The human side of yacht ownership
How would you characterise the typical yacht owner? Whatever you may have been led to believe, the truth is simple: for most, it’s about using their yachts for precious family time, and for many it’s also about using their yachts for good.
“I have an extended family, and when our schedules allow we all like to gather on the yacht and spend some quality time as a family,” Douglas Barrowman, owner of the yacht Turquoise, told Superyacht Life back in 2017. “There is no place like a yacht for family togetherness.” It’s a theme that is repeated on countless yachts large and small the world over – superyachting, for most, is not about being seen but rather the opposite. It’s about enjoying precious, private moments with family and friends away from the pressures of demanding business lives and the long hours running those businesses can entail.
“Our yacht is a platform for much of our life,” agrees Joe Anderson, co-owner of the Benovia Winery in California with his wife, Mary Dewane. “For instance, we used it at a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis in Baltimore at the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner event. The Blue Angels were flying overhead and used Bella Una [the couple’s yacht] as a GPS coordinate and performed flybys, tipping their wings at us. It was quite a thrill. Having a yacht is a way to keep the family intact, enjoy time with friends and have fun.”
Douglas Barrowman with family
Douglas Barrowman with family
It is also a way to explore the world around us, and to interact with and grow to understand extraordinarily diverse communities from remote Pacific islands to the Scandinavian Arctic. It’s something that inspired tech entrepreneur Jasper Smith to combine his love of adventure and his love of the sea with an opportunity for owners to give back while indulging their passion.
“I have always had a deep passion for the ocean,” Smith says. “I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau movies and being enthralled at the idea of being challenged by an endeavour.” When he set out to find his own perfect explorer yacht, however, he realised it didn’t yet exist. His answer was to create Arksen. “My aim with Arksen was to create the perfect machines to enable adventure,” he enthuses. “I also wanted to build sustainable boats which considered full life cycles, from material sourcing to recycling.”
That’s not all – Arksen also asks owners of its yachts to sign up to a pledge it calls 10% for the Ocean, where they will donate 10% of their vessel’s time to philanthropic activities. “A lot of people who have the money feel a responsibility to try and make sure that the oceans are well looked after,” Smith explains. “The people that are attracted to Arksen are passionate about the ocean and want to go off on slightly more advanced expeditions and trips. With that audience, there is a tremendous buy-in to the boat being for more than just their own purposes.”
It speaks to the heart of the matter, which is that the superyacht industry and superyacht owners in particular have a heart – they care about preserving the environment they enjoy, and they care about the communities they interact with who make them feel so welcome when they visit. It’s reflected in the smallest of gestures, such as donating materials and books to local schools, to the largest – helping with last-mile delivery of critical disaster relief.
It’s a positive-impact attitude toward humanity that is quietly typified by hundreds of superyacht owners, who often prefer to do their thing under the radar rather than take false glory for their philanthropic or humanitarian endeavours. For some it’s as straightforward as getting involved in projects with organisations like YachtAid Global. For others, their endeavours become a key reason for yachting.
American superyacht owner Carl Allen is a prime example. After selling his company, and having enjoyed chartering and owning yachts as a family for years, Allen set up Allen Explorations to deliver a full programme of projects, ranging from historical shipwreck searches and environmental research to disaster relief. Indeed, Allen’s support yacht Axis played a vital role in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian – one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the Bahamas.
“We had to drop everything and help after the hurricane,” says Allen. “Axis delivered over £700,000 of supplies and made multiple trips to Little Grand island in the Bahamas. We’ve turned it into the epitome of how to organise hurricane relief.” The team helped get the local school back up and running, and organised for a group from Florida Power and Light to help restore power. “The island also lost their water tower,” he adds, “so we delivered four tanks on Axis.”
From family time to time spent embracing the global family, superyacht owners have a far greater positive impact than many assume from preconceived ideas about what a superyacht is and the sort of person who owns or charters one. It’s one of the reasons The Superyacht Life Foundation, in association with the Monaco Yacht Show, has unveiled The Honours, which is a way to celebrate the people of our industry rather than the yachts which so often get sole focus. It’s about recognising the extraordinary contributions that people make, the change they inspire, the opportunities they create, and the lives they change.
On 26 September, the eve of the 2023 Monaco Yacht Show, three honourees – nominated by people from across the superyacht industry, and selected from a shortlist by an expert panel of industry judges – will be feted for their work and contribution to superyachting. These are industry professionals and yacht owners who epitomise what superyachting can do. These are people who highlight the good in the superyachting good life.