Published Stories

HOT IN THE DESERT: Major casino resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard are cashing in on Sin City’s past as an adult playground. More properties are exploring the success of exotic shows such as ‘Mystere,’ produced by TI by Cirque du Soleil PHOTO BY SHELAGH BRALEY FOR THE BOSTON HERALD

Heed the Sirens’ Call

Revamped TI an experience for grownups to Treasure
By SHELAGH BRALEY

LAS VEGAS
—Treasure Island is a ghost ship that has sailed off into Las Vegas history—but in its wake has arrived the hot new TI, a place full of sexy sirens and racy pirate lore.

The hotel and casino, currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, has been reimagined, shedding its Disney-like family appeal, opting for an upscale adult makeover. Gone, for instance, are the kitschy skull and crossbones and in their place are the big neon letters “TI.” The new faces of TI are sirens, enchantresses of the high seas with the ability to lure men to their deaths – and they might be worth it, according to some spectators.

Sirens of TI,” the 30-minute free outdoor show in Pirates’ Cove, right on Las Vegas Boulevard, helps reawaken the fun of being a grownup in Sin City. The subject and the overtly sexual costumes are definitely a direct message to keep the kids home.

“Mamas, are you looking for the arcade?” the show’s DJ bellows from her lookout point. “It doesn’t exist anymore. This is an adult candy store!” It’s a big change from the famous pirate battle staged here before.

Inside the hotel, the salon and spa is the place to draw out your own inner siren.The spa area is a heady experience for the senses. Terra cotta-colored walls provide the background for delicate fuchsia orchids and dense tropical foliage. The humidity in the air creates the feel of an oasis. Huge gilded mirrors line the walls in the beauty parlor—one of the only reminders you’re still in over-the-top Las Vegas.

My stylist, Rosa, has been at the TI salon for seven years, and her clientele come from as far as Japan to have their hair done. Four Redken products (“It’s ALL about the product,” she said), 16 Velcro rollers and an overhead dryer later, the transformation from droopy cocker spaniel ears to  big, sexy hair was complete.

After the mane event comes the body beautiful. A few yards down an elegant hallway, behind heavy wood doors, I slip into a long robe and pour a refreshing glass of ice water from a pitcher packed with slices of orange and cucumber, before sinking into a hydrotherapy bath ($40) that features colorful underwater lights—how very Vegas.

This is followed by a 50-minute hot desert stone massage ($120). Who knew this siren could get so relaxed?

The spa facility has an ample gym, as well as a sauna and a eucalyptus steam room (great for sinuses). More than nine women drying their hair at once blew a circuit breaker in the dressing room (pre-bachelorette party primping) and it took a while to fix it, but other than that, service was impeccable and extremely attentive.

Guestrooms at TI are above average, too, with gorgeous views overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard and Pirates’ Cove. The rooms are tasteful and understated, something special in this eye-popping town. Even standard rooms come with marble baths, and are well-appointed with thick towels and fancy pomegranate soap, lotion and hair products.

The hotel’s casino offers more than 1,800 slot and video poker machines and 82 gaming tables. The race and sportsbook is sizable and service is extremely accommodating to serious horse players, extending reserved seating for Breeders’ Cup races on short notice.

The hotel’s Treasure Island Buffet is stocked with the expected fare, plus a few extras such as champagne, fresh shrimp cocktail and all-time favorites Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The Steak House restaurant specializes in high-quality fresh steer and seafood, served in an elegant library setting. Francesco’s, the Italian place at TI, offers a creative take on the classics and an oversized cappuccino— just the thing to bring on a second wind at the tables.

The new TI, totally revitalized at the 10-year mark, is sounding the call of the siren. And apparently, resistance is futile.

For reservations, call 702-894-7111 or go to www.treasureisland.com

(As published in the Boston Herald, Travel cover, page 59, December 7, 2003)

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VIVA CUBA! Tropicana’s new Havana Tower opens onto the hotel’s Quarter, designed to look like old Havana.

Ready to Rumba

Atlantic City’s Tropicana goes back to its Cuban roots for steamy update


By SHELAGH BRALEY

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—Havana nights sure are hot. Even if you’re only in New Jersey.

The pulsing beat of the music transports visitors to another time and place—to a country where men dance and aren’t afraid to step on any toes. The women respond, allowing their dance partners to lead them, turn them, even dip them.

These men can move and they take on the dance like a steamy seduction. It’s all in the eyes, in the connection. I watch from above as young women—curvy and sassy, thin and tall, all beautiful—line up to take a turn with one silver-haired fox. As he twirls partner after partner, I wish I had a small colorful scarf I could whip off my neck and drop delicately from my spot on the balcony to get his attention. I see myself walking down the wide spiral staircase, perhaps with a spotlight guiding me to the center of the floor for our meringue moment.

I’ve never danced a meringue. But I really want to after a few minutes in the Tropicana Resort and Casino‘s Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar. When dinner is done, Late Night Latin takes over. The DJ starts spinning salsa sounds, and the exotic music and dancing transform the space in a pachanga heartbeat. All I can think of is Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.” Ga-gung. Ga-gung. My feet, I believe, would just know what to do, given the right partner.

With all the glitz and glitter you’d expect from a Las Vegas-style resort, the Tropicana has taken Atlantic City to the next level by adding all things Cuban to the mix. Constant overhaul is crucial to survival in the gaming-resort industry, and no hotel-casino worth its weight in sequins can pull it off without a theme. Tropicana planners knew they had one practically built-in, and spent a great deal of time in Havana, Cuba, site of the original Tropicana, researching the history for reconstruction back in Jersey.

The resulting property is lush and, well, tropical, with the Quarter, a 200,000-square-foot dining, shopping and entertainment complex, and the Havana Tower. Within the Quarter’s three-story streetscape, visitors live out the essence of old Havana, with a cobblestoned indoor courtyard punctuated by delectable dining options and hot nightspots.

A huge statue of Stalin commands attention in the Quarter outside Red Square, a Russian restaurant with plush red seating and gourmet menu selections. The restaurant also features 100-plus rare vodkas, all served at a chilly 30 degrees below zero from a 60-foot bar made of pure ice. The Russians knew how to do it right.

Cuba Libre attracts visitors with a 1950s Chevy at the door, a classic muscle car with meaning. It was the last model the United States ever sent to Cuba. That car sets the tone for this charming restaurant where rich Cuban food is served with unabated Latin flavor and flair. The two floors of dining rooms look like a movie set, done in bright, sun-washed tones with mahogany accents, wooden plantation shutters and palm trees floor to ceiling.

After burning all those calories on the dance floor, head straight for Brulee: The Dessert Experience. It’s a dessert-only restaurant, with a menu as ingenious as it is delish. Everything is served in three-course French style, which includes the chef’s daily sweet surprise (mine was a hot chocolate liqueur shooter), an entree and a petit four finale. The entrees are sumptuous creations of cheesecakes, mousse, apple tarts and, of course, creme brulee, which was more than amazing. Each dessert on the menu is accompanied by the perfect wine choice as well.

It’s a great prelude to getting involved in some action. The gaming options are many at the Trop—with 4,000 of the latest computer-animated multicoin slot machines and all the best table games, including three-card poker and Boston 5.

That could keep you occupied all night but after your sugar high dies down, you may want to sink into a sumptuous bed in one of the Tower’s 505 contemporary guest rooms. Most of them offer ocean and boardwalk views.

If you do hit in the casino, take your winnings to the bluemercury spa. Treat yourself to some serious pampering at this Tropicana garden of tranquility. Located in the shopping district at the Quarter, the spa’s facade looks like a storefront, with an apothecary’s load of beauty and skincare products. Once you hit the elevator, it becomes a blissful retreat for your senses.

The spa is big on minimalism, with clean design and light wood and blue accents. Great to try: the Foot Focus (50 minutes, $95), a sure cure for tired feet and legs. A peppermint scrub, from knee to toe, exfoliates, then the Focus finishes with a 30-minute reflexology rub.

Another favorite is the Sugar Escape (80 minutes, $175). It’s a skin-refining exfoliation using sugar, oil and passion flower, followed by a lemon oil and sugar soak in a huge Jacuzzi tub and finishing with a 30-minute, lemon cream body massage. This treatment is well named; I nearly forgot where I was.

Like any great casino-resort, the Tropicana pulls in big-name entertainers, either on their way up or on their way down. Here the Temptations, Engelbert Humperdink and the like make the rounds. The best show for Vegas-style enjoyment is “Rat Pack,” a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. The players are dead-on, though a little more caricature than character at times.

For Irish-loving visitors, there’s also an Irish pub, overflowing with traditional music, welcome and Guinness. And showoffs belt out the hits themselves at the resort’s karaoke bar, Planet Rose.

Or you could always hit the rum bar again. Raise a mojito in honor of Ernest Hemingway and his love of Havana. After a few, you might even dance better.

For reservations, go to www.tropicana.net or call 800-THE-TROP. Special online room rates for the Havana Tower start at $99 per night.

(As published in the Boston Herald, Travel cover, page 47, April 9, 2006)

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Disney Duo

Wonder and delight await in Bahamas, private island

By SHELAGH BRALEY 

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla.—A gaggle of little girls wearing fluffy princess gowns and flip-flops waited in line to make their grand entrance onto the cruise ship.

Suddenly, Mickey appeared—in full “tails” tuxedo—to greet his little followers. They flocked to him, running from their parents (too loaded down with luggage and day bags to snatch them back).

Some parents felt a slight tug toward the larger-than-life mouse themselves. This is the lure of a Disney cruise: You suspend your cynicism and allow a glimmer of that bibbidy-bobbidy-boo to grow with every day onboard the Disney Wonder.

The 83,000-ton ship holds as many as 2,700 passengers and has activities for everyone from infants to the terrible teens, and their parents, too.

The ship’s newsletter, the Daily Navigator, lays it all out as easily as the turndown service, which includes chocolates and clever animals made of bath towels.

On our four-day sailing from this port near Orlando, the ship made two port calls with two days at sea, which we spent mostly in one of the three onboard pools. As accommodating as the ship is, the trip gets monumentally better when you dock at a beautiful beach where children can play and parents can get fruity drinks delivered to their lounge chairs.

The first stop was the Bahamas capital of Nassau, where friendly local women reached out to touch the face of my 2-year-old, red-headed daughter, asking if she wanted braids. After that first day on shore, little girls all over the ship were shaking their heads like maracas.

We could have gone on organized tours such as scuba diving to explore ship wrecks off the island, but instead we hit the Straw Market for fun trinkets, and the beach for the rest of the day. The tides were strong, but it was amazing to see starfish, stingrays and even small sharks in their natural environment.

More impressive, though, was the second port of call, the Disney-fied island of Castaway Cay, where the beach is so pristine, it’s hard to believe the tiny, perfect white seashells aren’t from a mold.

After building a sandcastle good enough for Cinderella, then trashing it like Godzilla, scarfing down lunch at Cookie’s BBQ and mugging for a few shots with a bathing suit-clad Minnie, it was time for me to leave my family for a nap on the adults-only beach and a massage in an open-air cabana at Serenity Bay.

Once I blocked out the 20-somethings outside my window yelling for four Coronas and a margarita (“Top shelf!”), I took a breath to savor the moment. My massage—although a bit sandy—was bliss. I just thought of it as exfoliating.

Tip for moms parting ways with kids and husbands: Don’t give them all the sunblock. Mothers all over the ship commiserated that evening in our formal gowns, with no hope of hiding our hideous red lines. “But your kids aren’t burned, right?” we joked.

Disney offers a daily camplike experience for kids age 3 and older and a nursery for those even younger (for an additional fee). While the children explore, parents can savor dinner at Palo, the grownups-only gourmet restaurant on Deck 10 (an extra fee is charged), go for a dip in the adult pool and partake in adult activities such as art auctions, bingo and martini tastings, as well as several adult lounges and nightclubs (there are also lavish Disney show productions suitable for the whole family).

Meanwhile, the kids are well occupied with games and climbing apparatus and enjoying—what else?—Disney movies—all under the watchful eye of an international group of counselors. Older kids (8 to 12) get to explore the world of Gak, as well as try their hands at other fun scientific experiments.

For teens (13-17), there’s Aloft, a mysterious universe replete with big screen TVs, a dance floor and an Internet Cafe, totally separate from the rest of the ship. Here they can hang out, sip their (alcohol-free) cocktails and meet kids from all over the country, all as horrified as each other to be on a family vacation of any kind.

Our accommodations were a spacious deluxe cabin that would comfortably sleep four and had separate areas for the tub/shower and toilet, as well as a veranda, perfect for viewing the sunset.

Good service is a whole cut above on the Wonder. Uniquely on Disney ships, you dine at a different restaurant each night and are assigned one wait staff team that follows you on your family’s rotation. Going to dinner was like being a hanger-on to a child star.

Our servers (Muhammed and Dimitri) treated our daughter like a doll, meeting her at the door and carrying her to our table. Soon they were standing next to her every few minutes, cutting her meat, switching her plain milk to chocolate in response to her cooing, flirty requests, picking up her fork before her parents even knew she dropped it, doing magic tricks to make her laugh. By the end of the second day, she was throwing herself into their arms to say good night. They were almost as special as Snow White.

Close, but not quite.

When we finally laid eyes on the raven-haired princess, we were in the glass elevator overlooking midship. There was a commotion below that caught our daughter’s eye and kept her pressed against the glass from the seventh floor to the third. When we stepped into the atrium and got a closer look, it was 2-year-old heaven. “Mama, she’s beautiful,” she whispered.

Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo.

Disney’s four-night Bahamas cruise is priced from $499 to $3,249 per adult, depending on when you travel and what accommodations you choose. There are special rates for kids sharing a cabin with adults. Three-night cruises are also available, as are weeklong packages that combine a cruise with a visit to Walt Disney World. For reservations, call 800-951-3532, or go to disneycruiseline.com

(As published in the Boston Sunday Herald, travel section cover, page 55, July 14, 2005)

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Mickey gets kids and their parents in a tropical frame of mind at Castaway Cay, the private island stop aboard the Wonder PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY

Mickey’s Magic Works Its Way to Mexico

West Coast itinerary expands cruise brand

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

The Magic of Disney lured us this time for a seven-night West Coast cruise, a special sailing celebrating Disneyland’s 50thbirthday.

The Disney Magic, in its first West Coast swing (like sister ship Wonder, it is usually based in Port Canaveral, Fla.), took us from the port of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera and the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Accommodations, like on the Wonder (see review in Sunday Herald), are big by cruising standards and quaint, with the lyrics of Disney songs framed on the walls to coordinate with the red and blue nautical decor. Ours was “Candle on the Water,” from “Pete’s Dragon,” an oldie-but-goodie.

Being on the open water for two days on our way to Mexico gave us ample time to explore all the options onboard this floating amusement park. The pools were filled with children from morning till night, splashing and making friends, and flying down the corkscrew slide that looks like Mickey’s fat gloved hand. My nearly-3 year old, still a little cautious out of her home environment, looked right at one boy cannonballing into the kiddie pool and said, “Be careful now.”

Once we were fully waterlogged, we checked our daughter in the supervised kids program and went to explore some adult activities. At the Park West art auction, one woman, in 15 minutes, purchased more than $15,000 worth of art, including some funky Disney prints by Peter Max. We never lifted our paddle, though we were tempted to a couple of times.

Then we hit the duty-free store for some bargain-priced fine cigars, ordered up some cocktails and lounged in the teak recliners on deck, hoping to take in our first Pacific Ocean sunset. Unfortunately, we missed it—”June Gloom” had hit in California, and the dark skies followed us for two days at sea.

The sun finally broke out just as I jumped in the water (my husband watching, my daughter asleep in her stroller) for a swim with some dolphins in Puerto Vallarta on a ship-organized shore excursion.

The dolphins swam right up to participants when we slapped the water, just like on “Flipper” and when they turned in our direction … these huge creatures are unnerving at first. After I got used to their fish breath, I considered leaving it all behind—the house, the career, the family back in Boston—to move here and train these amazing animals.

But there was shopping to do.

We started with the Disney-recommended shops, all mapped out in close proximity to the ship. Silver jewelry, cotton blouses, skirts, dresses, Mexican opals, turquoise, shells—all at great prices and too much to resist. I did all the picking, and my husband did all the haggling. (We all have our strengths.)

When we were fully loaded with bags full of bargains, we were starving, and tourist traps were not going to do it for us. So we ventured a few blocks from the port and found some authentic Mexican food at the open-air Salsa de Mexicana where I had the best chicken mole I’ve ever tasted. My daughter, with a little prompting, even ordered her own arroz con pollo. Thank you, Dora the Explorer.

That night, we (and all the other passengers) were invited to “The Golden Mickeys,” one of the many productions onboard that fully entertain parents and even keep toddlers amused for nearly an hour. “The Golden Mickeys” is a mock awards show that keeps the spirit of the real thing, even down to the red carpet interviews beforehand. My daughter, in her Snow White gown (purchased in a weak moment) caught the interviewer’s eye.

The woman with the mic commented on her beautiful gown, then asked the question, thinking she knew the answer: “Who is your favorite princess?” My daughter looked right into the camera, feeding live onto a big screen in the theater, and said “Cinderella.” Then she promptly tripped and fell, sprawling in yellow tulle across the red carpet. And so ended her career as an A-lister.

In Mazatlan, the gloom continued, but we went for the Beach Party excursion at the Playa Hotel, promising a pinata and a clown for the kids. When we got there, some kids dove right for the water, and promptly were stung by jellyfish. There was no swimming for us that day, but Spaghetti the Clown more than made up for it. He came equipped with his own sound system, blasting rap in Spanish, made balloon animals and led dance contests.

The morning we docked in Cabo San Lucas, the weather cooperated for a sunrise coffee break on our cabin veranda.

A water taxi later took us to a picture-perfect golden-sand beach surrounded by red cliffs. We picked our lounge chairs for the day, ordered “dos Coronas” and gave our daughter bottled water we brought from the ship. (It is advised not to drink the local water or use the ice.)

To the sounds of Jimmy Buffet over a loud speaker, I revved up a rented Jet-ski and felt like a true beach bum, flying through the water, getting as close to our enormous black and yellow ship as allowed by law.

Safely back on land, we swam, we played, we burned.

We’ll remember the Magic.

(As published in the Boston Sunday Herald, travel section cover, page 53, June 2005)

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PHOTO CREDIT: VINCE SHULEY

Peak Exposure

A snow-tographer’s guide to conquering his favorite slopes

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist
Photos courtesy of VINCE SHULEY

How does a child from Brisbane, Australia—better known for wakeboarding than snowboarding—decide on snow journalism as a career move?

For professional “snow-tographer” and writer Vince Shuley, it started with adventurous parents who shared their desire to explore the world, and a list of eight countries where he found his own inspiration, merging his love for extreme mountain sports with his talent through the lens of a camera.

“Two days after I graduated from university, I got on a plane bound for Los Angeles, where I signed up for a job at Manmouth Mountain, about an hour’s drive from LA, in the Sierra Nevada Range,” Shuley said. “That’s where I got into ski instructing and what got me so heavily involved in the ski industry, proving myself as a skier and passing that on to kids and other people.”

The top three things new skiers need to know, according to Shuley:

  • “Know your environment. Don’t just head up the mountain not equipped for the cold and wet that might be up there. You need to know what you’re getting into. At the top of the run, the mountain looks fine. Then around the corner, you can’t negotiate, and your fun day ends up being a battle.”
  • “Have the skills to get yourself down safely. Knowing your limits is a pretty big one. Some might overpush and lead to an experience where they might not want to ski again.”
  • “You need guidance. Don’t underestimate the importance of lessons. You need to be shown. You can try to get down (the mountain), but it will probably be the last time. Think of it as driving a car. You can’t get in and expect to know how to drive.”

The top 5 mountains on his list: 

5. Valle Nevado Ski Resort, Chile
“This resort sits above the capital, Santiago, at the top of 60 switchbacks. I will never forget the storms that would come through in the night, howling winds that would bring several feet of snow. The next day, there would not be a cloud in the sky. Skiing Santa Teresa, you could access backcountry from the resort and ski down some of the highest quality terrain in South America all the way down the road. We could get in two laps before work … most amazing way to start a work day I’ve ever had in my life.”

4. Mt. Baker, Washington, United States
“Another resort I’m going back to is definitely Mt. Baker in Washington state, closer to Vancouver than to Seattle. There are no people. Here, there’s 10 people in the car park. No lines for the lift at all—there’s empty chairs going up. For the amount of terrain, you’re getting fresh snow for yourself time after time after time. The backcountry is beautiful, and they get more snowfall than Whistler.”

3. Revelstoke, British Columbia
“Revelstoke is all backcountry. It’s probably the most avalanche-prone mountain zone in all of Canada. They’ve got an amazing mountain there. It’s a ski touring community, a heli-skiing resort, and they built the resort on that foundation. It’s so steep and vertical in places, it doesn’t flatten out, so whatever direction you go, it’s your own. Really fun, fun, fun resort. Can’t speak enough of the area and the backcountry is very accessible.”

2. Las Lenas, Argentina
“My next favorite is Las Lenas. This place is starting to grow in population. They have contingents of pro skiers going there to film every year. It has mountains I haven’t seen anywhere else. Its lift system was built in the avalanche path, so that affects when it’s open. Despite its unpredictability, I’m going down there. There’s always a big storm and you can ski that last one then head elsewhere in South America.”

1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
“The destination I’d have to honor because I’m spending my life here is Whistler. Blackcomb is the No. 1 ski resort in the world, the capital of skiing, because it has such a strong community of skiing people who move from all over to live here. I think it will always be my favorite place to ski, because it literally has everything, from beginner’s terrain all the way up. We get a lot of snow here—record-breaking snow—and it’s definitely the best place to live skiing.”

(As published in Achiever Magazine, December 2011)

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POST Tom Reardon accepting MHOR trophy credit Leighton O'Connor
Big Ti Captain Tom Reardon, left, accepts the MHOR trophy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The historic ketch won its class handily. PHOTO CREDIT: LEIGHTON O’CONNOR

Master & Commander

Tenured pro aboard Ticonderoga makes a career of mentoring new sailors

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

Much has been written about the lavish ketch Ticonderoga of Greenwich—how she’s broken yachting records, withstood fearsome ocean conditions all over the world, and patrolled the Atlantic in World War II, her curves tucked into a battleship gray coat. The 72-foot, L. Francis Herreshoff beauty, now in her 75th year, has sealed her place in maritime history, with character carved right into her gleaming wood.  

But it also takes character to embrace the challenge of sailing this legendary boat, something professional captain Tom Reardon has done for the past 25 years. His latest turn at the helm was for the July Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race, a biennial tradition that links the two East Coast sailing villages. For the 2012 competition, Ticonderoga blew past its competitors with grace and ease, tying up the win in its class in a nimble 42 hours, 34 minutes and 16 seconds.  

Reardon made the transition from self-professed “surf bum” to successful pro sailor by setting his mind to it, the moment he realized it was an option. “I didn’t start sailing till I was 22 or so, and I said, ‘That’s it,’ ” Reardon said. “I planned on pretty much making it a profession right then.” 

All it took was a chance encounter at a newsstand to discover the passion that would fuel this native of Long Island’s unorthodox career at sea.

“I went sailing one day, it was in August. On the way home, I stopped at a street corner store—I went to buy a surf magazine and saw this sailing magazine. I bought it, read an article about Antigua Race Week in the Caribbean, and I went, ‘People get paid to do that?’ And I said, that’s it, I’m going.”

Reardon attributes his longevity to a life of fun and adventure, with the confidence of his employers. “I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t still having great times. The present owner is a fabulous guy (Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Conn.), the previous owner is also a spectacular guy.”

“What Tom does so well is love that boat. He knows that boat better than anybody in the world,” Frantz said. “The beautiful thing about the program is that he totally respects anyone who comes on board.” 

Support and success go hand in hand when learning to race offshore, and Reardon has made a teaching craft out of a sailing weapon. “I feel like this is a training vessel, we’re constantly training people. I take on a lot of crew just starting in the business, train them up and send them on their way,” Reardon said.   

The training is as much a part of the boat’s legacy as the trophies, as other boats have benefited from Reardon’s natural teaching abilities. “The old J boat Endeavor used to wait until I had crew from between a year and year and a half, and then take them away from me, poach them,” he said with a laugh. “As they all left here, they’ve had no trouble walking onto other boats. It’s been very, very simple for them.” 

Owner Frantz gave Reardon a nod for his openness in bringing newcomers to the sport while maintaining the streak of more elapsed ocean racing records than any other boat. “The crew may not be as experienced but they have passion for sailing,” Frantz said. “Tom trains them and it works out well. We can expect a crew member to stay on average about a year and a half—much longer than usual because they love the program so much and they learn so much from him.” 

But, of course, it’s better to learn the basics before you venture offshore.  

“Buoy racing is where you learn more about sailing than anything, about sail trimming and boat handling, everything,” he said. Seamanship, that comes from offshore, but buoy racing you definitely learn more, because you’re doing every point of sail, every day, sails up, sails down.” 

Breaking into ocean racing is less daunting than it might seem, according to Reardon, as the sport has made strides toward becoming more spectator and media friendly. It’s a unique sport that allows you to participate alongside talented and experienced professionals, much like playing pickup with Celtics captain Paul Pierce or park-and-rec touch league with Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. The first step is simply showing up. 

“When I started, I just hung around the yacht clubs and worked hard. I met people, and they knew I’d be there every race and they knew I’d work hard. 

“There’s no shortcuts. It takes hard work, like everything else in life. It doesn’t come free,” Reardon said. But at the end of the hard work, there’s the perfect wind, a flawless race, a satisfied team and the best part, shiny hardware—the trophies and celebrations that make all the effort worthwhile.  

(As published in Achiever Magazine, September 2011)

POST M&Commander

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POST Nantucket Steps Beach
Nantucket’s famous Steps Beach is a long leisurely walk, but worth the effort for its sweeping sandy vistas. PHOTO CREDIT: SHELAGH BRALEY

Ferry Relaxing

Nantucket Island brings the heat after summer season ends

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

A mere 80 miles away from Boston waits a ferry that will shuttle you to one of Massachusetts’ most beautiful and relaxing islands, Nantucket, where gentle breezes blow the beach grass and the beautiful people gather to celebrate the simple life. It’s home to 12,000 year-round residents, but more than 55,000 in the summer months. Waiting out the usual tourists has its benefits: Some of the best events are reserved for Nantucket’s mild Indian summer and fall.

If you’re thinking of making a quick getaway, check out what the “Gray Lady” (so named for its many gray-shingled homes and frequent fog) has up her sleeve.

Here are some sweet spots to explore:

  1. Century House Bed & Breakfast (10 Cliff Road, centuryhouse.com, 508-228-0530). This glorious classic, a restored whaling captain’s home, is Nantucket’s oldest continuously operating guest house. It’s been named “Best Bed and Breakfast on Nantucket,” by Cape Cod Magazine, and it’s so easy to understand Its 18 rooms, with their charming names (“Red Dahlia,” and “Black Orchid”), are plush and antique without feeling fussy, and are filled to the brim with classic books from the personal collection of fascinating owners, Gerry Connick and JeanE Heron. The walls are dotted with works of art created by artists in residence who share their talents with all who visit. The bucolic wrap-around porch, replete with deep-cushioned rocking chairs and fragrant flowers, is exactly the right spot for planning a day of biking and shopping, or relaxing with an afternoon iced tea. Every morning, Century House puts the “breakfast” in B&B, the warm, French country-inspired kitchen drawing visitors to partake in an indulgent feast that also features entertaining tales of the Connicks’ adventures. They have loved Nantucket since 1984, leaving the hustle of corporate life to create a home away from home on the island. “Nantucket is just like a lover, so familiar and comforting … so wild and unpredictable,” the innkeepers say. No doubt, that’s what keeps visitors coming back year after year to this award-winning retreat on the ocean. Special fall rates available.
  2. Nantucket Cranberry Festival (Milestone Cranberry Bog, nantucketconservation.org, 508-228-2884). Did you know cranberries are one of North America’s only three native fruits, including the Concord grape and blueberries? The famous red bogs of Nantucket Island are ripe for harvest, so why not find out what makes these rich little berries float? Saturday, Oct. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Milestone, one of the oldest continually operated farms on the island will offer free admission to tour its 193 acres. Celebrate fall with hay rides, music, food and other cranberry delights that make Nantucket so iconic. All proceeds benefit Foundation’s Land Fund to preserve Nantucket’s open spaces.  Free admission, directions at nantucketconservation.org, click “events.”
  3. Murray’s Toggery Shop (62 Main St., 508-228-0437). This is the store that started it all, right in the center of town—the original preppy shop. Poke around the piles of yachty-wear, from sailing belts emblazoned with the Jolly Roger to boat bags made of recycled sails. But don’t leave without a memento of your trip, the original Nantucket Reds. These timeless shorts, pants and skirts are a hallmark of Nantucket coastal living, fade to near perfection over time, and can’t be bought anywhere but here. They come in plain and embroidered styles, for men, women and children.

UPCOMING EVENTS: Nantucket Restaurant Week (Sept. 26-Oct. 2) Nantucket, even in its more relaxed fall season, never stops cooking. Participating restaurants will expand your palate with three-course menus that will ramp up your tastebuds and leave you with a greater appreciation of fine food. $25-$45. Or head out for Halloween Fun at Fifty-Six Union (Saturday, Oct. 29) that includes extra fun and festivities after 10 p.m. Dress for dinner following this year’s theme of Divas. For reservations, call 508-228-6135.

(As published in Achiever Magazine, September 2010)

Nantucket

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