San Diego - at the heart of the West
Todd Roberts, Marine Group Boat Works president, shares his thoughts on the development of the region as a year-round destination …
As we continue our journey north from the Panama Canal, the next stop is the Southern California city, and infrastructure hub, of San Deigo. An integral part of this hub is Marine Group Boat Works and their associated marinas and refit yards. SuperyachtNews speaks with Todd Roberts, president of Marine Group Boat Works, about the growth of the region, and the considerations for yachts planning to make the journey north after Panama.
Todd Roberts, president of Marine Group Boat Works
“Southern California offers unexplored and unpopulated anchorages, and when I say San Diego, I'm talking about the region. North of Costa Rica, up the Pacific coast through Mexico into California, Oregon, up into Puget Sound and beyond,” starts Roberts. “This region really allows you to get into uncharted territory; unique cruising off the beaten path. The industry does not have a lot of knowledge about up here, so advanced planning is really important.”
“What's awesome for the crew and the owners alike is travel in and out of California is really easy. Air travel is easy. Private jet access is easy. The ability to surf in the morning on a Saturday morning, come home and change and go snowboarding in the afternoon that happens in San Diego this time of year is fantastic.”
When asked about the cruising patterns and the year-round credentials for The Pacific Coast, Roberts outlines what he termed 'the Pacific milk run: “The cruising pattern that we see commonly is for a boat come through The Panama Canal, and come up to San Diego, they'll hang out with us and they'll do local trips for probably six to eight months. Believe it or not, maybe even a little longer. They then do Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti, and then we'll see them come back to San Diego for a yard period. Rarely do they go straight to the canal. Often, if they hit it right, they'll go north into Canada and Alaska and then come back to make their way south and go through the canal again. So you nailed it. It is year-round cruising.”
Everything is bigger in the Pacific. The tides are higher, the currents are stronger and the distances between harbours and refit centres are much longer. Roberts stresses that to maximise your time on the Pacific Coast, planning is essential. “The laissez-faire yachting mentality will show up as if I’m pulling into Ft Lauderdale and there will be 90 guys available that I can call on to do the air conditioning, and they’ll all be waiting for me…that’s not the case here. You definitely need to have a plan and execute it better than you would in some other parts of the world. The good news is when you do that, it's all here and available.”
With the rollout of more restrictive city emissions standards, many larger yachts are finding the shore power supply insufficient to shut off generators. This creates issues for centrally located marinas, but Roberts highlights that Marine Group Boat Work's 5th Avenue Landing Marina is relatively future-proofed in this regard. “The thing that's unique about our marinas is that they all have heavy-duty shore power, which allows the boats to shut down, which is an environmental issue in California. And it's great for engineering teams that want to really get some work done in the engine room.”
While it may not have a density of facilities that grace some of the more traditional superyacht destinations, the Pacific Coast has a storied history of manufacturing and marine expertise. The significant US Navy infrastructure is one side of the coin, the other is the boat building heritage. While the latter may have faded from its heights, it is still a significant influence on the service capabilities all the way up the Pacific Coast. “There is a terrific talent pool of repair yards further up the Pacific Northwest also,” Roberts continues. “I mean, honestly, if I took my boat and I wasn't coming to one of the Marine Group Boat Works yards, odds are that's where I would go.”
“You’ve got four or five historical builders up around the North West, and although some of the yards are not in business anymore, they have morphed into great repair yards with a fantastic subcontractor network. I have a friend with a 40m yacht who, when he thought about where to cruise, decided to stay close to that region as he had everything he needed. There is great coverage up there.”
'Up there' is the last stop in the series on the journey north. Vancouver, Victoria and the keys to Alaska and the wild Northern Reaches of the Americas. The next article in our series will examine the region in more detail, as we count down The Pacific Superyacht Forum 2022.
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