

“I do a lot of fundraisers, just about all of the big ones,” White said. “We have a chef, Anne Fields, who cooks for the guests on the cruises, which we auction off.”

Giving guests tours of a different type of boat, David Wells, an electrical technician and captain of the R/V Cape Fear, was on hand to discuss some of the university’s marine research vessel uses. While the 70-foot, 77-ton ship is used for a range of research-related work, the university uses it for an educational camp in the summer, called “Marine Quest,” to help pay the immense overhead, which can reach into the tens of thousands per trip.

“It’s a great way to introduce kids to marine science, how boats work and things like water quality,” Wells said. “Often it’s also their first time on a research vessel, which for younger kids is really rare.”

The vessel was equipped with a range of high-tech equipment, including a $55,000 SONAR side-scanner capable of producing high-definition bathymetry images of the ocean floor. Wells said the newer models produce such detailed images that police can use them to find handguns tossed into the ocean.

Other highlights included Tom Baldwin’s 42-foot 1968 Hatteras Sport Fisherman, the Lorelei. He acquired the boat in a state of disrepair, he said, and fully remodeling the interior with new teak, redoing the exterior and enlisting the help of a high-profile expert allowed him to restore it. He worked with Tom Slane, son of the founder of Hatteras Yachts.

“He had all the old molds for the new bridges, bigger bridges and other molds he had brought when Hatteras moved down from High Point to New Bern,” he said.

He added the yacht was one of the first examples of a fiberglass construction, joking that his father denounces it as a “plastic boat.”

Back under the event tent, Rick Lawson, the museum’s executive director, congratulated staff and board members on their work bringing the event together, calling it a huge success.

“We do a golf tournament in the spring, but this is the major one,” Lawson said. “Admission is $8, but it costs us $12 per child, so we need to make that up. … And with the economy the way it is, we certainly don’t want to be charging more because families need that sanctuary where children can play and feel good about learning.”

He added that during the government shutdown, the nonprofit provided federal employees’ families free admission.

Regarding the totals for the event, Logan White said afterwards that it was the largest crowd the organization had hosted in the event’s three years.

“We felt like it was a really successful fundraiser and were excited that so many people wanted to be there and support us,” White said.

She estimated the event grossed $60,000, with about $40,000 in profits, adding that the total does not take into account the in-kind donations from supporters such as MarineMax and Film Works, which provided the venue and stage lighting, respectively.

White added that additional yacht owners have already contacted the museum about wanting to include their boats at next year’s event.

“We can’t have more than 15 boats on that dock, so we may have to come up with a method for picking which yachts to feature,” White said about the 2014 event. “… That’s a good problem to have.”


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