For the super-rich who don’t want to sail their yachts across the ocean, no problem, have it shipped.
It’s springtime, which means it’s also time for the annual migration of yachts from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.
And for yacht owners who don’t want to bother with the time and hassle of an ocean crossing, there’s an alternative: shipping the yacht by boat.
A growing number of companies are offering “yacht shipping” services, where yachts are loaded and carried on giant cargo ships to distant locations. Most of the boats being carried are charter boats on the seasonal migrations between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Yet yacht-shuttles are also carrying boats to the South Pacific, and remote parts of Asia and Latin America. The services allow boat owners to fly in, use their boats and then have them transported to their next location. Industry executives estimate that more than 4,000 yachts will be transported by boat this year.
“For a lot of owners, time is of the essence,” said Catalina Bujor, spokesperson for Dockwise Yacht Transport, the largest of the yacht transporters. Dockwise also runs a “yacht shuttle” between Newport, Rhode Island and St. Thomas.
Yacht transporters say that in addition to saving time, yacht-shipping allows owners to avoid the wear and tear that can come with an ocean voyage. After long ocean trips, boats can often require re-painting and repairs. Most yacht-shippers allow one passenger—sometimes the yacht captain—to accompany their boats on the voyage.
Dockwise recently introduced its latest yacht-carrying mega-ship, called Yacht Express. It can carry more than a dozen boats, depending on their size. The largest yacht Dockwise has shipped was over 200-feet long. But many of the boats it carries are smaller sailboats, sport-fishing boats and leisure cruisers.
The Yacht Express and other yacht-carriers are semi-submersible, which means the ship’s cargo bay fills with water to allow the boats to pull into the ship. Once they’re loaded and fastened, the water is drained for the ocean voyage. The process is reversed when the ships get to their destination.
Shipping a yacht isn’t cheap. The cost of shipping a 120-foot yacht would be about $175,000, according to Dockwise.
Dockwise shipped about 600 boats last year and expects similar numbers this year. The yacht industry is still struggling from an over-supply of yachts for sale and charter, with prices still down 30 percent or more from the pre-crisis peak.
Yet for yacht-shippers, demand continues to slowly rebound.
“We’ve managed to do well despite the economy,” Bujor said.
How the Yacht Express Works:
First, the vessel submerges to allow the yachts to sail in the dock bay without hitting the deck.
All aboard! The yachts are in, but there is still plenty to do to prep for delivery.
The yachts’ engines are switched off and divers enter the water to determine the clearances for each vessel. This helps determine where rubber mats and wooden cribbing blocks are placed. Divers also put the prepared temporary supports in place.
Later the deck will be drained and supports are fastened in place by welders.
A deck’s eye view of the yachts with their sea fastenings in place.
Boats secured, the cargo ship heads to its destination.
The city of Nouadhibou is the second largest city in Mauritania and serves as the country’s commercial center. The port of Nouadhibou is the final resting place of over 300 ships which were abandoned by their owners. These ships rusting in the shallow waters has given the port of Nouadhibou the notorious name of being the world’s largest ship graveyard. Unlike the en masse arrival of ships at Mallows Bay, here the number of craft has built up over time, as corrupt officials accepted bribes from boat owners to allow them to dump their vessels in the area.
The phenomenon started in the 80’s after the nationalization of the Mauritanian fishing industry, numerous uneconomical ships were simply abandoned there. Discarding a ship is quite expensive for a company, so during the decades, lots of unwanted ships ended up in the Harbour of Nouadibou.
A few years ago, the situation was so out of control, that even Mauritanians started to worry. Nowadays there’s a project from the European Union to refloat all these junk ships and take them away, or destroy the remaining wrecks.
Sir John Franklin would have been astounded.
The Northwest Passage which he and his doomed crew of Arctic mariners sought is to be plied this summer by a ship roughly eight times as long and carrying 25 times as many people as Franklin’s flagship in 1845.
The Crystal Serenity, the biggest cruise ship to plan a transit of the legendary passage, is so large that Canadian officials are holding special meetings this week to prepare. Residents in the communities along its route, who will be outnumbered by the ship’s passengers and crew, are already planning for a visit that won’t happen until August.
“We get a lot of cruise ships, but this one is so large it will impact us significantly such that we need months to prepare for it,” said Vicki Aitaok, who’s organizing a reception in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, about midway along the route.
Every summer, about 10 cruise ships carrying a total of about 2,600 passengers sail through all or part of the Northwest Passage. The Serenity, with more than 1,000 passengers and 700 crew, is in another league.
The ship is 820 feet long
“We think they’re very well positioned to execute an evacuation if they needed to,” Hutchison said.
Cambridge Bay, population 1,500, gets four or five cruise ships a year. Aitaok said the community can prepare for a normal-sized vessel in as little as 24 hours. But for the Serenity, Aitaok is already organizing shifts of volunteers to guide and entertain.
“We usually get 150 people coming into the community over a four- to five-hour period,” she said. “Now, every two hours we’re going to get 150 people coming into the community for 10 hours straight.”
Cambridge Bay has no port, so guests will travel from ship to shore in small inflatable boats. Locals will meet them at the waterline to show them around town. Throat singers and drum dancers will perform. Others will invite guests into their homes.
“Fashion shows” of traditional Inuit clothes will be presented. Local crafts — Cambridge Bay is known for its textiles — will be on offer.
Passengers typically leave about $90 a head in the community, said Aitaok. Travellers who take Arctic cruises are usually a receptive bunch, she added.
“Generally, the passengers that come here, they shake your hand at the end. They want to almost hug you. They say, ‘Thank you so much. I really learned a lot.’”
Some, though, not so much: “Snap-snap, take a picture, shake your hand and go.”
The Serenity, which sold out its 2016 sailing in less than a month with berths starting at US$20,000, is already planning for next year.
Cambridge Bay, however, is cautious about too much of a good thing.
“All we said was yes to the Crystal for one year,” said Aitoak. “We would like to try this.”
Nunavut requires cruise ships to give advance notice to communities on the itinerary. Visiting environmentally or culturally significant sites requires passing a review. The territory is developing laws to ensure local employment and benefits.
Northwest Passage Routes
The ship is to burn low-sulphur fuel. No garbage is to be disposed of at sea. The company is working out ways for guests to give back to the communities they visit.
“We’re making certain of the fact we’re having a positive impact,” Garcia said.
The Arctic tourist season is like the Arctic summer — short and intense. Northerners enjoy visitors and welcome the economic opportunity, said Aitaok.
But after Cambridge Bay’s two-week cruise ship window, residents are ready for a break.
“We’re happy to see them come. We’re happy to see them go.”
Heading north in Davis Strait toward Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, the National Geographic Explorer is framed perfectly through a giant ice arch along the west coast of Greenland.