On The shore — 04 October 2019
Buying a dream boat, without rocking the boat

By Eric Barton

City & Shore Magazine

You’ve bought the grand homes, the garage is stocked with dream cars, the jet is always fueled up, and, if you’ve gotten to this point, you know what’s next.

It’s a home at sea, where you and the family and maybe a select few guests can vacation in new ports of call every morning.

The yacht, whether it’s for sport fishing or motoring the Caribbean or exploring the other side of the world, is so often the symbol that you’ve undoubtedly made it.

“Without a doubt, the yacht is often the last step in a portfolio of wealth,” says Alex G. Clarke, a yacht broker in Denison’s Super Yacht Division.

But unlike that summer home or the hand-built supercar, the yacht presents purchasing headaches and research and planning unlike any other. To help you navigate that final purchase in your own portfolio of wealth, we talked to the experts about how to sail off with that ship you’ve dreamed of owning.

Begin with Boat Shows

Buying a yacht without hitting a boat show will require a lot of frequent flyer miles. That’s because yachts in a buyer’s price range and interest will likely be kept across the globe, requiring the buyer and the broker to hit untold ports of call before settling on a vessel.

Instead, boat shows put many used boats and lineups of new boats for the buyer all in one place, says Andrew Doole, president of U.S. Boat Shows, which runs the events in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

“There’s really no other experience like it, where you can have all that product in one location,” Doole says. “You can go online and look at pictures, but there’s nothing like touching it, kicking it and feeling it. That’s what you get at the boat shows.”

Buyers looking for a specific product will find them at smaller boat shows, like the sailboat-focused events up north or the 80-foot-plus ships found at the show in Monaco. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, however, is billed as the largest collection of everything, a place where buyers can narrow in on their interests.

Doole recommends setting up appointments in advance with boats or manufacturers. Bringing the checkbook isn’t a bad idea either – many sellers and boat makers offer incentives at the boat shows that you won’t get later. Doole says, “There are a whole lot of deals signed right there at the show.”

First Steps Toward a Yachting Life

Before signing that boat-show contract, be sure you’ve narrowed in on how you plan to use your new yacht.

It’s common for buyers to take on a boat that quickly doesn’t suit their needs, says Steven Pavlish, owner of Captco, a Fort Lauderdale company that provides captain, maintenance, consulting, supplies and other services for yachts. Sometimes that means failing to make sure a boat has a head for longer trips, multiple staterooms for guests or space for a crew.

“I don’t think it can be overstated how emotional this purchase can be,” Pavlish says. “Just make sure you’re stepping back and thinking about this and really analyzing how you’re going to be using this yacht.”

Once you’ve got the type of ship decided, don’t start calling sellers – many brokers won’t even take calls from buyers. Instead, you’ll need your own broker to not only negotiate the deal but also walk you through the next, sometimes rocky steps, says Clarke. Find someone with experience and perhaps a specialty in the boat you’re seeking. More than that, though, Clarke recommends finding a broker you get along with, because it often becomes a lifetime arrangement.

“The most difficult sale is the first one,” Clarke says. “Once you’re through that, you can trust your broker, and hopefully he becomes someone you work with for the rest of your life.”

The Uncertainty of the Sea Trial

Once you’ve settled on a ship, the broker should come up with a market analysis and negotiate a price, and then you’ll have to put a tenth of the price down. But for the most uncertain time in the process, it’s likely you won’t even be there for it.

That’s when the yacht goes out for its sea trial, and often it’s better if the buyer isn’t present, Clarke says. Because buying a yacht is often such an emotional process, brokers typically suggest buyers shouldn’t be there so that emotions don’t cloud the real purpose of the trial.

Instead, the sea trial will be a time for the buyer’s surveyor and often a mechanic to evaluate the ship, often coming up with a list of deficiencies, even for new vessels, that’ll have to be negotiated afterward. The whole process isn’t cheap: the buyer will likely spend upwards of $6,000 on the sea trial.

The whole process can be far more stressful than any other purchase, says Brian S. Napper, a broker with HMY Yachts who has been in the business since 1988.

Often the first-time buyers agonize over each step, while the “repeat offender” yacht owners sit back and let the brokers work out the details, Napper says. He had a recent purchase where he accompanied a buyer to Chicago, where they toured yachts in the day and spent their nights hitting fine Chicago restaurants.

“If you do it right, find the right broker, take the rights steps, pay attention to the sea trial, it can actually be a grand time,” Napper says.

That Glorious Life with a Yacht

OK, before you get to those evenings watching the sun set over the Mediterranean as your chef serves up the branzino just pulled from the sea, there are a whole lot of logistics.

For a smaller boat with an owner-operator at the helm, insurance companies often require steps to make sure you can pilot it, Pavlish says. That involves Coast Guard classes and maybe also 50 hours or so at sea with a licensed captain at your side. The captain will then have to write a letter to the insurance company endorsing your skills.

Larger ships mean hiring a crew: a captain, a mate, steward and a chef. No doubt experience is important, but Pavlish says personality is almost equally so.

“You have to remember that often the crew will be the last people you see before you go to sleep and the first people you see in the morning,” Pavlish says. “Making sure personalities match is so key.” For some owners, that means a crew that understands the sedate formality they’ll require at dinner, or perhaps a crew that won’t notice when guests hit the wine far too hard.

Owning a yacht also means the practical pieces you might not picture, Napper says. If living aboard is in your future, that means a marina where it’s allowed. Or if you’ll just be taking it out a few times a year, perhaps a more affordable dock up-river behind a few bridges makes sense.

When you’re not using it, you might also want to make it available as a charter, Napper says. That works only for the finest of boats, full of updates, amenities and toys. But those that work well as a charter can potentially be rented out 40 weeks a year and clear $300,000 and up.

With all the uncertainties of the purchase behind you and the logistics of ownership settled, now it’s time for the part that set you down this path in the first place.

“If you’re fortunate enough to own a yacht, it just might be the most fun thing you’ve owned,” Pavlish says.

It gives you a life and a world you just can’t access without it, and as the final purchase in a portfolio of wealth, it means you’ve undoubtedly made it.

The Spot to be for Yacht Owners to be

If you’re thinking about your first-ever yacht purchase, it won’t hurt to mingle with fellow owners and take in what’s possible from yacht chefs. You can do both at the Sunset Soirée in the boat show’s Superyacht Village. The event includes the Best Yacht Chef Competition, in which some of the world’s leading yacht chefs compete for the title. Catch the action, and maybe take your first step into the superyacht owner’s circle, at 7 p.m. Nov. 1. Find more info at flibs.com.

Debuts at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

For those in the market for a new yacht, this year’s show has a lineup of some of the finest new vessels.


As you’d expect in a state-of-the-art carbon fiber ship, Pershing filled all 83 feet of the 8X with technology, including high-def loudspeakers embedded in the hull to provide music for underwater swimming.


The 262-foot Abeking & Rasmussen-built ship launched this year in Germany, with a striking angular bow some say draws comparisons to spacecraft. It sleeps 14 guests and includes amenities like a swimming pool, beach club, helicopter pad, and storage for limousine tenders.

Majesty 101

Majesty, a Dubai superyacht builder, makes its debut at the Fort Lauderdale show this year with a 101-foot ship featuring a speckled exterior styling and a five-stateroom layout.

Marlow 100

The 100-foot Marlow was designed with ocean cruising in mind, with a longer-than-normal range and a top speed of 27 knots. Inside, a wood interior, full-sized white marble tub, and granite floors give the Marlow 100 a decidedly upmarket feel.

Lexus LY 650

Carmaker Lexus and Marquis-Larson Boat Group have created a 65-foot yacht designed to ride as smoothly as an estate car. With custom leather chairs, flat-screen TVs and accommodations for six people, the ship will make its public debut in Fort Lauderdale.


A frugal fuel consumption on the Heesen-built Vida means the 180-foot vessel can travel more than 5,100 miles, taking in the views along the way with a glass-enclosed sky lounge.


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