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The ultimate yacht.

Lots of yachts motor into Sarasota and stay for a few days or a season, but few compare to the 103-foot Bellini, which spends many winter days docked downtown at Marina Jack's.

This sleek, custom-designed yacht belongs to Sarasota's John and Connie Porter, who have enjoyed some of their happiest hours on board, cruising to favorite ports of call. "I love this boat," says John, chairman of the board of LDDS Communications. "It's the one place I can really get away and unwind and not worry about things."

John's love affair with boating began at age nine. He grew up in Atlanta and remembers skimming the waters of Lake Lanier and Lake Altoona in small ski boats. He eventually graduated to a 32-footer, then made a series of upgrades until he found the vessel he had always dreamed about.

"Originally I was going to design and build my own," he says. But when close friends Howard and Eileen Curd, who live in Fort Lauderdale, decided to sell the exquisite yacht they had commissioned in 1990, John just couldn't resist. "It was the boat my wife and I were going to build," he says simply.

You'd be hard-pressed to improve upon Bellini, with its elegant stateroom, complete with an oversize black marble Jacuzzi placed between the his and her baths. Then there are the two gorgeous guest staterooms, the three staterooms reserved for the crew, the country-style galley with a large breakfast area, the 32-foot main salon -- "a decent-sized room," is how John describes it -- with original art gracing the walls between the large windows, which admit spectacular ocean views.

The Porters have entertained aboard -- in grand style -- as many as 100 guests at a time. They have also chartered the boat to celebrities and jet-setters, for luxurious private cruises.

You can lounge in serene tranquility on the aft deck, but it's on the huge fly bridge you can take in wide-open views. This is also where all the toys are kept ... an 18-foot bowrider dinghy with outboard, two Waverunners and two nifty little motor scooters for buzzing around in port.

John raves about his crew but adds that part of the Bellini's appeal is that he can take the helm himself and handle the vessel with ease. "I never want anything so big I can't operate it myself," he says. "We love to run down to South Seas Plantation or Useppa, and we couldn't do that if we had a much bigger boat. As it is, we can only run her around here at high tide."

The Porters spend a lot of time on Florida's east coast, at favorite ports from Key Largo's Ocean Reef Club to Miami's Fisher Island. The crew takes her north in the summer, to one of John's favorite cruising grounds, the waters around Newport and Nantucket.

When the Porters bought Bellini, they were going to change the name, but the boat had been featured in magazines all over the world. "The problem with changing the name of a famous boat is that when it goes by, people say, 'There goes the old Bellini.' I didn't want that, so we asked the original owners if we could keep the name."

It turned out the original owners had sentimental reasons for wanting the name to endure. When the Curds are in Venice, Italy, they frequent the celebrated Harry's Bar, whose original, now famous, blend of champagne and peach schnapps took on the name "Bellini." Rumor has it that it was a favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway's when he visited. The Curds love it, too, and delighted in serving it to their guests on board the namesake yacht. The Porters are happy they kept the name, says John. Smiling proudly, he adds, "We're going to keep the boat, too."
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Title Annotation:Sarasota Style; LDDS Communications Chairman John Porter's yacht 'Bellini
Author:Holler, Janis Frawley
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Signs of life.
Next Article:Sarasota's ultimate luxury suites.

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