Live the high life on the high seas

Samuel Johnson, the 17th-century British lexicographer, critic, raconteur, and silly goose, had his own tack on life on the high seas: "Being in a ship is being in a jail," Johnson observed, "with the chance of being drowned."

Had Dr. J. been in Newport, R.I., earlier this year, he may have reconsidered.

There, among a bevy of pleasure boats - and taking up more ocean than they ought to - was a fleet of megayachts - all available for charter. Some captains graciously (and quite literally) rolled out the red carpet to a small group of bug-eyed journalists.

"Be sure to remove your shoes," we were reminded as we boarded in our stocking feet, lest we scuff up the teak decks.

"A yacht," says Lester Abberley, publisher of ShowBoats, International magazine, "is any boat with a professional crew." That's a bit like saying a Rolls Royce is any four-wheeled vehicle with a steering wheel.

These behemoths range from 80 to more than 245 feet. The bigger ones charter for more than $175,000 a week.

You heard me.

And how much bang for the buck?

"A professional crew, captain, and chef. All on an $8 million, self-contained, floating resort," says Mr. Abberley.

Before you pull out your checkbook, don't think you'll get away that cheaply. You'll also have to pick up the incidental expenses: fuel, beverages, food, docking fees, and tips. Tips alone can run 20 percent of your charter fee.

If you feel you have to pinch pennies, there are charters available for a modest weekly fee of $25,000. But don't bother looking for a helicopter pad or granite-lined his-and-her baths with Jacuzzis on these babies.

Some megayachts have an Audrey Hepburn grace. Others have a sort of Charo thing going on and look as though they were designed by someone who runs a string of massage parlors, with all the subtlety of a Trump casino.

Still others can have a downright cozy country-inn warmth. One, the Eastern Star, advertises as "The Cruising Country Inn."

The Eastern Star even has a small wood-burning stove for those dewy, damp nights. But it's your money, your pick.

The Margaux, at 116 feet, boasts three staterooms, and such don't-leave-port-without-them amenities like marble baths with gold fixtures, Ert sculptures and lithographs, bird's-eye maple paneling, an endless supply of Grey Poupon, and an empty 7,500-gallon gas tank just waiting for you to fill. (Let's see, at $2 a gallon, that's...? Oh, what do you care, just fill 'er up and put it on your platinum AmEx card.)

Something a tad bigger perhaps?

Dig out your November issue of ShowBoats International. There, anchored on page 201, at 325 feet in length is the Christina O, where Aristotle Onassis wowed Winston Churchill and wooed Maria Callas and the recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy. It's been updated and totally refurbished to accommodate you and 35 friends you'd like to impress. Charter agents Titan, Hyde & Torrance are waiting by the telephone to answer your queries.

And forgive me, Messrs. Titan, Hyde, and Torrance, but at these prices, when I charter the Christina, I'm going to wear golf shoes with iron cleats - or whatever I want on my feet.

Whatever your taste, and if money's no concern, there's a yacht here to fit your needs and fulfill your dreams - If only you didn't have to sell the farm and pull the kids out of college - for a week or two of pampered luxury.

But wait, something's missing. Where's the aptly named Robin Leach, former host of television's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"?

Somebody better check the galley.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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