“Dayboats” are a myth…
… and you can have one this fall.
The two hottest segments of the yachting market over the last few years have been “Dayboats” and “Expedition Yachts.” Between Long Island Yachts and Hartman Yachts, I’m lucky to cover the waterfront for you, so to speak. But I put both terms in quotes today because they have become almost meaningless categories. Meaningless, because builders and marketers are sketchy about how they label and define them. These days anyone can call just about anything a dayboat, and build what they want. This inevitably [or is it purposely?] leads to confusion in our yachting marketplace. But of course providing such clarity is what The Fog Warning is all about, so please join me today as we explore the myth and reality of dayboats. We will answer the questions:
- What’s going on here?
- Exactly what is a dayboat?
- Is this even a real thing?
- Or is it just a marketing gimmick?
What is not a myth is how hot his market really is. There is a worldwide shortage of new boat inventory, and for most builders delivery slots are as much as 18-24 months out (unless you are Tom Brady).
For answers I start today with a boat show story – from one of some 150 I’ve worked over the years. I’ve found that boat shows can be as much an education for me as for my clients. And that’s important because in an industry as fun and absorbing as ours – especially if you are a specialist in a particular niche – it’s easy to drift into what I’m always cautioning builders about: Your own private “Boat Bubble.”
Cut off in that bubble, over time you isolate you from the most important and valuable perspectives in yachting – that of your clients. So I work hard at seeing my boats though my client’s eyes. That’s a big part of how I’ve been able to sell over $50m in yachts in my time.
I found myself spending most of that show aboard the Zeelander 55 (available at the coming Palm Beach Boat Show later this month. Call me for the inside scoop!)
Now, pre-COVID, the Lauderdale show would average about 100,000 visitors of the week. We paid premium prices to dock our Zeelander’s on the main drag, so virtually every single attendee got to see our boats. Looking back at our registration data for that show, I see we had 400 viewings over five days. Eighty quality showings a day is a very good show. At this particular show I was surprised to hear something I hadn’t heard in earlier years. And I heard it at least four times a day:
“Nice, really nice. Basically, a big dayboat, right?”
Huh, I thought? The Zeelander 55 is a three-cabin, two-head yacht with a real galley and three (count ’em) separate dining areas:
In my book that’s a motor yacht, pure and simple. But when clients speak, I listen. Maybe the marketplace shifted under my feet to the point where 50,000 pound yachts like this could now being called dayboats? I resisted that conclusion at first, but by the end of show I realized I had some work to do if I was going to keep up with my clients. That work began with some basic definitions.
My own way of defining and categorizing boats is a two-step process. I always start with history, because our personal nautical heritage is important – it connects our boats with the boats we grew up on (or hungered for greatly as kids). More about that later in this post.
But the heart of my approach is to distinguish between function (a lot) and form (a little). In other words, for me its about what a boat does, not how she looks. For example, a true sportfish is designed and built to achieve one function perfectly: To bring in trophy fish. If she can do that, then in my book she’s truly a Sportfish.
A globe-circling, bulletproof yacht that go just about anywhere, any time for forty days or more, safely and with all her toys? If she achieves that function – if she can truly walk that walk – then to me she’s a true Expedition Yacht.
But a dayboat? That’s just too broad a concept to be helpful. Is it a boat you take out for a thoroughly enjoyable day on the water? That’s the first definition that Onno Laarhoven and I came up with on The Fog Warning Podcast devoted specifically to dayboats and Long Island Yachts. But of course by that definition even my kayak is a dayboat. As is just about any outboard powered boat that the industry wants to slaps that label on:
This, my loyal clients, is not helpful. So it seems clear that with dayboats, perhaps because they have to achieve so much with so little space, function has to go fully hand-in-hand with form.
For function, I’ll list these ingredients:
- Largely open boats with small [ish] cabins;
- Quite speedy;
- With a head and at least a rudimentary galley; and,
- Not for sleeping aboard for more than a night or two.
For form I’ll add:
- A luxurious feel;
- Uncompromising fit and finish;
- For reasons of style and history, usually European-built; and,
- Especially by Italians and Dutch builders.
Now, the relative comfort levels of sleeping aboard is a very subjective thing. What’s luxury cruising for one family can be bare-bones camping to another. But either way, while we can cruise aboard a dayboat for a week, wouldn’t a more comfortable nautical lifestyle involve staying at a waterside home or a beachside resort, with the right boat docked right outside? Or let’s put the question this way:
Question: Shouldn’t the travel to your luxurious destination be just as luxurious as the destination itself?
Answer: Yes, if you can seamlessly meld artful form to well-engineered function. And that’s where Luxury Day Boats come in.
Yes, it’s luxury that’s driving the market. So I am hereto and forthwith retiring the term dayboat on The Fog Warning. From now on its all “luxury day boat” all the time.
Now, I mentioned history earlier. How did we get here? Of course it’s evolved over time. Some say the sector started in Italy after the war, with stunning little yachts like Grace Kelly’s AquaRiva:
But personally, I place it in the USA back in the 30’s, with amazing creatures like this Chris Craft Barrel-back:
and, of course, Hackercraft:
But while the Americans got there first with development and design, it’s the Italians who won the race by defining the luxury dayboat lifestyle. And those reasons, I suggest, are due to accidents of geography and history. Geography because Italy is blessed with over 4,700 miles of coastline, the most in Europe. And most of that coastline is backed by forbidding mountain ranges. That’s why even today you can travel between Cinque Terre’s five seaside villages quicker by boat than by car or rail:
History because a thousand years of harbor-building by Roman Empire engineers placed harbors 20 miles apart up and down its entire coastlines. The result? Luxury dayboat heaven, as in Portofino:
With harbors like these, who needs to sleep aboard when you can boat from Genoa to San Remo for lunch? All you need is a measure of speed and style that matches the elegance of your destination.
In America luxury dayboats are filling that need from New England to Florida. I keep my own boat in Sag Harbor. There are days when I can almost skip across the harbor, jumping from one luxury dayboat to another. Again, its the geography that’s determinative. From Sag to Montauk, and on to Block Island, Newport, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and back again, it’s those same Italian Riviera-like skips and jumps.
And Florida? It’s not just skipping down to the Keys. The Bahamas are all of 48 miles away. A 40/40 (a forty-foot, forty-knot luxury dayboat) can get you there in ninety minutes.
Now, of course, the market has moved beyond its classic origins, almost entirely with smaller builders (true luxury cannot be sustained with mass builds). Most are splashing from ten to forty boats a year. Which is the main reason that luxury day boat deliveries are now up to two years out for builders like:
But then again, my own line, Long Island Yachts, has open USA delivery slots for their 25 to 40 foot luxury dayboats as soon as this fall. Just launch a flare for the details:
Well, as an old-time broker, an early mentor of mine once told me “Dave, the good Lord gave you two ears and just one mouth. Use them accordingly!” So I’m going to turn those two ears towards you, my loyal clients. Let me know your thoughts about whether a 55 foot, three-cabin, 50,000 pound yacht can be considered a luxury dayboat? I’m, um, all ears…..
Thanks, and enjoy!
[Big Wave] Dave Mallach