Two restaurateur brothers are the next caretakers of Coronet, discovers Grace Trofa
My brother, Miles, and I grew up on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. It’s a great lake for sailing and it is the base for the Southern Yacht Club, one of the oldest in America. We learned to sail at summer camp. We were about 11 when my brother paid $100 for an old Laser and rebuilt it with parts from West Marine. I was into white water and built my own kayak on our porch.
As we got older, we tinkered with bigger boats. We both ended up in New York for graduate school. My brother got a job as a captain of the 75ft [23m] schooner Shearwater, and we got this idea we should start a sailing school, then a sailboat charter business. We sold that and it still operates today out of Pier 25.
Then after I read Mark Kurlansky’s book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, we had this idea to start a dockside bar. In the 19th century the whole New York waterfront was surrounded by oyster barges. Years before, Miles had discovered the 142ft [43m] Sherman Zwicker (sistership of the famous Bluenose), a cod fishing schooner. We convinced her caretaker, Captain George McEvoy, to allow us to bring her to Pier 25 and operate her as a dockside oyster bar, to introduce her to a whole new generation. Ultimately, he donated the boat to us, which was incredible. That’s now Grand Banks.
Not long after, we came across the last remaining oyster barge built in 1830; we bought that for a dollar and are currently finding her a new home. Then we purchased and restored the 142ft [43m] Pilot, which was built to race the schooner Columbia in 1924. Like Grand Banks, she is now a dockside oyster bar operating at Brooklyn Bridge Park. We also purchased at auction an FDNY fireboat, the 105ft [32m] Governor Alfred E Smith, our first big steel boat, and we are talking about making it into a bar. We already have the perfect location in Brooklyn, adjacent to the original fireboat station.
Our latest restaurant, Holywater, is on shore because we needed a place in winter, but when you go inside it looks like you are on a boat. Miles and I are having a good time; we like messing around with boats.
And that brings us to our latest, most exciting, acquisition: the 132ft [40m] 1885-built Coronet. We have done a lot of work with Mystic Seaport Marine, so when the family of the late Bob McNeil reached out to locate a new owner to complete the project, the shipyard contacted us.
McNeil did an incredible job on the work completed so far. We spent a year convincing the family and the International Yacht Restoration School that we were the right people to continue this project. We orchestrated the largest crane on the East Coast to lift Coronet off the land. It was incredible to see her back in the water after almost 30 years. We are working on getting a group together to fund the estimated four-year project and plan to sail her across the Atlantic again, from New York to Cobh (formerly Queenstown), Ireland, and try to beat the original time of her first race, 14 days and 15 hours.
We’re thrilled and lucky to be pursuing our passion of restoring old boats and to be a part of their history. It’s incredible to be working with your brother, keeping your childhood interests alive.Read More/Coronet: America's oldest yacht continues extensive restoration