Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lots on The Strange Mega Yacht "A"

The yacht's three pools include a high-powered jet pool for laps that can be switched from salt to fresh water.

At the top of a spiral staircase lined with scalloped, silver-leaf walls (the banister cost $60,000) is a door accessible by a fingerprint security system. It opens to an all-white, 2,583-square-foot master suite wrapped in bomb-proof, 44-milimeter glass. There, a king-sized bed sits on a giant platter that rotates with the press of a silver button. Another set of buttons rotates the bed itself. The combination of the rotating bed and the rotating platter allows limitless angles for watching the sunset, sunrise or the 60-inch plasma TV, which retracts from the ceiling.

Designed by Philippe Starck, the "A" has quickly become the most loved and loathed ship on the sea. WSJ's Robert Frank takes an exclusive tour of Andrey Melnichenko's 394-foot mega-yacht.

In the battle among Russia's billionaires for yacht supremacy, Roman Abramovich's upcoming 540-foot Eclipse may soon become the biggest, but Andrey Melnichenko's 394-foot "A" has become the most talked-about yacht on the seas.

With its radical shape—more sleek submarine than boxy pleasure boat—and reams of custom parts and finishes (including bath knobs costing $40,000 apiece), "A" is a conspicuous marker of an ocean-going plutocracy that's largely been untouched by the recession. The boat, designed by Philippe Starck and completed in mid-2008 for more than $300 million, has spawned a flotilla of copycats emulating its low-slung hull and design scheme. Numerous companies involved in its construction went bankrupt, done in by the novelty of the project and the level of customization required.

For all its fame, "A" remains a bit mysterious. Its owner, a 38-year-old banking, steel and fertilizer czar, is intensely private and requires all his construction crew and staff to sign strict confidentiality agreements . He and his wife only rarely entertain on board, and few public images of the boat's interior exist.

Dirk Kloosterman, "A"'s project manager and a veteran of the world's largest yachts, recently provided an exclusive tour of the boat's 23,600 square feet of living space.
The boat's interior departs dramatically from most conventions of yacht design. Instead of the usual overstuffed couches and mahogany walls, there are Baccarat-crystal tables, shiny white finishes and polished silver, a kind of Manhattan-loft-meets-Vegas aesthetic. Many of the rooms have floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which Mr. Starck says have a built-in "mathematical beauty" that also refer to the "mathematical genius" of Mr. Melnichenko.

..The walls of one room are covered in white sting-ray hides, while another is covered in hand-stitched calf's leather. The main deck features two Michel Haillard chairs made from alligator hides and Kudo horns. Known for his mischievous streak, Mr. Starck outfitted "A" with risqué touches like the suite dubbed the "nookie room" by the crew, with its white circular bed with padded walls and a ceiling-mounted TV.

Mr. Starck says that while most megayachts are "vulgar" statements of wealth and power, "A" was designed to be in harmony with the sea and nature. "This boat has elegance and intelligence, it is not trying to show the money," he adds.

As with many Russian-owned yachts, "A" is highly secure. Its rounded exterior and knife-like hull make it difficult for intruders to board. It has 44 security cameras and more than a dozen exterior cameras fitted with motion-detection systems and a night-vision infrared system.

It is also designed to outrun threats: Twin, high-speed diesel engines deliver 24,000 horsepower and push the 5,959-gross-ton ship to 24 knots, roughly a third faster than most boats its size. The boat, which is stabilized by fiber-optic gyroscopes and four giant motorized flaps, is rumored to also be equipped with a pod-like escape system, but the staff declined to comment.

A transom door in the rear of the boat, which swings with open to become a swim deck, is fitted with so many hydraulics, locking pins, rotating stairs and electronics that it cost around $25 million to build. The company that made it eventually went bankrupt, along with the company that made the bomb-proof wrap-around glass encasing the master suite and the company that built the hydraulic gangways. The ship's two main landing boats are mini-yachts themselves, stretching to 36 feet, boasting plush interiors and costing more than $1 million each.

There's little sign that the billionaire boat boom is ending. The recession has certainly hit the "middle-class" yacht market, as banks cut back on boat loans and mere millionaires struggle to rebuild their fortunes. Orders for boats of more than 80 feet fell to 753 last year from 992 in 2008, according to Showboats International magazine. Yet orders for superyachts, or those more than 250 feet, were actually up more than 20% in 2009, according to Showboats.

'A' has an unusual, swoopy design, a low-slung hull and twin engines that deliver 24,000 horsepower.

."A" has a crew of between 35 to 37 people, including stewards and stewardesses, mechanical engineers, security staff, housekeepers, deck hands, galley crew and chefs. The crew also has specialists for surfing, jet skiing, water skiing and cycling. All of the crew wear Starck-designed uniforms—crisp white dress shirts and white pants for daytime, and tight, black T-shirts and slacks for evening. The boat costs over $20 million a year to maintain; Filling the gas tank costs more than $500,000.

There are many discussion groups and forums about "A" online, with titles like "The Ugliest Yacht in the World" and "Should Philippe Starck Design Boats?" Debates can get heated: On the "Insider's Guide to St. Bart's"—a Web site frequented by vacationers on the upscale Caribbean island—dozens of "A" spotters tracked the boat's daily movements.

Do We Live In A Beautiful Place or What?

Early morning, sun coming up, boats ready to go......shown here 28 ft Andrea.

We Said There Were a Lot of Black Marlin.....but this one was big.....

We just received this e-mail from a group that fished a few days ago on the 37 ft Bertram "Falcon" are the photos to prove it....we couldn't put them all as we would run out of space!

"On behalf of myself, Steven Thomas, Tim Ross and Mark Colerick, I would to tell you how much we appreciated and how pleased we were with Pisces Sportfishing, the day, the boat 'Falcon' with the crew of Capt. Manuel and his assistant Jesus and the pleasure we experienced during the day and with your organization September 13th. Capt Manuel and Jesus working their tails off and was much appreciated. Their professionalism and experience sure paid off with a wonderful day and catch. Attached are some pictures of our eventful day and feel free to use for your blog.
The tally amounted to two (2) Striped Marlin at 130+ pounds each, a Sailfish weighing in at 140 pounds (all released) a Dorado,at 60 lbs, two other momentarily hooked but lost Striped Marlin, and a 900 pound Black Marlin fought for 5 hours but  that eventually broke line and was lost. I believe this should  be considered a catch, seeing the leader twice, with a touch of the leader once. I understand this catch may have also been the record for the 'Falcon' and crew and might possibly be a record for Pisces. Please confirm and verify the weight of the catches with the Falcon crew if you like but these weights are what we thought was conveyed to us from the Captain and Jesus. We began fishing in 5500'-6000' of water and caught the first Marlin 1 1/2 hours after boarding and leaving port.

My appreciation also to Oscar Banagas with his picture of the 'Falcon' and all on board back in port.

I would also like 'Falcon' and Pisces T-shirts when available, please contact when you have more in stock. I also have a video of the Black Marlin I can send you if you like.

Thanks again for a great experience, a Great day and a lasting memory. We will definately be recommending your organization to others and hopefully be chartering a return visit in the future.

Thanks, Bill Thomas, Kingwood, Texas"

What Happens to Fish That Are Killed

Pisces is very much conservation minded and we ask anglers to release all billfish that they do not intend to eat, in fact our release rate is 98.6%, we believe this to be one of the highest release rates in Mexico. It was not always so and over the years we have educated our crews and clients to see how releasing favors the long term health of sportfishing. Unless a fish is injured beyond the ability to survive or the angler wants a skin mount or wants to take the fillets home, pretty much all are released. Locally and culturaly marlin is considered a good source of protein, especially in these hard economic times - one marlin can feed a lot of families. This year has been one of the best we have seen in a decade for blue and black marlin with a lot of large fish caught or nearly caught. We were sent the pictures below by Mario Bañaga of a fish caught out of San Jose  by local Juan Carlos Castro aboard a private boat. It is a black marlin that weighed 480 lbs...he caught on 100 lb test line whilst trolling an 18 lb tuna as bait aboard the boat "Fisherman" with captain "Perico" Sanchez ...this is a boat to watch they place pretty much in every tournament they enter. Sounds like they were practising for the October tournament season. The photos show the fish and then how it is filleted to distribute to local families.

La Paz Gold Cup Fishing Tournament

Cabo is not the only place to hold fishing tournaments, each summer there is a great tournament in La Paz too, the payouts are not as large and are in pesos, but 1st place took over one million pesos this year.This is a fun tournament but we would like to see a 300 lb weight minimum in place to preserve the blue marlin population. Seventy Four boats entered this event that took place last week-end and the results were as follows:

Victor Manuel Diaz  with a  400 lb Black Marlin aboard  Asturon

Esaul Valdez with a 251 Lb  Blue Marlin aboard Dottie B lI

Daniel Fisher  Jr. for a 249 Lb Blue Marlin aboard Fisherman (last year's winning boat in the Tuna Tournament).

Angel Rafael Agundez  with a 235 lb Blue Marlin aboard Condor.

Photos show the happy anglers receiving their prizes and the winning fish. Photos by Mario Bañaga Jr.

Pisces Fish Report

September 11th to September 17th, 2010

Overall Catch Success Rate 96.3%

BILLFISH: The fishing is still hot in Cabo with pretty much every boat catching lots of fish… the only boat that did not catch, fought and lost a blue and a striped marlin on their trip...Striped marlin are still the most numerous billfish hook ups but we also had a couple of blues and sailfish. One of the best days was on the 11th for our Pisces client mentioned on the past fish report, Art Hevener with his son from Philadelphia, PA releasing three striped marlin and a blue marlin approximately 200 lbs both with live bait at the Herradura aboard “Rebecca”; they also caught a 70 lbs yellow fin tuna and one dorado for dinner.. Good job!! On this same boat, Ken Olive Jr and family from Kingwood, TX had a great day on the 13th releasing four striped marlin and boating ten dorado at three miles out and above from Golden Gate. William Thomas and friends also from Kingwood, TX released two striped marlin and one sailfish and kept one dorado; to top of their day they fought a huge black marlin estimated at 800 lbs for over FIVE HOURS, they lost it, but marveled at the whole “Old Man & The Sea Experience and of course were very tired…nevertheless a memorable day for them aboard “Falcon”. On the 16th David Worthey from Bonney Lake, WA released three striped marlin at the Golden Gate and also boated five dorado between 15 to 25 lbs which took tigrillo lures. We also had a couple of double marlin days, like on the 12th for the Paulson family from Gary, Indiana with two striped marlin released and one 30 lbs dorado at San Jaime spot aboard “Rebecca”. Brian, Milton, and Marc Faseler from Arizona released two striped marlin as well aboard “Bill Collector” on the 14th; they caught a 30 lbs wahoo and one dorado to take back home. Seventy four percent of our charters caught billfish with a total of 25 Striped marlin, 2 blue marlin and 4 sailfish this week.

OTHER SPECIES: Dorado catches were number one for us this week with eighty nine percent of our boats catching from one to eleven fish. We had 83 dorado total this week between 15 to 45 lbs. On the 16th James Collazo and Anna Ramirez from Queen Creek, AZ caught eleven dorado (four released) at Pozo Cota aboard “Rebecca”. Graig, Earle and Chad Wells with friends Sean Martin and John Wesley from Oregon caught nine dorado between 20 to 30 lbs and three yellow fin tuna at Pozo Cota and Golden Gate area aboard “La Brisa”. Michael Vick, and Mark, Jordan fishing with Paavo Ensio from Tucson, Az caught two nice dorado (30 and 45 lbs each) aboard “Valerie”, they also caught four yellow fin tuna and released one striped marlin at the golden gate. Tuna catches improved with a thirty four percent of our boats catching this species. On the 12th the Thesen family from Alberta, Canada caught six yellow fin tuna between 15 to 20 lbs aboard Andrea all with lure at down of the Golden Gate; they were also lucky to release one striped marlin. Ralph Mundia from Yorbalinda, Ca and the Paulson´s from Indiana caught nine 20 lbs yellow fin tuna ad two dorado aboard Rebecca; the tuna took cedar plugs. There were a couple of nice wahoo this week, like the one caught on the 14th for Michael and Elizabeth Mellen from Millbury, Ma, they were lucky to catch a 55 lbs wahoo, seven dorado and one tuna aboard “No Big Deal”, all took lures of different colors. We had a total of 83 dorado, 33 yellow fin tuna and 4 wahoo this week.

WEATHER CONDITIONS: Sunny hot days, mostly calm seas, weather was perfect for fishing.

LOCATION: Sea of Cortez: 95 spot, Cabeza Ballena, Punta Gorda, Cerro Blanco, Herradura, La Playita, 180 Spot, Cabrillo

Pacific Side: Golden Gate, Jaime Banks, Lighthouse, Margarita, Elias Calles, Migriño, Pozo Cota


BEST LURES; Cedar plugs, blue, tigrillo, petrolero, green, purple, chilihuili, blue/white, blue/green, green/yellow, red/black, guacamayo, feathers, all colors

For live bait was caballito and skypjacks

Based on the catches of Pisces by Ale Almada & Tracy Ehrenberg.