First Impression: Big Fish
Date toured: October 2010
“We’d been communicating by e-mail, and he said he’d be at the Monaco Yacht Show, so I set up a meeting and got a flight from my home base in Victoria, Canada. My flight arrived late, and I was changing my clothes in the taxi because I knew the owner only had a half-hour. I got there and he said, ‘I’m a minimalist. I hate stuff. I want to look out, not at my stuff. I don’t care if the boat is 120 or 180 feet long. I want a boat that is interesting.’ Then he asked me, ‘How long do you need to knock my socks off?’ I said, ‘Well, if we don’t have it in six weeks, I’m not the guy for you.’ He said, ‘Fine, I’ll see you in six weeks at my home in Hong Kong.’”
The yacht that launched in April 2010 from the McMullen and Wing shipyard in New Zealand is a realization of the original sketches that Marshall presented in Hong Kong.
And Big Fish is definitely interesting—perhaps the most innovative, interesting charter yacht I’ve ever seen. Expedition and adventure are her mission, and she appears equipped to the task in spades.
She is truly a glass boat, with more and larger windows than other charter yachts, by a factor of three or four. That, in and of itself, is an innovative feat because of the engineering required to get so much glass past international inspectors. Each window had to be built in five layers (glass, polymer, glass, polymer, glass) to withstand the required pressure. Then it had to be built optically clear, without a single distortion. As I sat in the main salon and looked through each pane, all I could think was, “Amazing.”
Then there are Big Fish’s outdoor decks. Virtually all charter yachts in this size range have decks made from teak. This owner wanted something more environmentally friendly—no trees being cut down, and materials that would last at least a generation, as opposed to a decade. He asked project manager David Darwent why Big Fish couldn’t have the same type of stone that’s on his home patio. It comes clean with fresh water, and it’s far more durable than teak.
“I told him we couldn’t do it because it’s brittle, and it will crack,” Darwent recalls. “He looked at me and said, ‘Are you 100 percent sure?’ So we invented flexible granite. There are tiny spaces between the particles in granite, and we figured out how to inject resin into them. We had some Italian experts help us.”
Countless other details add to the uniqueness that is Big Fish. A 35-foot-tall video wall graces the main foyer. Several terraces fold out from both the middle and the stern of the yacht, creating an expanse of open-air space that is simply unavailable aboard other boats of any size. The tender—whose name is Triple Ripple—has been designed with 200-mile range and serious helm electronics for actual exploring. All the lighting on Big Fish is LED, which is more environmentally friendly than other types of lighting that draw more power and create more heat that requires cooling via air conditioning. Hot water is created by recirculating the 186-degree flow from the generator coil around the freshwater tank. All the indoor fabrics are actually top-quality outdoor fabrics, for easy maintenance and worry-free use.
“We have an owner who is wonderfully imaginative,” Marshall said as he showed me around. “He doesn’t want the same thing as everybody else.”
Yet more interesting details include the yacht’s crow’s nest—a small space with seating high above the sundeck. “We have all these giant, open spaces on the boat,” Marshall says. “Sometimes, you want a private space for two or three people to sit with coffee or wine, look around, and be comfortable.”
There’s also the immensely comfortable king-size bed in the master suite on the bridge deck. “When I saw the specs, I said, ‘Who would spend $35,000 on a mattress?’” Marshall recalls. “Then I slept on it. Now I get it.”
Even better news about Big Fish is that she’s the first in what the owner envisions as a line of ever-more-interesting motoryachts marketed under the brand name Aquos Yachts. Next out of the shipyard and into the charter world will be Starfish, which is four months into construction as of this writing and due to launch at the end of 2012. Swordfish is on the drawing board to follow, likely by the end of 2014.
“Starfish isn’t going to have just a video wall,” Marshall said. “We’re making video ceilings. You could put the high-resolution night-vision camera on the mast, point it up, and sit in the salon watching the sky go by. You could zoom in if you want and see the craters on the actual moon. Imagine what you could do with product presentations during a corporate charter.”
In Tahiti, Big Fish had dancers come aboard with swords, and despite the contact they made with the outdoor granite decks, no damage was done. “We thought, ‘Hey, on Starfish, we could have a fire pit,” Marshall says. “She’ll have them on both the fore and aft decks.”
And perhaps the best news of all is that Big Fish is encouraging other yacht owners to go down similarly creative paths. While yacht charter remains primarily a sea of big, white megayachts, Big Fish is inspiring a departure from traditional design.
“We’re finding other owners who say, ‘Do for me what you did on Big Fish,’” Marshall says. “It’s women, too, not just the men. This is a boat meant for adventure, family, and multigenerational fun. So all of the sudden, it’s not just the husband’s trophy or toy. All of these people are coming out of the woodwork. They don’t want to sit at the dock. They want to go to Galapagos. They want to go to Antarctica. They want to go everywhere that Big Fish is going, and they don’t want to do it on some big, dowdy research vessel.”
Sign me up, too. I can honestly say that after seeing Big Fish, other charter yachts, to me, will never feel the same. This yacht changes the charter game, and in a very, very good way.
Big Fish is part of the charter fleet at 37 South. Her weekly base rate for 10 guests with 10 crew is $195,000. All-inclusive rates are available in Antarctica, where Big Fish is available for charter through March 2011. Any reputable charter broker can tell you more or help you book a week onboard.