Above: Ahoy Club’s 238-foot Coral Ocean

Aboard a Dreamy Superyacht

Coral Ocean, Ahoy Club

On a shiny, blue Florida morning, I drove from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, crossed the bridge over the Stranahan River, caught a glimpse of the vast yachts tied up at Port Everglades, and parked my car at the entrance to the Superyacht Village. It was the Saturday of the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and I had come to meet with Ian Malouf and his daughter Ellie, owners of the Andrew Harper-endorsed Ahoy Club yacht-charter company. Specifically, I was joining them for lunch aboard their flagship, the 238-foot Coral Ocean, the largest vessel in the show.

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, universally known in the trade as FLIBS, is generally agreed to be the biggest in-water event of its kind in the world. Around 1,300 boats are on display, moored across 90 acres, a vast fleet that draws more than 100,000 visitors over five days. In the Superyacht Village, however, the crowds were conspicuously absent and everything was calm and decorous. Small groups of expensively dressed people sipped flutes of Champagne as they wandered among exhibits that included a mini-submarine — just the thing for the superyacht owner who has everything — or chatted with the salespeople at Benetti, Fincantieri and Lürssen, the global stars of superyacht construction. 

Main bedroom, Coral Ocean
Aft dining, Coral Ocean

Coral Ocean was moored at the far end of a floating dock, an elegant all-white vessel gleaming after a recent refit. Conceived by the legendary Australian yacht designer Jon Bannenberg, the boat was built back in 1994 at Lürssen in Bremen, Germany (the same yard that produced iconic superyachts such as David Geffen’s Rising Sun and the late Paul Allen’s Octopus). Taking advantage of the enforced inactivity caused by the pandemic, the Maloufs decided to give Coral Ocean a total makeover, deconstructing and rebuilding rather than merely refurbishing the yacht. Although nearly 30 years old, it is now effectively brand-new.

Ellie Malouf showed me around the stunning salons and bedrooms — Coral Ocean accommodates 12 passengers, attended by 22 crew members — introduced me to the captain and then guided me to the expansive aft dining area. There, the Taittinger flowed and the supply of Florida stone crabs proved limitless. Coral Ocean had recently arrived from the Monaco Yacht Show, Ellie explained, and would shortly be heading south for the winter season in the Caribbean. What kind of people, I wondered aloud, would charter a vessel for a basic charge of $700,000 a week, a sum that might well increase by 50 percent by the time fuel costs, docking fees and staff gratuities were factored in? Mostly folk from the stratosphere of the financial world, apparently, with an occasional rap star for variety.

Ahoy Club’s 177-foot Mischief
Lounging area aboard the Mischief

Somewhat contrary to my expectations, the atmosphere aboard Coral Ocean was extremely relaxed and unpretentious. Ahoy Club is a family business, and the Maloufs possess that unique Australian talent for unaffected geniality. Originally based in Sydney, their company now has additional offices in Vallauris, France, between Cannes and Antibes, and in Monaco. The Maloufs themselves own seven vessels, including a second superyacht, the 177-foot Mischief, shortly to be based in the South Pacific, but their digital platform contains around 3,000 craft worldwide. These range from wooden sailing gulets on the coast of Turkey to opulent motor yachts in Amalfi and St. Barths. Some are as small as 50 feet in length. The average charter cost is around $70,000 a week, but divided among a group of six or eight friends, this price begins to sound distinctly more reasonable. Quality is guaranteed by hundreds of physical inspections at boat shows each year, plus live video inspections, during which Ahoy Club staff interview captains and crew members.

Above: Ahoy Club’s 238-foot Coral Ocean