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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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PERHAPS SOME SUPERYACHT THINGS NEVER WILL CHANGE

Posted to THE BUSINESS OF SUPERYACHTS - BRANSOM BEAN (by on November 7, 2009

PSSST – IT’S ALL A DREAM

 
Nestled in the sunset’s shadow cast by Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Nelly’s Ford,  (NOT referring not to a certain “un-stimulussed” US auto maker), Virginia, USA is just about as un-nautical place as you can be unless you count Sperry Marine’s corporate headquarters www.sperrymarine.northropgrumman.com/Company-Information/Major-Offices/Charlottesville-USA 20 or 30 miles down the road and last time I checked the University of Virginia NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps www.virginia.edu/nrotc ) unit still trains future US Naval Officers.

I always end up here after FLIBS (Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show) to see my Mum who is now 87.

It turns out that it’s a good place to consider reality and the superyacht, two words that just over a year ago were still in most ways more or less mutually exclusive.

Again, last autumn’s financial meltdown may have contributed to what US Designer Doug Sharp, as mentioned in my last post, sees as a paradigm-shift in the Superyacht Industry. Bigger boats and more international owners also contributed. 

But it’s interesting to consider what in fact is changing and more importantly what’s not.

Certainly the new-build order book has taken a paradigm shifting hit below the waterline as have the targets of yacht print advertising salespeople;  order-taking isn’t going to cut it anymore guys; may I suggest THE ONE MINUTE SALESPERSON?

But after attending the Monaco Yacht Show, the BOAT INTERNATIONAL’s Superyacht Design Symposium and FLIBS (Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show), it seems some things in the industry are unchanged so far.

BUT THIS IS A SUPERYACHT1

Going back to its creation, one of the reasons we set up the US Super Association (“USSA” www.ussuperyacht.com ) was because businesses in the US who were catering to superyachts were hearing that, post 9/11, many yacht Captains were avoiding calling at the US.  This was a big business issue as it would later be demonstrated that a single visit of just one superyacht to South Florida brought approximately US$500,000.00 to the local economy.
The bogey men in this we were hearing were a pedantic US Coast Guard and an unsympathetic INS, (US Immigration and Naturalization Service) as it once was known. 
Somehow it seemed that for yachties, navigating ISPS procedures and US Visa requirements were a problem despite the fact that, somehow, less well paid Masters of tramp general cargo ships at the time seemed to be managing it all ok.
Of course comments like, “Do you know how many of your lousy Coast Guard Cutters the owner of this yacht could buy?”  when directed at a boarding US Coast Guard Third Class Petty Officer didn’t seem to help. 
Some yacht captains, it seems, are still having trouble with all this, judging from the excellent turn-out at the Captain’s briefing at this year’s FLIBS where the USSA once again assembled an excellent panel including a US Coast Guard Four Striper to personally edify confused professional yacht captains.
Unfortunately they first heard bad news on the immigration front. 

Despite industry calls for a special “US Superyacht Visa” and what I know were the best efforts of the USSA in Washington, the professionals in the superyacht Industry will have to make do with the same bog-standard B1/B2 Visa’s that somehow work for everyone else.
To be fair, crews wanting to join yachts in the US for six to twelve month refits or a four month cruising season often end up with short-term US visa’s more appropriate for cruise ship crews whose in-port time is measured in hours, not months, aboard commercial vessels for which an “extended refit” takes five weeks.

BUT ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL?
    
Then there are those superyacht essentials – helicopters and toy submarines.

At the design symposium in New York, presentations on superyacht helicopter operations aboard yachts by two (UK) Royal Navy helo pilots included graphic videos of those times when it all goes wrong on board grey ships, even when everyone is trained, the best equipment is on standby and the deck is designed for the abnormal loads and has channels to carry flaming fuel safely away.
But Navy helo decks are not objets d'art.

So despite having just witnessed images of rotor blade fragments scything through the air and flaming JP-5 fuel, it seemed questions from the assembled superyacht audience focussed on ways to wink-and-nod all those troublesome procedures away with an ingeneous  “touch-and-go” superyacht helicopter pad. 
“I mean, if the helicopter’s only going to touch down, why do you need ugly fire equipment?”

WHATEVER GOES DOWN DOESN'T HAVE TO COME UP

Superyacht toy submarines are a pet peeve of mine, no doubt reflecting a large degree of sanctimony on my part having somehow managed to qualify in them in the US Navy.
      
The final presentation in New York was by a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic private submarine designer, Graham Hawkes, who now sells his subs to yacht owners as “toys” (in yacht speak a toy is a kayak, jet ski, wind surfer, sailboat, power boat for water-skiing and/or a private submarine).

Mr Hawkes presented his “Deep Flight Superfalcon” and his experiences with one of its first buyers, Tom Perkins, for his MALTESE FALCON.

Not surprisingly, Mr Hawkes highlighted the very special opportunities to experience the underwater flora, fauna and geology that his submarine could provide. 
Apparently The Falcon can dive even deeper, but I don’t recall any mention that once submerged, most colours become invisible below 100 feet and all light is gone at 300 feet begging the unartistic question of why anyone would want to. 
And from a safety standpoint, much was made of the fact that The Falcon is inherently buoyant
 
Perhaps that’s why I can’t remember any mention of crush depth. 

Unfortunately, all submarines with air inside which is at a pressure less than the sea pressure outside, have a depth at which they will inevitably crush like an empty Budweiser can. 
Yes, Virginia, even fun submarines have a crush depth. 
Missing also in all the soaring along in the Deep Flight Super Falcon with the giant rays and hammerhead sharks was any mention of the incontrovertible Archimedean truth that as ALL submarines descend, their hulls compress, making them less buoyant, which in turn, makes them want to keep sinking until they crush (that nasty word again).
 
And there certainly weren’t any pictures of USS THRESHER (SSN-593), or rather the tiny bits of her spread over the floor of the Atlantic after she crushed with all hands off the US coast of New England in the early 1960’s.

Finally, if there had been any discussion of how you’d find the inherently buoyant Falcon if she became entangled in wreckage, I don’t remember it – but then, I’m 57. 

And then there’s the small problem of who can get down there to affect a rescue if Falcon finds herself in distress deeper than 150 feet. But because there seemed to be no way to escape from Falcon when she’s submerged - even from Naval Submarines, with escape trunks and training, it ain’t easy - it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.
        
Predictably, resulting questions from the floor included, “Do you need any training?”, “How much?” and “How long does it take to get one?”
 
Superyachts indeed are different.
 
But then I remember somethingelse  I heard at FLIBS, “We’re selling the dream.”
 
-end-

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