Monday, August 2, 2010

A tale of two yachts

Juxtaposed here for the purpose of comparison are the stories of 2 yachts, the Nueva Vida owned by Tom Crafton (1st image, text in purple) and the Summerwind owned by Jeff Greene (2nd image, text in green).

The success of Anchorage residents Tom Crafton, a 50-year-old family psychologist, and his wife Kathleen, an ICU nurse, left them wanting. They decided to liquidate their assets and use the proceeds to buy a yacht that could cross the ocean. They chose a sturdy 42.7' yacht with twin masts built in Taiwan in 1978 and registered in the United States.

The Summerwind is a 3-story, 145' luxury yacht built in Hong Kong in 1995 and owned by senate candidate* and Palm Beach real estate mogul, billionaire Jeff Greene. Greene considered it a steal at $6 million when he purchased it in 2002, then registered it in the Marshall Islands to avoid paying taxes on it.

The Craftons set out on a 7-year journey with their 3 kids: Jena, 22, Kalena, 18, and Ben, 15. "Almost at once, an instinctive choreography emerged, allowing 5 people to colonize a space not much larger than a minivan."

Greene uses the Summerwind to entertain family and celebrities. Filled with massive suites, lavish bathrooms, and an array of communication systems, the yacht is considered a "floating mansion." With 1 master cabin, 2 double cabins, 2 single cabins, and 5 crew cabins, it can accommodate up to 14 overnight guests. "We've spent almost five months of the year living on the yacht. This is really our second home," says Greene.

Since leaving the dock in Severna Park, Maryland, in 2003, the Crafton Family has logged 30,000 miles circumnavigating the globe, including a few days in Papua New Guinea, and 18 months in New Zealand. They sailed the Americas, crossed the Panama Canal, and cruised for months between Pacific Islands. Their favorite port of call was Vanuatu, where the people owned the least and smiled the most: "They are the happiest people in the world. It reinforced everything we believed about putting time with the family over this blind pursuit of material things."

When the 9-man crew of Greene's yacht dropped anchor off the coast of Belize in 2005, ignoring the frantic warnings of the local residents, they destroyed a 50' x 200' area of a coral reef system officially recognized by the United Nations as one of the world's most magnificent and irreplaceable treasures. Melanie McField, a marine scientist with the Smithsonian Institution who surveyed the reef afterward, says, "It was bad. There was a lot of damage." Despite the extensive publicity, eyewitness accounts, and statements made by his own representatives, Greene's campaign maintains, "career politicians are attacking him with ridiculous stories about something that didn't even happen 5 years ago on a boat he wasn't even on."

The Craftons lived simply aboard their yacht, living on fish and canned goods at sea and buying provisions at the local markets when they were docked. They even got rid of their small refrigerator to avoid having to run the engine just to keep beer cool.

Greene spends $100,000 to fill up the tank, which holds 22,721 gallons of diesel fuel and burns about 50 of those an hour to maintain its cruising speed of 16 knots.

All 5 Craftons are pleased with their decision and plan to remain living on the yacht in the U.S. "I would never trade the time we had to raise our kids out there, seeing the world through their eyes, being together 24/7," she says. "But now it's time for them to come back and learn more about their own country. They need to start their own lives," says Kathleen. "And plus, we're flat broke," she adds with a laugh.

Greene will likely avoid returning to Belize, where he faces a $1.87 million fine for the environmental damage caused by the operation of the Summerwind.

*Jeff Greene is a democrat - as am I, but what follows is an act I would consider egregious by a member of either party.

Sources: Washington Post, St. Petersburg Times,,,

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