Walter Cronkite's weathered 64-foot yacht is a blend of high-brow and down-home

The Baltimore Sun

If there is such a thing as an unpretentious 64-foot yacht, the two-masted vessel owned by Walter Cronkite is it.

While some owners turn their boats into floating jewel boxes, Cronkite's Wyntje is the kind of boat on which you could spill your lemonade and not worry about being thrown overboard.

"He has [the boat] to sail. Not sit in the harbor," said J. Holt, the yacht's smiley 28-year-old captain. "It is very family-friendly."

The upholstery is faded, and the wood panels gleam but don't overwhelm. The kitchen cupboards are stocked with heavy plastic plates, not china.

During the summers, Cronkite, the former anchor of The CBS Evening News, moors the boat off Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. Cronkite takes it out for day sails and longer trips exploring the coast of Maine. In the winter, it floats in Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands. Spring and fall are split between New York City and Annapolis, Holt said.

Last week, it was tied up at the dock off Prince Street near the Maryland Natural Resources Police building, and Cronkite was in town.

The yacht was designed by American boatbuilder Henry Hinckley in 1979. It was the last yacht the famed boatbuilder created before he died, Holt said. There are three sister ships, including one that anchors near Cronkite's in the winters. Cronkite bought his boat about two years ago.

The boat draws only 6 feet -- so it can poke in and out of mucky Chesapeake rivers and inlets. (In comparison, the 70-foot-long Volvo Ocean racing yachts that stopped in Annapolis last spring had 15-foot keels). The boat has a bronze centerboard that more than doubles the draft. But Holt said it is rarely used.

"Cronkite almost never leaves the cockpit," said Jenny Goff, the boat's other full-time crew member. "He almost never leaves the wheel."

It is easy to see why. In the center of the yacht -- rather than the stern -- the cockpit is comfortable and high with a commanding view of the seas around it. Cronkite took the same wooden swivel chair that he has used on other boats and put it behind the wheel.

All of the lines that control the sails are rigged to go to the center cockpit. A flat-screen monitor next to the wheel provides the skipper with navigation information. There are three GPS units aboard the boat.

Below decks are neat and cozy. The salon -- the room accessible from the main cockpit -- is the main interior gathering place for guests. Like the rest of the boat, it can be air conditioned and heated.

A wooden table is on the left, and a faded blue couch wraps around two sides of the table. The upholstery is navy with marine code flags on it.

Opposite the table is a television set hidden behind a blue curtain. Cronkite tries to catch the news when the yacht comes into ports.

A utility closet off the salon includes a washing machine and dryer.

Moving aft from the salon there is a galley kitchen decked out with a microwave, a three-burner stove, an icemaker and an electric griddle. The kitchen tap runs hot and cold water. Spices and a spatula are jammed behind the grill.

In the stern of the boat, behind the kitchen, is Cronkite's quarters. The master stateroom has its own bathroom and shower stall.

A wedge-shaped bed is nestled on the starboard side of the boat and a smaller day bed is on the port side. This way Cronkite can nap comfortably if the boat is heeled over to the left or right.

Best of all, the bedroom opens in the back to a private cockpit. It looks like an ideal place to have a glass of scotch or iced tea and watch the sunset.

But Cronkite doesn't spend much time there because he often has guests aboard to entertain, according to the crew.

Overnight passengers can stay in one of the two identical staterooms toward the bow of the boat. Each has its own "car stereo," according to Holt, so people can listen to their own music while in bed.

There is even closet space for guests; Cronkite thoughtfully stows extra foul-weather gear there, too. Each guest room has its own toilet but they share a shower.

The v-bunk, in the very front of the boat, is for the crew.

Visitors can't see some of the most impressive aspects of the boat. Beneath decks is a 700-gallon water tank -- virtually guaranteeing fresh water during long passages. The boat also has two 24-gallon water heaters.

"We've had five people on board, and everyone has been fine for a hot shower," Holt said.

The boat also carries 600 gallons of diesel fuel. That means the crew could motor from New York to the Virgin Islands without refueling.

The crew lives aboard full time. To Holt, it feels like "a 700-square-foot New York City apartment."

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