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Monaco—Coming to You!

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What makes a boat a yacht? If I had a dime for every time someone asked me that, I could afford to buy one. Unfortunately, there’s no agreed-upon definition. Webster’s “any of various relatively small vessels for pleasure,” is hardly helpful, and Wikipedia’s “a high-end recreational boat” is absurdly all-encompassing. Little wonder that the term has evolved into an honorific that anyone can bestow on his boat.

So what about The Streets of Monaco? The brainchild of Yacht Island Design (above), it will recreate part of the principality of Monaco aboard a giant SWATH hull. The first of a series of “themed yachts,” Streets does meet two accepted yacht criteria, being big (508'6" feet long) and expensive (an estimated $1.1 billion). And it will have amenities—not just helipads and submarines but replicas of Monte Carlo landmarks like the Casino, racetrack, and Hotel de Paris, as well a go-cart track replicating the Monaco Grand Prix and a swimming pool that will mimic Port Hercule, where the annual megayacht show is held. Explains the firm’s director Rob McPherson, “We wanted to create a truly unique yacht that could take the principality of Monaco to the ocean.” And cruise at 15 knots, he might have added.

Unique definitely, but is it a yacht? “Ship” might be more fitting, being “any water vehicle of considerable size navigating deep water, especially one powered by an engine.” But really, the rendering of this “floating city” resembles not so much anything as a barge, with a cityscape atop it.

All this raises elemental questions: Is there a minimum aesthetic to which a yacht should conform? Before you answer, consider the cetaceanic A, mega-catamaran Asean Lady, and Wallypower 118 (which has been said to have “all the charm and elegance of a World War II torpedo”). Iconoclastic designs all and all acclaimed yachts.

And what should be the purpose of a proper yacht? Adventure? Escape? Ostentation? Even by the most liberal standard, reproducing a municipality would not seem to be one of them.

Whether Streets is ship, barge, or the next big thing in megayachts, I think Yacht Island Design is on to something. But instead of replicating a principality, why not a boat show—one boat show that can travel from city to city? It would save promoters and builders a lot of money and trouble, and the public would love it. Where else could they look at the latest new boats and take a spin in a go-kart?