TAMPA — The one-of-a-kind yacht that has been turning heads around the Tampa Bay waterfront with its unusual shape and stainless steel construction has a name — the Rendezvous 2018.
The yacht is owned by Cubic Yachts LLC, which opened the Rendezvous 2018 to the Tampa Bay Times for an exclusive look this week. The company intends to produce more and larger versions of the yacht under the Cubic Yachts brand name, including a more open version with lots of glass that could serve as a floating restaurant.
The company declined to name the owner of Cubic Yachts, though public company records list Tampa resident Gordon Babbitt, chairman of Plant City-based industrial equipment manufacturer Bulk Resources, Inc.
The vessel, built in Plant City and shipped to Tampa where it was assembled in pieces, cost $12 million and took 44 months to complete, the company said.
The 84 x 40-foot boat was conceived as a mobile, floating beach house that could tow smaller fishing or pleasure boats alongside it, while providing a comfortable living space — 7,500 square feet total — to return to at the end of a day of fishing or cruising the waterways. That’s a lot of space. Since it was launched in late 2017, the boat has already hosted parties as large as 80 people.
And unlike previously-existing houseboats, which must stick to lakes and inland waterways, the Rendezvous 2018’s relatively tall, seven feet of "freeboard," the distance from the waterline to the deck, means it can travel offshore in the open ocean making it the rare houseboat that could travel up the East Coast or to the Caribbean.
In the event of a major storm, the boat would travel to the shallowest possible depth, about three feet, and extend its four, 18-foot hydraulic legs to lift it out of the water, theoretically keeping it stable even in a storm surge as high as 15 feet.
The boat has been docked in South Tampa since its most recent sea trials, which is when it became the subject of a local, social media frenzy, as curious commuters spotted it near Gandy Beach while crossing the bridge and onlookers snapped photos of it near downtown St. Petersburg.
The boat is a work in progress, with planned additions and aesthetic changes in progress, including a crane being attached to the upper deck that will be able to lift a smaller boat onboard.
The company is also making mechanical tweaks. During trials, the boat could only reach four miles per hour, so it’s being fitted with a larger propeller to increase its speed (the 270-ton boat gets about one mile per gallon of diesel fuel).
Media attention and intense public curiosity over the strange boat convinced Cubic Yachts to reveal some details about the boat sooner than the company planned. Even with construction equipment and debris scattered around, the yacht was luxurious up close.
There’s a smaller deck at the aft, with a large, gas grill for cooking out, and a larger deck at the front of the boat with sectional couches and lounge chairs.
From there, an automatic, sliding glass door leads to the big, open kitchen and the main dining area with multiple, high-top tables, adjacent to a living-room with more leather couches and metal fish sculptures. All of that is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows made of hurricane glass.
A hallway off that room leads to four bedrooms, each with a king-sized bed and its own bathroom, all covered in tile.
Downstairs is a game room and theater with a flat-screen television, more seating and a ping-pong table, plus an additional bedroom.
Upstairs, the large sun deck features a roof covered in solar panels, storage for surf boards and a large hot tub that overlooks the deck helm that controls the engines and the hydraulic legs.
Artwork in several of the rooms features stainless steel panels etched with a swirling pattern, meant to coordinate with the boat’s stainless steel exterior.
Cubic Yachts plans to build its next yacht with a similar design but significantly larger, measuring 120 feet long.