Posted: 16th June 2016 | Written by: Kelly Sanford
It all starts with a simple binary decision: Am I going to buy a boat? It’s a yes or no question.
For the fortunate few for whom the answer is yes, it's an exciting time. The commitment to making this kind of purchase opens a floodgate of dreamy, self-discovery questions. Will I motor or sail? Will I travel the globe or explore close to home? Are my needs casual or formal? What kinds of tenders and toys will I want to have? A bourgeoning vision easily takes shape and enthusiasm soars.
The yacht market is global and diverse, but it can loosely be divided into three basic categories: Semi-Production Yachts, Custom Built Yachts and Brokerage Yachts. (with some overlap, but these are the general three.)
Semi-Production begins with a hull and a loose layout. The buyer is given a lot of control over how the spaces are allocated, oriented and styled, but the hull and superstructure are essentially fixed. Because much of the structure is set, the build process tends to be fairly expeditious with start to finish in a year or so.
Custom builds begin with a blank sheet of paper. Everything is designed to the owners’ specifications, and build time is typically three years or longer. Brokerage yachts are finished yachts. Frequently, they are previously owned but sometimes built on spec – so what you see is what you get, and changes require some degree of refit.
With a desk littered with yachting magazines, the many nuances of a boat-buying decision can quickly become tedious and overwhelming. Buying a yacht is a major investment, and the pesky devil dwells in the details. This is where an adept broker’s practical experience and understanding can help you narrow your focus and guide you in making the right choice without spoiling the fun.
Where to Begin?
For the owners of Vanish, their journey began on a well-traveled path. They had owned boats before and were the original owners of their previous two yachts. Experience in yachting had honed an edge of clarity on their objectives. Priority one would be selling their current 50m yacht and priority two would be finding a yacht that met some innovative layout criteria.
With a number of comparable 50m yachts on the market and a fixed number of buyers for yachts that size, Northrop & Johnson aggressively began marketing their listing. Being a semi-production yacht, Northrop & Johnson emphasized the boat’s distinguishing features, and they understood that committed owners and a meticulous captain would set this boat apart from others on the market. Confident the 50m would sell in a reasonable time frame, the search immediately began for the next yacht.
The owners of VANISH initially hoped to build another semi-production yacht since the build time would be concise and the process a familiar one. However, at the top of their design criteria was a bridge-deck master. Though semi-production yachts do offer flexibility in how spaces are dedicated, the structural changes necessary to accommodate the relocation of the master created an impasse. Northrop & Johnson would have to guide these buyers through the array of options with the specific starting point of a bridge-deck master in mind.
Weighing the Options
Though Kevin Merrigan had presented the owners with a custom yacht already under construction at Feadship’s Royal Van Lent Shipyard with a bridge deck master, VANISH’s owners were initially reluctant to consider a custom yacht build. In their minds, the commitment of time and money was more than they wanted - particularly since they still owned a yacht.
Broadening the search horizon began by closely watching the yacht market for brokerage yachts with a view-centric master stateroom on the bridge deck. They considered yachts with on-deck masters as a variation on that theme, but held out hope that they could find exactly what they were looking for.
Finding that perfect yacht can be a time consuming process, but each yacht considered is an opportunity to learn and to better understand the available options. Jan-Bart Verkuyl, the Director of Feadship Royal Van Lent says,
“Owners don’t want to be intimidated by their decision, that’s where a broker can really make the difference. A good broker will nurture the buyers enthusiasm and make the process fun.”
“It is a fine point distinction, “ says Wes Sanford, “there are so many variables in yachting. As brokers we need to filter out the noise and give buyers enough information that they feel confident making a decision, but not so much information that it paralyzes them.” Merrigan adds, “That is an area where a good captain becomes great asset. They have a perspective that completes the picture and helps both the buyer and the broker really focus in on the right choice.”
Time and Money
When Northrop & Johnson made good on their promise to sell the previous yacht, it was time to zone in on a new boat. After all, of the boats they had considered, the Feadship under construction remained the proverbial needle in the haystack in providing the bridge-deck master the owners wanted. At this point, the boat was only nine months out for delivery, which resolved the initial angst over a long build time.
The 16m jump in size represented a substantial increase in interior volume and the price difference between a semi-production boat and a custom Feadship were significant. Tim Hamilton, Director at Feadship America says, “Even when compared to other yachts, building a Feadship is not an inexpensive undertaking - but that does not mean that a Feadship is not great value. We provide a product with a comprehensive level of quality that translates to equity and it’s why Feadships tend to hold their value better than any other boat.”
The craftsmanship and attention to detail that are hallmarks of Feadship are not always appreciable in photographs. One cannot gauge fit and finish without stepping aboard, so the pragmatic buyers made the trip to Holland and immediately recognized the value. The correlation between the Feadship project and the owners’ own concept was remarkable. Confident the collaboration would be gratifying, the buyers made the decision to move forward in completing the Feadship and making it their own.
Perfecting the Vision
Typically, a Feadship project begins with a blank slate. In this case, the yacht was very far along, but because the design was such a close fit for the owners’ vision, Feadship was confident they could finish the yacht according to the wishes of these specific owners.
Hamilton says, “The Feadship experience is well refined. Owners are never overwhelmed with decisions. We don’t want them to sweat the details; we take cues from the clients and make the process fun for them. The kind of person who builds a Feadship tends to be enthusiastic and our owners want to co-create; they tell us what they envision and we perfect it with exhaustive attention to detail.”
Verkuyl says, “The Feadship experience is a completely different approach in building a yacht that fulfills all the owners'wishes. It is completely custom. We provide a multi-level attention to detail and the owners can decide just how involved they want to be. These owners added a very positive energy to the boat. It is developed for a lifestyle with a lot of emphasis on enjoying the water and water-sports.”
Working with Eisgaard Design, the owners designed and styled an interior layout that is very social, where even the crew areas are all together so the crew interacts in a cohesive environment. The captain and owners brought a great deal of ingenuity to the project. Hamilton says, “We like working with the crew because they help make the owner happy and they give us great feedback to keep pace with what works best.”
Perhaps the crown jewel of the owner’s vision is the owners' cabin aft of the wheelhouse. Ben Harrison at Eidsgaard says,” The cabin is totally private, right down to the slide out balcony that raises to be level, essentially creating the feeling of an owners’ deck. This boat has all the elements of a classic gentleman’s yacht with contemporary elements and thoughtfully allocated spaces including dual helidecks and multiple entertaining areas."
Verkuyl says, “Vanish is special. It is fantastic to see this vision coming to life. It is innovate, modern and smart. It is a next-generation classic and a perfect example of where Feadship wants to be heading.”
Hamilton says, “Every boat we build is distinct and we enjoy the process as much as the owners do. We take a lot of pride in our work. Now is the truly exciting part. Once the owners take delivery, that is when they tangibly get to appreciate the thousands of details that make a Feadship extraordinary…Even sitting at the dock, you can’t fully appreciate everything. We take great pride in knowing that, for years to come, those layers of attention to detail will continue to make the owners’ experience exceptional.”