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Magnificent Mirabella V in Sint Maarten

This past cruising season, the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin was graced with the presence of Mirabella V, the largest single-masted yacht and the fourth largest private sailing yacht in the world. This majestic sailboat has been around the Caribbean for a few seasons and has drawn the attention of spectators wherever it moored or sailed. What made Mirabella's visit so special and spectacular, is the fact that she planned to enter Simpson Bay Lagoon through the Dutch bridge to become an imposing part of St. Maarten's skyline.

An interesting fact about this feat is that Mirabella V's beam measures 48.5ft (14.8m), while Simpson Bay Bridge has a width of 56ft (17m). With added fenders, the captain only has a couple of inches to spare on each side. The news about the yacht's entrance into the lagoon spread like wild fire and at 9:30am on March 8th cruisers and tourists alike had gathered on the Sint Maarten Yacht Club's viewing platform.

Full of anticipation, the crowd watched as the world's largest sloop entered the channel, lined up with the bridge and slowly moved closer. With nerves of steel, Captain Rocka hand-steered 'his' Mirabella V through the narrow opening, while crew members gradually rolled and moved the fenders along the walls below the bridge. Smile on his face and cowboy hat on his head, the skipper from New Zealand managed to maneuver the magnificent ship out 'the other side' and into the maritime bowels of St. Maarten for this, the first transit of many. In the well-protected Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mirabella V joined the hundreds of cruising boats, dwarfing the mega yachts around her. Just like their neighbors, captain and crew wanted to take advantage of the nearby stores to provision and the relatively calm waters of the lagoon in which to polish the topsides. Size did not matter.

Speaking of size, Mirabella V has a lot of it with an LOA of 247ft (75.22m), a beam of 48.5ft (14.80m) and a displacement of 765 tons. Her mast is 292ft (88.5m) tall, ensuring a stiff neck when looking up. The yacht has a 13ft (4m) draught with the keel up and when the keel is fully down, she draws 33ft (10m). The super yacht's emphasis is on performance and windward capability, exceeding a speed of 20 knots under sail. She was launched in 2003 by VT Shipbuilding and ready to entertain in 2004.

Everything on Mirabella V is big. Other than being the largest sloop, she has entries in the Guinness Book of Records for the tallest mast and carbon fiber structure, the biggest set of roller furling gear, the largest single sail area (36,500 square feet) and the heaviest keel. Six guest cabins (one of which is an owner's cabin), each with big windows and en-suite bathrooms, accommodate 12 guests. A crew of 16 takes care of all needs and maintenance. Two helm stations and a lounge area dominate the middle of the deck. Two recesses forward store the inflatable tenders while the yacht is underway. At anchor the recesses turn into a pool and a Jacuzzi. An expansive outdoor area aft offers space, comfort and great views during cocktail time. The 'garage' holds a fancy 29-foot Hinckley tender and all the equipment you can imagine for some fun in and on the water.

Once inside Mirabella V, everything is spic-and-span with a massive living area, a master bedroom (taking up the whole width of the yacht), comfortable crew den and quarters and an enormous kitchen with walk-in fridge and freezer. Just like the bedrooms, the gym and sauna have music and TV facilities. The impressive bridge has all the modern equipment and systems one can think of. With the push of a button, the slightest adjustment can be made to just about everything onboard. The navigation aids are extremely high-tech and captain and crew are in constant communication.

Before getting all excited about a sailing trip on Mirabella V, know that it costs $250,000 to charter her for a week. During our tour, my husband and I learned that she was for sale, contemplated the idea, but decided to pass. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, because the magnificent, modern and grand lady has just been sold!

Liesbet Collaert is a former teacher and freelance writer who lives and cruises on S/V Irie with her partner, Mark, and their dog, Darwin. For more stories and pictures, check out their website www.itsirie.com.

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