Rebuild, repair, repaint, refit. These seem to be the buzzwords of the year in North America’s private megayacht sector. While newbuilds of 100 feet and above plug along at a modest pace, the rejuvenation of older vessels has spurred exponential growth in the marina and refit markets, attracting new yachts to the U.S. and promising to keep the private yachting industry in North America alive and well.

“There are newbuilds being launched and delivered every year, and the global fleet is growing. They need to be maintained, refit and docked somewhere,” said Francois van Well, vice president of business development at Rybovich Superyacht Marina in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Most of these new yachts are getting bigger and bigger, which creates an additional amplifier on (the) space and capacity requirement.”

Rybovich is part of the growing trend at North American yacht yards that doesn’t necessarily concern newbuilds, but rather refit and maintenance facilities, marinas and dockage. In November 2018, the company opened a new facility in Riviera Beach, Fla., and effectively tripled its out-of-water work capacity, offering a floating dry dock, 450-ton Travelift and plans for 21 hard spaces for boats up to 165 feet. An expansion at the West Palm Beach facility added 2,000 linear feet of dockage, all in an effort to respond to customers’ increased demand for service facilities for new yachts, whether built in the U.S. or elsewhere, van Well said. Rybovich also has partnered with Dutch builder Feadship to be the exclusive Feadship service provider for the U.S., yet another facet of the industry’s approach to encourage cruising and the yachting lifestyle here.

Derecktor Shipyards has added a yacht service and storage yard in Robinhood, Maine, to accompany its facilities in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and Dania, Fla. But it’s the new facility in Fort Pierce, Fla., which opened last summer and plans to begin haulouts by late summer 2020, that has people talking. Positioned as “America’s first shipyard designed and built specifically for megayachts,” Derecktor is aiming to attract vessels exceeding 200 feet and 900 tons. Just inside the Fort Pierce inlet, three nautical miles from the Atlantic, the eight-acre deepwater facility will offer complete refit and maintenance services as well as a 1,500-ton hoist and 4,000-ton dry dock.

Hendry Marine Industries, long known for its work in commercial and government ship repair, recently completed a refit of the 238-foot megayacht Honor.

Courtesy Hendry Marine Industries

Operating on the Miami River, Florida’s oldest shipyard, RMK Merrill-Stevens, is nearing completion of a $30 million renovation. The project includes a new 2,700-ton shiplift and complete rejuvenation of its North Yard and South Yard.

Another Florida company getting in on the yacht action is Hendry Marine Industries in Tampa, which recently completed refit work on the 238-foot Honor, the yard’s first megayacht project. Hendry has made the decision to capitalize on its plum 53-acre location and begin inviting megayacht owners to consider its facilities, which include four dry docks and the capacity to lift yachts of any size. The nearly mile-long waterfront property is easily accessed without height or draft restrictions.

“The global fleet of yachts is getting larger, both in size and number of vessels, and there are not many facilities, certainly not on Florida’s west coast, that can accommodate them,” said Hal Hendry, special projects manager for Hendry Marine Industries.

Operating from a 65-acre facility — the largest yacht repair yard in the U.S. — Lauderdale Marine Center (LMC) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has exploded onto the refit scene with a renovation of its own. The facility now boasts new floating docks, multiple Travelifts with lifting capacities up to 485 tons, and a full complement of refit services from bottom paint to hull modifications. In 2017, LMC became the first foreign trade zone in the U.S., effectively allowing brokers to show and sell foreign-flagged vessels to American buyers on site and eliminating the standard import duty on newbuilds. In 2018, LMC received production authority, which allows for refit and maintenance work on vessels in the foreign trade zone at an exceptional cost savings to owners of foreign-flagged yachts.

Colin Kiley, LMC’s executive vice president, said the heavy investment in new equipment and facilities will continue. “We wouldn’t be investing over $35 million if we didn’t feel great about the marine industry right now,” he said. “People are building and buying boats, and there’s a desperate need for space for these boats to get their work done.” Part of LMC’s growth strategy included getting rid of smaller slips in order to accommodate vessels in the 100- to 150-foot range, the company’s target market.

A 214-foot triple-deck motor yacht is among the new design concepts at Burger Boat in Manitowoc, Wis. The boat’s sleek lines are courtesy of Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect Ltd.

Courtesy Burger Boat Co.

While service yards and marinas are expanding to meet the demand and prepare for more American owners to keep and use their megayachts stateside, new projects from U.S. yacht builders continue at the aforementioned modest pace with one exception — one that concerns once-tabled plans for an impressive construction and marina facility in Tennessee for Christensen Shipyards.

Christensen launched the 164-foot Jackpot during the summer and as of press time was turning over the partially completed Hull 42 — also 164 feet — to its owner, marking the final launch from the builder’s facility in Vancouver, Wash. The plan to open a large boatbuilding operation on the Tennessee River had been in the works since 2005. It was stymied by the 2008 recession but revived with gusto recently, with fabrication operations to begin in late 2019. Designed to be one of the largest megayacht construction facilities under a single roof in the world, the 55-acre, climate-controlled building will contain 13 individual bays for constructing yachts up to 230 feet in an array of materials including steel. Also on site in Tellico Lake, Tenn., is a marina accessible from the Gulf of Mexico through a series of locks and dams.

“This is a huge step for us, but also for American yacht building,” said Christensen Chairman Henry Luken. “We can now compete with any builder in the world in both price and quality, and can offer yachts virtually unrestricted in beam.”

Maintaining their stations in the Pacific Northwest, Delta Marine in Seattle and composite production builder Westport Yachts in Port Angeles, Wash., continue building megayachts for their clients — the former keeping mum on the particulars of its projects and the latter updating American Ship Review on the delivery of two 112s and a 164 this year. Hulls 5 and 6 of Westport’s latest model, the 125, will deliver to their owners this year, with Hull 7 in production to deliver by the middle of next year. In 2021, the first Westport 170-footer (replacing the 164-foot model) will deliver to its owner.

Crescent Custom Yachts of British Columbia is developing a 117-foot composite yacht featuring interior and exterior design by Greg Marshall. The launch of the newbuild is scheduled for 2019.

Courtesy Crescent Custom Yachts

In late 2018, family-owned custom builder Nordlund quietly launched a 115-foot expedition yacht fisher. Christened Cazador and built for experienced owners, the boat has a 3,000-nm range and was the second-largest yacht ever built at the Tacoma, Wash., yard.

Over the border in British Columbia, Crescent Custom Yachts will soon launch a new design by Gregory C. Marshall. The 117-foot Fast Pilothouse boasts a 24-knot cruising speed and, thanks to twin 2,735-hp MTU engines, tops out at 29 knots. Also in build is another Fast Pilothouse design by Marshall, a 110-footer with classic styling and accommodations for eight that is scheduled for a 2020 launch. Both yachts are being built on spec and are actively seeking buyers, but the yard confirmed it has two additional newbuilds for which details will be announced soon.

Perhaps the most well-rounded example of the current state of the yachtbuilding industry in North America is Burger Boat Co. in Manitowoc, Wis. The yard recently completed its second Burger 48 Cruiser, developed in partnership with Dutch naval architects Vripack and featuring an interior by De Basto Designs, and it has kept its workforce busy with refit and repair work on a wide variety of yachts and commercial vessels. The yard also has unveiled two stunning yacht concepts at 144 and 214 feet, both designed by Gregory C. Marshall and both a testament to the quality and craftsmanship for which the pedigreed yard is known.

“Our conversations about the Burger 48 Cruiser and larger custom luxury yachts give us optimism about the future,” said Ron Cleveringa, Burger’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Across all markets we are seeing that the love of yachting, and chasing the life of adventure, remains as strong as ever.”

By Professional Mariner Staff