GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When the super wealthy of the world go shopping for a luxury yacht, many of them contact Trinity Yachts of Gulfport.
The boat building company which moved from New Orleans to Gulfport post-Katrina, is the largest builder of super sized yachts in the country.
Their customers include oil barons, foreign dignitaries, the coffee shop king of Canada and NASCAR's most successful team owner.
Those are clients who can afford luxury toys with all the amenities one can imagine. Trinity is where their mega yacht fantasies are carefully hand crafted into luxurious reality.
The190 foot yacht docked alongside the industrial canal is getting close to completion. Well appointed state rooms are taking shape as workers add finishing touches to multiple decks.
"This is for an American who has made his money in the offshore oil business," said Trinity Yachts President John Dane. "He's very excited. He's currently got a 112 footer, so jumping up to a 190 footer is a big jump and he's looking forward to getting the boat."
Dane calls yacht building a "very interesting business." The successful boat builder and Olympic sailor has built Trinity into a brand that's recognized and admired worldwide.
"Our yachts are similar to watches, like a Rolex. People don't necessarily buy a Rolex to keep time, because a Casio at twenty bucks probably keeps better time. But they buy it to make a statement, as a luxury product. And that's what we sell is kind of the lifestyle and the ability to enjoy yourself and have a very high quality," Dane explains.
Customers have exquisite, expensive taste and the deep pockets to afford a lifestyle of luxury. With these mega yachts ranging in price from $20 million to well over $100 million, it's the wealthiest of the wealthy who can afford a Trinity.
"All our boats are custom, so it depends what they want to put in them. We have, for instance, on the same size boat, people may spend $150,000 audio-visual. Other people may spend a million dollars on the same size boat, surround sound to having satellite call-up DVDs of 500 movies instantaneously in eight different state rooms. So, it takes a lot of electronics," said Dane.
"We've got marble packages that range from a low of $200,000 to a high of over $2 million with heated floors, you name it, steam rooms. The boats, it's just whatever is with your imagination and budget, we can build it," the company president explained.
An array of skilled craftsmen form the team that creates the mega yachts. Pipefitters and welders mold the inner workings of the massive vessels, which of course, are heated and cooled like a mansion on the water.
Computer programmed machines cut through the massive metal plates that will become part of the steel and aluminum framework.
"Since we moved the company here after Hurricane Katrina, we have about 650 Trinity workers here and probably 150 subcontractors. Our New Orleans yard opened a year after Katrina. We had a peak of 250 there and a hundred subs. So, we've had a little over a thousand people working, building yachts," Dane said.
Attention to quality and detail helps set Trinity apart. Workers hand polish countless pieces of shiny metal that will be part of the finished design.
Trinity customers demand quality and value in their yachts. After all, they can afford to buy one from any boat builder in the world.
"It's very much a relationship business. When you think about it, spending 20 to 90 million dollars, that's more than they'll spend on their home. And they'll spend a lot more time in their home than they will on their boat. But this is kind of a reward to themselves for their accomplishment. And they want it done right," Dane said.
NASCAR's most successful team owner ever is a repeat Trinity customer.
"Rick Hendrick. He's bought three boats from us. And he currently has a 161 footer. Really a great guy, nice guy. Probably one of the easiest going customers we've had," said Dane, "In a yacht, it's very subjective. When they go out on the boat, do they feel it's first class yacht quality. And it's taken us a long time to reach that, where people now today will go to their broker or call us and say, 'I want to buy a Trinity,' as opposed to just saying, 'I want to buy a 150 foot yacht.'"
The190 footer is headed out for sea trials soon.
"We'll leave here and go out for about an eight or ten hour run in the Gulf of Mexico to test all the equipment. And then we'll bring it back and have about two more months of work to finish it up," said the Trinity Yachts boss.
After that, the mega yacht will be delivered to another extremely wealthy, discriminating customer.
That means, for those of you in the market, "We've got some open slots, so all you people out there looking for that great yacht, come on by Trinity Yachts," said a smiling John Dane.
Dane tells a story that emphasizes the extreme wealth of his customers.
After selling a luxury yacht to a buyer in Monoco, he asked the man what it's like to buy 16,000 gallons of fuel. Diesel fuel was five dollars a gallon at the time.
The rich customer replied, "John, I've never finished a trip where the cost of the fuel exceeded the cost of the wine we consumed."