By Sal Maccarone
Pirates and their pirate ships have always had a special place in our lore of the land. Those reprehensible villains in their sturdy well-manned boats. Arrrrgh! Forever a problem, it took the 17th century Dutch navy to finally devise a way of combating the threat. Their approach was simple: build a light weight, extremely fast ship that would make it possible to pursue any and all transgressors. They called their new boat a Jacht, which is a word that translates to mean “Quiet Hunter.”
Later during that same century the king of England commissioned a special fleet of Dutch Jachts that would be used purely for recreational purposes. Soon after that first commission of twenty-four boats by Charles II other aristocrats joined in for the fun, thereby making yachting, and yacht racing, very fashionable. And now, as a direct descendant, the modern use of the word Yacht applies to all sea-going vessels (over thirty feet) that are used for leisure.
These days, yachts come in a variety of types and classes. These include both sailing and power vessels. To break it down a little further, there are sloops, ketches, yawls, schooners, cabin-cruisers, super yachts and mega yachts. Where the latter two distinctions are concerned, lengths keep getting longer, but presently range from 160 to almost 600 feet. The configurations of these giant play things range from traditional looking to some very far-out shapes, and the are as varied as the people who design them. All of these ships are true works of art that push at the boundaries of both function and design.
Not necessarily built for racing competitions, the super and mega yacht classes are fascinating to ponder for other reasons. The builders of these kinds of ships are involved in a very different kind of competition, one that strives toward being the most inventive and/or the most outrageous. Yachts that are in this category also cost much more than their owner’s home on land. Many millions of dollars would only buy you a few decks, with cabins for about ten or twelve guests, and separate quarters for another dozen or so crew members.
Among the features that exist on a super yacht (170-600 feet), there would be a swimming pool, a gym and sauna, interior/exterior decks, two salons, two dining rooms, a dance floor, a galley, an owner’s suite with a study, a stateroom, a very sophisticated bridge and engine room, a helicopter pad and a variety of personal watercraft.
For more than twenty years, a separate competition to build the world’s largest private mega-yacht has been on. There are no formal rules to this contest, but the playing field is limited to just a few wealthy players. The current holder of this esteem record is the 600-foot long Azzam. After a year of engineering and three years in construction, this mega-yacht was launched on April 5, 2013. With five decks above water and two below, it rivals many cruise ships. Powered by two turbine and two diesel engines with 95,000 horse power this boat is capable of traveling at an astounding 35 knots an hour in deep or shallow water. Some additional features include a four-dimension cinema, a wave-pool, a disco, many private sitting rooms, and of course, a fully staffed medical facility.
As if to complete a full circle, Johnny Depp’s super yacht Vajoliroja was designed to resemble a pirate ship. Yes, the legendary Jack Sparrow really has a ship. This 160-foot beauty is not the Black Pearl, but does boast a squared wooden cabin, many overhangs, teak woodwork, a smokestack, and two masts. Originally built in 2001, this nouveau-riche floating penthouse also comes equipped with twin screw and bow thrusters for ease of maneuvering in tight places. Carrying enough fuel for a 3,000 mile journey, Vajoliroja is what I would call a perfect example of the modern fulfillment of a classic style.