A Captain’s Perspective: Captain Brendan Emmons


Captain Brendan Emmons has run three Horizon FD Series yachts in as many years.

Taking over a new build two months prior to the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown would test the mettle of any captain. For Captain Brendan Emmons, however, the experience solidified his appreciation for Horizon and the FD Series of yachts.

Boating is in the genes of Jersey Shore native Brendan Emmons, who obtained his captain’s license at age 17 while running deliveries for MarineMax. Being a delivery captain was a side job while he built his own real estate/advertising business, but a delivery mate position aboard an 80ft Cheoy Lee transitioned into a full-time captain’s role and eventually led him to sell his real estate company and cast off the bow lines. Captain Brendan and his wife Julie currently run Hull One of the tri-deck FD92, Freedom.

Q. What was your first experience with Horizon?
A. I had had some experience moving Horizon PowerCats and attended a function aboard the FD87 Skyline in Washington DC, but it was in December of 2019 that I was brought in to handle the finishing touches of a new build Horizon – the FD87 Mobillity. I had been working on the owner’s 84ft Hargrave and was tasked with overseeing the delivery, commissioning and closing of the FD87. We were delivered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was unloaded from the ship on the first day of the two-week lockdown.

Q. Tell us about the FD87’s arrival.
A. The original plan was to have a two-week commissioning before setting out to cruise The Bahamas and then the northeast. We had hired two other crew members, but the world went into lockdown and we had to let them go. In the beginning it was just Horizon’s service manager, Matt, my wife, Julie and myself. Julie and I were living in a hotel because we hadn’t closed on the boat yet and we couldn’t do much as we tried to figure out what classified as an essential service. It was quite the experience.

The owner called us one day and said, ‘I don’t see this pandemic ending anytime soon. If we are on our own boat we are free to travel, so let’s head up the coast.’

We agreed to run the boat alone to keep exposure to a minimum, did a couple of shake-downs, and embarked on a six-week cruise up the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Q. Did the boat ever get fully commissioned?
A. Yes, but not in the usual way. Horizon usually has every vendor come out and get familiar with and check every system of a new build when it arrives. We did as much of that as we could but if we needed a vendor to come out, they weren’t able to, due to the lockown.

Matt and Roger of Horizon Yacht USA worked tirelessly, meeting us up and down the coast as we traveled. They got MTU to meet us in Georgia on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend; they sent a guy in a van to us with some Dometic parts we needed. They simply replaced items for us without hassle. Even though the circumstances were beyond their control because of COVID, they went above and beyond. As a result we never got delayed, the owners enjoyed their trip and any issues we encountered were very minimal.

Q. You moved from Mobillity to the FD87 Bella Tu and then to the tri-deck FD92 Freedom. Tell us about your favorite features of these yachts.
A. With Horizon, owners can make custom changes that might become standard on future models. The owners of Mobillity pushed the limits of the original FD87 design and replaced the twin cabin on the lower deck with a laundry room, which was a terrific feature. Having the full walkaround on either side of the wheelhouse is huge as it allows for safe, efficient docking.

I also appreciate the A/C in the engine rooms as well as the access to the machinery. I often tell people that although these are built in Taiwan, 90% of the parts are built in the U.S. These are basic, easy to understand systems. The important equipment is tried and true and makes for a very stable boat.

Q. Many builders are following Horizon’s lead and offering high-volume designs. Having run high-volume yachts from other builders, what do you see as the main differences?
A. These boats perform very well. While they aren’t expected to cross an ocean, they handle just fine in the choppy 6-8ft seas you’d encounter along the East Coast or in the Caribbean. We found ourselves in 10ft+ seas aboard the FD87, not by choice, but the boat handled it fine – nothing was creaking or rattling.

I’ve been on a competitor’s version of the FD and everyone onboard was getting sick in 4-6ft seas. Despite her incredible volume and high freeboard, she takes 4-6ft seas at 10-12 knots and makes it seem like a flat calm day. The bow design makes it a very dry boat as well – I’ve spent the last three seasons up and down the East Coast with these boats and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve taken spray over the bow.

Q. What’s next?
A. Freedom is the owners’ first boat ever but they are more educated than most experienced owners, having spent three years researching this purchase. We are setting up an exclusive charter program for the boat in New England and Florida for Horizon yacht owners and families through Yacht Connexion. They know how valuable the crew is so they are building the charter program around crew longevity. Their plan is to then do a new-build Horizon. My first trip to the yard for the 2020 Open House was postponed due to the pandemic, so I am looking forward to visiting the yard for this new build.


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