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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 3)

Discovering such a trustworthy agent is a time-consuming process of talking to yacht owners and interviewing candidates. Yet, once a seasoned broker is found, he or she will steer a buyer to the yacht that meets his needs. Besides acting as a negotiator, the broker ensures that the boat is equipped properly, oversees the drafting of legal documents and hires a naval surveyor to conduct sea trials and inspections (an engine and hull survey, along with a "haul-out," or lifting the yacht out of the water to view its hull, typically costs about $2,500 for a 70-footer).  

"Purchasing a yacht is such a dangerous business, buyers need an ally with independent views who can analyze the pros and cons of particular boats and also make meaningful comparisons among different builders," says Gerry Hull of Fraser Yachts in Ft. Lauderdale. "These builders have varying reputations for quality and warranties. If you try to differentiate these guarantees by yourself or walk into showrooms unaided, it's the same as going to car dealers, where it's always caveat emptor."  

Brokers also know the prices and histories of available boats, will arrange the terms of putting down a deposit, and can find the buyer a slip in a boatyard. However, in a market where these ever-affable agents typically receive 10 percent of the price from the seller, buyers must treat boat purchasing as a hard-nosed business and be quick to question their consultant's every move.  

"Since there are some people who are very good at taking advantage of clients financially, buyers must be ready to call them on everything," Schrubb advises. "Be wary. Instead of guiding you, too many brokers stick it in and break it off. They don't tell you about dockage costs, yearly bottom jobs and monthly cleaning costs. Worst of all, there are some brokers who deal directly with a boat company, inflate the price to the buyer, then pocket the difference." Schrubb also warns buyers to avoid glitz, and to keep yachts "vanilla."  

"The interior design of a boat must be very neutral, nothing outrageous, for that makes the yacht much easier to sell," says Schrubb, standing at the MicroCommander controls of a British-made 56-foot Viking, a $1.05 million boat with twin 800-horsepower MAN engines, a Bose Surround Sound system and cherrywood cabinets. "Too many people go overboard with the furnishings, not realizing that most boats are kept for only 18 months. A yacht is a depreciating asset, with people typically losing 10 to 20 percent [on their investment] the first year. They must determine up front how much they can afford to lose, and know that a lot of extra gizmos or wild styling motifs often complicate selling the boat."  

A yacht with name recognition, such as a Ferretti, Sunseeker or Fairline, is also easier to resell. Consistently praised by such influential magazines as Power & Motor Yacht and Yachts International, these companies have become legends in the industry, reputed for cutting-edge engineering, swift, reliable service and futuristic styling.   Fairline's recently introduced deep V-hulled Squadron 62, for example, boasts three staterooms with large bathrooms, a split-level dining area and a wraparound flight deck, while Sunseeker's Manhattan 64 flaunts spacious accommodations for six, a massive galley and an airy salon accented by warm wood and tinted glass.  

"Only 300 to 350 Sunseekers are made in Britain each year and each boat has a finish and elegance that's difficult to match," says John Henry Falk, a sales representative with the Hideaway Yacht Group in Pompano Beach, Florida. "While Sea Ray might do fine boats, they just don't have the leathers, the stainless steel hardware or overall workmanship you get out of Europe. Hideaway gives a five-year warranty on major parts [for Sunseekers] because we're confident Sunseekers are the Bentley of its class."  

Despite their magnificent appointments and unique power to stir exciting visions of worldwide travel, all of these yachts must be subjected to a no-nonsense test.  

"I don't care what kind of boat people look at, they have to kick the tires," says Hull, a broker for 20 years. "The absolute worst mistake novices make is buying a yacht at a boat show or off the dealer's floor without first taking a demonstration ride. Spend time in that boat, and make sure your purchase agreement allows you to get back the deposit if the survey and sea trials are unsatisfactory. To do otherwise is very foolish."  

After failing to take a test ride, one recent buyer was blindsided. "This guy, who was a little overweight, to say the least, thought he had bought his dream boat," recalls Schrubb. "He eventually went out on it, and discovered he was just too large to fit through the door. Understandably, he's now very unhappy."  

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