Newport, Old Yachting Capital, Provides Backdrop for Sales March 03, 1997 Share 1 -- Reed Travel Features NEWPORT, R.I. -- This city at the mouth of Narragansett Bay is legendary in yachting history.As a destination for the great steam and sailing yachts of the 19th century and the home of the America's Cup -- competitive yachting's top prize -- from 1930 through 1983, Newport is synonymous with sailing the world over.Today, Newport not only is the yachting capital of the Northeast but the sailing hub of the U.S.On any given day, the harbor might be filled with classic wooden sailing vessels or cutting-edge power yachts.Newport also is the gateway to Narragansett Bay.Deep and protected, the bay serves as an excellent point of departure for such popular getaways as Buzzards Bay, Block Island, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and the pristine Elizabeth Islands.Agents with clients interested in chartering a yacht should call the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 326-6030.The bureau will steer agents to one of Newport's many full-service yacht charter brokers who will match them with a vessel best suited to their needs (in addition to Newport, the vessels can be chartered for sailings around the world).However, Newport visitors with little or no sailing experience can take heart: A number of vessels offer excursions that emphasize sightseeing, although a few allow passengers to take the wheel for a taste of the real thing.The following is a sampling.* Adirondack, a 78-foot, classic-design schooner, provides two-hour sailing tours of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.Full-day, half-day or two-hour charters for up to 49 people are available with catering services or box lunches.For information, call (401) 846-1600.* Aurora, Newport's larg-est schooner, at 101 feet, offers a unique sailing experience.Reminiscent of a tall ship, this classic wooden vessel sails past historical landmarks and around the bay during the day or at sunset.Scheduled tours last two hours, but private charters are available for up to 80 people.For information, call (401) 849-6999.* Enchantress, a CAL 34, enables passengers to discover what sailing is all about.With room for up to only six passengers and a small crew, sailing on the Enchantress is like being on a private yacht.Passengers are encouraged to take the wheel during the two-hour sail or just sit back and relax. For information, call (401) 849-3333.* Flyer is the only catamaran offering two-hour sailing tours of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.This 57-foot yacht provides a safe, spacious, open environment for up to 65 passengers.Amenities include a shaded lounge, a large sundeck and a full cocktail bar.Clients can enjoy a daytime sail, a sunset cruise or a charter for longer periods.For information, call (401) 848-2100.* Madelaine, a 72-foot wooden schooner, sets out daily throughout the season on two-hour daytime and sunset cruises.Once on board, passengers can relax and enjoy the elements or join the crew in sailing this classic yacht. Private charters are available.For information, call (401) 847-0298.* Sightsailing, a 50-foot-long sleek machine with a winged keel and a large cockpit, takes passengers sailing past America's Cup racers, million-dollar yachts and stunning seaside estates.For information, call (401) 849-3333.* M/V Amazing Grace invites passengers on board for a narrated cruise through historical Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.Passengers learn about Newport's rich maritime heritage, from its colonial seaport past to its "yachting capital of the world" present.* M/V Romance, Newport's only "floating" restaurant, welcomes people aboard for lunch and dinner as well as for special events like weddings and corporate parties.The vessel can accommodate up to 300 guests for sit-down or buffet dining while cruising the bay.For information, call (401) 848-7533.* Rumrunner II, a 1929 Elco motor yacht, takes passengers on a harbor cruise past the mansions and former speakeasies lining Narra-gansett Bay.The vessel originally was owned by two New Jersey mobsters who used it to smuggle liquor during Prohibition.For information, call (401) 849-3033.* Spirit of Newport, a multideck cruise ship with room for 200 passengers, offers a narrated one-hour cruise of Narragansett Bay.For a change of pace, clients can book a Murder Mystery Cruise or dance the night away.For information, call (401) 849-3575.* Viking Queen, a 140-passenger motor vessel, offers two tour options: Passengers can cruise the bay for an hour or combine a cruise with a two-and-a-half-hour guided tour of Hammersmith Farm, the "summer White House" of President John F. Kennedy.For information, call (401) 847-6921.