Sightlines - October 2015
What message would a Trump presidential yacht send to the world?
America has been without a presidential yacht ever since President Carter sold Sequoia in 1977, as a symbolic act of belt tightening. Subsequent presidents have been reduced to using Air Force One or some aircraft carrier to hold meetings outside Washington. The last time yachts were even mentioned in a presidential context was when Gary Hart was caught on board Monkey Business with Donna Rice back in 1987. Yachts have not been appreciated by presidents much lately.
Yachtsmen may finally have a friend in the White House again if Donald Trump manages to get himself elected president. For a short period, starting in 1988, Trump actually owned a very impressive yacht he named Trump Princess. Prior to his purchase of the yacht, it was already quite famous as one of John Bannenberg’s most acclaimed creations, Nabila. It was originally owned by Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and played a role as Flying Saucer in the 1983 James Bond movie Never Say Never Again. Khashoggi later used her as collateral for a loan from the Sultan of Brunei and lost it in a financial tailspin. Trump bought it from the sultan for $29 million, and owned it for a few years, before experiencing some financial setbacks of his own, forcing him to sell it for a loss to a Saudi Prince in 1991.
While he owned the 282-foot Trump Princess, it seems the boat was beginning to look a bit small to Trump, so in 1990 he put out word that he wanted to build an even larger yacht at his newly acquired Amels shipyard in Holland. Several select yacht design offices were summoned to compete for the job of creating a massive 416-foot yacht to display his massive wealth. Among the competing offices was DIANA Yacht Design, whose president was my close friend Mark Masciarotte. I was asked to join their team with a proposal for a pair of custom 40-foot yacht tenders to adorn Trump’s yacht.
Trump was kind enough to put us up in his New York Plaza Hotel, with free breakfast to boot. The meeting was being held in his office, atop Trump Tower. We arrived at the tower in two taxis with large renderings filling the back seat of one. It was raining and we couldn’t find the freight elevator, so I was sent ahead to ask for assistance. In Trump’s penthouse suite, I was met by one of his bodyguards, who promptly told me it was my problem, not his. Twenty-five years ago I felt I was a pretty good match for this guy, so I took him aside and explained that I had already eaten my free breakfast and I didn’t really give a damn who Trump was. If he wanted to cancel the meeting, I was OK with it. We ended up getting help with our presentation, but it was pretty obvious Trump’s bodyguard had alerted him about me, when he conspicuously wouldn’t shake my hand. I doubt he remembers meeting me, and if he does, I am sure I would rank somewhere down there with Rosie O’Donnell. Not too long after, Trump Princess was sold and the 416-foot yacht project was canceled as Trump began selling off his yacht and planes in the midst of financial meltdown.
Trump has obviously survived all of this, and along with running for president, has newfound wealth of $6 billion dollars. While Forbes and other financial analysts can only account for $4 billion, Donald assures us he is worth $10 billion or more. Now that’s a lot of discretionary money hiding somewhere. So why not go ahead with a new yacht now, although 416 feet is not too impressive anymore. He surely needs to top 600 feet to stay ahead of the Russian competition.
But, I admire his personal fiscal restraint. Why not wait until he is elected President of the United States? He could bring back the presidential yacht at taxpayer expense and send it around the world to show off our outrageous wealth under his leadership. What could say America Is Great Again better than an in-your-face 600-foot presidential yacht? He could name her Miss USA, in honor of our country, after all I think he owns the name. If things don’t work out too well, and he doesn’t win a second term, he could always buy it back for a steal. He is, after all—and as he keeps telling us—a very, very wealthy man.
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.