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How to sail around the world: Launching an epic adventure

Yachting World

  • April 17, 2024

Ten years after his first cruising circumnavigation, Dan Bower is going again. He shares advice on essential preparation to sail around the world.

An aerial shot of a yacht in a tropical sea

Personal preparations and sailing skills are still the biggest part of planning to sail around the world.  Knowledge and competence takes the stress out of situations, which is more fun for you and the crew.

That doesn’t mean you need to be a seasoned old salt, but you do need to invest time gaining some sea miles and learning about maintenance and systems (or take on some professional crew).

On 1 February 2024, Skyelark II nosed her bow through the Panama Canal ’s final Miraflores Lock, and became the first yacht of this year’s World ARC fleet to enter the Pacific Ocean.

It’s now an entire decade since we first set off westward from the Caribbean to sail around the world. For myself and my wife, Em, the World ARC in 2014 was the culmination of six years of preparation and planning, working towards that dream – and the honeymoon we had promised ourselves.

Admittedly, our main hurdles were mainly financial—in our 20s, there was first the challenge of buying and equipping a cruising boat, then getting funding to how to sail around the world.

Our solution was to take paying guests, and as charter skippers (check out adventuresailing.com ) we were not typical of the owners on such a rally.

The yacht sailing on relatively calm water. The boat has two sails

Photo: Edward Penagos/WCC

Back in 2014 we also wrote a series of articles and created accompanying videos ( Bluewater Sailing Techniques ) with Yachting World.

The series of instructional features and accompanying short videos on bluewater cruising focused on skippering skills and preparations.

They covered both the human elements on how to keep a happy ship, such as watchkeeping and provisioning, to the practical skills needed to keep both boat and crew safe, such as dealing with squalls, navigating tricky coral passes, and recovering a man overboard.

Before we headed back into the Pacific again, this time departing with the World ARC 2024, for both nostalgia and research purposes I revisited the Bluewater Techniques series to see how it holds up and whether it’s still relevant.

With the benefit of hindsight (Em and I now have 100,000 more miles under the keel and two more Pacific crossings), I wanted to see how much had changed and whether the challenges of sailing around the world were still the same.

On re-reading I’m pleased to see that the techniques we suggested then are still valid, and the articles are certainly worth looking at whether you are dreaming of – or indeed actually going – to sail around the world.

The videos perhaps aren’t as slick as the current proliferation of sailing YouTube channels, but they get the message across – and I am pleased to say my fish filleting skills have since improved!

Dan and Em smiling on deck, with flags behind. They are both wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Dan and Em Bower are sailing in the World ARC aboard their 62ft Oyster Skyelark II. Photo: James Mitchell/WCC

But, financial considerations aside, how much preparation is needed to sail around the world?

What are the obstacles to heading off around the world safely and enjoyably? And how can you plan to overcome them in 2024?

The following are my top considerations…

Human elements

Cruising is booming and the community reflects this influx of newcomers – it was great to see how many owners of boats that crossed the Atlantic in the most recent ARC were just a few years into sailing.

They went out, bought a boat, and they made it. The pandemic seems to have spurred people on to make the dream come true, blow the kids’ inheritance and get out and do it right now.

Four people looking happy on the yacht with the sun behind

Main: be sure you’re confident in your knowledge and competence, particularly in maintenance and systems. This is the start of the 2024/25 Oyster World Rally in Antigua. Photo: James Mitchell/WCC

Sailing the Pacific – and beyond – is more challenging, not so much the sailing itself but the lack of access to services, parts and help. You need to be self reliant and with today’s complex boats there are a lot of systems to learn.

This takes us on to communication – particularly Starlink, which has made cruising so much less remote.

Now you can get access to information to help solve problems as they occur: perhaps learning how to diagnose a problem with an electrical circuit on YouTube, making WhatsApp video calls with a supplier’s technical support department, or being able to have real time access to telemedicine in an emergency.

This is the first year Starlink has become truly widespread: almost all of the cruising boats I meet now have Starlink installed.

While it’s not a substitute for seamanship and knowing your boat, the ability to research problems or call for assistance does flatten the learning curve for the more technically shy.

A beautiful tropical landscape with a yacht and palm trees.

Advice from cruising communities might be a more reliable indication of safe anchorages than navigation software in poorly charted areas. Photo: Dan Bower

What Starlink has proven excellent for is sharing knowledge and managing difficulties at sea, and as a mass communication tool it’s made SSB obsolete.

Several ocean ‘incidents’ have been quickly coordinated by always-on-satellite systems that allow messenger apps to work all the time.

We all get out of our comfort zone sometimes, and I’m not condoning complacency, but when going offshore having access to information can matter.

For things like telemedicine I’d argue it’s almost negligent not to have quick, reliable internet connection available.

That said, like any emergency system you don’t have to use it and for us, and many other sailors, the joy of being offshore is the ability to disconnect from news and land life.

Gearing up to sail around the world

It feels like there are more newer boats, and bigger yachts plying the world’s oceans.

An explosion of performance catamarans, aluminium expedition yachts and luxury monohulls now swell the fleets of the sailing rallies.

Many of those new yachts have been specified for ocean sailing since they were built, and come fitted with essentials that 10 years ago were still ‘luxury’ items.

Watermakers, solar panels, hydro generators and lithium batteries that can run air conditioning units – life at sea is becoming a little closer to life at home.

When we changed from our classic 1982-built Skye 51 to a modern Oyster 62, Skyelark II, there were a lot of new systems to understand, particularly given the complexity of hydraulic sail handling and the size of the electrical systems required to cope with all of the loads.

In preparation to sail around the world we went through the recommended 10-year maintenance checks from Oyster which involve major overhauls of all systems.

This is quite straightforward as it’s well documented, and it’s a great time to get to know the boat and understand what you can do yourself or what needs specialist skills.

A shot of the boat speeding through the water from the deck. There's sun on the water.

Round the world cruising places a lot of strain on a boat – exhaustive maintenance checks will mitigate against failures. Photo: Ugo Fonolla/Oyster

These are exhaustive projects which need to be budgeted for, but we see pre-emptive maintenance as an investment.

Regardless of whether you bought new, or refitted an older yacht, you still need to invest time and effort into understanding the systems you have on board.

You need to ensure you have the spares and tools to fix things, or the ability and willingness to live without them, if and when things go wrong, rather than spend cruising time waiting for non-essentials to be repaired in remote places.

The rise in renewable energy sources, increased efficiencies, and the bigger areas available on larger yachts on which to put solar arrays, has made cruising without a genset more realistic.

Since smaller generators often produce the biggest headaches while cruising, reducing dependency on them does seem to be the way to go.

This has been coupled with a rise in gas-less galleys, of which I am a big fan, both for safety and reducing the hassle of sourcing LPG in different countries.

With all these systems you have to consider spare parts and, for the unfixable problems, redundancy – whether that’s having a second source of power, emergency food that can be ready without cooking, figuring out how to raise the anchor without the windlass, or towing the yacht into port with a tender.

All are likely scenarios that need thinking through in advance to sail around the world.

For example, our solution for losing the windlass is two chain hooks which can be attached to long lines and led to the primary winches.

Then it’s a game of leapfrog: one line is being pulled while the other one is being re-led forward ready to take over.

For the galley we carry a gas bottle and a barbecue, but also have an emergency two-burner hob, and we always keep a good supply of dinghy fuel in case of a main engine issue.

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Choosing the right sails

At the end of the a relatively benign ARC 2023, I called into the St Lucia sail loft and our old friend Kenny was as busy as ever – every inch of loft was covered in piles of downwind sails, while the lawn outside saw a procession of crews reloading socks and chutes.

This is all fairly standard with ocean sailing, but what was a surprise was the amount of damaged ‘white’ sails – mostly technical laminates.

These fabrics don’t do well in the trades, a combination of UV and the rigours of an ocean passage mean that there is every chance a new set won’t get you round the world or even halfway.

Someone sat in a St. Lucia sail loft with a bif sail on their lap

St Lucia sail loft is invariably kept busy. Photo: Elaine Bunting

If the boat comes with some nice sporty sails, keep them at home and they will be perfect when you get back ready to last you for years of local cruising or racing.

But for ocean sailing I would pop on a set of Dacrons: bullet proof and easier to fix on the way, and a lot cheaper than buying yourself the new laminates you will want when you get home.

Downwind sails are having a revolution. Bigger boats with smaller crews are not well suited to traditional symmetrical spinnakers and now there is a huge variety of downwind sail options on the market.

Asymmetric sails mainly use high torsion luffs and continuous line furlers which makes handling them much more straightforward.

These aren’t great for dead downwind sailing and to get the most out of them, you need to sail the angles. That means more miles, but hopefully worth it for the increased boat speed and less rolling motion.

For the more direct route the symmetric kite still wins, but as a compromise there has also been a proliferation of light weight twin headsails like Elvstrom’s Bluewater Runner or North’s TradeWind sail which allow for direct downwind sailing in lighter wind speeds than the traditional white sail route.

However, all of them come at a significant cost which may well be a factor in what you ultimately choose.

An aerial of a yacht sailing in the distance with blue skies

Photo: Yachting World

For me, it’s more a space consideration versus how often I really need light wind sails. With our masthead rig we can comfortably sail in 10 knots true so we no longer carry any light wind/coloured sails.

I’m not averse to an extra day at sea, but if the winds are light and I’m in a rush, the diesel will get me through at less pence per mile than a quiver of kites.

It’s worth thinking about what your priorities are.

Some areas of the world are notoriously badly charted and pilot information is woefully out of date. Fiji springs to mind – but it’s one of the most beautiful cruising grounds and well worth the effort to explore.

In 2014 we spent a lot of time using Google Earth images and visual navigation techniques.

We favoured having someone up in the rigging, with the sun at our backs, to con the boat through passages and into anchorages by looking out for coral heads and reefs.

A yacht sailing with a clear horizon and blue skies

Sending a crewmember aloft was a daily experience.

In many cases our chartplotters would show us as on land, or having sailed across reefs. I still have those GPS tracks and, having just downloaded the most up to date charts for those regions, I can tell you that they are no more accurate today.

Visual navigation is still key, as is real seamanship in only entering poorly charted areas in good light and favourable conditions.

To complement the old skills, there is now so much more cruiser shared knowledge. Navionics and MaxSea TimeZero are our choice of charts and both have user-updated information with anchorage reviews and potential hazards.

Many cruisers also detail their experiences on Facebook groups, and regularly post blogs and vlogs.

Cruising communities share waypoints and tracks that are known to be safe, and recent accounts can fill in the gaps in the out-of-date pilot books.

There are tutorials online on how to download or make your own charts from satellite imagery (see svocelot.com).

Get the research and planning stages out of the way while you’re at home – at the time you’re more likely to be searching for an elusive boat part, or you’ll want to be enjoying being where you are.

Cruising for a cause

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the boat preparations and updating your skillset that you forget you’re cruising the world to see it, not to just tick it off the list.

Time on passage can be spent planning for the time ashore, learning a bit about the area and considering what kind of things you want to do.

An underwater shot of a group of dolphins swimming close to the surface.

Photo: Tomasz Kunicki

Guidebooks can be useful, but reading other yacht blogs and experiences can really help.

More often, the people you meet when you sail around the world form the best experiences.

So it’s nice to think about what gifts and trading items you can carry on board to build those moments of connection and help the areas you’re visiting.

Alternatively you might consider partnering with one of the charities, such as sailaid.com, to take things that are needed to remote communities.

We find footballs for the kids and reading glasses for adults are in short supply and well received.

On a more global level there are various citizen science projects to get involved with, be it checking for plastics in the sea, taking water samples or even looking at cloud formations.

For many of these projects the field work is the most cost prohibitive aspect, and the results of studies may help protect the very things we are sailing halfway around the world to experience – the wildlife, culture and natural landscape that makes the Pacific so special.

Top upgrades

Ground tackle.

A decent anchor and at least 100m of chain.

Pacific anchorages can be deep and you need to feel you’re anchored securely enough to ride out a blow, and confident enough to leave the boat unattended for adventures ashore.

In addition to a spare anchor, a lightweight kedge is useful as a stern anchor in swelly or crowded anchorages.

Photo of the side of the deck with the buoys on the side and ropes.

Ideally powerful enough to plane in tradewind conditions, strong enough to survive contact with a rocky or reefy shoreline and light enough to pull clear of the surf and tide.

This can be a long way in places like the Las Perlas, or Australia.

I favour 2-stroke outboards for weight and because they can handle a dunking if the beach landing goes wrong.

There’s an immense joy in the simple pleasure of being anchored behind a reef, in a turquoise lagoon with just the sound of the waves and amazing stars for company (and the internet turned off!).

To get out and really enjoy and appreciate those surroundings, if you have the energy and space on board then it’s great to carry a few water toys.

Skyelark’s toy cupboard includes kit for kitesurfing and wing foiling, a Hookah (see below), drone, bikes and paddleboards.

Someone windsurfing with an island behind

Used for maintenance or to free a fouled prop or stuck anchor. When things happen it’s best to be self sufficient.

We carry full scuba kit in case we have to go deep for a problem anchor (possibly caught on or wrapped around a coral head), but for routine maintenance we use our Hookah (my favourite toy for the Pacific).

This allows two people to dive down to around 10m with the air supplied from a surface compressor. It’s a crossover between diving and snorkelling and is perfect for seeing those sharks in atoll passes.

I like that you’re visible from the surface, and you can also leave a radio at the surface (see photo) in case you get into difficulty.

Someone in the sea with a snorkel on looking at the camera. The water is calm

Low friction loops

Cheap and easy ways to re-lead a line to avoid chafe without the bulk (and expense of) snatch blocks.

Chafe is the enemy (after sand) and some care in keeping the ropes running nicely can make a big difference.

For the Panama Canal putting lines through a low friction loop stops them from jumping out of the fairleads and catching on the guard wires.

We also carry Dyneema chafe protection sleeving that is easily whipped onto a line at the first sign of damage as a sacrificial layer.

If you enjoyed this….

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Everything You Need to Sail Around the World (by an expert)

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Wanting to sail around the world is a wonderful plan requires dozens of items and skills. For a clear overview, we have compiled a one-stop-shop article that will push you miles towards your goal. Here are the things necessary to successfully circle the globe on a sailboat - the tangible and the intangible ones.

What do you need to sail around the world? You will need a route, a bluewater sailboat, enough money, time, the necessary paperwork, and equipment (i.e. water maker, electricity generator, satellite phone, power-free autopilot). You'll also need proper safety training, mental and physical preparation, and you will need to be prepared to do plenty of research.

There are many items hidden under each of these categories, so let's have a closer look.

Everything you need to sail around the world:

A well-prepared route, a reliable bluewater sailboat, $500 - $1,000 per month per person, travel documents (passport and visas, boat registration, port clearance), cruising equipment recommended by other cruisers, the proper safety equipment, the appropriate safety training, proper preparation to prevent poor performance, time: between 1-3 years, the right mindset to handle mental demands, research of expected sailing situations.

This list is not detailed to the last windproof jacket and a high SPF cream. Such an article would be fifty times the length. Rather it is a wide, birdseye view of categories you need to think about and research so that you can build your checklist.

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There are more ways to skin a cat, and there are more ways to sail around the world. Since each of those ways requires a different approach in terms of necessary skills, sailboat, equipment, provisions, time, and crew, the first step should be planning your route.

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7 Best-Known Routes for Sailing Around the World (with Maps)

You don't need to be especially detailed, outlining every stop on a precisely defined route. I'm talking about a general idea of what you want from the journey because this will influence the items on the following list.

Are you looking to simply tick circumnavigation off your bucket list, wanting the most straightforward, fastest way? Is this more of a world traveler's dream, and you want to visit beautiful places along the way and don't mind making a few stops on the way, even if that extends the trip duration by months? Or do you perhaps have specific stops in mind?

Either way, you will want to know what your expected journey is. A quick look on a globe will instantly hint to many approaches. Various approaches will differ not only in the overall length, which impacts the time needed but also in the distance between the stops, impacting the provisioning system and how far from the warm equator you will be, which impacts the kind of clothing you will need.

The safest sailing route around the world uses the trade winds You want to stay as close to the equator as possible, but you also want to avoid the following 5 places if you can. We've listed the safest and fastest sailing routes for you. Also read: The Safest Sailing Routes Around the World (Which to Avoid)

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Let's get this out of the way first - you don't need a large boat to circumnavigate the world. Larger boats are comfier and faster, but technically not necessary. The smallest sailboat to circle the globe had around 21 feet. We have written many times about small boats that are great liveaboards, so it is possible. Your comfort level, partially dependent on how many people will go with you, is individual.

If you are in a money-saving mode, it pays off to get a smaller boat, but one in good condition, instead of a larger one requiring more maintenance.

But as mentioned before, since your route's character influences your needs greatly, if speed is what you are looking for, as well as long crossings without stops, requiring more spare parts and provisions, a bigger boat is what you will need.

Either way, it needs to be a boat with offshore capabilities. Not a weekend cruiser.

Many people think sailboats are super expensive We did the research, and it turns out you can get a capable bluewater sailboat for just $3,000 . However, it isn't for everyone. Here's the cheapest bluewater sailboat

The short answer is - prepare to typically pay around $500 - $1,000 per person per month when sailing with the sky being the limit, of course.

Here's a breakdown that will apply to you if you are a cost-efficient person:

Breakdown of cruising costs per month:

Monthly Expense Percentage Amount
Food 25% $250
Maintenance 20% $200
Insurance 15% $150
Cruising fees 7% $70
Mooring fees 6% $60
Satellite phone 6% $60
Fuel 5% $50
Discretionairy 16% $160

Roughly 25 percent of your budget will be for food . Eating out is not included.

Around 20 percent will be spent on maintenance (though this varies depending on the state you got your boat in). This means sail and rigging maintenance, yearly haul out and antifouling, electrical and winch malfunctions, engine spares, water filters, and so on.

Approximately 15 percent will be spent on insurance - unless you are against that whole concept.

About 7 percent will be spent on cruising fees , such as permits, visas, and check-in fees. Panama canal costs north of $1,000, and so does entering Ecuador. New Zealand, on the other hand, will set you back merely tens of dollars.

Around 6 percent will be needed for mooring fees , though only if you anchor whenever possible.

A similar amount will be needed for a basic satellite phone plan for communication and weather reports and various sim cards to connect to the internet, when possible.

Fuel varies, but 5 percent is not an unreasonable amount to expect to spend on it.

The rest will be spent on a range of expenses - various clothing, eating out, flashlight batteries, sunglasses you keep drowning, and all that jazz.

The percentages will vary from person to person, but they are not the most important part of the above breakdown - rather, it is the expense list since these are the things and items you will have to pay for, and thus you should know about them beforehand.

Just as before, the kind of trip you have in mind will determine many of the costs. Antifouling might not be needed if you are going at it non stop and are done within months. That $1,000 for the Panama canal won't be necessary if you venture around South America and the infamous Cape Horn. And venturing through Suez, Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden will require extra security expenses.

And of course, if you are paying $1,000 monthly, the overall expenses will differ whether this is a three-year travel journey or you are doing a Vendée Globe style circumnavigation.

Sailboats are cheaper than you might think We've compared thousands of sailboat listing prices for four different budgets. There are a lot of costs involved with owning a sailboat. Learn everything there is to know about ownership costs with our comprehensive overview. Read all about sailboat ownership costs

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Boring? Yes. Necessary? Also yes. Except for those of you who will make the trip non-stop without visiting any country, you may need your passport and sometimes valid visas.

Then there is your boat registration and port clearance. Boat insurance policy is a must in some places, where they won't let you in without third party liability or personal liability.

Sometimes you will need your MMSI number and proof you have AIS capability. Having a few copies of passport-sized photos of the crew helps too - as well as plenty of photocopies of all documents. You will save yourself some running around, trying to find a copy machine.

Here are the licenses you'll need for sailing the world You'll need lots of documents for some places, and none for others. William sailed the world for 8 years and made an overview of all documents you'll need and the documents you can leave at home. Read all about international sailing licenses

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Your actual checklist will be a mile long, but here are several things worthy of extra mentioning. These items came from quite extensive research where numbers of circumnavigators, both racers, and cruisers, were asked to name items they found the most useful. Safe to say, they all named more or less the same set of things.

Now, unless you plan on staying so close to the shore most of the time that you might as well make the trip in a car, you will need plenty of water. Full tanks probably won't cut it. You will need to make your own, probably from seawater.

Electricity generator

The same applies to electricity. Whether you will choose a hydro generator, solar panels, or a wind turbine, you will quite probably need a way to generate some power.

Satellite Phone

Whether it is about safety concerns, or wanting to be able to stay in touch, this is a must. You shouldn't set sail without a reliable weather report. There are many options,, including satellite internet, thanks to which you will be able to be online wherever you are. If you are unsure where to start researching a solution for you, Iridium GO! is among popular choices.

And if Elon Musk's Starlink kicks off as promised, global satellite internet will be an affordable thing for anyone.

Good Bimini

If you are a holiday cruiser kind of person or if you usually sail in areas without much strong sunshine, this might not come to mind when compiling your checklist. But the ability to be in the shade while being on deck will prove crucial.

So make sure your bimini is solid, has a few good years ahead of it, and covers what it needs to, without the need for makeshift solutions consisting of hanging towels and clothes around you to protect you from the low, afternoon sun.

Downwind Sails

The value of good downwind sails that will propel you forward even in light winds is undeniable, though not always do they find themselves on a sailor's checklist. If you plan a long journey, you will appreciate them since conditions won't always be favorable.

Power-free Autopilot

Autopilots will save you lots of headaches when on long stretches, especially if you do things short-handed. But the classical ones use a lot of power. So look into solutions like Hydrovane, which will take a lot of work off your hands.

AIS Transponder

Not only is this a good thing to have for obvious reasons, but it is also mandatory in some areas and will save you money on certain insurance plans.

There are many sailboat cruising essentials There's lots more you'll need, and plenty you hadn't thought of if you're a first-time cruiser. We've listed them all for you. Read all about cruising essentials

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A liferaft, enough lifejackets, and harnesses. As for the liferaft, preferably one that isn't out of date - yes, that is a mishap way more common than you'd think. As for the lifejackets, preferably ones with a crotch strap and a sprayhood, as well as a light, reflective element, and a whistle. And as for the harnesses, preferably a three-point one. A grab bag with an EPIRB, basic survival items, and some provisions should be at the ready as well.

A well-stocked medical kit is a good idea too. Even something as simple as a plaster goes a long way when there is no place to buy it for thousands of miles around.

If you are unsure about what belongs in a solid safety kit checklist, consult, for instance, the ARC's safety equipment requirements - this event is meant for cruisers, not super experienced racers, so it lists everything you might need without supposing you will MacGyver your way out of any tricky engineering situation.

U.S. Coast Guart recommends this safety equipment We've created a full of the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard, which is a great starting point for beginning cruisers. Read all about safety equipment

If there is a screw on the boat, have the tool to unscrew it, no matter the shape. A power drill, spares, wires, lines, patches, glue, pliers, a knife, a hammer… go wild. These items aren't particularly costly, so make sure there is a toolbox on the boat with anything you can dream of putting in it.

Get a head-start by using our recommended tools You just need a couple of basic tools to be properly prepared. Over the years, we've recommended products that are well-priced but reliable. Check out our favorite tools

Offshore Sail Repair Kit

This should be in the above category, I suppose, but let that one belong to the boat, while this one tends to the sails. Of course, you should have some spare sails, but incremental wear and tear is an inevitable part of long term sailing, so be prepared to mend here and there.

Fishing Gear

For obvious reasons. I'm not saying you will find yourself stranded in the middle of the Pacific, with no food left, reliant only on what you fish out of the ocean, but if you want to save on food, have it as fresh as it comes and have a backup plan just in case, a good bit of line with some hooks and baits will come in handy.

To leave the tangible category, here's something many overlook and never need. But if it all hits the fan, you will wish you wouldn't have. In other words, it pays off to rehearse various emergency situations, using the equipment you would, including fully inflating your liferaft.

It may sound a bit boring, and yes, perhaps you won't need it (let's hope), but much is at stake when you do.

You can learn most for free from home There are lots of free or cheap online courses that will teach you the fundamentals. Check out our course recommendations

If there is a time when you want to take advantage of the ultra-organized, obsessive part of your brain, it is before you depart.

In other words, have a detailed preparation plan. Have a detailed journey plan with all the distances and entry prices and necessary documents in it. This should be done to such details as general grocery prices in various areas. Many sailors, after crossing the Atlantic, arrived in the Caribbean, cursing themselves for not stocking up on groceries back in the Azores because food in the Caribbean is so bloody expensive.

Make no mistake; this isn't really about money. If you don't mind paying extra, that's fine. But this is mostly about the mindset of a person that prepares well for all the little eventualities and has two back up plans for if XYZ happens.

The kind of a mindset that will have spare parts for everything, two copies of maps on paper, and the will to power through the logistics of it all.

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The Vendée globe racers do it in under three months, the world cruisers who are in a hurry in a bit over a year, but most take two years and up, to take advantage of good seasons and to get the most out of every location they visit.

You can sail the world in around 3.5 years How long it will take you depends on your goals. We've compared three sailing speeds to see how long it will take you . Find out how long it will take you

I'm not a fan of articles telling you how sailing is tough and why it probably isn't for you since only those belonging to the big boys club can enter. If circling the world on a sailboat is what you want, then circling the world on a sailboat is what you will get.

Nor do I like articles that speak of all the miseries you will have to endure, articles whose authors low key boast about how they don't have any issues enduring said agonies. They make sailing seem like something unattainable for the everyday man, an exclusive activity for those with warrior blood in their veins, which is just unnecessarily elitist.

That being said, know what you are getting into. Know what it means to sleep on a boat for months, know the limits (and perks) regarding comfort, using the bathroom, showering, preparing and eating food…

Also, know the physical and mental demands of operating a sailboat for months and know of its dangers.

Be aware of how you feel about spending lots and lots of time either alone or in the company of whomever you want to sail with.

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How to get there? A regatta in 50 degrees Fahrenheit, high winds, and bad weather is a great start. Getting aboard a sailboat as a crew member, ideally not an island hopper, but one aiming for longer stretches, is a great continuation. Reading blogs and watching vlogs from various sailors helps too, as it virtually introduces you to situations and ideas you might not have thought of.

If I was to decide on a single way to get into the mindset you need, it would be joining an ARC fleet for an Atlantic crossing. Not just for the sailing experience, but because their events are fantastically structured, and you will understand what a long journey means logistically.

It is very much possible to go around the world in a sailboat. Yes, it takes preparation and an adventurous mind, but in the end, it is nothing but a set of specific tangible and intangible parts that, if you have under control, you will likely succeed.

And since there are not many greater adventures available on Earth, what better thing to spend time on preparing for than this?

Fair winds.

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Sailing around the world is an epic adventure that offers unparalleled freedom, breathtaking vistas, and an opportunity to test your limits like never before. It's a journey that takes you through calm waters, stormy seas, and everything in between, allowing you to experience the beauty and diversity of our planet in a deeply personal way. Whether you're drawn to the romance of the open sea or the challenge of navigating through unknown waters, this guide is designed to help you prepare, embark, and thrive on your round-the-world sailing expedition.

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The Haves and the Have-Yachts

By Evan Osnos

In the Victorian era, it was said that the length of a man’s boat, in feet, should match his age, in years. The Victorians would have had some questions at the fortieth annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, which convened this March on Florida’s Gold Coast. A typical offering: a two-hundred-and-three-foot superyacht named Sea Owl, selling secondhand for ninety million dollars. The owner, Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund tycoon and Republican donor, was throwing in furniture and accessories, including several auxiliary boats, a Steinway piano, a variety of frescoes, and a security system that requires fingerprint recognition. Nevertheless, Mercer’s package was a modest one; the largest superyachts are more than five hundred feet, on a scale with naval destroyers, and cost six or seven times what he was asking.

For the small, tight-lipped community around the world’s biggest yachts, the Palm Beach show has the promising air of spring training. On the cusp of the summer season, it affords brokers and builders and owners (or attendants from their family offices) a chance to huddle over the latest merchandise and to gather intelligence: Who’s getting in? Who’s getting out? And, most pressingly, who’s ogling a bigger boat?

On the docks, brokers parse the crowd according to a taxonomy of potential. Guests asking for tours face a gantlet of greeters, trained to distinguish “superrich clients” from “ineligible visitors,” in the words of Emma Spence, a former greeter at the Palm Beach show. Spence looked for promising clues (the right shoes, jewelry, pets) as well as for red flags (cameras, ornate business cards, clothes with pop-culture references). For greeters from elsewhere, Palm Beach is a challenging assignment. Unlike in Europe, where money can still produce some visible tells—Hunter Wellies, a Barbour jacket—the habits of wealth in Florida offer little that’s reliable. One colleague resorted to binoculars, to spot a passerby with a hundred-thousand-dollar watch. According to Spence, people judged to have insufficient buying power are quietly marked for “dissuasion.”

For the uninitiated, a pleasure boat the length of a football field can be bewildering. Andy Cohen, the talk-show host, recalled his first visit to a superyacht owned by the media mogul Barry Diller: “I was like the Beverly Hillbillies.” The boats have grown so vast that some owners place unique works of art outside the elevator on each deck, so that lost guests don’t barge into the wrong stateroom.

At the Palm Beach show, I lingered in front of a gracious vessel called Namasté, until I was dissuaded by a wooden placard: “Private yacht, no boarding, no paparazzi.” In a nearby berth was a two-hundred-and-eighty-foot superyacht called Bold, which was styled like a warship, with its own helicopter hangar, three Sea-Doos, two sailboats, and a color scheme of gunmetal gray. The rugged look is a trend; “explorer” vessels, equipped to handle remote journeys, are the sport-utility vehicles of yachting.

If you hail from the realm of ineligible visitors, you may not be aware that we are living through the “greatest boom in the yacht business that’s ever existed,” as Bob Denison—whose firm, Denison Yachting, is one of the world’s largest brokers—told me. “Every broker, every builder, up and down the docks, is having some of the best years they’ve ever experienced.” In 2021, the industry sold a record eight hundred and eighty-seven superyachts worldwide, nearly twice the previous year’s total. With more than a thousand new superyachts on order, shipyards are so backed up that clients unaccustomed to being told no have been shunted to waiting lists.

One reason for the increased demand for yachts is the pandemic. Some buyers invoke social distancing; others, an existential awakening. John Staluppi, of Palm Beach Gardens, who made a fortune from car dealerships, is looking to upgrade from his current, sixty-million-dollar yacht. “When you’re forty or fifty years old, you say, ‘I’ve got plenty of time,’ ” he told me. But, at seventy-five, he is ready to throw in an extra fifteen million if it will spare him three years of waiting. “Is your life worth five million dollars a year? I think so,” he said. A deeper reason for the demand is the widening imbalance of wealth. Since 1990, the United States’ supply of billionaires has increased from sixty-six to more than seven hundred, even as the median hourly wage has risen only twenty per cent. In that time, the number of truly giant yachts—those longer than two hundred and fifty feet—has climbed from less than ten to more than a hundred and seventy. Raphael Sauleau, the C.E.O. of Fraser Yachts, told me bluntly, “ COVID and wealth—a perfect storm for us.”

And yet the marina in Palm Beach was thrumming with anxiety. Ever since the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, launched his assault on Ukraine, the superyacht world has come under scrutiny. At a port in Spain, a Ukrainian engineer named Taras Ostapchuk, working aboard a ship that he said was owned by a Russian arms dealer, threw open the sea valves and tried to sink it to the bottom of the harbor. Under arrest, he told a judge, “I would do it again.” Then he returned to Ukraine and joined the military. Western allies, in the hope of pressuring Putin to withdraw, have sought to cut off Russian oligarchs from businesses and luxuries abroad. “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” President Joe Biden declared, in his State of the Union address.

Nobody can say precisely how many of Putin’s associates own superyachts—known to professionals as “white boats”—because the white-boat world is notoriously opaque. Owners tend to hide behind shell companies, registered in obscure tax havens, attended by private bankers and lawyers. But, with unusual alacrity, authorities have used subpoenas and police powers to freeze boats suspected of having links to the Russian élite. In Spain, the government detained a hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar yacht associated with Sergei Chemezov, the head of the conglomerate Rostec, whose bond with Putin reaches back to their time as K.G.B. officers in East Germany. (As in many cases, the boat is not registered to Chemezov; the official owner is a shell company connected to his stepdaughter, a teacher whose salary is likely about twenty-two hundred dollars a month.) In Germany, authorities impounded the world’s most voluminous yacht, Dilbar, for its ties to the mining-and-telecom tycoon Alisher Usmanov. And in Italy police have grabbed a veritable armada, including a boat owned by one of Russia’s richest men, Alexei Mordashov, and a colossus suspected of belonging to Putin himself, the four-hundred-and-fifty-nine-foot Scheherazade.

In Palm Beach, the yachting community worried that the same scrutiny might be applied to them. “Say your superyacht is in Asia, and there’s some big conflict where China invades Taiwan,” Denison told me. “China could spin it as ‘Look at these American oligarchs!’ ” He wondered if the seizures of superyachts marked a growing political animus toward the very rich. “Whenever things are economically or politically disruptive,” he said, “it’s hard to justify taking an insane amount of money and just putting it into something that costs a lot to maintain, depreciates, and is only used for having a good time.”

Nobody pretends that a superyacht is a productive place to stash your wealth. In a column this spring headlined “ A SUPERYACHT IS A TERRIBLE ASSET ,” the Financial Times observed, “Owning a superyacht is like owning a stack of 10 Van Goghs, only you are holding them over your head as you tread water, trying to keep them dry.”

Not so long ago, status transactions among the élite were denominated in Old Masters and in the sculptures of the Italian Renaissance. Joseph Duveen, the dominant art dealer of the early twentieth century, kept the oligarchs of his day—Andrew Mellon, Jules Bache, J. P. Morgan—jockeying over Donatellos and Van Dycks. “When you pay high for the priceless,” he liked to say, “you’re getting it cheap.”

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In the nineteen-fifties, the height of aspirational style was fine French furniture—F.F.F., as it became known in certain precincts of Fifth Avenue and Palm Beach. Before long, more and more money was going airborne. Hugh Hefner, a pioneer in the private-jet era, decked out a plane he called Big Bunny, where he entertained Elvis Presley, Raquel Welch, and James Caan. The oil baron Armand Hammer circled the globe on his Boeing 727, paying bribes and recording evidence on microphones hidden in his cufflinks. But, once it seemed that every plutocrat had a plane, the thrill was gone.

In any case, an airplane is just transportation. A big ship is a floating manse, with a hierarchy written right into the nomenclature. If it has a crew working aboard, it’s a yacht. If it’s more than ninety-eight feet, it’s a superyacht. After that, definitions are debated, but people generally agree that anything more than two hundred and thirty feet is a megayacht, and more than two hundred and ninety-five is a gigayacht. The world contains about fifty-four hundred superyachts, and about a hundred gigayachts.

For the moment, a gigayacht is the most expensive item that our species has figured out how to own. In 2019, the hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin bought a quadruplex on Central Park South for two hundred and forty million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a home in America. In May, an unknown buyer spent about a hundred and ninety-five million on an Andy Warhol silk-screen portrait of Marilyn Monroe. In luxury-yacht terms, those are ordinary numbers. “There are a lot of boats in build well over two hundred and fifty million dollars,” Jamie Edmiston, a broker in Monaco and London, told me. His buyers are getting younger and more inclined to spend long stretches at sea. “High-speed Internet, telephony, modern communications have made working easier,” he said. “Plus, people made a lot more money earlier in life.”

A Silicon Valley C.E.O. told me that one appeal of boats is that they can “absorb the most excess capital.” He explained, “Rationally, it would seem to make sense for people to spend half a billion dollars on their house and then fifty million on the boat that they’re on for two weeks a year, right? But it’s gone the other way. People don’t want to live in a hundred-thousand-square-foot house. Optically, it’s weird. But a half-billion-dollar boat, actually, is quite nice.” Staluppi, of Palm Beach Gardens, is content to spend three or four times as much on his yachts as on his homes. Part of the appeal is flexibility. “If you’re on your boat and you don’t like your neighbor, you tell the captain, ‘Let’s go to a different place,’ ” he said. On land, escaping a bad neighbor requires more work: “You got to try and buy him out or make it uncomfortable or something.” The preference for sea-based investment has altered the proportions of taste. Until recently, the Silicon Valley C.E.O. said, “a fifty-metre boat was considered a good-sized boat. Now that would be a little bit embarrassing.” In the past twenty years, the length of the average luxury yacht has grown by a third, to a hundred and sixty feet.

Thorstein Veblen, the economist who published “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” in 1899, argued that the power of “conspicuous consumption” sprang not from artful finery but from sheer needlessness. “In order to be reputable,” he wrote, “it must be wasteful.” In the yachting world, stories circulate about exotic deliveries by helicopter or seaplane: Dom Pérignon, bagels from Zabar’s, sex workers, a rare melon from the island of Hokkaido. The industry excels at selling you things that you didn’t know you needed. When you flip through the yachting press, it’s easy to wonder how you’ve gone this long without a personal submarine, or a cryosauna that “blasts you with cold” down to minus one hundred and ten degrees Celsius, or the full menagerie of “exclusive leathers,” such as eel and stingray.

But these shrines to excess capital exist in a conditional state of visibility: they are meant to be unmistakable to a slender stratum of society—and all but unseen by everyone else. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the yachting community was straining to manage its reputation as a gusher of carbon emissions (one well-stocked diesel yacht is estimated to produce as much greenhouse gas as fifteen hundred passenger cars), not to mention the fact that the world of white boats is overwhelmingly white. In a candid aside to a French documentarian, the American yachtsman Bill Duker said, “If the rest of the world learns what it’s like to live on a yacht like this, they’re gonna bring back the guillotine.” The Dutch press recently reported that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, was building a sailing yacht so tall that the city of Rotterdam might temporarily dismantle a bridge that had survived the Nazis in order to let the boat pass to the open sea. Rotterdammers were not pleased. On Facebook, a local man urged people to “take a box of rotten eggs with you and let’s throw them en masse at Jeff’s superyacht when it sails through.” At least thirteen thousand people expressed interest. Amid the uproar, a deputy mayor announced that the dismantling plan had been abandoned “for the time being.” (Bezos modelled his yacht partly on one owned by his friend Barry Diller, who has hosted him many times. The appreciation eventually extended to personnel, and Bezos hired one of Diller’s captains.)

As social media has heightened the scrutiny of extraordinary wealth, some of the very people who created those platforms have sought less observable places to spend it. But they occasionally indulge in some coded provocation. In 2006, when the venture capitalist Tom Perkins unveiled his boat in Istanbul, most passersby saw it adorned in colorful flags, but people who could read semaphore were able to make out a message: “Rarely does one have the privilege to witness vulgar ostentation displayed on such a scale.” As a longtime owner told me, “If you don’t have some guilt about it, you’re a rat.”

Alex Finley, a former C.I.A. officer who has seen yachts proliferate near her home in Barcelona, has weighed the superyacht era and its discontents in writings and on Twitter, using the hashtag #YachtWatch. “To me, the yachts are not just yachts,” she told me. “In Russia’s case, these are the embodiment of oligarchs helping a dictator destabilize our democracy while utilizing our democracy to their benefit.” But, Finley added, it’s a mistake to think the toxic symbolism applies only to Russia. “The yachts tell a whole story about a Faustian capitalism—this idea that we’re ready to sell democracy for short-term profit,” she said. “They’re registered offshore. They use every loophole that we’ve put in place for illicit money and tax havens. So they play a role in this battle, writ large, between autocracy and democracy.”

After a morning on the docks at the Palm Beach show, I headed to a more secluded marina nearby, which had been set aside for what an attendant called “the really big hardware.” It felt less like a trade show than like a boutique resort, with a swimming pool and a terrace restaurant. Kevin Merrigan, a relaxed Californian with horn-rimmed glasses and a high forehead pinked by the sun, was waiting for me at the stern of Unbridled, a superyacht with a brilliant blue hull that gave it the feel of a personal cruise ship. He invited me to the bridge deck, where a giant screen showed silent video of dolphins at play.

Merrigan is the chairman of the brokerage Northrop & Johnson, which has ridden the tide of growing boats and wealth since 1949. Lounging on a sofa mounded with throw pillows, he projected a nearly postcoital level of contentment. He had recently sold the boat we were on, accepted an offer for a behemoth beside us, and begun negotiating the sale of yet another. “This client owns three big yachts,” he said. “It’s a hobby for him. We’re at a hundred and ninety-one feet now, and last night he said, ‘You know, what do you think about getting a two hundred and fifty?’ ” Merrigan laughed. “And I was, like, ‘Can’t you just have dinner?’ ”

Among yacht owners, there are some unwritten rules of stratification: a Dutch-built boat will hold its value better than an Italian; a custom design will likely get more respect than a “series yacht”; and, if you want to disparage another man’s boat, say that it looks like a wedding cake. But, in the end, nothing says as much about a yacht, or its owner, as the delicate matter of L.O.A.—length over all.

The imperative is not usually length for length’s sake (though the longtime owner told me that at times there is an aspect of “phallic sizing”). “L.O.A.” is a byword for grandeur. In most cases, pleasure yachts are permitted to carry no more than twelve passengers, a rule set by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, which was conceived after the sinking of the Titanic. But those limits do not apply to crew. “So, you might have anything between twelve and fifty crew looking after those twelve guests,” Edmiston, the broker, said. “It’s a level of service you cannot really contemplate until you’ve been fortunate enough to experience it.”

As yachts have grown more capacious, and the limits on passengers have not, more and more space on board has been devoted to staff and to novelties. The latest fashions include IMAX theatres, hospital equipment that tests for dozens of pathogens, and ski rooms where guests can suit up for a helicopter trip to a mountaintop. The longtime owner, who had returned the previous day from his yacht, told me, “No one today—except for assholes and ridiculous people—lives on land in what you would call a deep and broad luxe life. Yes, people have nice houses and all of that, but it’s unlikely that the ratio of staff to them is what it is on a boat.” After a moment, he added, “Boats are the last place that I think you can get away with it.”

Even among the truly rich, there is a gap between the haves and the have-yachts. One boating guest told me about a conversation with a famous friend who keeps one of the world’s largest yachts. “He said, ‘The boat is the last vestige of what real wealth can do.’ What he meant is, You have a chef, and I have a chef. You have a driver, and I have a driver. You can fly privately, and I fly privately. So, the one place where I can make clear to the world that I am in a different fucking category than you is the boat.”

After Merrigan and I took a tour of Unbridled, he led me out to a waiting tender, staffed by a crew member with an earpiece on a coil. The tender, Merrigan said, would ferry me back to the busy main dock of the Palm Beach show. We bounced across the waves under a pristine sky, and pulled into the marina, where my fellow-gawkers were still trying to talk their way past the greeters. As I walked back into the scrum, Namasté was still there, but it looked smaller than I remembered.

For owners and their guests, a white boat provides a discreet marketplace for the exchange of trust, patronage, and validation. To diagram the precise workings of that trade—the customs and anxieties, strategies and slights—I talked to Brendan O’Shannassy, a veteran captain who is a curator of white-boat lore. Raised in Western Australia, O’Shannassy joined the Navy as a young man, and eventually found his way to skippering some of the world’s biggest yachts. He has worked for Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft, along with a few other billionaires he declines to name. Now in his early fifties, with patient green eyes and tufts of curly brown hair, O’Shannassy has had a vantage from which to monitor the social traffic. “It’s all gracious, and everyone’s kiss-kiss,” he said. “But there’s a lot going on in the background.”

O’Shannassy once worked for an owner who limited the number of newspapers on board, so that he could watch his guests wait and squirm. “It was a mind game amongst the billionaires. There were six couples, and three newspapers,” he said, adding, “They were ranking themselves constantly.” On some boats, O’Shannassy has found himself playing host in the awkward minutes after guests arrive. “A lot of them are savants, but some are very un-socially aware,” he said. “They need someone to be social and charming for them.” Once everyone settles in, O’Shannassy has learned, there is often a subtle shift, when a mogul or a politician or a pop star starts to loosen up in ways that are rarely possible on land. “Your security is relaxed—they’re not on your hip,” he said. “You’re not worried about paparazzi. So you’ve got all this extra space, both mental and physical.”

O’Shannassy has come to see big boats as a space where powerful “solar systems” converge and combine. “It is implicit in every interaction that their sharing of information will benefit both parties; it is an obsession with billionaires to do favours for each other. A referral, an introduction, an insight—it all matters,” he wrote in “Superyacht Captain,” a new memoir. A guest told O’Shannassy that, after a lavish display of hospitality, he finally understood the business case for buying a boat. “One deal secured on board will pay it all back many times over,” the guest said, “and it is pretty hard to say no after your kids have been hosted so well for a week.”

Take the case of David Geffen, the former music and film executive. He is long retired, but he hosts friends (and potential friends) on the four-hundred-and-fifty-four-foot Rising Sun, which has a double-height cinema, a spa and salon, and a staff of fifty-seven. In 2017, shortly after Barack and Michelle Obama departed the White House, they were photographed on Geffen’s boat in French Polynesia, accompanied by Bruce Springsteen, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson. For Geffen, the boat keeps him connected to the upper echelons of power. There are wealthier Americans, but not many of them have a boat so delectable that it can induce both a Democratic President and the workingman’s crooner to risk the aroma of hypocrisy.

The binding effect pays dividends for guests, too. Once people reach a certain level of fame, they tend to conclude that its greatest advantage is access. Spend a week at sea together, lingering over meals, observing one another floundering on a paddleboard, and you have something of value for years to come. Call to ask for an investment, an introduction, an internship for a wayward nephew, and you’ll at least get the call returned. It’s a mutually reinforcing circle of validation: she’s here, I’m here, we’re here.

But, if you want to get invited back, you are wise to remember your part of the bargain. If you work with movie stars, bring fresh gossip. If you’re on Wall Street, bring an insight or two. Don’t make the transaction obvious, but don’t forget why you’re there. “When I see the guest list,” O’Shannassy wrote, “I am aware, even if not all names are familiar, that all have been chosen for a purpose.”

For O’Shannassy, there is something comforting about the status anxieties of people who have everything. He recalled a visit to the Italian island of Sardinia, where his employer asked him for a tour of the boats nearby. Riding together on a tender, they passed one colossus after another, some twice the size of the owner’s superyacht. Eventually, the man cut the excursion short. “Take me back to my yacht, please,” he said. They motored in silence for a while. “There was a time when my yacht was the most beautiful in the bay,” he said at last. “How do I keep up with this new money?”

The summer season in the Mediterranean cranks up in May, when the really big hardware heads east from Florida and the Caribbean to escape the coming hurricanes, and reconvenes along the coasts of France, Italy, and Spain. At the center is the Principality of Monaco, the sun-washed tax haven that calls itself the “world’s capital of advanced yachting.” In Monaco, which is among the richest countries on earth, superyachts bob in the marina like bath toys.

Angry child yells at music teacher.

The nearest hotel room at a price that would not get me fired was an Airbnb over the border with France. But an acquaintance put me on the phone with the Yacht Club de Monaco, a members-only establishment created by the late monarch His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III, whom the Web site describes as “a true visionary in every respect.” The club occasionally rents rooms—“cabins,” as they’re called—to visitors in town on yacht-related matters. Claudia Batthyany, the elegant director of special projects, showed me to my cabin and later explained that the club does not aspire to be a hotel. “We are an association ,” she said. “Otherwise, it becomes”—she gave a gentle wince—“not that exclusive.”

Inside my cabin, I quickly came to understand that I would never be fully satisfied anywhere else again. The space was silent and aromatically upscale, bathed in soft sunlight that swept through a wall of glass overlooking the water. If I was getting a sudden rush of the onboard experience, that was no accident. The clubhouse was designed by the British architect Lord Norman Foster to evoke the opulent indulgence of ocean liners of the interwar years, like the Queen Mary. I found a handwritten welcome note, on embossed club stationery, set alongside an orchid and an assemblage of chocolate truffles: “The whole team remains at your entire disposal to make your stay a wonderful experience. Yours sincerely, Service Members.” I saluted the nameless Service Members, toiling for the comfort of their guests. Looking out at the water, I thought, intrusively, of a line from Santiago, Hemingway’s old man of the sea. “Do not think about sin,” he told himself. “It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it.”

I had been assured that the Service Members would cheerfully bring dinner, as they might on board, but I was eager to see more of my surroundings. I consulted the club’s summer dress code. It called for white trousers and a blue blazer, and it discouraged improvisation: “No pocket handkerchief is to be worn above the top breast-pocket bearing the Club’s coat of arms.” The handkerchief rule seemed navigable, but I did not possess white trousers, so I skirted the lobby and took refuge in the bar. At a table behind me, a man with flushed cheeks and a British accent had a head start. “You’re a shitty negotiator,” he told another man, with a laugh. “Maybe sales is not your game.” A few seats away, an American woman was explaining to a foreign friend how to talk with conservatives: “If they say, ‘The earth is flat,’ you say, ‘Well, I’ve sailed around it, so I’m not so sure about that.’ ”

In the morning, I had an appointment for coffee with Gaëlle Tallarida, the managing director of the Monaco Yacht Show, which the Daily Mail has called the “most shamelessly ostentatious display of yachts in the world.” Tallarida was not born to that milieu; she grew up on the French side of the border, swimming at public beaches with a view of boats sailing from the marina. But she had a knack for highly organized spectacle. While getting a business degree, she worked on a student theatre festival and found it thrilling. Afterward, she got a job in corporate events, and in 1998 she was hired at the yacht show as a trainee.

With this year’s show five months off, Tallarida was already getting calls about what she described as “the most complex part of my work”: deciding which owners get the most desirable spots in the marina. “As you can imagine, they’ve got very big egos,” she said. “On top of that, I’m a woman. They are sometimes arriving and saying”—she pointed into the distance, pantomiming a decree—“ ‘O.K., I want that!  ’ ”

Just about everyone wants his superyacht to be viewed from the side, so that its full splendor is visible. Most harbors, however, have a limited number of berths with a side view; in Monaco, there are only twelve, with prime spots arrayed along a concrete dike across from the club. “We reserve the dike for the biggest yachts,” Tallarida said. But try telling that to a man who blew his fortune on a small superyacht.

Whenever possible, Tallarida presents her verdicts as a matter of safety: the layout must insure that “in case of an emergency, any boat can go out.” If owners insist on preferential placement, she encourages a yachting version of the Golden Rule: “What if, next year, I do that to you? Against you?”

Does that work? I asked. She shrugged. “They say, ‘Eh.’ ” Some would gladly risk being a victim next year in order to be a victor now. In the most awful moment of her career, she said, a man who was unhappy with his berth berated her face to face. “I was in the office, feeling like a little girl, with my daddy shouting at me. I said, ‘O.K., O.K., I’m going to give you the spot.’ ”

Securing just the right place, it must be said, carries value. Back at the yacht club, I was on my terrace, enjoying the latest delivery by the Service Members—an airy French omelette and a glass of preternaturally fresh orange juice. I thought guiltily of my wife, at home with our kids, who had sent a text overnight alerting me to a maintenance issue that she described as “a toilet debacle.”

Then I was distracted by the sight of a man on a yacht in the marina below. He was staring up at me. I went back to my brunch, but, when I looked again, there he was—a middle-aged man, on a mid-tier yacht, juiceless, on a greige banquette, staring up at my perfect terrace. A surprising sensation started in my chest and moved outward like a warm glow: the unmistakable pang of superiority.

That afternoon, I made my way to the bar, to meet the yacht club’s general secretary, Bernard d’Alessandri, for a history lesson. The general secretary was up to code: white trousers, blue blazer, club crest over the heart. He has silver hair, black eyebrows, and a tan that evokes high-end leather. “I was a sailing teacher before this,” he said, and gestured toward the marina. “It was not like this. It was a village.”

Before there were yacht clubs, there were jachten , from the Dutch word for “hunt.” In the seventeenth century, wealthy residents of Amsterdam created fast-moving boats to meet incoming cargo ships before they hit port, in order to check out the merchandise. Soon, the Dutch owners were racing one another, and yachting spread across Europe. After a visit to Holland in 1697, Peter the Great returned to Russia with a zeal for pleasure craft, and he later opened Nevsky Flot, one of the world’s first yacht clubs, in St. Petersburg.

For a while, many of the biggest yachts were symbols of state power. In 1863, the viceroy of Egypt, Isma’il Pasha, ordered up a steel leviathan called El Mahrousa, which was the world’s longest yacht for a remarkable hundred and nineteen years, until the title was claimed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. In the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt received guests aboard the U.S.S. Potomac, which had a false smokestack containing a hidden elevator, so that the President could move by wheelchair between decks.

But yachts were finding new patrons outside politics. In 1954, the Greek shipping baron Aristotle Onassis bought a Canadian Navy frigate and spent four million dollars turning it into Christina O, which served as his home for months on end—and, at various times, as a home to his companions Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, and Jacqueline Kennedy. Christina O had its flourishes—a Renoir in the master suite, a swimming pool with a mosaic bottom that rose to become a dance floor—but none were more distinctive than the appointments in the bar, which included whales’ teeth carved into pornographic scenes from the Odyssey and stools upholstered in whale foreskins.

For Onassis, the extraordinary investments in Christina O were part of an epic tit for tat with his archrival, Stavros Niarchos, a fellow shipping tycoon, which was so entrenched that it continued even after Onassis’s death, in 1975. Six years later, Niarchos launched a yacht fifty-five feet longer than Christina O: Atlantis II, which featured a swimming pool on a gyroscope so that the water would not slosh in heavy seas. Atlantis II, now moored in Monaco, sat before the general secretary and me as we talked.

Over the years, d’Alessandri had watched waves of new buyers arrive from one industry after another. “First, it was the oil. After, it was the telecommunications. Now, they are making money with crypto,” he said. “And, each time, it’s another size of the boat, another design.” What began as symbols of state power had come to represent more diffuse aristocracies—the fortunes built on carbon, capital, and data that migrated across borders. As early as 1908, the English writer G. K. Chesterton wondered what the big boats foretold of a nation’s fabric. “The poor man really has a stake in the country,” he wrote. “The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht.”

Each iteration of fortune left its imprint on the industry. Sheikhs, who tend to cruise in the world’s hottest places, wanted baroque indoor spaces and were uninterested in sundecks. Silicon Valley favored acres of beige, more Sonoma than Saudi. And buyers from Eastern Europe became so abundant that shipyards perfected the onboard banya , a traditional Russian sauna stocked with birch and eucalyptus. The collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, had minted a generation of new billionaires, whose approach to money inspired a popular Russian joke: One oligarch brags to another, “Look at this new tie. It cost me two hundred bucks!” To which the other replies, “You moron. You could’ve bought the same one for a thousand!”

In 1998, around the time that the Russian economy imploded, the young tycoon Roman Abramovich reportedly bought a secondhand yacht called Sussurro—Italian for “whisper”—which had been so carefully engineered for speed that each individual screw was weighed before installation. Soon, Russians were competing to own the costliest ships. “If the most expensive yacht in the world was small, they would still want it,” Maria Pevchikh, a Russian investigator who helps lead the Anti-Corruption Foundation, told me.

In 2008, a thirty-six-year-old industrialist named Andrey Melnichenko spent some three hundred million dollars on Motor Yacht A, a radical experiment conceived by the French designer Philippe Starck, with a dagger-shaped hull and a bulbous tower topped by a master bedroom set on a turntable that pivots to capture the best view. The shape was ridiculed as “a giant finger pointing at you” and “one of the most hideous vessels ever to sail,” but it marked a new prominence for Russian money at sea. Today, post-Soviet élites are thought to own a fifth of the world’s gigayachts.

Even Putin has signalled his appreciation, being photographed on yachts in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. In an explosive report in 2012, Boris Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister, accused Putin of amassing a storehouse of outrageous luxuries, including four yachts, twenty homes, and dozens of private aircraft. Less than three years later, Nemtsov was fatally shot while crossing a bridge near the Kremlin. The Russian government, which officially reports that Putin collects a salary of about a hundred and forty thousand dollars and possesses a modest apartment in Moscow, denied any involvement.

Many of the largest, most flamboyant gigayachts are designed in Monaco, at a sleek waterfront studio occupied by the naval architect Espen Øino. At sixty, Øino has a boyish mop and the mild countenance of a country parson. He grew up in a small town in Norway, the heir to a humble maritime tradition. “My forefathers built wooden rowing boats for four generations,” he told me. In the late eighties, he was designing sailboats when his firm won a commission to design a megayacht for Emilio Azcárraga, the autocratic Mexican who built Televisa into the world’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster. Azcárraga was nicknamed El Tigre, for his streak of white hair and his comfort with confrontation; he kept a chair in his office that was unusually high off the ground, so that visitors’ feet dangled like children’s.

In early meetings, Øino recalled, Azcárraga grew frustrated that the ideas were not dazzling enough. “You must understand,” he said. “I don’t go to port very often with my boats, but, when I do, I want my presence to be felt.”

The final design was suitably arresting; after the boat was completed, Øino had no shortage of commissions. In 1998, he was approached by Paul Allen, of Microsoft, to build a yacht that opened the way for the Goliaths that followed. The result, called Octopus, was so large that it contained a submarine marina in its belly, as well as a helicopter hangar that could be converted into an outdoor performance space. Mick Jagger and Bono played on occasion. I asked Øino why owners obsessed with secrecy seem determined to build the world’s most conspicuous machines. He compared it to a luxury car with tinted windows. “People can’t see you, but you’re still in that expensive, impressive thing,” he said. “We all need to feel that we’re important in one way or another.”

Two people standing on city sidewalk on hot summer day.

In recent months, Øino has seen some of his creations detained by governments in the sanctions campaign. When we spoke, he condemned the news coverage. “Yacht equals Russian equals evil equals money,” he said disdainfully. “It’s a bit tragic, because the yachts have become synonymous with the bad guys in a James Bond movie.”

What about Scheherazade, the giant yacht that U.S. officials have alleged is held by a Russian businessman for Putin’s use? Øino, who designed the ship, rejected the idea. “We have designed two yachts for heads of state, and I can tell you that they’re completely different, in terms of the layout and everything, from Scheherazade.” He meant that the details said plutocrat, not autocrat.

For the time being, Scheherazade and other Øino creations under detention across Europe have entered a strange legal purgatory. As lawyers for the owners battle to keep the ships from being permanently confiscated, local governments are duty-bound to maintain them until a resolution is reached. In a comment recorded by a hot mike in June, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national-security adviser, marvelled that “people are basically being paid to maintain Russian superyachts on behalf of the United States government.” (It usually costs about ten per cent of a yacht’s construction price to keep it afloat each year. In May, officials in Fiji complained that a detained yacht was costing them more than a hundred and seventy-one thousand dollars a day.)

Stranger still are the Russian yachts on the lam. Among them is Melnichenko’s much maligned Motor Yacht A. On March 9th, Melnichenko was sanctioned by the European Union, and although he denied having close ties to Russia’s leadership, Italy seized one of his yachts—a six-hundred-million-dollar sailboat. But Motor Yacht A slipped away before anyone could grab it. Then the boat turned off the transponder required by international maritime rules, so that its location could no longer be tracked. The last ping was somewhere near the Maldives, before it went dark on the high seas.

The very largest yachts come from Dutch and German shipyards, which have experience in naval vessels, known as “gray boats.” But the majority of superyachts are built in Italy, partly because owners prefer to visit the Mediterranean during construction. (A British designer advises those who are weighing their choices to take the geography seriously, “unless you like schnitzel.”)

In the past twenty-two years, nobody has built more superyachts than the Vitellis, an Italian family whose patriarch, Paolo Vitelli, got his start in the seventies, manufacturing smaller boats near a lake in the mountains. By 1985, their company, Azimut, had grown large enough to buy the Benetti shipyards, which had been building enormous yachts since the nineteenth century. Today, the combined company builds its largest boats near the sea, but the family still works in the hill town of Avigliana, where a medieval monastery towers above a valley. When I visited in April, Giovanna Vitelli, the vice-president and the founder’s daughter, led me through the experience of customizing a yacht.

“We’re using more and more virtual reality,” she said, and a staffer fitted me with a headset. When the screen blinked on, I was inside a 3-D mockup of a yacht that is not yet on the market. I wandered around my suite for a while, checking out swivel chairs, a modish sideboard, blond wood panelling on the walls. It was convincing enough that I collided with a real-life desk.

After we finished with the headset, it was time to pick the décor. The industry encourages an introspective evaluation: What do you want your yacht to say about you? I was handed a vibrant selection of wood, marble, leather, and carpet. The choices felt suddenly grave. Was I cut out for the chiselled look of Cream Vesuvio, or should I accept that I’m a gray Cardoso Stone? For carpets, I liked the idea of Chablis Corn White—Paris and the prairie, together at last. But, for extra seating, was it worth splurging for the V.I.P. Vanity Pouf?

Some designs revolve around a single piece of art. The most expensive painting ever sold, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” reportedly was hung on the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s four-hundred-and-thirty-nine-foot yacht Serene, after the Louvre rejected a Saudi demand that it hang next to the “Mona Lisa.” Art conservators blanched at the risks that excess humidity and fluctuating temperatures could pose to a five-hundred-year-old painting. Often, collectors who want to display masterpieces at sea commission replicas.

If you’ve just put half a billion dollars into a boat, you may have qualms about the truism that material things bring less happiness than experiences do. But this, too, can be finessed. Andrew Grant Super, a co-founder of the “experiential yachting” firm Berkeley Rand, told me that he served a uniquely overstimulated clientele: “We call them the bored billionaires.” He outlined a few of his experience products. “We can plot half of the Pacific Ocean with coördinates, to map out the Battle of Midway,” he said. “We re-create the full-blown battles of the giant ships from America and Japan. The kids have haptic guns and haptic vests. We put the smell of cordite and cannon fire on board, pumping around them.” For those who aren’t soothed by the scent of cordite, Super offered an alternative. “We fly 3-D-printed, architectural freestanding restaurants into the middle of the Maldives, on a sand shelf that can only last another eight hours before it disappears.”

For some, the thrill lies in the engineering. Staluppi, born in Brooklyn, was an auto mechanic who had no experience with the sea until his boss asked him to soup up a boat. “I took the six-cylinder engines out and put V-8 engines in,” he recalled. Once he started commissioning boats of his own, he built scale models to conduct tests in water tanks. “I knew I could never have the biggest boat in the world, so I says, ‘You know what? I want to build the fastest yacht in the world.’ The Aga Khan had the fastest yacht, and we just blew right by him.”

In Italy, after decking out my notional yacht, I headed south along the coast, to Tuscan shipyards that have evolved with each turn in the country’s history. Close to the Carrara quarries, which yielded the marble that Michelangelo turned into David, ships were constructed in the nineteenth century, to transport giant blocks of stone. Down the coast, the yards in Livorno made warships under the Fascists, until they were bombed by the Allies. Later, they began making and refitting luxury yachts. Inside the front gate of a Benetti shipyard in Livorno, a set of models depicted the firm’s famous modern creations. Most notable was the megayacht Nabila, built in 1980 for the high-living arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, with a hundred rooms and a disco that was the site of legendary decadence. (Khashoggi’s budget for prostitution was so extravagant that a French prosecutor later estimated he paid at least half a million dollars to a single madam in a single year.)

In 1987, shortly before Khashoggi was indicted for mail fraud and obstruction of justice (he was eventually acquitted), the yacht was sold to the real-estate developer Donald Trump, who renamed it Trump Princess. Trump was never comfortable on a boat—“Couldn’t get off fast enough,” he once said—but he liked to impress people with his yacht’s splendor. In 1991, while three billion dollars in debt, Trump ceded the vessel to creditors. Later in life, though, he discovered enthusiastic support among what he called “our beautiful boaters,” and he came to see quality watercraft as a mark of virtue—a way of beating the so-called élite. “We got better houses, apartments, we got nicer boats, we’re smarter than they are,” he told a crowd in Fargo, North Dakota. “Let’s call ourselves, from now on, the super-élite.”

In the age of oversharing, yachts are a final sanctum of secrecy, even for some of the world’s most inveterate talkers. Oprah, after returning from her sojourn with the Obamas, rebuffed questions from reporters. “What happens on the boat stays on the boat,” she said. “We talked, and everybody else did a lot of paddleboarding.”

I interviewed six American superyacht owners at length, and almost all insisted on anonymity or held forth with stupefying blandness. “Great family time,” one said. Another confessed, “It’s really hard to talk about it without being ridiculed.” None needed to be reminded of David Geffen’s misadventure during the early weeks of the pandemic, when he Instagrammed a photo of his yacht in the Grenadines and posted that he was “avoiding the virus” and “hoping everybody is staying safe.” It drew thousands of responses, many marked #EatTheRich, others summoning a range of nautical menaces: “At least the pirates have his location now.”

The yachts extend a tradition of seclusion as the ultimate luxury. The Medici, in sixteenth-century Florence, built elevated passageways, or corridoi , high over the city to escape what a scholar called the “clash of classes, the randomness, the smells and confusions” of pedestrian life below. More recently, owners of prized town houses in London have headed in the other direction, building three-story basements so vast that their construction can require mining engineers—a trend that researchers in the United Kingdom named “luxified troglodytism.”

Water conveys a particular autonomy, whether it’s ringing the foot of a castle or separating a private island from the mainland. Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist, gave startup funding to the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit group co-founded by Milton Friedman’s grandson, which seeks to create floating mini-states—an endeavor that Thiel considered part of his libertarian project to “escape from politics in all its forms.” Until that fantasy is realized, a white boat can provide a start. A recent feature in Boat International , a glossy trade magazine, noted that the new hundred-and-twenty-five-million-dollar megayacht Victorious has four generators and “six months’ autonomy” at sea. The builder, Vural Ak, explained, “In case of emergency, god forbid, you can live in open water without going to shore and keep your food stored, make your water from the sea.”

Much of the time, superyachts dwell beyond the reach of ordinary law enforcement. They cruise in international waters, and, when they dock, local cops tend to give them a wide berth; the boats often have private security, and their owners may well be friends with the Prime Minister. According to leaked documents known as the Paradise Papers, handlers proposed that the Saudi crown prince take delivery of a four-hundred-and-twenty-million-dollar yacht in “international waters in the western Mediterranean,” where the sale could avoid taxes.

Builders and designers rarely advertise beyond the trade press, and they scrupulously avoid leaks. At Lürssen, a German shipbuilding firm, projects are described internally strictly by reference number and code name. “We are not in the business for the glory,” Peter Lürssen, the C.E.O., told a reporter. The closest thing to an encyclopedia of yacht ownership is a site called SuperYachtFan, run by a longtime researcher who identifies himself only as Peter, with a disclaimer that he relies partly on “rumors” but makes efforts to confirm them. In an e-mail, he told me that he studies shell companies, navigation routes, paparazzi photos, and local media in various languages to maintain a database with more than thirteen hundred supposed owners. Some ask him to remove their names, but he thinks that members of that economic echelon should regard the attention as a “fact of life.”

To work in the industry, staff must adhere to the culture of secrecy, often enforced by N.D.A.s. On one yacht, O’Shannassy, the captain, learned to communicate in code with the helicopter pilot who regularly flew the owner from Switzerland to the Mediterranean. Before takeoff, the pilot would call with a cryptic report on whether the party included the presence of a Pomeranian. If any guest happened to overhear, their cover story was that a customs declaration required details about pets. In fact, the lapdog was a constant companion of the owner’s wife; if the Pomeranian was in the helicopter, so was she. “If no dog was in the helicopter,” O’Shannassy recalled, the owner was bringing “somebody else.” It was the captain’s duty to rebroadcast the news across the yacht’s internal radio: “Helicopter launched, no dog, I repeat no dog today”—the signal for the crew to ready the main cabin for the mistress, instead of the wife. They swapped out dresses, family photos, bathroom supplies, favored drinks in the fridge. On one occasion, the code got garbled, and the helicopter landed with an unanticipated Pomeranian. Afterward, the owner summoned O’Shannassy and said, “Brendan, I hope you never have such a situation, but if you do I recommend making sure the correct dresses are hanging when your wife comes into your room.”

In the hierarchy on board a yacht, the most delicate duties tend to trickle down to the least powerful. Yacht crew—yachties, as they’re known—trade manual labor and obedience for cash and adventure. On a well-staffed boat, the “interior team” operates at a forensic level of detail: they’ll use Q-tips to polish the rim of your toilet, tweezers to lift your fried-chicken crumbs from the teak, a toothbrush to clean the treads of your staircase.

Many are English-speaking twentysomethings, who find work by doing the “dock walk,” passing out résumés at marinas. The deals can be alluring: thirty-five hundred dollars a month for deckhands; fifty thousand dollars in tips for a decent summer in the Med. For captains, the size of the boat matters—they tend to earn about a thousand dollars per foot per year.

Yachties are an attractive lot, a community of the toned and chipper, which does not happen by chance; their résumés circulate with head shots. Before Andy Cohen was a talk-show host, he was the head of production and development at Bravo, where he green-lighted a reality show about a yacht crew: “It’s a total pressure cooker, and they’re actually living together while they’re working. Oh, and by the way, half of them are having sex with each other. What’s not going to be a hit about that?” The result, the gleefully seamy “Below Deck,” has been among the network’s top-rated shows for nearly a decade.

Billboard that resembles on for an injury lawyer but is actually of a woman saying I told you so.

To stay in the business, captains and crew must absorb varying degrees of petty tyranny. An owner once gave O’Shannassy “a verbal beating” for failing to negotiate a lower price on champagne flutes etched with the yacht’s logo. In such moments, the captain responds with a deferential mantra: “There is no excuse. Your instruction was clear. I can only endeavor to make it better for next time.”

The job comes with perilously little protection. A big yacht is effectively a corporation with a rigid hierarchy and no H.R. department. In recent years, the industry has fielded increasingly outspoken complaints about sexual abuse, toxic impunity, and a disregard for mental health. A 2018 survey by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network found that more than half of the women who work as yacht crew had experienced harassment, discrimination, or bullying on board. More than four-fifths of the men and women surveyed reported low morale.

Karine Rayson worked on yachts for four years, rising to the position of “chief stew,” or stewardess. Eventually, she found herself “thinking of business ideas while vacuuming,” and tiring of the culture of entitlement. She recalled an episode in the Maldives when “a guest took a Jet Ski and smashed into a marine reserve. That damaged the coral, and broke his Jet Ski, so he had to clamber over the rocks and find his way to the shore. It was a private hotel, and the security got him and said, ‘Look, there’s a large fine, you have to pay.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, the boat will pay for it.’ ” Rayson went back to school and became a psychotherapist. After a period of counselling inmates in maximum-security prisons, she now works with yacht crew, who meet with her online from around the world.

Rayson’s clients report a range of scenarios beyond the boundaries of ordinary employment: guests who did so much cocaine that they had no appetite for a chef’s meals; armed men who raided a boat offshore and threatened to take crew members to another country; owners who vowed that if a young stew told anyone about abuse she suffered on board they’d call in the Mafia and “skin me alive.” Bound by N.D.A.s, crew at sea have little recourse.“We were paranoid that our e-mails were being reviewed, or we were getting bugged,” Rayson said.

She runs an “exit strategy” course to help crew find jobs when they’re back on land. The adjustment isn’t easy, she said: “You’re getting paid good money to clean a toilet. So, when you take your C.V. to land-based employers, they might question your skill set.” Despite the stresses of yachting work, Rayson said, “a lot of them struggle with integration into land-based life, because they have all their bills paid for them, so they don’t pay for food. They don’t pay for rent. It’s a huge shock.”

It doesn’t take long at sea to learn that nothing is too rich to rust. The ocean air tarnishes metal ten times as fast as on land; saltwater infiltrates from below. Left untouched, a single corroding ulcer will puncture tanks, seize a motor, even collapse a hull. There are tricks, of course—shield sensitive parts with resin, have your staff buff away blemishes—but you can insulate a machine from its surroundings for only so long.

Hang around the superyacht world for a while and you see the metaphor everywhere. Four months after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the war had eaten a hole in his myths of competence. The Western campaign to isolate him and his oligarchs was proving more durable than most had predicted. Even if the seizures of yachts were mired in legal disputes, Finley, the former C.I.A. officer, saw them as a vital “pressure point.” She said, “The oligarchs supported Putin because he provided stable authoritarianism, and he can no longer guarantee that stability. And that’s when you start to have cracks.”

For all its profits from Russian clients, the yachting industry was unsentimental. Brokers stripped photos of Russian yachts from their Web sites; Lürssen, the German builder, sent questionnaires to clients asking who, exactly, they were. Business was roaring, and, if some Russians were cast out of the have-yachts, other buyers would replace them.

On a cloudless morning in Viareggio, a Tuscan town that builds almost a fifth of the world’s superyachts, a family of first-time owners from Tel Aviv made the final, fraught preparations. Down by the docks, their new boat was suspended above the water on slings, ready to be lowered for its official launch. The scene was set for a ceremony: white flags in the wind, a plexiglass lectern. It felt like the obverse of the dockside scrum at the Palm Beach show; by this point in the buying process, nobody was getting vetted through binoculars. Waitresses handed out glasses of wine. The yacht venders were in suits, but the new owners were in upscale Euro casual: untucked linen, tight jeans, twelve-hundred-dollar Prada sneakers. The family declined to speak to me (and the company declined to identify them). They had come asking for a smaller boat, but the sales staff had talked them up to a hundred and eleven feet. The Victorians would have been impressed.

The C.E.O. of Azimut Benetti, Marco Valle, was in a buoyant mood. “Sun. Breeze. Perfect day to launch a boat, right?” he told the owners. He applauded them for taking the “first step up the big staircase.” The selling of the next vessel had already begun.

Hanging aloft, their yacht looked like an artifact in the making; it was easy to imagine a future civilization sifting the sediment and discovering that an earlier society had engaged in a building spree of sumptuous arks, with accommodations for dozens of servants but only a few lucky passengers, plus the occasional Pomeranian.

We approached the hull, where a bottle of spumante hung from a ribbon in Italian colors. Two members of the family pulled back the bottle and slung it against the yacht. It bounced off and failed to shatter. “Oh, that’s bad luck,” a woman murmured beside me. Tales of that unhappy omen abound. In one memorable case, the bottle failed to break on Zaca, a schooner that belonged to Errol Flynn. In the years that followed, the crew mutinied and the boat sank; after being re-floated, it became the setting for Flynn’s descent into cocaine, alcohol, orgies, and drug smuggling. When Flynn died, new owners brought in an archdeacon for an onboard exorcism.

In the present case, the bottle broke on the second hit, and confetti rained down. As the family crowded around their yacht for photos, I asked Valle, the C.E.O., about the shortage of new boats. “Twenty-six years I’ve been in the nautical business—never been like this,” he said. He couldn’t hire enough welders and carpenters. “I don’t know for how long it will last, but we’ll try to get the profits right now.”

Whatever comes, the white-boat world is preparing to insure future profits, too. In recent years, big builders and brokers have sponsored a rebranding campaign dedicated to “improving the perception of superyachting.” (Among its recommendations: fewer ads with girls in bikinis and high heels.) The goal is partly to defuse #EatTheRich, but mostly it is to soothe skittish buyers. Even the dramatic increase in yacht ownership has not kept up with forecasts of the global growth in billionaires—a disparity that represents the “one dark cloud we can see on the horizon,” as Øino, the naval architect, said during an industry talk in Norway. He warned his colleagues that they needed to reach those “potential yacht owners who, for some reason, have decided not to step up to the plate.”

But, to a certain kind of yacht buyer, even aggressive scrutiny can feel like an advertisement—a reminder that, with enough access and cash, you can ride out almost any storm. In April, weeks after the fugitive Motor Yacht A went silent, it was rediscovered in physical form, buffed to a shine and moored along a creek in the United Arab Emirates. The owner, Melnichenko, had been sanctioned by the E.U., Switzerland, Australia, and the U.K. Yet the Emirates had rejected requests to join those sanctions and had become a favored wartime haven for Russian money. Motor Yacht A was once again arrayed in almost plain sight, like semaphore flags in the wind. ♦

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Charter Season: 7 of the World’s Best Yachting Locations

From the French Riviera to the British Virgin Islands, Luxury Defined explores seven glamorous yachting destinations around the globe

Does anything even approach the romance, adventure, and freedom of cruising the Seven Seas in a luxury yacht? The vessel is built to enhance, embrace, and refine every aspect of life at sea. The best designs emphasize space, fixtures, finishes—and creature comforts.  

The superyacht dials all that up to 11 by maximizing livability with such amenities as swimming pools, personal watercraft (a minisub , anyone?), satellite links, private chefs, outdoor entertainment decks, cinemas, even helipads.    

For any sea traveler, though, the best leg of any voyage is the voyage home . This edition of Luxury Defined showcases the world’s most livable yachting destinations, and the homes that equal—or even exceed—superyacht luxury.  Welcome home, sailor, home from the sea.  

1. The French Riviera  

French Riviera coastline

Perhaps the most glamorous seaside destination in Europe, the French Riviera , or Côte d’Azur, draws the sailor and sunseeker alike. Picture-postcard villages and chic beach resorts line the coast from the cosmopolitan glitz of Saint-Tropez and Cannes to the unspoiled beauty of Port-Cros.  

The winter resort city of Nice, with its ample sunshine, white sand beaches, and special events such as the Cannes Film Festival attract a who’s who of international glitterati. West along the coastline, past the jet-set destination of Saint-Tropez, the island of Porquerolles awaits, with a peaceful escape from the bustle of the mainland.  

Waterfront estate on French Riviera

2. Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, Italy  

Coast of Italy

Sardinia’s Emerald Coast is a playground for the jet set, and its dramatic, unspoiled coastline and luxury marinas draw yacht folk from all over. The marine grottoes of Cala Gonone and the rock formations of Capo Testa, shaped by centuries of sea winds, are favorite attractions.  

While the quaint towns of Carloforte and Castelsardo provide local color, the exclusive Yacht Club Costa Smeralda offers dining, a clubhouse, and spa services. Sailors can explore the tiny islands of the Maddalena archipelago or the white sandy beaches and rocky cliffs along the Gallura coast. Tranquil sunset viewing turns to fine dining and sizzling nightlife in the exclusive restaurants, clubs, and discos of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo.  

Italian estate on the coast

3. The Greek Islands

Greek islands

Surrounded by its “wine-dark” seas and thousands of islands, ancient Greece prospered with a maritime culture that became the cradle of Western civilization.  

There is plenty left to explore, from the natural beauty of its uninhabited isles to the beaches and cosmopolitan nightlife that have made islands such as Mykonos into global destinations. Yachters can stop for an archaeological exploration on Rhodes or Delos, a night on the tiles in the tavernas of Athens, to the nightclub scene of Mykonos, Corfu, and Crete, the largest of the Greek islands.  

The adventure starts in the ancient seaport of Piraeus, in southwestern Athens. Zea Marina is one of the finest, full-service marinas in the Mediterranean, offering 670 berths for vessels up to 492 feet.  

Greek Islands waterfront home

4. The Bahamas  

Yachts in The Bahamas

The 700 islands of The Bahamas begin at Bimini, just 45 miles off the coast of Miami, and stretch 500 miles southwest to the islands of Great Inagua and Little Inagua, neighboring the Turks and Caicos Islands.  

The Bahamas were made famous by Ian Fleming (the islands featured in the James Bond spy thrillers Casino Royale , Thunderball , The Spy Who Loved Me , Never Say Never Again , and License to Kill ). But they’ve been a haven for sailors and swashbucklers since the 18th century.  

They’re a paradise below the waterline, too, for sport fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Palm-lined beaches, nature preserves, world-class golf courses, and colorful Colonial-style villas welcome seafarers ashore.  

Bahamas waterfront estate

5. The Florida Keys  

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys arc southwest from Virginia Key in the Atlantic Ocean (just south of Miami Beach) to Loggerhead Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote seven-island archipelago in the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles off Key West. The islands are easy to navigate. Cruising in the Keys can mean a leisurely and scenic sail through the shallow interconnected basins of Florida Bay or a more adventurous trip out on the open waters of the Atlantic.    

But it’s not all plain sailing. Mariners can drop anchor in a coral cove to swim, snorkel, or fish, or drop anchor in Islamorada, the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.”  Of course, a trip to the Keys is not complete without a visit to continental America’s southernmost city, Key West, otherwise known as the Conch Republic—a place described as “close to perfect and far from normal,” where flip-flops are the official footwear and every day the sunset is applauded.  

Florida Keys waterfront home

6. The British Virgin Islands  

British Virgin Islands

One of the world’s great sailing destinations, the BVI comprises four main islands—Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, and Virgin Gorda. There are 50 more islands and cays, including Necker Island (Sir Richard Branson’s private paradise) and Salt Island, home of the wreck of the RMS Rhone, and hundreds of tiny palm-lined islets, sandbars, and rocky outcroppings to navigate, bounded by the beautiful Sir Francis Drake Channel, named after the Elizabethan admiral.   

There are countless draws for mariners: calm currents, steady trade winds, and protected bays. It’s a treasure trove, quite literally—some say it’s buried on Norman Island at the southern tip of the archipelago, made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island . Today, The Bight, one of the BVI’s most popular (and beautiful) anchorages, enchants seafarers with its sea caves, wreck-diving, and the infamous Willy T floating pirate bar and restaurant.   

British Virgin Islands waterfront home

7. Bermuda  


Bermuda has been the crossroads of the North Atlantic voyage since the town of St. George’s was settled by shipwrecked sailors in 1609. Between March and November each year, racing yachts from around the globe arrive in the harbors of St. George’s and Hamilton parishes to compete in regattas organized by Bermuda’s many sailing clubs. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the island’s temperate climate is a year-round draw for leisure travelers, who come to cruise the island’s Great Sound and soak up the sun and local culture. The warm waters are ideal for scuba diving, whether it’s to explore marine wildlife habitats or historic shipwrecks that dot the reefs around Bermuda’s perimeter.

Bermuda house

Still exploring the Seven Seas? Set sail for luxury yachting homes here .  

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Dubai Emerges as a World-Class Destination for Luxury Yachts

In recent years Dubai has commanded attention for its spectacular architecture, vibrant economy, and allure for luxury travelers. It's hard to believe that not too long ago this innovative city was a small trading port; now it is a state-of-the-art maritime center as well as a world-class destination and home base for yacht owners. Over the past decade Dubai has strategically developed its amenities and services with the aim of creating a thriving nautical ecosystem. For foreign-flagged craft the introduction to the area begins with a seamless arrival experience. 

Today there are 22 marinas and more than 3,600 berths for boats, including many for superyachts, megayachts, and gigayachts. To accommodate these vessels an array of modern maintenance and repair facilities has opened, along with technical support, specialty marine stores, and, notably, marina-based health and wellness centers that cater to yacht guests and crews.  

The warm weather and safe, tranquil seas here, especially from October to April, provide extraordinarily pleasurable cruising conditions, all complemented by Dubai's land-based attractions. The city is known for its scenic coastline, luxe hotels, cultural fare, and award-winning restaurants. Cruise-in, dock-and-dine opportunities are a new trend, offering the possibility to moor for a few hours while enjoying fine dining at a resort or hotel, a spa treatment, or the amenities of a beach club. 

Luxe and well-equipped marinas abound. Among the newest and most popular are the following:  

Dubai Harbour, which opened in 2020 with space for 700 vessels, is in the heart of Dubai, with easy access to tourist attractions and encompassing cafes, shops, VIP lounges, and the Dubai Harbour Yacht Club.  

Nakheel Marinas Dubai Islands was launched in 2023 along the city's north coast, offering easy cruising to the open sea; it can accommodate 13 superyachts at a time. 

Luxurious and picturesque P & O Marinas has a total of 1,200 wet berths and 600 dry berths and includes well-known Mina Rashid, which can host a range of pleasure craft, plus superyachts between 25 and 160 meters. 

Located on the prestigious Jumeirah Bay Island, along a promenade that resembles a Mediterranean village, Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club is a superyacht anchorage that includes berths for vessels from 10 to 40 meters as well as dock-and-dine services.

Also noteworthy are Bay Marina, Dubai's first dedicated superyacht marina, with berths for vessels up to 160 meters; Palm View Marina, located on the Dubai Harbour seafront, which boasts a lively shoreside walkway; and Nakheel Marinas on Palm Jumeirah, which welcomes a range of sailing vessels with 261 berths in two marinas plus luxury yacht services. 

Dubai's busy winter-season calendar is filled with international events that appeal to yacht owners and other high-end travelers. The Dubai Desert Classic, Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships, Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix, Emirates Dubai 7s rugby, and Dubai World Cup horse racing are just a few of the must-see tournaments for sports aficionados. On the cultural scene, there are Art Dubai, Dubai Watch Week, DIFC Art Nights, and World Art Dubai. High-profile maritime expositions that showcase the latest in yacht design, technology, and luxury include the Dubai International Boat Show, which celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year, and the three-day Gulf Superyacht Summit 2024, coming in November. 

As Dubai has grown as a world-class yachting destination, the city has also focused on sustainability of its rich marine environment through collaborations and green marina initiatives with the aim of promoting responsible yachting and protecting the ocean's biodiversity. Ensuring the health of the seas is a crucial element in maintaining Dubai's importance to the luxury yachting community now and for generations to come. 

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Frugal Traveler

Affordable Island-Hopping in Croatia? What Could Go Wrong?

A 30-percent-off Black Friday sale on a cruise aboard a yacht meant off-season sailing and being prepared for the unexpected.

A view from a hill of a red-roofed town surrounding a harbor. In the foreground, the ruins of an ancient fortification wall follow the downward slope of a steep hill. And in the distance, beyond the harbor with its numerous small boats, is a string of small green islands.

By Elaine Glusac

Elaine Glusac is the Frugal Traveler columnist, focusing on budget-friendly tips and journeys.

As Croatians tell the story , the Greek hero Odysseus was shipwrecked and held captive on the Croatian island of Mljet. Visiting in May, I and six other sailors embraced the myth when the motor on our 54-foot yacht failed.

“Remember, Odysseus spent seven years on Mljet,” said Ivan Ljubovic, our captain. “We can do two nights.”

In the scheme of things, the clogged fuel filter that impeded our progress on a seven-night, island-hopping cruise from Split to Dubrovnik on a yacht — which the passengers helped sail — was minor. Though an engine, even on a sailboat, is vital for docking and sticking to schedules on becalmed days, most of my shipmates agreed that getting waylaid in a village with Roman ruins on a turquoise bay was an acceptable fate.

I had been resigned to what were, in my mind, worse inconveniences when I had signed up for the trip last November. Then, the tour operator G Adventures had put several trips on sale over the Black Friday weekend. Its best deals were in the off-season, which meant potentially chilly weather and closed restaurants and attractions. But leaving in late April for seven nights of island hopping at roughly $1,300 — after a 30 percent discount — was too tempting to pass up.

My cousin Kim agreed and we made plans to pack rain gear and meet in Split to test the budget waters.

‘Everything between is an adventure’

Little about the itinerary was published pre-departure and none of it was firm.

“Split and Dubrovnik are fixed,” said the captain, who would pilot the ship solo and double as our guide, on our first day. “Everything between is an adventure.”

It started with the Sauturnes, a handsome Kufner yacht with four snug guest cabins, four economical bathrooms where the retractable faucet doubled as a shower spigot, and a spacious galley. Our “crew,” a mix of Australians and Americans ranging from 18 to 75 — all of whom had also jumped on the promotional pricing — spent most of the time atop the boat, where foam mattresses invited sunbathing and a cockpit awning provided shade.

The weather, which turned out to be sunny and comfortably cool, was not our greatest concern. The G Adventures website had mentioned well-known islands, including beachy Brac and Vis , which played a convincing Greek idyll in the movie “Mamma Mia 2.” But since many places would be closed in the shoulder season, we would proceed, according to the captain, based on the dictates of the weather and conditions on shore.

Meals were not included, which meant finding open restaurants was critical. For shipboard breakfasts and lunches, we each chipped in 50 euros (about $54) for communal groceries, which we shopped for at local markets. At night, we would dine at restaurants; G Adventures advised budgeting $250 to $325 for the week, which was accurate, though we often splurged on Croatian wine (a carafe of house red averaged $15).

Small ports

After the frenzy of grocery shopping and moving into the bunk-bedded cabin Kim and I shared, we experienced the Zen of sailing as the ship set off on a sunny morning for 43-mile-long Hvar , the longest and purportedly sunniest island in Croatia.

Neighboring islands drifted past as the wind patterned the sea in shifting ripples and ruffles. A flock of shearwaters soared by at eye level.

Within a few hours, the ridgelines of steep Hvar appeared, revealing terraced lavender fields and olive orchards. Motoring down a long, narrow inlet, we arrived in Stari Grad , a village of stone homes with terra cotta roof tiles, as travelers had since 384 B.C., when Greek sailors from the island of Paros settled here.

Our mooring provided a front-row view of fishing boats and cafes animating the waterfront. Stari Grad’s attractions, including the Greek ruins of Faros and a 17th-century Venetian cathedral, had yet to open for the season, but we relished exploring the old quarter’s narrow lanes and deserted plazas.

From the waterfront, an aerobic 20-minute hike up a steep hill crowned by a giant white cross offered views over Stari Grad and the plains beyond, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of fourth-century agricultural fields, with stone walls circumscribing grapevines and olive orchards.

That evening, we visited them to reach Konoba Kokot , a farm restaurant that specializes in “peka,” a kind of barbecue in which meat cooks under an iron lid piled with hot coals. The family that runs it opened in the preseason, welcoming us with bracing shots of rakija, a local herbal liquor. At a long table under an arbor, we gorged on homemade goat cheese, wild boar pate and, from the hearth, roast lamb, veal and octopus with limitless jugs of red and white wine for 35 euros a person.

Starry nights

Small ships are unmatched at getting into small ports, but a yacht trip is also a little like camping, starting most mornings with D.I.Y. instant coffee. Marinas offered free bathhouses with showers.

Cool temperatures apparently deterred the celebrity-filled mega yachts, which are known to anchor in the town of Hvar on the south shore of Hvar island. Our captain declared it the “Mykonos of Croatia” as we motored by the port bustling with visitors carrying shopping bags and cones of gelato.

With clear weather in the forecast, we moored in an undeveloped cove east of town. The mooring belonged to the owners of Moli Onte restaurant, who ferried us to land on a motorized dingy, allowing us enough time before dinner to visit the fortress above Hvar and have an Ozujsko beer on St. Stephens Square, the largest in the region of Dalmatia.

Back on board, with no artificial light to wash out the night sky, we hit the upper deck for stargazing. As my shipmates peeled off to bed, I grabbed a blanket and beanie and bedded down under the stars for the evolving show, periodically waking to catch the drama of the moon rising, reflected in the still water.

Little Dubrovnik

Fingers of gray rock reached down to meet sloping vineyards along Hvar’s south coast as we departed for its neighbor, Korcula. On our longest day of sailing, five hours, I welcomed the chance to play first mate, manning the lines on the jib sail.

To break up the trip, Captain Ljubovic navigated to a quiet cove off the Peljesac Peninsula where the Caribbean-blue waters, cloudless sky and sandy bottom convinced us to jump in despite numbing sea temperatures.

Fifteenth-century walls ring the historic center of Korcula, earning it the nickname “Little Dubrovnik.” Past the stone gates carved with a winged lion representing the empire of Venice, which controlled much of the Adriatic after the 13th century, narrow alleys led to ornate churches and mansions. There was no better history trip than getting lost in the web of pedestrian lanes. Or so we told ourselves as we passed the purported home of Marco Polo, still closed preseason.

Along the seafront walls, restaurants served pizza and seafood under lights strung in the pines and we caught sunset from a former turret, now converted into Massimo Cocktail Bar , which requires patrons to climb a ladder to the rooftop, a caution against second rounds.

The most romantic port of the trip was also the rowdiest, at least in the marina, which was hosting a Polish sailing regatta. When I headed for the showers at 6 a.m. the next morning, I found a group still cheerfully dancing atop a yacht littered in empty booze bottles and crushed potato chips.

Marooned on Mljet

We left Korcula on strong 20-knot “jugo” or south winds and Captain Ljubovic unleashed the sails, saying “You paid for a sailing vacation, not a motorboat.”

As we tacked back and forth toward Mljet , the boat heeled at a queasy angle and we took face shots of ocean spray.

On Mljet, where the western end of the island is home to Mljet National Park , we rented bikes (10 euros) to ride a lung-busting route over the park’s mountain spine. On the other side, we cycled around a pair of inland lakes and took a boat trip to a 12th-century monastery built on an island in one of them (park admission, 15 euros).

Docked in the still sleepy town of Polace, we heard tales of high season, when up to 100 yachts anchor in the bay and members of the band U2 were once seen biking in the park. After a brief shower, the town glimmered at sunset and the restaurant Stella Maris welcomed us with grilled sea bass (25 euros) and prawns (20 euros).

“I’m so glad I chose this time, because I don’t do crowds,” said my shipmate Nova Hey, 46, of Sydney, who was traveling with her 18-year-old daughter.

In the morning, I had the trail to the peak of Montokuc to myself. The roughly three-mile round-trip hike reached one of the highest points on the island, a rocky knob with stunning panoramas shared by a family of feral goats.

Not long thereafter, the Sauternes’ engine refused to turn over, stranding us in a national park on a remote island with no mechanics.

Teeming Dubrovnik

The next morning, Captain Ljubovic jimmied a fix but it didn’t last long and the engine died again, this time just opposite a cave on Mljet that we joked had to be the refuge of Odysseus.

After a morning of light sailing, a mechanic from the mainland arrived by speedboat and within an hour we were motoring toward the Franjo Tudman Bridge that spans the inlet to the Dubrovnik marina where hot showers awaited.

“Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia,” said Captain Ljubovic as we spent the last of our pooled money, 70 euros, hiring a taxi van to get us to and from the walled heart of the ancient city about 15 minutes away.

With two large cruise ships in port, Dubrovnik was teeming with visitors and the price to climb the stone walls that encircle the city was a sticker-shocking 35 euros. (In the ensuing two days Kim and I would spend post-cruise in the city, we bought the more comprehensive Dubrovnik Pass for 35 euros that included admission to the walls as well as several museums and public bus transportation.)

On our final evening, we measured the lack of crowds versus closed museums; perfect hiking weather versus swim-inviting water; ample dock space versus more restaurant choices — and felt we’d come out ahead sailing in the bargain season.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

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Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

Ljubljana, Slovenia:  Stroll along the river, explore a contemporary art scene and admire panoramic views in this scenic Central European capital .

Cities With Great Beaches:  Already been to Miami, Honolulu and Sydney? These five other coastal destinations  are vibrant on land and on the water.

Southern France:  The Canal du Midi traverses the Occitanie region and gives cyclists of all skill levels  access to parts of France that are rich in lore .

Port Antonio, Jamaica:  The D.J. and music producer Diplo recommends spots in a city he loves  on Jamaica’s northeast coast. A dance party makes the cut.

New Mexico:  Visiting the vast and remote Gila Wilderness, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, is both inspiring and demanding .

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A ship found far off Israel’s coast could shed light on the navigation skills of ancient mariners

A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Thursday.


This photo released by Israel’s Antiques Authority (IAA) on Thursday, June 20, 2024 shows Jacob Sharvit, left, and Dr. Karnit Bahartan, right, with the ancient jars that were carried on the world’s oldest known deep-sea ship, as seen some 55.9 miles (90 kilometers off of the Israeli coastline. A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday. (Emil Aladjem/ Israel Antiquities Authority via AP)

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This photo made from video released by Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Thursday, June 20, 2024 shows cargo that was carried on the world’s oldest known deep-sea ship, as seen some 55.9 miles (90 kilometers off of the Israeli coastline. A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday. (Energean/ Israel Antiques Authority via AP)

This photo released by Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Thursday, June 20, 2024 shows the control room of the Energean Star ship that mounted an operation to retrieve cargo that was carried on the world’s oldest known deep-sea ship, as seen some 55.9 miles (90 kilometers off of the Israeli coastline. A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday. (Emil Aladjem/ Israel Antiquities Authority via AP)

This photo made from video released by Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Thursday, June 20, 2024 shows a Canaanite jar being retrieved by a robot from a depth of 1.11 miles (1.8 kilometers) that was carried on the world’s oldest known deep-sea ship, as seen some 55.9 miles (90 kilometers off of the Israeli coastline.. A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday. (Energean/ Israel Antiquities Authority via AP)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Thursday.

The discovery of the late Bronze Age ship so far out at sea indicates that the navigation abilities of ancient seafarers were more advanced than previously thought because they could travel without a line of sight to land, the IAA said.

The great depth at which the ship was found means it has been left undisturbed by waves, currents or fishermen over the millennia, offering greater potential for research, it said.

“The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of ancient mariner abilities. It is the very first to be found at such a great distance with no line of sight to any landmass,” said Jacob Sharvit, head of the IAA marine unit, adding that two similar ships from the same era had been discovered previously, but only close to shore.

Sharvit said the assumption by researchers until now has been that trade during that era was conducted by boats sailing close to the shore, keeping an eye on land while moving from port to port. He said the newly discovered boat’s sailors probably used the sun and the stars to find their way.


The wooden ship sank about 90 kilometers (55 miles) off Israel’s Mediterranean coast and was discovered at a depth of 1,800 meters (1.1 miles) by Energean, a natural gas company which operates a number of deep-sea natural gas fields in Israel’s territorial waters.

In its work, Energean said it uses a submersible robot to scour the sea floor. About a year ago, it came across the 12 to 14 meter (39 to 45 foot) -long ship buried under the muddy bottom, nestled under hundreds of jugs that were thousands of years old.

The boat and its cargo were fully intact, the IAA said, adding that the vessel appeared to have sunk either in a storm or after coming under attack by pirates.

The ship for now is not being retrieved.

Energean worked with the IAA to retrieve two of the jugs, which were likely used for carrying oil, wine or fruit, and bring them to the surface for research.

The IAA identified the jugs as Canaanite, a people who resided in the lands abutting the eastern Mediterranean.

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Local News | Dali departs Baltimore for first time since…

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Local News | Dali departs Baltimore for first time since bridge collapse, heads to Virginia

The container ship Dali is escorted through the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse site on its way to Norfolk, Virginia, on Monday. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

Three months after it crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge and sent the span tumbling into the Patapsco River, the 984-foot Dali container ship began slowly sailing under its own power — assisted by four tugboats — just before 8:30 a.m. Monday to Norfolk, Virginia. After a trip of 16 to 20 hours, the Dali was expected to tie up early Tuesday to unload all of its containers and receive more extensive repairs.

With crushed containers still resting on the bow and a tarp covering a hole in the hull, the ship left the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal and then turned right to follow the federal shipping channel. Marine tracking data indicated the ship traveled at roughly 9 knots (10 mph) for the bulk of its transit during the day Monday.

Traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis was halted for roughly 20 minutes at 11 a.m., as the ship approached the bridge. To avoid distracting drivers, the Maryland Transportation Authority sometimes stops traffic on the bridge when vessels of high public interest sail underneath.

About 100 people gathered at Sandy Point State Park, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, to spectate as the damaged Dali — still carrying fragments of Key Bridge — safely sailed beneath the span that links Central Maryland to the Eastern Shore. The crowd, some of whom peered through binoculars, fell so silent as the ship approached that birds could be heard chirping. As the Dali safely transited the bridge, observers called out: “Threading the needle” and “Through the goal posts.”

“Did you notice how quiet everyone was?” said Paula Schnabel, of St. Margaret’s. “It was almost solemn.”

The Dali had been in Baltimore since it lost power in the early hours of March 26, colliding with a Key Bridge pier and collapsing the structure, killing six construction workers. Debris from the disaster blocked Baltimore’s shipping channel for more than two months, and the bridge’s demise eliminated one of only three harbor crossings, slowing car and truck traffic in the area.

The container ship Dali is escorted through the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse site on its way to Norfolk on Monday. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI are both investigating the calamity. As the Dali sailed Monday, the NTSB released a rare update to its investigation, noting that it is focusing on a small electrical component of a circuit that connects two wires, known as a “terminal block.” The NTSB took the component to a lab for further testing, it said in a statement, also noting it had completed interviews with the 21 crew members aboard the ship at the time of the incident.

Prompted by the collapse, the Coast Guard has also initiated a board of inquiry to evaluate potential risks to other bridges in the U.S.

Last month, crews used explosives to cut up a piece of the Key Bridge that sat atop the Dali, then refloated the vessel. Five tugboats moved the ship to the Seagirt Marine Terminal, where some of the wreckage on its crumpled bow was removed. Some of that debris remained on the vessel as it transited Monday, however, and several workers could be seen standing on the bow as the vessel began its voyage. The ship will undergo further cleanup and repairs in Norfolk.

Containers remained on the Dali in Baltimore to weigh the ship down so it fit under the Bay Bridge, which has about 185 feet of vertical clearance.

The Coast Guard enforced a 500-yard safety zone around the Dali during its voyage, and there will also be a 100-yard safety zone once the ship is moored near Norfolk to protect from “potential hazards created by the heavily damaged M/V Dali while it offloads cargo,” according to a Coast Guard memo.

The Dali leaves Baltimore for first time since Key Bridge collapse | PHOTOS

A few people gathered at Fort Armistead Park earlier in the day to watch the ship’s departure from the Port of Baltimore, including George M. Treas III, who lives nearby. He likened the bridge collapse to “losing somebody” and said visiting the area is “like going to a graveyard.”

As Treas watched the ship slowly depart, he said: “It feels good. I feel safer now. They caused enough havoc here.”

Bob and Karen Merrey had to tend to some business on the other side of the Bay Bridge from their home on Kent Island, and they left early Monday to avoid the span’s closure.

They had been scheduled to take Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise out of Baltimore on April 4, but with the port closed at the time, they themselves had to travel to Norfolk to board. Retirees from the Towson area with a son who lives near the Key Bridge, the couple had driven across that span the day before the catastrophe.

They quietly watched Monday from Sandy Point State Park as the Dali passed before them and beneath the Bay Bridge.

“I still,” Bob said, “get goosebumps.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

Watch live: Dali ship departs from Baltimore

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A Randallstown man has been indicted on 17 counts including automobile manslaughter, DUI homicide and motor vehicle theft, in connection with an April 20 crash in Eldersburg that killed one woman and sent another to the hospital, according to a Monday news release from the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office.

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