Travel/Boston | A floating home away from home

Travel/Boston | A floating home away from home


As I settled onto a cushioned wicker sofa, with a mug of dark, French-roast coffee, and marveled at the morning stillness, a gull skimmed the water silently. I watched as the sun broke the morning horizon, washing the Boston skyline in vibrant hues of yellow, copper and harvest gold.

A hearty "hello" broke into my peaceful reflection as Jon Dolence requested permission to come aboard. Proffering a large platter of egg/mushroom/feta cheese omelet casserole, home fries, kielbasa sausage, melon and sweet breads for two, he asked how I had slept.

"Like the captain of my destiny," I replied.

"A night on the water will do that," he chuckled as he bounded off the boat onto the pier to deliver another breakfast.

Over a decade ago, Jon and his wife, Karen, started up The Green Turtle, a floating bed and breakfast in Boston Harbor consisting of a houseboat with two suites and two yachts, one of which was to be our retreat for three nights.

Their floating home away from home provides most of the amenities offered by landlocked B&Bs, including TV, DVR, stereo, soap, towels, showers and a continental breakfast. What the others don't have that the Green Turtle provides is the calming sway of the ocean, the salty air and a spectacular view across the bay of the Boston skyline. While the largest metropolis in New England lies just beyond the dock, the din of the city barely registers on the 45-foot yacht.

Upon landing at the marina, Jon, a tanned, fit gentleman that belies his nearly 70 years, effortlessly grabbed our suitcases, placing them into a red canvas wheelbarrow and headed down the pier with us trotting close behind.

Our vessel consisted of two queen staterooms — fore and aft — each equipped with a bath. Amidships is the apartment-sized galley (kitchen) and salon (living room). After explaining some of the nuances of the floating hotel room, such as the electrical "head" (that's a toilet to you landlubbers), the European-style shower/tub combination (there were a certain amount of acrobatics involved) and where the fully-stocked fridge and a basket of fresh snack goodies waited, Jon pointed out some of the local sites and nearby conveniences and bid us adieu.

The location was incredibly convenient. The marina is located just steps away from Charlestown Navy Yard and the Boston Harborwalk, a public walkway that follows the edge of piers, wharves, beaches and shoreline around Boston Harbor.

Parking is available, but we ditched the rental. The marina is easily accessed by the very efficient water taxi service from Logan International. Besides providing an easy and enjoyable conveyance, the water taxi has the added benefit of avoiding the nightmarish traffic of Bean-town.

The first foray off of "our" yacht took us to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Maintained by the National Park Service, the yard is home to the historic USS Constitution. At the time of our visit, it was wrapped in a web of scaffolding as it sat in dry-dock while undergoing a major restoration.

Launched in 1797, the Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Crisscrossing the globe, this three-masted frigate participated in the Barbary War off the coast of North Africa and sailed the Caribbean in search of pirates. She earned her nom-de-guerre Old Ironsides during the War of 1812 when enemy cannonballs bounced off her resilient wooden hull. According to Seaman Rodriquez, one of several naval personnel on hand to oversee the refit, the ship enters dry-dock about every 20 years for below-the-waterline repairs. Upon completion of the refit, she was relaunched and is now again open to the public.

From there, we strolled through the neighborhoods of Charlestown, made up of its colonial, red-brick, row-house-style housing, on our way to Monument Square, home to the Bunker Hill Monument.

Rising 221 feet, the perpendicular finger of granite thrusts skyward marking the first major battle of the American Revolution on July 17, 1775. A celebration of victory by defeat, the British held the field after the first pitched battle of the revolution, however they suffered staggering losses at the hands of the patriots.

An obelisk built entirely from quarried granite, it took more than 17 years to complete. In a slightly dizzying and definitely lung-testing decision, we chose to climb the 294 circular steps to the top. The satisfying accomplishment provided a great 360-degree bird's-eye view of Charlestown and Boston.

That evening, a half-mile walk over the Charles Bridge took us into the heart of Boston's North End. "Boston's Little Italy," as it is sometimes called, is teeming with many Italian restaurants and shops. For dinner, we wondered into a classical Italian restaurant, Massimino's Cucina Italiana. It's an acclaimed family-run restaurant whose red-bricked facade, basement dining and close quarters provide for an intimate experience.

After being schooled in the fact that ordering Minestrone simply meant that she had ordered "soup" in Italian, Kathy chose the Tortellini. I ordered the lobster ravioli, whose rich tomato sauce would make an old shoe a delicacy.

After dinner, we were compelled to stop in one of the neighborhood's bakeries, Maria's Pastry Shop, for a bit of Old World Italian dessert. With some assistance from the bakery's house cat that insisted on following us throughout the shop, we settled on a slice of Boston cream pie (of course) and a concoction known as the Lobster Tail, a flaky pastry shell filled with a vanilla mousse cream that's beyond big enough to share.

The following day, we roamed the immensely walkable downtown Boston area. We let the famous red-bricked path of the Freedom Trail be our guide as we wandered into the rich history of one of the oldest cities in America. The 2-mile trail passes by and through a dozen and a half locations that highlight events that occasioned the colonies' separation from England, including Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church.

At the end of the trail, embracing a warm, autumn evening, we stopped at a local bodega for a bottle of wine, a brick of cheddar and some fruit on the way back to our floating retreat. Leaving behind the noisy, teeming streets for the quiet intimacy of the marina, we made up our bohemian dinner and watched seagoing freighters make their way through the harbor as they journeyed into the Atlantic. With the waters of the bay sloshing gently against the hull, we slipped into a peaceful retreat that no hotel room could provide.

There's something soothing about being on the water, being disconnected from everything. We had set sail for adventure and had never left the dock.

Frank Hosek of Bourbonnais is director of human resources at Carpet Weavers Inc. in Champaign. His hobbies include travel, reading, writing and photography.

If you go

From Logan International Airport in Boston, it is a 10-minute trip to the Green Turtle in a water taxi.

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