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What Your Boat Says About You

Michael Peters

Sightlines - July 2016

You Are What You Drive

Your boat, like your car, makes a statement—so what does yours say?

Rolls-Royce Phantom

A few blocks from my office, a new, exotic-car dealership recently opened. For the last couple of weeks they have positioned a brand-new, gleaming black Rolls-Royce convertible out front, just waiting for someone to succumb to its temptation. It’s aft teak deck leaves no doubt about the intended comparison to a mega­yacht, and whether you like the car’s styling or not, you can’t deny the sheer presence and imposing statement that it makes. You would create a spectacle wherever you went in this thing. But who on earth would actually want to drive it?

I grew up in Los Angeles, where the car is king. Rolls-Royces are relegated to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Ferraris to Malibu and Newport Beach, and low riders to East L.A. In southern California, your car says everything about you. It’s a mobile symbol of your economic status, your political and social leanings, and your personality. Any automobile can get you around town, but the right car makes a statement to everyone about who you are.

A four-wheel-drive truck says that you’re a tough, hardworking, outdoors guy. Electric cars make you look smart and environmentally conscientious. A Mercedes or BMW brands you as a successful businessman. A Bentley makes you appear rich, yet understated. A Rolls-Royce gives off the unmistakable aura of wealth and superiority. A Lamborghini says you’re a showoff prick, with too much money. Are you a Prius or a Ferrari, an intellectual or an exhibitionist?

If your car makes this big of a statement, imagine what your boat says about you. Even a modest yacht makes a Rolls-Royce look cheap by comparison, but it still doesn’t necessarily make you seem rich or ostentatious. There are plenty of half-million or even million-dollar boats that wouldn’t draw a crowd, and even some pretty large yachts that manage to stay incognito. But if you want to be ostentatious and strut your stuff, there are plenty of boats out there that’ll let you flaunt your ego. Indeed, your choice of yacht says everything about you, just like your car does. Are you a Cigarette, a Hinckley, a Carver or a Sunseeker, a Magnum or a Viking? Are you slow or fast, loud or quiet, a sportsman or a poser, a recluse or a showoff?

As a yacht designer, I’m acutely aware of the message that a boat sends. I personally like restored classics, because while people love to look at them, you don’t have to feel pretentious showing them off. When I went looking for a larger boat for myself, I bought a traditionally styled, light-displacement trawler. I wanted a boat that I could anchor off Catalina Island without being embarrassed to be seen on board. I wanted a conservative boat that says I’m a serious and sensible boater and I respect the sea. I wanted to be admired for my personal choice.

A low-key, traditionally styled boat is not what I generally design for a living. Although this is the kind of statement I choose for myself, I’m more than willing to let you brag and show off and drive too fast and make too much noise, if that’s what you want to do. I believe in freedom of choice, and I’m happy to enable you to make your own statement, even if it’s a bit obnoxious at times. I’m quite willing to design a record-breaking race boat for the thrill seekers, a fast sportboat for the playboy, a macho sportfish with a phallic tower, or a Euro-styled yacht for those who want to be gawked at. In fact I love the diversity of all these styles, although the statements that they make are about you, not me. I’m more conservative than my designs suggest. My personal boats tell you who I really am.

I still haven’t figured out who’s going to buy our little black Rolls-Royce down the street. I suppose someone with the money and a need to show it will finally put up the cash. It will make a pretty big statement around town, and I’ll bet the local yacht brokers will keep a close eye on it. When his ego needs some more stroking, the guy who buys that car will surely be in the market for a Sunseeker or an Azimut next. And we’ll all wait and see.

What does your boat tell the world about you? Share the message you send in the comments below.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.