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Westport Boardwalk: High Stakes Fun

A successful businessman with a restaurant and growing gaming empire has infused Boardwalk, hull seven of the Donald Starkey-designed Westport 164 series, with his style and personality. He is happy with the result, and you can quote Tilman Fertitta on that.


While practical, the term “series” is a bit inaccurate. In the 1990s, the Washington-based Westport Shipyards gave up custom yachtbuilding and quite successfully so. But this said, it does not build cookie-cutter copies and is perfectly willing to deviate within reason from its models’ spec list to satisfy a client.

“[Westport President] Daryl Wakefield and his team have been very accommodating to me,” says Boardwalk owner Tilman Fertitta, who’s recently rewarded the shipyard’s flexibility by acquiring his third Westport. Before the 164, he had a 130, and a 112 before that.

“I have made huge changes in several of them,” he says. It is not that he doesn’t appreciate what Westport does; in fact, he has returned to Westport precisely because the experienced builder has always delivered. Fertitta does not gamble with the little leisure and family time he can carve out of his action-packed schedule. “They’ve done the right thing every time; they offer a good warranty, and I have not had any problems, so why would I change?”

As far as his hands-on approach is concerned, he says, “Don’t forget, I’m a builder and I enjoy getting involved.” Even with its impressive scale (163'10" LOA, 490 gross tons, six staterooms, commercial-grade galley, diving locker, massive radar arch and helipad), Boardwalk pales in comparison with the multiple projects this energetic, 53-year-old Galveston native handles from his company’s Houston headquarters.

Landside, one of his most recent projects is a Las Vegas legend, the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel on historic Fremont Street. He’s invested energy and a significant amount of resources into what once was the world’s largest casino. After buying the resort in 2005, he built a lagoon, added a nightclub and a couple of restaurants, and in 2008 broke ground on a 500-bedroom hotel addition—all this a good distance away from the glitzier and trendier part of town. At the time, a financial storm was brewing, and nearly everyone else was battening down the hatches.

In October 2010, Fertitta bought back Landry’s Restaurants Inc., which he took public in 1993 when it had nine restaurants. A youthful and confident-looking Fertitta appears on the lead business page of The Houston Chronicle before closing on the deal, estimated at $1.4 billion, including debt. Aside from Landry’s seafood restaurants, the group that employs 24,200 people nationwide, also owns the Chart House chain and kids’ favorite Rainforest Cafe.

As a father of four, Fertitta knows something about entertaining children, and as the head of a growing hospitality empire, he knows about comfort and keeps a handle on the latest trends. The changes he specified for Boardwalk (about nine pages of additions and deletions from the Westport spec list) certainly reflect that.

We toured the yacht with his long-time captain, Tristan Judson. The stylish passerelle in sturdy carbon and attractive teak by Nautical Structures (standard issue on the 164) leads to a roomy foyer with marble and tile flooring and elegant sconces by Wired Lighting. Several of the deletions made are readily apparent: no doors set the dining room and salon apart; the entrance to the foyer is wide; the galley is also open, and there is no elevator; instead, an elegant spiraling staircase is a light conduit from the bridge deck.

The choices made in the main-deck salon and dining area accentuate the yacht’s generous 31' beam. The lovely curves of a sprawling dark brown couch suggest it is welcoming and soothing—just like the deep cream carpet underfoot. A custom detail delineates the dining table set with elegant cream-tone leather chairs. But without dividers, columns or cabinets, the space is more inviting than most formal dining rooms. A colorful abstract painting is the work of Landry’s artists in residence.

The galley is a large and appealing space with attractive granite countertops and big windows. Fertitta and his family love to eat healthy and often do what many families do at home—they congregate in the kitchen. A comfortable leather settee and bar stools are ideal perches around a cooking island set under a large stainless steel hood.

The master stateroom is forward, past an office. That’s a great workspace with a view, but workspace nonetheless. Even while exploring the Bahamas in winter or European coves in summertime, Fertitta must stay in touch with mission control, a.k.a. his Houston office, and multiple businesses nationwide. There is even a TV screen above the tub in the master bathroom. In fact, there are lots of TVs.

One obvious change to the Westport 164 is the radar arch. The one on Boardwalk is probably about triple the size of the “standard” arch on some of the sisterships. It is designed to support in style massive domes containing the latest in communications and streaming technology. It’s expensive, Fertitta admits, but the ability to roam and remain in touch is, well, priceless.

We take the interior staircase up to the bridge deck. Near the landing is a bar with a stylish restaurant-style open wine rack. There are a number of highly rated labels from an excellent year for Bordeaux—1995. Another curvy couch in the elegantly casual skylounge, scattered with toss pillows, is a tempting place to curl up to watch a game or a movie.

Forward is the pilothouse. A change Fertitta specified for the very well-equipped and attractive bridge is the settee. It’s been curved and elevated, so that it is inviting and provides the best of views above the leather-clad helm console.

We climb up one more set of stairs to the sun deck. One surprise here is the presence of an upper helm station forward of the Jacuzzi and several chairs ideally positioned to observe the action from on high. This has got to be fun. The yacht is speedy, with a fast cruising speed that flirts with 25 knots.

Gone is the helicopter that usually rides along. It’s been sent back to the hangar until the family returns for a vacation. But there is a full assortment of toys, including four Boardwalk scooters.

Accessing the lazarette from the large swim platform, which is wide enough to accommodate a fighting chair, we find a complete dive locker. The impeccable engine room (the captain has even ordered special covers to protect the twin MTU engines while the yacht is docked and carpets to hide the metal floor) houses a number of fishing rods stored above the generators. The yacht also carries SeaBobs for the whole family. “Everyone is into everything,” Fertitta says.

After a busy day playing, the family can retreat to ultra-comfortable staterooms (four on the lower deck, the full-beam on-deck master, plus the Westport 164 signature bridge-deck VIP with private balcony). All, of course, have their own entertainment centers, TVs and access to a full movie library. The color scheme—beautiful veneers, dark caramel tones, beige carpets and subtle touches of color—is pleasing, but what add to it immensely are the carefully positioned lights. Sconces, lamps and rope lighting in the recesses of the ceilings or under furniture provide contrast and drama or a soft glow. The captain points out many additions made inside and out (including LEDs strategically ­angled to shine on the boat name at transom), all specified by his boss. “We probably have four times as many lights than any other Westport 164,” says Fertitta. “I don’t know how to write, but I do know where to place lights,” he adds.

When he was a kid growing up in Galveston, Fertitta dreamed of owning a yacht (a 60' Hatteras was his goal). With the Westport trilogy he has gone from a 112' bought in 2002 to the 164' flagship he owns today. We had to ask, and then what?

Fertitta says he has no intention of going for a larger yacht. He is not in this to compete with anyone. Owning a larger yacht would mean he’d have to sacrifice ­access and speed. “I like to go fast and I like to be close to everything,” he says.

“What else would I need? It has everything you’d ever want,” Fertitta says. After touring the yacht for a second time, we could not argue with that.

“Overall, I am a pretty happy owner.” ■

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LOA: 163'10" (49.93m)
BeaM (molded): 30'10" (9.40m)
Draft: 7'6" (2.29m)
MAx displacement: 375 tons (750,000 lbs.)
Max. speed: 24–25 knots
CRUising speed: 20 knots
Range @ cruising speed: 1,700 nm
Long range: 5,200 nm
Hull/superstructure: composite
Fuel capacity: 20,000 gal. (75,708 L)
Freshwater capacity: 2,200 gal. (8,328 L)
Engines: 2 x MTU 16V4000 @ 3,650 rpm
Generators: Main: 2 x 99 kW Northern Lights,
1 x 55 kW Northern Lights
Watermaker: Sea Recovery Coral Sea 3600 3 V/GDP
Year launched: 2010
Paint: Awlgrip high-gloss Westport white
Naval architecture: Westport/William Garden
Interior design: Westport/Owner
Décor: Westport/Owner
Exterior styling: Donald Starkey Designs
Classification/certification: ABS A1