Working Waterfront In their own words

Owner of Perfection Marine Yacht Sales

Bill Xavier

Bill Xavier 
Published: July, 2002

Owner of Perfection Marine Yacht Sales

I am an engineer/scientist by trade. Before I started selling boats full time, I worked at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for 18 years, then for EG&G – a company that supported Lawrence Laboratory. I’m an Oakland native and have worked on the Estuary about 30 years. I started out swimming in the Estuary, building rafts and little boats and that sort of thing. I’ve been a boater all my life.

It’s a nice fit to make a living at what I like doing. When the weather is nice, I’m usually out three days a week. I’ll take a friend, a bottle of wine and some sandwiches and go out to look at the Golden Gate. Once a month I do cruises with the Alameda Yacht Club. It’s a small club, a good group of people – all boaters. It’s all volunteer. We don’t hire bartenders and cooks. Everyone jumps in and does what they can. For $7 you get a really nice dinner with dessert and the whole works. That’s pretty hard to beat.

At Perfection Marine, we sell both new and used boats - power and sailboats ranging from $8,000 to $650,000. There has been a big decline since the dot-com bust, especially in the larger sailboats. Although business hasn’t been as good as it could be since September 11th, it is picking back up and it’s steady. Right now I represent about 60 boat owners. To sell a lot of boats, I advertise in three publications and have two web sites on Yacht World. Although most buyers are previous boat owners, maybe 10 percent are first time buyers. We stick with them. I don’t let them get away until I know they can drive the boat. I hook them up with the Coast Guard Auxiliary so they can take some classes.

One of my issues is abandoned vessels. There are people who have boats and don’t have the funds to take care of the boat in the proper way. They probably don’t have the funds to get into a marina, so they’ll go “anchor out” somewhere – come up to a location, drop their hook and that’s all that holds the boat in that particular place. If the boat is no longer operational or they leave the area, the boat is just left there. Then it becomes a hazard to navigation because you’re not going to find it at night. If it sinks, you have a big problem.

I don’t know if you’ve gone over to Richardson Bay at night. There are no lights or anything. Sometimes the waterways get blocked so you can’t get through. I think they’re setting themselves up for foul play, because if they leave the boats, somebody will come out and either steal from them or cause a problem on the boat. In San Diego Harbor about two years ago, there were so many boats anchored out in the harbor that you could literally walk from boat to boat. San Diego finally decided to clean them all out. Now you can go in there and stay. They don’t have a permit; you just go register and say, “I’m going to Mexico and I might be here for six months, looking at San Diego,” and that’s fine. I think we should have that here.

If someone decides to have a lifestyle where they like to live on the water and they do everything properly, I don’t think there should be a stumbling block for them. As long as boats are maintained and meet the legal requirements, I don’t see any problem at all. The ones who don’t meet the legal requirements, there’s the problem. If their sanitation system isn’t functioning and they’re pumping overboard, then it becomes a hazard – a pollutant. In some areas it is permissible to throw your hook out and stay there because that’s federal law in certain areas. It’s marked on the charts. But your boat needs to be safe. It needs to have a good sanitation system and be self-sufficient. If a person follows all those things and it isn’t in an area where they’re a hazard to navigation, then there shouldn’t be any problem with it. The problem is when someone walks away from one and abandons it – that’s when it becomes a problem.

No one has the official responsibility for the derelict boats. In all the other counties in the State of California, the Sheriff’s Department patrols the waterways. But they’re not funded to do that, so they’re not going to bother with it until they get funded to do it. And I can see their point. If they have too much to do and not enough people to do it, then they don’t need to be messing around with something they’re not funded for.

Oakland has a boat they inherited from the Coast Guard or Navy…a work boat with a flat deck on it. If not driven properly, it puts up a big wake. They don’t have really experienced people to man the boat. They man it with people who want to work some overtime on a weekend, and the people who are driving the boat don’t really understand boats. They’ve had a little bit of instruction. On the Alameda side, they’ve got a boat that’s more adept, but they only man that on weekends if there is somebody available. It’s not like there’s a line down the middle of the Estuary where one city patrols one side and one the other.

It seems to me that when these local patrols are out, they’re not looking for the right thing. They will go out where there’s somebody coming by and they don’t have a new sticker on their registration. They’ll pull this guy over and spend a lot of time… but there’ll be some guy that comes through with a big wake, and they ignore him because they think he’s going slow, and they need to do more of that. That said, it’s a lot better than it was. I think people are more aware. I think the law enforcement agencies are monitoring stuff a lot closer than they used to.

No one really has the funding to deal with these things. Past a certain point on the Estuary, it’s not dredged or maintained at all. If you know where to go, you’ll have 5-6 feet of water, otherwise you don’t. I think the county and the state have lost a good resource. If you could come under the Bay Farm Island Bridge, it would be a quick shot to bring freight boats from the San Francisco Airport to the Oakland Airport, and get some trucks off the road.