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Dream Explorer Yacht - Understand Your Yard?

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

I had a long conversation last week with our shipyard, Naval Yachts. It reminded me of so many conversations over the years with clients of our construction business. To have a productive negotiation, it is important to understand the mental model of the other party. This is compounded by crossing cultures and linguistic frontiers such that confusion can spring from a world of good intent.

First an Analogy - Build a Yacht or a House

Let me first explain by example. A client wants to build a house but is concerned about the total cost. A significant investment for them and not one where there is likely much practice. The first question we hear is, "What is your build price per Ft^2 or M^2 ?" I understand the reasoning, but it's the wrong question to ask as the answer is inevitable, "Do you have a plan in mind, and can you share imagery of your expectation?". A kitchen can be $10K, 20K; we have installed kitchens at $200K in the past (madness!) . So the lesson from this is to define "value" and only then look at "cost." The same applies to building or otherwise aquiring your dream yacht. Just what is it that you are seeking?

The next trap is expectation: "We want a home to retire to but want family around, so it must be at least five bedrooms." That's ok as far as it goes, but then the matter of "cost" arises again as it's directly proportional to area. Are they all arriving at once? Can rooms have double uses? Do you have the budget to build and maintain; the list goes on but did you notice no one has calculated the cost yet?

If the conversation remains good-natured, we then progress to another trap. "We want a custom home but have no land yet, and we would like it finished for next summer"; a process of managing expectations. Three months to buy land, nine months to plan and entitle, and 18 months to build. No fear of asking other builders to alter reality; this is real unless you buy existing and remodel. That is always our advice for anyone in their 70s, or they risk a good chunk of life expectancy worrying about an ongoing project they cannot (yet) enjoy.

Designing a Yacht - Questions to ask

Moving on now to matters afloat.

Here are a few questions to ask.

  • Motorboat, sailboat, monohull, catamaran. I'm 62, and we are building a motoryacht. I want to be sailing into my dotage.

  • Crewed or uncrewed. Family of 3 for now plus guests, then we will avoid a crew and concentrate on short-handing. That limits size to 70/80 feet realistically, and then only if we design for it.

  • Existing vessel?- indeed, that will be the quickest route to get afloat, but you inherit someone else's dreams and tastes. Refit is an expensive possibility.

  • Building new - what type of yard? A more subtle one and probably worth an explanation below.

Understanding how to acquire your yacht, what is the business model?

  • Go to a reputable Broker such as Berthon (who represent the FPB design), Van Der Vliet, or many others, and they will have their portfolio of vessels for sale plus the ability to expose others. The route for the resale market and the right broker will steer you around time, budget, and capability limits. They may also advise on the refit and run costs ongoing.

  • Go to a production yard, a Ferretti, Sunseeker, or Flemming, and pick from a standard list of well-engineered options. These are production yards with some ability to customize.

  • Go to a custom yard, and you get just that. A yard such as Hebbeke, Aluboot, Circa Marine, or Naval Yachts. They will take the naval architecture plans and customize every nut and bolt internally to what you want. But here is the leap of faith. You can start with an estimated budget, but it is impossible to be exact until the design's final specification is confirmed. This is a parallel to our previous business of high-end custom homes. You pick your life partner with your fingers crossed but cannot specify the kids and their shoe sizes. Well, not at this point, at least.

Designing a Yacht: Summary

At one end of this spectrum, you will know the value you are getting and the final cost near day 1. With a custom build over 18/24 months, you will appreciate the flexibility and potential value, but the cost is more an issue of faith and an element of self-discipline. However, from direct experience with homes and yachts, we can say that the most cost-effective route to a technological world-traveling yacht is the custom builder an appropriate hull design and your intimate involvement in the build specification.

My long-suffering and lovely wife Sebrina says from time to time, "you are not as daft as you look." Clever woman.

Chris Leigh-Jones

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