Summer of the superyachts
Wednesday, September 30th 2020
Not only did boat rentals and sales see a huge surge this summer as pandemic shutdowns sent more people out on the water. In addition more super-sized yachts than ever cruised along the Maine coast, visiting ports both big and small.
Normally in the summer many of these boats head across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. But when Europe shut the door to people with American passports, many of them sailed downeast instead.
Too big to fit inside many small harbors, these super yachts moored slightly offshore in many places — luxurious floating homes, loaded with water toys such as jet skis, paddle boards, fancy electric hydrofoil boards, and small sailboats. In Portland, where the new Fore Points Marina has docks built specifically to serve the large yachts, they were able to tie up and stay for a while, or load up with fuel and provisions.
Any boat over 250 feet long entering the midcoast between Boothbay and Mt. Desert Island is required to bring a local pilot on board to help with navigation. In a normal year, the pilots might see two yachts this big, said Pen Bay Pilot David Gelinas. This year they saw at least eight, which is an impressive number when you consider that there are only perhaps 100 or so yachts in the world in this category, he said.
“The bottom line is that travel to Europe was extremely impacted by the COVID crisis,” Gelinas said.
Another significant change was that instead of visiting the state for maybe a week at the most, many of the yachts visiting Maine this summer stayed for a month or more. In addition, while most of these yachts are often under charter (which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a week) this summer the owners were aboard.
These superyachts as well as a dozen or so more yachts over 100 feet long visited Kennebunk, Portland, Blue Hill, Camden, Bar Harbor, Boothbay and other ports, including Islesboro, where the 452-foot Rising Sun, which belongs to music mogul David Geffin, spent a chunk of time.
Other yachts potted along the coast and their reported owners included Excellence, 262 feet, car dealership owner Herb Chambers; Infinity, 290 feet, Eric Smidt, CEO of Harborfeight Tool Co.; Mogambo, 242 feet, Whatsapp founder Jan Koum; Dreamboat, 295 feet, Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot; Kismet, 312 feet, Shahid Khan, a sports tycoon who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars football team; Sixth Sense, 242 feet, Carnival Cruise CEO Micky Arison; and Fountainhead, 288 feet, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert.
Gelinas said he and his fellow pilots were treated well by the crews on the yachts. “As you might suspect they had very high end, very great equipment, and super professional crew,” he said. “The crews were really great to work with; they were eager for our input on where to go to minimize impact on fishing gear, and careful to steer around each and every lobster pot.”
He noted also how diligent they were about following COVID 19 safety guidelines. One yacht even had a private COVID 19 testing facility. “We would go on board and a member of the nursing staff would apply a COVID test. Then 20 minutes later they came back and said ‘ok you can take off your mask now.’”
As for what the passengers did while in Maine. Gelinas said he and his fellow pilots were asked for advice on where to kayak, hike, and for pretty places to moor.
“To be quite honest,” he said, “they wanted to do what most people do when they come to Maine. It’s just their method of doing it is grossly different than your method or my method.”
In Portland, the new Fore Points Marina installed a 545-foot floating face dock, specifically to serve super yachts, billing itself as New England’s newest super yacht destination. And this summer, the big yachts came in droves.
“It’s definitely the start of something new,” said guest experience manager Katherine Meservier.
Fore Points can accommodate yachts ranging from 25 feet to 630 feet, with 150 regular slips and 12 to 15 super yacht berths. A key attraction is the marina’s ability to provide in-slip fueling, at a rate of over 90 gallons a minute, Meservier added.
Gelinas and Meservier both said they expect at least some of the boats and their owners will return to Maine in future years.
“They’ve let us know that we are now a stop on their map,” Meservier said.
Top: super yachts tied up at Fore Points Marina in Portland
Middle: Excellence, a 262-foot modern looking yacht belonging to car dealership owner Herb Chambers
Bottom: Kismet, one of the larger yachts at 312 feet.