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Megayachts sail into Stockholm

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19:13 CEST+02:00
Visitors to Stockholm this summer could almost have been forgiven for believing themselves in St Tropez. Sweden is becoming a favourite stop-off point for the ultimate status symbol: the megayacht. Simon Murley tries to peek inside.

The quaint old steam boats that chuff around the waters of the archipelago have recently been missing from their usual berths at Nybrokajen. They have been booted out to make room for a significantly larger - and costlier - breed of boat.

The latest of these giants to berth at Nybrokajen was the 54-meter Fortunate Sun, built in Australia in 2003 at a cost of over $40 million. Boasting six master cabins where ten guests are pampered by a crew of 12, Fortunate Sun buzzes with the latest technology. Should guests become bored of taking in yet another view of the Waxholm fortress, the boat is equipped with 12 plasma TV screens.

Stockholm's harbourmaster Henrik Almqvist says that megayacht traffic in Stockholm has risen by 200% since last year. Vessels have had to be turned away for lack of berths deep enough to accommodate these diesel-guzzling gargantuans of the waves. Yet those owners lucky enough to be able to dock alongside Skeppsbron and Nybrokajen pay a modest 2,000 krona per day fee for the luxury.

"Cruising the Baltic is now the in-thing," Almqvist says.

Yacht owners are now fleeing the usual summer watering holes of the Mediterranean in search of less crowded seas and ports of call. Favourite megayacht stop-offs include Visby on the island of Gotland, Kalmar, Finland's Åland archipelago and the neighbouring Baltic states.

At 54 meters, the Fortunate Sun is a quite tiny fish in comparison to some of other megayachts to have made a Stockholm summer break. The largest megayacht ever to have visited Stockholm was Rising Sun, owned by computer giant Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison. Rising Sun drew gaping-mouthed crowds when it stopped over in the Swedish capital in 2005. At 138 meters, the boat is ranked second on a list of the world's largest yachts compiled by Power and Motor Yacht magazine, and is just a few metres shorter than passenger ferry Birka Princess.

A regular to Stockholm waters is Skat, owned by the self-confessed “first nerd in space” ex-astronaut and former Microsoft chief programmer Charles Simonyi. Looking more like a warship than a yacht, she's at number 54 on the list.

Megayacht owners like to be discreet, and the owners of Fortunate Sun are no exception. Attempts to find their identity meet brick walls. Standing on the quayside, all that can be seen are drawn curtains and not a sign of life onboard. Trying to glean information from deckhands who spend their hours on duty endlessly buffing and sprucing up the paintwork is fruitless: crew members all have a confidentiality clause in their contracts forbidding them to reveal the slightest detail of who owns the yacht, where they are going, where they have been and who's onboard.

One wonders if actually working onboard one of these boats is all that glamorous a job. I mean, how more shiny can an already sparkling steel railing become?

Still, it's easy to understand the attraction: these vessels are truly masterpieces of modern engineering and amazing works of art. But they come at a price: chartering Fortunate Sun reportedly costs $250,000 a week, although this falls to a bargain $225,000 in the Caribbean's low season.

Even once you have scraped together the sixty million needed to buy your megayacht, it will keep burning a hole in your pocket : when Fortunate Sun left Nybrokajen for sunnier shores she had her 140,000-liter diesel tanks filled to the brim; for a mere 1,820,000 krona ($264,812).

Simon Murley

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