Helicopter: serious sea toy

Do you hate expressways and trips to the airport? Do you like to hover?

Then you might really like owning a helicopter.

Let’s talk about the LongRanger, Bell Helicopter 206L4, which was shown at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show on the deck of the 190-foot yacht Mi Sueño (Spanish for “My Dream”).

“This one costs about $3 million,” said Anthony Moreland, managing director of Bell’s North America commercial business. Other models range from $1 million to $12 million.

The cabin of the LongRanger can hold the pilot and six passengers, with five seats in the back and two in front.

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Features include a high-inertia, two-blade rotor system and a patented suspension system that delivers a smooth ride, club-seating configuration that allows for face-to-face conversation, and 61-inch doors that open wide for easy access to its 80-cubic-foot cabin.

It’s not necessary to go into decorative details, because the sky’s the limit. The helicopter “can be painted any color the customer wants,” Moreland said. “Sometimes they paint them to match their boats, planes and homes; and some people have a fleet, matching leathers and woods.”

And they are fast, safe and comfortable, he added. “They can go up to 10,000 feet, cruise at 125 to 130 knots (130 to 135 miles per hour), typically fly 300 to 400 miles, and, in an emergency, there’s still a lot of control. If there’s engine failure, they can still be landed very safely. An advantage over a plane — they don’t need forward motion, meaning there are more places for them to land.

“And they can hover.”

Bell International, an 80-year-old company, has its main location in Fort Worth, Texas, with independently owned service facilities all over the country. In the United States, Bell serves five types of clientele: offshore (e.g., flying people out to oil rigs), corporate, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and utility operators.

Individual customers, usually affluent people who are entrepreneurs, senior executives or retired senior executives, use them for flying themselves or their guests from their home to the airport, their businesses or to yachts, Moreland said, noting that he had fewer than 12 Palm Beach customers.

“This type of client I place in my corporate segment. They are a good business for us,” Moreland said.

Some of the owners have their pilot’s license; some don’t.

“Often, even if they are enthusiastic for aviation, they’ll have private pilots, or they have an arrangement with service providers who provide the pilot and the maintenance personnel, and we have a facility in north Fort Lauderdale,” he said.

Some yacht owners like to come back and forth, from boat to land, in a helicopter rather than a tender, Moreland added.

“They keep the helicopter in a hangar on land; a few have their own hangars. The owners come down in their airplane, get on the helicopter, get on the boat, and the helicopter goes back to the hangar. It can stay on the boat, which is under way, but the deck has to be designed so that you can secure the helicopter — that’s not ideal.”

Looks like helicopters prefer not to rock and roll.

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

Rybovich services superyachts

It’s business before pleasure, even for floating pleasure crafts. With cruises headed for the Caribbean along with area boat shows, it’s full steam ahead for ocean-going yachts, South Florida and Rybovich.

“A very typical sequence: Many yachts come to our facility from the Mediterranean at the end of their summer season. They cross the Atlantic on their own or on a transport ship,” said Francois van Well, vice president of business development for Rybovich. “We do the maintenance, repair, paintwork, etc., in preparation for the boat shows or their cruising season.”

Or both. Take the 190-foot Mi Sueno, for example. Built by Trinity in 2010, the yacht that can accommodate up to 12 guests for charter is shipshape inside and out. With luxurious interiors designed by Patrick Knowles, amenities include Honduran mahogany, maple burl and wenge-wood finishes; an elevator; Jacuzzi; splash pool; garage for toys; and touch-and-go helicopter capability.

It’s also fast, said its captain Glynn Smith. “Along with our many special features, we also have a great capability to increase our cruising footprint. While most yachts cruise at 13 or 14 knots, we cruise at 17 knots. That means we can get to places quicker.”

Last fall, Mi Sueno came across the Atlantic in bad weather and had to stop in the Azores and Bermuda, which caused a week delay. Normally, it can run across the Atlantic in 12 days.

This meant a very fast turnover at Rybovich before the Fort Lauderdale boat show.

“Once we got to Rybovich after thrashing about in the ocean, we had to do a huge clean up, get the engines and generators serviced, and have the minor wear-and-tears repaired,” Smith said.

He and his crew unloaded the sundeck so that they could put the helicopter onboard, took part in the boat show, came back to Rybovich, reloaded the sundeck, provisioned the boat and left for a charter in The Bahamas. “Each time at Rybovich, it took us about 12 hours, and they worked through the night as well, because time was so short,” he said.

On the move

Over a year’s time, Rybovich sees between 30 to 50 ocean-going yachts (from 160 feet to 350 feet) making these kinds of turnarounds, van Well said.

“It’s a big part of our business,” he said. “A lot more man-hours are required on larger boats, and these clients have a limited availability to do their repairs because they are constantly on the move. They know their schedule and they tell us when their yacht has to depart, and we get the work done.”

If a boat has been at the Monaco boat show in September, it’s at Rybovich in October at the earliest. If not, it’s here mid-December in time for a Christmas cruise. Some turn right around Jan. 2 or 3 for spring cruises, and then they head back to Europe or New England in April and May for summer cruises, he explained.

This particular segment of business from the yachting world is new to West Palm Beach, van Well said.

“Large yachts are coming to us because we have the ability to facilitate and service them,” he said. “We bought the dry dock so that we can get large yachts out of the water, and we are continuing to invest toward building a larger facility in Riviera Beach to cater to these yachts, which can bring economic growth to our business and West Palm Beach.”

To make that happen, Rybovich is waiting for a permit to dredge. Also, Huizenga Holdings, the company that owns Rybovich, recently proposed to West Palm Beach a plan to develop a six-tower village on 14 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway. Already approved by the planning board, it will go to the city commission in February.

Now for the pleasure side, using Mi Sueno as an example again. The yacht, which currently is for sale and for charter through Worth Avenue Yachts in Palm Beach, uses South Florida as a base for its Caribbean charters and the boat shows.

It’s offered for sale for $36.95 million and to charter, the price is $300,000 a week in winter for The Bahamas and Caribbean tours, and its high-season summer rate in the Mediterranean is 325,000 euros, said Shannon McCoy, Worth Avenue Yacht’s head of business development.

“Glynn Smith has one of the best ‘can-do’ attitudes of anyone we’ve worked with, and his crew is young and energetic,” she said. “They are so fun, and they cover every detail. They go above and beyond, creating unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

These months are great for cruises to the Virgin Islands, she said. Here’s her suggestion for an enjoyable outing: “The yacht picks up its clients at Yacht Haven Grand in St. Thomas. They cruise to Jost Vandyke, a small island in the British Virgin Islands. It’s fun to anchor out and go to the beach by tender and enjoy the local drink, Pain Killer, at the Soggy Dollar Bar (it’s named that because customers swim in). Then they can walk down the beach and watch a magic show performed by local islander, Seddey, who owns the One Love bar. For dinner that evening, it’s pleasant to visit Foxy, a restaurant that boaters made famous.”

Captain Smith, who hails from Southampton, England and now lives in Fort Lauderdale, especially enjoys his charters around Italy.

“We typically go to Capri and it’s only a seven- or eight-hour hop to Stromboli north of Sicily in the Aeolian Islands,” he said. “With a live volcano, Stromboli is an incredible island. In the evening, our guests watch it erupt while they eat dinner.

“Positano on the Amalfi Coast is absolutely stunning, and another beautiful area is the entrance to Bonifacio, Corsica, where our clients love going through the huge cliffs. It’s a fjord and we back in stern first all the way down about a mile.”

While Mi Sueno can accommodate a helicopter, not everyone charters one, he said. However, there are tenders and plenty of toys on board that his clients can enjoy: jet skis, WaveRunners, Seabobs, inflatables, skis, wakeboards, snorkel and dive gear, even a regulation basketball hoop.

“We did wakeboarding behind this boat down the coast off of Tuscany for a client. It was a spectacular day. Our client was an avid wake boarder, and I asked him if he wanted to do something really cool that nobody had done. We towed two people from 300-foot lines at 16 knots with a wake of 5-to-6-feet high. He loved it. That was one in a million, a magical day, with dolphins jumping in the wake. His face lit up.”

Concerning food, clients will have what they want. No exceptions. “There are no ‘I’m sorry, we can’t get it,’ ” Smith said. “A client might drop $20,000 in caviar, and one wanted to buy $70,000 of Cristal Champagne. Normally we get it in advance, but we will fly it in to make it happen.”

With 7,000 square feet of interior living space overall, on the main deck are a stunning main salon, wine cellar and elegant dining room with a table that can seat 14 guests comfortably.

The full-width, split-level owners’ cabin with 270 degrees of panoramic windows is forward on the main deck and includes a king bed, study, lounge and his-and-hers bathrooms.

Five en-suite staterooms on the lower deck include a full-width VIP king suite, two king staterooms, a wheelchair-accessible queen stateroom and a twin stateroom with a Pullman berth.

There are multiple conversation areas throughout, including three exterior living areas. The upper deck features a panoramic sky lounge with oversized windows and an air conditioned aft deck, and on the sundeck, which is touch-and-go helicopter-capable, are a workout area, bar, Jacuzzi and splash pool.

The crew accommodations support up to 14 crew in seven cabins, including the captain’s cabin aft of the pilot house.

The lower deck is laid out with a beach club/tender garage, the main machinery space, engineer’s cabin and additional crew cabin.

“The mantra of this yacht is ‘fun.’ It’s a toy, and there’s no hotel in the world that can match what we do,” Smith said.

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

Found: giant squid and other deep-sea critters

Deep (limited only by the depth of your pocket). Dark (where sunlight fears to go). Cold (but air-conditioned and temperature-controlled).

Inhabited by creatures that few have ever seen, the ocean’s depths hold vast unknowns. Fortunately, a Vero Beach company, Triton Submarines, builds submersibles that make that world accessible to private owners.

A Triton’s sub — it looks like a big bubble on floaters — is small enough to be towed behind a yacht. But its main advantage is its 360 degrees of view, said Troy Engen, Triton’s pilot, head of operations and mechanical-systems specialist. “I used to drive subs with little tiny windows, and what you wanted to see seemed to be just around the corner.”

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In Antartica

When you scuba dive, it’s not about what you see directly in front of you; it’s about the surroundings, Engen said. “The Triton’s transparent hull has the same refraction as water. People put their hand out to where the water looks to be, because it’s like a window that just goes away. You feel kind of like a fish.”

You can go where no one has gone before, and you’ll see things no one has ever seen, he said. “We are diving to depths that scuba divers haven’t gone. Sport divers can go 130 feet, and we go far beyond that. A lot of creatures that we see at those depths, we’ll take photos and try to document them, show them to scientists.

“Corals, sponges, fish, jellyfish, things like that. I don’t know what they are, but neither do the scientists.”

In 2008, the company’s owners, Bruce Jones and Patrick Lahey, put together a team with a submarine background. They hired Engen four years ago, and they’ve built two 1000/2 models — that can transport two people to depths of 1,000 feet — and one 3300/3, which is capable of transporting three people to depths of 3,300 feet.

“We have three more 3300/3 models under construction and are currently negotiating another three orders,” Jones said.

There are 10 models, priced from $2.275 million, and Triton is looking for its first customer for the 36000/3, its deepest-diving multi-passenger submersible (price tag: $25 million).

The pioneers

Here’s a little background about those who’ve gone before, and about the Triton’s 36000/3. In 1960, Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh dove 36,000 feet — to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

A couple of years ago, James Cameron, the director of Titanic and The Abyss, and billionaire Richard Branson set out, separately, to be next to reach the bottom of the trench. (Cameron got there first, in March 2012.)

But while members of the Triton team would like to build a submersible to go to those depths, they are not racing to do it. “Our submarines have great visibility. The main difference between us and the others’ efforts is that what they are doing is a sort of publicity stunt,” Jones said.

“Ours is designed to be a commercial sub that can go down to the bottom of the ocean every day of the year. Ours is designed to do useful work on the bottom of the ocean. Each one we build will make thousands of dives in its lifetime.”

Already, Triton has undertaken some interesting dives.

Unusual dive mates

In June 2011, a Triton team went to Japan for its first charter with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, in search of giant deepwater sharks. And, yes, they found them, thanks to the craft’s bubble design.

“When we were in Sagami Bay, a 25-foot shark was lying on top of the sub. If we didn’t have all that acrylic visibility, we wouldn’t have known,” Engen said. “And when we were looking for the giant squid, it was a real advantage to be in a transparent vehicle, because we didn’t know where it was going to show up: in front of us, on the side, on top.”

Following that expedition, Triton went to the Ogasawara Islands with Discovery USA in search of the giant squid (they found it).

Triton has recently finished an Antarctica and a South Pacific trip.

But scientific organizations aren’t alone in chartering Triton subs. Adventurous long-range-cruising yacht owners and charterers like them, too.

Owner Jones said, “There are companies that we work with (EYOS and Henry Cookson Adventures) that utilize our subs for specialty charters to go to parts of the world where their clients are interested in seeing.”

Tritons, classed as “+A1 Manned Submersibles” by the American Bureau of Shipping, also are certified by the Cayman Island Shipping Registry. Licenses to operate are not necessary, and an existing yacht crew member can be trained to pilot as well as to maintain the sub, or the owner can be trained.

The subs have relatively small deck footprints — ranging in length from 10.5 feet to 13.5 feet — but they are heavy, for they need to weigh as much as the water they displace.

The sub can be towed out to a dive spot by a yacht. But the company also has designed a number of yachts with special launch-and-recovery systems for the subs.

And although one can’t say “the sky’s the limit” for Triton, the company’s executives are taking their concept as deep as they can. Jones wants to develop a multimedia company that would produce documentaries on how subs are built and where they go.

Jones also envisions building a seafloor resort, with a hotel and underwater residences. The cost of an ocean-bottom home? He estimates $12 million. “We can build it for you. It will have 2,600 square feet. I’d love to live in one, but I don’t know if I could afford it.”

Written for Palm Beach Daily News