Friday, April 03, 2015

Sailing on a Superyacht (once you remove the dollar signs, they're not that different than us)

s/v Marie and s/v Wisp neck and neck to the windward mark.
"Hi hon. Sorry, but we blew the jib and the staysail, and we had to drop them off at Nanny Cay so it looks like I won't be home until after 6pm." It was 5:30 pm, the time that Scott had assured me he'd be home to help with the dinner/bedtime madness (and it *is* madness) and to give me a little break from solo-mommyhood.  Luckily, a) I am totally okay handling the three girls on my own and b) I was already two (pretty stiff) rum cocktails in with my girlfriend, Genevieve, and all our girls (that is five if you are counting) were happily playing on our boat so this little bit of news didn't bother me in the slightest.

But, turns out, removing sails on a super yacht is no small feat. Given the fact that they weighed upwards of a thousand pounds each (the jib was two thousand pounds, to be exact), took sixteen people to flake (aka "fold"), and required the use of not one, but two fork lifts to heave into a sail loft (one crew member, fearful of the sail falling was quoted to say, "I'm getting out of here, this is not worth dying for!" which struck me as utterly hysterical), meant that Scott actually didn't get home until well after 10pm. At which point I was pretty well sauced. Being alone with three kids on a boat all day will do that to you.

After sharing drinks and swapping stories in our comparatively modest cockpit with our good friend Gonzo and the first mate, Sal, I learned a few things. Turns out, sailing a super yacht isn't all that different from sailing a "regular" yacht; they, too, constantly chase problems. They, too, break important gear at inopportune times. They, too, jury rig solutions with what is on hand. And they, just like us, begrudge and bemoan how quickly things fall into disrepair and how much effort it takes to stay on top of it all. Yes, they really are just like us in many ways. Minus the fact that they deal in millions where we deal in thousands. Which, I guess, is a pretty big difference.


Most of us cannot even fathom the dollar signs needed to bask in the joy of mega yacht ownership. I mean, the monthly internet bill alone is 20K, not to mention the nine full-time crew and their very decent salaries. It takes eight (eight!!!) solid hours to fill up with fuel which costs significantly more than most people's yearly salaries. It is not unusual to spend 13K on a week's worth of provisions and the champagne budget alone would make most of us gasp. If you want to charter this boat, you'll need a cool 200K per week to do it. Yep. Only the richest of the rich can play in this elite field and to get a glimpse into the window of this world is a rare opportunity indeed.

So when Scott was invited to race on Parsifal III, a beautiful 180 foot Perini Navi luxury super yacht, it took him about a half a second to say "yes."


The first day of racing was a complete bust considering both sails tore before the first mark and, instead of racing, they made the twenty-five mile sail to Nanny Cay, the only marina with a sail loft that claimed they could repair the sails. I think everyone was doubtful. The sails, according to Scott, were as thick and tough as rawhide.

The next day was touch and go. The sail loft said they'd drop the sails off before 7am which, again, seemed like a very aggressive (and unlikely) promise. But, sure enough, around 8am we saw a small barge chug into view - the hulking sails strapped to the roof - and so began the process of getting them back on the boat. Significantly easier than getting them off. Racing commenced.
This photo and cover photo were taken by Mark Gonzalez
A few times Isla and I dinghied out to the boat to wave daddy off as she pulled out of her slip. Our little tender was positively dwarfed by her magnitude. "Is daddy sailing on that cruise ship?" Isla would ask each time she saw it. After the final day of racing, I got all three girls into the dinghy to welcome the boys back into port. From up on deck the crew waved and yelled, much to the delight of our girls. Our buddy Gonzo cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled down, "Can you grab our crewman and take him ashore to get the tender?" At first I thought he was joking, but he wasn't and before I knew it the entire back of the boat was lowering down, exposing a giant garage of sorts. I dinghied over to what was now a full-on dock protruding from the transom, and there was Scott and his crew mate, Will. Scott grabbed the twins out of their dinghy seat by the handles of their life jackets, Will hopped into our boat for the lift ashore, and the trade was complete. No doubt this was quite the spectacle for anyone watching.


So what's it like racing on a super yacht?

Well, according to Scott, you kind of forget you are sailing. These boats are so big you don't really feel too much motion, it's like the difference between a hang glider and a 747. Our friend Eben said that, sometimes, when you would walk forward on deck, it felt very much like being on one of those moving airport walk-ways. Everything is touch button, from the sail hoisting to the jib trim. Everything is massive, from the winches to the cleats. There's a chef on board preparing pretty awesome meals and a crew of no less than twenty. Unlike racing on smaller boats where weight is a huge factor, there is no "hiking out" on a super yacht. In fact, there was a lot of milling about. But it was, without a doubt, "awesome" according to Eben and Scott.

Of course there are some things that are similar or the same to "regular" sailing; despite being fifteen feet from the water, when the boat crashes through a big wave, the deck still gets wet. When dolphins are seen, people still get giddy. When stuff goes wrong, everyone pulls together to find a solution. And when you're cruising along under full sail at a good clip, it's every bit as exhilarating.

Just like the wealthiest man in the world puts his pants on one leg at a time like you and I, a luxury yacht still catches wind to move it forward, just like any old sailboat. Sailing is sailing, after all.


That said, I'll take my 44 foot boat over a super yacht any day. Much more simple and straightforward (not to mention less expensive!). We prefer - and enjoy - having our champagne views on a beer budget. But we definitely appreciated the chance to experience a glimpse into this world first hand.
Our buddy Gonzo on the bow. Love him.
Backing into the slip, "med moor" style. A process that took no less than 30 minutes. 
The twins are getting the first taste of the "good life". If they turn out to have expensive taste, we can pin point why.
One of the outdoor dining areas.
The girls, playing on the mega yacht dock. They could've cared less about all the commotion. It was all about the crocs.
Here she is, in all her beautiful glory!


Rio 2016 hotel accommodations packages said...

efore we were married, my wife and I started doing this almost on a dare: think we can make it a month on the wagon? It's since taken on a life of its own, and is something we look forward to every

mical3211 said...

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me.
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