All Aboard

Soon, You Can Cruise the Willamette Aboard a 'Yacht Tub'

Who needs St. Tropez, anyway?

By Julia Silverman August 5, 2021

Soon, you too could cruise the Willamette aboard a 'yacht tub.'

Sadly, the likelihood is high that your invitation (and ours) to lounge on a mega-yacht off Saint Tropez with the likes of J.Lo, Ben Affleck and whoever took that once-and-future pic of them smooching simply got lost in the mail. (Damn you, Louis DeJoy!) 

Never fear: You can recreate that luxe experience (on a rather more human scale) on one of two brand-new “yacht tubs” set to cruise the Willamette from the Fremont Bridge to the Sellwood Bridge, pushing off from the dock at the Riverplace Marina and available for rent in two-hour increments, starting later this month. 

Okay, so these electric-powered 18-footers, designed by renowned Seattle-based yacht designer Robert Perry, built here in Portland and in the works for four years don’t have quite the same bells and whistles as J Lo’s party boat. But there’s still nothing in town like it, even though (gnash, gnash) Seattle has had a similar option cruising the shores of Lake Union since at least 2012. 

Essentially, almost the entire boat is a 350-gallon soaking tub, with seating for six. The temperature of the water can be optimized according to the weather—on a hot summer afternoon, it could be a refreshing mid-80s temp; if you’ve rented it to cruise with the Christmas ships in December, they’ll crank it up to 104 degrees.  

Before you set sail, you’ll get a lesson in how to drive the boat, which is controlled by a simple joystick, says Yacht Tub Club founder and impresario Alex Reed, who learned to sail at the Willamette Sailing Club as a kid. Pick someone in your group to be the skipper (or take turns)—they’ll pilot the boat from one end of the soaking tub.  Speed isn’t the name of the game here; the Yacht Tubs can only go about 4 miles an hour, max.  

Instead, the idea is to soak while you soak up views of the city, and maybe even cut the motor and take a dip in the Willamette, which has been reclaimed as a swimming spot in recent years. (“Just watch out for the Portland Spirit,” Reed advises.) 

Costs are $360 for two hours, or $60 per person if you’ve got the maximum number of people on board. The soaking tub is cleaned between each use, and they’ve got lockers on hand to stash your clothes, a dry storage space on board for towels, shoes, snacks and drinks, and a Bluetooth speaker to hook up your phone for your preferred soundtrack. 

Reed and his wife, Deanna Baboi, are shooting for an August 19 opening, after weathering some last-minute shipping delays for parts on one of the yacht tubs, but they’ve already been tooling around the Willamette on test runs. 

“A lot of boats zoom past you, then swing back around to see if they saw what they thought they saw,” Baboi says. “Their reaction is perfect—most people laugh, which is the whole idea. It’s a fun adventure, something different,” adds Reed. 

Show Comments