It happened over beers. Johny De Keghel had a “crazy idea” to launch the ultimate luxury party boat, and was pitching the concept to his friend and now-business partner Donovan Biss over a frosty few.
“I said, ‘I found this perfect boat – the framework, everything’s there. It’s a cool venue. We can transform it into something. There’s a little gap in the market in Sydney where I think we can slide into perfectly,’” says De Keghel.
And so Hamptons Sydney was born. It’s a luxury boat, unlike any other vessel on Sydney Harbour, that channels the affluent lifestyle of well-to-do coastal holidayers who traditionally journey to The Hamptons located on Long Island, New York, for their summer vacations.
“I wanted to create that feeling that when you walk into one of those houses in The Hamptons on the beach, it’s just like ‘wow’,” he says. “Everything’s nice and light and bright, and some greenery around. And when you combine it with water if you’ve got this boat parked in a nice blue bay somewhere, everything pops. It just looks stunning.”
De Keghel, who’s previously worked with super yachts, and Biss, a builder, purchased the former commercial boat, and transformed it into their dream luxury yacht.
“[We] totally stripped it out, revamped it from the bottom up, so every little details has been redone, rebuilt, repainted,” says De Keghel.
Stepping aboard the Hamptons Sydney is like walking into a chic Hamptons home. The ground floor has been fitted out with plenty of plants and vintage furniture such as wicker chairs, wooden stools and white couches. At one end of the room, a 100-year-old wooden bar doubles as a DJ booth. On the other end, another bar is made from 150-year-old Canadian maple wood boards, salvaged from an old ship.
On the rooftop, under the white sails, you’ll find more lounges, plants and a smaller bar.
The Hamptons Sydney has a capacity of 100, which De Keghel says allows them to provide a “boutique, intimate offering.” “We don’t want to pack the boat with tons of people and just churn the numbers out. We want people to feel a little bit more relaxed, but to have a bit more room,” he says.
Targeting the boat to locals, as opposed to tourists, was a deliberate decision. Pick-ups are at Rose Bay Wharf, not Circular Quay. “It’s that crowd that side of the city [that we’re targeting]. There’s not a lot going on for them in terms of being able to just jump on a boat and experience the harbour so that was our niche in the market,” says De Keghel
Since launching this spring, there’s been a huge demand for the Hamptons Sydney. Its weekend public events repeatedly sell out, and private boat hires are quickly booked out.(A major drawcard of hiring the boat is that the upstairs and downstairs spaces can be customised customised to suit any event and style.)
“The bookings are just flying through the door at the moment so we can’t really keep up with the demand. People are emailing, messaging after they get off the boat, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that was the coolest experience I’ve ever had in Sydney.’,” says De Keghel.
He attributes the boat’s popularity to its “floating house party” feel. “There’s nothing I’ve ever seen like it,” he says. “There’s no floating beach houses that I’ve ever come across so it’s very unique on its own,”
“People come on board and they feel like they’re walking into someone’s home, just partying and having a cool experience.”