The last time I was on an Ocean Alexander was probably six or seven years ago on Seattle's Lake Washington, and two things stick in my mind. First, we ran in front of Bill Gate's house (which took a while), and second, Ocean Alexander was an impressive cruising boat.
Earlier this summer I had the chance to get on an Ocean Alexander again, this time at Roche Harbor in the ever-verdant San Juan Islands north of Seattle, where the houses are smaller but the scenery is better, and I was even more impressed by the company than I had been before.
I wasn't the only one. In fact, this particular Ocean Alexander, a new 58 pilothouse, was owned by Don Gearing, a contractor and developer with offices in Las Vegas and Moreno Valley, Calif., who has owned a veritable fleet of boats over the years. His last, an 85-foot motoryacht, was fine, he says, but it wasn't as seakindly as he wanted. Actually, Don, who's 82 years old, and his wife, Yuna, run their boats by themselves, and they were looking for something that would help flatten out the often-boisterous waters of the Pacific Northwest, where they do most of their cruising (they keep the boat on Vancouver Island, less than an hour away from Roche Harbor).
Like many yacht owners, Don has been relatively successful in his business life. "I guess you could say I'm a developer," he says, shrugging. He says he started out installing air conditioning in Las Vegas in 1965; eventually he moved on to providing air conditioning to hotels, then to developing homes and other properties in Nevada, California and Oregon. In short, Don can pretty much afford to have whatever yacht he wants. And he wanted this one.
The only problem was that Richard Allender wanted it too. In fact, Richard, the sales and marketing director for Ocean Alexander and also an experienced boat owner, had the boat, hull number one, built for himself. The idea was that he and his wife, Pat, would live on it and go cruising; he had it tricked out with everything he could think of. Last winter Richard was sitting on the boat in the Seattle boat show, displaying it as the prototype. Don was actually at the show to look at another manufacturer's yacht, saw the Ocean Alexander, and fell in love at first sight. "He wanted to know if it was a turnkey situation," Richard says. "He didn't want to worry about anything. I told him the fuel tanks were full; all he needed to bring was his toothbrush." So Don and Yuna had their new Ocean Alexander 58 and Richard and Pat had to move into an apartment and order another one.
I caught up with these two couples at the Ocean Alexander owners rendezvous in Roche Harbor, where Don and Yuna were living on the boat in the master stateroom, while Richard and Pat were also on board, in the VIP stateroom, as guests. Fortunately, it's a big, comfortable, well-appointed boat, and everybody seemed happy. Particularly Don. "I love to cruise," he said, with the enthusiasm of someone half his age. "We can take this boat anywhere we want to go up here."
That, of course, is the whole idea. "Our target market is for people who demand space and comfort but in a package that can be handled by an owner and wife," says Johnny Chueh, president of Ocean Alexander. "It allows our customers to have their cake and eat it too."
The 58 pilothouse was designed by the iconic Ed Monk Jr., who has been producing eye-pleasing, classic, seakindly pilothouse yachts for Ocean Alexander for almost three decades. Indeed, there are now more than 1,000 Ocean Alexanders cruising around the world; the current lineup goes from 42 to 98 feet. The new 58 pilothouse is a traditional three-stateroom, two-head design with lots of teak and luxury appointments that appeal to buyers who are used to the best, whether in their homes or their yachts, and who also, as Johnny says, want the independence of running the boat themselves. (With three staterooms, of course, there's room for a crew, but the boat is really designed for the owner-operators of the world.)