For superyacht owners self-isolating in the Bahamas during the coronavirus pandemic, seaplanes are fast becoming the go-to means of transport at a time when charter flights are grounded, and local airports are closed.
US brokerage house Denison Yachts reports that the majority of its charter fleet regularly spends time in the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Accessing the yacht or stocking up on basic supplies during lockdown can prove problematic, however, which is why seaplanes are coming into their own.
“Getting those special request items or spare parts to a yacht is impossible if you had to rely on conventional airplanes that require a traditional runway,” says Bob Denison, president of Denison Yachts. “That’s why many of our yachts—12 at least—have begun relying on seaplane companies to get things to the hard to reach places.”
Amphibious aircraft are capable of taking off and landing either in the water or on a runway, and, alongside private jets and helicopters, are now providing a vital lifeline delivering food and aid to islands that are most in need. They are also providing a service to those wishing to self-isolate on board their yachts.
Tropic Ocean Airways, which operates out of the Miami Seaplane Base and the private terminals at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, is flying guests to and from their yachts, assisting with crew changes and food provisioning, and delivering replacement parts to yachts.
“We recently had a guest on our rendezvous that found themselves on board their yacht when a key system broke down,” says Denison. “We were in a remote part of the Bahamas, so FedEx, of course, wasn’t an option. We jumped on a call with Tropic that morning and had the part in our hands, ready to install quickly.”
Tropic Ocean Airways has seen a 30 percent increase from yachts requiring its services compared to the same period a year ago. More than half of its total business has now shifted solely onto servicing yachts.
“We have the ability to ‘preclear’ into the Bahamas prior to departing and fly direct to the yacht,” Tropic Ocean Airways founder and CEO Rob Ceravolo told Robb Report. “This allows us to directly access more remote regions, like a yacht or private island in the Caribbean.”
Ceravolo believes the uptick in sales comes as a direct result of the travel restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As information came out from the Bahamas about travel restrictions, we shifted to supplying yachts and guests who remain isolated,” Ceravolo says. “Cargo flights took over as our primary request with 60 percent of our schedule handling only provisions to yachts. The new restrictions have us focused on delivery of provisions to private islands and the yachts that choose to remain.”
Beyond providing the transportation, seaplanes are a truly fun way to travel to a waiting yacht.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve flown first class or private, deboarding your flight by stepping off the plane’s pontoon onto a tender is special,” Denison says. “I recently experienced flying into the Bahamas on a Tropic seaplane. Walking off the plane directly on to a secluded beach made me feel like a kid again. It might have been the first time I laughed out loud while landing in 35 years.”