One Friday morning in April, I had an hour-long Skype conversation with Trinity Yacht’s Vice President William (Billy) Smith. We’d covered some newsy bits from Trinity in the first couple months of the magazine’s existence, but never really touched on the mega yacht industry as a whole in any significant fashion.
One of the goals of All At Sea Southeast—and one of our writers’ biggest challenges—is to create a publication in which all aspects of the waterfront lifestyle are covered, and from a local perspective. Thus far, we’ve focused mainly on the little guy—coastal motorcruisers, local fishermen, the occasional sailing competition—and I think our team has done an admirable job.
But I’d admittedly been looking forward to the conversation with Trinity for some time. The mega yacht industry is an interesting one indeed, close to me personally, and has a huge presence in our region. So it doesn’t make much sense to ignore it. Over the years I’ve had many friends make their living crewing aboard yachts of various sizes—one of my best sailing friends from Annapolis found a job as a deckhand on a 130’ schooner and sailed all the way from Bermuda to New Zealand, calling in Alaska, British Columbia and Tahiti en route. Another was a stewardess aboard a large motor yacht out of Florida, which spent the winters in the Caribbean. My dad—who has been faithfully writing the Pro Tips column the past few issues—has an old friend in Savannah who is the engineer on a large motor yacht and has made it his lifelong career, raising a family shore-side in the beautiful Georgian city. I spent one day as a fill-in deckhand on a 130’ motor yacht on the Chesapeake one summer when the owner came by to entertain his corporate guests.
As you’ll see in my feature article on the megayacht industry, things are not going so well. According to Trinity’s Smith, while the majority of the U.S. economy lingers in a recession, the U.S. megayacht industry is experiencing a full-blown depression. Trinity is operating at half-capacity with a potential 600+ jobs vacant, and most of their work is in the commercial or military sector.
The general impression, I think—my impression anyway—is that yacht owners are looked down upon as indulging in a frivolous expense during a time in which the American middle class is struggling. As Smith and I talked, however, it became increasingly clear that as the yacht industry in the U.S. struggles, everyone else in the marine business as a whole bears the brunt of it. In Fort Lauderdale, for example, the annual yacht show creates a larger impact on the local economy than the Super Bowl. Similar examples exist throughout the region.
Both Smith and his compatriot John Dane are locals from the New Orleans area, and understand acutely how the success of their company impacts the local economy. It certainly was a learning experience for me, and I hope that this article enlightens our readers a little about some of the issues affecting the industry and how they affect us all. You’ll find input in this issue from representatives of other megayacht facilities around our region, too, in an article by Rob Lucey. We’ll continue to follow the industry in the months ahead.
This month also includes an article I’ve held since our inaugural issue. I’m a sailor at heart, and big fan of Brion Toss, one of the world’s foremast master riggers, and a fantastic writer to boot. His “The Rigger’s Apprentice” book is a must-have in the onboard library of any self-respecting sailor, and he’s about to come out with a new edition. His article this month examines potential problems on a sailboat many of us take for granted. Pay attention.
As usual, direct any questions, comments or story ideas to [email protected] Thanks for reading All At Sea Southeast.