Separation Anxiety

Distance makes the heart want yachts.

Separation Anxiety

Steve Haefele

"I love this heat," said Bill, a pal of mine who owns a yacht brokerage. While South Florida snowbirds migrate north once their igloos thaw, Floridians stick it out until August before searching for cool air. “When the competition heads for the hills to rehydrate,” Bill explained, “my sales team is sweating deals.”


“August sales are as reliable as the march of the penguins.” It seems that by the second week of the month, Bill’s customers are lusting for boats — any boats. “A fellow in Aspen called looking for a late-model, 65-foot Italian express cruiser,” Bill said. “By Friday, it was a 70-foot paddle wheeler. It’s more than a bit stressful. My brokers look forward to hurricanes so they can evacuate to a shelter.”

The idle, landlocked mind of a boat nut is a breeding ground for dumb ideas. I’ve had my own experience with separation anxiety. I hadn’t been chilling in the hills for a week before I began eyeballing listings: a converted shrimper, the soiled remains of a lobster boat, anything I could screw a crow’s nest on. Then I moved on to restoration projects. A vintage Bertram 31 or Hatteras 36. Anything would do. By the time I was headed south, the brokerage section of Yachting was as dog-eared as a kid’s toy magazine at Christmas.

“I suspect a simple case of alcohol eye,” Bill said. “You didn’t have the courage to act on your vision. I’m talking about sober customers determined to invest.” Bill reminded me of a disturbing case: our pal Tim. He’d been holed up in the Rockies since May when he called for help. He was hot for a 30-year-old, 50-foot speedboat to cruise the Bahamas.

“What’s he thinking?” Bill asked. “He’s a New York Yacht Club member, for God’s sake!”

“The idle, landlocked mind of a boat nut is a breeding ground for dumb ideas.”

I tried to help. “Now he’s hunting for a 60-foot convertible,” I said.

“Update: Now it’s a worn-out, 65-foot motoryacht,” Bill grumbled.

Tim is now making his way back to sea level, and his prognosis is worse than we could have imagined. He sent us a picture of a “vessel” he’s made an offer on, a portion of the hull of a vintage offshore race boat. Tim tracked her down in Italy, where she was serving as a billboard alongside a motorway. He offered to provide her owner proper signage in exchange for her remains. He intends to return them to Florida — not for burial, but for restoration.

“It’s gotta be altitude sickness,” Bill said.

I suggested the cause might be a waterborne pathogen. We wondered if Tim might be willing to undergo testing. “If the substance could be isolated and synthesized, perhaps we could create a vaccine,” I said.

“A vaccine? What are you thinking!” Bill shouted. “We’re talking about a medical breakthrough that could change yacht sales forever. My brokerage will be busier than the floor of the New York Stock Exchange!”

If you happen to visit Bill’s office, I’d take a pass on the bottled water.