18 December 2007

All I Want For Christmas

I'm afraid I've never been much of a man for machinery. Cars, I'm afraid, don't really do it for me, though I was delighted to discover the other day that a friend of mine had directed a few episodes of Top Gear. I'll admit that over the years, there've been a BMW bike or two that've made me swoon, but they're the exceptions that prove my rule.

Vehicles, I fear, really aren't my thing.

Well, that's what I thought until yesterday, when I was lured into looking at this lovely leviathan:

Yes, it's a personal luxury submarine with its own docking minisub. You want one too, don't you? And why not? Splash out - it's only 78 million dollars, after all! And frankly, I think it's worth every penny. Just look at the pressure hull!

The Phoenix 1000, for so this aquatic delight is incongruously named, is a beastly 65 metres long - that's 213 feet in old money. Four storeys high with two main passenger decks, its total interior surface area clocks in at over 460 square metres. If interior decoration is your thing you're in for a real treat, with the Phoenix's brochure declaring that 'the interior space, with the noted absence of structural bulkheads provides for tremendous versatility regarding interior layout and space planning'. I'd balk at decorating the lounge in the manner depicted in the brochure, though, which seems to anticipate the Phoenix being purchased by people who compensate for a lack of taste with a surplus of buttocks.

The Phoenix will comfortably cruise across the Atlantic at 15 knots, while if need be it can submerge down to a depth of 305 metres and continue at up to 10 knots. Of course, the brochure expresses this wonder rather more colourfully:
'And unlike surface yachts, when the water gets rough, the submarine can submerge into a perfectly smooth and quiet environment, continuing on towards its destination with a ride unsurpassed in quality: unequalled by the finest motor coach or the most luxurious executive aircraft.'
Mmmm. Quite.

The company that makes this beauty makes several smaller models as well: assuming you've already got your own superyacht, the Triton 1000 and Discovery 1000 have a certain charm, and I'd certainly not spurn an offered Nomad 1000, but to be honest the one that really takes my fancy is the Seattle 1000.

Leaving the Phoenix looking rather vulgar, the streamlined beauty that is the Seattle is a tasteful 36 metres long, easily harboured at any self-respecting marina, and it's not as if you'd be depriving yourself with such a vessel. For just 25 million dollars you'll get a submarine that can easily cross the Atlantic, and which comes complete -- should you so wish -- with five staterooms, five bathrooms, two kitchens, a gym, a wine cellar, and an observation portal that's nine metres long and five metres wide.

On the minus side, unlike the Phoenix, it lacks a detachable minisub -- the Phoenix has a docking minisub that can submerge to a depth of 610 metres -- or a place to stow a small car or a motorbike or two, but even so, it's only 25 million dollars. A bargain, I'm sure you'll agree, considering that a gaudy megayacht like Saddam's comes in at about 34 million. Surely there's somebody out there who likes me enough to donate? No? Anyone?

I was chatting about this to NMRBoy last night, who immediately asked whether large black leather swivel chairs are de rigeur in submarines such as these, and if so whether a white cat gets thrown in as part of the deal.

Other than Bond villains, what sort of people own such vessels? Unfortunately, Jean-Claude Carme, Vice-President for Marketing at U.S. Submarines, isn't very forthcoming on this point, saying of the purchasers of such submarines that 'Everyone down there is a wealthy eccentric. They're all intensely secretive.' The company's own website is a little more forthcoming, with the FAQ section featuring the key questions 'What advantages would there be to purchasing a Seattle 1000?' and 'What type of people buy luxury submarines?'

For what it's worth, among the listed advantages to buying a Seattle is 'international notoriety', whereas of the buyers it notes:
'Interested buyers tend to share one trait, they are all wealthy. We group them in to three additional categories.

The most interesting are the avid SCUBA divers and ocean aficionados who are very interested in the subsea world and view a luxury submarine as a vehicle for exploration.

With 2300 megayachts operational around the world, some costing in excess of $150 million, the stakes in the game of one upmanship are rising. Some yacht owners like the idea of having a larger and more unique toy.

The luxury submarine also attracts individuals who have never owned a yacht, but are fascinated with the idea of traveling beneath the surface of the world's oceans.

At U.S. Submarines we deal with all types of potential buyers, from wealthy Arab sheikhs, to world leaders and hi-tech mega-millionaires. However, virtually all insist on confidentiality.'
You'll notice that the phrase 'international megalomaniac supervillains with aspirations towards global conquest' doesn't get mentioned anywhere there. No mention either of L. Ron Hubbard style wannabes, tended hand and food by a cohort of teenage girls in white hotpants, bathing them, dressing them, and even catching the ash from their cigarettes.

Whatever. You're fooling nobody, Mr Carme. I'm seriously, who'd want to live in a place like this? We've all seen The Spy Who Loved Me, and been beguiled by Carly Simon singing the song Thom Yorke has called 'the sexiest song ever written'.

Admittedly, we've all seen Yellow Submarine too. Probably not auf Deutsch, mind.

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