'W e built a boat for a cinematographer of Star Trek," says Dan Peter, owner of Cabrillo Yacht Sales. "He wanted a perched perspective of everything and had us build a radar arch davit system [normally a small crane used for suspending and lowering a dinghy or lifeboat] with two seats on top and an arch for mounting electronics. He likes that high perch where he can kind of look out over everything from a nice viewpoint. Most people would never think of putting a couple of seats on top of the davit. It was $25,000, four years ago, just for some metal hanging off the top of the boat. The whole yacht was about $750,000." A 52-foot replica of the cinematographer's boat will be in the San Diego Boat Show, which runs from Thursday, January 4, to Sunday, January 7, at the Convention Center and Marriott Marina. "This guy saw [the cinematographer's] boat and wanted one exactly like it," says Peter. "We've built custom tubs, Jacuzzis; once we built an altar to Matsu, 'Goddess of the Sea,' who was the only female Buddha. She protects the fishermen and people out at sea. For one guy, an engineer who did consulting work, we built a grand navigation station. It had a big work-table area to lay out all of his stuff, and we built him a computer screen right into the nav station."
"Etched glass, flat screens -- all that stuff is of course pretty standard," says show manager Jeff Hancock. "Lots of people who have boats also have fish, so you'll see fish tanks in there. Ten years ago there was a 190-foot boat that was custom made in Australia," Hancock recalls. The customer, who "inherited for a living," bought the Australian shipyard when he learned it was going out of business so that his boat could be completed. "He had Picassos hanging on the wall, a grand piano in the salon, a lap pool. He didn't have a helicopter, but he had a small SUV on there, gold-plated faucets, that sort of thing. You can get pretty extravagant," says Hancock. "He had a heart condition, so there was heart monitoring by satellite, and the bathrooms were wider to accommodate a wheelchair. He called his boat the Other Woman. "
"There was an attorney who bought a boat over on Harbor Island, and he kept having problems with it," says Peter. "He called it a Piece of Ship and painted it on the boat. It was the funniest name I've ever seen." One couple, whose profession was building mobile homes, dubbed their boat Trailer Trash. When the couple had to sell their boat, they recommended the new owners change the name.
"There's a tradition where you're supposed to christen the boat initially," explains Peter. "But changing the name...there are superstitions about it. By placing a gold coin underneath the mast step, it's a sign to the gods that you're changing the name of the boat. There's another thing where you sail the boat a mile backward, which is supposed to release the evils for changing the name." According to Peter, leaving a boat nameless is not an option. "Nameless boats are like unloved boats. You always name them to give them some character."
The most expensive boat Peter sold was a 73-foot motor yacht for $2.5 million. "There was a luxury tax on boats years ago," remembers Hancock. "The idea was to tax the rich, but as a practical matter the rich said, 'We'll buy used ones,' and it just hurt the guys who were building the boats." According to Peter, some boat buyers take their new purchases to Mexico to avoid sales tax. "They go from here down to Mexico for six months to a year. It depends on the law at the time," he says.
Most boats come with a slip, or a place in the water where the boat can be kept. "Most marinas really want to meet you first. It's kind of a tight community," says Peter. "In the old days, when they were at 75 percent occupancy, it wasn't that big a deal. Now marinas are at 95 or even 99 percent occupancy. They can afford to be a lot more choosy about who they let in."
Peter says local marinas charge from $13 to $20 per foot for rent a month. "In a $20-per-foot marina, a 50-foot boat would pay $1000 a month," he says. The price often depends on the marina's accommodations. "In the Marriott downtown, you get full use of their pools and Jacuzzis and room service to your boat and even maid service. They will come and clean the inside of your boat for you." -- Barbarella
San Diego Boat Show
Thursday, January 4, through Sunday, January 7
San Diego Convention Center
111 West Harbor Drive
Cost: $10 adults, $5 children
Info: 858-274-9924 or www.sandiegoboatshow.com