I typically use this column to inform you of an interesting new launch or to introduce you to some fellow yacht owners who have completed an ambitious refit project. I also typically prefer for the "voices" of my interviewees to come to the forefront and therefore use the first person sparingly when I write. But I'm taking a different approach this time around because I've recently become aware of a new trade organization that's striving to address major issues facing the American yacht industry—things impacting not just builders and other manufacturers, but also owners such as you. The issues are ones that I'm naturally concerned about, being in the boating media for more than a dozen years, and as someone who can help you make your voice heard, since the organization is also addressing legislative matters that can affect your enjoyment of your favorite pastime. In fact, some of you are already confused and even frustrated as a result of these laws.
All of these reasons have spurred me to become a founding member of the U.S. Superyacht Association (USSA). You could say that the organization started by accident: About a year ago, a group of industry individuals were discussing the state of the American boat- and yacht-building industry and how other countries such as Italy, Australia, and the United Kingdom have advocacy groups working on both grass-roots and federal levels to effect change. The question "Why don't we?" quickly became "Why don't we?" So last September the USSA was founded.
I learned of it about a month later after reading a press release. The stated mission, "to promote the Superyacht Industry of the United States and to serve as its voice," hit home, particularly because I'd recently been interviewed by a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who, among other things, wanted to know how many yachts on our exclusive list "The World's 100 Largest Yachts" were built by American yards, how many were owned by Americans, and how many marinas stateside were home to them. While I knew off the top of my head that U.S. owners represented more than 45 percent of the list—and more than any other nationality—when I went through the list yacht by yacht, I noted just three had been built on American soil. I was well aware that European yards had long dominated the business, but to see such a paltry figure representing U.S. yards was a shock. Then it was the writer's turn to be shocked when I told him most marinas here can't accommodate these yachts and that there was a shortage of berthing space as well as American-born hands to run them.
The latter are just two of the advocacy issues the USSA is targeting. Equally important, it's targeting the troubles megayacht crews and owners encounter when trying to deal with the often confusing and even conflicting port-entry regulations of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security. For example, if a foreign-flagged yacht enters U.S. waters, the crew must submit an arrival notice to the Coast Guard at least four days in advance, even if the owner is American (many Americans flag their yachts in the Caymans). You may recall that Tiger Woods and his yacht Privacy were detained in Puerto Rico in summer 2004 for this reason. In some cases they need to report to customs again in additional U.S. ports they visit, even if they haven't left U.S. waters since their arrival—but exactly which ones isn't always clear. And at least two high-profile, American-owned yachts, namely Octopus and Perfect Prescription, have encountered yet another frustrating problem: being directed to a specific port to clear customs upon their arrival (both happened to be in Maine), only to find that the office there wasn't prepared to handle the extra paperwork the regulations required, resulting in the yachts having to depart the state without the guests ever having set foot on land.
It's problems such as these that I and other founding members—including Bluewater Books & Charts, The Triton (a crew newspaper), Northern Lights/ Lugger Diesel, Knight & Carver, Trinity Yachts, and International Yacht Collection—plan to address. And in the coming weeks, I hope you'll share your own concerns and experiences with me—thus far there isn't a membership level for owners, though that will change in the future. Send an e-mail to me, email@example.com, to let your voice be heard.
It's about time we had a league of our own.
This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.