Jenn Thornton 2015-09-01 03:28:43
Montage properties on opposite shores are making waves with historic and culturally significant watercraft. Montage Magazine presents a tale of two boats.. From grand passenger liners to wooden pleasure craft, history celebrates a long romance with boating culture. These yachts, canoes and catamarans are more than a means of transportation, however; boats have been floating indications of place, people and culture since prehistoric times. Today, South Carolina’s The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort, and Maui’s Montage Kapalua Bay continue to embrace the nautical pieces that each property has inherited—a century-old motoring yacht and an oceangoing canoe, respectively, are in the full throes of restoration. Both watercrafts are portholes into the past with absorbing true narratives that Montage has remained dedicated to preserving for years to come. Amazing Grace A wooden yacht glides across the May River with passengers sipping mimosas or looking out for bottlenose dolphins. This leisurely watercraft is Grace, and though it may not look like it, the boat stores a century of stories in its hull. Originally built for illustrious lawyer Joseph B. cousins by New York Yacht, Launch & Engine Co. In 1913, the vessel was first christened Sispud II and had magnificent bones—at 60 feet long and 12 feet wide, it was elegantly outfitted in rich mahogany with a primitive four-cylinder 20th-century motor. The arrival of Sispud II, which boasted, among other quarters, an owner’s stateroom, dining salon and crew confines, coincided with both progress (Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly also rolled out the same year) and aftershock (a world still reeling from the Titanic’s sinking in 1912). Still more cataclysm lie ahead with the start of the Great War in 1914, which forced the excellent American ship to find its sea legs in a promising yet shaky age—when fascination for industrial innovation collided with uncertainty for what that innovation would bring. Cousins was Sispud II’s first steward, and many would follow. In this storied line of ownership, impresario James Adams, of the James Adams Floating Theatre, was arguably the boat’s most colorful keeper. As his live-aboard boat, Sispud II left a true spectacle in its wake, towing the owner’s bold theatrical experiment—a rollicking mishmash of Broadway plays, musicals and vaudeville sideshows—to coastal enclaves throughout the South. Sispud II garnered her own group of fans, however, with the likes of writer Edna Ferber as passengers. The boat left such an impression on Ferber that she translated her experience onboard to her novel “Show Boat,” the basis for Oscar Hammerstein II’s Broadway juggernaut of the same name. While en route to Savannah for rebuilding in 1941, the mobile venue had its final curtain call, burning down to the waterline. Sispud II was consistently maintained until the late 1970s, until being abandoned to a Maryland boatyard by the 1980s. In 1990, Earl McMillen of McMillen Yachts discovered and resuscitated the vessel, marking something of a revival for the old boat. With McMillen spearheading the effort, a group of antique yacht enthusiasts relocated Sispud II to Fairhaven, Mass. There, it was completely disassembled, installed with air conditioning, plus new plumbing, electrical and planking. The eightmonth passion project also involved the reframing and refabricating of hatches, handrails and more. Original facets of the ship’s interior, meanwhile, were kept intact. Sispud II took on the new name Zapala—and on it sailed. After almost 15 years, the watercraft changed hands yet again. This time it was the charming Southern resort, Palmetto Bluff, which proved to be a fitting owner for the storied yacht. The boat again underwent profound improvements and was christened for the third time, taking the name Grace after society darling and sister of New York blueblood R.T. Wilson, who purchased Palmetto Bluff in 1902. Currently, Moores Marine is overseeing another set of restoration efforts, all in compliance with current Coast Guard regulations. As an ongoing work in progress, Grace is, well, aging gracefully. “We kind of look at it as the Sistine Chapel— the restoration really never ends,” says Capt. Chris Story, manager of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing, where Grace has a berth. “It’s just a continuation of making sure she’s able to do what she needs to do.” Many of the current upgrades are occurring in the hull of the ship, where timber, for example, has been at the mercy of a saltwater environment. The integrity of Grace’s original character remains unmarred, with many of her features authentic. “A lot of folks might be expecting a completely different-looking boat when she comes back to us,” Story says of the efforts. “When Grace returns, she’s going to look … the exact same as when she left— and that’s a good thing; that’s the allure of it.” Today, Grace accommodates up to 28 passengers, which include a captain, shipmate, bartender and server.In addition to her many pleasure cruises, the yacht functions as a venue to entertain weddings, family gatherings and corporate groups. There is always a story in the making on deck. As only one of five existing motoring yachts built prior to WWI still in commercial operation today, Grace’s narrative is as compelling as the ship itself. It’s one that its three captains—Herb Rennard, Ed Johnson and Trey Snow—are accustomed to regaling, whether while hosting guests on a wine cruise or those on the lookout for local wildlife. “Her backstory makes the subject more interesting,” Johnson explains. “One thing that we try to fit in is that the boat was built in 1913, the same era of the Wilson family who lived on Palmetto Bluff at that time.” In this way, Grace functions as a kind of symbol for Palmetto Bluff itself, which is equally rich in history, spanning the discovery of the Americas on through to the Revolutionary War into present day. “You can’t help but feel like you’re a part of the boat,” Johnson adds. “She’s an important piece of Americana.” Even though Grace is a time capsule of sorts— a “keeper of history,” as Story says—the boat won’t necessarily be sailing off into the sunset any time soon. It was, after all, built to last at least another century, according to the seasoned mariners charged with the boat’s maintenance. Story adds, “We want to make sure that we’re good caretakers of Grace, to play our part in her history so that generations down the road enjoy her as much as we do.” It Takes a Village An ocean away, at Montage Kapaula Bay, a profound collaboration in service of both people and place is underway. Here, a symbol of one of the Pacific Islands’ greatest achievements—the oceangoing canoe—is being restored on a culturally significant scale rarely seen in the luxury hospitality arena. Retrieved from storage in 2014, Tafa’anga was first built in 2003 by master carvers from the Kingdom of Tonga. The now-closed Kapalua Bay Hotel and Ocean Villas sponsored the craftsmen to take part in the International Festival of Canoes, an event that was dedicated to preserving indigenous cultures by focusing on canoemaking. As is custom, the master carvers built an oceangoing canoe from one large piece of wood in two weeks—a remarkable time frame given the nature of such a meticulous undertaking. The canoe’s name, Tafa’anga, takes on special meaning in the Pacific Islands’ history, and Tonga in particular. It translates to “beauty of the shark”—according to Silla Kaina, Montage Kapalua Bay’s cultural ambassador, Tongan warrior canoes are carved in shark-like silhouettes. Honoring this, the front of the canoe is shaped as the nose of the shark, and its end takes the shape of the tail. Tafa’anga is therefore classified as a warrior canoe that “men would use to go out not to voyage, but to seek protection [for the] different islands in Tonga,” Kaina explains. The canoe’s carvings, meanwhile, are equally as important as its name. These tell the “story of our place,” says Kaina, referencing a depiction of a mother whale and her calf breeching on the side of the canoe—an intricacy inspired by the very same scene a Tafa’anga master carver witnessed while walking the property. Another of the renderings is a butterfly adorned with the image of a pineapple; the fruit is a metaphor for growth of the resort property, which has roots as a pineapple plantation. Also on the canoe, the vine of an ipu plant (or squash plant) symbolizes hotel management, while a gourd does the same for all departments coming together as one. In keeping with the Pacific Islands’ tradition, Tafa’anga is a canoe with many restorers. Since restoration efforts began in 2014, a number of Montage Kapalua Bay staff and resort associates have been involved with the process, one that will, among other endeavors, see the canoe’s carvings cleaned and a stain applied before the boat is eventually displayed prominently at the resort. As intended, the canoe will surely spark conversation between guests and staff; many of the latter will have had a direct hand in its restoration. There is no timeline, however; efforts are ongoing, explains Kirsten Robinson, sales and marketing coordinator at Montage Kapalua Bay. “The goal is to restore the canoe using traditional methods, so we’re not going to the hardware store and buying plywood,” she says. “We are actually using the correct indigenous wood to replace parts of the canoe that were damaged.” This is particularly relevant to Pacific Islanders, as the canoe in some ways symbolizes an extension of life, Kaina says. The canoe building process, she shares, involves builders who will watch a tree grow as much as 20 to 50 years; they then will drag the log down to the ocean site to carve. “It can be 5 miles,” she explains. “It can be 50 miles; it can be 100 miles. “It takes a whole village; everybody gets into it,” the ambassador adds. “Everyone helps out. … Each of us that had a part of this canoe can share [that experience].” This unique idea has been applied to the restoration of the Tafa’anga. “When we can take something significant and powerful, from the land, from the culture, and work it [into a resort setting] … it is very rare,” Kania concludes. “As we merge all these different departments, we’re all journeying to one perspective. It’s a sense of what we live for.”
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