Television crews were back on the docks this year, not only showcasing some of the spectacular vessels on display but also talking to yacht crew about their jobs.
A reporter/editor, producers and photographers with CNBC’s Inside Wealth team are making live reports daily from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, showing off the prettiest interiors, newest technology and latest gadgets.
Wealth Editor Robert Frank has also taken time to talk to crew about everything from the long hours to the sometimes monotonous duties and the reality that while they get to travel the world, sometimes they only get to see it from a porthole.
“We want to give a realistic view of working on a yacht,” Franks said.
And as they hauled equipment aboard and set up temporary sets on deck, Franks said the working crew really impressed them.
“What makes this so enjoyable for us a crew has been working with the yacht crew,” he said. “Every single crew member has been so patient with us; I can’t thank them enough. To me, that’s what makes coming back to the boat show each year so enjoyable.”
Frank was working on a piece about yacht crew in an effort to make it clear that crewing on a yacht is hard work with long hours and not a lot of swimming off the bow with a beer in hand.
But the backdrop to all that is the misconception most Americans have about yachts. Yes, they are lovely, and yes, they are expensive. But they are more than a wealthy person’s toy. To many of us in the industry, they are the source of our livelihoods. They are an economic engine to more than 100,000 workers in South Florida alone.
With a segment on the network’s Squawk Box show yesterday morning, Trinity Yachts was able to briefly make that point, and point out it hurts the working class when politicians take out their fiscal frustrations on those who have money to spend.
“This whole political climate where the rich guy is the bad guy, stopping him from building a yacht is not going to hurt him,” said Billy Smith, vice president of Trinity. “He’ll just go to Europe to build it. Now, is he going there because of some perceived quality or is he going there to stay under the radar?”
The industry knows how this feels. But companies such as Trinity wish politicians didn’t have such short memories.
“We went through this with the luxury tax” in the early 1990s, Smith said. “Did it hurt the rich guys? No.”
And then he ticked off a number of American builders who are no longer in business.
“That’s typical of politicians,” he said. “They went after rich guys and ended up losing 10,000 blue-collar workers their jobs. These rich people create jobs.
“You want to redistribute wealth? Build a yacht and run it for five years,” he said. “That will redistribute wealth much more efficiently than giving it to the federal government to use on a program nobody wants.”
Frank’s stories about the wealthy and their toys make for great video. Who doesn’t want to see the bright yellow submarine, wonder at the latest technology and grow envious over the retractable television at the foot of the master bed?
But he’s also reporting on the industry that these toys create. Frank said the network is working on a primetime show for wealthy habits including real estate, collectable cars, and jets as well as yachts.
“For us, it makes sense,” he said. “CNBC has a wealthy audience. We can talk to our audience about yachting without giving the misconceptions.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of Triton Today; firstname.lastname@example.org.