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Stepping Up the Yacht Show Gangplank Into Another World

September 22, 2003|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

There's a difference between a boat show and a yacht show. At a yacht show, if you're worried about how much fuel a 65-footer will consume getting to Catalina, you probably should consider something smaller.

You're also asked to remove your shoes a lot at a yacht show.

But if it's dreaming you're after, the 25th annual Lido Yacht Expo -- which ended its four-day run in Newport Beach on Sunday -- was the place to be.

You could imagine, for instance, what it's like to be Jim Baum, owner and captain of a gleaming 82-footer that can carry 2,250 gallons of fuel.

Baum, a retired airline pilot and engineer, is asking $2.95 million for his yacht, which he plans to replace with one that's 12 feet longer and has twice the range.

He's assisting the builder in its design.

"I'm an engineer, and it's a disease," said Baum, who lives in Pasadena. "I like to get into the building process. I've been that way ever since I was a kid building treehouses."

Except most treehouses aren't lined in teak or include a Viking stove, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, living quarters better than most people's homes -- and a mate.

At the Lido Yacht Expo, size definitely matters.

Some 200 boats for sale were lined starboard to port, preening like contestants in an oversized beauty pageant. The Aphrodisiac, Tuff Duty and Erratic Behavior. The Seahorse, Lorelei and the Unbelievable.

A sign attached to the Passing Through advertised a discount: $495,000, knocked down from $509,000.

"We came out here not knowing what to expect," said Walt Janis, 41, whose Huntington Harbour home is missing only one thing -- a boat to do justice to its 45-foot slip.

It's currently occupied by an 11-foot Boston Whaler with a 5-horsepower engine.

He's interested in a 30-footer -- but not at these prices. Still, Janis said, he learned a lot at the show.

"Some of the amenities are amazing," he said.

"They're like custom homes. Flat-screen TVs. The decorations. The comfort ... I definitely know now how the other half lives."

Make that the other one-tenth of 1 percent.

"Even bigwigs down here who have big boats can't afford anything like this," said Tim Charles, who works for Crescent Custom Yachts, a British Columbia ship builder.

He stood aboard the expo's largest, most-expensive yacht: the 127-foot Dakota, a tri-level floating mansion for sale -- used, but refurbished -- for $13.5 million. It loomed in the harbor next to the other yachts like a great white whale surrounded by a school of tuna.

Two-foot-itis. It's a term that describes boat owners who become serial trade-up buyers in the never-ending quest for a yacht that's big enough.

"This," Charles said, "is the ultimate cure for foot-itis." Annual operating cost: about $1.3 million.

"I've heard people say, 'If I can only win $15 million in the lottery, I could afford this,' " Charles said. "But they're wrong. You can't afford to do it with just $15 million."

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