It seems strange for someone in the yachting business to say their boats are not exciting. But that's exactly what His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Khaled Al Qasimi says about Bluewater, the US luxury brand for which he co-owns the dealership in for the Middle East.
"What we offer is the 'non-exciting trip'," says Sheikh Sultan in an interview with Emirates Business. "Others have problems with their engine, they fall overboard, they get sea-sick. We just can't offer that," he jokes.
Bluewater has been around since the 1950s, when its US owners copyrighted the name 'boatel', and hired out floating hotels on the lakes near the Canadian border.
Today, the company makes entry-level and luxury yachts, all manufactured at its production facility in Minnesota. "Although royalty, celebrities and the wealthy own Bluewater yachts, so do many individuals of modest means," claims the company's promotional material.
Sheikh Sultan – who is also the Chairman and CEO of Gulf Holdings – spent two years looking for the perfect yacht for the Middle East, and Bluewater is what he found. Along With Mr Happy Minwalla (his cheerfully named business partner), the two own Trade Wind Trading, the exclusive dealer for Bluewater Yachts in the Middle East region.
"It's a family business in the US – everyone has pride in producing the boats. Here, when we show people around, they're treated as one of the family," says Sheikh Sultan.
Trade Wind Trading imports the boats to the Middle East – and they don't come cheap.
However, you don't have to be awash with cash to sail a Bluewater boat from Dubai, you could always rent them: they are available to hire from around Dh2,200 per hour.
"You don't need to pay Dh4 to 5m to have the luxury. We charter it so that everyone can have this experience," says Sheikh Sultan.
"You can go from here, go around the Palm, and look [across to] Manhattan – sorry, I mean Dubai..." he says. "You can also go west towards Abu Dhabi or northwest towards Qatar.
"You can't go on high seas, but you could go to the top of Oman, and even all the way to Goa." So where is his favourite place to go? "Wherever there is fish," he says. "The Arab sea is beautiful for game fishing."
At the recently concluded Dubai International Boat Show, a 56ft yacht was on display, but Sheikh Sultan plans to import larger models in the future.
"I'm bringing [the larger] boat for new business in the Middle East – conferences, new meetings, anything. There is a big demand: for BMW, for example, we did [an event] for 48 people."
Sheikh Sultan is certainly enthusiastic about sailing. "One of the problems of this business is that it's so addictive. I gave it up for 20-30 years, but I came back. When did I first fall in love with it? From the first time I saw The Old Man and the Sea."
One of the unique aspects of the Bluewater yachts is the stairs at the front of the vessel. It means you can literally park up at the beach and wander onshore.
The yachts are custom-built to meet Gulf specifications, with the electrics converted to 220v, powerful air conditioning, and a special engine design to withstand the high temperatures. And don't forget the special grill which allows budding skippers to prepare Arabian grilled cuisine.
And the attraction of being out at sea? As Sheikh Sultan says, "whatever problem you have, it's like you left it behind. And it's better to have a boat than to get stuck in traffic..."
- It will set you back Dh8,500 to hire a 56ft Bluewater boat for five hours, rising to Dh22,000 for 24 hours. A larger 62ft, three-cabin yacht – which is big enough to hold 23 people on board – costs Dh10,000 for five hours or Dh24,000 for the day. Visit www.bluewater.ae
Luxury for hire: where to go
- Parklane Group of Companies charters both luxury cars and yachts. The cars they offer range from a Hummer to the Rolls Royce Phantom, all chauffeur-driven. According to their website, their signature yacht is the Sunseeker Manhattan which is fully crewed, air-conditioned with a fitted bar, kitchen and all sorts of safety equipment. Call 04 343 1222 or visit www.parklanerental.com
- Silver Line Yacht charter boats that carry a maximum of 14 people at Dh7,500 for three hours. They have some packages on offer and special rates for 24-hour and week-long charters. They also offer the Royal Blue Luxury 52 Ft Azimut Yacht for corporate events, with an option of booking it berthed or taking it out to sea. Call 050 876 2707 for booking information, or visit www.silverlineyachtcharters.com
- Air Charter Service provides over 50 types of aircraft anywhere in the world, from single-engines to Boeing 777s. Their services include cargo and air taxi for corporate and VIP events and long-haul private jets. Call their 24-hour hotline +44 20 8614 6299 or go to www.aircharterservice. com/ (Mariam Hanafy)
The Boat Story
Established in 1992, Dubai International Boat Show has become the largest marine industry exhibition in the Middle East. A showcase of yachts and boats from both local and international builders together with the latest innovations in marine equipment and accessories, the annual show has seen an increased number of visitors from all over the world.
Exhibitors to this year's event included both local and international boat manufacturers. According to organisers Dubai World Trade Centre, this year's event, held in March, surpassed the previous year's in terms of participants and number of visitors, which was 25,000 in 2007.
Meanwhile, officials from Dubai Maritime City, the purpose-built maritime centre, have predicted that boat ownership levels in Dubai will increase by 15 per cent within the next twelve months, as a result of the increased availability of berthing space and better maritime facilities.