Bay Harbor Makes Top Ten
The Harbor wins the annual Boater's Choice Awards, making the list with major players like Key West. Find out why this small town harbor's getting international recognition.
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
Harbor Commission member Lee Seal agrees. Seal has been actively involved in the harbor since the conceptual phase, serving as the first chair of the commission. According to Seal – whose family boat is permanently berthed in the harbor – one of those right things is the harbor master himself.
“We have an outstanding staff,” says Seal. “Chuck’s doing a tremendous job. He brings decades of experience to the table and we’re very fortunate to have him.”
Seal says he was very excited to hear about the award and sees it as proof that word about the facility has spread.
“It’s great positive recognition for the city overall too,” says Seal. “This means that we’ve been recognized as a premier location.”
The harbor is doing other things right as well. It’s the Mississippi coast’s first and only Clean and Resilient Marina as well. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Clean and Resilient program has stringent guidelines to promote and expand “resilient and environmentally responsible operations and best management practices at marinas.”
Of course, being adjacent to one of the coolest small towns in America helps. Restaurants, shopping, and art galleries make up part of the Bay’s scenic historic district. Fortin says that the harbor’s unique location ratchets interest higher as the word in the boating community spreads.
“We’re fielding more inquiries about slip leasing and have experienced a big uptick in transient dockage over last year. October is generally a slower month on the coast, but we’re going into it with more slips leased that we’ve ever had.”
Fortin points to the 35 transient slips that have been reserved for Cruisin’ the Coast in the second week of October.
“For larger boats, we’re already at capacity, but we still have a few slips available in the under-35-foot range.”
The Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor offers 163 slips, 12 of which are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. Amenities include electrical and water service connections, full service restrooms and showers, fuel dock with diesel and non-ethanol gasoline, sewer pump out stations, 24-hour security and a 155-by-60-foot events deck. It can also accommodate vessels upwards of 100 feet for long term or transient dockage. The Jimmy Rutherford Fishing Pier serves as the northern boundary of the harbor basin. The pier length is approximately 1,100 linear feet which includes four covered platforms and a 30-by-50-foot fishing platform (with a 10-by-20-foot covered portion).
For more information about the Bay St. Louis harbor, call 228-467-4226.
Or visit the website
As the Bay St. Louis Harbor nears its first birthday, it has smoothly sailed past all projections for occupancy. Find out why the harbor is turning out to be one of the hottest boating destinations on the upper Gulf Coast.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
“We’re not a stopping point on the way to somewhere else,” says Fortin. “We are the destination - and one of the most popular ones on the coast.”
Fortin points to the Bay Harbor’s unique positioning in the town as being the main appeal. Most harbors are separated from the town areas by busy four-lane highways, but in the Bay, only a narrow easy-to-cross beach road comes between the city proper and the waterfront. It’s easy to walk or bike while shopping or exploring the streets of the popular historic district. Cruisers can also rent golf carts from a local company. Brett Ladner, at Quality Custom Carts (228.671.9851) can even deliver and pick up from the harbor if needed.
The harbor has permanently set aside 13 slips for overnight transient boats. Any slips that aren’t currently leased are also used for overflow.
The Bay St. Louis Harbor contains 163 slips, with 150 open for annual leasing. In the first year, the facility has far exceeded initial projections for occupancy with 95 of those 150 under lease. The highest percentage of occupancy is with the forty and fifty foot slips. The harbor utilizes the unleased slips to accommodate transients during busy times.
Overnight fees are based on the footage of the boat. The $1 a foot charge includes electricity, water and Wifi. There’s a free pump out service, since the harbor is one of the first designated “Clean Harbors” on the coast. Diesel and non-ethanol gasoline are both available.
The harbor staff is taking reservations well in advance for major holidays, festivals and the monthly Second Saturday Artwalks. For this summer’s Bay Harbor Fest, slated for July 17 – 19, over thirty transient slips have already been reserved.
As the popularity of the harbor also grows with day-trippers, sometimes the courtesy dock along side the fishing pier fills up. Boaters who can’t find a space are asked to pull up to the fuel dock and the harbor staff will direct them into a slip that’s not rented. It’s still free and that way day-trippers don’t inadvertently tie up in a slip that “belongs” to someone else (who may be returning soon).
Fortin says that this summer he’s also seen a big uptick in the size of transient boats coming in and the number of people aboard.
“Some days forty or fifty people will jump on a boat somewhere else on the coast and come here just for lunch and to hang out for the afternoon.”
Click here for the Harbor's website.
A recent WLOX story about the Harbor and tourism (ad first).
"Beach House" - Joe and Sunny Miceli
This Navigator 56' has room for a family and the oomph to go places. Meet Joe and Sunny Miceli and find out why they're about to have two Beach Houses in the Bay!
Soon, a broker from Fort Myers called, promising that he had the perfect boat for the Micelis. It was a 2001 Navigator. The classic pilothouse boat was 56 feet long. Two Volvo 430hp engines provided the power. With three full cabins and two full baths, it did indeed seem made to order.
Joe happened to be in Tampa on business and drove over to inspect it. The Navigator fit the bill in every way. And the boat's name wouldn't have to be changed after all. “Beach House” was already emblazoned on the fan tail. The coincidence sealed the deal.
Beach House lives up to its name. The salon is spacious and furnished like a comfortable seaside retreat. The main living area is open to a roomy galley that could have been transported from a chic Manhattan apartment.
The pilothouse contains ample room for a captain and a full complement of crew who may want to keep him (or her) company. Down below, the master cabin glows with wood tones and reflected light. While the other two cabins aren’t quite as large, neither feels cramped.
The bathrooms offer full showers and lots of head and shoulder room. One design device is genius: the ceilings are mirrored. The illusion of unlimited height makes it seems as if even Shaquille would have plenty of headroom.
The top deck, however, is Sunny’s favorite hangout. There’s another captain’s station there and enough wrap-around seating and tables for a goodly sized crowd. The Micelis like the open-air feel and the panoramic views of Bay St. Louis Old Town.
The couple have always been fond of Bay St. Louis, so it was an easy decision to use it as a home base for Beach House. The feature they like most is the fact that there’s no busy four-lane highway separating the harbor from the town. They also enjoy the shops, restaurants and pleasant strolls through the historic neighborhood - all easily accessible.
“They have a little beach right here for our grandkids,” says Joe. “And this location is convenient to gulf. It’s not like you have to go through a lot of canals and no wake zones. Once you’re out of the marina, it’s short distance to islands, and the Louisiana marsh is right there for fishing.”
With the perfect boat in the perfect location, the Gulfport house is now on the market. The Michelis have bought property on Washington Street, near the beach. Joe’s happy that the property is in the Bay St. Louis Historic District because he feels like his investment will be protected over the long haul. The couple is planning to start building in the coming year. And when the house is complete, the Micelis will have two beach houses. But one has a feeling the grandchildren won’t mind.
A classic Hattaras yacht + a couple that refused to give up + a 1500 mile sea voyage = an adventure to remember.
- photos and story by Ellis Anderson
Robert grew up in the village of Shady Side, Maryland, a peninsular south of the country’s capital. The surrounding waters of the Chesapeake Bay called him daily throughout the idyllic 1950s and 60s. By the age of 13, Robert was an accomplished boater and had built a small speedboat.
His next project was more ambitious. “For the price of her brass,” he bought the rotting carcass of a Chesapeake 20’ sailing sloop then restored her to full glory. He was racing the boat by the time he was 15, garnering awards - along with an article of his exploits in the Annapolis paper. He still treasures the boating model given to him by the sloop's designer, Captain Dick Hartge.
During his teen years, Robert worked in his father’s body shop. When a family friend offered to trade the teenager flight lessons in return for work on a boat, Robert jumped at the chance. He soloed when he was sixteen and by the time he graduated high school, he was an expert pilot. Before leaving for Vietnam, he’d obtained commercial fixed-wing and helicopter licenses. He would need every iota of his skill and experience - and good fortune beyond measure - to survive the heated warfare of 1967.
Robert piloted helicopter gunships, which guarded the troop carriers, provided cover for men on the ground and executed assault missions. He turned 21 in Vietnam. His courage got a grueling work-out each day - during every perilous mission and following the loss of every comrade-in-arms.
He recounts one mission where the helicopter he co-piloted was called back to base just after take-off. Robert, who also served as a munitions officer, was urgently needed to solve an armament problem on a grounded chopper. His commanding officer ordered another pilot to take his place. Robert reluctantly obeyed. A short time later, the base learned that his helicopter crashed due to a mechanical failure. All aboard were killed.
“Too many things came into play for it to be called luck,” he says. “I’m here by the grace of God.”
He returned to the states with a “box full of medals,” one that was stored in his mother’s attic for many years.
“There were fifty people behind me every time I flew,” he says, as if believing every decoration should have been cut into dozens of parts and distributed equally among the flight crew.
Back home, Robert’s skills as a pilot led him through a rich and varied career, much of it spent off the ground. He worked nationally and internationally as a flight instructor, an oilfield pilot, and airshow performer, racking up over 10,000 hours in the air.
Yet despite his passion for aircraft, his love of boats stayed on the front burner. He’s owned more than thirty in his life, most of them restoration projects that he later sold or traded after a time.
Retired now, Robert still can’t resist the call of a great boat crying out for care. And Charlene, his wife of the past ten years, is not the type to tap the brakes.
Charlene grew up on a dairy farm near Ashville, North Carolina. When she first traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, she fell for it hard, moving down within six weeks. The couple met shortly after Katrina and married the following year.
“Let me tell you,” says Charlene, laughing. “I’ve been on some adventures with this guy!”
The first time Robert took Charlene flying set the tone for their life together: the pilot put his plane through a few acrobatic maneuvers. Charlene was thrilled. Since then, they’ve taken a trans-Atlantic cruise, and lived in an RV (traveling across country for five years). But their most arduous adventure to date was bringing the Angelina around the coast of Florida.
By the time they put in at Key West, the Munros knew they’d be better off alone. They parted ways with their crew and rested for a week. Then, after provisioning and making minor repairs, they set off into the gulf alone.
The seas in the Gulf did not prove smoother and the Hattaras struggled north. When they reached Marco Island, Florida, Robert was convinced that Angelina’s tuna tower was making the boat top-heavy and ham-stringing its seaworthiness. They docked at a local marina where they attempted to give away the tuna tower, but found no takers. So Robert piloted the boat out into open water again and then anchored. He carried his sawzall aloft and cut the tower into pieces, lowering the sections by rope to Charlene, who stood waiting on the deck.
Once towerless, Angelina rode the swells instead of being battered by them. The Monros’ spirits lifted. The couple found they worked well together as a team, even in the stressful off-shore circumstances. In fact, they both claim the ability to “practically finish each other’s sentences.” Charlene, who had never been in the ocean before in a small craft, rose to the challenge of crewing and even captaining.
“She relieved me at the helm for hours at a time, using both compass and chart plotter for the first time,” says Robert. “She did an amazing job in the rough seas, allowing me some much needed sleep.”
The passage from St. Petersburg to Panama City took 24 hours since they cut across the gulf. They both still remember the brilliant stars overhead that night, and how it was impossible to determine where the sea and the sky met. They saw no other vessels during the crossing until they neared land.
Angelina seems at ease in the Bay St. Louis harbor now. The Monros drive from their Picayune home several times a week to tend to her, sometimes spending the night on board. Charlene likes the fact that “everything’s right here. It’s just a beautiful place to be.” Robert likes the deep harbor and the protection it affords the Hattaras.
But Robert’s original plan to update Angelina’s interior and sell her seems to be wavering a bit.
“Maybe we’ll just keep her,” he muses. “These days, I just want to spend some time fishing.”
“Something else will come up,” Charlene says, predicting another adventure with a smile. “Just you wait and see.”
story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
- This month - The graceful Luna lights up the lives of owners and world travelers Rick Ellis and Mary Pyles.
Rick’s father was in the Navy, so he grew up learning to feel at home in places like Panama and Hawaii. He also learned to sail from his father, who crewed for the famous Hawaiian and five-time winner of Olympic medals for swimming, Duke Kahanamoku. Rick says the Hawaiian term for Duke was “waterman,” meaning he excelled at anything having to do with the water – swimming, surfing or sailing.
Apparently, some of the Olympian’s waterman traits were transmitted to Rick. He finds being on the water spiritually soothing and says that sailing gives him a sense of control in a world where “nothing else is.”
In fact, he loves being on the water so much that he spent 25 years working on the seas as a merchant mariner. He lived on Guam for six years and on the tranquil pacific island of Saipan for another eight, calling them home when he wasn’t sailing on ships and tugboats.
In 1987, Rick was working as a ship’s carpenter on a NAVO ship that was docked in Singapore. One morning as he was on gangway watch, a spritely NAVO scientist who had just been assigned to the ship came aboard. As she came up the gangway, she was singing the theme song from the popular children’s show, “Mr. Rodgers.”
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” sang Mary, and as sort of an unspoken introduction, handed Rick the newspaper she’d been reading.
Soon after, the ship left Singapore for a 20-day voyage to East Africa. The two became friends over the next four months and when they reached the small country of Djibouti on the horn of Africa, Rick asked Mary out on a date.
The couple recount the tale of their courtship while lounging on the deck of Luna with their two small dogs, J.P. and Roscoe. They tell slightly different versions.
“Actually, she begged me to go out with her,” Rick says, looking over at Mary and smiling. “She chased me all over the ship and I couldn’t escape.” Mary just laughs. She’s heard this line before.
According to Mary, the first date consisted of a stroll around the port’s marketplace that evening and then past the port's slaughterhouses. They dined out in a small café, but the excitement wasn’t over.
“We eventually fetched up along the water on an embankment in front of the president’s palace,” Mary remembers. “Then we watched the tide go out and sat viewing all the tires on the mud bank. By the end of the evening, it was clear to us that this was the start of things to come.”
The couple married in 1991 in the Virgin Islands where Mary’s brother lived. Mary had moved from Washington DC to Waveland in 1978 to work at NAVO’s office at Stennis Space Center, so the Mississippi Gulf Coast became “home port” for Rick as well. In 1993, they bought a house on the 400 block of Carroll Avenue in Bay St. Louis. It’s still the place they call home.
The two continued to ship out as their jobs required over the next two decades. Mary finally retired in 2010, while Rick still goes to sea on occasion as a gravity and magnetics technician. Throughout their marriage, Rick has owned smaller sailing boats, ones he could managed single-handedly. He enjoys the solitude when Mary can’t go along and has been sailing solo since he was six.
Over the years he's lived on the Mississippi coast, Rick has owned a 19ft O’Day, then a 25 ft. O’Day. He restored the latter after Katrina, only to have it irredeemably smashed during Hurricane Gustav.
“I was tired of fixing boats at that point,” Rick says. “So I just cut her up in pieces and put her in the dumpster.”
He began shopping for another O’Day last year, “one that didn’t need much work.” He found the Luna, a 1974 O’Day 27 footer, online. She was a freshwater boat, kept on a Colorado lake. She also had a roomy interior for a 27 foot sailboat, with lots of headroom.
After traveling to Pueblo to inspect the boat, Rick made a second trip out west, this time with a friend, and purchased Luna. The two men trailered the boat across country back to the coast, a three-day drive.
The last night of the trip, the friends pulled into a campground in Shreveport, Louisiana. Since they were towing a boat instead of a camper, the owner seemed confused.
“My friend told the lady that we were sailing around the world and had decided to drive the first part,” Rick says.
The two friends climbed up into the trailered boat that night to sleep, and happily discovered a bottle of wine that the previous owner had tucked into the cabin as a surprise gift.
Rick prefers sailing over powerboats partly because they’re quiet and impart a peaceful feeling.
“Also, when you get on a power boat, you’re going from “A” to “B.” When you step aboard a sailboat, you’re already there.”
According to both Mary and Rick, there’s only one problem with having the boat in the Bay St. Louis Harbor.
Rick pinpoints it: “Why bother to go sailing when Bay St. Louis is the one real destination on the coast? We like the fact that all the shops and restaurants are right here.”
But since they’re both world travelers, aren't they ever tempted to retire to someplace more exotic?
“It’s a great environment here - a little funky, a lot of fun,” says Rick. “Why would we want to go anywhere else?”
The Jackye III1/2 - Craftsmanship Extraordinaire
story & photos by Ellis Anderson
- This month- The Jackye III1/2 is a Beneteau 42" Swift Trawler, owned by Jimmy and Sharon Crane. Come aboard!
They contacted friend Stanton Murray, whose family has been in the yacht brokerage business since the 1970s. The company has offices in New Orleans, Pensacola and St. Petersburg, Florida. The Cranes gave Murray their wish list, and he began the match-making process. One of the main points on their list was dual engines: one memorable trip on their old single engine trawler had convinced the Cranes that two was always better than one, at least as far as motors go.
While shopping, the Cranes day-tripped as far east along the panhandle as Destin. They even flew down to South Florida, where they looked at boats from Miami to Key West to St. Petersburg. Nothing quite fit the bill, although one came close. Murray invited the Cranes to stop by his St. Petersburg office before they flew home and as Jimmy says, “they reeled us in.” The Cranes were given a tour of a 42’ Beneteau Swift Trawler. Everything they’d looked at before paled by comparison.
Beneteau is a French company founded in 1884. Their name is synonymous with fine craftsmanship and exceptional design. Most Beneteaus in the world are sailboats however, since the company just began making trawlers in 2005. But the quest to be best made the trawlers instantly sought-after by discriminating buyers.
The Cranes were hooked on everything but the price tag. Murray searched and found an exceptional deal on a 2005 Swift 42’ in League City, Texas. The boat was in pristine condition and the twin engines only had a few hundred hours on them. The deal was struck then Jimmy and crew brought the Swift back from Texas.
The boat’s unusual name stems from a family joke. Sharon’s mother’s was Jackye I and Sharon’s sister is Jackye II and their daughter is number three. The Crane’s first trawler was named Jackye III after their daughter. Since there’s no Jackye IV, the new Beneteau became Jackye III1/2.
The family has owned the boat for five years now and enjoys taking summer “adventure” trips to Florida, shorter trips to the islands and according to Sharon, “just dropping a hook in the Bay and having dinner aboard.” They frequently entertain on the boat and spend nights there frequently. It’s easy to see why the Cranes take such pleasure in the boat. Anywhere the eye comes to rest on the boat, it will find another cleverly designed and finely crafted feature.
For instance, the handsome wood cabinetry and trim throughout has been sanded and finished to a satiny texture that invites the touch. The attention to design is showcased in details like the gently curving steps leading to the forward cabins or the sleek wood-backed captain’s chair. The galley is cunningly incorporated into the main salon, so the cook has plenty of elbow room, yet isn’t isolated from guests while preparing a meal. The bathroom could be transported from the future, perhaps from a space ship with luxury suites.
The boat sleeps five with two cabins. It also has two heads and one shower. There’s an Onan generator, three smaller zoned A/C systems, a refrigerator, microwave, oven and BBQ “pit.” The Cranes, who work with house plans for a living, are especially appreciative of the efficient layout.
The boat’s performance is another factor in the Cranes' satisfaction level. Both Sharon and Jimmy love the way it handles in rough weather. Two steering areas – one above and the other in the main salon, make handling easy in all types of weather. A bow thruster makes docking a cinch, even in difficult conditions.
With two 365 HP diesels, the boat has plenty of power, in fact, it has the capability to cruise at an astonishing 22 knots. While it’s great for lazily cruising out to the islands, the Beneteau is a “fully-planing” boat.
“It actually gets out of the water when it’s going fast, so it’s very economical fuel-wise, even when it's going fast,” says Jimmy.
While the Cranes love traveling aboard the boat, they make full use of it as an Old Town “camp” many times a month, especially during festivals or the monthly Second Saturday Artwalks. Their black Lab Lola comes along and seems to have developed a love for boating.
“In most of the harbors along the coast, you need a car to get anywhere,” says Jimmie. “In Bay St. Louis, you’re able to walk to anything. I love just sitting and watching the activity and the lights of the city.
Sharon points out that they’ve made several new friends in the harbor. “Everyone’s so friendly,” she says. “It’s a nice feeling, like I’m on vacation whenever I’m here.”
by Ellis Anderson
This month - A sailboat built for serious circumnavigation takes a break in Bay St. Louis after six years in the Caribbean.
So how did a couple who were living in a desert with no previous boating experience come to buy the Wilde Mathilde and then call her home while they cruised the Caribbean for six years?
Leslie and Sarah Villa were living in Tucson, Arizona, where “Les,” a diesel mechanic, owned and operated a mobile service that repaired semi- trucks. Sarah was working for a local International truck dealership and also keeping books for her husband.
Sometime around 2006, Sarah read a story about a couple who bought a sailboat and sailed around the world. She was intrigued enough to start researching and reading about cruising. The more she learned and shared with Les, the more appealing the idea seemed. The couple decided to work for another two years, then sell the business and retire.
In the meantime, Sarah shopped online for the perfect boat. She immersed herself in the boating world, absorbing everything she could about sailboats and sailing. When she found the Joshua in Norfolk, Virginia (where it had been sitting up for six years), she and a friend flew out to inspect it. She called home to Les with a report and he said, “If you think this is the boat, let’s do it.”
The couple soon sold their house and all belongings that wouldn’t fit into their pickup truck. Then they headed east for Norfolk and their new floating home.
For the next ten months, they lived aboard the Wilde Mathilde, getting her back into cruising shape. They signed up for boating courses (at the end of one, Sarah was offered a job as a course teacher). They also sailed the boat to Miami and the Bahamas, back to Norfolk and eventually back down to Miami again, where they planned to set off for Panama.
Yet when it came time for the long passage, the weather turned sour. Even with a seasoned sailor friend crewing, it was a trying, rough voyage. When asked how long the crossing took, Sarah doesn’t hesitate: Seven days and twenty hours.
For the next several years, they cruised the Caribbean, moving between exotic ports-of-call like the San Blas Islands, Panama, Columbia, Belize and Guatemala. Les says that they make a great team. “I can fix anything and she can do anything.” It also turned out that Sarah is a natural navigator with superb skills she’s had a chance to hone while traveling.
With some of the storms the couple had to face over the years, the double-ended Joshua boat turned out to be a great choice.
Les tells this breath-taking story: “Once when we were coming back up from Panama to Guatemala, it was late at night and the wind was howling 60 – 70 knots. The seas were probably a good twenty at the time. I saw Sarah was getting ready to come up on deck, so jumped down to stop her. I didn’t want her to see how bad it was out there. She had this awful look on her face and I could see that she was shaking. She honestly thought it was the end for us.”
“I said, ‘This boat loves this kind of weather. You searched all over for a boat that could take these kind of seas. Look, we’re sitting down here talking and she’s just going along. This is a really good boat and she’s going to protect us.’ After that, Sarah lay down and went back to sleep.”
Although the Villas both enjoyed the laid-back cruising lifestyle, it turned out to be a little too sedate for them both (at least between the rare stormy passages). When Sarah was offered a job at Stennis Space Center, they brought the Wilde Mathilde back to the states, moved off the boat and into a house in Diamondhead. Les found his skills in high demand and is currently working at Rocking C Truck and Trailer in Gulfport.
For now, the couple is content visiting the Wilde Mathilde in the Bay St. Louis harbor on weekends, where they can bike around Old Town and enjoy the restaurants. Both Les and Sarah claim to be addicted to the scones at Serious Bread Bakery, just a block away.
Will they take Wilde Mathilde out again? The couple’s not sure.
“The cruising life is just something we wanted to try, “ says Les. “ We don’t know what our next adventure will be. But when Sarah says let’s go to this – whatever it is - I say O.K.”
"A Most Exceptional Yacht"