Harbour Town Yacht Basin on Heritage week: 'Moving mansions' and party havens

loberle@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2014 

Magic floats in the middle of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin.

Aboard the 130-foot luxury yacht is a seven-man crew, five sleeping cabins, an eight-person Jacuzzi and enough entertainment space to host 100 people. On the sun deck, the owner hits floating golf balls off a green. His crew rides out on jet skis to retrieve them.

"It's a moving mansion," said Ryan Walrath, the yacht's deckhand.

First mate Darren Jones said Magic, which was listed for sale at nearly $13 million in 2012, comes to Hilton Head Island from Belfast, Maine. Although he wasn't allowed to say who owns the boat, Jones said the owner is a golf fan not a professional player.

Magic is one of several huge yachts that was able to return to Harbour Town this year for the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing. In 2008, the basin began turning away bigger boats as the yacht basin began to fill with mud and the water became ever more shallow, said Nancy Cappelmann, the yacht basin's harbormaster. A build up of silt had made 10 slips unusable.

"It's hard to run a marina when you can't get any boats in," Cappelmann said.

During its first year as presenting sponsor in 2012, Boeing had to ditch plans to dock its 130-foot corporate yacht, Daedalus, at the Heritage because the basin wasn't deep enough to accommodate it.

Over the past year, though, the basin was dredged in a project funded by a group of boat-slip owners and Sea Pines residents. No yacht has been turned away this year, although Boeing did not bring Daedalus, Cappelmann said.

About 100 yachts were docked in the basin Friday, 15 more than last year. The largest is 157 feet long, Cappelmann said.

The yachts serve as hotel rooms for owners and their guests, but not at a discount. At regular price, Magic would cost a minimum of $388 a night to dock. Cappelmann said there is a premium rate during the Heritage but would not disclose it.

The yachts docked in the basin form a floating party that never stops. On the boats, there is no dress code and no place to be anytime soon.

Hillman Godwin has come to the Heritage on his 41-foot yacht Uncouth from Wrightsville Beach, N.C., for the past seven years.

"I come down here to cut up like a new pair of scissors," Godwin said.

His week is spent with friends who have also traveled from his hometown and local residents he's met over the years, including Bluffton resident Charlie Young.

"I've met so many great people in Hilton Head. I get to know my boat neighbors, and we all just hang out and party," Godwin said. "It's an adult spring break."

Godwin arrived on Sunday and will stay through Monday. His fun begins in the morning and lasts into the night.

"There's not much difference between the day party and night party," Godwin said.

"Except," Young added. "The liquor flows more freely and the music gets louder."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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