Yacht Design Nightmares

The challenge of making yacht dreams a reality.

May 3, 2021
Steve Haefele illustration
“The mister grunted a few times, pretending to care, and then allowed that he’d seen the design at a boat show. He was not impressed.” Steve Haefele

I’d been dream-walking through my early years of peddling yacht designs. I came to a stop and sank deep into an overstuffed suede sofa in the salon of a large motoryacht. The owner was pacing back and forth, bloviating about the brilliance of “his” design. “Don’t forget my interior, honey,” the missus reminded him.

At the time, custom yacht design involved more than simply burping out a clever profile and arrangement. If these two signed a design contract, I’d be stuck with them for a couple of years and likely get a design credit only if I screwed up. Still, I waited patiently for the opportunity to sell myself.

The mister was talking up his current boat: “No yacht on the water has this or does that. The magazines said it was a breakthrough in marine design. Dear, do you remember that young man? You know, our design fellow? He said it couldn’t be done.”


Blah, blah, blah. I wondered what had happened to that poor young fellow. The mister finally ran out of steam and made way for a handle of vodka parked on the mirrored bar.

“I need a drink,” he announced.

It was my turn. I began my usual routine: reviewing my years before the mast, my training, and my part in creating a recently launched, well-known design. The mister grunted a few times, pretending to care, and then allowed that he’d seen the design at a boat show. He was not impressed.


I, of course, agreed with his objections and addressed them like a tailor fitting a suit. “Yes, but that boat cost far too much,” the mister finally protested.

Uh-oh, red alert.

I was still green, but I knew the game. Boaters—regardless of their wallet size—are cheap. A builder’s change orders usually shake coins from tight pockets, so I provided a short list of the best builders. I was explaining that a builder with a solid pedigree is an investment when I was distracted by the missus’ handbag, which lay next to me on the couch. It had begun to move and snarl. The missus’ pooch emerged, a small breed whose bow and stern were hidden in hair. A proper defense was impossible. Fortunately, the captain appeared with a leash and announced, “Walkie, walkie.”


The missus—now restless as well—was digging through the handbag.

“Here,” she said, shoving a chewed-up swatch of faux ostrich hide across the cocktail table in my direction. “This is what I’ve selected for the wall coverings.”

The mister had poured his third vodka by the time the missus revealed her carpet selections, which would have lights woven in to form their initials. I was thinking yellow indoor-outdoor. The mister bounced back, suggesting neon nameboards to port and starboard, a convertible bridge roof, and a folding arch.


“I hate waiting for bridges,” he groused. I suggested

hydraulics. “Yes, of course,” the mister grunted, as if I were an idiot.

Good God, I was. I was struggling to escape the sofa’s embrace when I awoke in a sweat.

Just a nightmare? Or was it real?

I’ll never tell.

Read More from Jay Coyle: Tell Tales


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