The Boat That Went Viral: How M/Y Loon Became a Social Media Sensation

20 May 2024 By Holly Overton

Holly is the editor of Dockwalk. She grew up racing sailboats in England before switching to the world of superyachts and moving across the pond to Fort Lauderdale.

With hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of views, the crew of Loon is setting a new standard for social media in yachting.

Remember a time when post was something you received in the mail and a reel was used for fishing? Social media has not only changed our vocabulary but also transformed how we connect as we share snippets of our lives in exchange for a peek inside others. Of course, it’s not all beach bars and sunsets — there is nothing inspiring about crawling into the bilge or turning over laundry. But what lies beyond the passerelle stirs a natural curiosity, and social media is the perfect porthole into a world only a select few get to see.

In recent years there has been a noticeable shift as forward-thinking owners, often spurred on by their crew, have begun to embrace social media and recognize the benefits of creating an online presence for their vessels. Leading the fleet is Loon. The 221ft motor yacht has become a social-media sensation over the last 12 months. Its YouTube channel (@motoryachtloon) has amassed more than 25 million views, with 121,000 subscribers tuning in each week to watch the crew document their lives on board, and another 143,000 follow along on Instagram (@motoryachtloon).

The yacht’s rise to online stardom began in 2017 when Captain Paul Clarke joined the first Loon, a 155ft Christensen. The boat was 20 years old at the time and he wanted to make it more attractive for charter. He was inspired by the 180ft Amels Gene Machine, which back then was one of the only boats sharing snapshots of its travels on social media. But Gene Machine wasn’t for charter. Captain Paul saw an opportunity, and her Instagram career was launched.

Captain Paul on Board

"We teetered around 50,000 followers for the better part of three years,” he says. But efforts were ramped up when the owner acquired the latest and third Loon — a 221ft Icon. Since then, that number has nearly tripled. So how did they do it?

“Stepping up in size, we had an extra crew berth,” Captain Paul explains. “We didn’t know what to do with it. Do we get another deckhand or another stew?” The answer was neither. Instead they decided to give their deckhand Blair van Breda (@blair_vb) a new position as full-time videographer and content creator.

Primarily his role was to film guests during their time on board and edit the footage into a highlights reel as an end-of-charter parting gift. “That’s what kick-started the YouTube account,” Captain Paul says. “We already had all the footage as the drone was up every day. All we’ve really done is remove the guests and get the crew to tell the story of what’s going on, whether we’re on charter, doing an Atlantic crossing or enjoying a couple of days off.”

Blair started making content back in South Africa and turned his hobby into a profitable hustle before joining yachting. “I took it seriously and did that for about three or four years before I joined my first boat as a deckhand. I had accepted the gig one day before I met Paul on a beach when I was kitesurfing,” Blair says. Paul offered him a job on the spot, but having committed to doing a year on his first boat, Blair initially turned it down. “I was on board a year to the day and then joined Loon.”

Filming is woven into the vessel’s everyday operation, capturing events as they unfold. “There is a bit [of planning] but a lot of it is we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Captain Paul says. Docking, undocking, meal prepping, provisioning, recovering tenders — the day-to-day content is captured in real time, but it’s the unexpected moments that make for the best content. “In Sardinia there was a sailboat drifting past us that almost ended up on the rocks and we had to run out and rescue it. That’s not scripted or planned. It’s just what happens each day.”

Then there are the planned videos filmed when guests are off the boat or between charters, such as chase-boat walkthroughs, cabin tours and meet-the-crew Q&As. “It’s different for different channels,” Blair says. Instagram is where you’ll find short 30-second snapshots, but where Loon has really carved out its own space is on YouTube. “There’s been hundreds of boats now that have their own Instagram accounts, but no one else is doing YouTube,” Paul says. “YouTube is so much more about the personalities. Each video is about 30 minutes long and the actual scripted stuff is about three minutes of the entire video in a week. But you can’t do it without a full-time person. Each video takes 100 hours of filming, editing and producing.”

Of course, this isn’t just all for fun. Loon is a charter yacht and booking charters is the ultimate goal. Whereas traditional charter marketing usually involves a model family dressed in floaty white linens, Loon takes a crew-first approach — and it works. “We had a broker on day one of the Antigua Charter Yacht Show, who said, ‘I have a client and they watch every single YouTube video. They don’t care where they book, they don’t care when they book, but what is your availability and how quickly can they get on boat’,” Captain Paul explains. That client signed a two-week charter.

A Christmas Photoshoot

But effective marketing isn’t without cost. Raising the production value of Loon’s content output has meant serious investment in the right gear. Cameras, gimbals, drones, GoPros, wireless microphones… it’s a big operation, and not a cheap one. There is about $60,000 worth of content equipment on board. “Where do I start,” Blair exclaims. “We’ve got about five or six GoPros, with two or three drones flying at once sometimes, large streaming cameras that we use for all our livestreams, an Insta 360 and a $10,000 laptop for editing. Mainly I shoot everything on a Sony a7S III mirrorless camera with a DJI RS 3 Pro Gimbal. And then I have my own Sony mirrorless camera.”

Their main drone is a DJI Mavic 3 Pro and they have a DJI Avata, which is a FPV drone that you fly with virtual reality-style goggles on. “We use different ones depending on what we’re doing. The DJI Mavic 3 Pro is our big cinematographer drone, which is basically the first level of professional drones. Then we have minis that we give to the deck crew when they’re going hiking, so if they crash it, it’s $800 versus almost $4,000 for our bigger ones. And they get crashed a lot. We probably spend about 10 grand a year on drones.” It is a bigger commitment from the owner, but it pays itself back — Loon charters for $540,000 per week. But you don’t need all the kit from the get-go, says Captain Paul. “For boats that are starting out, you could get away with a couple of GoPros and a cheap drone.”

Although every crew member gets involved with filming, having camera skills isn’t a prerequisite for joining the crew. “There are no real differences in our hiring practices,” Captain Paul says. “We want charter crew. You should be good on camera because you should be good off camera. We want big personalities that will be down on the swim platform having a laugh with guests, telling them stories and about the destination.” For Captain Paul, it’s additional skills that are the biggest hiring factor. “Every crew member can do something else.” Head chef Nina is a dive instructor, chief engineer Alex sings and plays guitar, deckhand Nicholas is a personal trainer and even the captain is a dive and kite instructor. Being able to offer extra skills is what makes a good charter experience, but also incredible content. It’s a win-win situation.

While many vessels shun the spotlight, Loon embraces it. Some of the crew joined the boat with a following of their own because they wanted to continue creating content in the yachting space. Rotational head chef Dean Harrison (@theyachtchef) has amassed 87,500 Instagram followers, showcasing his creations and talking about the realities of life in the galley. Then there’s rotational head chef Nina Wilson (@thecrewchef) with 199,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel. “I was attracted [to Loon] because I wanted to film,” Nina says. She joined the yacht from a humanitarian vessel and was craving guest interaction. “I love content creation because it’s a form of art. I love the editing side.”

There have been some learning curves along the way, but whether the crew are on charter or enjoying a day off, professionalism is key. No swearing, no drinking and no talking about money. “We try to show everything in a good light. I’d like to think that we’re raising the whole industry after a certain TV show has lowered it,” Captain Paul says.

By sharing their adventures with the world, Loon’s crew has inspired a generation of crew to embrace content creators. Their success is proof that social media can yield big returns, but it’s also an indication that the future of yachting is not just about luxury and exclusivity but also about transparency and connection.

Loon's Inventory:


  • Sony a1 (“It films 8k video,  it’s beautiful”)
  • Sony a7S III
  • 5 GoPro HERO12s
  • Insta360 X3
  • DJI RS 3 Pro Gimbal


  • DJI Mavic 3 Pro
  • DJI Mavic 3
  • DJI Avata

Also on board

  • Røde wireless microphones
  • DJI wireless microphones
  • 30TB of hard-drive storage
  • M1 MacBook Pro
  • 16in 64GB ram
  • Enough batteries to power a small village
  • 20 SD cards of all  shapes and sizes

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