It is a pleasure to introduce Capt. Leonard Pucci as a member of the M&O consultant team.
I have known Lenny for many years, and worked with him on quite a number of projects. Besides providing our standard basket of services (particularly in the Rhode Island area, where he will be based), Lenny’s area of specialization is in large yachts. Lenny is a rare combination of a 3000 ton licensed Master, who has captained many large yachts, and a University of Michigan Naval Architect and Marine Engineering graduate.
Most recently he has been the project manager on a number of successful very large yacht projects in the US and abroad, and he will continue to provide those services in addition to working on other M&O projects.
Lenny and I first started working together on the 1987 Eagle America’s Cup campaign; but, as is well known, the only way to make a small fortune in yacht design is to start with a large fortune. Therefore, when the America’s Cup campaign was winding down, Lenny and I had to look for new ways to make a living.
I really wanted to stay in Newport at that time and basically reached for any opportunity to make a few bucks, which included making drawings of historical sites in Newport for sale in Newport art galleries and boat journalism. (In those days, journalism was actually more lucrative than yacht design; now they are equally unlucrative.)
I submitted stories to any place I could think of, and one story was accepted by the magazine “The Yacht.” This magazine is no longer in existence, but its by-line used to be “The International Magazine for Nautical Connoisseurs.” To me it made little difference what the magazine was; they paid me $200 or $300 for the story (not bad; more than $0.35 per word; the going rates are apparently worse today). I proudly gave the check to my wife, and pretty much forgot about it until Lenny called me a month or so later.
He happened to be at the 1988 Fort Lauderdale Boat show and at the “The Yacht” stand they gave him the latest issue. He flipped through the magazine, and his eye caught my story (copied below). Imagine opening a magazine, unsuspectedly reading a random story, and slowly realizing that you are actually a character in the story.
In the story I mention that Lenny is well connected. As his resume shows, in the next 30 years Lenny became even more well connected, and if you have large yacht problems, dropping a dime on Lenny is probably the best money you will ever spend.
The Yacht Magazine, October 1988
We launched the dinghy from the pier and rowed to my Pearson on water as smooth as glass. There wasn’t a breath of wind. It was cold, but absolutely clear, under a beautiful fall sky. Since sailing was out of the question, I opened the outboard well and looked down at the rusty heap that once was an outboard engine. I took hold of the pull starter and gave it a try. After a couple of attempts it dawned on me that it was hopeless. Lenny tried and skinned his knuckles; it takes practice to start the motor in the outboard well. Here we were on the last day of the season trying to haul the boat with no wind and no engine – one of the minor frustrations of owning a boat.
Fortunately, Lenny is very well connected, and knew of a powerboat we could use to move the boat. This meant, however, we would have to row back to the pier, drive to get the keys and then come back for the boat. While we stood there, I eyed the dinghy oars and started thinking about rowing the boat over. It was only a mile and there’s no current to speak of in Newport harbor. Lenny thought using tiny oars to row a 6,000-pound full-keel sailboat was a stupid idea. But, since real sailors have nothing against stupid ideas, we rigged the spinnaker winches as oarlocks and soon were started toward the Newport Yachting Center, dinghy in tow.
We faced backwards on a cockpit seat with our feet against the traveler and wished for 12-foot sweeps and real oarlocks. Although we looked distinctly uncool making more splash than speed, it was far from unpleasant once we tied the tiller down and out of our way. The sun shining on our faces was warm, and the harbor was beautiful.
Within minutes a marine engine service boat, followed by the harbor master, offered us tows. We turned them down, not knowing if they would charge us.
We arrived at the Newport Yacht Club and tied up. I went home feeling great about our little outing but determined to buy 12-foot sweeps.
The next spring my brother asked me what I wanted to do with the engine. I looked at it again and knew it was a lost cause. “Let’s junk it,” I said. Pim, never one to waste time, grabbed the engine by the tail, broke it loose from the mounts, and dumped it, propeller up, in the closest dumpster. I felt guilty; maybe I could have taken better care of it.
Without the weight on the stern and the drag of the propeller, the old Pearson felt like she could fly. Under sail we performed feats such as towing boats from my mooring to other moorings, sailing up to the travel-lift at Newport Offshore, and checking out the BOC racers tied up at Goat Island. When there was no wind, we swam; and when there was wind, we sailed. When we were sailing and the wind died, we wished for some 12-foot sweeps.
As I said before, Lenny is very well connected, and he soon located a 1975 six-horse Evinrude for an excellent price. I tried it out on the boat, then I took it home to service it, determined not to let it slip away like the old Chrysler. But it has been in my basement for almost a year now, and I just can’t bring myself to put it on the boat.
I’m sure I’ll use that sexy little Evinrude someday, but only on the 12-foot ultralight wood tender that’s starting to come together in my mind. And I’ve decided that when I build that tender, I’ll also make myself some 12-foot sweeps.
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