By Dorie Cox
Three yacht crew sit casually on the transom of the 122-foot Trinity sportfish yacht. A drawing of the yacht profile is printed above the name Mary P on their white T-shirts. It looks to be a regular Thursday afternoon between billfish tournaments in the yacht’s homeport of Biloxi, Mississippi. But it’s not.
The yacht is docked among hundreds of boats, nearly 100 megayachts and many smaller sportfishers in the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March. A couple of things make this scenario unique – both the crew and the yacht itself. Noticeable is that no crew member is standing at attention on the passerelle to greet potential clients and yacht brokers. In fact, there is no passerelle, just the open transom door with a small leap to board.
And where most yachts of this size have several stews, this boat has none.
“No stews,” Capt. Chris Breeland said. “We all play our part. It’s family oriented, it’s not like ‘this is your job.’”
Fishing or not, the three mates and the captain keep the yacht in perfect order.
“With this boat, I think there are high expectations, but they’re realistic,” said Capt. Breeland, a quiet-spoken 30-year-old seated at ease with a foot on the sole and a knee up on the transom. His dark, windblown hair gives the appearance of having just returned from a day at sea, and his aviator sunglasses reflect the sun’s glare whether he’s driving from the flybridge 30 feet up or here in the cockpit.
Capt. Breeland has been with this yacht’s owners for 10 years, and he previously worked on smaller fishing boats.
“I’ve worked from down here to up top,” he said while seated in the cockpit next to the hydraulic fish-fighting chair. “You start down here and if all goes well, you end up on the bridge.”
Where many other yachts in the boat show highlight the interior, the Mary P’s crew spend much of their time in the cockpit. They all love fishing.
“But we still are working,” Capt. Breeland said. “Learning to spot fish? You learn over time. You learn it for yourself and you put your own intuition on it.”
Breeland grew up in Biloxi and is surprised when people ask about what the yacht does. It is a sportfisher filled with rows of fishing rods and two nearly 40-foot-long outriggers, after all.
“A thousand people ask me, ‘Do you guys actually fish?’ If it’s not at the dock, it’s fishing,” he said.
For pelagic tournaments, another crew member or two are added, whether in the Gulf of Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica or another spot where billfish are found.
“In fishing, it’s normal to hire a local kid out of respect to the area where you are,” Capt. Breeland said. “Wherever we fish, we hire one of those guys.”
Where many of the surrounding yachts have personal watercraft, stand-up paddleboards and other water toys for deck crew to maintain, the crew on the Mary P has a workshop right inside the door to the crew’s quarters and engine room specifically for work on rods, reels and tackle. Something else that differs is how the yacht operates.
“Everything is oversized for sport fishing,” Capt. Breeland said. And although the engine is mostly the same, the yacht is designed to go in reverse.
“Stern-down at 10 to 12 knots backwards. And it’s designed to keep a dry stern – it lifts to an extent,” he said.
That is key to a successful sportfish yacht, said Billy Smith, a broker with Merle Wood & Associates.
“Backing is important or big fish will spool you,” Smith said.
Smith knows all the unique features of this yacht – he has worked with it since the beginning when he was at the build yard as former shareholder and former vice president of sales and marketing at Trinity Yachts, LLC. He left the company in June 2015.
“I sat with owners and walked them through the design and build as owner of Trinity, first in 2005,” Smith said.
The project faced delays when Hurricane Katrina hit and the yard went through changes, but the focus of the build team remained.
“We’ve all been in the military – you establish your mission profile: The guy says he wants to catch a thousand-pound blue marlin in places no one catches them,” Smith said. On a tour of the engine room, he explained that the transom meets that goal with a rake that “serves as a little bow.”
“When it was designed, it was tank-tested in reverse,” Smith said. “I don’t know how many yachts do that.”
Smith points to several other features that he said are unique.
“This is the only sportfish yacht in the world that is classed to American Bureau of Shipping standards,’” he said. “She just completed her 10-year ABS survey.”
As an aid to maneuvering in reverse, freeing ports allow excess water to flow out on the side, not the stern, and the exhaust is also off to the side and underwater. From the type of crew to the yacht design, this yacht has one focus.
“First thing is fishing,” Capt. Breeland said. “This is what I enjoy.”
Although the size, accommodations and price tag rank this boat among luxury yachts, Capt. Breeland considers the Mary P a sportfish, not a yacht.
“I’ve really never stepped foot on one of the yachts,” he said as he looked around the show. He pauses for a second and remembers one time he did. But he is clearly more at home on Mary P.
“It still amazes me to this day,” he said of a life doing what he loves. “We all know each other in this – in fishing. We get a big tournament about once a week and when you’re sitting on the dock with 50 to 60 other boats, it’s hard to describe.”
It is only the first day of the four-day boat show. Capt. Breeland looked down and quietly said, “It’s time to go fish.”
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.