The ultimate Hamptons pad includes not only gorgeous living spaces inside and out but also its own cinema, wine cellar, luxury spa, concert room big enough for a 50-piece orchestra, and even a helipad. Most would assume that this magical spot would be on Meadow or Further lane.
Well, like those two vaunted locations, it is on the water. Literally.
It’s one of several mega yachts docked in Sag Harbor, which gives a whole new meaning to the term “oceanfront.” The luxurious amenities and price tags on these boats make even the highest priced Hamptons properties pale in comparison, reaching values up to one billion dollars.
Since 1707 Sag Harbor has been a major port, although in those days the bells and whistles on boats were probably literally bells and whistles, or perhaps a sharp harpoon and large vat of rum. Now the deep-water port is populated by luxury yachts owned by captains of industry—instead of whaling captains—and the seafaring vessels have pools, spas and jet skis.
Bold-faced names are drawn not only to the ultimate water playground but to the privacy it affords them. George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg, Bono, Bill Gates and Tiger Woods have all owned floating retreats. Billionaires appoint their yachts with everything from military trained staff to missile detection systems to bomb-proof glass, submarines or even hospitals.
The world’s largest yacht brokerage, Burgess—an international company dealing in super-yacht construction, sales, charters and operational management—has some of its finest luxury yachts in Sag Harbor. Models include the KATYA, a 151-foot Delta Marine Yacht, and Blind Date, a 134-foot Lurssen, both of which are available for sale and charter.
This spring, Burgess also helped launch AZZAM, the world’s largest motor yacht—which is 590 feet long and has six bridges. The boat is capable of up to 30 knots.
The luxury yacht market is a healthy one on the East End, according to Matt Emerson, director of the Americas for Burgess.
“Boats are selling and there are buyers,” he said. “There are high quality boats available at reasonable prices and buyers see opportunities. There are also charters available from $125,000 to $190,000 a week.”
He added that Burgess offers a full concierge service for charters. He likened the experience to staying at a top-of-the-line resort.
“We do planning in advance so the captain and crew have an idea of what you want to do, what stops you want to make and what type of activities you like. We have a preference sheet we give to the client that covers food, what they like to drink, activities, as well as who’s going to be on board and their ages. We also find out whether they want a lot of water sports or quiet family time,” he said. “The ultimate goal is if you have a five-star hotel then a yacht charter is a six-star hotel. It’s expected to be more. The captain and crew’s goal is to have everything on board so that it’s a great experience.”
Danielle Barton of Bruce Tait & Associates based in Sag Harbor, which offers international yacht sales, charters and management, has also seen an increase in sales this summer. She said that those who charter often get hooked on the experience and come back for more.
“Seventy-five percent of our customers started out as day charterers,” she explained. “Usually a charter client who moves into a sale will have chartered at least three times and that’s their education of what they like and don’t’ like.”
The mega-yacht charters start at approximately $25,000 a day and there’s usually a three-day minimum, she reported.
Ms. Barton said that there are a few new lifestyle-driven trends happening for the seafaring crowd. Two things that are hot in the Hamptons right now in floating palaces are “beaches” and minimalism, she said.
“With the newer yachts they are designing areas called ‘beaches,’ the decks where you can just step into the water or off the master suite where you’ll have a balcony that actually moves out and closes up,” Ms. Barton said, adding that one of her company’s charters had three different beaches, including one where you can drop your diving tank and walk up to an espresso bar.
Décor trends are also changing, she reported.
“The yachts are becoming clean and modern and nautical and not overdecorated. You’ll see beautiful hardwood floors and fabrics and soft finishes that are so tasteful in clean whites and blues and the colors of the sea,” she said.
Even those who don’t have bank accounts as big as a Rockefeller’s can still charter a day on the water, according to Ms. Barton, who said that the lower end options “have gotten better.”
“It’s become quality, not quantity, so we have the day-charter yachts for as low as $1,800 for 12 people,” she said. “That’s a Swan 53. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s great when a giant yacht isn’t in your budget. Even if it’s a sunset cruise that gives you the essence of what it’s like to be on the water.”
Mr. Tait’s business is also introducing fractional ownership for those who are interested in buying a quarter of yacht instead of a whole yacht. The concept is similar to a time share, but for a boat.
“You’re negotiating for just 50 days out of the year and that’s really interesting,” Mr. Tait said. “It’s really growing.”
Another thing that’s growing here is the season, he reported. Traditionally, the mega yachts used to head south right after Labor Day but now are staying longer.
“People are realizing that September is the best month here,” he said. “September is the new August. You have high pressure systems and it’s gorgeous. It’s magical.”