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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 1)

Although they may cost a pretty penny, these yachts offer many creature comforts. Ferretti is particularly proud of its on-board family-friendly features. Cigar-smoking company co-founder Norberto Ferretti, 53, points to an elongated swim platform (which also serves as extra stowage for jet skis or surfboards) on a 68-foot yacht and says, "My boats are toys for the whole family, not just for the guy at the controls. We make the aftdecks so large that children can play there, and unlike many boats where galleys are separate from living areas, we don't exclude the cook from other social activities. These entertaining and dining areas are all connected to really emphasize family togetherness."  

Reaching a top speed of about 40 knots (roughly 45 mph) and able to travel 400 miles without refueling, this $2.5 million Ferretti 68 is the company's newest offering, a one-year bow-to-stern warranteed boat (five years on its structural integrity) that mirrors Ferretti's relentless pursuit of perfection. "My thing is winning, and that translates into giving people the best product," Ferretti says. After nine years of competing in death-defying catamaran races around the world, he's concentrating on running an empire that grew out of his passion for the sea.  

"My late brother Alessandro [who co-founded the company] and I started off in the early 1960s by making a 40-foot sailboat for ourselves, and when people praised its design, we hired a few workers to build more," says Ferretti, the scion who oversees 700 employees and five boat-building divisions (four of which are in Italy), including Pershing and Bertram, which build sportfishing boats. "It's incredible. We've grown to the point where we're making 50 to 60 Ferrettis annually [a company such as Sea Ray Boats Inc. produces thousands each year]. I'm still not satisfied, though. We must still improve the speed of our boats, make them more beautiful, or else other companies will try to knock us out of the water."  

Ferretti's world-renowned naval architect, Giovanni Zuccon, has designed several opulent seafaring vessels. His 72-footer offers inviting space for eight passengers, with private facilities for a crew of three, and the equally elegant 57 boasts a 29.5-knot cruising speed. Both are typical Ferretti extravaganzas of luscious veneers, spacious staterooms, lavish entertainment centers and solid construction.  

One of these sinewy 57-footers is docked at Allied Marine Group (Ferretti's U.S. sales agent) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Once the engines are powered, it glides sleekly through the water. Sporting plush carpets, granite counters and a high-tech helm station worthy of James Bond, this 1,600-horsepower boat combines style with comfort and consistent offshore performance.

A Ferretti-made yacht is known for the strength of its grid-system hulls and hardware as well as the two weeks of tests that the company conducts before a boat is shipped out, according to Michael W. Dickman, a Ferretti of America representative. "Ferrettis are in a class by themselves," boasts Dickman. "We have the attitude 'if it costs more to do something in a better way, it doesn't matter.' Unlike a mass-production company, we give our engineers and woodworkers the freedom to improvise, to style a better boat. We don't do cookie-cutter boats."  

Bargain-hunting Americans, intent on purchasing a boat abroad face an added expense (about $50,000) if the yacht has been specifically manufactured for the European market. Buyers also must determine if pre-owned Ferrettis suit U.S. wiring requirements.  

"We know where every boat is going--Europe, the U.S., wherever--and any boat built for America is wired totally different than one built for Europe," says Dickman. "Instead of using European brand appliances on that boat, we buy everything in the U.S. and meticulously install them in Italy. If the wiring or anything else causes a problem and the owner can't get to a service center, we'll send someone on a plane to provide the ultimate in service."  

The joys of purchasing a yacht can easily be tempered by a range of financial miscalculations. Novices must avoid the temptation to buy too much boat, or a yacht they can't afford to properly maintain. The boat should meet the owner's seafaring needs, not the tastes of brokers--who are sometimes former real estate agents or used-car salesmen who know little about a boat's true value and only want to sell every flashy feature imaginable.  

First-time buyers should also be careful when dealing with offshore companies. It's a good idea to register with a reputable foreign corporation if the boat is worth more than $1 million or if you're traveling abroad (flying a non-U.S. flag in foreign waters can give you a tax break and help you avoid a legal headache). However, more often than not, these stratagems resemble a magician's sleight of hand, and once the authorities begin to ask questions, a novice yacht owner in unfamiliar waters can easily be shipwrecked.  


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