Expert Advice on Buying a Yacht

Abu Dhabi Mar Group


Yachts have always been the ultimate dream machines, able to transport owners to quaint seaside towns in Italy or secluded island coves in the Bahamas. Every yacht owner knows that life is more fulfilling at sea.

There has never been a better time to buy a boat, whether it’s a custom superyacht with crew, or an 80-foot luxury express cruiser. Shipyards around the world experienced unprecedented demand for ever-larger and elegant yachts before the market softened, and that has now created an exceptional selection of new and used yachts for buyers.

Yachts, quite literally, come in hundreds of lengths and styles, with a range of missions. Chartering a yacht similar to the size and style that will suit your needs is probably the best way to start. That allows you to test-drive the yacht for a week or two, often in idyllic locations like the Mediterranean or Caribbean, and decide whether it’s right for you and your family.

Chartering is the most cost-effective way to prevent buying a boat that might be too small or may otherwise not be a good fit. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to spend time with the crew and get their opinions of the pros and cons of that type or brand of yacht.

Acquiring a yacht can be financially challenging for first-time buyers, so it’s best to seek out a reputable broker for guidance. Brokers who specialize in a specific boat type offer a huge advantage since they have access to historic information about pricing and know the field. They can also help with obtaining financing, finding slip spaces, and hiring other professionals such as marine surveyors.

On larger projects, such as a new build, the most seasoned brokers (the best tend to have backgrounds as yacht captains) can serve as an owner’s representative with the shipyard. Many megayacht builders specialize in “semi-custom” yachts, which typically involves combining the same hull and propulsion systems of other yachts in the series with the specific interior-design choices of the owners.


But custom yachts remain the king of the yachting world–the pinnacle of pleasure boats that are revered in ports around the world. A custom project is the most involved of new yacht builds, but it can also be the most rewarding. In the last ten years, the yachting world has entered a golden era because of the pure personal expression of a new breed of yacht owners.

“A custom yard takes an original yacht design for a client, one that is often very challenging, and creates the final result,” says Johan Valentijn, industrial manager of Abu Dhabi MAR, a relatively new custom builder already making its mark on the superyacht market. “Unlike a series approach, the custom-yacht process is reborn every time because you’re starting from scratch. The hull shape, design innovations, and details are new.”

Valentijn says that a custom build typically begins with choosing a world-class yacht designer like Tim Heywood, Donald Starkey, Andrew Winch, or a dozen others, who do preliminary drawings and then contact shipyards for quotes. “Of course, some yards are restricted on the size ranges,” says Valentijn. “Our yard in Abu Dhabi can build yachts up to 200 meters (656 feet). We are building two extremely compelling yachts that will be among the world’s largest.”

The 465-foot and 445-foot Swift141 and Swift135 are among ten projects Abu Dhabi MAR Group, including sister shipyards Nobiskrug in Germany and CMN in France, are currently building. They would total more than 800 meters (2,625 feet) if the hulls were laid end to end. “That represents a significant portion of the global order book for yachts over 60 meters,” says Valentijn.

Building such large yachts, adds Valentijn, requires an enormous amount of technical expertise that only a handful of shipyards like Abu Dhabi MAR possess. “After all, you’re really building a compact, floating city that involves the latest technological advances,” he says. “You need to find a shipyard with the accumulated knowledge base that we have. Otherwise, you just couldn’t build a yacht of that scale.”

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