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B.C. welcomes high rollers: A peek into the world of superyacht tourism

Love or hate them? Multimillion-dollar superyachts are making waves in B.C.

Craig Norris walks along the docks at Victoria International Marina on a sunny Friday afternoon, fielding phone calls and making sure everything is flowing well. 

On any given day, the marina welcomes many yachts that choose to stop in B.C.’s capital. Most recently, a US$35-million sailing yacht by the name of Athos docked. On July 14, crew members could be seen getting the 62-metre long vessel ready for its next sailing. 

Athos isn’t the only superyacht to enter B.C. waters; not far away off Cattle Point is a $100-million superyacht called Anawa. The Anawa is owned by a Brazilian billionaire and has been near Victoria since May 2023. 

Over on the mainland, a $200-million vessel called Attessa V (AV) has been drawing attention in North Vancouver. Then there's a 32-metre vessel called the Snowbored. Its final destination is Galiano Island. 

In a statement to Glacier Media, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said anyone wishing to view the Attessa V in Vancouver's inner harbour area by boat "is urged to ensure they do so from a safe distance."

"We love seeing boaters and paddlers out enjoying the waters that make up the Port of Vancouver," says Jason Krott, manager of marine operations and fleet. "Our focus is working with all users to build the awareness and understanding needed to support a safe shared space for recreational and commercial traffic."

The Snowbored, built by Westport in 2003, has a satin cherry wood interior, and a sundeck sporting a hot tub, wet bar, and lounge pads. It also has a fighting chair and rocket launcher for sport fishing, and can launch a Novurania tender and Yamaha waverunners.

For Norris, the CEO of Victoria International Marina, B.C. is starting to put itself on the map when it comes to attracting superyachts. For a long time, many international travellers would bypass the province altogether and head for Alaska, he says.

“Those yachts down in San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Tacoma that used to come up and just bypass us because they didn't know there was anything to do and now they're turning in and stopping and spending some time,” says Norris.

Superyacht owners are spending locally 

As part of his job, Norris spends time arranging for superyacht owners to visit Victoria businesses. That includes connecting them with local jewellers. 

“When they are visiting here, they're looking to spend money on art, and in the community, on all kinds of things: food and real estate and buying from retailers,” explains Norris. “They're just like any one of us: they go into a store, they like something, they buy it. It's just that they might buy a lot more.”

Sometimes superyacht owners will fly their friends in, and will put them up in nearby hotels, he adds. Crew members will often stay in hotels, too.

"They're all spending [money] locally.”

Unfriendly Canadians? 

However, Canadians’ friendly demeanour and politeness appear to not have transferred to the superyacht community, Norris tells Glacier Media.

During his time marketing B.C. internationally, he says that specific boating community has been ‘grumpy’ towards him after learning he’s from Victoria. 

"They basically said B.C. and Victoria, in particular, is one of the most unfriendly boating places in the world that they've seen,” said Norris. "I would say barring pirates."

He questions if the animosity is because the public does not get to interact or be ‘welcomed into the community’ of superyachting. 

“They don't get a chance to meet these people and see them so they don't know who they are,” he says. "It’s this mystery."

The public can come down to the dock and walk around to see the boats, something Norris welcomes. 

‘Exciting way to see the world’

According to Norris, the superyacht industry creates job opportunities for young people.

He tells Glacier Media that the marina has a high staff turnover as employees end up working on the bigger yachts.

“We're open to it. We don't think that that's a bad thing if they come on, and that's their career,” he says. “If they're hard-working, the yachts pick them up. There’s not a lot of them being trained in the region purposefully for that."

Norris adds yachting is an exciting way to see the world.

“You come down, you work here for a little bit and you have a really good chance of getting on one of those boats and just seeing stuff you would never see.”

The marina, he says, is actively hiring and looking for people interested in the marine industry. 

Superyacht repairs being done in B.C. shipyards 

Superyachts need an incredible amount of work to keep them running, and much of that work is being done locally when they arrive, says the CEO. 

"There are well over 100 industries that it touches: everything from fuel, to ship repair to almost anything you would have in a house you would have in a yacht,” says Norris. 

He believes more yachts will start coming to Victoria and having their work done in the shipyard.