Toy Story

Being a captain today is like running Disney World at sea.

water toys
“You don’t need a yacht captain. You need an amusement park manager.”Steve Haefele

"It’s easier to find a qualified buyer than an experienced captain these days,” my yacht broker pal Tom explained in frustration.

I mentioned my captain friend John, who’d been marooned ashore with endless honey-do lists. “He’s got a bit of water under his keel, but he’s one of the best,” I suggested.

“Does he have any water-toy experience?” Tom asked.

“Huh?” I replied.

Tom told me that today’s serious new-build projects require not only a yacht designer, interior designer, yacht stylist and builder, but also a water-toy consultant. “You can’t keep Gen Xers and millennials engaged with foosball and video games,” Tom said. He directed me to an image of a popular yacht listing. She had a massive in-ocean swimming pool stuffed with water toys tethered to her “teak beach” (transom platform).

“Coyle, I’m sure your captain friend can keep the tiller straight, but if he wants to get back into the game, he’s gonna have to get up to speed on this stuff,” Tom said. “He’ll need training: Jet Skis. Flyboards. Semi-submersibles. Amphibious vehicles. That sort of thing. Of course, it’d be great if he happened to have a pilot’s license or any experience with undersea vehicles.”

“Submarines?” I asked in disbelief. “Geez!”

“Coyle, a Coast Guard license just isn’t enough anymore,” Tom insisted.

I was sure John was still good for the job. I tracked him down at his internment camp in the Midwest. Back in the day, he’d managed a crack crew and a pristine yacht before he laid a paddle over his shoulder and wandered inland until someone asked: “What’s with the paddle?” When he retired, he’d had it with skippering, but I was sure he’d now prefer life at sea to raking leaves. After catching up, I told him about the demand for skippers and shared Tom’s images of yachts in amazing locations for inspiration.

Reluctantly, John took a look and focused quickly on a 200-footer. “What the hell is that mess hanging off the boat deck?” John inquired.

“That is an inflatable rock-climbing wall,” I answered.

“On a yacht? Do you wear hiking boots or a life jacket?” John wondered. “What’s with the guy standing on the end of the high-pressure hose?”

“It’s a Flyboard,” I said. “People do that for fun.”

John seemed mystified.

“Is that some sort of evacuation chute?” he asked.

“No,” I explained. “That’s an inflatable waterslide.”

“This is not yachting!” John barked in disgust.

I explained to John that these days, water toys are a big part of what draws folks to the pastime. John seemed confused. “You can get up to speed,” I told him. “I understand there’s training.”

“Training, for God’s sake,” John grumbled. “On my last charge, the only water toy we needed was a center-console equipped with fishing rods, snorkeling gear and a pair of water skis. Ya didn’t need training to have fun.”

John rejected the lure of a modern command. “I’ll stick with the wife’s to-do list and my Bacardi and Coke, Coyle. You don’t need a yacht captain. You need an amusement park manager.”