Oceans of Opportunity

a tribute to summers at the Newport Shipyard

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiI just wrapped up a week long project in Newport, Rhode Island – just one of several  locations that defines ‘Ocean State‘ exceedingly well. This week’s project was a continuation of demolition work I’ve been involved with there at the Newport Shipyard for several years, where we have been removing an old underwater railway system that was at one time used to haul large ferries, fishing boats, and small ships. The rail system technology is still in place in some places in the world, however the Newport Shipyard has since shifted its focus to the mega yachting community, and now uses travel lifts for yacht hauling. As I understand it, the Newport Shipyard is the premier mega yacht center in New England – and it would be hard to argue if you saw this place in action.

Somewhat ironically, I have never been out sailing, though have had the opportunity to come aboard several of the yachts at the Shipyard. It’s an entirely new world. A balance or ornate, eccentric, and mystifying construction and decor grace these gorgeous yachts. I visited Monaco last year – which is probably the global mega yacht capital – but the Newport Shipyard’s family friendly environment lets it all hit close to home. The raw energy that runs throughout that yard is truly amazing.

I suppose I have a somewhat special connection to the Newport Shipyard, as my commercial diving career more or less started there over a decade ago when it was named the American Shipyard. This railway system that we are slowly removing was rebuilt in the late ’90’s for continued use, which was where I got my first taste of hardhat diving – which I can honestly say I did not like one bit. 3000 hours later of course…

Anyway, once the Shipyard changed hands of ownership and the yachting community settled in, I spent hundreds of hours cleaning the bottoms of these yachts. Not only was it an education in yacht engineering, in being able to see various hull shapes, hardware and instrumentation, and interfacing with engineers to troubleshoot prop problems; but these were the years where I like to think I earned my ‘water wings’ and put in the real time – working – to get truly comfortable in the water. I owe a lot to that stretch of barnacle scraping, slime wiping good fun.

I can still be found down at the Shipyard ‘lurking’ about – underwater and topside. The waterline on down is probably the most important part of the boat – yet largely out of site conveniently enough – and other underwater items are critical to shipyard operations…ground lines, anchoring systems, rigging at the travel lift, and hey ‘lose your keys?’…

Ask for ‘Diver Mike’ there at the Shipyard, and I won’t be too far away.

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