New York Times

The New York Times Review

Getting Away From It All, But Still Staying Close By


Published: November 18, 2001

THERE’S no need to travel far. Getting away from it all, even for just a day or two, is easy. Enjoying the indulgences of a quick respite, the pleasures of the waters, the quaint charms of the Island’s eastern tip, is the province of innkeepers. They won’t let you leave stressed or hungry. Here are three of their stories.

A Country Inn Really on the Water

Guests gathered by the front railing, sipping wine that matched the deepening cherry sunset as the Eastern Star, a 85-foot, double-planked mahogany motor yacht. The rippling water below looked like an Escher painting, twinkling with luminescence.

The night reminded Laurie Smollett Kutscera, hostess, of another starry evening under a harvest moon on a smaller boat years ago. Frank Sinatra was playing and she was enjoying a candlelight dinner with her husband, Nick Kutscera. As ocean waves crashed in the distance off Jones Beach, they talked about Mr. Kutscera’s longtime dream of being a gentleman captain. The Kutsceras frequently entertained on their 28-foot boat, taking friends out for weekend getaways. Why not, they mused, recreate the perfect setting on a larger craft for paying guests? Why not turn their passion into their lives?

”That is kind of how it blossomed not just into the boating business but a private luxury yacht for charter,” said Mrs. Kutscera. For the guests on board recently for a fall foliage tour, it was a gourmet wining and dining mini-vacation.

It took a year for Mr. Kutscera, who was working weekends as a captain for the Fire Island ferries out of Sayville and doing computer technical support for a pharmaceutical ad agency, to find an old, barnacle-covered, 30-year-old wooden party fishing boat in North Carolina. In 1997, he brought it to a marina in Bay Shore, set up a wood shop on the dock, quit his day job and spent the next three years converting it.

”I pretty much created the boat,” said Mr. Kutscera, 46, an accomplished woodworker who consulted with a naval architect from the Webb Institute in Glen Cove, then gutted the ship. ”I designed it and did a lot of the work myself. I had my hands on every square inch of this boat.”

To make the main level roomier, Mr. Kutscera pushed out the house walls to accommodate a large salon with a comfortable sectional sofa and armchairs, a polished mahogany bar and wood-burning fireplace. A cozy library with oak wainscoting replaced an old concession stand in the forward section and a formal dining room that seats 14 at two cherry tables replaced the former fish scaling area in the stern. Upstairs, he redesigned the pilothouse and added a state of the art navigational system and the couple’s private stateroom.

Mrs. Kutscera, a graphic designer and illustrator, decorated the ship’s interior with navy and beige fabrics to complement the varnished mahogany and resemble a quaint New England country inn, with hand-blown goblets, Lenox china and antique candlesticks in the dining room, sepia prints of old sailing vessels for the walls and an inlaid wood backgammon set for the library.

On the lower deck, where a single fluorescent bulb once lit a cavernous room with 21 bunks for overnight trips, Mr. Kutscera built six staterooms with two semi-private baths. Cushioned lounges, n additional mahogany bar and dining tables are located on the upper deck. And they hired an award-winning on-board chef.

”I kind of look at the yacht as a stage and the play changes with each event,” Mrs. Kutscera said.

”I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky that I’m able to do what I always wanted to do,” Mr. Kutscera said. ”To me yachting is an  experience. I really wanted our guests to see how amazing it is out here on the water.”