Ted McCumber, captain and managing director of Feadship America, shares his Pacific West Coast experience …
As we head North on our way to The Superyacht Forum Live - Pacific Tour 2022, in Victoria British Columbia, we explore the Pacific North West. Ted McCumber knows the region well. A California native and having captained several large yachts through the region over a long career at sea, he is now shoreside, taking up the role of Feadship America managing director, and relocating to Ft Lauderdale. It's not hard to hear McCumber's love for his home state when he speaks, and he is perfectly placed to reflect on the region, through a large boat lens.
McCumber’s previous position was as owner’s representative and build & warranty captain on the Feadship Savannah, winner of the 2016 World Superyacht of the Year award. He has also been at the helm of the Feadships Attessa II, Attessa III and Katrion and has cruised the West Coast extensively.
Ted McCumber, Feadship America managing director
An area of great opportunity, the Pacific West Coast is still underserved by the fleet, compared to the East Coast. The perceived isolation is one factor, and it is true that it presents more challenging conditions when compared to the Caribbean or Bahamas. “A huge amount of our clients have homes on the West Coast, but few cruise here,” starts McCumber, “which is a shame because the whole of the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, is beautiful.”
The perception that the wild west coast of the Americas is only daunting for a small yacht is not the whole story. Superyachts are not built to hide from challenges, however, and the Pacific offers real cruising, for those that are eager to experience an area less travelled. As McCumber points out, a large boat and its draught considerations have another level of complexity to navigate. “Once you leave San Francisco heading north if the bars are closed, there are few places to go for a bigger boat. Small yachts actually have plenty of smaller areas to shelter in.”
There are some great marinas out west, but nothing like as many as the Floridian network. While there are a few key players, McCumber sees the capacity as a sticking point. “There are no big marinas for large sections of the coast. Take San Francisco, it has one of the largest bays in the world, with a huge amount of cruising, but there is currently only space for a handful of large boats.” The cruising patterns up the West Coast can be seen below, in a 30m+ migration heat map of the region from 2015-2021, supplied by The Superyacht Agency.
The idea of a gap in the cruising and infrastructure network is only relative. But the middle point of the Californian Coast is exposed, in more ways than one. Lacking a major marina facility, McCumber sees a missed opportunity. “San Francisco should have a big beautiful marina. If someone was to make the investment, I think they would kill it. It could be a destination marina. What not many people appreciate, is that you can cruise up the delta all the way to Stockton, California or Sacramento, which is a couple of hundred miles.”
Having to use google maps to find Stockton (and remind myself where the state capitol, Sacramento is), allowed me to see the detail in the area that I have missed when looking at zoomed out large scale maps of the coast. As McCumber mentions, there is unique cruising on offer for an intrepid yacht. “Another cool trip is up the Columbia River, where you can take a superyacht all the way to Idaho. I mean, just to say you took a boat all the way to Idaho!”
“Another great opportunity is LA Harbour. Events like the Academy Awards, this year they hosted the Super Bowl in LA also. There's nowhere for lots of big boats close to downtown. In my opinion, if you actually want to make money, and you develop something in L.A. Harbour, you would kill it.” This sounds like the start of a business plan, but the obvious question raised is; why has nobody done this? In McCumbers's estimation, a lot comes down to the price and red tape that surrounds Californian real estate development. “If you want to drive a piling into the sand along part of that coast, you need a thousand pieces of paper. I am in support of the environmental protection legislation, but the rules make waterfront development very challenging.”
“From a refit perspective, you can look all the way up to Victoria and Vancouver. There are lots of shipyards with so many great boat builders and craftsmen. But people can still feel isolated on the coast, even in San Diego, despite the great facilities they have. However, if you look outside of the traditional yacht trades, you have a company called General Dynamics, for example, which builds aircraft carriers and fighter jets. You can get anything done in San Diego, and a lot of people don’t realise it. Some of the biggest companies in the world are based here, and there is a lot of great machine shops.”
As we make our way north to Victoria, British Columbia and The Superyacht Forum Live - Pacific Tour 2022, it's clear that there is huge potential for superyachts in the region. With a solid foundation of maritime history and relatively untapped cruising grounds, especially for larger yachts, the California dream is there for the taking.
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