Wealthy yacht-owner builds floating village to be closer to his boat, which is marooned on a federally protected seabed.
No expense has been spared relocating this ‘Millionaire and his Wife’ three miles off the shore of Key West where Peter Halmos can keep an eye on what was once the largest sailing boat ever built.
Stringing together a row of luxurious houseboats, “Aqua Village” has become the talk of the Keys; complete with a full staff and house manager, this megayacht-owner now works and lives in this tax-free haven while battling his case in court to force the government to allow him to move his boat from this endangered coral reef. Simply dragging the boat would damage the grass and incur millions of dollars in fines.
A friend of a friend recently lost his 158-foot Perini-yacht, “Legacy” to the government – well, technically – it’s stuck on government land – a waterbed in a National Marine Sanctuary in the Florida Keys. For three years, he tried to work out an agreement with NOAA, living aboard his stranded yacht, or on houseboats nearby, and protecting the boat from pirates, sometimes at gunpoint. He never left his ship once. Most boat owners like Halmos, who may not have quite as much money but still don’t want to see their vessel dismantled will stay with thier vessel. If you simply walk away, thinking it’s going to be taken care of by somebody else, your boat will be looted or stolen and there is no recourse.
One-foot deep reefs surround the boat for miles in all directions – and the only way to get it out is to drag this mega-yacht though the endangered species of sea-grass that grows here. Estimated fines from the government if he does?? $22 million. No big deal. More than the cost of the ship – which was the largest ever built at time of purchase in the 80s. I say he waits til a storm comes and raises the tides – after all, that’s how it got there a year ago when Hurricane Wilma lifted the boat onto the reef.
Here Peter drives a speed boat between The Legacy and his new home, “Aqua-Village”. Since Peter has been in a dispute with the government over how to free the boat without damaging the reef, he and his wife have constructed a temporary network of floating house-boats they call “Aqua-Village” next to the Legacy and a 3 miles from shore, where they live and work.
Legacy yacht crew members serve lunch at the temporary home of marooned millionaires, Peter Halmos and his wife, who built a mansion of floating houses near their mega-yacht. Peter moved his entire New York office & staff out to the floating village, where he must be to guard the boat. He has kept his entire crew on-board The Legacy, now armed with riffles to keep away opportunistic tourists and pirates, who also keep up the boat and tend to the staff in Aqua-village.
But wait – there is a silver lining! Now that his company is technically ‘off-shore’, he abides by Maritime laws … so he is sure to offset the exorbitant cost he will incur to salvage the boat.
Listen to Peter tell the story in his own words about his near-death experience in Hurricane Wilma and his 3-year battle with the government to free his yacht on this audio slide show. Read a wonderfully in depth account of Halmos, his life, family, business and this extraordinary talehere from The Palm Beach Post.
Addendum 2/2/08: Legacy is out! from Mega-Yacht News.
Halmos was not fined for the damage because it was viewed as an act of God but had to pay for the entire salvage project and restoration damages to the reef from the movement. Halmos has estimated the ordeal will cost him more than the $16 million he originally paid for the Legacy in 1985, when it was one of the 10 largest sailing yachts in the world. While it was marooned, a group of about eight men in fast inflatable rafts approached, claiming they were from FEMA and had authorization to confiscate the boat’s luxurious features. They returned a few times, but Halmos and his rifle-bearing crew kept them from boarding. It’s likely Halmos will load the yacht onto a cargo ship and send it back to its original shipyard in Viareggio, Italy, to be rebuilt into ”the gorgeous boat” that it once was…
Miami TV News
Palm Beach Post
St. Petersburg Times
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