Trends in big boats at Lake of the Ozarks.

On May 30, 1931, when the newly-completed Lake of the Ozarks officially opened for boat traffic, those were mostly fishing boats using oars or powered by small outboard motors. They sold for $400 and under.
In the ensuing 88 years, the Lake has not changed size, but the boats have grown to as much as 60 feet and sell for $1 to $3 million, depending on options and styles. Even a used 60-foot motor yacht can cost from $300,000 to $600,000. Bringing such a vessel to the Lake overland from a river marina as close as St. Charles may cost as much as $10,000. If trailered from the Pacific or Atlantic coast, the transportation expense will really add up.
The Lake’s size and confidence in this economy have put more yachts on the water in spite of their costs. According to a spokesman, the MarineMax marina at Lake of the Ozarks is the permanent slip for several boats of 50-60 feet in length. Many of these are used as weekend live-aboard vessels by out-of-town owners who have no second home at the Lake. Even though mid-Missouri winter temperatures dip well below freezing and open water can develop serious ice, on-board summertime living at Lake of the Ozarks is easy.
MarineMax has recently added a European manufactured motor yacht to its line sold at Lake of the Ozarks. The Galeon 510 Sky has an overall length of 53 feet, beam of 14 feet, draft of 4.5 feet, and a maximum loaded weight over 59,000 pounds. The Galeon 510 Sky carries twin 670 HP engines and cruises at 28 miles per hour. This yacht also comes with multiple staterooms containing king beds and en-suite heads providing a luxurious experience for any guest fortunate enough to spend a few days aboard.
In fact, according to MarineMax, amenities are usually the driving force behind purchasing a yacht. Life on a large recreational lake often centers on entertaining family and friends. Having the ability to seat 12 to 14 people in a smaller craft loses the luster as the day wears on. Room for those guests to stand up, walk around, and move between multiple bars or galleys becomes critical with 16 hours of daylight boating or even extended cruises enjoying evening breezes and nighttime stars overhead. In the hot summer, little things like air conditioning vents at the helm station can mean the difference between a long comfortable cruise and a short sweaty one for the captain.
Amenities, however, do not tell the complete picture. This is a crowded Lake on busy weekends and the water can become rough with multiple wakes crisscrossing the Lake. A 50-foot boat just handles rough water much more comfortably. The weight and width of such a craft means much less side rock and roll and the length means much less up and down climbing wakes.
A related trend according to Mark Ellefson of POP YACHTS is the growth of longer center console boats. These boats carry lots of seating and amenities topside with a center helm providing easy movement fore and aft for passengers. With a center helm, the captain is not left out of the conversation as the crew members party-on. A small cabin below deck with a full head provides comfort as well as a nap station for younger passengers on the cruise.
Ellefson points out one of the main advantages of a boat this size is handling on rough water. A 45 to 55-foot motor yacht handles this water well and so would a houseboat. In fact, as Ellefson was growing up on the Lake, he recalls a popular houseboat rental operation next to the Niangua bridge on Highway 5 between Camdenton and Greenview. These rentals aren’t available today, in part, Ellefson thinks, because house boats lack the amenities and sleek lines of ocean-going vessels.
Recently a new 60-foot Cruisers Cantius Flybridge boat came to Lake of the Ozarks. The boat has a 16-foot beam and rises almost 25 feet above the waterline. It will serve as the new start boat for the Shootout in 2020, replacing a 54-foot boat used in previous years. The additional flybridge height gives added visibility for the racers speeding by the start boat. A flybridge also provides a top-side helm station so the captain can better see the operating environment for his craft while underway.
The recent trend to this size yacht has a few limiting factors other than money. Lake of the Ozarks has no navigable path to the larger rivers such as the Missouri and the Mississippi. Large boats must be brought in by trailer over a public highway requiring special permits, escort vehicles, and careful routing to avoid low structures like overpasses and bridges.
Even after overcoming the transportation challenge, permitting a privately-owned dock for such a craft through Ameren’s Shoreline Management Office stipulates a maximum length limit of 55 feet, according to Bryan Vance of Ameren. Commercial docks at marinas can be 60 feet in length. According to online listings, commercial slips this size on the Lake cost $8,000 to $10,000 annually. Nevertheless, even with the challenges, this Lake has several vessels in this class.
Cruising Lake of the Ozarks in such luxury and comfort certainly has a hefty price tag as well as many logistical challenges, but these boats are here, and they are a joy to see. There is a majesty and grace to something that big moving across the water. Advances are made and technology moves ever forward, but the sight of a large yacht reminds us of distant tales and distant ports and those who answered the call of adventure.