Winslow Homer The Fog Warning 1885, Dave Mallach's nautical report on fine yachts

You Snooze, You Lose (again)!

I. More Mayday

My last posting, Mayday – A Cautionary Tale, was the most widely read (and shared) post in the ten years I’ve been doing this. I am thrilled to report that readership of The Fog Warning has now climbed past 10,000 readers. For what this can mean to you and your yachts, please see below.  But for a refresher, here’s the original posting:

II. You Snooze, You Lose…

Go ahead, punch The Fog Warning sales button:

Truant, my Vicem 70 listing (and one of my most-inquired about yachts) is now under contract! Her new owner has owned some truly remarkable yachts (including the most stunning Lyman Morse ever) and knew exactly what he was looking for. His successful search says a tremendous amount about his taste and values, about the enduring brilliance of Vicem yachts, and the “blank check” stewardship of her seller.

But fear not, fellow yachtsmen! I present you with other compelling choices. I have spent the last few weeks moving up and down the east coast showing these fine offerings (click on the vessel name for the full listing):

The Baron, my Vicem 72 listing in Miami:

The Baron

Mahogany Rose, my Vicem 67 listing in Charleston:

Mahogany Rose

Essence, my Vicem 85 listing in Palm Beach:

Essence

And, the superb custom Viking 82 Skylounge  – Untethered: 

Untethered

If you are looking for a fine yacht for this season, now is your time. Anyone who worked the Palm Beach Boat Show last month would tell you that quality yachts are trading hands right now. Sales velocity has picked up, and inventory is dropping.

I looked at the data last night, and found that older listings are [finally] finding new owners. Stated another way, older listings have really been the norm for the last few years, but they are now attriting out.

Almost 400 powerboats in the 65 to 85 foot range sold in the US over the last twelve months. I did the (very tedious) math very carefully and found the average time-to-sale was 13 months.

By price, it breaks down like this:

Under $1,000,000 11 months
$2,000,000 to $3,000,000 13 months
$2,000,000 to $3,000,000 12 months
$3,000,000 to $4,000,000 10 months
Over $4,000,000 13 months

But note that these numbers mostly relate to production boats. Classic, custom and otherwise unique yachts are averaging 28 months. Large sailboats? An incredible 31 months.

III. All about the Velocity

It doesn’t have to take this long to find or sell the right yacht. I’ve both broadened and sharpened The Fog Warning’s approach to help you add velocity to your deals.

  • If you are looking to buy, and feel Baron, Mahogany Rose,  Essence or Untethered could shake up your life I suspect you may soon miss out. All have had showings in the last few weeks. If you don’t want to be on the wrong side of one of my snoozeagrams, launch a flare today.
  • If you are shopping more broadly than these offerings, please consider letting me help you find your next yacht, no matter where she swims.  I am currently helping one client find his ideal Fleming, and another find her ideal Marlow. With all significant projects, I can now provide a signifiant “real dollar” cost savings. Please call for details.
  • If you are considering selling your current yacht, let me put the full power and reach of The Fog Warning behind you. As mentioned above, we are now at over 10,000 readers. And all indications are that they are exactly the right kind of readers.  What’s more, Constant Contact, the email system that regularly connects you to The Fog Warning, just awarded me its 2017 All-Star award:All Star Award 2016 WinnerThe reason? 94% of my recipients choose to click and read every Fog Warning posting. I am honored by your allegiance. Clearly you value what I deliver. Which is why I am investing considerable time, effort and money on moving The Fog Warning to an exciting and more powerful platform – a [free] Interactive Digital Magazine, with app versions for all devices. My goal is to add even greater reach and value for you, my loyal clients, finding or selling your yachts more quickly. I aim to put The Fog Warning’s award winning content in front of as many qualified boat shoppers as possible. Simply stated:

Let me put your yacht in front of their eyes! 

  • Even if your special yacht is currently listed with another broker, The Fog Warning can add velocity to that listing at no additional cost to you. Just launch a flare to hear the benefits to you of this groundbreaking initiative. At the very least, I promise you an eye-opening conversation about the state of marketing in our industry.

In short, loyal readers, let’s push The Fog Warning button together and sell or buy your fine yacht:

IV. Your Mayday Comments

Yes, my cautionary tale is the most read (and most widely shared) posting ever. To all who took the time to pass on their “glad you survived” comments, my profound thanks. And, I’ll add this thought: ME TOO!

I found the substantive comments of great value, and I believe you will too. Here are a few, along with my answers:

  • Wow, Dave. An incredible story. Thanks for sharing. I’ll admit I always considered myself a “safe” captain. Always had more than the required number of flares, pfds, etc. and close at hand. When you said “I always wear my mini-ditch kit” my first reaction was that it sounded like overkill. I was shocked, however, by how quickly the smoke overtook you.

Well, no one was more surprised than me. One reason is that the boat had an enclosed helm. There was no helm-side door, and the windows were fixed. The aft end was mostly enclosed by eisenglass. There was no simply no place for the smoke to go (except my lungs).

  • Dave, I’m curious about the salvage team that tried to intercept your tow. I’ve had some experiences with those pirates. Or are they vultures? Looking forward to your coverage on the applicable laws and practices.

Stand by for that, Batman. The deeper I dig into this, the more fascinating the details.

  •  I think being alone on that delivery may have been a huge advantage for you. You only had to worry about yourself and the vessel. There were no children, inexperienced passengers, non-swimmers and such to distract you. They would very likely interfered with your the mission critical tasks.

Well said, and this hadn’t occurred to me. It argues toward a forceful approach with guests. When it comes to guests at sea, maybe there is a time and place for volume and authority?

  • It sounds to me that even if you had a life raft, you wouldn’t have had time to deploy it.

True, that. And hydrostatic releases for rafts are irrelevant to fire situations.

  • Dave, you said a few times that you wasted precious seconds. What would you have done if you hadn’t? 

Great question! The answer is something that never occurred to me in the heat (sic) of battle. There was a hatch right over my head. I never thought to open it. Duh! Smoke would have cleared more quickly, allowing me to both see and think more clearly.

V. Blank Check

I mentioned at the top of this posting that Truant’s quick sale proved the value of an uncompromising maintenance schedule. Recently I had the opportunity to review over 200 pages of maintenance records for one of my listings. They representing six years of “blank check” ownership, and it was a little like reading a great autobiography!

I invested the time in putting together a spreadsheet of it all, hoping for a “big picture” view of how maintenance dollars are spent.

She is a New England boat, stored indoors in a heated shed each winter. Here’s how her expenses break down:

I was surprised about how significant commissioning/decommissioning expenses can be. So I backed them out, presenting a picture of a southern boat, or perhaps a north/south boat:

One interesting dynamic that jumps out at me is upgrade costs. Almost by definition, upgrades are optional. But they do make a brokerage yacht stand out among the competition. I’m looking now at how upgrade projects pay for themselves, and/or affect sales velocity, at final sale. As usual, I look forward to your comments on this, that, and anything else.

Ciao for now, loyal readers. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it.

Enjoy!

Big Wave Dave

Mayday! A Cautionary Tale

Mayday!

Last summer I did a solo delivery of a friend’s 45’ boat from Sag Harbor to Newport. A few miles off Fisher Island she caught fire, and I sent out the first (and, I hope, the last) Mayday call of my life. It all ended well enough (meaning no one was hurt) but I thought it time to share the story with my loyal readers. Perhaps it can help you in preparing your boats (and minds) for the coming season.

She was your basic twin engine down-east style yacht, and I’ve done this trip many times, alone and with friends,  day and night, in good weather and bad. She was a well-equipped and well-maintained boat, but did not, notably, carry a life raft.

I was heading east at 11 am at a speed of 24 knots, with light winds and two foot seas. It was the proverbial weekday milk run, and the only other boats I saw were a couple of fishing boats drifting through The Race, perhaps three miles away.

I’ll say upfront that I love running boats by myself.  Even on Gypsy, my 40’ trawler, I’m most at peace when it is just the two of us:

Maybe that’s why I can be a little safety-obsessed (my kids’ friends refer to me as Safety Dave). When I am moving a boat alone,  90% of the time I’m wearing my own personal mini-ditch kit. I’d like to say that’s the case 100% of the time, but it just isn’t.

That kit consists of my Offshore inflatable PFD. I like this one, as it is rugged, fairly light, and not too uncomfortable:

There was a product recall a few years ago on this model, due to defective strap design. If you own one, make sure it’s been checked out.

To it I’ve attached this Mustang Utility Pocket. It hangs easily at waist level, and I usually forget it’s even there:

Into it I tuck this mini-EPIRB (properly registered with NOAA):

The Coasties who saved my ass that day told me that 25% of owners don’t register their new EPIRB’s, and 75% of those who do neglect to update it as their boats and contacts change over time. Enough said about that….

Also in there is a sharp knife, and a fairly recent signaling innovation – a compact laser flare. Day or night, it can get someone’s attention from two miles away:

So equipped, I was cruising along at 3,000 RPM,  when suddenly the RPM on the port engine  dropped to 600 RPM. I heard no reason for this – no cough, bang or break. What follows is my best recollection of the exact sequence of events over the next 48 hours.

+ 5 seconds – I remember muttering to myself “Well, that’s not good.”

+ 8 seconds – I put both engines in neutral, and began to check off possible reasons. I glanced at the fuel gauges, which showed half full. Then I remembered I’ve been stranded a time or two due to faulty gauges, and I kicked myself for not checking the engine room’s fuel sight tubes before departing Sag.

+ 12 seconds – I turned off both engines, thinking a restart might cure the problem.

+ 15 seconds – Dense, oily black smoke billowed through the enclosed helm area. I was shocked at how quickly my visibility was reduced to under 12 inches. I leaned forward to check the GPS Plotter, and began to cough.

+ 20 seconds – I grabbed the VHF mic (pre-set to Channel 16, but not by me). I was grateful that the new Standard mic had a GPS display right in the handset.

I announced a Mayday and my position, and with my other hand began to feel around for the manual Halon Fire Suppression switch. I was kicking myself that I didn’t know where it was.

+ 30 seconds – The Coast Guard answered my Mayday call, asking for vessel name. I didn’t pick up the mic to answer, and kept feeling around for the Halon switch. Coughing more, I found I could no longer see the plotter through the smoke. I had the (weirdly calm) thought “I’ll give it twenty more seconds. Then I’m going to have to jump overboard.”

+ 35 seconds – With a loud whoosh,the automatic fire suppression system fired. It took me a moment to identify the sound, as I had completely forgotten about the automatic trigger. Within seconds the smoke cleared, and I knew that everything was going to be OK. Then I saw the that the manual Halon switch was nowhere near where I expected it to be.

+ 40 seconds – I answered the Coast Guard’s call, and told them I was now in no immediate danger. They said I’d have a rescue boat alongside in twenty-five minutes.

+ 1 minute – I went out to the cockpit to take some deep breaths. I thought about opening up the engine room hatch and taking a peak, but then remembered my Coast Guard Six-Pack license training –

Whatever you do, don’t reintroduce oxygen into an engine room after the suppression system fires. Everything will just flare right up again!

+ 10 minutes – A large ferry boat stopped fifty yards away. Dozens of passengers looked down at me. The Captain called me on the VHF. I said all was under control, and they could proceed on their way. They refused, telling me that commercial rules required them to stand by until the Coast Guard arrived. I realized, happily, that if I had jumped overboard these guys would have fished me out even before the Coast Guard arrived.

+ 25 Minutes – I saw the Coast Guard rescue boat coming towards me from several miles away, and I flashed my laser flare at them. When she pulled up, I saw she was crewed by four Coasties – three men and a woman. Their average age was no more than 24 years old. I was pleased that they said they could see my laser flare from over a mile away!  Two of them stepped aboard my boat, and set up tow lines. One said “We heard your Mayday. You sounded very calm.” Indeed, I will say that through this entire episode I remained calm and clear-headed. You’ll see below I paid for it all later. 

+ 30 Minutes – A rather beat up private marine salvage boat arrived, and exchanged a series of dirty looks with the Coasties. There was no love lost between any of the parties. They follow us for most of the tow back to Long Island, clearly unhappy about missing out on their salvage fees. I made a mental note to research the rules of salvage.  I’ll cover this in a future post on The Fog Warning. 

+ 10 hours – Late that night I took a car ferry back from CT, making my way home. That’s when I become aware that some sort of delayed shock has set it. I noticed for the first time that my clothes smell badly of smoke. Fellow ferry passengers clearly were aware of it. Then I found that a real and uncontrollable tremor had set up in both of my hands.  And finally,  I noted that I had begun compulsively telling my story to complete strangers. All in all, an unsettling trip home.

+ 48 hours – My hands stop shaking. The fire department inspection in port revealed that the fire was electrical in nature.

Now, eight months later, here are my thoughts and observations on all that happened. I look forward to your take on it as well.

What I did right:

  • I was well equipped for this emergency, and believe I would have easily survived going overboard if the automatic Halon system hadn’t kicked in. Since I did not have the time or visibility to locate the boat’s PFD’s and signaling gear, I’m quite pleased to have been wearing my mini-ditch kit. If I did jump, the water temp was reasonable, and I’m a good swimmer (my normal pool routine is a 45-minute mile, three or four days a week). Even if I had drifted away from the boat in the strongly running tide, I could have easily stayed afloat until rescued by either the Ferry or the Coast Guard, with the possible help of  the EPIRB and the laser flare.
  • I was well trained. The Fire Safety module of the CG six pack license stuck with me. If I had opened up the engine room hatch, I’m sure a full abandon ship situation would have followed.
  • I kept my head. A lifetime of thoughtful time on the water became useful, as did the hundreds of  barroom war stories I’ve heard from friends, clients, and delivery captains.

What the boat did right:

  • She was well-equipped. The Halon system did its duty, and if I had done a better inspection before departing I would have known where its manual switch was,  saving valuable time and damage.
  • I’ve become an enormous fan of GPS displaying VHF handsets. They are not just a gimmick. When time and vision is short, they really can be a life saver.

What I did wrong:

  • I was new to the boat. I should have done a complete walkthrough before departing. Beyond the manual Halon switch, I didn’t even know where the PFD’s were. This is inexcusable.
  • Almost a month later I realized that I had completely forgotten about the red DSC distress button on the VHF. Using it would have saved valuable time. I am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t even really sure about how this feature worked. Needless to say, I later studied the manual carefully.

  • On Gypsy I keep a survival suit:

And a small valise-style life raft:

Even after the events of this story, I’m very unlikely to pack them aboard for a late-summer forty-mile trip to Newport. But maybe I should?

Beyond that, loyal readers, you tell me….

Safety Dave

No Room at the Inn!

I. No Room at the Inn

For some of us it may be true that our first boat show is as memorable as our first kiss. In my case, they were both in the same year!  The boat show was at the old New York Coliseum, on Columbus Circle. Finding this New York Times article today, I was struck by the dates pictured on the Coliseum marquis. I’m certain I was there on the last day, as it was my fourteenth birthday! I must’ve been one of the smiling people mentioned in this headline, because that show set me on the course I travel with you all today. Boats make me happy. Always did, always will. You too, I am sure.

Here’s another  iconic New York Boat Show pic, from 1961. Looks like 42nd street to me:

To be charitable, the Coliseum was never the most attractive building in NY. Back in the day some called it “The ugliest building Robert Moses ever built.”

Architects and civic planners celebrated when it was razed to make room for the much more impressive Time Warner Center (Home of Club Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where you can often find me on a Friday night).

Why all this history? What is the method to my madness? Well,  it’s all about that particular era in boating. You may recall that back in the 70’s recreational boats were designed and marketed around one simple measurement – and it wasn’t price or speed. The question was:

How many berths can we squeeze in?

It wasn’t uncommon to find a 32’ boat (sizeable, back then) with seven berths. No one ever filled them, of course. But manufacturers felt compelled to engage in this “berth arms race,” completing like crazy over a nonsensical number, and damn the torpedoes!

I’m glad we now boat in more rational times.  Because, really now, how many people do you want to cruise with? As Ben Franklin famously observed:

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Fortunately, with our functioning pressure hot water systems, this is no longer true. But there is a limit to how many people we want to travel with. Which is why designers now put their energies into creating beautiful and functional communal spaces, like galleys, dining areas, and salons. They understand that with guests, sometimes less is more. Of course, you can be lucky enough to own a six-cabin boat, and then simply choose not to fill them up.  But it’s always easier to tell your in-laws the simple truth: “Sorry, no room at the inn.”

My current listings, from 67 to 85 feet, all take the same approach – even the 82 and the 85 are three-cabin boats (plus crew quarters).  I’ve helped design and sell some four and five-cabin boats, but I suspect the last cabin or two is rarely used.

Better to be creative in how you cruise. When you’ve docked your three-cabin in Abaco, for example, in a crunch you can always fly in guests, put the kids in the crew cabin (oh, how kids love crew cabins)…

Crew Cabin – Vicem 72 Baron

….and stash your Captain in a local hotel for a few days. Trust me, three is the perfect number. Here, from the perspective of my listings, is why:

First, for your viewing pleasure, I present Mahogany Rose, my 2007 Vicem 67:

She has your basic three-cabin plus crew layout, but with a twist: The mid-ship cabin easily converts from sleeping cabin to full-sized working office, and back again.

This way the owner (um, that would be you…)  has a choice of master cabin’s to sleep in, either in the bow –

  – or mid-ship if the office isn’t needed. Between the two, as much as anything the choice comes to down to peace and quiet.  More specifically, when you want your piece and quiet.

If you’re tied up at a slip, and sleeping in the bow, you’re a long way away from your guests or crew when they’re stumbling through breakfast prep. It’s just much easier to sleep in. That said, considerations change when you’re on the hook in a roily anchorage. Once the harbor wakes up and boats get moving,  you will hear hull slap as your neighbors go by.

On the hook or in the slip, you won’t have any doubt when you hear your bow thruster engage. A client put it quite well to me last week when he said it sounds like “a ton of marbles in a blender” (although that under-berth enclosure can be easily soundproofed. I don’t know why more people don’t do it).

My conclusion here? As in all things in life, it’s nice to have choices. Move to the quieter space as circumstances and guests dictate.

In all of my flybridge listings, whether bow or mid-ship master, you’ll find Vicem’s infamous four-cabin bunk room. Perfect for kids and young adults:

Mahogany Rose Bunk Room

Look closely at above pic, and you’ll see that the upper bunks fold up, to create a roomy two-person cabin. Mahogany Rose is in Charleston, just waiting for you….

For a different approach to accommodations, check out Truant, my 2007 Vicem 70:

Truant, Vicem 70

She, too is an intelligently designed three-cabin boat, plus crew under the cockpit. And like the V67, she has a bunkroom for four. But Truant has, by far, the largest bunkroom in her class, with extra floorspace for dressing comfortably. And each of those four bunks has its own TV, and its own Direct TV receiver and headset. There are no entertainment arguments on Truant, ever.

Truant Bunk Room

Truant’s master cabin, by the way, is in the bow, with a stunning dressing area. Note how her high-gloss varnish work just pops!

Now Baron, my 2007 Vicem 72, is a three-cabin yacht with by far the largest owner’s cabin in her class. Her mid-ship master is apartment-sized, with closets to match. The best view of her is at 2:01 in this amazing video:

Even this video doesn’t quite capture the the size and elegance of her master cabin. Come to Miami and see with your own eyes how her uniquely accented blue LED lighting glows, and take in the view through her in-hull windows. If you are coming to the Palm Beach Show, it’s not hard to run over and take a look.

Untethered, my Viking 82 Enclosed Skylounge, is in a class of her own:

All other Viking 82’s are four-cabin models. As such, they all have a long narrow corridor leading to the bow, with cabins branching off to each side. When all cabin doors are closed, things can get a little …. claustrophobic. But Untethered was expressly conceived as a three-cabin yacht, with a huge master aft of the bow crew quarters:

This is a boat where space and privacy rule.  I’d be happy to show her to you in Fort Lauderdale at any time. (including during the Palm Beach show).

Lastly, the queen of my fleet is Essence, that wonderful 2007 Vicem 85:

Essence is the largest express downeast-style boat on the planet (So far, anyway. More on that below). Like Untethered, her owner designed her up front to be first and foremost an owner’s boat. His three-cabin layout supports that decision intelligently. Her crew cabin occupies the entire bow area, providing maximal privacy, while her mid-ship master defines elegance as few boats can:

Master Cabin, Essence – Vicem 85

I expect you‘ve discerned my preference – When it comes to cabins, after a certain point less is more. And I think Ben Franklin would have agreed with me.

II. On to Italy…

So, Essence is the largest downeast style express boat ever built. But apparently not for long!  I have been in discussions with with a yard in Italy for a client interested in this [four-cabin!] 105’ Belleza Express. Yes, that’s 32 meters. Isn’t she spectacular?

She has an eighteen month build time, which is remarkable for a yacht this size (although not for steel boats). I have all the details on performance and pricing, so if she interests you, just pull out that trusty flare gun of yours and launch away. Or even better, come to Genoa with me in March and meet the principals. Her pricing is attractive, and full customization is possible.

I never thought anything could eclipse Essence, but I’ve learned to never say never. Come to think of it, isn’t “Eclipse” a great name for a yacht?

III. On to Haiti…

Long time readers will remember my thrills and chills helping to build a school for 400 kids in a “you-can’t-get-there” part of Haiti. A couple of clients have asked recently  about it, so I’ll provide an update, along with a request for some help for some wonderful children.

It took there years and almost $175,000, but we got our school built and operating. What once looked like this:

Has become this, the flagship of schools in the hills of eastern Haiti:

It is a beautiful and humbling thing, but….

The original Bodarie School had a short teaching day – classes ended at 1pm. Not because we couldn’t afford the teachers. It’s just that we couldn’t afford a lunch program, and the kids had to go home to eat.  That changed after the Goudou-goudou, the awful earthquake in 2010 (Goudou-goudou is an approximation of the terrible grinding sound Haitians heard during the quake).

In a stroke of good luck, after the earthquake we were able to get a grant from UN reconstruction authorities. The deal was that if we could build a kitchen, they would provide food for our kids. Of course we raced to build that kitchen, and the school day was extended to 3pm. The kids were thrilled, as you can see here as they eagerly  await a rice delivery:

Unfortunately that food grant has now ended, and we had to end the food program. School ends at 1pm again, and the quality of education has of course been impacted.

My friends on the ground in Bodarie tell me that they need $35,000 annually to feed these kids. My friends and clients had a very significant role in getting this school built, and I humbly turn to you again.

We have a dedicated funding stream that largely covers all day-to-day educational costs. But this food enhancement  is just sitting there, waiting for generous souls like my loyal readers to chime in. Please let me know if you can help, and I promise to steward your contribution with the utmost care. An overview of the school’s mission and purpose can be found here:

And the reasons why are right here:

Feed these kids!

Thank you, one and all, for tuning in once again to my ramblings.

Spring is coming. I guarantee it!

Big Wave Dave

All thoughts, feelings and opinions expressed in The Fog Warning are just that – My own personal can’t-fall-asleep-at-night ruminations. Some people lay awake and count sheep. For some of us,  it’s boats…