After building a successful life in the US, Cuban-born medical diagnostics entrepreneur Jorge Luis Garcia realised a lifelong dream with the delivery of his new superyacht Legacy...
The sun slowly descends as a crowd in cocktail attire gathers by the dock of a home in Miami Beach. A yacht cruises into view, upstaging a fire rescue boat that has been dancing around the canal, shooting water into a pale sky with pumpkin-coloured streaks. The group leans in closer, and phones go up in the air to get the perfect shot of the sunset and yacht with a cappuccino-coloured hull that slowly motors towards the party. After a flawless manoeuvre, the 29.3-metre Sanlorenzo lines up with the dock.
It’s a big day for owner Jorge Luis Garcia, a Miamian who left Cuba as a child with his family in the early 1980s. “This is such a huge dream come true,” he says in a touching speech to his family and friends who have come to celebrate the arrival of Legacy, his new SD96 Sanlorenzo.
Garcia set himself the goal of owning a yacht more than a decade ago after a neighbour invited him to spend time on his family boat. Garcia didn’t know what kind of boat it was and had no idea what to expect. As he walked with his friend along the docks of Miami’s Bayside Marina a stone’s throw away from the Freedom Tower – an enduring symbol for Miami’s Cuban exile community – the boats got larger and larger. They kept walking until they came to a passerelle with crew members in uniform waiting for them.
The 24-metre Sunseeker left Garcia – who spent his early years combining gruelling shifts in a large hospital with classes at the local community college – awestruck. “I had not seen anything like it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s the most amazing thing I have seen,’” he says. “I was invited to spend the night on that boat, and I could not even sleep the whole night just looking around, and I was like, ‘Wow, this boat has cabins and a kitchen.’ It was incredible.” While admiring the boat, he had one thought in mind: “One day, I will have one of these.”
Among the honoured guests at the launch party are his parents, who did whatever they had to do to put food on the table for their children. When they arrived, with no papers and speaking no English, they worked in Miami’s mostly Spanish-speaking suburb of Hialeah. They did shifts in factories, cleaned toilets in motels near the airport and fixed cars on the street. The jobs improved with regular pay cheques when they became legal residents after a year, but hard work continued to be a big part of their lives.
“When you come from a place where you don’t have anything, you don’t know where your next meal will come from, and you come here and you have the blessing to be given an opportunity, you take that opportunity and you run for your life,” Garcia says. He enrolled in school and faced the steep learning curve of learning not only new ways of doing things but also a new language. “When we arrived here, I didn’t speak a word of English. I still have an accent after 33 years,” he says, “but I do the best I can.”
At Miami Dade College, he took medical courses, changing his major three times while searching for a fulfilling career. At the same time, he took a job at Miami’s largest hospital, Jackson Memorial. In by 5.30am, he worked the early shift in the phlebotomy department. “I was the youngest employee of that department. One thing led to another and I ended up working at Jackson for eight years,” he says.
His parents were always there, up early to make breakfast or late to make sure he made it home safely when he worked the late shift. He continued to study and learned about ultrasound and diagnostic testing while he worked.
The latter opened a new avenue for Garcia, and he moved to Orlando to work in the medical diagnostic field. “I ended up opening a small practice, and that’s how the whole business started,” he says. Over 20 years, he opened 20 locations that also catered to the Spanish-speaking communities in Orlando, having never taken a business class or formally learned how to use a spreadsheet. “I spent 20 years working 24/7,” he says. “When you can stop and you look back, you realise you don’t know how you did it. I was building the medical business but also doing real estate. I purchased the offices, remodelled and converted them, like banks into medical buildings. Real estate is my passion.” The group that he built was a tempting prize for investors in the medical field, and a couple of years ago, he received an offer he could not refuse and sold out.
In the end it took him 15 years to buy his dream yacht. “If you have a dream, follow it, follow your passion; even if it doesn’t seem real, it will become real, sometimes sooner, sometimes later,” he says during his speech, before inviting everyone aboard in small groups.
The SD96, in the builder’s semi-displacement range, is a tri-deck motor yacht designed by Zuccon International Project as an elegant cruiser. Among numerous custom touches, Garcia upsized the barbecue grill, chillers and water makers, and added a glass-sided spa pool and a bar. “Everything you see, from the wall finishes to the furniture, electronics, engines and plumbing, was all hand-picked. Cesar [his husband] and I, we went multiple times to meet with the Sanlorenzo designer in Fort Lauderdale, and we had to learn a lot about how a boat is made,” he says. Inside, he went for a crisp, cool white open interior that will do wonders on those hot, humid Florida days. The ceilings in the saloon and owner’s cabin are upholstered in leather; the woods are whitewashed. The whole ensemble is crisp and elegant.
For the first few months, he intends to stay close to home, enjoy local cruising in Biscayne Bay and spend weekends on board to test the boat out and get as many of his family and friends on board as possible. Future plans include more extended cruising, with trips to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Thomas, St Martin and St Barths on the list.
This is Garcia’s largest boat to date, but not his first. That overnight on his friend’s Sunseeker planted a seed. The first boat he could afford, just barely, was a single-engine 8.8-metre. “I was in heaven. I took it all around Key Biscayne and Miami,” he says.
Then, he thought he should upgrade to a boat with two engines and bought a Sea Ray Sundancer. “It had two cabins, and I thought it was amazing,” he says. “I went to the Bahamas on that boat, in the middle of a storm. We got there perfectly fine – nothing broke.” Then came a 15-metre Beneteau Gran Turismo with three cabins and, eventually, he thought he should try something with a flybridge. He stayed within the Beneteau Group but went to the Prestige brand. “I bought a 67ft [20-metre] Prestige with a flybridge, and I thought, ‘This is amazing, now I have two floors, I can get some fresh air, have a barbecue, this is incredible.’” He also went from handling the boat himself to having a crew.
“Initially I was my own captain. First, because I could not afford a captain, and second, I enjoy going to check on the engines and see what is going on. I have no issues getting my hands dirty; I like it.” But then, with guests on board, it’s harder to split time between the helm and the aft deck. “If you are driving the boat, you are not enjoying the company,” he admits.
Now Garcia has a captain and crew, but he hasn’t lost his interest in the boat’s mechanics. He chose the upgraded 1,300hp MAN diesel engines and all the electronics for Legacy. “I had Sanlorenzo explain every single item to me,” he says. “There was a large spreadsheet, and I went over it, item by item.”
Legacy is his second Sanlorenzo. A couple of years ago, he fell for the yard’s Italian style at the Miami Boat Show when he spotted the SX88 by Officina Italiana Design with a chic interior by American designer Marty Lowe. “I fell in love with the boat, with that beach club.” He hailed a man standing by to find out who was responsible for the boat. It turned out to be Marco Segato, the CEO of Sanlorenzo Americas. “I told Marco, ‘Look, I want to buy this boat, and this is how much I am going to pay for it,’” he recalls. A short negotiation ensued. “Long story short,” as he puts it, they took his Prestige in trade and he ended up with his first Sanlorenzo, called Dynasty.
He enjoyed the boat, which proved to be a marvellous escape during the pandemic. He used it to go out every other weekend and stay near Elliott Key in Biscayne National Park with family, thanking his lucky stars for having that chance to be safe and together. However, having sold his business and with more time to browse brochures, he started looking at the new SD96. Sanlorenzo, aware of his interest, invited him to see one that had just arrived in Fort Lauderdale. “When we looked at that boat, I thought, ‘Wow,’” he says. “I thought we were not going to buy any more boats, but this thing is amazing. How can we get our hands on one of those? So I started negotiating with Marco.”
At that time, the boat market was flat. “I said, ‘Look Marco, no one is buying a boat right now; everyone is trying to figure out this pandemic,’” he recalls. “‘I am going to buy a boat from you.’ I knew it would take a year, but I said, ‘Let’s do the numbers right now.’”
Fast forward a few months, and Garcia is sitting in Legacy’s saloon. Music is pouring from the speakers and friends are milling about. “Es una joya [it’s a jewel],” a friend calls out as she exits to the aft deck. “Thank you,” he says. In front of him on the coffee table is the boxed neck and cork of the champagne bottle that sent the yacht on her way from Viareggio and an album full of photos of the christening ceremony, complete with the traditional blessing. He was able to go with the whole family. “It was an incredible experience. We spent two months in Europe, Saint-Tropez, Monaco, on and on, and the final thing was the boat’s christening. That was very special.”
With more time on his hands Garcia is taking the time to pay it forward. “Now that I am finally able to enjoy what I worked for my entire life, I am getting more involved with the local community,” he says. “I have already started with local charity organisations, like Amigos for Kids, the Jackson Health Foundation and St Jude Hospital, to give back to the community. And the future? I don’t know what God has on the menu for me, but I am very open-minded. For now, I am trying to unwind after so many years, which takes time, but I am getting there.”
Part of his time unwinding is spent at his Miami Beach waterfront home, which came with a 30-metre dock – a perfect fit for Legacy. However, if he decides to up-size, there is room. “We solved the problem of the length of the boat; we bought the house next door,” he says with a laugh.
With the yacht market red hot and boatbuilders and brokers running out of inventory, Garcia thinks he could potentially sell Legacy for a profit. But he says he wants to enjoy it first. Who knows what’s next? One thing is clear – Garcia is not afraid to dream big.
First published in the May 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW