The Year Donald Trump and I Purchased Boats

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tags: election 2016, Trump

Ray Smock, the former Historian of the House of Representatives, is the Director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education at Shepherd University (WVA).

His Boat

An Excerpt from the Private Journal of Ray Smock, Aug. 16, 1988:

I have been reading the Doonesbury cartoon strip this past week, which has featured several days of commentary on the multimillionaire Donald Trump's purchase of one of the world's largest and most lavish yachts. Doonesbury has characterized Trump and his yacht as the most ostentatious and excessive purchase ever. Trump is portrayed as a mindless greedy bastard only interested in excessive displays of wealth and power.

He is the ultimate symbol of the quest for material success that has characterized the Reagan years; the years of the GET WHAT YOU CAN WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD crowd. I was mildly amused by this Doonesbury series, and I had noticed stories in the press about the $29 million pleasure boat.

Since I took up boating myself this year I was glad to see that my own lust for material possessions has a role model in Mr. Trump. I'm almost there. I can really understand a guy like Trump. We both made big decisions this year in our choice of boats. I bought mine at the Washington Boat Show during a “one-day special” when two dealers got into a temporary price war and knocked another $900 off the already rock bottom boat show price, so I got a $19,000 Bayliner for only $15,000.

Trump did pretty well too. He purchased an eight-year-old super-yacht that had been built for $85 million dollars from the down-on-his-luck Saudi international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who wanted $50 million, but finally settled for $30 million. This yacht was used to throw some of the most colossal parties known to mankind. Khashoggi was one of the richest men in the world for a while and lived a life of opulent splendor. But his empire crumbled in the 1980s amidst scandals and bank failures. After he made the yacht deal with Trump, he asked Trump to take his daughter's name off the boat and Trump said it'll cost you another million. So the final deal was $29 million. Trump then spent $8.5 million fixing it up, including $1.5 million to gold plate all the bathroom fixtures.

My Boat

My little “boat-show special” cabin cruiser is 22 feet long, it could sleep three in a pinch, has a plastic porta-potty, a thirteen gallon water tank with a hand-pump sink, and an ice chest that can hold two six packs. It has a 130 horsepower 4-cylinder Pontiac marine engine. It holds 55 gallons of fuel and has a cruising range of about 100 miles if the wind is in the right direction and the seas are calm.

Trump’s boat is 282 feet long, has 100 rooms on six levels, a crew of 31, six large refrigerators that can hold enough food for 100 people for 3 months, a disco, an eighteen-seat movie theater, a hospital, a helicopter pad (with helicopter), a swimming pool, three elevators, a video game room, an exercise room, two saunas, and twin 3,000 horsepower Nohab Polar diesel engines with a 136,000 gallon fuel capacity, and a cruising range of 8,000 miles.

The July [1988] issue of Boating has a nice one-page ad that Trump took out just to let his friends know what kind of boat he bought. It is a lovely picture of the yacht under power on some beautiful water with mountains on the distant shore. The ad simply says: DONALD J. TRUMP IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT HE IS BRINGING THE MOST SPECTACULAR YACHT EVER BUILT, THE "TRUMP PRINCESS," TO THE UNITED STATES, WHERE IT WILL BE ANCHORED OFF THE SHORES OF MANHATTAN, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY, AND PALM BEACH, FLORIDA.

This Trump excess is so staggering that it is virtually incomprehensible. It strikes me much as astronomical statistics do. They are so big that they are meaningless. Like the fact that light travels about 6 trillion miles in a year. What does that mean? The one statistic that I was able to grasp about the Trump Princess is its fuel capacity. I would have to sell my suburban ranch-style, three-bedroom home to fill up the fuel tanks on Trump’s yacht just one time, and even with the $100,000 equity I would still have to charge $40,000 on my credit card! If I was to take that one fill-up of the Trump Princess and put it in my little boat and use 55 gallons a week I could do that for almost 50 years. If this amount of fuel was transferred to automobile terms instead of marine terms, I could use a tank of gas in my car each week for the next 163 years, or drive my car around the world more than 160 times and still have gas left—all that on one fill-up of the Trump Princess.

Author’s Note, Oct 5, 2016

The above journal entry was written more than 28 years ago and a postscript is in order.  Adnan Khashoggi did not sell the yacht directly to Trump as I wrote in my journal. He sold it to the Sultan of Brunei in 1988, who sold it to Trump the same year. During the time the vessel was owned by Khashoggi, it was featured in the James Bond movie, Never Say Die (1983).  Trump owned the yacht for just three years.  In 1991, when he was in serious financial trouble, Trump sold it for $20 million, at a loss of more than $17 million from his purchase price plus the improvements he made.  The yacht was then purchased by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a 36-year old member of the Saudi royal family, who renamed it 5KR, his lucky number and his children’s initials.  In a Tweet to Donald Trump on Dec. 11, 2015, as reported on Buzzfeed News, the Prince told Trump he was a disgrace to the GOP and to America and should withdraw from the presidential race because he could not win.

As to my 22-foot Bayliner, named Clio, after the Muse of History, I owned it for seven years, selling it in 1995, as I retrenched my own finances after being fired from my position as House Historian by Speaker Newt Gingrich.  

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