The journey of a yacht owner

The job we do on a daily basis becomes familiar to us over weeks and years, and often when others ask “what is it you do?”, the answer is a very high level view from inside our world. 

When you are dealing with clients, who ask you the same question, it’s important that this information is more descriptive in a way that means something to them. 

In the world of SuperYachts, the industry makes certain assumptions and expectations of anyone asking questions. There’s a level of awareness that experienced buyers bring, and the conversation starts at a different level. 

The industry often forgets that their client’s journey before meeting them could be wide and varied. Perhaps you’ve had some experience of sailing, had a motor boat or at least hired one on holiday. You’ve played around with jet skis, and generally had a bit of fun on the water. You’ve been to a marina before and checked out some yachts at a local show. Your friend has taken you out on their large motor boat before, and with all the success that is coming your way, it’s about time you became a yacht owner too.

The reason it’s important to understand where you’ve come from, is that the level of support varies, as well as setting expectations on the process.  It’s often a dark art, though it should really be demystified and transparent to build a more trusting relationship. This helps to take any stress out of the journey, and to avoid any surprises along the way.

This year if you’re looking to purchase, charter or build a yacht, there’s some recommended approaches to be successful.   Firstly, you’ve got to make sure, really sure, that owning a yacht is for you. Chartering one for a week in the Caribbean or Mediterranean can help here. It’ll give you some exposure to living on a yacht for a week, albeit in the best weather conditions. Just as important as youenjoying the experience, is your close family and friends also enjoying their life onboard. Unless of course you planned to leave them behind to sail the seven seas. 

If you’re certain that you’re a natural yacht owner and have support of family and friends, it’s time to venture out into the world of yacht searching.  This can be a daunting task. Which yacht ?  What age ?  How much should you invest ?  What kind of interior do you like ?  You’ll perhaps read the yacht magazines a little, look online and do some googling and find some useful links to listings. Do the listing photographs give you sufficient information or leave you wanting more ? 

At this stage, you are starting to build up an awareness of what you might do with a yacht. Where you would go, and what you will do when you get there. So, it’s all going quite well so far. Next stop is the boat shows. 

In America, there’s plenty of choice.  Miami International Boat Show was earlier this year, and Palm Beach International Boat Show will have completed by the time this article is published. There are many others around the country, culminating in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, or FLIBS to insiders, which is in late October. 

The choice of yachts at these shows varies. Usually there’s only a handful over 200 feet if that’s the size you are interested in.  Getting onboard is also a challenge, and it pays to get some support and plan ahead to get approval up front for your visit. 

Some of the top European shipbuilders will be at these shows, but there’s nothing to beat a visit to a European yard like say Benetti, who have an amazing showcase area. Clients can go from section to section to choose the interior material, colours and lighting and technology for your new yacht.

Some of the European car manufacturers are also manoeuvring into the industry and you may find them at the larger boat shows.  Dynamiq who have partnered with Porsche Design to create a high quality 115 foot yacht are newcomers to the industry but making a big splash. Aston Martin have partnered with Quintessence Yachts to focus on a speedy 37 foot powerboat. Reaching speeds of 50 knots, their sleek design will turn heads whether it’s at your local marina or pulling up alongside a Superyacht.

Another problem with boat shows, is that Superyachts on the market are not all at the show. They may have been showcased at another show, not in the region or ‘off market’. Sometimes owners don’t want the world to know their yacht is on the market, as it could highlight a concern in their finances and affect their credibility or worse, the share price of their business. 

By far the best way to start your search and the wisest approach, is to seek out a yacht broker. Full disclosure, it’s what I do. My focus is not on selling a yacht. My focus is on understanding what it is a client wants to buy. There’s a big difference there. My choice of yacht isn’t what matters. My shortlist is only a selection of yachts that appeal to me, and meet the criteria discussed in an email. It’s not necessarily the yacht that you’d select. You may see something different. You may want something different. Your gut feelings are saying that’s not the yacht for you, and the yacht broker is gushing about her. Well, I’d rather ensure you understood what your gut is telling you, and going with that flow, than with another yacht that meets the size and budget requirements.

Most brokers work together in a network and already have agreements with those yachts that are in each other’s listings or even those that are ‘off market’ and not listed but would accept an offer from a vetted client. They key is to make your decision with someone who you connect with on some level. 

Another focus of attention that is needed is the procurement process. Having a good team to support the negotiation with sound legal and financial advice is part of the success strategy you should have. It’s all quite straight forward with the right people on your side, and this means have trustworthy allies each step of the way. Fortunately, it’s a small industry and those who work together build a great network of talented people who recommend each other because of this trust.

The world of finance is wide and varied too with a few of the big banks always being seen in and around the yacht shows. If a client is buying an asset of significant value, they are close at hand to offer solutions. Often they are as much a part of the industry with inside knowledge on the reasons for sale and whether a particular yacht is a good investment from their perspective. 

Everyone’s got an opinion in this industry, so it’s important you have your own and avoid being swayed by the naysayers when you get close to making a selection. The right yacht for you, is not necessarily the right yacht for them. If you want a 100m Dutch expedition yacht, and they suggest a German built classic yacht is the way forward, then that’s simply an opinion.  Both are valid and in different circumstances and it would depend how you feel about your choice.

Finally, a key thing to remember throughout the journey is to have fun.  The value of a yacht tends to attract a hungry shark pool who can be over keen for your business, resulting in some behaviours that make you feel like prey. An early discussion with your chosen broker, can ensure it’s clear where the boundaries are and to help to provide that level of discreteness and confidentiality to avoid being bombarded. Ultimately all I want is for you to be successful and take your new yacht out for a spin and start having the time of your life.  You’ve earned it. You deserve it.  I’m ready when you are.

Douglas McFarlane is CEO of Lomond Yachts, a Superyacht broker based in the UK with international clients.

This article first appeared in Billionaire Chronicle.