Palm Beach yacht wreck brings back memories of beached freighter

Socialite Mollie Wilmot stands near the 197-foot freighter that ran aground on her beachfront home in November, 1984. (Post file photo)
Socialite Mollie Wilmot stands near the 197-foot freighter, Mercedes, that ran aground at her oceanfront home in November, 1984.
(Post file photo)
The 72-foot yacht, Time Out, beached on the sand just south of the Palm Beach Inlet on September 7, 2016. (Post photo/Lannis Waters)
The 72-foot yacht, Time Out, beached on the sand just south of the Palm Beach Inlet on September 7, 2016. (Post photo/Lannis Waters)

The 72-foot yacht that ran aground on Palm Beach last week brought back memories of the time a storm drove a far-larger freighter into a socialite’s seawall for an uninvited three-month stay.

On Wednesday, yacht owner Thomas Henry Baker’s boat, the Time Out, ended up on the beach just south of the Palm Beach Inlet as he returned from a trip to the Bahamas.  Baker, who police say admitted drinking Long Island iced teas on board, blamed his GPS for directing him to shallow waters near the beach.  He was charged with boating under the influence, his second such arrest in the last month.

Back in 1984, Mollie Wilmot’s maid awakened her the day after Thanksgiving, saying the society hostess had guests at her oceanfront mansion, one door south of what was then still the Kennedy estate.

Wilmot expected it was the photographer scheduled to shoot her house for Town & Country magazine that day.

Instead, it was the captain and 10-member crew of a 197-foot Venezuelan freighter now towering over her pool cabana as the derelict rust bucket pounded her seawall into concrete chips.

Ever the hostess, Wilmot served the crew finger sandwiches, caviar and coffee in her gazebo, becoming the glamorous star of a reality show playing out on her beach.

I was working for a Miami TV station at the time and was among the gaggle of reporters and photographers who showed up later that day.

Reporter Barbara Marshall (at left) worked for a Miami TV station while covering the beaching of the Mercedes. (Post file photo.)
Reporter Barbara Marshall (at left) worked for a Miami TV station while covering the beaching of the Mercedes. (Post file photo.)

To us, Wilmot offered hot cocoa on cold mornings and icy martinis at cocktail hour almost every evening.  (I recall the network correspondents who didn’t have a story on the air that night indulging.  The rest of us were always on deadline or preparing for live shots.)

A Venezuelan freighter named Mercedes was an uninvited guest at socialite Mollie Wilmot's seawall, Thanksgiving weekend of 1984. (Post file photo)
A Venezuelan freighter named Mercedes was an uninvited guest at socialite Mollie Wilmot’s pool pavilion on Thanksgiving weekend of 1984. (Post file photo)

In her big white sunglasses, Wilmot, a horse breeder and department store heiress who died in 2002, became a national figure as she tottered around her pool patio, always wearing white while carrying her dog, a white fur ball named “Fluff.”

While various agencies debated how best to get the freighter afloat and reporters made bets on when it would be hauled out to sea, the droll Wilmot gathered her Palm Beach friends to sip cocktails and watch the news unfold live from her back yard.

After overstaying its welcome by 105 days, the Mercedes was finally hauled away to become an artificial reef off the Broward County coast.

Disney studios hoped to turn the saga into a movie called “Palm Beached,” but Wilmot balked at the choice of Bette Midler playing her as well as a plot line that had her cavorting with the ship’s captain.

Wilmot’s house was sold and demolished after her death.  A new house on the property sold for $23 million in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Palm Beach County city was listed as one of the happiest in Florida

happy-people

Do you feel happy in Palm Beach County? According to a new list, one city is among the happiest in the state.

OnlyInYourState listed the top ten happiest cities in Florida with West Palm Beach being slotted in ninth place. Coral Springs took the top spot followed by Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Cape Coral, Tampa, Gainesville, Pembroke Pines, Clearwater, and Fort Lauderdale.

According to the site, West Palm Beach made the list because “residents love this city because there’s always something fun to do, delicious to eat, or somewhere great to shop.” They add that residents “get to experience a South Florida lifestyle with lower home prices than the bigger cities to the South.”

Related: Best parks in Palm Beach County

Naples and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton were absent from this list, but previously were named some of the happiest and healthiest cities by the State of American Well-Being rankings last year. Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Wellington also ranked as happy cities on a list by Zippia in April.

Not all is great in Palm Beach County though as West Palm Beach, along with Miami and Fort Lauderdale, were listed as unfit cities by a recent American Fitness Index report.

Read more at OnlyInYourState.

Related: Best beaches in Palm Beach County

Which Florida beaches made Southern Living’s best beaches list?

beach

Southern Living magazine combed 2,000 miles of coastline to find the Best Beaches in the South.

None in Palm Beach County made the list but six spots along the Florida coast did, including Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys, Caladesi Island north of Clearwater on the Gulf of Mexico, Naples, Shell Island near Panama City in the Panhandle, South Walton Beach and St. Augustine.

Related: Best beaches in Palm Beach County

 

Which Florida hotel is among the “most stylish new hotels in the South?”

In addition to service and luxury, a great hotel offers an immediate sense of place.  Could The Breakers be anywhere other than in Palm Beach?

Garden & Gun magazine, that beautiful monthly chronicle of what’s new and cool in the The South has come out with a list of new Southern (and OK, Caribbean) hotels that are as stylish as they are dazzling reflections of their locations.

thompson

Making the list is The Thompson, a new hotel on the once-again-fashionable northern end of Miami Beach. The retro beach chic look of the pet-friendly hotel is meant to remind us of the ’50’s, when the neighborhood was the the hang-out of the Rat Pack. There’s even a Carmen Miranda suite.  Michelle Bernstein, the former chef at the Omphoy (now Eau Palm Beach) helms the kitchen at the hotel’s Seagrape restaurant.

DR

Another hotel on the list has a Palm Beach connection, although it’s located a thousand or so miles south.  The Playa Grande Beach Club on the Dominican Republic’s north shore was designed by Celerie Kemble, who grew up in Palm Beach and whose mother, Mimi McMakin, is the founder of Kemble Interiors. Designed in a colonial style with gingerbread fretwork, copper soaking tubs and a soft pastel palette, the nine bungalows were created to look like they’d been around for decades, Kemble has said.

The list includes other new hotels in the Carolinas, Virginia and Savannah.

 

 

 

 

 

Which famous NASCAR driver was spotted at Palm Beach’s Meat Market?

photo kurt busch
Kurt Busch stares through the windshield of his car at NASCAR.

Lots of celebrities have been spotted out lately in Palm Beach County. The latest is NASCAR champion, Kurt Busch. Busch was seen dining with his fiancee Ashley Van Metre at Meat Market in Palm Beach.

Related: Which celebrity stopped by Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach

Related: Five stars who dined out recently in Palm Beach County

What’s the most beautiful building in Florida?

Sorry Palm Beach, but it’s not The Breakers or the Flagler Museum.

Viscaya Museum & Gardens in Miami named the most beautiful building in Florida.
Viscaya Museum & Gardens in Miami named the most beautiful building in Florida.

The website Thrillist.com has released a list of each state’s loveliest buildings and in Florida, the winner is Viscaya, the beautiful 1916 James Deering estate on Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

The Venetian-Tuscan-Italian Renaissance mansion-turned-museum was the dream of James Deering, who helped to found International Harvestor in the late 19th century.

Viscaya's spiral staircase is an example of its architectural extravagance. (Post file photo)
Viscaya’s spiral staircase is an example of its architectural extravagance. (Post file photo)

Viscaya Museum & Gardens is open daily except Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Click here for more information.