BUYING A BOAT:
AN UPTOWN GIRL'S FORMER DOWN EASTER FINDS A HAPPY HOME IN ESSEX, CONNECTICUT.
With permission from Soundings, May 27, 2015, written by Steve Knauth, photos by permission of Peter Mahoney
Sweet Freedom is a boat of a different color.
Once at the center of a celebrity divorce, the Duffy 35 built for supermodel Christie Brinkley enjoys a more private life these days, plying the waters of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound as a family boat with owners Tom Pipoli and Charlie Klewin at the helm. “We enjoy the water the same as we did when we were kids,” says Pipoli, who lives in Chester, Connecticut, and bought the boat with Klewin, his friend and business partner, in 2009. “We slip into Hamburg Cove; we go watch the swallows; we raft-up with the Essex Yacht Club. It’s a wonderful people boat.”
“I love this boat,” says Leslie Quarrier, the broker who arranged the purchase. “I think her lines are striking, as is her beautiful color and her overall appearance. She’s unique.”
Says Klewin: “We drop the anchor, take a swim, have a picnic. We never get tired of it.”
So how did Pipoli and Klewin, partners in the auto dealership Saybrook Buick-GMC, end up with Christie Brinkley’s lobster yacht? They happened to be looking for the right boat at the right time. “I had been after a picnic-style boat, something stable and roomy that could go out on the Sound and offshore, too,” says Pipoli, a lifelong boater who’s owned a variety of craft over the years. “I asked Leslie (Quarrier) to keep her eyes open.”
It was to be a memorable search. “There was, from start to finish, a true whirlwind aspect to it,” recalls Leslie. Peter Cook, Brinkley’s ex-husband, made the initial contact. Sweet Freedom, on the hard in Sag Harbor, New York, not far from the former couple’s East Hampton home, was ordered by the court in late 2008 to be sold. “I’d shown him a boat previously, and he called me to list Sweet Freedom. The moment it came up for sale, I gave Tom the listing. I told him, ‘This could be your perfect boat. ”
Complex negotiations began, involving Pipoli and Klewin and several other clients. At one point, there were four competing offers on the table. As things dragged on, the pressure mounted; it was time to act, and neither Pipoli nor Klewin had seen the boat in person. It took a plane ride to close the deal. At the 11th hour, Pipoli and Quarrier flew to Long Island, hopped a cab to the boat, made an inspection, and that was that. “I walked around it and said, ‘Sold!’ ” says Pipoli. “I wrote out a check right there.”
Klewin was vacationing in Florida when the deal was finalized. “Tom called and said he liked it — that was enough for me,” says Klewin. “That was in January . I didn’t see the boat in person until April, when Tom brought it over from Long Island.”
That’s when Pipoli’s wife, Rosanne, got her first sight of the boat — on that ride to her new home in Connecticut. “My reaction when I saw it was, ‘This is exactly the boat we have been looking for,’ ” she says. “It was a happy day.”
Klewin, too, liked what he saw. “There are a lot of Duffys around, but they’re not finished the way Sweet Freedom is,” he says. “And I love the color. I think if you saw a sample without seeing it on the boat, you’d say no way. But it works — it draws a lot of attention.”
BACK IN THE WATER
Despite having sat on the hard for a few years, Sweet Freedom was in good shape, needing only a good cleanup and the cosmetic work one might expect after a layoff. (Brinkley reportedly paid to maintain the boat while it was in storage.) The 440-hp Yanmar CXM-ETE turbo diesel had less than 200 hours on it, and the boat has four high-end Stidd seats, including an electronically adjustable helm chair. Sweet Freedom was taken to Chester Point Marina on the river, where the brightwork was rejuvenated, new canvas was installed and the engine was serviced.
Before the summer 2009 launching, the new owners decided to keep that distinctive color — Pettit’s Bikini Blue — and the name, Sweet Freedom. “That’s what the boat is about, the freedom of the water,” says Pipoli. “That’s what you feel with this boat. You can put eight people on board and take a cruise on it to just about anywhere and not be concerned.”
Quarrier was right when she called Sweet Freedom the perfect boat for her clients. It’s big enough for jaunts to Block Island, Rhode Island, and Montauk, New York, or a weekend run across Long Island Sound for lunch at Claudio’s in Greenport, New York. Cruising speed is around 20 mph, and the top end is just under 30 mph. The wheelhouse can be closed in foul weather, and there’s a small galley and an enclosed head.
“It’s incredibly seaworthy,” says Klewin. “We’ve been through some rough seas, and she cuts through the water like a knife through butter. After all, the hull is made for offshore fishing.”
Sweet Freedom is ideal for the Connecticut River, too, well suited to sightseeing cruises. “There’s plenty of room to entertain, which is one of our favorite things to do on board,” says Rosanne Pipoli. “I’m particularly fond of the layout of the seats, with two in front and two behind. It makes for ideal viewing, besides being quite comfortable.”
With her Down East look, Bikini Blue color and celebrity past, Sweet Freedom is a package that pleases, says Klewin. And does he ever think, while enjoying a sunset cruise or a Sunday ride over to Greenport, about Christie Brinkley, who conceived of Sweet Freedom and guided its creation? Only rarely, he says.
But he does make one admission: “She certainly has great taste in boats.”