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How to Buy a Superyacht in Eight Simple Steps

It helps to have a nine-figure bank account.

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“The two happiest days in a man’s life are the day he buys a boat, and the day he sells it.”

A tired aphorism, and not necessarily an accurate one.

With a little know-how (and a lot of bank account), owning a world-class superyacht is worth the effort. Or at least that’s what we took away from our chat with award-winning Dutch shipyard Heesen.

A little background: Heesen, started 40 years deep in the Netherlands, has grown into one of the leaders in superyacht design over the past few decades. The company first made a name for itself in 1988, when they delivered Octopussy (yes, after the James Bond film), the world’s fastest superyacht at the time. In 2017, the company won five international awards for their most recent ship, the 50-meter Home.

And now they’re making waves (ha!) in the U.S.: two-thirds of the yachts Heesen sold last year went to American-based buyers. The selling point for the brand is an extremely sleek, eco-friendly design that clients can customize both inside and out.

But while their boats make for a pretty picture, they’re obviously not in most people’s price range. Hell, even multimillionaires may be deterred the annual upkeep: just sitting in the marina, these boats can cost (no joke) more than seven figures a year.

Still, a boy can dream. So we asked Heesen PR manager Sara Gioanola and North American sales director Thom Conboy about what it really takes to own one of these beautiful ships.

1. DO: KNOW YOUR SIZES
According to Gioanola, up to 25m is a boat or yacht, 25-70m is a superyacht, and anything after that (like Heesen’s recent project Maximus) is a megayacht. “Our core business is 50-55 meters,” she says. “On larger boats, like something that’s 120 meters, you’re actually limited to where you can actually go or what marinas you can use.”

2. DON’T: EXPECT TO MAKE MONEY
It’s like driving a car off the lot — the value starts going down immediately upon purchase. “Don’t let anyone tell you a superyacht is a good investment,” says Conboy. “Your car isn’t, your plane isn’t, and your boat isn’t. It’s a depreciating asset. Your $30 million boat will maybe be worth $22 million in five years … and it costs a few million to maintain. If you want to invest, go into real estate.”

3. DO: BE PATIENT
According to Gioanola, it can take 2-4 years to build a boat, or even longer the more you customize it. Even with 400 full-time employees and building everything in-house, Heesen can only deliver five superyachts per year.

4. DON’T: GO AT THIS ALONE
Before you even walk through Heesen’s door, you’ll need some experienced help. “You’ll probably want an advisor, a captain, a good broker, someone with build experience and a maritime attorney, to start,” says Conboy.

5. DO: HAVE YOUR CHECKBOOK READY
According to Conboy, there are 8-12 “milestone” payments you’ll need to make during the construction of the superyacht. The first milestone might need 5% of the full payment, 10% by the second one and so on. And if you’re buying something that’s already halfway ready to go, you’ll need half the full payment.

A typical transaction might see a buyer going to a boat show, find something they like, shake hands with the dealer, sign a letter of intent and then “make a non-refundable deposit of one million euros,” says Gioanola. From there, the final price tag is subject to whatever options the buyer wants, but “you can think of the final cost of about one million euros per meter.”

6. DON’T: RELY ON BOAT SHOWS
Speaking of boat shows … Held annually in Miami, Barcelona, Monaco and Antigua (among other beautiful areas), these shows are a fine but not great introduction to the superyacht world. “The problem is that after seeing four or five boats, you start getting confused and overwhelmed,” says Conboy. “And with novice buyers, someone’s gonna attach themselves to you. You’re walking into a lion’s den. If you do go to one, be lowkey and pretend you don’t have much of anything. Don’t flash an expensive watch or $500,000 in jewelry.”

7. DO: GO TO THE SHIPYARDS
“Go see 5-6 yards, listen to the people there and view the quality of the boats in person,” says Conboy. “You’ll get the best feel there. It’s really telling.”

8. DON’T: SKIMP ON THE CREW
“The crew is most precious thing on board,” says Gioanola. “Even if you only use a boat once a year, your core crew — captain, engineer, chief stewardess — is full time.” Although Heesen can recommend a crew, you might want to take an independent route and look for a neutral broker or industry rep to avoid bias.