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The floating mansions of the super-rich

The market for superyachts is booming, says Evan Osnos in The New Yorker. Last year a record 887 were sold, nearly twice the previous year’s total. With more than 1,000 on order, ultra-rich clients “unaccustomed to being told no” have been shunted to waiting lists. One buyer in Florida was willing to pay an extra $15m just to skip a three-year queue. There are now around 5,400 superyachts – classed as anything longer than 98ft – and 100 or so 295ft-plus “gigayachts”. The latter can cost more than $250m apiece.

These floating mansions contain all the luxuries of a land-based home. David Geffen’s 454ft Rising Sun has “a double-height cinema, a spa and salon, and a staff of 57”. Other popular features include personal submarines and “ski rooms where guests can suit up for a helicopter trip to a mountaintop”. The boats are getting so big – the average length has risen a third in 20 years – that some owners even “place unique works of art outside the elevator on each deck, so that lost guests don’t barge into the wrong stateroom”.

The only thing that’s not allowed are big parties – under international maritime rules most “pleasure yachts are permitted to carry no more than 12 passengers”. (There are no such limits on crew.) But tales of excess abound: owners flying in fresh bagels from New York, or rare melons from Japan. One yacht captain had the helicopter pilot use a code word to denote when he was flying in the owner’s mistress. That way, the crew could “ready the main cabin” – swapping out dresses, family photos, bathroom supplies, even favoured drinks in the fridge.

🛥💰 The impounding of superyachts belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs has been cheered by the West. But it’s a burden on the countries that do the actual seizing, as they’re legally obliged to foot the boat’s maintenance bill. In May, Fiji’s government said one detained yacht was costing it more than $171,000 a day.