Of Dogs and Doings...

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This industry's full of funny stories. Wouldn't it be good to record as many as we can, so they don't get lost forever?

MARCH 2008

It occurred to me the other day that there must be a wealth of industry stories out there that could do with being jotted down. Not because we need them particularly for market-research purposes or because they necessarily deliver a salutary lesson or two. I’m not talking statistics. I’m talking about the weird and wacky, the stuff that makes us crease up or cringe, grin or grimace or both simultaneously.
In an industry like this one there must be so much stuff out there that deserves recording, if for no other reason that it will make us laugh and would be such a waste if forgotten. Alas few people keep diaries these days, so I guess I’m asking you to use your memories and send in your recollections to me. And I’m volunteering to collate it all and turn it into, say, a special feature or supplement if the response is good enough. Your tales don’t have to be delivered as perfect prose. Just the gist will do. And you don’t have to name names for fear of compromising relationships with colleagues or clients — yards, suppliers and clients can all be anonymous — although, if you feel you can fill in the details, all the better. Better still for those that know me and should bump into me at boat show or yard, tell me the story when you see me; and I’ll jot it down.
I don’t need firsthand accounts either. I’ll accept the ‘legend has it’ stuff too!

“Call it living history, albeit industrial... Or call it simply entertainment, which is really what I have in mind.”

I’ll give you an example of what I’m after:
Not so long ago I got talking to a couple of girls from one of the industry’s most prominent motorcruiser builders and we got o to the yard’s ‘daftest client requests’. They didn’t have to think for too long before recalling some owners whose devotion to their pet dogs ended up with the yard delivering more than one dog-friendly boat. The first they did was a ‘50 something’, and that would have been in the days when a 50-60ft (15.2-18.3m) boat was still considered to be a fairly large boat. Not only was one cabin aboard decked out as glam kennel, but also a dog latrine was installed on the aft deck. It didn’t stop there either. One of the yard’s smaller boats — a ‘30 something’, if I recall the story properly — was subsequently ordered as a dog runabout, complete with its own driver-cum-dog-walker.
Then there was the Northern European yard that had to organize two launch ceremonies for a new-build superyacht — ie a huge fuss doubled — you can imagine the hassles! One was for the owner and his wife at the main yard and the other a few weeks later at a Med service yard was for the owner and mistress. Plus there were apparently multiple visits during the yacht’s construction that required a great deal of discretion from the yard’s sales and technical teams.
Later apparently the same yacht saw her stewardess taking Polaroids — obviously we’re talking in the days before digital photography — of the owner’s wife’s dressing room every time she left the boat. It was a case of snapping the positions of clothes and so on in wardrobe and drawers prior to removing everything to storage. Then the girlfriend’s more racy portmanteau was unpacked. The photos came out when it was time to put it all back in the right order.
Every now and again boat shows throw up some hilarity too. Many boatbuilders have their own daft yarns. Tales of the ‘Metre-High Club’ activity in cabins during show runs is commonplace, but still raises a chuckle from those of us that don’t have to clean up afterwards. You know how certain hotels are reputed to charge by the hour? Well, all sorts of yacht exhibitors could seemingly charge by the second.
On a similar note another old favourite is the boat salesperson that had too vigorous a lunch during one show and used an indoor show exhibit’s cabin to sleep it off. It was unfortunate they didn’t realise where they were when they awoke a few hours later, got up, used the head and pumped out.
Get the gist of what I’m after?
Go on send me your stories — phil@yachtbuilderinternational.com — and we’ll see if we can make a little daft history of boatbuilding and marine industry life out of it. It’s sometimes worth remembering that this business can be great fun.

© Phil Draper