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Big-Buck Boats Still Draw the Dreamers

Recreation: Annual yacht show attendance is up 40%. The priciest craft, at $8.4 million, has nine televisions.


More than 15,000 dreamers and boat lovers streamed into Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach this weekend to see a flotilla of million-dollar yachts equipped with features including granite kitchen counters and high-tech security systems.

The 29th annual Lido Yacht Expo seemed immune from the financial ills on Wall Street, attracting 40% more visitors than previous years, organizers said.

"Big-boat sales seem to be insulated from the recession," said Duncan McIntosh, the show's producer and publisher of Go Boating and Sea magazines.

McIntosh expected more than a dozen sales during the show, and many deals made after it ended Sunday. Most yachts that sell are the "bread-and-butter variety" that cost $400,000 to $1 million, he said.

Tom Iovenitti, Coldwell Banker general manager for Irvine and Huntington Beach, was looking for one of those to use near his home on Balboa Island. "We're trying to determine what to do next summer," said Iovenitti, who did not plan to buy immediately. "It's like buying a house. You don't buy the first one you see."

The show was expanded this year to include even more yachts in the beyond-40-foot range. There were 240 boats at the show, plenty with multimillion-dollar price tags. Even the smallest, at 26 feet, is considered a yacht.

The most expensive at the show, an $8.4-million, 91-foot, 2003 Queenship Tri-Deck motoryacht, was sold before the show. Even those without millions toured the Queenship, eyeballing four spacious sleeping areas, nine televisions, security cameras, specialized bait containers in the cockpit and hidden storage for 48 fishing rods under a sofa. In one sleeping area, a sunroof over the bed opens to allow in the sea air.

The 205,000-pound boat was built for a Southern California couple but shown at the Expo to lure other yacht lovers in the market for their own.

Most visitors touring the vessel could afford only to gawk.

"We're a little tight this month," joked Joan Bloomberg of Coto de Caza, referring to her finances.

"We'd like to buy a boat, but probably a smaller version," explained husband Paul, who was seriously eyeing 50-footers.

For those who wanted to deal, a 91-foot McKinna yacht was reduced from $4.4 million to $3.8 million. The boat offers six sleeping areas and many amenities.

Perhaps even of greater interest than the multimillion-dollar models was a round craft designed by French naval architect Jean-Michel Ducancell, who was inspired by a round boat used in a James Bond film.

The futuristic Anthena, which offers an underwater window with submarine lights that attract fish, drew hundreds of people, said Les Anthenea President Alan Algan.

The show also included a 34-foot model of the USS Arizona sunk in Pearl Harbor during World War II.

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