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.
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.