A cruiser's visit to custom boatbuilder and marina Tiffany Yachts on Virginia's Northern Neck may have been practical, but a girl can window shop, can't she?

by Diana Prentice
photo by Starke Jett

Randy and I have long been in love with the Great Wicomico River, which lies about five miles down the Bay from Smith Point. But over the years, our explorations have been pretty much confined to the river's first few miles. The Great Wicomico, however, is easily navigable for another three blissfully bucolic miles--to Glebe Point, where the 55-foot-high fixed bridge at Route 200 puts an end to our tall-masted travel. (Those of shorter stature can continue upriver for another two to three miles.)

Last fall, however, it was to Glebe Point that we decided to cruise, aboard our sloopStrider, to explore the river generally and to visit Tiffany Yachts in particular. We also needed to fuel up and change our oil, and we knew that Tiffany had all the right facilities and supplies for that as well. So I phoned to see about accommodations and spoke with owner Randy Cockrell. The 21-slip facility was jam-packed at the moment with end-of-season lay-ups, he explained, but there was one spot available on the long face dock in front of the facility's two marine railway lines. We took it.

The Cockrell family has been building boats at Glebe Point since Randy's father and grandfather--Tiffany Cockrell and Odis C.W. Cockrell, respectively--opened for business in 1934. They began by building handsome deadrise workboats and eventually converted with the times to fiberglass, using their own special methods. Tiffany Cockrell has retired, but Randy Cockrell and his sister Rebecca Cockrell Jones, continue to operate the yard, building customized boats with a small, close-knit group of employees. Now another generation has joined Tiffany Yachts, with Rebecca's daughter and Randy's son putting their own skills to work.

Randy Cockrell took our lines as we sidled up to the dock and then led us to the well stocked marine store, housed in a very large tin-roofed boat shed. Tiffany gives the impression of a high-density community of work buildings, with one tall green structure after another added as needed over the years. As we stepped over rail lines and looked wonderingly around, our attention was caught by the 57-foot-long sleek mahogany beauty ofKensington. The motor-yacht, built in 1924, was sitting on one set of rails while undergoing restoration. This was clearly no simple mom-and-pop boatyard. Everywhere we looked we saw a different type of boat--here a modern sportfisher awaiting repair and there a recent motoryacht getting a refit. Then we spottedExtravaganza. This super-elegant 68-foot enclosed-bridge fishing yacht is a Tiffany design and the company flagship. Just beyond, at the fuel dock, was a Tiffany 44, another of their custom-designed yachts, and a Tiffany Classic 38.

We collected our supplies and returned to the dock, stopping by the boaters' lounge to check out the facilities and showers for future reference. We'd have to make our own dinner that evening, since there are no restaurants within easy striking distance, but for the moment we were content to watch the prodigious labors of Tiffany's craftsmen on a treasure trove of boats old and new, large and small.

The Cockrells have applied for and received partial approval for an additional 39 slips on the other side of Glebe Point. If they succeed, they will make this jewel in a simple setting accessible to even more boaters.