Giants Invade the Hamptons

The mega yachts are here
Nick Bocchino has taken over first place in the Montauk Surfmasters Spring Shootout striped bass tournament with this 43.5-pound striped bass. Paul Apostolides

A few weeks ago, I penned a story about two different types of boaters. The premise was that you either preferred to cruise under power or chose the quietness that a sailboat provides. With a few exceptions, it’s pretty black and white on this matter.

Looking back, what I neglected to say was that there was another unique class of vessel owner, an extremely small one that appears to be growing every season and represents the uppermost echelon of the one-percenters.

These are the owners of motor or sailing ships, what’s called the mega or super yachts that are over 80 feet long. These giants of the high seas are in a class of their own. 

The definition of what constitutes a mega-yacht has been modified over the years. While an 80-foot craft is nothing to sneeze at, these ships look like mere dinghies when compared to the supersize vessels that now encroach on our calm waters every summer. 

Growing up in Sag Harbor, a longstanding, deep-water port with roots that started before large whaling ships called her home in the 1820s, I have seen the increase of such steroid-induced ships that now dock or anchor in this historic port of call. Rare was the day — even as recently as 25 years ago — when you would see a vessel over 100 feet. With each passing year, the ships seem to get larger and arrive earlier.

Last Thursday, I needed to fuel up my modest 30-foot Novi. Taking a 10-minute cruise from my marina slip to the yacht club near the entrance to the breakwater, I noticed a rather sizable ship docked near the fueling station. This one was pretty big for this early in the season. 

Curious as to the length and who might be the lucky owner, I did a quick internet search at my helm station. Lo and behold, it belonged to none other than Tiger Woods, the professional golfer. Built in 2003 at his request, the 155-foot ship sleeps up to 12 people and has a crew of nine that has its own separate quarters on board. According to various media reports, it costs approximately $2 million annually to run and maintain. Pretty amazing on so many levels.

But soon, there will be even larger and more luxurious mega-yachts on the scene, some of which are well over 200 feet long. There are even a few ships that are too big and heavy drafted to enter beyond Cedar Point and must remain anchored in the middle of Gardiner’s Bay to ensure they do not bottom out. 

There is a real wow factor with these gleaming ships of steel. Many will have helicopters, cars, motorcycles, boats, and other high-end toys and accouterments aboard that certainly garner a much longer gaze from those ashore. Compared to these super-size cousins, Tiger’s now-impressive vessel will seem scrawny.

The largest private motor yacht in the world is the Azzam, which was constructed in 2013, and measures just a few inches under 600 feet. Think about that for a second. The Intrepid, the famous World War II aircraft carrier that is now berthed as a floating museum on Manhattan’s West Side, is slightly over 800 feet long and housed 2,500 servicemen when it served in battle. It was literally a floating city. However, the Azzam will not hold onto its title for long, as several other ships at present are under construction that will surpass her in length. 

Would I want to own one of these ships? While they’re very cool to look at, the honest answer is no. I like the simplicity of my boat, which is over 15 years old. It’s reliable, comfortable, and I have plenty of room in the stern cockpit to haul my lobster and scallop gear without worrying about inflicting scratches or damage. At this point in its life, it’s like a beat-up car that you love and don’t want to give up. It has character. 

For sure, Tiger’s yacht will never see a scallop dredge on its teak aft deck. But I’m sure the highly trained chef on board can quickly whip up some seared scallops in the galley upon request.

On the fishing scene, striped bass action in the bays continues its torrid pace, with a solid number of large line-siders landed in recent days. 

“The fishing continues to be truly excellent,” said Ken Morse of Tight Lines Tackle on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. “There’s a ton of bunker around and the fish are hungry.” To illustrate, Morse said Kevin Dahler of Sag Harbor landed a 42-pound fish on a bunker chunk. “But other fish are in solid too,” Morse said. “The weakfish action in Noyac Bay and just outside the breakwater has been very productive, while porgy action is excellent in many local spots. And if you want blowfish, just fish off the beach at Long Beach. People are catching as many as they want every day.” 

At the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, the proprietor, Harvey Bennett, was equally enthused about the striped bass action, but the best fishing occurred for those who plied their trade on the ocean beaches. “Tons of stripers are in the wash at Napeague and White Sands,” said the veteran Bonac fisherman. “Sundown has been best, but early morning is just as good on either bucktails or small diamond jigs. Lots of small fish, but there are enough to about 30 inches to keep you on your toes.” 

As for fluke fans, Bennett suggests that Napeague on the bayside is the place to focus on the flatfish, while closer to Accabonac Harbor, those fishing with clams continue to do well with large porgies. He added that the action for walleye and large and smallmouth bass has been excellent in many East End ponds. 

One annoying problem that Bennett noted on the saltwater scene was that a very large population of sea robins have established a firm residence in many areas and have interfered when people are fishing for other species. “The sea robins are everywhere it seems,” he said of the much-maligned fish that are, in fact, quite good to eat. “They have a bad stigma, but people should try them for dinner. They will be surprised how good they are.” 

At Montauk, striped bass action in the rips is slowly getting into gear, as many anglers await the influx of larger fish that should arrive shortly for their summer residency. Porgies have begun to show up near the lighthouse, and many folks continue to eagerly await the opening of black sea bass season in two weeks. As per fluke, the fishing has been up and down. 

“Lately, it’s been quality over quantity,” said Kathy Vegessi, the seasoned shoreside support arm of the Lazybones, a half-day fluke boat out of Montauk. “We’ve seen some really nice fish landed the past few days.” The largest fish to hit the decks was a fine flattie taken by Ryan Williams that weighed in a shade under nine pounds. 

Blue-water enthusiasts are happy that the first shark tournament of the season gets underway this weekend, as the Star Island Yacht Club and Marina will hold its 32nd annual tournament. Participating anglers have a chance to win one or more prizes for several different kinds of sharks. A captains meeting will be held tonight, while actual fishing will take place tomorrow and Saturday. Sharkers will have a second chance to tangle with the species the following weekend as the Montauk Marine Basin conducts its 48th annual shark tag tournament from June 21 through 23, with a total purse of $50,000 that will be broken into various prizes.

No word yet if Tiger will be out looking for a shark.

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