NEWBURYPORT — With more than 100 spectators crowding the city's waterfront boardwalk, the 197-foot Bella Vita slowly pushed back from the dock about 2 p.m. Tuesday and began a steady three-point turn, the mega yacht's first maneuver as it made its way to the mouth of the Merrimack River and the open ocean.
The departure of the roughly $60 million Bella Vita comes a week after the Lurseen-built yacht, owned by homebuilding mogul Dwight Schar, wowed a similar-sized crowd when it arrived July 6. It is expected to head to Portland, Maine.
"It's amazing, giant," said 14-year-old Landon Payne of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Schar, ranked by Forbes magazine as the 937th wealthiest person in the country in 2010, founded NVR Inc. in 1980.
NVHomes, as it is more commonly known, is one of the largest homebuilders in the country with a presence in 14 Eastern states. Until recently, Schar was a minority owner of the Washington Football Team and has served as the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman.
With a complement of about 20 crew members, the Bella Vita (”Beautiful life” in Italian) can accommodate 12 passengers, each with their own stateroom. The Cayman Islands-registered vessel also has room for two 24-foot tenders and other aquatic toys.
Harbormaster Paul Hogg and others on his staff monitored the departure, done at high tide, from their small fleet of boats.
Earlier in the day, Hogg said the weeklong visit was a boon for the city, which saw thousands of people flock to the waterfront to catch a glimpse of the massive craft.
Hogg said that during the weekend rainstorm, the Bella Vita's enormous anchor was lowered to keep the boat from slapping against the dock, but there were no issues otherwise.
"Everything was perfect," Hogg said of the visit. "A lot of people, nonstop. It kept the downtown buzzing."
With a daily docking fee of $5 per foot, it cost $1,000 a day for the boat to tie up. When added with the up to $6,000 a week it takes to maintain the floating boutique hotel, the Bella Vita's visit cost Schar roughly $13,000.
Last week, Hogg said the Bella Vita was the largest craft to visit Newburyport’s waterfront in his career, besting the previous record holder, the 140-foot Lady Gayle Marie. That yacht, formerly the property of late New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, visited Newburyport four years ago.
Diane Boviard of Newbury arrived at the boardwalk just in time to see the yacht for the first time before it left Tuesday.
"We thought we'd come down and be nosy," Boviard said. "And boy, I never reckoned it would be this grand."