They Like Big Boats, Too

To expound further on John DeGroot's take on the yacht trade, I give you Martha Brannigan's piece in the Miami Herald on megayachts. Basically, it backs up DeGroot's finding that while the boat industry isn't doing all that well as a whole, the megayacht business is going swimmingly. And yes, that horrible jackass Bush and his tax cuts for the rich have something to do with it.

Here's the guts of Brannigan's well-done article:

The 223-foot vessel, with a glass elevator spanning six levels and a dance floor, epitomizes the over-the-top, if-you've-got-to-ask-the-price- you-can't-afford-it sector of the boat market. And the sector is red hot.

As the housing slump and the sputtering U.S. economy spur consumers to cut back, much of the boating industry is in the doldrums. The number of powerboats sold is expected to plunge about 10 percent this year, and many exhibitors at the show, which opens Thursday, are cautious about prospects.

Yet builders of superyachts -- boats 80 feet or longer -- have full order books with delivery dates well into the next decade.

''The megayacht market is very resilient,'' says Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the Fort Lauderdale show, the world's largest in terms of exhibition space. ``It looks like full speed ahead.''

Behind the boom: an explosion in the number of rich people, who covet ever bigger and fancier yachts to round out their opulent lifestyles. On top of some 4,500 superyachts in operation, 700 are under construction, straining capacity at many of the world's shipyards.

''The personal wealth of the world is growing by quantum leaps,'' says Buddy Haack, a Fort Lauderdale-based representative for Lürssen Yachts, a 132-year-old yacht maker based in Bremen, Germany. It's the company that constructed the Kismet for an Ohio auto-parts magnate. ''Demand [for superyachts] is stronger than supply. We're backed up until 2013 for a deliver,'' Haack said.


The number of ''ultra-high-net-worth'' individuals -- defined as those with at least $30 million in assets, excluding their primary homes and consumable goods -- rose 11.3 percent last year to 94,970, according to the 2007 World Wealth Report released in June by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

Forbes magazine, in its 2007 survey, tallied 946 billionaires worldwide. That includes 178 new ones and 17 who returned to that rarefied realm after falling short for a period. Two-thirds of the billionaires are richer than last year, the magazine said. And what's a billionaire without a really big boat?

Ten years ago, a 165-foot yacht was huge. Today, 250- to 300-foot is increasingly common. Many are bigger. That means more amenities: submarines; helipads; gymnasiums; big bars; movie theaters. Some have 35-foot tenders that are fancy boats in their own right.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman