Mega yachts

I recently read in an obscure boating magazine a brief commentary on the mega yachts that the writer observed parked in a Connecticut harbor during a festival that used to be marked by more traditional boats and ships. The author commented on the fact that the large luxury ships carried the flags of many different countries and speculated that the reason for this different flags may be that their mostly US owners have been shopping around for places to register their craft that are less expensive in terms of taxes. The writer stated that those who are rich enough to afford such craft probably didn’t get that way by passing up methods of saving money. Still, those who can afford that kind of boat probably are capable of paying the fees to register them in their home country if patriotism or another reason compelled them to do so.

I’ve no expertise in mega yachts. I don’t imagine I will ever be in the market for one. I don’t even know the distinction between mega yachts and super yachts. In other usages, the prefix mega refers to a million. Most of these vessels cost well in excess of multiple millions of dollars. A super yacht is, I believe, just another name for the same type of vessel.

There was a time when luxury boats were a means of transportation. Wealthy people desired to have a way to cross oceans and commissioned vessels to carry them safely to their intended destinations. Today’s generation of super yachts aren’t designed for getting people from one place to another. The preferred method of transportation, especially over long distances, for the wealthy consists of private jets - themselves multiple million vehicles. The yachts seem to be mostly destinations for vacations or days off. They afford a high level of luxury and privacy and can be moved by crew from one destination to another. Owners are rarely aboard for the trips from Caribbean islands in the summer to the coast of New England in the winter. Some vessels cruise the Mediterranean in the summer and more southern locations in the winter. These big vessels don’t travel fast. The fastest of them might reach speeds in the 25 to 30 knot (28 to 35 mph) range. The super rich don’t spend much time traveling at those speeds when their jets will top speeds in the 650 mph range.

What those big ships do is consume a huge amount of fuel. Mostly powered by large diesel engines and employing industrial diesel generators, the ships are often ballasted in part by huge diesel tanks. They employ complex strainers and fuel cleaning systems to insure their reliability. It is not uncommon for a mega yacht to consume 500 liters (130 gallons) or more each hour of operation.

It occurs to me that there might be an emerging industry in designing sail boats for the super wealthy. I’m pretty sure that people who travel around the globe in private jets are not primarily motivated by trying to reduce their carbon footprint, but electric vehicles are catching on with the wealthy as signs of their awareness and concern, so why not sailboats?

For most of the history of the world long distance transport of goods and people was accomplished in a very environmentally friendly way. They used a renewable resource - the wind - to power their vessels. Speeds weren’t high, but mega yacht owners don’t purchase their vessels for speed in the first place.

A couple of years ago I was at a week-long training even in Norfolk VA. We had some free time one evening and I purchased a ticket for the sunset cruise on the American Rover, a 135 foot three-masted topsail schooner. The cruise was just a jaunt around the harbor on the Elizabeth River. As soon as we had pulled away from the dock and turned outward, the sails were raised and the engine shut down. The quiet sounds of wind in the sails and water alongside the hull were delightful. The entire cruise was over long before I had tired of the pleasant ride. American Rover is not an old ship, but rather a modern vessel manufactured to Coast Guard safety standards and outfitted with luxury accommodations including a ship’s store, bar, and modern bathrooms. There is an air-conditioned lounge below deck, but the place to ride that evening was definitely on the deck under the sails with the great views of sunset over the harbor.

I can see how it makes sense for a company that specializes in carrying tourists to have a sailboat instead of a heavy launch that needs to be refueled each trip. Costs of operation are probably lower, even though the sailing vessel does require a bit more crew.

I’m no expert in fashion and what appeals to those with lots of money to spend, but I am a bit surprised that there isn’t a resurgence in the market for top-end luxury sailing yachts. Such a ship would enable the owner to experience a high level of luxury while feeling good about the use of renewable energy. I realize that ice makers and air conditioning are essential to the feeling of luxury for the wealthy owners. Compliment the vessel with solar panels and perhaps wind generators to power the electrical systems and luxury could be combined with energy efficiency.

Were I super wealthy, I wouldn’t turn to a pastor who lives more than a thousand miles from any ocean for advice on what kind of yacht to order. There are plenty of people with much more expertise than I. I do hope that some of the brilliant yacht designers are sketching out plans for luxury sailing vessels.

That wouldn’t solve the issue of which flag to fly on your mega yacht. It wouldn’t make owners more or less patriotic. But it might ease their consciences a bit if they have ships that are more environmentally friendly. Then again, there are plenty of other tings to make their consciences uneasy. It’s just an idea.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!