Mumbaikars who are tired of waiting endlessly in traffic jams and over-crowded pubs are getting their weekend kicks some place else- their fancy personal yachts. Anchored at the Colaba jetty or Chowpatty, the scores of shiny white yachts and speedboats signal a new seafarer lifestyle that’s suddenly possessed the rich and the famous.
Homeopath Akshay Batra bought his first yacht two years ago. “She came to the boat show and though I couldn’t go there, I made the deal through vendors. It was like an arranged marriage,” he laughs. “My family has a great connection with water. Since we live in South Mumbai, it’s easy to head to the Gateway of India and take her out for a spin.”
Batra’s desire was first sparked off when he was studying in a college in Alibaug. “We used to sit at Madwa jetty whenever we felt homesick and stare at the Mumbai skyline. I’d see people travelling on yachts and swore that I’d buy one.”
Batra also fulfilled his father’s dream of owning his own boat.
He adds, “It’s a family boat and has become like my second home. We don’t throw parties on it but when my son turns sixteen, I’m sure he’ll show it off to his girlfriends.”
Boat vendor Malav Shroff has noticed a significant rise in the number of boat lovers after Mumbai’s boat shows: “The main trigger was the 2007 boat show which kicked off a buying spree with brands like Azimut and Swan. Now, customers are getting savvy, they know what they want and do their homework before making a purchase.”
Shroff also notes a peculiar trend among Indian boat owners. “In India, no one wants to drive their own yachts, they all want staff onboard to pamper them. Abroad, even billionaires drive themselves. The joy of sailing is part of their lifestyle.” According to him, the most popular purchases are in the 40-60 feet range.
Bonito Chhabria, son of automotors designer Dilip Chhabria, first made his purchase four years ago. “The considerations are fewer when buying a boat as opposed to a car: you don’t have to worry about traffic and parking. And if you have the right people to guide you, it’s easy.”
Not so pricey
Chhabria believes that people need to get over their belief that a yacht is a millionaire’s toy. He recollects friends calling him crazy when he first decided to buy a yacht.
He continues, “I told my friends they were crazier for paying Rs 75,000 per sq ft to live near the sea and not make use of it. If you can afford a second car, then it’s not such a big deal to own a boat,” he reasons.
While he makes sure his friends know enough about sea etiquette before taking the wheel, Chhabria believes boat owners have a higher sense of responsibility. “You know you can’t leave each other stranded at sea, so there is a high sense of unity.”