The people of High Tide Yacht Club
By J. V. Houlihan Jr.
The City of Newport on Aquidneck Island has been my stomping grounds since the mid 1960’s. I’ve never gotten tired of the place. The history of the town is always present, whether sailing my boat by Fort Adams or bike riding through the Fifth Ward on up to Bellevue Avenue. The town has an engaging and cultural appeal, and there is always something new to see if you pay attention. Take a hike around the city and you’ll what I mean. Better still, if you don’t feel like walking hop aboard one of the Pedi-cabs down on Bannister’s Wharf. (I just did this last summer and it was a blast!)
There are little hideouts in Newport: Handy Lunch, The Franklin Spa, and the place below the Canfield House, are favorites of mine if I want grub on the quiet. There’s a little beach at the end of Spring St. I ride my bike there in the fall, jump in the ocean, and then read a book―another hideout. The Redwood Library, the Viking Hotel Lobby and the Seaman’s Institute are also places of calm. In the summertime, calm can be good thing.
In life there are a few absolutes; however, in Newport the southwest wind is one of them. (The wealthy folks from New York and Philly built their summer cottages there because of the cool ocean breezes.) Newport is referred to as the “Sailing Capitol of the World,” and for a good reason. The reason being is what is known as the “Smokin’ Sou’wester,” which is a perfect wind for recreational and racing sailboats. Of course, some of us still remember those heady years of the America’s Cup races held off Bretton Reef. Furthermore, one can see vestiges of that period today as Twelve Meter yachts with names like Weatherly, American Eagle and Columbia are flying around the bay and harbor.
Another of life’s absolutes, is that the tide will come in, and then go back out―again and again and again. Recently, I found another hideout in the “City by the Sea.” It is nestled between Bannisters and Sayers Wharfs on Newport Harbor. This is the home―at high tide―of “The High Tide Yacht Club.” This unique little nook in the harbor is surrounded by the Black Pearl Tavern, The Clarke Cooke House and main headquarters of Oldport Marine. (The name informs the fact that very shallow draft boats only can dock there when it’s high tide—there is very thin water there at low tide.) Matt Gineo—the General Manager at Oldport is the Commodore of this very exclusive Yacht Club. As of this writing, Matt and his wife Cathy are racing in a Classic Yacht Regatta in Imperia Italy. Moreover, trying to track Matt down to talk was difficult as he is always on a boat sailing. “We’ll catch up, Joe!” he said several times this summer while passing me on my boat in Newport Harbor.
Oldport’s base is where you can take a launch out to your boat. The tour boat Amazing Grace, along with other work boats are docked there also. Additionally, Oldport Marine has launches that work out of New Harbor on Block Island, and Edgartown Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard. The Oldport crew, are the “go-to” guys for anything you need in Newport Harbor. There is not a question they can’t answer; they run a very tight operation. For example, “Diesel Mike” Leblanc has forgotten more about diesel engines than most people know, and the Oldport launch drivers remind me of our forklift drivers in Point Judith: focused, precise and vigilant—you need to trust me with the forklift analogy.
Commodore Matt Gineo, when not working at Oldport or holding court with his dog Lilly and Kathy at the High Tide Yacht Yacht Club, can be seen zipping around Newport Harbor in a variety of boats. Currently Matt owns: an Optimist Sailing Dinghy, a Laser, an International 420, a Matincus Island Peapod, a Saint Lawrence River Skiff, a No Man’s Land Boat, a 24 Ft. Pacific Seacraft Dana (the only boat with an engine) a Crosby Cat. 7 Windsurfers, 1 Stand-up Paddleboard, 2 Kayaks. I’ve seen Matt messin’ around in boats with his wife and daughters for over fifteen years. His daughters Sofia and Lauren started sailing when they were about 2 years Old. Lauren and her husband had their baby son Ben out in their Jarvis-Newman Lobster Boat when he was 5 days old. “Lauren is an all-out racer, the windier the better,” says Matt, “Sofia likes relaxing sunset sails on the bay.” How does the Commodore’s wife feel about her—obviously Type A—husband’s passion for sailing. “Kathy loves it too, but is more of fair weather sailor,” says Matt. “I do all of the work on my boats myself except for my 2 cylinder inboard Yanmar in my Dana 24, I leave that for Diesel Mike,” he says. Finally, while sitting in this little ahem, exclusive hideout— The High Tide Yacht Club— it is very safe to say that Matt Gineo is a competent Commodore.
Nota Bene: Matt Gineo when not bombing down mountains on his skis is currently building a treehouse up in Vermont. As stated earlier, Matt is a Type A guy.