Home away from home on the water

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For Michael and Sharon Passano, who live in the Lakewood section of Warwick, going on vacation involves less than a five-mile drive to Greenwich Bay Marina on Warwick Cove.

They’re not alone. Boating is more than an opportunity to get out on the water, do some fishing and soak in some rays along with an occasion splash of salt water. Boating – more properly a boat on a dock, a mooring or at anchor in a cove after a day’s trip – is a home away from home.

A visit to Warwick Cove on Memorial Day found some boaters taking in the sun from their clean and polished craft while others still labored waxing and painting the bottoms of their boats. The season has gotten off to a slow start, but that didn’t diminish the upbeat mood at Wharf Marina or Greenwich Bay, where people shared stories and assisted one another – whether it was casting off or offloading gear from their cars. The summer was beckoning and the “vacationers” were already thinking of sunsets on the bay and renewing acquaintances.

There wasn’t time to waste, even on Memorial Day.

Tanned and looking like he’d just stepped from an exclusive clubhouse in the Caribbean in his shorts and pressed shirt, Peter Vassilopoulos, owner of Wharf Marina, tarried for only a moment before tending to the more pressing matter of customers with questions about launching their boats.

Vassilopoulos blamed the wind and rain of this spring for the slow start to the season. About half of Wharf’s slips were empty, while a good many boats were still on “the hard” in the yard.

Tim Palmer was one boater to get a jump on the season. He was sitting shirtless in a deck chair aboard his 1983 28-foot Bayliner Contessa Command. He was waiting for his sister Robin and her husband, Glen Rich.

“She’s usually late,” he said, which allowed time to explain what is painted on the stern of his boat: Darth Vader’s black helmet with the name “The Dock Side” beneath it.

“I always say I’m going back to the dark side,” he said of his recent decision to sell his sailboat and make the switch to the comforts of power.

Soon enough, Robin and Glen came down the dock and Tim powered up The Dock Side. Glen, who enjoys boating but doesn’t own one, confessed it is great to have a brother in-law with a boat.

Renee Leduc and his wife, Darlene, know what it is like to have company, too. Their 34-foor cruiser is named “No Vacancy.”

“But the name doesn’t work,” Renee said, observing that everybody gets on it even when there’s no room left. Next to and just across from No Vacancy are the powerboats of his children. Indeed, boating and the dock are a family affair for the Leducs. It’s no wonder they know everyone on the dock and probably just about everyone at Greenwich Bay Marina.

“I had my first boat when I was around 16 or 17 years old,” said Leduc, and throughout the years his children grew up and got their own boats. Now, Renee and Darlene have grandchildren. Speaking about his own powerboat and those of his children, Leduc said, “these are the best kind of boats. It’s like a beach house without the sand.” And this is the essence of spending summer at the docks. It’s a vacation right in your own backyard.

The names owners give to their prized possessions tell a lot about the boating vibe, which is one of humorous fun. “IDZervit” is the name of Richard and Theresa Welby’s 34-foot Sea Ray. The previous owner named the boat and the Welbys kept it. The man had just gone through a divorce and decided to buy a boat. And he thought “I deserve it” fit for his circumstance.

“So, we decided to just keep the name,” Theresa Welby said.

The couple spends half their year in Florida and the other half in Milford, Massachusetts, which is where they are from. Richard wants to sell the house in Milford and move onto the boat full time, but Theresa jokingly exclaimed that she isn’t quite ready for the move. She likes her gardening.

Though there were a good number of power and sailboats still out of the water at both marinas, both places were humming. After a long winter and chilly spring, people were cheerful and ready to renew acquaintances and share their stories with strangers.

The boaters seemed to know each other well and were always cheerful when people passed by or stopped to chat. Clearly, one goal seemed to occupy every boater’s mind – to get out onto the water as soon as possible so they could finally get summer kicked off.

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