How to Make a Glamorous Entrance at Cannes ... in a Vintage Yacht

Courtesy of G.L. Watson & Co.
Malahne was a floating production office for Lawrence of Arabia.

Sure, vintage cars, so why not vintage yachts?

This story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

One way to make a glamorous entrance at Cannes is aboard a restored classic yacht — like a vintage Rolex, it’s just as impressive (and pricey) as a newly built model but makes a less flashy statement. Efforts to preserve these historic vessels have increased in recent decades, a trend set in part by publishing heiress Elizabeth E. Meyer, who in 1984 bought and restored Endeavour, a boat built for the 1934 America’s Cup, and in 1993 founded the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, R.I.

The most recently relaunched classic, after a 2½-year restoration, is the 165-foot Malahne, which comes with a Hollywood pedigree: Built in 1937 and commandeered by the British Admiralty in World War II, it later served as legendary producer Sam Spiegel’s floating production office in Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba during the filming of 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia.

The experts behind the Malahne project are G.L. Watson & Co., based in Liverpool, England, who also led the restoration of Blue Bird, a 1938 boat once owned by "the fastest man on earth," Sir Malcolm Campbell (who set the world land speed record in a car also called Blue Bird). Its current owner is Tara Getty, whose family also has a 1929 yacht named for his mother, Talitha. Last refitted in 2008, it’s available for charter — to carefully screened clients — at about $350,000 a week.

Now, a boat that G.L. Watson & Co. managing director William Collier calls "a unique and last opportunity to undertake the restoration of a yacht that combines both pedigree and elegance" is waiting for its champion on the grass just off of California Highway 101, about 750 miles north of Hollywood. Ripe for restoration is the 157-foot Caritas, built in 1925 for New York sugar magnate J.P. Bartram, which also was drafted into WWII service (for the U.S. Navy). After being decommissioned in 1945, the boat eventually made its way to Smith River, Calif., where it once housed a museum and gift shop for the Ship Ashore Resort, a motel and RV park. A history-minded yacht buff with about $50 million to spare, the patience for a two- to three-year restoration (the boat’s structure largely is original, with timber decks; engines, pipework and wiring have been removed) and the wisdom to see beyond Caritas’ trailer-park phase could sail her into Cannes for the 2018 festival. A riches-to-rags-to-riches story made for Hollywood.