Something started bugging me shortly after I started working here more than a decade ago: Given the variety of our big blue marble, why do so many yacht owners visit the same places over and over? I know it's natural to have an affinity for a cruising spot or two, but it's a huge ocean. Why not explore it?
The more I looked into this, the more I realized that one thing holding people back was lack of facilities. Some of the most beautiful places on earth were so far away that owners who hesitated to send their yachts on their own bottoms had no better transport method to get their yacht there. In other cases, the destinations didn't have marinas or docking facilities that could handle megayachts—a shame, considering how many of them charter and are engineered for long-range cruising.
But that's changing. Dockwise Yacht Transport, which totes more megayachts over the oceans than any other transport company (it reportedly carried 1,152 vessels last year alone), schedules three trips to Australia each year—a destination it didn't even offer a decade ago. And speaking of Australia, according to Superyacht Base Australia, which has represented that country's megayacht industry since 1999, 110 megayachts have visited there in just the past two years. That's why the group is working with the National Marine Safety Committee to make it easier for foreign crew to enter the country and therefore for foreign-flagged yachts to charter there.
But the big reason the welcome mat is being rolled out by marina developers and city officials worldwide is because of the economic impact you and your yacht have. Whether it's in the Caribbean—St. Thomas and the Dominican Republic are just two places with new mega-marinas—or somewhere stateside that's less exotic but no less attractive, when a megayacht pulls into town, big dollars get spent. Last year Octopus visited Darwin and other spots in Australia, during which time owner Paul Allen spent AUS$320,000 (about $276,100 at presstime) on supplies, according to Superyacht Base. And a study conducted last year by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida reports that 1,400 megayachts visited that area (up from 900 in 2002), with owners, guests, and crew spending an average of about $400,000. That's a whopping $56 million that got pumped into the local economy in 2006.
No wonder other cities are paying close attention. San Diego's the latest one. The Port of San Diego and National City recently opened the new Pier 32 Marina, which offers three side-tie berths for yachts 80 to 120 feet, on property that used to be a vacant lot along National City's Sweetwater River flood channel. In addition, there's a new megayacht-only marina in San Diego's downtown district that should be open around the time you're reading this. And in June San Diego's Port Commission green-lighted the construction of eight Med-style slips along Harbor Drive, near the historic ship Star of India. Now, three side-to spots and eight Med-moors may not seem like much, but they are when you consider what had been there: no facilities for megayachts. On top of that, Knight & Carver, the San Diego-based service yard that helped convince the Port Commission to approve this project, is expanding its own facilities to accommodate yachts to 300 feet.
If you haven't visited San Diego, you should include it in your cruising plans; its consistently good weather and variety of attractions will appeal to everyone onboard. But wherever you decide to go, make it somewhere different. Expanding your horizons is a good thing.
Down The Ways
Seeing a yacht outside of a shipyard isn't anything special, but spotting this particular project outside one certainly is. Meet P305, the super-secret superyacht measuring 164 feet LOA that Devonport launched in late July. How secret? The yard couldn't even disclose the fact that she was under construction...Speaking of Devonport, DML, its parent company, got a new owner last spring. Babcock International Group, a support-services company that works with various industries and organizations, including the British Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). It's a logical move for Babcock to buy DML given that Devonport also works with the MoD. Devonport says that it doesn't anticipate any change in its megayacht activities as a result of the acquisition.
This article originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.