What’s the Difference Between a Yacht and a Boat?

No one knows. But a good rule of thumb is that a yacht has at least two commas in any repair bill and sometimes three.

Another definition is that a vessel is a yacht to you and your friends but just some old boat to the tax man. And, this is confusing—ships are commercial or military vessels except for submarines which are called boats. One thing is true that yachts are privately owned and some owners really let their freak flags fly when designing their yachts.

Many yachts are lyrical works of maritime craftsmanship. Others are generally regarded by the yachting world as gigantic embarrassments. If you look up “ugliest boat in the world” this one always pops up. It’s call ‘A’ (sailboat) not to be confused with another yacht also called ‘A’ (powerboat) owned by the same Russian billionaire who is known as the ‘fertilizer king of Russia.” Many think the sailboat looks like a pile of fertilizer.

When Tom Perkins built the Maltase Falcon in 1990 he said he wanted it to be so automatic that once it was untied it could be sailed remotely by computers from Europe to the Caribbean. Sounds like it defeats the purpose, but what evs.

I personally like Paul Allen’s Octopus the best. At 414 feet it features eight decks, an underwater viewing theater, two submarines and a glass bottom pool. It also has a helicopter deck at either end because who wants to walk all that way to the chopper. The truth is that one heli is for the help. It cost 200 million in 2003 that’s actually considered chump change by some these days.

Good on ya, Paul!

One guy spent five billion on a 100 foot yacht. He’s lying sure, but still it cost something as it features 25,000 pounds of gold and platinum in the dining room alone. What-an A-hole, right? www.atlasmarinesystems.com/most-expensive-yachts/

Super yachts used to be fitted with elaborate garages to hold cars and shore boats but some boats got so big they couldn’t dock in places like St. Tropez and Monaco so they bought smaller utility vessels of 150 feet or so to hold the toys. This also reduces the annoying comotion from the help when they scurry about lashing the Bugattis down in heavy seas as they scoop beluga caviar into golden buckets.

One Russian oligarch has an all black yacht with a black attack style helicopter in a garage next to the pad. The lady of the yacht didn’t want to ride around in such a cocky bird so her chopper comes up on an elevator from below and is pearly white.

It used to be that a man’s (they are all men) yacht length corresponded to his…ahhh measure of machismo. But to those of us who keep track there is a new macho-measure. This number is the total length of your fleet. Larry Ellison comes in first and Tom Siebel is on the list of top ten (both Buck’s customers and Woodside residents). 

The world’s largest single yacht at 600 feet (beating the previous number one by ten feet. Take that sucka!) is part yacht, part ship because the Norwegian owner claims it’s a research vessel. Nice cover up. It’s a yacht. He’s my new best friend. 

Most yachting is centered in the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. An amazing number of the mega yachts are available for rent. You can spend a million bucks a week for 16 people—plus food, fuel and tip. Still a lot cheaper than owning one; take it from me. Boats are always doing their best to corrode, flake, sink and generally disintegrate as they drain your bank account. So why would a billionaire rent his yacht out? Well, no amount of money will keep a crew sharp. If you maroon 20 young, handsome people on a fine yacht with nothing much to do they will definitely run amok or away. So many owners like to keep the crew fresh with visitors. Oh, the problems of the rich.

Owning a boat gives me a sense of freedom and, with my partners, companionship. Also we are pretty able seamen so we get a nice feeling of accomplishment. When you are at sea, survival is all up to you. I’ve been a mariner in all manner of craft for nearly sixty years and so far I’ve never wrecked or submerged a vessel, nor have I lost a person at sea. I have capsized a couple of times but if you don’t do that you aren’t sailing hard enough. And I’ve threaded my share of killer coral reefs and heard the song of the mermaids luring us onto the rocks. Or maybe it was just some kids yelling at us.    

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  • GringoLoco says:

    Boat: a hole in the water where you pour your money.

    Thank Zeus (or Neptune?) I haven’t sanded teak nor polished brass in decades!

  • ollie says:

    Amazing world we live in
    Thanx for the TOUR DE OPULANCE
    Can’t make that kinda monet buildin fences
    Still fun to take a video cruz

    Aye Captain

  • Bill Goss says:

    Great piece on monster yachts, Jamis!
    Years ago, I was a navigator for one of the largest and most incredible boats to ever reside in the Bay area. It was the nuclear aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON with approximately 100 of the world’s greatest fighter jets and other aircraft on board. We steamed all through the Aleutian Islands and then all around Hawaii, then Japan and South Korea, stopping in all of those places. It wasn’t luxury, but it certainly was a grander adventure then anything a luxury yacht could provide, watching supersonic F-14 Tomcats takeoff and land almost continuously all day and all night, sometimes in the most horrible storms imaginable, rocking the ship’s deck incredibly, sometimes causing the extremely fatigued pilots to crash, all of this directly in front of where I stood on the ship’s navigation bridge. (And, yes, that is a breathless, run on sentence.)
    Yes, luxury is great and it’s fun, but I know you love and thrive on adventure, so give me adventure “…or give me death!”

  • Tyler says:

    Does it get proportionately more fun the larger the yacht? Or is there a limit where the fun plateaus?

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