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Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
In addition to Intrepid, a select few boats are built strong enough to do the job of a megayacht tender.
Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
Captains love it because it’s built like every other Whaler; it won’t sink. They also appreciate the portside dive door that opens inward, making it easier for guests to get on and off the yacht without climbing over gunwales.
You’ve seen them on the interstate, giant buses turned into motor homes, land yachts really. And behind they’re usually towing a “dinghy.” Not a mini Kia either but a mega SUV so the King of the Highway can tool around town in style once he’s pulled into a KOA Campground for the night.
Well, real yachts do the same. Their tenders can be longer than 40 feet, weigh 12,000 pounds, pack more than 1,000 hp and, when towed behind, run the risk of ramming you, breaking loose or sinking.
This is the toughest duty for a boat. At the helm of the 100-footer, all seems smooth at 30 knots in five-foot seas. But out on the tow line, the tender, which is typically a boat in the size range that a 99-percenter can afford, is taking a beating. There’s no crew complaining to slow down and no captain aboard to throttle back. So the boats chosen as megayacht tenders must be built to the very highest standards. Only a select few make the grade. This story explores why that’s so, and how the world’s toughest small boats survive as yacht tenders.
Forbes magazine used to publish an annual list of millionaires. How quaint. Now the “m” has been replaced by a “b,” as in billionaires. As the money grows, so does the size of the boats that these Masters of the Universe buy. And as the yachts get bigger, so do their tenders. It’s that old saying, “One man’s big boat is another’s dinghy.” It’s all part of an elite world where boats like ours are being towed behind what are, in effect, small ships.
As Capt. Rob Loveall of the 117-foot Annastar tells it, “We come into St. Barts and we’re lost in a fleet of 200-footers, and they can be towing full-size-cabin sport-fishing boats.” Not to be left out, the Annastar recently supersized from an Intrepid 370 center-console to Intrepid’s 400 model.
Loveall, who is 44, says he first noticed the trend when he started out in the mid-1980s. “Back then it was a rare sight,” he remembers, “but it caught on fast, and the boats and gear grew with it.”
Still, the most common yacht tender is a 24-foot RIB, which does the work of hauling guests and gear. The big boys at the end of the tow lines are there, as one captain told me, to flaunt it. Typically these boats are center-consoles for fishing, but they must also provide a level of comfort and luxury in keeping with the mothership.
With the indulgence of big tenders comes big problems. Loveall says that towing can be a challenge in the best of times, and often downright dangerous. He’s had boats veer off wildly or charge at the yacht, only to come up short on the tether to be whipped back in place with frightening force. “Sometimes in big seas we’d lose sight of the boat for days, hidden by waves,” he says with a shaking head. “The only clue it’s there is the almost constant strain on the aft cleats.”
Over the years he has ripped out bow eyes, had lines viciously snap back at him, and let loose the smaller boat to save the larger. To keep all of this drama to a minimum, it’s all about the gear, experience and training.