Ocean Reef Club’s annual Vintage Weekend glowed with perfect weather, shiny hardware, and thrilling aerobatic aircraft.
Wow! The 23rd Annual Vintage Weekend at the Ocean Reef Club was so impressive that from the outset, those visiting couldn’t stop talking about what they saw. Fortunately, for two full days, they could go back for another look at the incredible display of vintage automobiles and yachts at the show’s center and vintage aircraft at the Club’s airport just a golf cart ride away.
The Ocean Reef Club is a 2,500-acre private, all-inclusive, resort-style community that provides property owners and members an escape to a world where relaxation is the primary goal. It’s a unique way of life rarely found in such a bustling world. Situated next to the Key Largo Hammock State Botanical Site to the west, Card Sound to the north, mangrove waterways and islands to the east, and the Florida Straits to the south, it’s a fishing and boating paradise.
Add to that two meticulously maintained, 18-hole championship golf courses, a full-service marina for yachts up to 175 feet, tennis courts, a full-service spa and salon, 12 restaurants, a gas station, shops and boutiques, a medical center and public safety department that provides 24-hour fire, security and medical services, a private airport with a 4,456-foot runway, and Buccaneer Island beach that surrounds a saltwater lagoon (and has two oceanfront freshwater infinity pools, restaurant and bar). It’s no wonder that once you’re there, you can stay busy or do nothing at all and never have to leave.
The Club hosts a variety of events all year long, from holiday festivities to Lobstermania in July, and this year’s Vintage Weekend was a special one. More than 20 inches of rain soddened the event in 2015 and last years was canceled due to the enormous destruction created from Hurricane Irma. It was mentioned that “the weather gods owed us one,” and they came through.
The sun shone and the tops were down as the classic cars took a little road trip over the bridge to Alabama Jack’s—a classic, open-air joint on the water surrounded by mangroves—for lunch that included the “best conch fritters around.” Back at the Club, early evening cocktails and dinner on Buccaneer Island, hosted by Vicki and Alan Goldstein, was the perfect location for the AeroShell Aerobatic Team’s night show. This was the first wow factor that sent chills through most everyone’s cocktail. The sound of four Pratt & Whitney engines in the North American T-6 Texans thrilled the crowd as they screamed through the darkening skies with their lights appearing like ships in formation from outer space. Their smoke tails billowed from the red-hot exhaust flame, the deafening sound piercing the night air. It was truly something to behold.
The crowd gathered in force the next morning to see some of the most sought-after automobiles as they made their way across the red carpet. From a 1912 Ford Model T, winner of the Most Significant Early Brass Award, to a 1952 Cunningham, winner of the Best Closed Grand Touring Car Award, to the Most Elegant Early Brass Award winner, a 1909 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, the glimmering brass, silver and wood highlights on vintage Pontiacs, Corvettes, and many more shone like Hollywood stars. The Most Historically Significant Award winner was a 1958 Bentley, and for the first time, two Stutzs appeared. Best in Show was awarded to a 1939 Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet, an exquisite, silver “Coupe des Alpes.”
Along the Ocean Reef Channel face dock, vintage yachts floated regally and showed off their polished hardware, and the first impression by most was, “Wow. Imagine all the care and effort that went into the woodwork.” The 1926 104-foot Mathis-Trumpy motoryacht Freedom was a perfect example of fine, detailed joinery. Winner of the John Trumpy Award, Freedom’s sister ship is the presidential yacht Sequoia. The Best Restoration Award went to the 1930 43-foot Stephens Brothers Trunk Cabin motoryacht Cielito, which was restored at RMK Merrill-Stevens in Miami, Florida.
The 37-foot Rybovich Legend was awarded Most Original and is the last four trunk cabin, flybridge, straight sheer sportfisherman of her kind. Her exterior and interior are fitted with varnished Honduran mahogany. When the owner was asked how long he spends maintaining the boat he replied that he drives the boat about five minutes over to Michael’s (Rybovich) place, waits for a call, “goes back to review the bill and drives the boat back—so about 10 minutes.” It was a good laugh.
The largest at the dock this year and winner of the Spectator’s Choice Award was Blackhawk, a 123- foot Feadship built in 1971. It wasn’t hard to determine who owned the yacht when the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team logo was on the welcome mat and the two tenders were named Slapshot and Powerplay.
As lunch was being served back on Buccaneer Island, the crowd was treated to another exemplary air show that began with the C-47 Placid Lassie, a WWII veteran who flew many missions in Europe, including D-Day. The Crowd Pleaser Award went to Gene McNeely and his aerobatic flying 1950 AT-6G, and the Spectator’s Choice award was easily decided as the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, once again added icing to the cake.
The aircraft Best of Show Award went to the recently restored 1914 Curtiss Model F Flying Boat. The biplane hull is made of spruce and is covered with 5/16-inch thick African mahogany planking with multiple coats of marine spar varnish. The Flying Boat doesn’t fly anymore, although it could with the Curtiss OX-5 V-8 engine. It’s headed to the Collings Foundation in Hudson, Massachusetts, as part of a
Navy exhibit at the American Heritage Museum.
After a night of dancing “Through the Decades,” it was time to power up to the next rally, but plans for the 2019 Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend are already underway.
By Steve Davis, Southern Boating January 2019