New London scores a super yacht, for a week
New London's moribund waterfront has been the object of a lot of hand wringing by city officialdom this summer, with debate about how to fill all the empty slips and moorings.
In the end, the city dropped negotiations with a potential private operator of the waterfront who would have given the city a cut of any new revenue it could produce.
The city's Port Authority did, though, agree to drop the weekday fees for moorings, leaving the $35 daily charge in place only for the weekends. They also agreed to list the mooring field on boating sites and do some advertising.
The empty park, slips and mooring field, summer after summer, is just another example of the ways the city can't seem to help itself or market its considerable assets.
On most days, even weekends, you could shoot a water cannon across the mooring field and not hit a boat.
You need look no farther than Greenport, Long Island, to see how an old whaling port, not the most dynamic little city, nevertheless manages to attract a bustling boating community to its downtown, leveraging shops, bars and restaurants that are not necessarily any more appealing than New London's.
The dearth of boating visitors to New London was briefly shattered last week, though, in kind of a spectacular way, with the visit of a super yacht that would look at home in any world-class port.
Indeed, the gleaming 127-foot Mia Cara evidently arrived in New London from Newport, where it spent the spring after a winter sojourn in Spain. It left New London on Tuesday morning and by afternoon was off Martha's Vineyard, according to sites that track ships' radar.
I didn't succeed in tracking down any crew or passengers while the boat was in port.
City Dockmaster Barbara Neff said the captain told her the owners docked in New London because it was convenient for land trips to make college visits.
Presumably New London was better situated than Newport, maybe because of the train line?
Neff said the yacht, which paid $381 a night for dockage at City Pier, also did some sailing day trips the week it was here.
The Mia Cara probably doesn't turn many heads in Newport, but news of its visit here made it quickly around the region's waterfront grapevine.
I ran into someone at City Pier who had come to see it from Groton, because he could see the lights of its tall mast at night, towering over Union Station, from his house and wondered what kind of boat it could be.
I have never seen any private yacht quite like it randomly turn up in New London. It is probably worth more than any single house in the city. I found a listing for a similar boat, about the same age and size and built by the same shipyard in New Zealand, that is for sale for $8 million.
Mia Cara is not available on charter web sites, but old listings indicated it can accommodate up to eight guests in four staterooms, with a crew of six aboard. Similar boats generally charter for hundreds of thousands of dollars a week.
I suspect the visit by Mia Cara was a fluke and not the leading edge of a spike in interest in New London by the owners and captains of super yachts. But maybe they will talk up their visit along the docks in Newport, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Presumably they enjoyed it, since they stayed as long as they did.
Meanwhile, the city ought to revisit soon the idea of turning the waterfront over to a private operator. Even if the city didn't make a dime more, it could benefit enormously from some bustle at its piers.
Nothing could be worse than the status quo.
This is the opinion of David Collins.