Category: India Boating



 

Christian Seiersen takes us on a sail around the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago of small volcanic islands north of Sicily.

 

Before I arrived at the Sicilian coastal town of Milazzo, my previous experience with boats had been at the age of 16. On a holiday in Canada, my cousin and I had chartered our aunt’s senile rowing boat into the far reaches of the family’s lake. It had led us to a menacing-looking island which my cousin immediately diagnosed as a perfect spot to camp. A decision, thanks to the overprotective bird population and rocky ground, we would live to regret.  

Although it had left me with a long-standing back problem and a fear of cranes, I also began to see sailing as a way to appreciating the raw beauty of nature. So when I was introduced to the Aeolian Islands –a cluster of Volcanic islands that lie off the North coast of Sicily– I saw a chance to re-establish these ties.  

The island of Salina

Laying the plans 

With my father’s friend Andy at the helm, we planned to take his 22ft sailboat on a tour of the islands from our base in Milazzo. However, we soon reached a geographical snag after the map revealed that, beyond the island of Lipari, the archipelago parted ways into the two separate strands of its crescent shape. Therefore, for the purposes of the trip we temporarily erased the islands of Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi and settled for their eastern counterpart, Stromboli, as the furthest island of the voyage.  

Mapped out

Setting off into the blue expanse of the Tyrrhenian Sea, I began to wish that the Greek deity Aeolus –the god of wind whom the islands are named after– would give our boat a hand in making the 22 mile slog to Lipari. On the way, we passed by the island of Vulcano, which lived up to its name by providing a source of geothermal energy and would be the last island we visited. 

Eventually we arrived at the Lipari’s self-named town as the sun was beginning to disappear and its light was replaced by the twinkling of the harbour. 

The port of Lipari

Dropping anchor in Lipari 

Our decision to sleep aboard during the trip left us no reason to venture onshore, but I was intrigued enough by the ominous walls that crowned Lipari’s hill to chance a quick exploration. It was a network of lively streets that greeted our walk through the town’s cobbled streets and the architecture was interspersed between the medieval grandeur of its churches and the simple designs of the houses. Lipari seemed to revel in its role as the archipelago’s largest island and the area around the marina was a hub for restaurants and bars.  

The next morning, after passing on the opportunity to explore the rest of the island by scooter, we sailed along its jagged walls of rock to an isolated cove where we could make full use of the water’s crystal transparency. Using a hunting tool I had fashioned out of a stick, I then began to chase the cove’s colourful, and no doubt endangered, aquatic inhabitants, but my home-made javelin was no match for their speed.  

Lipari's coastline

Millionaire’s playground 

As we had previously agreed, the nearby island of Salina was bypassed and we set a course for Panarea, which had earned a reputation of being a trendy destination for the well-heeled Europeans. The day-time sail revealed to me the true ruthlessness of the Italian sun and I often had to clamber below deck to seek refuge. Our simplistic meals onboard paid homage to the local cuisine and usually consisted of Italian ham and cheese sandwiches.  

As we approached, I was surprised at how small the island appeared and later discovered that it was only 3.5 km2. Stuffed onto this small space was a sea of whitewashed houses lining the slope and, with the promise of a breath-taking view at the summit, we began to ascend one of its mountains, Punta del Corvo. At the top, the rugged landscape panned out before us and small rocky islands rose from the waves. On the horizon we spotted plumes of smoke rising from a cone-shaped island that signalled the presence of Stromboli. 

The slumbering dragon, Stromboli

A sea of jellyfish 

The next day, having rubbed shoulders with the affluent beach-goers, we decided to take the dinghy around the island. Closer-up the masses of rock seemed to defy gravity in their formations and we came across a vast cave lined with ledges jutting out invitingly as diving platforms. Without a moment’s hesitation I took up this invite and, scrabbling up the moss-laden walls, I reached a ledge about five metres (16ft) off the water. From my new perspective the water’s alluring blue shimmer had turned more malicious and my haste during the climb was replaced by a sense of foreboding, but it was too late now.  

My entrance into the water left me relatively unscathed but as I opened my eyes instinctively whilst returning to the surface, I saw hundreds of jellyfish floating eerily around me. The boat was still some meters away and I thought that if I splashed excessively in my desperate swim to safety, I could dislodge the jellyfish from my path and avoid their stinging tentacles. With my heart in my mouth I scrambled, pumping every limb before I was hauled back onto the dinghy and into the wall of laughter that marked the end of my near-death experience. When they regained sufficient breath, I was told that the jellyfish were completely harmless and a nearby boat had complimented me on my progress in learning how to swim.  

We often slept on the deck to make use of the soft evening breeze and as I sat contemplating the stars and surrounded by the gentle din of other boats, I was reminded of the tranquil moments that sailing can bring. 

Into Volcano territory 

Our farthest stop of the sail was the island of Stromboli and when we ground ashore, it was on a beach of midnight black sand. The volcano loomed before us and we walked up its dark slopes to a restaurant where I fulfilled the cliché of ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ by ordering a Stromboli pizza. The simmering volcano was in constant activity and we resolved to endure a night-time sail to the northern face, where we would be able to see its famous lava flows under the luminous gaze of the moon. 

When night descended, sailing was tough work. With only the mischievous lights of other boats to prevent any crashes, it was time for all hands on deck and I perched at the fore of the deck to call out any approaching danger. The risk was justified when we dropped anchor and watched the spectacle of its frequent, and thankfully mild, eruptions. A cloud of smoke would be shot out of the crater and drift lazily into the night sky. Every so often these eruptions would be accompanied by a stream of fire pouring down the slope and glowing fiercely against the shadowy backdrop of the volcano. It was a truly awe-inspiring sight and a gentle reminder of what nature was still capable of. 

A ritual cleansing 

Before long, the time to return had approached and we tackled the long sail to Vulcano in good time. After we had docked and walked onto the island, the over-powering smell of sulphur hung resolutely in the air and it was only Andy’s inclusion of anchovies in our sandwiches which seemed to neutralise it. The island’s mud baths represented the main attraction and we agreed on taking a dip in them to mark the metaphorical end of our trip. The baths did serve practical purposes as well and the cooling mud was a welcome refreshment to our sun-weary skin. After this, the trip held one more incident up its sleeve when we departed the Vulcano docks. 

As we motored out, whilst I was untying the rope from the dock, my arm got pinned against the boat’s railings by the rope. Unaware of this, and assuming we were free of the dock, Andy had continued to reverse away and my arm was seconds away from being snapped by the force of the boat when he heard my strained calls and automatically put the boat into forward. Fortunately Andy had displayed the presence of mind of an experienced skipper but I felt that the episode had served in fulfilling the trip’s excitement quota and returned to Milazzo with a strong sense of satisfaction. 


As 2010 promises an influx of new yachts, India Boating looks at the current largest rulers of the ocean.
Text by Christian Seiersen

1.Dubai
Length: 531 ft. (162 m.)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister
of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler
of Dubai.
Built by: Platinum Yachts in 2006
Top Speed: 26 knots
Cruise Speed: 25 knots
Soon to be eclipsed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s floating fortress, Dubai’s days as the world’s largest yacht are numbered. However, Dubai (named after its country of residence) is still in a league of its own and boasts a history as rich as its owner. Originally commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei’s younger brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, construction had to be stopped at the structural stage when the prince fell into bankruptcy. Along swooped its current owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who rescued it from its immobile state; a bail-out that allegedly cost him $300 million.
Despite being the most expensive yacht in the world, it does  have its perks. Namely, the inclusion of a helicopter pad on its aft deck, a deck-side swimming pool and a groupie in the form of a 259-ft. shadow boat, aptly named Dubai Shadow. As for the interiors, sources claim that it includes a submarine garage and a squash court. A trio of elevators carries passengers between floors and, if you fancy walking, there’s a winding glass staircase that takes visitors to their rooms. With all these features on board, it is difficult to see the guests (its capacity numbers 24) wanting to go back to land.

2.

Al Said

Length: 509 ft.(155 m.)

Owner: The Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman

Built by: Lürssen Yachts in 2007

Top Speed: 25 knots

Cruise Speed: 22 knots

Hitting the seas a year after Dubai, the sand-coloured Al Said is an agonizing seven metres off the list-topping length. It was built as a replacement for the Sultan of Oman’s previous yacht, an identically named 340-footer,which was subsequently donated to the Oman Tourist Board after 26 years of  royal service.

With six decks, the current Al Said is more than capable of catering to its 70 potential guests. Specific aspects of the yacht have been shrouded in secrecy since it was commissioned, suggested by its use of the pseudonym Sun Flower during construction. However, rumour has it that an orchestra hall below deck is capable of fitting a 50-strong orchestra. Manned by 150 crew members, it combines the elegant styling of a triple mast with the power of two German MTU Aero engines to make for a formidable sea-goer that more than lives up to its royal predecessor.

3.

Prince Abdulaziz

Length: 482 ft.(147 m.)

Owner: Originally built for the late

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, it is now owned by his brother Abdullah, the current King of Saudi Arabia.

Built by: Helsingor Vaerft in 1984

Top Speed: 22.6 knots

Cruise Speed: 21.8 knots

In its day, Prince Abdulaziz, named after King Fahd’s son, was in a league of its own. That was before the 21st century brought a new breed of young pretenders to The Prince’s crown. More designed like a cruise ship than a yacht, this member of the Saudi royal fleet accommodates a helicopter pad on its large bow — an apparent necessity for Middle-Eastern royalty. Powered by a diesel engine, this steel behemoth took the world by storm when it hit the water in 1984, leaving other pleasure cruisers in its enormous wake.

Courtesy of interior designer David Hicks, the interior is all about luxury. The open spaces and elegant furniture in the lobby on the main deck were inspired by the less-fortunate cruise liner, Titanic. Each of the eight double rooms and the owner’s room have large balconies, LCD televisions and surround-sound music systems. With 12 lavish staterooms, the yacht can accommodate 22 guests and a crew of 18.The king uses the boat for business as well as pleasure and the conference room, with a capacity of 10, provides the perfect setting for client meetings.

4.

El Horriya

Length: 478 ft.(146 m.)

Owner: The Egyptian government

Built by: Samuda Bros.in 1865

Top Speed: 16 knots

Cruise Speed: 13 knots

The oldest member on the list, El Horriya was erected in the dockyards of London, when Britain was still a boat-making force to be reckoned with. The government-owned yacht was originally commissioned by the vice-king of Egypt, Isma’il Pasha, and served the Egyptian royal family until they were overthrown by a revolution in 1952.Along with carrying King Farouk (the king at the time of the revolution) to exile, El Horriya’s historical ties with Egypt also extend to being the first vessel to pass through the Suez Canal in 1869.

The steam-powered yacht was originally named Mahroussa, and along with its name, it has undergone a number of modifications. It was lengthened in 1872 and 1905 by a total of 56 feet, the paddle wheels were converted to screw propulsion and steam turbines were fitted. El Horriya is now in the hands of the Egyptian navy and moored in Alexandria, where, despite being registered as a training vessel, she still performs presidential functions.

5.

Al Salamah

Length: 457 ft.(139 m.)

Owner: Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz

Built by: Lürssen Yachts in 1999

Top Speed: 22 knots

Cruise Speed: 17 knots

This leviathan, owned by the Saudi Arabian Defense Minister, often roams the Persian Gulf. Likened by the media to a cruise liner,two 8770 horsepower MTU diesel engines keep this towering eight-decker going. It also needs a reported 96 crew members. Although Tom Cruise was not invited to the launch, the boat was coined Mipos (Mission Possible) while it was being built; a reflection of the seemingly impossible time-frame of two years given by the owner to construct it to a host of personal specifications.

The Al Salamah’s alleged 8,000 sq. mt. of living space and 80 rooms are rumoured to be home to a cinema, a Jacuzzi and an indoor swimming pool overlooked by a glass roof and many other delights. With a token helicopter pad and interior tweaking presided over by famous British stylist Terence Disdale, this beauty ticks all the boxes to become an established member of the elite superyacht group.

6.

Rising Sun

Length: 453 ft.(138 m.)

Owner: Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, and David Geffen, media mogul

Built by: Lürssen Yachts in 2004

Top Speed: 31.5 knots

Cruise Speed: 28 knots

The first Americans on the list, Ellison allegedly increased the length by 59 ft. (18 m) so that it could be larger than fellow countryman and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s yacht, Octopus. The owners did not hold back on the features either. The inclusion of a wine cellar, a fitness centre, a basketball court and a special landing craft for SUVs makes the boat unique and deserving of the fan site that’s been set up for it.

Spanning more than 8,000 sq. mt. and five outside decks, space-wise, the yacht has no problem catering to its 12-guest capacity and 30-strong crew. With four diesel engines behind her, Rising Sun is one of the fastest on the list. This is necessary, seeing as Ellison is no stranger to boat-racing; he owns the Oracle team, which competes in the America’s Cup. The elegant and majestic exterior is the responsibility of the late designer Jon Bannenberg, a household name in superyacht design.

7.

Savarona

Length: 446ft.(136m.)

Owner: Leased from the Turkish government by businessman Kahraman Sadıkoğlu

Built by: Blohm+Voss in 1931

Top Speed: 18 knots

Cruise Speed: 15.5 knots

A bountiful history adorns this timeless yacht. It was originally commissioned by American Emily Roebling Cadwallader, whose fortune was derived from her grandfather John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. After seven years at sea, Savarona could not be taken back to America because of import restrictions and so was duly sold to the Turkish government. Spending only six weeks aboard, its owner — the Turkish President at the time, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk — passed away, leaving the government to use it as a training vessel in WWII. In 1989, its current owner, Kahraman Sadıkoğlu, leased it off the government and restored it, adding a modern diesel power plant in the process, before sending it back onto the waters as a charter yacht.

Named after a black-feathered African swan, anyone wishing to charter this Turkish beauty will have to cough up $ 480,000 per week. You will, however, have a host of luxuries at your service, such as a Turkish bath constructed from 260 tons of marble, an indoor cinema with more than 2,500 movie titles and a 282-ft. staircase fashioned from hand-beaten brass. Apart from this, there are also 14 spacious staterooms — most of which are 505 sq. ft. — and a crew of 44 at hand, making Savarona’s astronomical price almost excusable.

8.

Al Mirqab

Length: 436 ft.(133 m.)

Owner: Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani,

the Emir of Qatar

Built by: Peters Schiffbau in 2008

Top Speed: 23 knots

Cruise speed: 21 knots

One of the many floating palaces to come out of the shipyards of Germany, Al Mirqab has earned a number of covetous awards in the yachting world, including motor yacht of the year at the 2009 World Superyacht Awards; thanks, in part, to the designing efforts of Tim Haywood—exterior, and Andrew Winch—interior.

Under the hood, it’s not bad either with a total power output of 140,000kw propelling it to more awards. The yacht followed a fashionable trend by using a code name, Project May, during construction. It is also one where speculation is the main source of information on its interiors but, looking at the outside, you get the feeling the Emir did not hold back. The navy blue hull rises majestically above the waterline. Also noticeable is the presence of external decks which take up minimal space; a choice made by the yacht’s owner to ensure that his companions are safe from prying eyes.