“It has been an eye-opener,” says Janet Martin, owner of M/Y Sunshine, reflecting on her first impressions since entering into the superyacht industry. The majority of Martin’s career has been spent working for the Milsteins, the family who has ruled New York’s real-estate development and philanthropic worlds since the 1960s and as a result, she is a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it done. “I think the people are fabulous and I certainly think I have an amazing crew. Since I have over 2,000 people that work for me in New York, I think that I am a pretty good judge of character.”

With no prior experience in the yachting industry before her purchase of Sunshine and coming in with a critical eye, however, Martin has noted a particular side to yachting that has left her rather bemused. “The part that has surprised me is the vendors,” she says. “The reason I am saying this is because it seems that if you put the word ‘marine’ or ‘yacht’ in front of any product, then all of a sudden it more than doubles in price. Remember that I am in the construction business so we have the ability to go ahead and research a lot of this.”

Owner Janet Martin on board M/Y Sunshine
at the Antigua Yacht Show (credit Bryony McCabe)

She offers me a classic example. “When we tore the boat apart we put more than $2.5 million into the refit, which is substantial,” she says. “We put in light fixtures and when I received the estimate for these lights they were $125 a pop. Because it is lighting for a yacht, people think that it is okay to charge that price, but it’s not. We forced them out and we found the manufacturer in Greece and bought them for $12 each, which is a huge difference.” Martin stresses that this is not an isolated incident, and for her this upselling has been the biggest shock. “I understand that people need to make a profit but it can be a rip-off,” she says. “I guess they get away with it because not enough owners have looked before and paid attention.”

When she made the decision to purchase a yacht, Martin spent four years looking for the right one. “I thought I knew what I wanted when I started the search but the more that I saw, the more I refined my search,” she recalls. “I knew I needed five staterooms – four was not going to cut it – especially if I wanted to charter, and I needed a boat that was going to have the flexibility to do different kinds of things.”

M/Y Sunshine (credit Allan Gichigi)

With her business hat on, one of the important factors for Martin was that Sunshine was going to be a successful charter yacht. “I knew that I was not going to be able to use it even 10 weeks out the year, so I really wanted to create something for other families,” she says. “When I analysed the charter market I couldn’t find many options that were family friendly at a price point that made sense – so that was a big deal. Another type of clientele that we want to attract are couples so we ensured three same-sized king staterooms, which appeals to groups of couples who are all paying the same share.”

This savvy approach did not stop at the boat’s purchase; Martin’s commercial awareness touches every aspect of the running of Sunshine. “I have worked for the Milsteins for 24 years, which is a long time, and I feel like part of the family,” she explains. “In business, this was the way that I was taught how you should treat people. So when the Sunshine crew tell you that they feel like they are part of the family, they do. If you treat people like this and give them ownership for projects, it is amazing what they can do if they have all the right tools to succeed.”

"I know it is highly unusual in the yachting industry for owners to be so hands-on, but I know that if am there I can better manage our projects and costs, which is important."

Preferring to manage the yacht herself without a management company, Martin is very involved in the day-to-day running of Sunshine. “I know it is highly unusual in the yachting industry for owners to be so hands-on, but I know that if am there I can better manage our projects and costs, which is important,” she says.

Martin has already reaped the rewards of doing things her way and implores other owners to follow suit. “I am exceptionally hands-on and I watch every penny that is spent; they are my pennies and the more pennies I have, the more projects I can do,” she says. “The value that was added to Sunshine during the refit was vastly more than the $2.5 million that I put into it. I am sorry for other yacht owners who aren’t paying as much attention and not talking to their yacht management companies because they are not getting the same value for their money.”

Being proactive has certainly paid dividends for Martin and the atmosphere on board conveys her aspirations accurately. “I want everybody that comes on board the boat to smile and throughout this entire boat show that has been the one thing I have seen; smiles on everyone’s faces,” she concludes. “I was always going to name the boat Sunshine so it was almost a matter of waiting until I saw her and then I knew. Sunshine makes everyone’s heart feel good; no matter where you are or no matter how crazy things might be, a beautiful sunny day will lift your spirits and that’s what I want the boat to do.”

You can read the full interview with Janet Martin in Issue 17 of The Superyacht Owner. Subscribers can access it online here. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.