Instead of building a bigger yacht, why not shrink the ocean?

January 3, 2017
Tell Tales, Desertyachts
Illustrated by Steve Haefele. Steve Haefele

He had been cruising through the dusty, red desert for days aboard LRG, our diesel Land Rover. As we came to the edge of a heaving escarpment, a vision stood before us like a fashion model in a trailer park. “It must be a mirage,” I muttered.

There, nestled between the arroyos and buttes, was a 100-foot yacht. We were a thousand miles from a proper sea.

I pulled over, rubbed my eyes and emailed an image to my boatbuilder pal Mike. “Am I seeing things?” I pecked.


Mike called a moment later. “Where the hell are you, Coyle? It looks like a desert, for God’s sake. Is that a yacht?”

“I think so,” I offered lamely.

“Brilliant,” Mike spouted after a moment of noodling. “A new frontier. Good work, Coyle. You’ve found an oasis. Where’s the water?”


I fumbled with the GPS. Ele-vation: 3,700 feet. Arizona. Right, and this little blue spot? Lake Powell.

Of course, Lake Powell is not actually a lake. It is a reservoir created in the 1960s when the Glen Canyon dam choked off the Colorado River. It meters out electricity and water to seven thirsty states while leaving the Grand Canyon parched.

But yachting?


Mike seemed to be excited. “Can you see her name and home port?”

A large crane was blocking a clear view, so I grabbed my field glasses for a closer look. I was flabbergasted.

“It must be the biggest boat on the lake by 50 feet, and they’re adding a damn cockpit extension,” I said in disbelief.


“Of course they are,” Mike said confidently. “It makes perfect sense.”

It does?

Lake Powell is a fraction of the size of my own home state’s Lake Okeechobee. While 100-foot yachts use Lake Okeechobee to transit Florida from west to east or vice versa on occasion, they don’t hang around. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a local ride much bigger than a bass boat on Okeechobee.

“It makes no sense,” I said

“Where the hell are you, coyle? It looks like a desert, for God’s sake. Is that a yacht?”

“What could possibly be the inspiration for parking a 100-foot yacht (and growing) in an overgrown sinkhole with a sheer rock shoreline? It’s like boating in a bathtub.”

“Exactly,” Mike replied.

“Coyle,” he continued, “every yachtsman dreams of being the apex predator in a school of minnows. Don’t you get it?”

I knew what Mike was thinking. I had spent a good deal of my design career as a specialist in “yacht enhancement,” meaning transom extensions, platforms and bow pulpits for those coming up short, as well as layer-cake bridges to satiate the vertically challenged.

“The largest yachts now measure in hundreds of meters instead of hundreds of feet. It’s far more practical to reduce the size of the ocean,” Mike said. Mike’s not smoking tumbleweed. He’s been building big boats for years and has suffered through the blathering of industry pundits predicting the next oasis. “Singapore, Latin America, Russia, China: They’ve been poring through the atlas while the next big thing is smaller and right here under our noses!” Mike insisted. “My advice, Coyle? Go West, young man!”

While the cellphone connection was fading, I could just make out Mike’s last broken words of wisdom: “Desert yachts. That’s it!”


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