The Spy Ship Turned Superyacht: Charter Yacht ‘La Sultana’
Many charter yachts have a story – stories of the A-list who stepped on board, stories about their owners, or how projects took to the water in the face of adversity. One of the latest additions to the charter market, however, redefines a completely different genre, with a story to rival the most riveting of fiction. The life of motor yacht La Sultana is one of mystery, adventure and now unadulterated luxury.
This particular tale has its origins in 1962. Amidst the aftermath Cuban Missile Crisis, assassination of John F. Kennedy and invasion of Czechoslovakia, tensions were rife between nations embroiled in the Cold War. Meanwhile, a 65-metre (213 feet) vessel named ‘Aji Petri’ was being constructed as one of 12 “Sister Ships” at the largest shipyard in Varna, Bulgaria with expectations for it to spend its life transporting cargo and people between Odessa, Sevastopol, Istanbul and Yalta as a passenger ferry in the Black Sea.
She would carry a total of 102 passengers and 46 crew members on board, with her small draught (3 metres) and sleek hull making her ideal for this kind of transportation.
By 1970, however, the Soviet Navy would turn to its “Sister Ships” to serve for more strategic purposes an ‘environmental research ships’ during the conflict. On the record, one particular ship was being used as radio delay for the International Telecommunication Union, but unofficially, it would engage in secret, unofficial spying missions on the United Kingdom and Unites States in the North Atlantic. The vessel in question was none other than ‘Aji Petri,’ now known as the superyacht ‘La Sultana.’
Following the fall of the USSR, La Sultana would resume her life as a passenger ferry between Istanbul and Yalta as Aji Petri - forever immortalised in a series of Bulgarian stamps to celebrate her service - before another twist in her story arrived in 2007. In this year, La Sultana Group would acquire the vessel, and 7 years (and one new engine room) later the meticulous million-dollar refit process to reinvigorate and repurpose La Sultana for the charter market would be completed.
She can now accommodate as many as 12 guests for ultra-luxurious vacation across the globe, offering a charming blend of history, sumptuous styling and the latest modern amenities. On board amenities such as a swimming pool, Hammam, on-deck Jacuzzi, helipad and marina Beach Club are found alongside the occasional original feature, such as her Russian language dial on the bridge – still embossed with the Cyrillic alphabet, ensuring her history is never forgotten.
Exceptional interior styling was high on the agenda of her new owner, visible in the attention to detail on board - from her carefully selected artworks from Moroccan artist Jilali Gharbaoui to her seashell-made sculpture from Hermès – themes of elegance and authenticity run throughout her large saloon and bar area and her dining room. For evidence of her unlimited budget, look no further than her central staircase, featuring a lavish Louis Majorelle “Monnaie-du-Pape”-inspired banister - it is undoubtedly the crowning glory of her interior spaces, and would not look out of place in the most exclusive hotel establishments ashore.
Of her 7 staterooms, it is hard to say one outclasses the other, with each boasting their own unique personality, styled with textures mahogany, cherry and cedar woods and elegant seating areas for when retiring isn’t yet on the agenda. Her master suite spans a huge 66 square metres wide to offer the ideal retreat when in need of peace and quiet, with 6 other staterooms convertible as either double or twins, suitably flexible for family vacations. All feature spacious en-suites with bespoke bath or shower facilities crafted in marble and onyx, with Clarins essentials on hand to complete the luxury evident throughout.
A fittingly large professional staff of 17 highly-regarded crew members are present on board La Sultana to ensure your personalised vacation is as memorable and enjoyable as possible, captained by the knowledgeable Matthias du Verle.
For days when family and friends desire nothing more than enjoying the privacy of life at sea, an exciting watertoy chest can be found on board, home to two jet-skis, two kayaks, two windsurfing boards, a wakeboard and a comprehensive range of scuba-diving equipment. For those not in the mood for aquatic adventure, sufficient luxury – including two comfy outdoor seating areas well-suited to al fresco dining – ensure no wish is unaccounted for across her vast 6 decks. No less than three tender boats, including two Nantucket Limited Edition Sellerie Lancel tenders and an XPRO 490, as well as a Mini-Moke jeep are on hand for visiting the most exclusive establishments on land.
Coming in at 823 tonnes, she provides a range of 5,000 nautical miles whilst cruising at 11 knots. She has the potential to reach a top speed of 13 knots.
Speaking on the “high level of service and luxury” guests can expect on board, La Sultana’s representative Paul Charles commented, “If you don’t provide the best service, then guests won’t choose a particular yacht so you have to keep offering the highest standard possible.”
Arguably one of the most well-appointed - let alone one of few available - Cold War Soviet spy ships available to charter, M/Y La Sultana will winter in the Caribbean before returning to the Mediterranean in April 2016. For details on her availability, please get in touch with your preferred charter broker.
La Sultana will on display at the upcoming Monaco Yacht Show 2015.
Photos: La Sultana Hotels