Sara Safadi plays volleyball in the shadow of a mega-yacht anchored off… (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles…)
A group of girls who spent Tuesday tanning beachside in Marina del Rey assumed the big, snazzy boat they saw must belong to the Coast Guard. A man in a wetsuit guessed the tiered, navy-and-white vessel was a cruise ship — like the one he'd board in a few weeks for his honeymoon. And a guy who sells binoculars from Venice Pier said he'd seen it around for a couple weeks and that it belonged to "some real rich Russian dude."
Longer than a football field and topped with a gaggle of gadgets that looks like a Christmas tree without leaves, the fancy boat moored off Marina del Rey still befuddles some vacationers. But as more and more people figure out what exactly it is — and who reportedly owns it — it's settled in as the newest bit of local lore.
For Regi Block, whose back porch overlooks the Pacific, the answer came about a week ago — the product of a curious son, a pair of binoculars and a Google search.
From behind the enhanced glass, Block's son made out four capital letters. LUNA. He typed the name into the search engine, found a picture that matched the boat outside and relayed the message to his mom.
"It belongs to Roman Abramovich," Block said, struggling to pronounce the Russian billionaire's name. (With an estimated net worth of $10.2 billion, Abramovich placed two spots ahead of L.A. sports mogul Philip Anschutz on Forbes' list of the world's richest people.)
Block's neighbor, who was outside reading while she talked about the boat, overheard and chimed in to correct her pronunciation — and to share a tidbit he'd heard.
"He owns Chelsea," he said, alluding to the soccer team Abramovich bought in 2003.
"Yeah, everyone seems to know," Block said, laughing. "It's general knowledge around here now."
The view didn't bother her, she said, but as she perched her elbows on the porch and stared out at the mega-yacht, she did begin to wonder about the rules of mooring a vessel so close to shore.
"You have to get that approved from somebody," she said, pausing to second-guess herself. "Right?"
Officials from the Coast Guard and the county's beaches and harbors department said that as long as the yacht's not moored in restricted waters, permission isn't needed to park in the waves.
"They're not doing anything wrong by sitting out there," said Ryan Fox, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Halibut in Marina del Rey.
Craig Campbell of Del Rey Landing — a dockyard just down the shore from where Luna was anchored Tuesday — said the yacht had been in the area about a month.
"It goes back and forth from Malibu and out to Catalina Island," he said. "They're hanging out and wining and dining."
Unlike Rick Caruso's 216-foot mega-yacht — which caused a bit of a hullabaloo in Newport Beach earlier this month and was docked at Del Rey Landing on Tuesday — the Luna is too big to fit inside. And even if it could, Campbell said there wouldn't be much of a point.
"A boat that size has all the amenities that Marina del Rey has," he said. "It would be restrictive here at the dock. The helicopters couldn't take off."
Aerial photos posted on the website of the German shipyard that built the Luna show two helicopter landing pads next to the yacht's Christmas-tree-shaped communications tower. And although the website offers no clues officially tying it to the Russian tycoon — it lists the client only as "n/a" — it was widely reported that Abramovich bought the Luna in 2010 as he awaited the delivery of an even bigger yacht, the Eclipse.
Campbell, who used to work as a captain on large boats, estimated that a yacht the size of the Luna would have its own security staff and a crew of about 50. It's also safe to assume, he said, that anyone on crew has thoroughly researched the boss — down to what kind of laundry soap he uses and the whims of his taste buds.
"If they know they have a guest that likes truffles from northern Scotland," he said, "they'll have truffles from northern Scotland."
While many locals have tracked down answers, the Luna is still a mystery to others.
Kelley Plante, an East Coast native with a sailboat tattooed above her hip, noticed the vessel Monday evening while she was hanging out in Marina del Rey with her family.
"It was super lit up and every half hour or so it'd beep for, like, five minutes," she said. "I thought it was a Coast Guard boat or something."
Her mom chimed in: "But then you see the umbrellas and you wonder."
When Plante found out who it belonged to, she smiled, turned her head toward the shore and started to scheme.
"Hey man, do you need a maid? A friend? A personal assistant?"