The word around the campfire of late is that music mogul David Geffen’s boat, Rising Sun, was anchored off Block Island, along with Johnny Depp’s former boat. These are big sleds. Geffen’s rig is on the ostentatious side at 452 feet, while Depp’s old boat is a much smaller ride at a mere 156 feet. (In my humble opinion, ahem, it has classier lines than Geffen’s boat.) He sold his boat to J. K. Rowling. She renamed if from Valjoliroga to Amphitrite. I think Rowling flipped it because when I sailed below this beautifully-lined yacht in Newport a couple of weeks ago, I saw the name ARRIVA on her stern. The only thing the folks have in common that own or owned these high-end vessels is that they all have very deep pockets. Hell, they might know nothing at all about boats, but if you’ve got the dough these people have, well, you need to spend it on something.
Larry Ellison owned Rising Sun before Geffen. Ellison founded Oracle. He has deep pockets and he knows all about boats. He began racing a 30-foot sailboat early on in his nautical life; he’s a savage competitor. I don’t know about Geffen’s boating history. Depp maybe got into the boating thing when he did the pirate movies and scored a big payday. Maybe it was on a whim—who knows? J. K. Rowling scored with the whole Harry Potter thing and snagged Depp’s boat. Then, after a short while she unloaded the thing. All of the above is pretty irrelevant in regards to who owns or owned these rigs, because at the end of the day these people simply are stewards for these money-hoovering wave cleavers of the high seas. For example, about a dozen years ago, Depp had his boat on the hard at the Newport Shipyard for the entire summer. She was being refitted and pimped out in pristine condition to have serious curbside appeal. That kind of yard work requires lots of scoots from some deep pockets. Those pockets happened to be Depp’s pockets. He was the steward of this beautiful design built in Turkey, which was seen floating next to Geffen’s sled off the island. It was an expensive stewardship. Then, he sold the boat and Rowling got to cut all the checks. Same deal with Ellison and Geffen. So, where I’m going with this is that a deep-pocketed human being is really of no importance other than keeping these boats steaming around the seven seas and looking as new as the day, they were first commissioned. The deep pocket is the nexus to keeping the boat afloat and steaming ahead for come what may.
Because I’m a very small potatoes boat owner and work for a ferry company, I have a realistic perspective about what it takes to own a boat. I’ll use Rising Sun as an example of extraordinary expense to explain my position.
First of all, some very high IQ math guy or guys needed to design this thing, and that kind of guy, is going to get a serious nickel for his drawing of the boat. Smart math guys don’t work for short money, especially in the maritime industry. Next, the owner will sign off on the drawing and need to pick a yard to build the boat. When a boat like Rising Sun is getting built there are many people involved in this precision driven process involving Euclidian geometry enmeshed in a matrix of arcs and angles—complicated stuff. You’ll need welders, electricians, carpenters, painters, interior decorators, engineers, plumbers, electronics experts, HVAC guys, marble guys, glass guys, stainless steel guys, gold guys, and other assorted laborers. And, of course all of the aforementioned need the best materials to be used in the build. There will also be a project manager overseeing said build. The buck needs to stop with that guy. He will be a bean counter with a serious understanding of pricing materials and meeting a rigid timetable. Time is money and the deep pocket guy wants his boat built on the quick.
Okay, the big day comes and your boat is finished and ready to be christened, and splashed. Now you’ll need to crew up your new boat and do some sea trials. (Rising Sun probably has—a guestimate—a crew of about thirty-five to forty from the wheelhouse to the engine room.) Your new boat will have a library of complicated manuals for all of the working systems on board. There will be a thick and tidy manual for everything from the diesel engines to your flatscreened television sets. Your captain and chief engineer will need to know all about these manuals, as they are vital to keep your boat in safe working order. When this build is all complete, you’ll be able to go for a boat ride and bring a bunch of your pals with you on her maiden voyage. Geffen is a music guy so he probably uses his rig to entertain the talent he represents; a business and pleasure thing. Or, maybe Geffen is hiding out on his boat to ride out this stormy pandemic. Deep pocket guys can roll like that.
Finally, I love the lines of Depp’s former boat, and when I saw her anchored off Goat Island while crossing the Pell Bridge, I knew right from the rip it was his former boat. I could tell by her stack and the lines of her bow. When Depp’s boat finished her Newport refit, I was at Fort Adams the morning she left the shipyard for New York Harbor. I’d met a cute Kiwi crew member the day before, and flipped her a copy of my little book “The Monkey’s Fist,” so Depp could put it on his bookshelf and maybe sell it on eBay someday if I ever become a guy with deep pockets.