Capt. Billy Lockhart has always loved pressing buttons and messing around on boats. Throw his extrovert personality into the mix, and he was born to be a yacht captain. He began his career running the dive department on cruise ships, where he also met his wife, the casino bank manager on board.
“Cruise ships go to all the same places as the superyachts, and my wife and I watched the yacht crew go by and we said to ourselves, ‘Now that is what we should be doing!’” So on December 5, 2000, they drove from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and dockwalked. “I had enough sea time to do my 100-ton license and my wife started out as a stew,” Lockhart says.
Lockhart’s first captain position was for the owners of NASCAR, and he stayed 15 years. “All of our boats were called M/Y Finish Line. We went through a dozen different boats and the last one we built from scratch at Trinity,” he says. “In 2014, we flew to Amsterdam for the World Superyacht Awards and won our category.”
This year, M/Y Ocean Z was a finalist in the World Superyacht Awards. This steel-hulled, full-displacement, true bluewater superyacht was delivered in May 2022. “Ocean Z is a very interesting boat because it was built on spec,” Lockhart says. “We made the contract rather late, so it was a marathon sprint from start to finish, getting the boat finished and delivered. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure that everything we had control over was done to the highest level of perfection as well as customized to the way the owner likes to enjoy yachting.”
A good deal of effort was put into the loose furniture layout, the deck exterior, and the interior soft goods. In doing so, Lockhart reckons they were able to imprint a great “personality” onto an already great boat. “Reymond Langton Design did a very good job of putting together a very nice high-end interior, but also monochromatic, which is appropriate when what you are doing is trying to sell the boat to a future client and you want that boat to be as appealing to as broad a market as possible. And it was our job to come in and put our personality on it and it came out very nicely.”
The yacht has already completed two Atlantic crossings and more than 15,000 miles in the first year. “She just runs like a dream, rides like a dream,” Lockhart says. “We are not remotely the biggest in the Mediterranean, but we are easily the prettiest!”
Lockhart is particularly impressed by the boat’s use of space as every cranny is used and enjoyed. “Typically, on these boats you have areas where people just don’t go — that’s not the case here, every area has its own appeal, its own function, its own versatility, from the beach club to the sun deck, to the wheelhouse deck aft. They are all very inviting.”
The yacht has a traditional layout. The only unorthodox element is the tender bay on the bridge deck forward of the pilothouse. “That,” says Lockhart, “gives you a wholly dedicated space aft, which was a new feature for us. It took a while to figure out what that space meant for us.” It now has various functions: a gym for parents, a “den” for the teenage girls, and at anchor, it’s a beautiful beach club. “We decided toy-storage wise that anything visible needed to look like a high-end retail showroom,” he says. The team opted for a cantilever umbrella and large daybed on the sun deck.
“I’m very happy with her seaworthiness,” Lockhart says. “We’ve done two crossings with this boat and it’s definitely a luxury not to have to put a lot of concern into things like weather. We try to avoid getting beaten up by it — I’ve had more than enough of that — but on board Ocean Z, if you’ve got to go, you can go.”
Machinery wise, the systems meet expected standards and Lockhart considers it a very well put together boat, although if he had written the spec, he would have done it a bit differently here and there. “The layout for crew duties is fine: the engine room is compact but accessible, the stew pantry is not huge but completely functional, the galley has a nice space, and there is plenty of cold storage,” Capt. Lockhart says. “The exterior decks are very large and, despite the fact there’s very little built-in furniture, there’s still plenty of storage for bosun’s stuff, and so on. Crew accommodation is nicely outfitted, the sound privacy is fantastic — you can’t hear anything on the other side of the door.”
Eastern Med is the itinerary this summer; Scandinavia and Alaska beckon for future cruise, for the yacht plans to do everything but Zzzzz.
This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of Dockwalk.