If you’ve spent any time on Newport Harbor, you’ve probably encountered Matt Gineo, who has been general manager at Oldport Marine Services for more than 20 years.
His love of sailing began at age 13 when he joined the Sea Scouts. It evolved over the years to include windsurfing, powerboating, basically anything to do with the water. He’s a land lover, too, citing Fort Adams and Cliff Walk as his favorite local places to visit via his vintage Porsche 911 or Vespa scooter.
Most of all he likes to keep busy. A couple of winters ago, he built a treehouse in Vermont, which sports two bedrooms, a full kitchen and living room. It’s a cozy place to stay when he is skiing nearby. Yes, he’s big on snow sports, too!
In addition to serving as an officer of the Newport Maritime Alliance, Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and Discover Newport, Gineo has been a member of Newport’s Illuminated Boat Parade planning committee for many years. We talked about the parade and learned more about Gineo in this week’s conversation.
What brought you to Newport?
When I was 20, I moved from Connecticut to Vermont to ski. A gentleman I was working for bought Shamrock Cliff and encouraged me to follow him to Newport. I drove over the Newport Bridge on a spectacular day and thought, “This is it.” It was love at first sight. I worked at the Clarke Cooke House for many years, and then the Museum of Yachting, where I was in charge of events and the classic boat restoration program. When the museum closed, I started working with Oldport Marine Services.
Tell us about Oldport Marine.
Oldport Marine was started by Mike Muessel and the late Ron Ackman as a launch and mooring company 50 years ago. More departments have been added, and we do a lot of different things, from harbor tours, towing, mooring rental and maintenance to harbor shuttles and boat-building. Oldport is the only commercial boat-builder still located in Newport. The company provides launch boats to yacht clubs from New England to Florida, plus a few in Aruba.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We wear 10 different hats every day, providing mechanical services on our own boats and customer boats, Coast Guard inspections,
services to commercial ships, tender services for cruise ships or supply runs. We run the Newport Harbor shuttle, so we have five boats going around the harbor nonstop, plus shuttles to events like the Jazz Festival. I also handle scheduling, hiring, training and safety. We may get a call from someone who has broken down and we scramble the troops to tow the boat back to the harbor or salvage the boat off the rocks. A day can go from standard to emergency within minutes. We’re on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
What changes have you seen on the waterfront?
Improvements to the harbor have been very positive. There are fewer fishing piers and working boat yards, but we still have great facilities, like Newport Shipyard, Oldport Marine and Casey Marina. The number of big yachts along the waterfront has increased, which is great for business. They don’t clog town with cars, but still spend money at marinas, restaurants and boutiques. They are low-impact tourists. The seedier parts of the harbor have been cleaned up. Sail Newport and New York Yacht Club are bringing in world-class events that are good for restaurants, hotels and marinas. Ann Street Pier Maritime Center now has amenities visiting boaters were lacking, like laundry, information, Wi-Fi and showers. Overall, there is more support for visiting boaters.
What do you think is the most interesting thing one might find at the bottom of Newport Harbor? I served as president of Newport
Maritime Alliance and started a clean-up of Newport Harbor a couple of years ago. It was all volunteer divers and an Old Port Marine mooring boat. The first place we focused on was Ann Street Pier. Divers pulled up a Model T tire with a wooden spoke rim.
The clean-ups resulted in dumpsters filled with stuff, and we only scratched the bottom. There is a lot of work to be done. Thankfully, people are more aware and don’t throw things into the harbor like they used to. Some of the old fishing piers are carpeted with beer bottles.
When did you first get involved with the Illuminated Boat Parade?
I entered the first parade with one of my boats. About 10 years ago, I joined the planning committee. This year’s committee includes Kim Cooper, Mike Muessel, Steve Land, Sara Mariani, Kathryn Farrington and Margaret “Muffin” Dubuc, who is also this year’s grand marshal. I’d really like to thank the Newport Yacht Club. They have been very supportive of the event, and the public is invited to the Newport Yacht Club to view the parade and for the awards ceremony. For those who can’t make it, they can listen to WADK’s coverage on 1540 AM.
This is the parade’s 25th anniversary and is dedicated to former, late harbormaster Tim Mills. Tell us about him.
Everyone on the waterfront misses him tremendously. Tim was an easy-going, humble guy. He was patient and fair, but tough when
he needed to be. He did an awful lot for Newport Harbor, like overseeing the Ann Street Maritime Center. He was a longtime advocate of the parade and participated in its first year in 1997 with his own boat when Jake Farrell was the harbormaster. He was involved with the planning of the parade for the last 15 years. I can’t say enough good things about him and I miss him terribly.
How many boats do you expect this year and how can people participate?
There will be 35 to 40 boats, enough to circle the harbor. We can always use more boats, as most have been hauled out of the water this time of year. The harbormaster is allowing participants to dock before and after the event at Perrotti Park. Boaters can call 401- 845-5815 for details.
Are there prizes for participating?
Best decorated sailboat, powerboat and fishing boat are awarded a ribbon and gift certificate from restaurants like the Clarke Cooke House, The Black Pearl, Buskers,
The Mooring, Diego’s and Wharf Southern Kitchen. This year, the “Tim Mills Team Spirit Award” will also be presented. Parade judges include Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Rep. Marvin Abney, author Herb McCormick and former harbormaster Jake Farrell.
Where can one view the parade?
Perrotti Park will be decorated with lights thanks to Discover Newport. Viewing and the awards ceremony will take place at Newport Yacht Club. There is also the state fishing pier, and Bowen’s and Bannister’s wharves are steps away from restaurants, so one can grab a bite after the parade.
What: Illuminated Boat Parade
Where: Newport Harbor
When: Friday, Nov. 25, 6 p.m.
More Info: 401-845-5815
Weather Note: If high winds are forecast, the committee will make a decision at 9 a.m. on Nov. 25 regarding cancellation.