Cove Princess and a Cove prince

brown-160801Capt. Bob Brown
Ultimately, this is a story about a boat. But it has to start as a story about our marina – Cove Marina, in Salisbury, Mass. For 19 of our 20 years of boating, we have begun our journeys from Cove Marina and, more or less, have ended each voyage back there, too.

Brian Mullen bought the marina in 1995. Prior to this purchase, the clientele at Cove was made up mostly of go-fast boats and late-night, loud, wild parties, which made for some memorable stories on the docks, but which also made for some serious interest on his part in … well … changing the clientele.

One of his first actions as a new business owner was to change the marina sign to: COVE MARINA,  A FAMILY MARINA. During the two years before our arrival at Cove, he had made the changes necessary to begin recognizing his vision of a “family marina.” There were more families, more building of friendships, and more boating fun.

Yes, some outrageous dock antics, parties, and barely acceptable activities remained. A and B docks became noted for large boats, their owners and their families. They were considered – and considered themselves – “standoffish” from the C- and D-docks’ owners of smaller boats – cruisers and small fishing boats. This latter group was still prone to partying, so when my mate and I appeared on the scene, we, of course, headed for C dock.

During our 18 years at Cove, we have seen Brian – sometimes quietly, sometimes not so quietly – change his marina to what we all now recognize as a true family marina. There is no longer a disparity between the docks. It is a place where everyone gathers and interacts socially; where we all stay at night and meet at night to socialize; where many children (and now grandchildren) participate in boating activities and social events; where the docks are seldom devoid of boaters coming, going, or just “messing about in boats.”

At the office, he has an assortment of life jackets available for children of all ages and pets of all sizes; he provides a playground and grassed-yard area, which are both well-used. He and his wife Deb even created a small, fenced pet area, with free “doggy-doody” bags and a real fire hydrant. The only discord heard now is, “OK; who didn’t clean up after their dog?”

Somewhere along his journey of marina development, he found that he had more available time on his hands, so he decided to purchase and restore a damaged, broken, impaired, old wooden boat. She is an 18-foot, 1957 Chris-Craft, and her name is Cove Princess. The restoration process, now that she has been restored, can be described as a true labor of love.

And this is where the boat part of the story begins.

Some great things were happening in 1957: Eisenhower was president, the ’57 Chevy was produced, “American Bandstand” premiered, and Buddy Holly and the Crickets recorded “That’ll Be the Day.” “Maverick”, “Perry Mason” and “Leave It to Beaver” were introduced on television. And Chris-Craft was continuing its tradition of crafting fine wooden boats, begun some 140 years ago.

The Cove Princess has been “mostly” completed. There are always things that can be done on her. We’ve asked him on numerous occasions what his plans for her are. He thinks he should probably sell her, but he certainly won’t get what he’s put into her. Is she listed, we ask?

“No.”

My first mate has many ideas on how she should be used: boat rides during Yankee Homecoming week (July 30-Aug. 7), proceeds to go to a breast-cancer charity, displayed in the parking lot so everyone can see and enjoy her; Cove Princess T-shirts made (proceeds to the marina), or maybe a trip to Squam Lake, in Holderness, N.H., so that Katharine Hepburn can again ask Henry Fonda, “How fast can this tub go?” The boat in “On Golden Pond,” by the way, was a 1950, 22-foot Chris-Craft Sportsman.

But we know that this will never happen; Cove Princess will never taste salt water or the brackish from the Merrimack River. She will only see fresh water, and then only once or twice a year, maybe at a show. My mate will be lucky to get a ride.

After this restoration, he thought getting another damaged, broken, impaired, old wooden boat would be a good idea. All those who know him – and know the amount of work needed to restore the Princess, asked, How could this be a good idea? He purchased what was left of a 1928, 24-foot Chris-Craft Runabout.

In 1928, “Amos ‘n’ Andy” were on the radio, Scotch Tape was first marketed, the first TV sold for $75, Mickey Mouse made his debut, Boston Garden opened, and Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Al Jolson and Duke Ellington were topping the charts.

His “24-footer,” as we call her (he is leaning toward Queen of the Cove), has no before-and-after photos, just before-and-during ones; she’s another labor of love in progress. Several of us “tenants” at the marina have been privileged to help with the restoration. And we all agree that this journey is nothing we would ever embark upon ourselves.

It takes a certain kind of individual to attempt this type of project, and even after all these years at the marina, we are still not certain what type of individual that is. What we do know is that there is a determination, a dedication, a vision and a definite way of doing things required to restore classic vessels – and to own and run a marina at the same time.

Capt. Bob holds a 100-ton, USCG Master’s license. He and his wife Louise continue their powerboating adventures out of Cove Marina on the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Mass. Visit them at www.nauticalchronicles.com.

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