Who says you have to be rich
to spend the night on a yacht?

I was privileged enough to stay on the Mei Wen Tei, an authentic 53-foot Chinese Junk. Giving new meaning to the all too famous B + B, these hotel-like ships are perfect for a unique form of relaxation you wouldn't get from a regular hotel. You have a choice of any of four luxurious yachts in Long Beach, California, with Dockside Boat and Bed to rent out for virtually any function imaginable.

I arrived at dock Number 5 in the Rainbow Harbor of Long Beach a few hours before sunset. I was greeted by Kim who gave me a brief tour and history of the Junk. It began with an intriguing first step up the ladder-like stool to the deck of the boat. Still outside, I could sense the sweet smell of the exotic camphor wood that planked the interior. The ship is covered in hand painted murals and artistry signifying that this was not a boat designed in the U.S.

Standing on the deck, I listened to Kim tell a story of a group of corporate executives. They were in town attending a function at the convention center only minutes walk from the dock. She went on to tell me how they had rented out all four ships and transformed them into a Japanese cocktail party complete with sushi from a neighboring restaurant.

"There were a lot of them that had Wasabi (a Japanese restaurant within walking distance from the dock) cater them for the night. They had sushi galore and it went perfectly with the theme of the Mei Wen Tei,"she said. I listened attentively, although I was hoping secretly that she would hurry up and finish so I could go down the hatch to explore below deck.

"This ladder is quite steep, so be sure to use the handrail." she cautioned. Once down the companionway, I was in the Captain's room; complete with a knobbed wooden steering wheel; this room had more buttons and switches than a Nintendo 64 controller. Immediately on the right and down another ladder was the galley, furnished with a microwave, toaster, coffee maker, refrigerator, and galley table with a full set of silverware and dishes. and complimentary snacks. I knew I was in the right place.

Down the same passageway opposite the galley, was the living room. It is connected to the bathroom (the only one on board) by sliding doors and then a bedroom furnished with TV/VCR and stereo with movies and CD's. And what movie collection wouldn't be complete on a yacht without "Titanic," the epic saga of the "unsinkable ship?" If the couch opposite the TV isn't comfortable enough, it uLet's Bunk on a Junknfolds into a genuinely comfortable Lazy Boy bed. If that still isn't comfortable, there's a queen-sized bed in the master bedroom (the mints on the pillows were excellent), with a large armoire, walk-in closet and adjoining bathroom.

I picked up a large antique-looking book and went upstairs on the deck to get some fresh air. At 53 feet in length, this boat offers a large aft deck that comfortably seats eight people. Given the height of the deck, it makes a great spot to take in the beautiful views of the Queen Mary, the Long Beach skyline, as I flipped through the scrapbook of the Junk's history.

The Mei Wen Tei was designed for an American couple that went on a three-year expedition collecting artifacts and items in China for the custom built ship. With curiosity, I examined the black and white photos taken almost ten years ago during the ship's production. I was distracted when my focus rose to the orangey glow of the setting sun, nestled between distant palm trees at the other end of the harbor. A pleasant breeze caressed my face as I watched the ball of reddish-orange light melt on the Pacific Ocean horizon.

Time to hit the town. There is no need to worry about water pressure or conservation because the water lines are connected to the city's water supply. I decided to try the shower out. If you're anything like me that means you can take a 30-minute shower without worry. There's even a window-sized porthole for the steam to go out. It was a bit frustrating though because when the window is open, it takes up about half the shower space. Towels, shampoo and soap are also provided complimentarily.

From the Junk it is easy walking distance to the Long Beach Convention Center downtown and the gourmet "restaurant row" on Pine Avenue. Upon recommendations of my growling stomach, I decided to eat at Rock Bottom Brewery a few minutes up the road. I had a chance to taste some of their finest home brewed beers as well as a wonderful Thai chicken pizza. Of course, I ate entirely too much, so I decided to go back to the Mei Wen Tei to relax and watch a movie - "Ransom," starring Mel Gibson.

The plot surrounds a father whose son was kidnapped and stops at nothing to get him back. The ship setting was so relaxing that I almost forgot I was floating in the harbor. After the movie, I decided to explore the ship in detail.

I found a guest log in the captain's room, and I took it upon myself to be nosy, checking out what others had written about this extra-ordinary yacht. What I found was incredible. Apparently there is some sort of correlation between people who like to stay on yachts and those who have a talent for artistry with a ballpoint pen. With images from the Mei Wen Tei sailing in the harbor during sunset, to evil monsters surrounding a paragraphed critique of their experience, there were very interesting depictions. One woman wrote that her boyfriend had proposed to on deck, and she wrote with excitement that she was thrilled to say "yes": she would always remember the Mei Wen Tei.

With my eyelids getting heavier by the second, it was hard to focus on the words in this dimly lit room. I made my way to the bedroom and got into bed. The occasional creaks of wood reminded me that I wasn't in a typical bed and breakfast. The wood creaked each time the Mei Wen Tei rolled in the harbor swells that were unfortunately few and far between, making me wonder if people sleep better with that motion because of some sub-conscious desire from childhood to be rocked to sleep.

With the exception of a small interruption from a few critters tap dancing on the wooden floor, I slept great and awoke in time to see the sunrise, but dozed back to sleep - the ship was that comforting. Arising around 9 a.m., I found to my surprise, a lovely fruit and pastry basket at the entrance of my hatch. I sat on the deck of what felt like my new home, eating in style before a walk next door to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific to view the shark exhibition.

After returning from the Aquarium, I chatted with Kim and Kent and they offered me a tour of the other three yachts in the Dockside Boat and Bed flotilla. Beautiful Rainbow Harbor is a new development for downtown Long Beach. Dockside has their own private dock half way between the quaint shops of Shoreline Village and the world class Aquarium of the Pacific. Their boats offer magnificent views of the Queen Mary and the downtown Long Beach skyline.

A short walk down the marina berthed the Twin Dolphin, the largest of the four yachts at 60 feet. This truly is a ship for those who want high class. There is a large living room area with a wet bar, leather couches, and a 32" color TV with DVD/VCR/Satellite cable. The formal wood paneled dining room seats six, and was astonishing, considering it is floating on the water. The large galleyseats four and has a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and toaster. The master stateroom has a king-sized bed, TV/VCR and a private bath with a shower. The guest stateroom has twin beds near a second, easily accessible bathroom with shower. The large upper outside deck has a kitchen and impressive views of the harbor.

Dockside Boat and Breakfast also operates in San Francisco and Oakland.

Central Reservations:
(800) 436-2574
http://www.boatandbed.com/
boatandbed@aol.com


San Francisco

Pier 39 C-Dock, San Francisco, CA 94133;
(415) 392-5526.


Oakland

Jack London Square 57 Clay Street, Oakland, CA 94607; (510) 444-5858 Fax: (510) 444-0420.


Long Beach

Rainbow Harbor Dock 5, Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 436-3111 Fax: (562) 436-1181. Email Kim at boatandbed@yahoo.com

The next boat was the Whimsey, a 44-foot Pacemaker motor yacht, meticulously refurbished, with pristine white and navy exterior and warm wood interior with nautical decor. It is the epitome of classic motoryachts of the past. The large back deck comfortably seats four around the table, with additional chairs for four more. The large salon/kitchen area features a sectional couch, a breakfast bar with two stools, a TV/VCR, stereo with CD player, microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. The first stateroom has two twin size bunk beds, and the large master stateroom has a queen-size bed. The one bathroom on board has a shower. The open gallery/living room area features a sectional couch, a breakfast bar with stools, TV/VCR, Stereo/CD player and a furnished kitchen. Impressively, there was quite a bit of space under the deck of this boat. Deceivingly, about 40% of the yacht's space is below the water level.

The last boat in the Dockside fleet I viewed was the Alihilani, a Force 50-foot sailboat with a Hawaiian flair. It was similar in amenities to the Whimsey, with plenty of deck space - the aft seating area seats four; the galley seats four around a table with microwave, fridge, toaster and coffee maker. The open master stateroom features a TV/VCR, stereo/CD player and a small seating double bed in one and twin bed in the other. There are two bathrooms on board, both with showers.
Also located in the harbor are yachts for charter, a sport fishing fleet, small recreational boats for rent, the Tallship "California," an Aquabus (US$1) water shuttle for transport to the Queen Mary, and the ferry to Catalina Island, about 17 mile in the distance.

Gathering my belongings, I pondered why every day couldn't be as relaxing. With no answer, I said my warm farewell and was on my way, but I glanced back once more. Mei Wen Tei is a very relaxing experience, and the Junk has wetted my sailing horizons for a traditional Junk cruise down the coastline of the South China Sea to "Fragrant Harbor" (Chinese translation for Hong Kong). My bags are packed for that adventure.

By Josh Edelson, San Diego Correspondent.

Editor's Note: Look for these stories in Jetsetters Magazine: The Queen Mary; Aquarium of the Pacific; Long Beach Hilton; and sailing from Long Beach to the Channel Islands on the Dirigo II.

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