Sometimes the right boat just speaks to you.
In 2001, Dick Franyo’s exit from the rigors of top-level investment banking was well-planned, and nearly complete. His 30-year career had taken him from Harvard Business School to Baltimore’s Alex Brown & Sons and on to the doorstep of the World Trade Center and a managing director’s position at Deutsche Bank in the Banker’s Trust Building in Manhattan. At that point, he had announced his retirement but was still compulsively working on business development while building his next endeavor, Eastport’s now landmark social center, the Boatyard Bar & Grill. Wall Street doesn’t release its star performers easily.
On the wall over his desk hung a grainy black-and-white photo portrait of the mighty J-Boat Shamrock, fully-strapped with her port rail under, taken from a low angle inside the leeward quarter-wave as she sailed seaward toward the Newport, Rhode Island bridge. The print came from any one of the many Newport art and collectable shops. The photographer is unknown, but it had the high-contrast, burned-in Kodak Tri-X look of a Stanley Rosenfeld classic. But it wasn’t. It was the first thing he would see when he entered his office, a touchstone to the future and his plans for adventure and escape.
He was in Baltimore on the morning of September 11, 2001, fulfilling his role on the Pride of Baltimore II board, doing what he has always done, making a pitch for funding, when the meeting was interrupted with news that a plane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. They adjourned to follow the unfolding disaster. Franyo would never again see his office or that photo-portrait, so carefully framed and hung in that spot. What remained of the building and all it contained was eventually torn down and hauled away without access to the destruction and carnage out of respect for those who were lost in the rubble.
“I had not seen a copy of that photo anywhere,” says Franyo. “I wanted to replace it, but couldn’t find another one or a source.” Like so much and so many that fell that day, it was just gone.
The dream to roam grew even as he succeeded spectacularly in his ambition to create a community meeting place centered around a common love of the Chesapeake, great food, sailing, fishing, environmental awareness, generosity and tall drinks. The plan to sail away with the same conviction as Shamrock continued to burn. He would just need time and the right boat.
Fifteen years later, Franyo and his spirited wife, Georgie, eventually let the folks around the Maritime Republic of Eastport know that they were looking for a manageable, yet substantial, and above all, lovely powerboat to cruise. Soon, they were looking at a variety of available boats, but nothing was clicking. Franyo recalls, “We were hoping to find a boat that felt right. Georgie is spiritual in a way that she feel things. She will walk by a place and sense if it’s good or creepy just by something in the air. I’ve learned to trust that.”
Then, Eastport’s most venerable yacht broker and Boatyard Bar & Grill patron Al Gundry found something worth checking out, a 1994, 48-foot C. Raymond Hunt & Associates-designed cruiser built at the head of the Choptank River in Denton, Md., by local craftsmen under the direction of renowned perfectionist Ed Dettling. Dettling built his boats to exacting standards on a limited custom order basis from 48- to 71-feet, from 1991 until the recession. It’s hard to find one on the market. This one had landed in an estate disposition, and it would not be on the market very long. She was docked in Annapolis.
“We were willing to take whatever time it would take,” says Franyo. “Sometimes a house, a place and especially a boat will just talk to you. We were waiting for that to happen.”
They met Gundry on the boat in Weems Creek and stepped aboard. Looking her over from the walk down, she showed an “old-school look,” according to Franyo. “I liked it.” On deck, she needed a scrub and varnish work, but nothing seemed too bad or particularly special either. They opened her up and went below. The interior seemed a little out of date, but otherwise in good shape. Franyo looked around the bridgedeck and saw the electronics could be updated without too much trouble. Not a big deal to upgrade, but still. . . .
They crawled around the boat, fore and aft, up and down, and settled for a moment in the main saloon. Georgie said, “There are a few things I’m not really sure about, but this boat is speaking to me. There’s something special about it.” Franyo then pointed to a framed image on the teak bulkhead. “No, is that it?” Georgie said. Franyo nodded, “Exactly.” It was the very shot of Shamrock beating eastward from Narragansett Bay. “That’s it. We’re taking her,” she said.
Gundry quickly worked through the details with the attorney for the estate while Franyo lined up the roster of professionals who would make her ready to go. On the advice of Dettling 51 owner Hank Libby, the top of the list would have to be Dave Inglehart, who was the production manager at Dettling, now working at Mathews Brothers Boats in Denton. The boat was taken to Knapps Narrows Marina where Inglehart and the Mathews crew could haul her, install a bow thruster, new heads, chocks for a proper dinghy and coats of varnish all around. With that work done, she motored to the Eastport Yacht Center where a beehive of support artisans waited to upgrade, polish, rework and commission her. Jeff Leitch and his Bay Shore Marine crew assessed and refurbished the twin Cummins 450 diesel engines. Patrick Tewes at Marine Electric Systems put together and installed new navigation, entertainment and communications packages. Holly Vrotsos of Yacht Interiors planned and executed the all-important interior design and fixture improvements. Sean Lawlor at the Cover Loft handled the canvas work. Tommy Gontkoff of Williams Yacht Management orchestrated the essential cleaning, scrubbing and polishing details while the boat spent time getting final touches at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard under the watchful eyes of Rod and Roddy Jabin. Charlie Ebersberger of Anglers Sport Center and Keith Frazier of AllTackle pitched in to select and provide the appropriate fishing gear for the southern coast and the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, the Franyos put together the shakedown itinerary. With the brisk bite of February on the upper Chesapeake, they would leave Annapolis at 7:00 a.m. for a straight shot to Hampton Roads. Then, with fresh fuel and provisions, it would be on to Charleston, and then Stuart, Florida before a hop across the Gulf Stream to Hopetown, Abaco, where the boat would be a home away until May. For the Franyos, a big part of the dream includes great fishing and seafood, and red wine. In May they would make a casual but brief return to Annapolis for business and to host the great Bands in the Sand concert at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation beach before leaving to cruise New England landmarks—Newport, Nantucket, Block Island, Edgartown and so on.
“Georgie convinced me that if we were going to do it, we should really go now,” Franyo says. “This boat just spoke to us, and then there was the print, which sealed it.”
Somewhere along the way, well-known graphic artist Renny Johnson from Claiborne, Md., fetched-up with the refit process to change her name in bright gold to Georgina in acknowledgment of how Georgie felt about the boa t. “After all,” says Franyo, “the spirits called to her.”
If you’re sharp, you might catch a glimpse of Georgina on the Bay on her way to achieving the dream.