Harsh shares memory of meeting Jimmy Buffett

Published 2:28 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

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Jimmy Buffett kept Washington residents on their toes for two years while his Surfari 50 was being built by Pacific Seacraft from 2015-2017. As soon as Buffett’s plane landed at Washington-Warren Airport, the town would be abuzz with rumors of where Buffett may visit or have lunch while checking on construction of “The Drifter.”

Though built by Pacific Seacraft in Washington, The Drifter was designed by Edward “Ted” Fontaine. 

The Drifter is “a high performance auxiliary powered sailing yacht, it has as strong an emphasis on speed under sail as it does speed under power, which means…it goes places. And once it’s where it needs to be, it becomes a luxury indoor/outdoor living platform that allows its user to enjoy the destination as much as the journey,” Fontaine described in an article for Anchor Yachts, a yacht brokerage company. 

Throughout those two years of overseeing construction of The Drifter, Buffett would at times head into town for lunch. On one occasion, Liane Harsh, was able to meet the popular singer-songwriter. 

Liane Harsh, owner of Inner Banks Outfitters on East Main Street, met Buffett at her shop in 2016. Buffett strolled on over to her shop after lunch at Backwater Jack’s Tiki Bar and Grill. 

“It was just really cool,” Harsh said. “We just started talking, and he was so easy to talk to,” 

They chatted about Hobie paddle boards, and Buffett scrolled through his phone’s camera roll showing Harsh photos of his paddle board collection. Harsh said she tried her best not to appear starstruck in front of the world-renown musician known for his tropical rock music and a lifestyle best described as “island escapism.” 

“It was so normal,” she continued to describe, “I think that’s what was crazy about it.” 

“I think what’s really cool is when you meet a star that you’ve maybe followed and looked up to on some level and they’re actually what you think they would be and you’re not let down by the fact that maybe their ego has gotten in the way…,” Harsh said. 

For Harsh, meeting Buffett was “outstanding in the sense of it being a normal exchange with another person.”  

To Harsh, Buffett was one of those people who seemed immortal – always performing his famous hits like “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” 

“It was really sad,” Harsh said about Buffett’s passing. “It kind of blew my mind at first.” 

“He had a cool impact on a lot of people, and what a great legacy to leave behind,” Harsh said. 

Buffett, 76, died on Sept. 1 in Sag Harbor, New York after battling Merkel Cell Skin Cancer for four years.