Skip to main content

Planning to cruise with a motorcycle aboard?
I have advice for that.

As a kid my family and I would cruise hundreds of miles each summer on our annual three-week voyage. One summer we ran our 25-foot cruiser halfway up and down the Mississippi River, dodging wing dams, barges and houseboats along the way. We stopped in a small river town where, 20 years prior, my dad had bought a Honda motorcycle and wanted to see if the dealer was still there. Less than an hour later he rode out of that dealership on a whim and a new Honda motorcycle, right back to the marina.


It took a great deal of help from the locals to hoist our teak swim platform up onto the dock, and it gave our little cruiser an odd bow-down attitude for the 20 minutes it took him to drive the bike on board and lash it down properly. We had three days and 300 miles to go. We liked to cruise at 25 knots, and none among us wanted to lose a motorcycle overboard. That’d just be bad form.

Many curious stares later the motorcycle made it back to our home port, the one with considerably higher docks than the backwater marina in “Cycle City.” A bit of daring creativity is all it took to get the new Honda off the boat and motoring down the dock, admittedly an odd sight for the dozens of cocktailing cruisers watching us that late afternoon.

Ours was a temporary motorcycle installation, to be sure. But it’s not unheard of to see a pair of Harleys on a larger yacht today. As I see it, few things strip the allure off a gleaming white 150-foot motoryacht like a pair of Hogs strapped to the flybridge rail. No matter how clean, chromed and airbrushed, they inevitably look cheap next to the $90,000 worth of outboards on the center console chocked on deck a few feet away. And they look cheap compared to the $15 million yacht atop which they perch. They just look ... wrong.

But maybe the motorcycles aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s the bland formality of the white layer-cake look of the motoryachts they’re on board that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the incongruity of the tires on teak. Or the simple fact that the motorcycles look like they’re out of their element. I think that’s it, and I think I know how this all began.

We have the legendary publisher Malcolm Forbes and his bankroll to thank for blending these pursuits. Forbes kept two Harleys on board his 151-foot Feadship, The Highlander. Styled by Jon Bannenberg in the ‘80s, The Highlander looked nothing like a staid white layer-cake motoryacht, which meant it could pull off having a pair of Harleys on the flybridge, tucked neatly between the custom Cigarette and the Donzi on the boat deck. Underneath the helicopter.

As I write this, my office is designing a gray and black 77-foot aluminum motoryacht with Tactical Custom Boats for an adventurous American. This fast pilothouse cruiser intentionally looks a lot like a military patrol boat. This will be a fast yacht, designed to carry a pair of BMW R 1250 GS Adventure bikes probably painted in kalamata metallic matte, so they’ll look as serious as the boat. Come to think of it, the boat is really a 77-foot motorcycle support vessel. These bikes will be right at home on this boat, because they look like they belong there. The motorcycles will also look good next to the amphibious airplane and the six-wheeled landing craft which the boat also carries, the latter on board to get the bikes to and from the beach in Alaska. This will command plenty of curious stares, no doubt, but they’ll be of the “I want that!” variety. Because the purpose of the boat and the bikes is inherent by their very presence together.

If you’re carrying motorcycles on board, make sure your boat looks the part. Two Ducatis on the aft deck of an old Hatteras motoryacht would look as bad as a pair of “coffee can” exhaust tips on a 1983 Cadillac Seville. It brings the whole look down, so tread carefully.

And no wheelies on the dock after 9 p.m.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.