The Fog Warning Blog

When a “custom” yacht is not enough….

I’ve been watching three themes that have gathered speed and power over the last two years. While they were set into motion before the pandemic, COVID has clearly increased their RPM. Today I invite you to explore what they can mean to your yachting life, and how The Fog Warning can help you navigate through them. They are:

  • A decided shift in market interest toward custom builds;
  • A clear demand for transparency in base and options pricing; and,
  • A move towards greater interior volume.

 

You can read below (and on the new website) how The Fog Warning is adapting to these new themes.

Theme I – Not just “custom” yachts. Custom-fit yachts!

Or, how custom in theory becomes semi-custom in practice.

I think that the most overused (and under-defined) word in the yachting world is “Custom.” The term “Bespoke” almost nudged it out of top place there for awhile, but that archaic term seems to have faded from view. I won’t miss it.

While many yacht builders claim to offer custom work, outside of the superyacht realm mostly what they are offering is “semi-custom”  work. By that I mean minor modifications and alterations to fabrics and furnishings, along with some various stock layout choices. Now, by no means do I blame them. True custom work is difficult (and very difficult to do profitably). So builders avoid diving into this for reasons like these:

  • Higher-producing yards can’t interrupt their assembly lines for just one client. The downstream ripple effect is too disruptive to other builds.
  • With fiberglass boats, new molds are required for any substantial change to hull or deck. The odds of a second client wanting the same exact choice made by an earlier owner can be pretty low, making it too much of a gamble to invest in the tooling costs. Now,  digital CNC machines have brought down that mold-making cost considerably. And, of course, with cold-molded construction there are no molds.
  • Most big yards are heavily dependent on subcontractors. Sub’s are on the tightest schedules of all, and if you don’t keep them tight to your calendar, they’ll take for a competitor’s project.  Custom work – the epitome of “measure twice, cut once” values – demands workflow flexibility. That kind of flexibility can rain havoc down upon even the most sturdy Gantt chart.
  • Most big yards use outside designers on a contractual basis. But outsiders can’t react as quickly to client design needs as in-house staff, or make themselves immediately available if complexities arise during the build.

 

It’s a brighter picture, all in all, for smaller builders looking to stand out in a crowded marketplace. They can dive and thrive in that space if they are careful with their quotes.  I am fortunate to have spent most of the last twenty years delivering true custom boats, and am thrilled that my current partners celebrate these challenges with skill and grace!

 

Now, to be clear, even for these builders standard models are their bread and butter. Standard, off the shelf builds will always account for more than half of their production. But for those clients who want truly special yachts, one’s that offer:

  • Varying beams, speeds, and drafts for a given length;
  • More creative space allocations inside and out (and that all-too-important dividing line in-between);
  • Alternative drivetrains (from jets, to surface pricing props, to [now] outboards);
  • Exotic electrical systems (lithium ion, anyone?); or,
  • Elaborate interior impressions, including custom inlays and rare materials (Aphrodite marble, anyone?)

Well then, this is what my guys deliver. In fact, its exactly these capabilities that gave rise to my oft-quoted Vicem line from the early  2000’s:

“You draw it on a napkin, and we will build it!” 

My favorite example of this comes from a Vicem 67 build that did indeed start with a napkin. Her owner needed an elegant VIP cabin that could convert to a CEO office space. His sketches led to these build docs, and this stunning yacht (just recently sold to her second owner, up on the Great Lakes:

 

 

 

 

 

Vicem 67 Flybridge

 

How is this move toward custom builds a COVID-driven thing? My theory is that as worldwide inventory – new and brokerage – sold out during the pandemic, where the wait for even a quality outboard boat has grown to two years (!?!?!!!), clients began to recalibrate their dreams. Those who always yearned for something special came to ask:

“If I’ve got to wait, why not wait for exactly what I want?”

That value-set aligns perfectly with The Fog Warning and our two builders.

Which is why I am so excited by a rare opportunity with Vicem. Their current 88 Cruiser build started construction last year, and is already far along. She can be delivered to her lucky owner in just 12 months! More on this in Theme III below, but for the moment, here’s your build:

 

Now, you may ask, what about the cost of such custom work? Well, that brings us to our second theme today:

Theme II: Transparency in Yacht Buying

The yachting marketplace – as measured by the availability of truly useful information – has radically changed. Most builders are late to the party, and they’ll struggle until they make up that ground. The coming Web 3, and the truly virtual shopping experience’s it will provide (trust me, within three years you will be able to sea trial your proposed yacht in virtual,  apparent 3D reality)  will only quicken the rate of change. The pandemic’s home-shopping modality has made transparency in pricing the new standard for luxury goods.  Knowledgable yachtsmen and yachtswomen want more information, an they want it made available earlier in their decision-making process.

The yachting industry is resistant to this. For fifty years they’ve kept model pricing very close to their vest. The more opaque the picture, the happier they were. They saw pricing as the jewel in their marketing crown, to be saved and savored until negotiations turned serious.

In my consulting work I’ve been telling builders that times have changed, and they will have to change with them. And, I am happy to say that both Long Island Yachts and Vicem Yachts are fully onboard with this new model. Yes indeed, you can now Design, Price and Schedule your fine yachts online:

 

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The option lists you’ll find on our online process are extensive. In fact, many of these options started as custom additions to a new build. Now, while this kind of custom work is not priced online (how could it be, really?) having built and delivered $75m in custom yachts I will be able to give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect. A thirty-minute call should do it.

You can engage in this process with Vicem right here, and over here for Long Island Yachts.

Enjoy your trip!

Theme III – More Elbow Room

This is the most direct pandemic link. Family’s want to take more of their lives to sea, and they need more space for those lives. This became very clear to me this year when more and more of my client conversations focused on Vicem’s  Cruiser line:

Vicem 78 Cruiser

Cruisers have always been my favorite Vicem’s. They haven’t built that many of them in relative terms – less than 10% of their builds. But that is changing fast, and within three years I expect Cruiser will make up 40% of their overall production.

Especially because they can now be built in either Fiberglass or Cold Molded Mahogany!

You’ll find that I will be devoting more and more space here at The Fog Warning to these fine yachts. And that starts today with an overview  of Cruisers past, current and future::

The Already Launched:

The Vicem 97 Cruiser

The very first Cruiser was this V97 (although back in the day it was known as the V92, excluding its swim platform measurement):

 

I’ve had the pleasure of running this yacht all over the world (Turkey, Greece, Croatia, and Monaco), sometimes in some challenging conditions: Here’s a quick clip of running her through some eight-footers (although she is mislabeled here as the 78 Cruiser):

 

This V97 recently sold on the brokerage market, and will be in New York this season. If you would like to see her, I will see what I can do. Her full beam owner’s master cabin in just about the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere short of a Feadship.

 

The Vicem 78 Cruiser

The next Cruiser launched was the 78C. Her more modern interior wowed the crowd at my Dubai Boat Show display in 2012:

 

 

 

 

I was of course thrilled when she sold at that show, to this proud and lucky owner:

As far as I know, she is still in the Middle East.

 

The Vicem 107 Cruiser

Vicem then followed up with the biggest Cruiser to date, an amazing 107C:

 

With a crew cabin for five, she is perfect for the charter market, which is where I believe you will find her today.

 

The Vicem 67 Cruiser

Then we find the Vicem 67 Cruiser, currently living up on the Great Lakes:

 

 

With the 67C Vicem has begun on its path towards smaller Cruisers (and a wider market). You will see how much this “smaller” yacht can accomplish here:

 

If you would like to see her with your own eyes, just launch a flare.

Cruisers Now Under Construction: The 88 Cruiser

Next to splash, as hinted earlier in this report, is the 88 Cruiser. Construction started last year, and she is about one year out from completion. There is still time to select your engine package, make interior changes, and decide tankage and other equipment. As I am long known to say, you don’t want to be on the wrong end of one of my “You Snooze, You Lose!”snoozeagrams, so I urge you to call me quickly about this opportunity. I suspect that as construction proceeds her interior will resemble that of the 107C’s, above. If you envision something entirely different, give me a call.

The New Cruisers:

As Vicem stepped down in size to their 67C, they saw that smaller Cruisers could slide quite well into a growing marketplace. After all, Fleming has built almost 100 of their 55’s.  Hence these new offerings for you today, the  first time they’ve been seen, anywhere: The 58 Cruiser and the 55 Cruiser. They are so new that they are not yet on the Vicem website, and  won’t be on mine till the end of the week. But keep checking in, and for accurate pricing launch a flare and I’ll send you a spreadsheet. Here is what I have so far:

The 58 Cruiser:

 

The 55 Cruiser:

 

This completes the Cruiser portion of our flight today, loyal clients. But please remember that the above list is not exhaustive. If you have Cruiser schemes and dreams of your own. go grab a pencil and a napkin. Perhaps this one will inspire you a bit (and launch a flare if you’d like her full plans):

And what about Long Island Yacht Custom Builds?

It should be no surprise to learn that my friends at  Long Island Yachts are equally devoted to meeting client needs. Lately those needs have tended largely towards drive trains. I am very excited to report today these updates to their 33 and 40 Runabouts – 

Long Island Yacht 33 Runabout

 

The Long Island Yachts 40 Classic: Quality, Performance, and Value!
Long Island Yacht 40 Runabout

JET DRIVES!

Yes, the 33 Runabout is now officially available with jet drives! For owners drawn to those well know jet drive advantages:

  • The lowest possible draft;
  • Entirely lobster pot-free operation; and,
  • Zero safety compromises with swimmers in the water

 

It’s a happy day!

But jets have historically involved tradeoffs. Those tradeoffs have now narrowed,  thanks to the engineers at Hamilton Jets.

Traditionally, jet boats just don’t like cruising in the 10 to 20 knot range. Below 10 knots of speed, and especially above 20 knots, they are a complete pleasure to push, with predictable, straight-line power curves. In other words, apply X percent more RPM at the helm, get an instant X percent more push forward.  But “in the teens”, so to speak, jets just sort of piss me off.

My experience is that jet boats tend to chug and struggle at these speeds, for me its …… annoying. Notably, once in a tough inlet entry with a jet boat – where varying the speed from 12 to 18 knots was the solution to safely surfing in –  I just didn’t have the kind of control I wanted. But I’ll certainly admit that maybe a better captain could have.

Engineering developments now paint a better picture. Long Island Yachts and I have been working closely with Hamilton Jets engineers in New Zealand, America and Holland. We are very excited to find our handling and performance goals can now be met by Hamilton in two ways: First, their own new proprietary AVX joystick control system, adapted from their commercial and military applications:

But most of all it is the release of their new HJX27 water jet pumps:

 

These pumps address my “in the teens” observations about jets. Essentially, their new design offers a big improvement in the laminar flow of water within the jet. You can, if you are so inclined, get an engineer’s geek’s-eye view of of the physics involved HERE.

Long Island Yachts has jumped into Hamilton’s engineering cycle early enough to become one of the first in the industry to offer this new jet and new joystick control. And the pricing for a single engine jet drive application for their 33 Runabout

33 Runabout

… is now available online at our “Design, Price and Schedule” portal. Enjoy your ride!

AND, OUTBOARDS!

The American market, unlike the European, has expressed a clear preference for outboards. Long Island Yachts has now completed the engineering (and pricing) for outboard versions of their 33 Runabout ….

… and their 40 Runabout:

I expect these models to take off here in the States. Like the jet drive application, their pricing is available online at our “Design, Price and Schedule” portal. By all means, let me know what you think.

Wrapping Up

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post. My good friend Dr. Google Analytics tells me that (contrary to what I thought)  my longer posts here at The Fog Warning Blog travel much further than the shorter posts. By that measure, you will be in good company reviewing all of this week’s news, my friends. Once you have had a chance to explore the “Design, Price…’ portals, to have studied the Vicem Cruiser series at length, and to have considered Long Island’s jet drive and outboard applications, by all means let me know what you think. Trust me, there is much more to follow.

Thanks, and enjoy!

Big Wave Dave

 

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