What’s a “Dayboat?”
Helping clients understand the crowded yachting marketplace is what The Fog Warning is all about. Some segments are trickier to understand than others, and today we turn our attention towards a deceptively complicated one: Dayboats. This market that has shown tremendous growth over the last three years, to the point where there is now both a shortage of inventory and long lead times in delivery dates. Questions of the day include:
- What’s going on here?
- Exactly what is a dayboat?
- Is this even a real thing?
- Or is it just a marketing gimmick?
My answers start with a boat show – 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 quite 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 your own private “boat bubble.” And without outside reference points that boat bubble can isolate you from the most important and valuable perspectives in yachting – that of our clients. So seeing my boats though my client’s eyes is critical to success. Here is a great example.
Two years ago I was showing a small fleet of Zeelander’s at the Fort Lauderdale show – their 72, 55 and 44 foot models.
I found myself spending most of that show aboard the Z55.
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. And a lot of conversations.
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.”
Huh, I thought? The Z55 is a three-cabin, two-head yacht with a real galley and three separate dining areas:
In my book that’s a yacht, pure and simple. But I began to see the marketplace shifting to the point where 50,000 pound yachts like this could now being considered dayboats. I resisted that conclusion at first, but by the end of show thought that if four clients a day took the time to tell me they saw this 50,000 pound behemoth as a dayboat, how many more would [silently] agree? And that set me on a path to better understand the dayboat sector – the fastest growing part of the market. That path required some basic definitions.
My own way of defining and categorizing boats has always leaned more towards function than form. In other words what a boat does, not how she looks. A true Viking sportfish makes the most of its layout and handling to bring in trophy fish. If it does that, then in my book it’s a Sportfish. A globe-circling yacht that go just about anywhere, any time for forty days or more, safely? If she can truly walk that walk, then in my book she’s truly an Expedition yacht.
But a dayboat? That’s a very broad concept. Too broad to be helpful. Is it just 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 by that definition even my kayak is a dayboat! So it seems clear that with dayboats function cannot be separated from form.
For function, I’ll list these ingredients:
- Largely open boats;
- Quite speedy; and,
- Not slept aboard for more than a night or two by a family.
For form I’ll say:
- A luxurious feel; with,
- Uncompromising fit and finish; and,
- Most commonly European-built. Especially by the Italians and Dutch.
Now, the relative comfort levels of sleeping aboard is a very subjective thing. What luxury cruising for one family can be bare-bones camping for another. But while we can cruise aboard a dayboat for a week, wouldn’t you be far more comfortable staying at a waterside home or a beachside resort with access to the right boat to enjoy during your day? Or let’s put 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, with a Luxury Day Boat.
That’s the answer is what’s driving the market these days: Luxury!
Now, in terms of design, how did we get here?
It’s evolved over time. Some say it started 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:
While Chris Craft got a good jump on development and design, the Italians won the race by refining the luxury dayboat lifestyle. And the 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 elegance that matches your destination.
The same can be said for much of America’s quality yachting, and luxury dayboats are filling that need from New England to Florida. For example, I keep my 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, from Block Island to Newport, and on to Nantucket, to Martha’s Vineyard, and so on, and so on, it’s those same Italian Riviera-like twenty nautical mile skips and jumps.
Now, of course, the market has moved beyond its classic origins. But there are no blockbuster builders cranking out hulls. It’s all small builders, splashing ten to forty boats a year. Which is one reason (to repeat) that deliveries are up to two years out for builders like:
And of course Holland’s Long Island Yachts, with open delivery slots for their 25 to 40 foot models as soon as this fall:
Going back to our Zeelander discussio, I am quite curious about your thoughts – Can a 55 foot, 50,000 pound yacht be considered a dayboat? Launch a flare, as I look forward to your opinion.
Thanks, and enjoy!
[Big Wave] Dave Mallach