on the water

I wrote this feb 2014 for the coastal star. would like to do an update…

Yes, it is possible to buy a home on the water and near the beach for around $40,000. If…

…If are over 55 years old, don’t have a pet, can get through the screening, have cash, don’t mind small spaces and don’t need to rent.

For those who can and do, they reap the rewards. They end up sitting poolside watching boats go by on the Intracoastal. Or they are at the beach taking a breather, because, well, the beach is just there.

Tropicana Gardens, at 4001 S. Ocean Blvd., a co-op with 65 units ranging in size from 350 to 700 square feet does have a few units for sale. Studio #106 is priced at $34,000 through Diane Duffy of Illustrated Properties. Studio #209 and a one-bedroom unit #210 are offered for sale together for $80,000 through Victoria Corsel, a realtor with Lenson Realty, Inc. And there are others.

“We do have a lot of restrictions, which won’t meet people’s needs,” said Peggy Beutel, president of the Tropicana Gardens Homeowners Association. “But having restrictions makes living here so nice. Because we don’t allow renting, for example, we know everyone.

“On the positive side, we have no assessments and aren’t planning any, our maintenance is caught up, and they just gave us a $22,000 reduction on our insurance because our building is so sound.”

This really is home sweet home, not an investment, she added. “My husband Al and I bought our unit ten years ago.

“We have a one bedroom, about 550 square feet, but that’s big enough for us. We paid $40,000 back then and it’s probably worth around that much today.”

To clarify, there are difference between condos and co-ops. Often co-ops are land leases and things might change when the lease comes up. So, ask about that.

Maintenance fees vary, and also, do ask about past, present and future assessments.

For example, unit #109 at the Dune Deck, 3610 S. Ocean, is a short sale, with an asking price of $99,000. There are issues, says listing agent Roger Basso with Jeffrey Ray & Associates. A $1.5 million loan to make repairs – some of them structural – is in the process of being paid off, costing each unit’s owner around $18,000 to $25,000 depending on square footage. Another $1.6 million assessment needed for more structural repairs is, as of this writing, under discussion.

“Some owners are walking away and there are foreclosures in that building,” he said.

On the other hand, “the majority has made repairs since the hurricanes, so they are in better shape than they were before and that’s making them more desirable,” said Courtney Fallon of Scott Gordon Realty Associates, Inc.

Now, here’s information for those with a pet, younger than 55, or want the option of renting: On the strip from The Ritz Carlton north to Sloan’s Curve, 235 units sold in the past year and 46 percent of them were less $200,000 according to the Regional MLS, Fallon reported.

“There are some nice deals out there,” noted Jennifer Spitznagel, broker of Manatee Cove Realty Inc. “We are at historic lows for this area. Prices have rolled back to 2001-2002 prices.”

And another thing, distressed properties are hard to find on the strip, she added, noting a short sale at Southgate, 3605 S. Ocean Blvd, #439, which is listed for $89,900 by Anthony Petrollia, Jr., a realtor with Re/Max Services. Another Southgate property, bank-owned unit #139, where mold remediation work has just been completed, is listed for sale for $79,100 by Barbara Lilley, a realtor with True Blue Realty Inc.

Satu Barish, a realtor with Coastline Realty agrees. “Foreclosures and short sales? I’ve been looking. You can’t buy them.

“Foreclosures get multiple offers and one of my clients offered $10,000 more than the asking price and didn’t get it.”

To compare with other coastal areas, there’s nothing for sale under $100,000 on the ocean in Highland Beach, and there’s only one unit for sale in Briny Breezes under $100,000 — K-27 Juniper, for $64,900.

Feel like a Frog

For $42,000, you can feel like a frog. All you have to do is own a Quadski.

Half ATV (all-terrain vehicle), half PWC (personal watercraft; think Jet Ski), the four-wheel, motorcycle-like amphibian, built by Gibbs Sports Amphibians Inc., goes up to 45 miles an hour on land and in the water.

A fun toy, it was meant to be enjoyable and easy to use, said Graham Jenkins, Gibbs Sports’ head of public relations and marketing and son of one of the founders. “And we were not trying to build the fastest thing, because the Quadski is the fastest thing. We are pretty happy about that.”

There are other amphibians, he said. But they are speedy either on land or in the water, not both, which makes Quadski an amphibian of a different color, so to speak.

“It handles very smoothly,” Jenkins said. “It’s got a good center of gravity and wider wheelbase, so it’s smoother than an ATV, and it can handle off-road conditions — hills, gravel, dirt, etc. — without trouble.”

He can attest to that because he’s ridden it over the 5-mile track at the company’s test site in Stuart. (Gibbs Sports is headquartered in Michigan.)

Easy to handle

“I am not a light guy, and going around corners on an ATV, it was incredibly easy to tip over. When I got on the Quadski, I did not have a problem. Each time I went around the track, I got going faster and faster. It’s a very forgiving machine, with a good suspension; I didn’t feel like I was being kicked by a mule.”

Some particulars: the 1,300-pound, 10.5-foot-long Quadski draws power from a BMW K 1300 Motorrad motorcycle engine capable of producing 175 horsepower. The engine is mated to a five-speed transmission with an automatic clutch. The craft can carry up to 260 pounds.

Jenkins enjoyed the water experience, too. “I am not an outdoor kind of guy. But I spent a lot of time on the Quadski in the water and had a lot of fun, stopping only because the sun went down. Then, when I was finally finished, I was able to drive the Quadski back onto land and into the trailer. Done. Finished. No dragging out of the water. It was so easy.”

The Quadski came after another invention, the boat/car Aquada. That, too, was conceived by New Zealander and entrepreneur Alan Gibbs. Why did he invent such a vehicle?

Explained Jenkins: “Because in the 1990s, he lived in a tidal area and got fed up while waiting for the tide to come in to launch his boat.”

Then Gibbs met engineer/entrepreneur Neil Jenkins (who came from Nuneaton, England, and now lives in Orchard Lake, Mich.). The two started working on the amphibian car.

Regulatory issues

They built 30 Aquadas. But they put the project on the back burner because the process to satisfy all three regulatory agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Coast Guard) to make the craft road-legal has been a long process.

However, the company was able to meet EPA, Consumer Product Safety Commission and Coast Guard criteria, as well as California Air Resources Bureau standards, for the Quadski.Gibbs and Jenkins had started developing it in 2007, announced it in 2012, and began selling the craft in 2013.

The two have also noted an interest in other amphibian vehicles — part of their larger Amphitrucks line — which they plan to develop as emergency vehicles for first responders.

The Quadski has been popular, Jenkins said. Gibbs Sports has sold about 1,000 of them and plans on producing 3,000 to 4,000 this year. Yacht owners particularly enjoy them and often have them custom-painted to match their boats.

Saving the best for last (and guessing what it might feel like to kiss a frog), here’s an explanation of Quadski’s land/water transitional phase.

“If you are on land and you start to drive the Quadski into water, it feels incredibly strange. You are floating. Then you press a button, the wheels fold up, disengage from the engine, and off you go,” Jenkins said.

“The other way around, just make sure you are floating before you put the wheels down,” he said. “There’s nothing else quite like the feeling. It’s a very strange thing that takes the mind a little while to get used to.”

Quadskis are carried by Riva Motorsports in Pompano Beach and Cycle Springs Powersports in Clearwater.

Christine Davis has learned that she’s a boating enthusiast, much to her surprise. If you manufacture or want to purchase a really cool craft, email her at cdavis9797@comcast.net. She’d love to know about it, write about it and come along on a test drive.

Written for palm beach daily news

above and below on board

“I have to lay down the laws and keep people in line.”

“I’m fortunate to have a good group. When I come across someone good, I stick with them. There’s a valid reason for that: I know what that person is capable of.”

“Say ‘yes’ to one and ‘no’ to another, and you have an issue.”

This might sound like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson talking about managing his staff, but it’s not. These quotes are from Francisco Chadinha, captain of the 200-foot superyacht Diamonds Are Forever, who was discussing his crew.

The ultra-luxurious Diamonds Are Forever was designed by Azimut-Benetti, with interiors by Evan K. Marshal. It contains an owner’s apartment, three double cabins, a twin cabin, a VIP apartment, and crew quarters that can accommodate 15.

He and his crew love to watch Downton Abbey, especially since they enjoy a distant connection. The yacht’s hostess, Kirstin Podmore, has a sister who used to be an au pair at Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed.

And, most certainly, Chadinha and his crew can relate. “What’s said by the captain filters through the service areas,” observes Chadinha. “And the whole daily operation and maintenance of Downton Abbey is run exactly the same way as on the yacht.”

The “rules” are similar, too. For example, the Tom-Branson-and-Lady-Sybil liaison would not be considered a good idea on board, Chadinha notes. “There’s no mingling. There’s a line. Do not cross it. Staff or guests. When mingling develops into marriage, there’s friction.”

Mr. Carson is exemplary in his position as butler, Chadinha says, and that’s the way it should be. “Much is learned by observing your mentors. It’s a little like teaching a child how to have manners. You have to respect your elders.

“When I was a deckhand, I was lucky to learn from the right captains. If you have a bad leader, you will get bollixed up,” he says.

Like an estate, the yacht must be kept tidy and well-maintained, and the process of keeping it that way must be discreet. Aboard Diamonds Are Forever, “Most of the work gets done in the evening, after the charterers are asleep. Our owner doesn’t mind if we continue to work while he’s on board, but charter clients don’t like that.

“We get a feeling for what time they wake up, and arrange our schedule around that. We do shifts — beginning very early with the crew member whose job it is to get the boat ready.”

Like grand estates, circulation patterns are separate for crew and guests. Stairs on the port side are designated for crew, while stairs on the starboard side are for guests. “And except for the service staff, crew stays clear of the pool deck,” Chadinha explains.

“But the crew does play a tremendous part in creating the atmosphere. If your crew doesn’t jell and work as a team, the guests will feel the resulting conflict and politics. It’s noticeable. In the past, they’ve come to me about it.”

While the crew sets the tone, the owner or guests call the shots, Chadinha adds. “Too many ‘no’s’ is a bad thing. They hate ‘no’s.’ You have to be diplomatic. For my part, it’s important to be a can-do captain, relocating the boat and giving the owner and charterers what they want.”

But the crew members do have some impact, notes his wife, Chief Steward Lylani (they married in January, kind of like John and Anna Bates, but without the drama). “Not in all cases, but I find that the crew does have the ear of the owner.”

If you have a happy crew, you have a happy owner, explains Mark Lacey, captain of the Arianna, a 164-foot Delta superyacht that can accommodate 12 crew and 12 guests. “The crew affects guests’ and owners’ experience more than anything. A good chef, good food, and the way it’s served go a long way, too.

“We use cameras in the dining room to see when to serve. Guests don’t want to feel like they are being stalked, and the crew must provide service without hovering. A huge amount of the job is about being discreet,” he says.

“It’s the owner’s boat. He pays us. It’s not part of our job to know his life. We have to be friendly and personable, but not too personal. We must be attentive, know where the line is, and don’t step over it.”

Good communication among crew members is important, too, Lacey adds. “To be aware of guests’ needs, we have to know where our guests are and what they are doing.

“For example, the chief officer will call us at intervals when he is bringing charterers back from the beach, letting us know how close they are to returning. That way, as soon as the charterers step onboard, we are there with a towel and a drink.”

When David Clarke served as build captain for the 240-foot Laurel, he was given latitude to incorporate design and layout elements with the crew in mind. Laurel has room for 17 guests and 25 crew.

Like Downton Abbey, “There are underground passageways, service entrances and guest entrances. Even on a large estate, you never see the grocery car or the provisioning vehicle show up at the front door,” Clarke notes. “The garbage is never at the front. We designed Laurel the same way.”

On Laurel, the service entrance is on the port side, which leads to the crew area and the tank deck. The tank deck (on the lowest level) houses freezers and refrigerators, the laundry room, dry-goods storage rooms and the waste-management room. The tank deck and lower corridor also handle the flow of the crew.

“A crew member can move from bow to stern without going on deck or to the guest area. Although we had 20 or more crew, you don’t see them,” Clarke says.

Crew quarters are forward, while the owner’s stateroom is midship. “This gave crew full access to the boat, and allowed us to move throughout the yacht without being seen, too,” he says.

Laurel has two galleys. Owners and guests congregate in the guest galley, which also serves as the place for the executive chef to discuss menu and event planning, since it’s a better place to meet than the full working galley.

Notes Clarke: “If you go to one of those beautiful old restaurants in Italy, they have the show galley, where you can see the chefs cooking. The ‘grunt work’ is done in the lower galley.” Same with Laurel. And there are lifts to move the food from one deck to another, too.

Clarke, like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson, believes in keeping things shipshape: “My grandfather said, ‘Plan your work. Work your plan,’ and I’m a fifth-generation captain. We put equipment in places where it’s going to be used. Everything has its place on board, and it should be cleaned and put back after it’s used.

“We have an amazing amount of stuff, and if it isn’t put back, it takes too much time to find it. If the owner says, ‘Where’s the water-ski rope?’ at 11, and you take 45 minutes to find it, that only gives him 15 minutes to water-ski before lunch at noon.”

Laurel was sold in March; Clarke had worked for the previous owners for 10 years. Many of his crew were long-time, too. “Like Downton, we were a family,” he says. “We were employed to complete a task, and the owner was happy with the outcome. It was a two-way street. The owner and crew enjoyed each other and the boat. It just worked.”

After leaving Laurel — and based on his many years as captain — Clarke launched his new business, Superyacht Operating Systems (SOS). It’s an online database of operational policies and procedures that ensure safety and efficiency.

written for palm beach daily news: http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/local/superyacht-captains-take-lessons-from-downton-abbe/ncYM3/