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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

A woodworker is sitting in a shipyard, muttering profanities under his breath.  

"Damn, it just doesn't fit," he says disgustedly, as he bends over a piece of wood, trying, unsuccessfully, to work it around the edge of an unfinished mahogany cabinet. He asks a fellow woodworker to cut and sand down the piece a little more. The other man quickly scampers across a makeshift gangplank and returns to his workbench to study the offending piece of wood. He measures it, then hurries back to the boat. He's repeated this routine numerous times during the past few hours on this bright and warm July day in Forli, Italy. Although he's confident this last effort will create something unique, the detail work remains less than perfect. Amid another stream of epithets, the duo continues to make minute adjustments.  

These two artisans are building a luxury yacht for the Ferretti Yacht company, a firm long synonymous with finely crafted 43- to 80-foot motor yachts. Their obsessive devotion to style and precision is not unusual in this sun-baked shipyard near the Adriatic Sea. Whether it's engineers preparing circuitry of twin 800-horsepower Caterpillar engines, laminators applying fiberglass to wide-beamed hulls or leather specialists tending to interior ceilings and couches, Ferretti is considered by experts to be the preeminent mid-sized yacht builder.  

"Ferretti epitomizes the luxury of a Rolls-Royce and the performance of a Mercedes," says Terry Schrubb, a broker with HMY Yacht Sales in Dania Beach, Florida. "If you want real woodworking, attention to the minutest detail like engine fittings made of stainless steel instead of plastic, or marble counters instead of laminates, Ferretti is by far the superior choice. The Italians simply know great, well-constructed boats."  

Other stars in the 43- to 80-foot range include Fairline Boats PLC and Sunseeker International from Britain and New Jersey-based Viking Yachts Company. These builders specialize in luxury motor yachts that are ideal for family retreats to hidden Caribbean coves or spirited weekend jaunts with friends. While this intermediate size category might not be big enough to house swimming pools or helicopters, it is richly endowed with performers such as the sleek Viking Motor Yacht 72 with its racy lines and alluring cherrywood interior, or the Fairline Squadron 55 with its elegant sleeping accommodations and 30 knots of cruising power.  

What makes these boats so thrilling? Why opt for a Ferretti or Fairline with a flybridge when you can get express cruisers, sportfish or high-performance cigarette boats? And how does a prospective buyer find his ideal berth without running aground?  

Keen navigational skills are certainly a prerequisite for anyone journeying to boat shows, shipyards and showrooms to purchase a yacht, because these places are filled with fast-talking salesmen. From bikini-clad models armed with catalogues to head-turning promises of "once-in-a-lifetime" rebates, so many fantasies are spun in these waters that Schrubb warns,

"Never spontaneously buy a yacht at a boat show. Go there just to gather information and go home. If a potential buyer doesn't do months of careful investigation, really thinks clearly, he's facing big headaches and possible financial disaster."  

A Ferretti can cast its own seductive charms. Just hop aboard one, luxuriate in the harem-sized, soundproofed staterooms, then feel the adrenaline burst from standing at the helm station loaded with the latest array of switches, monitors and gauges that allow you to command a pair of mighty diesel inboards. Interacting with a sleek, deep-V hulled yacht, savoring her moves as she confronts raging waters, winds and other seafaring challenges is an exhilarating testosterone bolt of raw power.  

These alluring mid-sized yachts can be costly, however, as prices range from $400,000 to $2.75 million price range. Other costs might include a captain (who may be necessary for longer trips or to help a beginner), yearly dockage fees, maintenance, fuel and insurance. (A good rule of thumb to follow: 10 percent of the value of the boat is needed for maintenance, dockage, insurance and general repair and cruising. Captain costs range from $150 per day to $100,000 a year, depending upon the boat, job description and work environment.)  

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