205-foot Oceanco superyacht Lady Lola
If he were alive today, Darwin would no doubt have appreciated-and probably been amused by-the evolutionary sequence of “toys” aboard large yachts. There was a time not long past when having a spa on board was considered almost decadent. Today, a spa is de rigueur aboard any large yacht, and you’ll find them aboard yachts as small as 60 feet. A few years ago, having two Jet Skis seemed quite extravagant, and no one had yet thought of installing a “garage” in the stern just to house the water toys.
If there is any single arena where the phrase “He who dies with the most toys wins” has been taken to heart, it is yachting. If you can dream it, a boatbuilder will make it reality. Would you like a submarine aboard your yacht? No problem, sir, and what color would you prefer? Do you want your Bentley to accompany you on your cruise? Would you prefer going ashore by helicopter rather than a mundane million-dollar tender? None of these requests would elicit even a raised eyebrow from a modern megayacht builder. Today, it seems, nothing is too much.
There are three driving forces at work behind this sudden explosion of exotic big toys. First, the yachts are growing ever larger so they can carry more toys. Second, the sheer wealth of these owners allows them to fulfill their whims on a grand scale. And third, there is a trend toward “doing things” as relaxation. Simply vegging in a lounge chair while the crew keep the mai tais flowing isn’t enough: Many of today’s owners and guests want active vacations that involve more toys.
Take Larry Ellison’s Rising Sun, for example. At 452 feet, this Lürssen yacht reportedly has a 50-foot catamaran landing craft to carry a four-wheel drive vehicle ashore for off road adventures. For watery sport, the Halter-built184-foot expedition yacht, _Pangaea_*, carries a 36-foot Predator sportfishing yacht, complete with tuna tower and outriggers, so the owner and guests can stalk offshore gamefish anywhere in the world.
Helicopters have always been an unsubtle status symbol to the point where one dinner-cruise yacht had the hollow shell of a Bell Jet Ranger installed on the upper deck so guests would think they were aboard a truly opulent vessel. But in the Darwinian chain, simply having a helicopter isn’t enough any more. Senses, a 193-footer from Schweers, has two helicopters: one on the usual upper deck landing pad and another on the stern. Platinum, a 525-foot Lürssen, also carries two helicopters as does Microsoft’s Paul Allen aboard his 416-foot Octopus, which has the second helipad on the bow (is this the servant’s entrance?). Lürssen repeated the bow helipad on the Saudi-owned 377-foot Pelorus.
For the 230-foot charter yacht Absinthe, a BS-A-Star helicopter is the magic carpet to heli-ski adventures where guests are dropped on virgin snowfields for skiing and snowboarding outings. Still, helicopters are fragile creatures that don’t particularly like the salty marine environment, so Octopus has an enclosed hangar for its heli. The 265-foot expedition yacht Bart Roberts ups the ante for its Bell Ranger 206 five-passenger helicopter with a heated and air-conditioned hangar, but the clear winner is the much smaller Maupiti, a 150-foot Amels with a positive air-pressure hangar to keep out the salt spray.
Of course, some people would rather go under the sea than into the air. Paul Allen’s Octopus reportedly has a 60-foot submarine that launches via an underwater hatch, while Lady Lola has a smaller three-passenger sub that is lowered into the water by crane. If you’d rather look at the sea bottom than actually go there, several yachts have sophisticated remote-controlled submersibles that send back video images from far underwater. Guests can see the underwater sights from the comfort of an easy chair in the saloon on a big-screen digital TV. The 265-foot Golden Odyssey has another way to enjoy sea life: The glass bottom of the swimming pool covers a living coral-reef aquarium.
Sporting passions aren’t overlooked among our toy collectors, and Octopus has a full basketball court that is reportedly in demand by both guests and crew. Lady Lola‘s owners are avid golfers, so that yacht has been equipped with a retractable driving range complete with artificial turf. (For those concerned about the ecological damage inflicted by golf balls lost at sea, the Lady Lola crew retrieves the floating golf balls either on PWCs-using a scoop that resembles a lacrosse stick-or via tender.)
Traditionalists will appreciate Paul Allen’s taste, since he equipped his 301-foot Tatoosh (he also owns Octopus) with a matched set of Hinckleys, a 40-foot sailboat and a 40-foot powerboat. Lady Lola also scores on the classic side with an immaculate mahogany Stan-Craft runabout, and trying to list the yachts carrying vintage Riva Aquaramas would take pages.
For some, speed is a passion that shows up in the onboard toys. For example, Bart Roberts has a 50-foot high-speed power catamaran called Thriller that can take up to 18 guests on rides that live up to the name. But the clear winner in the speed category is likely to be Lady Lola, whose 36-foot Eliminator power tops out at 135 mph. And that should be fast enough for even the most jaded gigayacht owner.
*Editor’s Note: As of March 2014, Pangaea has been enlarged from 184′ to 191.’ We can only speculate that this was to make room for more toys.