Nothing quite equals the fantasy of lying back on the deck of a yacht, the sun warming your face and a cocktail in hand. From its days as a feared war craft to its rise as the most sought after leisure cruiser, the allure of the yacht is as timeless as it is enigmatic.
The yacht began life as a military vessel that utilised its speed and manoeuvrability to carry vital military messages between battalions. There are few historical sea battles that the yacht did not play a significant part in. From a triumphant military history to the vessel of choice for kings and queens, the yacht has its own special place in history.
One of the world's most memorable yachts is the Duyfken, a Dutch three-masted gem that was armed with several cannons. Her speed and manoeuvrability made her the perfect scout and messenger in times of battle and is credited with playing a critical role in the defeat of the Portuguese blockade that allowed the Dutch entrance to the lucrative spice trade in 1601. The years that followed saw this yacht head out on many exploratory adventures in search of new avenues for trade. From Cape Agulhas to the Mozambique Channel and on to India, the Duyfken became one of the most travelled yachts of the 17th century.
But it was the Duyfken's 1606 journey that made it one of the grandest and most memorable yachts in history. Captained by Willem Janszoon, the next Dutch voyage headed out in search of the legendary King Solomon's mines in the south east and took the yacht and her sailors to the furthest ends of the Earth then known to man. Heading further south than New Guinea, the yacht and its crew happened upon the Cape York Peninsula, better know today as Australia. Captain Janszoon and his yacht the Duyfken are officially acknowledged as the first authenticated European voyage to the Australian continent. By 1608, the Duyfken was declared to be damaged beyond repair and this remarkable little yacht, who helped make all seven continents known to European geographers, ended her time on the sea.
Designed by revolutionary yacht designer George Steers, the 101 ft America was one of the first racing vessels to benefit from his trademark knife-like bow widening aft that increased speed and agility. This design was put to the test in 1851, when the America entered the first ever Royal Yacht Squadron's "One Hundred Guinea Cup". In the prestigious 53 mile race around the Isle of Wight, the America won by eight minutes under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria. This esteemed international racing trophy was then renamed the America Cup after its inaugural winner and is a tradition that still challenges sailors today.
The America changed hands many times following her famous win and was owned by private sailors to military commanders, but few were committed to her upkeep. By 1940 she was owned by the US Naval Academy but her once majestic oak, cedar and chestnut frame was seriously decaying. When her shed home collapsed in 1945, she was burned along with the debris.
A 1943 Canadian convoy escort, this yacht was purchased and converted by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1954. Named after his daughter Christina, this vessel became the world's most luxurious and advanced private yacht. Throughout its time as Onassis' floating home until 1975, the Christina O was the floating 'who's who' of Hollywood, entertaining the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas and King Farouk of Egypt.
The famous Ari's Bar on board is the spot where President John F Kennedy first met Sir Winston Churchill and the deck was witness to the wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier and Onassis himself to Jackie Kennedy. After Onassis' death, the Christina O was donated to the Greek government and has recently been bought by John Paul Papanicolaou. This shipping magnate and Onassis family friend is meticulously restoring the Christina O to her former high-seas glory.
The technologically advanced Boeing 307 Stratoliner was one of ten planes made in 1939 that could fly above any bad weather. Owned by the infamous Howard Hughes, becoming the Hughes 307, only two of these planes survived the tumultuous 1940s - the one safely housed in the National Air and Space Museum and the other in Fort Lauderdale.
The fierce hurricane Cleo severely damaged the Hughes 307 in Fort Lauderdale, to the point of scrapping in 1964. But the fuselage was saved and in 1974, launched as the world's most unusual yacht. The original 1939 controls are used to pilot the yacht and it is powered by twin Yamaha motors, with a cruising speed of 13 knots. The inspiration for books and songs, this vessel has been visited by Oprah, CNN, the Travel Channel and countless other media. Custom designed furniture and fittings make the interior luxurious and the Cosmic Muffin recently sold on eBay for over $9 million.
Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Arabian defence minister, is the proud owner of one of the world's largest yachts, the Al Salamah. The 457 ft vessel sports facilities that can only be guessed at, due to the secrecy of the crew and its owner. Rumours put the room count at over 90, including a hospital and an indoor swimming pool. Her tight deadline meant that builders only had two years to complete the finished yacht, make her one of the most impressive feats of yachting construction in our times.
No sea adventure in Hollywood is complete without the majestic character of the yacht. As winds ravage the ocean and humans battle nature, it is the yacht that acts as the most exciting and unusual set possible.
Whether it is a pivotal part of the plot, like the runaway speed boat in Speed 2, or a unique location to move the story along, yachts make for a favourite tool of filmmakers. In the latest Superman instalment, Superman Returns, Lex Luther conducts his evil business from a 200 ft luxury yacht. The Gertrude acted as the exterior of this magnificent getaway vehicle and the interior was a full 360° set built on a sound stage in Australia and enabled viewers to get a total view of the wealth and luxury of the villain.
Even out of the water, a yacht holds a certain romantic appeal and the modern movie version of riding off into the sunset is fast becoming sailing off into the setting sun aboard a luxury yacht. In The Wedding Date it is the yacht in the driveway that makes the ideal location for the main characters' first rendezvous. When they are caught in the morning by the girl's father, his comment of "Well, I'm glad to see that someone is making good use of her again" of course referred to the yacht.
Casino Royale, James Bond's latest adventure makes use of no less than five versions of the Sunseeker in its spectacular yacht sequence. The interior of the yacht was then rebuilt on a hydraulic sound stage to mimic the movement of the ocean. While many yachts are specifically built for films, often some are simply chartered. Yacht Brokers have a myriad of luxury yachts on offer, ranging in size and type. Internet forums are often alive with the thrills of recognising real life yachts in films or seeing personal handiwork on screen.
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