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In Yacht Pursuit

Long a staple for wealthy bachelors, mid-sized yachts have become family friendly
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00

(continued from page 2)

The same fate also awaits buyers who can't cast aside their egos to separate true boating desires from the myriad fantasies that surround yachting. Boat buying, as Schrubb points out, "is always a struggle between heart and mind, fact versus fantasy.  

"It's sexy to think about racing to the islands in a cigarette boat. Or a real manly thing to go deep-sea fishing on a sport fisherman," Schrubb says. "But if you have a dog, and children who need extra staterooms, a swim platform and staircases instead of ladders [typical of sport fishermen], then you go the 40- to 70-foot flybridge boat route. If the neophyte can't separate the macho stuff from reality, he's going to make so many big financial mistakes, he could wind up just like the Titanic."  

If a buyer opts for family-friendly instead of the speed demon route, he must then focus on budgetary parameters. While industry sharks promise low-interest loans and rebates on lesser-known brands, a Ferretti is rarely discounted and costs more than a similar-sized American boat. Other European-made yachts, such as a Fairline Squadron or Sunseeker Predator, are also pricey. Yet, that's to be expected, as the Predator 54, for example, has a top speed of 36 knots, full-size sunlounger and horseshoe seating for eight in the cockpit.  

A Sea Ray may be less expensive than its European rivals, but this American-made yacht still has many assets. The company's Sundancer line of yachts offer elegant staterooms and exteriors that have recently been redesigned to give these boats more curvaceous lines.  

First-time buyers adhering to a budget will be particularly pleased by Sea Ray's 480 Sedan Bridge, a 48-foot boat costing $727,845 that boasts three spacious cabins, a pair of reliable Caterpillar 3176TA engines with a combined 1,200-horsepower, and a long list of standard equipment. Extolling the "multi-layered luxury" of this yacht's sleeping accommodations, Lakeland Boating magazine raved in 1998, "Until you look at yachts a dozen feet longer [and a million dollars more] you don't find many guest staterooms that have as much space and comfort as the master. The 480 managed to achieve this minor miracle through careful layering of the interior space."  

Another enticing choice is Sea Ray's 560 Sedan Bridge, a 55-foot, $1.3 million boat with three cabins. It features twin 776-horsepower Caterpillars and hits a top speed of 35 mph (or 30.4 knots). Lauded by Power & Motor Yacht magazine for its European flair, this recent addition to the Sea Ray fleet boasts a dinette with seating for six, a helm equipped with the latest Raytheon electronics (chart display, radar, Ray Pilot and other features) and, unlike wood-laminated Sea Rays of the past, a decor that is an artful mix of Corian countertops, oak cabinetry and tan vinyl upholstery.  

Whatever boat and budget suit your lifestyle, a buyer should consider what Schrubb calls the "intimidation factor." This entails evaluating your boating experience and determining your comfort level as to whether or not you can pilot a 70-footer, which demands greater proficiency in docking maneuvers, or if you feel more at ease handling a 45-footer.  

"Whatever the purchase, buyers must feel comfortable handling the boat and shouldn't dread negotiating all the passages, ladders and railings," warns Schrubb, who's been a broker since 1993 and holds a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in ship design and construction. "Don't overdo the size, the ego thing, or be impressed by what your friends are doing, for many beginners find that handling a big $2 million boat means too much stress. Boating should be fun, or else something is terribly wrong."  

The size of a boat, and how it affects a beginner's navigational skills, is a hotly debated issue among yacht aficionados. While Schrubb feels a neophyte can handle a 55-footer after a week of training, he worries that anything more than 60 feet could cause problems. "Once you get into this size boat, hiring a captain is recommended. I'm experienced yet I'd still need a captain, since when you're docking this size boat you have to sprint from the bow all the way aft to the flybridge to adjust the boat's position. One person can run a 55-footer, but 60 feet generally tends to be a cutoff point for me."  

Dickman takes a far more adventurous view. He believes an 80-footer is easier to dock than a 50-footer. "It's OK for the first-time buyer to learn seamanship on a bigger boat," he says. "The size selection really depends on the person, how much work he wants to do in the marina. Only when you get past 80 feet do you need a captain."   Going it alone on a larger boat does offer a heady burst of exhilaration. Before setting off on this thrilling course, however, buyers should seek the counsel of a well-recommended broker who can provide a few sea-tested reality checks.  

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