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Friday, Jul 19, 2024
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Leisure Time for the Wealthy Is Well-Spent on Their ‘Investments’

The rich are different, not only because they have more money, but also because they have more options , especially when it comes to “investments of passion.”

That’s the term used in the 2007 World Wealth Report, recently released by Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. and Capgemini, a consulting, technology and outsourcing firm. In 2006, the market was booming for such expensive toys as yachts, fancy cars , selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars , private airplanes, art, jewelry and collectibles.

Consider what the report calls “mobile mansions,” or wide-body private jets selling for about $150 million a pop, according to The Boeing Co.

The next production slots for Boeing Business Jets , better known as BBJs , is in 2011, with list prices set at $51 million to $67 million. These are considered “green” airplanes, without interiors, according to Vicki Ray, a Boeing spokeswoman in Seattle.

“Owners contract for their interior separately with what are called ‘completion centers,’ ” she explained.

Who’s buying them in San Diego?

Don’t ask. The rich are also very private, according to Ray, who was able to part with only one name , Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, a fellow who doesn’t mind going public with his pricey possessions.

Overall, private owners of the BBJs amount to 44 percent of the market, with government transport at 36 percent; corporate operators, 10 percent; and charter operators, 10 percent, said Ray.

As for geographic regions, North America placed 29 percent of orders for the planes; the Middle East another 29 percent; Europe, 23 percent; Asia-Pacific, 14 percent; Africa, 3 percent; and Latin America, 2 percent.


A Steady Course

Closer to home is a longtime booster of San Diego’s boating culture, Sharon Cloward, president of the Shelter Island-based San Diego Port Tenants Association, a coalition of businesses and industries around San Diego Bay and at the city’s international Lindbergh Field Airport. The group is dedicated to advancing trade, commerce and tourism on the bay’s tidelands, while protecting the environment.

Cloward remains bullish on boating in San Diego, noting the success of Project USA 2007, a prestigious yacht industry conference that was held May 9-11, and is looking forward to YachtFest, an annual showcase to buy, sell or charter so-called super yachts, scheduled Sept. 13-16 at the Shelter Island Marina.

“It will bring large yachts to San Diego, and lets the public know the industry is here,” said Cloward.

Each yacht that comes here translates into revenue for the local economy, said Cloward, including paying for boat repairs, putting the crew up and buying products.

“There is a big market for that,” she said.

While Cloward doesn’t keep hard data on how many yacht owners reside in the region, she considers the San Diego market solid.

“We were worried when gas prices went up, that maybe the yachts would be leaving,” she said. “But we haven’t seen that at all. They are here, and the yachting community is healthy and likely to stay that way.”

Cloward gives Arizona some of the credit for that.

“It’s a big boating community,” she said. “In Arizona, we have boats (arriving) here in the summer, and year-round. That keeps us healthy.”

She also credits those south of the border.

“Mexico has done a lot to open its doors to the yachting community,” said Cloward. “It’s much more friendly now.”

The temperate year-round climate in San Diego also provides another incentive for owners to home port their boats here, she said.

“And, San Diego is so desirable for yachts, with our location,” said Cloward. “You can cruise Mexico, all the way up to Seattle.”

Cloward is pleased with the progress that her association has made over the years to benefit the bay.

“We have a community that works together,” she said.

John Freeman, director of communications for Knight & Carver Yacht Center, which has plans to expand its operations in National City, agrees that San Diego provides a growing market for boating. And, no, gas doesn’t seem to be a major issue for its high-end clientele.

“My gut reaction is that people who can afford to buy yachts can afford to put gas in them,” said Freeman.

It’s all relative, said Eric Leslie, director of marine operations for the Harbor Island West Marina, Pier 32 Marina and San Diego Mooring Co.

“People, such as myself, are sailboaters, and I haven’t put any fuel in my boat in seven years,” he said. “I use the motor to get out of the slip and the harbor, then put the sails up. It doesn’t have that big of an effect.”

Right now, Leslie is overseeing the $11 million development of Pier 32 Marina in National City, which will add another 250 slips for the boating community.

“The docks are already finished, and I hope to bring some boats in as early as mid-September,” he said. “The buildings will not be finished until December.”

His barometer for a healthy market?

“We get phone calls and inquiries on a daily basis from people looking for spots to dock their boats,” said Leslie. “Maybe they are moving into town due to a job transfer. Our phone and walk-in traffic is as strong this summer as it has been in the recent past, and there is no indication that demand is softening.”


Evolving Market

Don Raymond, general manager of the San Diego Yacht Club in Point Loma, has noticed the market evolving.

“People used to sail long, skinny sailboats, and now you see them buying the big power boats,” he observed, boats that measure from 60 feet to 120 feet.

Raymond also has noticed a shift in the makeup of the club’s 2,000 members.

“It used to be middle-income, hard-working business people, but now it seems like about 40 percent are very wealthy independent business owners, and the other 60 percent are hard-working people who are retired.”

While, generally, the retirees don’t have the money to buy and maintain the larger yachts, he said, the wealthier members can afford to maintain a full-time staff and crew on their boats.

“They say, ‘Take me to Catalina or the Mediterranean,’ ” said Raymond. “These boats are amazing. They have everything that you would ever want.”

With the club being founded in 1886, many of the current crop of what he calls “this tight-knit community” are “third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-generation Yacht Club members,” whose boats have been handed down to them. The membership also is very private, he added, so names are not released, nor are photographs taken.

But, Raymond added, this is not a club of dilettantes.

“The San Diego Yacht Club is more focused on sailing, and has more Olympic and All-American sailors than any other yacht club in the world,” he said.


Test Drive

Would you buy a yacht before taking it out for a test drive? La Jolla’s San Diego Prestige, which rents out what it calls “one of a kind” exotic cars, and a helicopter, recently expanded its fleet to include a 560 Express Cruiser yacht.

The 56-foot 2007 model, worth $1.4 million, is docked at the Kona Kai Resort in Shelter Island, according to Krystal Ondler, Prestige’s public relations and marketing director. The yacht is available for charters and time share plans, without down payments.

The average price for chartering the yacht is $450 to $800 an hour, which includes a captain, first mate, gas, cleaning and docking fees, and non-alcoholic refreshments. The two-bedroom, two-bath, Internet-ready craft, which holds up to 12 guests, includes a full kitchen and living room, home theater surround system, satellite dish network, and a plasma-screen television inside and outside the cabin.

“We get inquiries from all over the country, and some international clients from Canada, Mexico and Europe,” she said.

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