Economy fails to deter buyers at yacht show

Economy fails to deter buyers at yacht show

It may still take about $3000 to fill er up, another 200 grand or so to meet payroll for the crew, but that did not deter even the heartiest of yacht buyers at National Harbor Saturday, at its inaugural luxury Yacht Show.

As scorching temperatures hovered around 100 degrees — nearly frying outside thermometers — it was plenty cool inside the tri-deck Silver Seas, an $8.2 million, 107-foot Burger beauty, which has eight staterooms, three decks and plenty of range to cross the Atlantic. Trumpeted by the company as the pinnacle of quality, the allure of adventure Burger boats have been a tradition in American yacht sales since 1856, specializing in custom built boats. It fills up with 9,700 gallons.

Jens Wurdimger, a surgeon from Gena, Germany who was attending a medical conference at Gaylord National, admired its smooth lines and sex appeal, but said a purchase was not in the offing. He was there, like many others, just to gawk. I dont have one. No, I cant have one. People who have masses of money maybe think its funny to have one, but I dont have masses of money, he said, grinning. But Ive seen bigger ones in Majorca.

Despite the scorching heat keeping away a few serious buyers, Colin M. Robertson III, the director of marketing for Annapolis-based United States Yacht Shows, Inc. deemed the show a success. We did sell  a few yachts, he said. In the end, we were very pleased.

There were other exhibitors at the show catering to the luxury lifetsyle. 
At one tent a merchant was selling  $2,400 ultra-powered binoculars, which could practically see into the living rooms of residents at Fords Landing, across the river. Under another tent, braving the midday heat, was Tom Bergeron of Dallas, TX., who was showing off a gleaming Cirrus G3 turbo jet, which he said comes nicely equipped at $542,900.

We have more stuff in this than a four-year-old Lear, he boasted. This has been the highest-volume selling airplane in the world for the past five years.

Bergeron said that the Cirrus can fly up to 850 nautical miles, from say, Dallas to Phoenix, and only sip 60 gallons of gas. About 80 percent of our buyers fly themselves, mostly for the convenience, he said. Our customers are electrical contractors moving between jobs or franchise owners who have 6-8 franchises they need to visit. There are 5,500 small airstrips in the country, and this will get you to where you need to go.

Across the way, Rakesh Dhawan of Herndon was showing off an entirely different mode of transportation, one that he said is eco-friendly and combats the high price of commuting these days: an electric bicycle. The president of Dulles-based Electric Motion Systems LLC, Dhawan was cruising around the show in an electric-powered, cruiser model mountain bike which can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour and despite the 1000-watt motor and 85-meter torque, its absolutely silent.

It comes nicely equipped for $3,495. Its simply the most advanced electric bike motor in the world, Dhawan said. This is for people who want to live the car-free lifestyle.

A powerful storm of gale-force wind and rain Wednesday uprooted and destroyed the 15,000 square foot exhibitor tent, causing the death of one attendee who fell into the Potomac and drowned (see related story, A6) and forcing rescuers from the Prince Georges County Fire & Rescue to literally cut some of the attendees out of the collapsed tent.

Alan James Robinson, a wildlife artist, said the storm destroyed about $200,000 of his paintings and lithographs. People were walking around in tears, said Kimberly A. Madigan, a finance specialist with Baltimore-based Scott Financial Services, which specializes in boat loans.

But Madigan said that despite the soft economy that yachts over 40 feet were selling well. The entry level boater is nearly non-existent right now, she said. Thats the one who drive the Suburban and has to spend $200 just to fill up. The customers weve seen at a million dollars and above for yachts are willing to pay cash. The higher end buyers are recession proof.

Anita Brooker, an HR consultant from Upper Marlboro, MD. said she came to the show with a friend and paid the $40 entry fee, mostly to gawk. These are some real sexy boats, she said. Someday I will be able to afford to buy one. It wont be by winning the lottery. It will be by belief.