How Big Can They Get?
The size of megayachts seems to be continually expanding—is the trend unstoppable?
By Capt. Bill Pike
Azzam is a 180-meter superyacht, which means she’s some 590.6 feet long from stem to stern, if such terms apply to such a fabulous vessel. Moreover, she’s presently the world’s largest yacht, far exceeding in terms of both size and tonnage the likes of the old, 441-foot Liberty ships that dodged German submarines while carrying troops and cargo across the Atlantic during World War II.
Incredibly, though, there are rumblings here and there today of even larger yachts being built. Indeed, Ft. Lauderdale broker Craig Timm is currently promising the eventual launch of what he calls a “gigayacht,” a 200-meter (656-foot), Christopher Seymour-designed behemoth he says will bear the name, appropriately enough, Double Century.
“She’ll be the next step in the evolution of this sort of vessel,” he enthuses, “the next step in sophisticated luxury.”
An interesting development, eh? Things just keep getting bigger and bigger, and better and better, until what? We have yachts that dwarf cruise ships?
“Well, hmmm,” says Patrick Coote of Blohm+Voss, the German builder of some truly immense watercraft like A, Dubai, and Eclipse, “from the physical standpoint at least, the size of a yacht is only limited by the size of the build shed she’s composed in and the dock she moors to—so theoretically then, a yacht can be as large as a client wishes.”
But there’s another aspect to the how-big-can-they-get question and, according to Coote, it’s a very fundamental one—man’s apparent need to associate with his fellow man in a cheery, intimate fashion. “When you get into the 180-meter range,” he explains, “you also get into a crew complement of 100-plus. And that means the experience of being on the yacht, for owners and guests alike, can sometimes take on a rather immense, albeit impersonal flavor. It sounds like a small problem perhaps but it is quite important—we’ve seen several of our clients actually come down in size because of it.”
The point Coote makes is subtle but not unique. In fact Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Trinity Yachts Billy Smith makes virtually the same one while describing a megayacht cruise he once took that was “quite impersonal—I mean they announced lunch on the PA system,” as well as fairly short on companionship.
“If you were going to meet someone onboard this boat,” Smith says, “you had to make an appointment, specifying time and place, simply because the thing was so big and complex.”
“And you know, I had a friend on board with me,” he continues, “and I kid you not—I didn’t see the guy for 48 straight hours. When we finally did meet by chance I said, ‘Where’ve you been, Bob?’ and he said, ‘Where have you been, Billy?’ Just a little too much privacy on that yacht, I guess. And remember—she was just a 270-footer, which is comparatively small by today’s standards.”
Of course, most of the remaining issues a super-sized yacht presents are the same ones that owners of smaller yachts deal with, except that said issues are super-sized as well. These include berthing where possible (sometimes at frowzy commercial docks due to size and draft constraints), personnel problems (which tend to burgeon as crew size increases), maintenance (imagine the costs and complexities involved in doing a bottom job on a 180-meter yacht), and the price and availability of fuel.
“Different clients will always have different needs,” concludes Coote, “but there does seem to be a cutoff in terms of size, I think. Perhaps we are seeing a bit of that now.”