Top yachts flock to Gold Coast boat shows

What's it like aboard a million dollar luxury cruiser?

As the Gold Coast comes alive with a week of internationally acclaimed boat shows, 51698009 boarded The Boutique Boat Company's finest to sample some of the most luxurious and distinctive watercraft available in Australia.

It's the tale of two economies. In one, we're cringing about the iron ore price and worrying about the budget; in the other, we're sipping champagne in the VIP section of the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, looking at an Italian 20-metre power launch that seems pretty reasonable at $3.5 million.

Now in its 27th year, the Sanctuary Cove show has not only weathered such fripperies as recessions, property downturns and sharemarket busts, but it has also become an established part of the international luxury maritime circuit – a place where the boat builders for billionaires launch their latest models.

"This boat show has always been blessed with a unique venue," SCIBS director Johan Hasser says. "A lot of boat shows are in exhibition halls, but Sanctuary Cove makes it a lifestyle event."

Hasser is right about the venue: the Sanctuary Cove marina, when it's decked out for the boat show, is an impressive sight. During May 21-24 it will take in more than 40,000 people, who will stroll among the 500-plus vessels exhibited at the exclusive Gold Coast marina.

While Hasser points out that the show includes stand-up paddle craft, tinnies and trailable sailboats, it's the super yachts and luxury power launches that the punters come to see.

Global product launches

At last year's boat show at Sanctuary Cove, six super yachts sold and this year will see a number of global product launches, two of which come from Australia's own luxury cruiser company, Maritimo.

On sale at Sanctuary Cove will be the Maritimo M65, a 20-metre option with four sleeping berths, an apartment-sized galley and luxury fittings. It runs two Volvo 900hp engines and it costs more than $8000 to fill the fuel tanks. The vessel is likely to sell for up to $4 million, depending on the fitout.

"Maritimo builds luxury motor cruisers you can live on," Hasser says. "We're expecting the boat on display to sell."

Also on display will be the Bering 65 – a motor launch aimed at what they call the "expedition" market, because, as opposed to the day-cruise gin-palace market, these boats are designed to cross oceans.

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Note the word "expedition" is to be used advisedly: the 20-metre, $3.5 million ocean-goer may have a range of 5000 nautical miles but it houses its passengers in three luxury staterooms (each with an ensuite) and has a hydraulic crane at the rear to launch and recover the 4.3-metre tender boat.

Of course, when you have an expedition motor yacht, no matter how luxurious, you might be constrained to top speeds of about 10 knots. If you need a bit more oomph when fanging down the Broadwater, you might have to look at another SCIBS exhibit, the Sunseeker 86 Predator. The $5 million, seven-bed super luxury cruiser has a top speed of 30 knots and takes 11,000 litres of diesel.

Another luxury cruiser ove the 25-metre mark – at which point it is called a super yacht in Australia – is the Horizon E88. It's another boat Hasser expects to sell at the boat show. "The market for these super luxury vessels is strong right now," he says.

Expensive to maintain

To accommodate the people who can afford to buy a $5 million power boat, SCIBS has a large VIP lounge set up at the marina, and many of its occupants are not what you'd expect. "We are quite used to the billionaire in thongs," Hasser says. "When Dick Smith visited last year, he got out of his helicopter and walked around in his jeans and a shirt."

In order to enjoy some of these boats, you need more than just the money to buy them. Richard Morris, from Australian Superyachts, manages the super yachts for their owners, and he says the rule of thumb for any vessel over 25 metres is that you spend 15 per cent of its purchase price every year on crew and maintenance.

"Some of these vessels can technically be navigated by someone with an appropriate licence, but the insurance premiums are too high for most do-it-yourself captains," Morris says.

He says super yachts attract the best captains and crews and they expect to be well paid. For that reason, many super yacht owners cover their overheads by chartering their vessels.

"It's not unusual for a $4 million yacht to cost $500,000 per year to run," Morris says. "You need a captain, a hand, a steward and a cook. And you want good quality people, because if you're out on the water for a week with guests you want it to be an enjoyable time."

Morris says many first-time buyers of super yachts have dreams of self-captaining them, until they realise they're not getting the full enjoyment. "Once you hire a good, qualified captain, the captain becomes responsible and all you have to do is enjoy your yacht. You didn't pay $5 million to not enjoy your yacht."

The SCIBS runs from May 21-24 at Masthead Way, Sanctuary Cove while The Boutique Boat Company will host its own display of its Princess, De Antonio, Wider and Schaaf models at The Sovereign Islands Marina until May 27. The Gold Coast International Marine Expo is also being held between May 21-24 at the Gold Coast Marine Precinct, Waterway Drive, Coomera. 

This story first appeared in  magazine .