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Fort Lauderdale: On the docks with Jim Flannery

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French boatbuilder Beneteau, continuing its bid for a share of the U.S. powerboat market, debuted four Italian-styled express cruisers: the Flyer Gran Turismo 34, 38, 44 and 49 (also available with a flybridge).


The builder introduced its Swift Trawler 42 to this country in 2005 and added a 52 in 2009, a 34 in 2010 and a 44 this year. Now it is taking on the express cruiser market with these four new entries by Italian designer Pierangelo Andreani. Beneteau is touting new proprietary Air Step technology on its sterndrive 34, 38 and 44. Air Step consists of forward-facing steps and two air intakes on both sides mid-hull that distribute air aft to create an air cushion. The company says the air cushion improves maneuverability, speed and fuel consumption, and gives a better ride.

The 34, powered by twin 200-hp diesel or 300-hp gasoline sterndrives, cruises more than 30 knots and sells from $211,300 to $252,900, according to Beneteau. The 38, with twin 260- or 300-hp diesels and a cruising speed in the high 20-knot range, starts at $317,000. The 44, with twin 370-hp engines and a cruising speed in the low 30s, and the 49 and 49 Flybridge, with twin Volvo IPS 600 (435 hp) diesel pod drives and a cruising speed in the mid-20s, run $459,900 to $686,000, Beneteau says.

SeaNet Co., of Newport Beach Calif., which has been managing a fractional yacht ownership program since 2003, announced it is moving up in the size of its offerings to a 93-foot Benetti Delfino. SeaNet will be offering quarter-shares in the $2.4 million yacht, which accommodates 10 to 12 guests, and a guaranteed 50 days of cruising. A quarter-owner’s annual share of operating costs with a captain and three crewmembers — one part-time — would be $175,300.

SeaNet plans to start with four yachts and deploy them at different times in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, California, Mexico, Pacific Northwest and Costa Rica, SeaNet president Michael Costa says. Fraser Yachts will manage the fleet. SeaNet also will offer concierge service for cruise destinations.

Costa says today’s high-end consumer has a getaway in the mountains, another in the desert and the responsibility of getting his children to such activities as soccer and dance. “It keeps people from moving forward with [buying] a boat. They can’t justify the expense.”

James Clayton, Benetti general manager for the Americas, estimates the superyacht market at 500 boats a year, “less than that, even. Only 10 percent of rich people are buying superyachts,” he says. “We have a lot of work to do as an industry.” He says fractional ownership can give these folks a taste of the lifestyle and woo them to it.

Yacht Capt. Jody Hill — paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident — has a story to tell other yacht crew about the importance of having health insurance. Hill, of Houston, is making a bid to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games in London Aug. 29-Sept. 9, 2012, with the support of Moore Stephens, a U.K. company based in Isle of Man that specializes in crew benefits.

Hill was captain of the classic 1934 sailing ketch Flicka in 2006 when a car accident in Tortola, B.V.I., ended his 13-year yachting career. After the accident it took two weeks to get him airlifted out of Tortola to a hospital in Houston for medical treatment. “I was not insured,” he says. “None of the hospitals would accept me because I didn’t have insurance.”

Hill says his parents eventually got him into a hospital in Houston, where he ran up a half-million dollars in medical bills, a debt the hospital eventually forgave. The Caribbean yachting community raised money to help him with his living expenses. “They put their hearts out for me — and their wallets,” he says. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have survived.”

Hill, now 40, says his mother had given him $500 shortly before the accident to buy health insurance, but like many young people who go to sea, “I was in it for the lifestyle, travel, adventure. I’d loved it since I was a kid.” It had not occurred to him that he might get hurt.

The U.S. Superyacht Association, which represents 180 U.S. businesses that supply, service, repair and build superyachts, is taking a new tack to promote its member companies. Called Destination USA, the new strategy will encourage foreign-flagged superyachts to come to U.S. ports not only for refit, repair and provisioning but also to cruise, says John Mann, owner of Bluewater Books & Charts and the association’s chairman. “We’re trying to make the United States a cruising destination,” he says.

He says that hasn’t been an easy sell because of the many regulatory hurdles foreign-flagged vessels have to clear to cruise U.S. waters. “I know American owners who don’t bring their own foreign-flagged vessels here because they think it’s a pain in the neck,” he says.

He says superyacht crews on foreign-flagged vessels should get a B1/B2 visa — a temporary visa issued for business or pleasure visitors — and not a visa for commercial ships’ crew. The B1/B2 allows for extended stays and travel. Mann says the association is inviting yachts to be in the spectator fleet of America’s Cup 34 challenger events in San Francisco and Newport, R.I.

Joseph Charles, president of Charles Industries in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and chairman of the ABYC Foundation, has donated about $100,000 toward setting up a second prefabricated classroom at Broward College’s Marine Center of Excellence, a two-year marine training center in Miramar, Fla., that awards graduates an associate’s degree in marine engineering and management. George Guerra, dean of the school’s transportation department, says the new classroom should enable the center to double its enrollment, which was 54 this fall.

Guerra says the school offers ABYC certification in eight marine specialties, plus education in safety, customer service, boat etiquette, engineering, math, science and the humanities. He says the school’s goal is not just to turn out trained technicians but also technicians that one day can move into supervisory and management roles. Except for a diesel engine program at Florida Keys Community College, “not another state college in Florida offers this program,” he says.

Spot LLC, the satellite messaging and emergency notification service, introduced its Spot Connect app, which allows iPhone, iPod Touch and Android users to send text messages via satellite when their smart phone is out of cell range. Bluetooth short-range wireless links the smart phone to the Spot.

“If you’re out on the water and there’s no cell phone coverage, you can send a message home [using Spot],” says Greg Wilkinson, a distributor for Globalstar, which owns Spot.

Spot can send out short “canned” messages without the smart phone app. With the app, the user can key in any message on the smart phone and send it out via Spot, Wilkinson says. The app costs $169.99. It works with iPod touch (second, third and fourth generation), iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G and Android (platform 2.0 or later).

ACR Cobham was touting its ResQLink as the world’s smallest 406-MHz personal locator beacon. Introduced in July, ResQLink weighs a scant 4.6 ounces and stands just 3.9 inches tall. It’s a little less powerful, at 5 watts, than the ACR AquaLink, which has an output of 6.3 watts. It also does not float, but a floating pouch is available for it. About the size of a cell phone, “it’s the smallest and lightest PLB in the world right now,” ACR international sales manager Jose Breno says. The cost is about $325.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.



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