No Room at the Inn!

I. No Room at the Inn

For some of us it may be true that our first boat show is as memorable as our first kiss. In my case, they were both in the same year!  The boat show was at the old New York Coliseum, on Columbus Circle. Finding this New York Times article today, I was struck by the dates pictured on the Coliseum marquis. I’m certain I was there on the last day, as it was my fourteenth birthday! I must’ve been one of the smiling people mentioned in this headline, because that show set me on the course I travel with you all today. Boats make me happy. Always did, always will. You too, I am sure.

Here’s another  iconic New York Boat Show pic, from 1961. Looks like 42nd street to me:

To be charitable, the Coliseum was never the most attractive building in NY. Back in the day some called it “The ugliest building Robert Moses ever built.”

 

Architects and civic planners celebrated when it was razed to make room for the much more impressive Time Warner Center (Home of Club Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where you can often find me on a Friday night).

Why all this history? What is the method to my madness? Well,  it’s all about that particular era in boating. You may recall that back in the 70’s recreational boats were designed and marketed around one simple measurement – and it wasn’t price or speed. The question was:

How many berths can we squeeze in?

It wasn’t uncommon to find a 32’ boat (sizeable, back then) with seven berths. No one ever filled them, of course. But manufacturers felt compelled to engage in this “berth arms race,” completing like crazy over a nonsensical number, and damn the torpedoes!

I’m glad we now boat in more rational times.  Because, really now, how many people do you want to cruise with? As Ben Franklin famously observed:

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Fortunately, with our functioning pressure hot water systems, this is no longer true. But there is a limit to how many people we want to travel with. Which is why designers now put their energies into creating beautiful and functional communal spaces, like galleys, dining areas, and salons. They understand that with guests, sometimes less is more. Of course, you can be lucky enough to own a six-cabin boat, and then simply choose not to fill them up.  But it’s always easier to tell your in-laws the simple truth: “Sorry, no room at the inn.”

My current listings, from 67 to 85 feet, all take the same approach – even the 82 and the 85 are three-cabin boats (plus crew quarters).  I’ve helped design and sell some four and five-cabin boats, but I suspect the last cabin or two is rarely used.

Better to be creative in how you cruise. When you’ve docked your three-cabin in Abaco, for example, in a crunch you can always fly in guests, put the kids in the crew cabin (oh, how kids love crew cabins)…

Crew Cabin – Vicem 72 Baron

….and stash your Captain in a local hotel for a few days. Trust me, three is the perfect number. Here, from the perspective of my listings, is why:

First, for your viewing pleasure, I present Mahogany Rose, my 2007 Vicem 67:

She has your basic three-cabin plus crew layout, but with a twist: The mid-ship cabin easily converts from sleeping cabin to full-sized working office, and back again.

This way the owner (um, that would be you…)  has a choice of master cabin’s to sleep in, either in the bow –

 

  – or mid-ship if the office isn’t needed. Between the two, as much as anything the choice comes to down to peace and quiet.  More specifically, when you want your piece and quiet.

If you’re tied up at a slip, and sleeping in the bow, you’re a long way away from your guests or crew when they’re stumbling through breakfast prep. It’s just much easier to sleep in. That said, considerations change when you’re on the hook in a roily anchorage. Once the harbor wakes up and boats get moving,  you will hear hull slap as your neighbors go by.

On the hook or in the slip, you won’t have any doubt when you hear your bow thruster engage. A client put it quite well to me last week when he said it sounds like “a ton of marbles in a blender” (although that under-berth enclosure can be easily soundproofed. I don’t know why more people don’t do it).

My conclusion here? As in all things in life, it’s nice to have choices. Move to the quieter space as circumstances and guests dictate.

In all of my flybridge listings, whether bow or mid-ship master, you’ll find Vicem’s infamous four-cabin bunk room. Perfect for kids and young adults:

Mahogany Rose Bunk Room

Look closely at above pic, and you’ll see that the upper bunks fold up, to create a roomy two-person cabin. Mahogany Rose is in Charleston, just waiting for you….

For a different approach to accommodations, check out Truant, my 2007 Vicem 70:

Truant, Vicem 70

She, too is an intelligently designed three-cabin boat, plus crew under the cockpit. And like the V67, she has a bunkroom for four. But Truant has, by far, the largest bunkroom in her class, with extra floorspace for dressing comfortably. And each of those four bunks has its own TV, and its own Direct TV receiver and headset. There are no entertainment arguments on Truant, ever.

Truant Bunk Room

Truant’s master cabin, by the way, is in the bow, with a stunning dressing area. Note how her high-gloss varnish work just pops!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Baron, my 2007 Vicem 72, is a three-cabin yacht with by far the largest owner’s cabin in her class. Her mid-ship master is apartment-sized, with closets to match. The best view of her is at 2:01 in this amazing video:

Even this video doesn’t quite capture the the size and elegance of her master cabin. Come to Miami and see with your own eyes how her uniquely accented blue LED lighting glows, and take in the view through her in-hull windows. If you are coming to the Palm Beach Show, it’s not hard to run over and take a look.

Untethered, my Viking 82 Enclosed Skylounge, is in a class of her own:

All other Viking 82’s are four-cabin models. As such, they all have a long narrow corridor leading to the bow, with cabins branching off to each side. When all cabin doors are closed, things can get a little …. claustrophobic. But Untethered was expressly conceived as a three-cabin yacht, with a huge master aft of the bow crew quarters:

 

This is a boat where space and privacy rule.  I’d be happy to show her to you in Fort Lauderdale at any time. (including during the Palm Beach show).

Lastly, the queen of my fleet is Essence, that wonderful 2007 Vicem 85:

Essence is the largest express downeast-style boat on the planet (So far, anyway. More on that below). Like Untethered, her owner designed her up front to be first and foremost an owner’s boat. His three-cabin layout supports that decision intelligently. Her crew cabin occupies the entire bow area, providing maximal privacy, while her mid-ship master defines elegance as few boats can:

Master Cabin, Essence – Vicem 85

 

I expect you‘ve discerned my preference – When it comes to cabins, after a certain point less is more. And I think Ben Franklin would have agreed with me.

II. On to Italy…

So, Essence is the largest downeast style express boat ever built. But apparently not for long!  I have been in discussions with with a yard in Italy for a client interested in this [four-cabin!] 105’ Belleza Express. Yes, that’s 32 meters. Isn’t she spectacular?

 

 

 

 

 

She has an eighteen month build time, which is remarkable for a yacht this size (although not for steel boats). I have all the details on performance and pricing, so if she interests you, just pull out that trusty flare gun of yours and launch away. Or even better, come to Genoa with me in March and meet the principals. Her pricing is attractive, and full customization is possible.

I never thought anything could eclipse Essence, but I’ve learned to never say never. Come to think of it, isn’t “Eclipse” a great name for a yacht?

III. On to Haiti…

Long time readers will remember my thrills and chills helping to build a school for 400 kids in a “you-can’t-get-there” part of Haiti. A couple of clients have asked recently  about it, so I’ll provide an update, along with a request for some help for some wonderful children.

It took there years and almost $175,000, but we got our school built and operating. What once looked like this:

Has become this, the flagship of schools in the hills of eastern Haiti:

 

It is a beautiful and humbling thing, but….

The original Bodarie School had a short teaching day – classes ended at 1pm. Not because we couldn’t afford the teachers. It’s just that we couldn’t afford a lunch program, and the kids had to go home to eat.  That changed after the Goudou-goudou, the awful earthquake in 2010 (Goudou-goudou is an approximation of the terrible grinding sound Haitians heard during the quake).

In a stroke of good luck, after the earthquake we were able to get a grant from UN reconstruction authorities. The deal was that if we could build a kitchen, they would provide food for our kids. Of course we raced to build that kitchen, and the school day was extended to 3pm. The kids were thrilled, as you can see here as they eagerly  await a rice delivery:

Unfortunately that food grant has now ended, and we had to end the food program. School ends at 1pm again, and the quality of education has of course been impacted.

My friends on the ground in Bodarie tell me that they need $35,000 annually to feed these kids. My friends and clients had a very significant role in getting this school built, and I humbly turn to you again.

We have a dedicated funding stream that largely covers all day-to-day educational costs. But this food enhancement  is just sitting there, waiting for generous souls like my loyal readers to chime in. Please let me know if you can help, and I promise to steward your contribution with the utmost care. An overview of the school’s mission and purpose can be found here:

And the reasons why are right here:

Feed these kids!

Thank you, one and all, for tuning in once again to my ramblings.

Spring is coming. I guarantee it!

Big Wave Dave

 

Drones and Bones….

I. Cats, lots of Cats

I’ve been on the road for much of the last six weeks, and I expect you’ll find the story interesting. The reason: One third of the charter catamarans in the Caribbean were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. That was over 350 cats!

 

Tornado’s spun off near the eye of the Hurricane reached an unimaginable 256 MPH, enough to lift a 65’ power cat off the water, flip it over, and deposit it onshore:

 

No one ever thought that was possible. All in all, it is an extremely humbling exposure to nature’s forces.

For the charter biz, rebuilding is a major challenge. Existing multihull factories in South Africa, France and elsewhere in Europe are running at maximum capacity to try and replace these boats, but they don’t have the facilities and staff to keep up. Under current conditions, it will take no less than three years to restore these fleets. So I’ve been flying about, connecting existing builders and charter boat companies with under-utilized factories in China and Turkey that can take up the slack.

The surprising news is that a big percentage of the re-build will not be sailing cats. Power cats are the future of the Caribbean charter trade. Over the last five years, more and more power cats have entered service. Vacationers increasingly find them ideal for their intended uses. The hurricane has greatly accelerated this trend, and in five years the best guess is that power cats will approach 50% of the entire fleet.

So, as you might imagine, I’ve been learning a lot about these felines. They are fascinating creatures, from design and engineering perspectives.  Of course, for fans of The Fog Warning and the yachts I cover, most will find them rather unattractive. To be fair to their designers and builders, it’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that very hard to build a high-volume power cat that has sufficient bridge deck clearance (measured from under the main salon sole down to the waterline) to prevent pounding and slamming, yet avoid appearing tall and boxy. Here’s some examples of the latter:

 

In time, if the market demands it, designers will come up with sexier approaches. My own highly subjective take on this is that one builder has already accomplished this, with what I see as a downeast style 47′ yacht (!) made by Maine Cat:

On the other hand, what do I know? Less than the marketplace, apparently, as only four of these have sold. I’m very curious what my readers think. This one is on the market, in Fort Lauderdale, for $579k. I haven’t sea trialed her yet, but if you’d like to see her, I’d love to show her to you. Just launch a flare.

II. V is for Visibilty

Long time readers know that one of my big answers to the question WMABGAW (What makes a boat great, and why), is visibility. Simply stated, can you see what you need to see, to operate safely in all conditions?   Providing that kind of visibility requires intelligently designed trim angle (both when coming up on plane, and staying there), ergonomic helm placement, and a proper salon layout. You can read one of my earlier discussion about trim angle if you scroll through the Reliant Yachts category, and you’ll find more related content under my Vicem blog.

What I’ve seen on my expeditions is that on the whole, power cats don’t do visibility well. The boats are so wide (with a beam equal to 50% of length, and even more) that flybridge helms (and even most interior helms) are blind to the boat/dock connect point.That’s asking for trouble, in my book. The Maine Cat solves this problem with a cockpit docking station:

 

 

They are not cheap to engineer and build, but I urge anyone considering a power cat to demand one. Your dock, your neighbors, and your insurance company will all thank you!

As for a bit more on trim angles, take a look at this new and additional (exterior views only) drone footage I just got on Baron, my Vicem 72 listing. It shows, IMHO, how all boats should come up on plane. Most don’t. You’ll see how the entire hull just rises up on the same plane. There is none of this pitched bow/squatting stern/strain-to-come-out-of the-hole kind of operation. In a quiet and fuel efficient way, she just elevates and goes. The bow never obstructs your vision, allowing nearby boats, kayaks and jet skis to all live in peace and joy.

Pretty cool, hug? I find it interesting how drones have fundamentally changed marine photography. Back in the day, around 2007 or so, I had to arrange a bunch of helicopter bookings to get these sort of views. They cost upwards of $10,000 each, and the truth is I never felt fully safe doing them. At one point, running a Vicem 67 from the flybridge, the helicopters’s blades were spinning below me, less than boat length away. I was …. uneasy. But the shots are great, and you can read that review, and see those pix, here:

 

https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/boat-tests/vicem-67-flybridge

Of course, this brings me to Mahogany Rose, the sistership to the Vicem 67 in that review. She is in Charleston, awaiting your viewing. Call me, baby….

http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2007/Vicem-Flybridge-3061371/Charleston/SC/United-States?refSource=standard%20listing#.WoH6rmbMydE

 

III. The Mercy

I’m very excited about the coming release of  The Mercy, a film about Donald Crowhurst’s sad 1968 attempt to win the first single-handed race around the world. As most of you already know, he competed in a badly designed and built trimaran called the Teignmouth Electron. When it began to break up off the coast of Brazil, he decided to drift around the South Atlantic for six months, radioing false reports back to race organizers that showed him in the lead.

His plan was to jump back in the race as his competitors came back around the Cape, and to then claim the prize money as the first back to England.  In the end he couldn’t live with his deceptions, and he chose to simply walk off the back of his boat, leaving a widow and three small children. Today, reading the diaries he left behind,  we would recognize him as suffering from an untreated bi-polar condition. It is a sad story, certainly. But also an essentially human one. Here’s the trailer:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3319730/videoplayer/vi297383961?ref_=tt_ov_vi

I have been obsessed with this story since I followed that race as a ten year old sailor. Obsessed to the point that a few years ago, when I heard that the Teignmouth Electron had eventually washed up somewhere on Cayman Brac, I decided I had to see her with my own eyes. Using Google Earth, I was able to find what looked like a wrecked trimaran up in the dunes:

 

 

And off I went on my Crowhurst  pilgrimage. It wasn’t hard to find what was left of her after almost fifty years:

Original name in faded red paint.

 

I don’t know if she is still there, given the recent hurricanes. But if you would like to make a pilgrimage of your own, I’ll send you the old coordinates. The diving and bone fishing in Brac is extraordinary, by the way.

IV. A New Way

In my last posting on The Fog Warning I talked about how the average time to sell a yacht has reached 13 months, in an otherwise strong economy.  Something ain’t right. I’d like to talk about that a bit more here, starting with a story from Monaco.

I was working the Monaco Boat Show on September 15, 2008. You may remember that as the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. There was a hint of panic on the docks.  I remember seeing an agitated American on the docks, screaming into his cellphone “Treasuries, move everything into treasuries, right now!”

 That night I went out with a bunch of my fellow brokers for a gloomy night of drinking. One of them asked “How long do you think it will take the boat market to come back?”

The first answer to be heard was “Never.

The general consensus was three or four years.

My answer? “Ten years.”

Sometimes (not often enough) I’m right. Here’s a chart for you, showing that finally, after ten years, we have just returned to 2008 levels.

 

 

 

But why then is it taking longer than ever for brokerage boats to sell?

My answer is three fold:

  • Too much product;
  • Not enough differentiation among that product; and,
  • A lack of informed and well-communicated information about which of these yachts are the best value, and of the highest quality.

As you all know, The Fog Warning devotes itself to analyzing and delivering that kind of information. So if your yacht is currently for sale with another broker – a relationship you’d like to keep – I can add a strong Fog Warning boost to their efforts. And I can do so usually at no additional cost to you. If you are curious about the why and how, please contact me off line.

And the same applies if you are looking to buy a high-end brokerage yacht. I can help you find your yacht, saving you real net dollars in the process, again at no charge.

It’s a new way of doing business, coming at just the right time. If you’d like to ride that wave, just launch a flare.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks for listening.

Big Wave Dave