It has been spotted frequently in Tampa Bay recently, both in the water and on social media. It’s gigantic, strangely cube-shaped and according to the many who have gawked at it, very cool.
Described as a Bond villain-esque "floating mansion," the more the mysterious boat shows up around the Tampa and St. Petersburg waterfronts, the more people want to know: What is that thing?
"I’d seen pictures of it on Tampa Bay Fishing Club on Facebook, and then I was driving across the Gandy Bridge and saw it going by," Clearwater resident Thom Warren said. "I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s it!’ I had to pull over to get a picture. It’s humongous, its huge in person. You can see how big it is compared to the pontoon boat that’s attached to it."
Another commuter posted on Reddit, describing a "freaky" twilight drive over the bridge when the boat rose "outta the mist and scared the s--- out of me."
Unfounded rumors have included:
It is owned by a guy who isn’t allowed to step foot on U.S. soil, but some of his passengers can so he sends them on supply runs.
It is owned by a pro athlete, as evidenced by a possible Tampa Bay Lightning flag seen flying above it.
It is owned by country singer Chris Young, as evidenced by the CY logo on the side.
One commenter claimed to have heard from a Gulfport boat captain that it was "the old casino’s ferry," while a waitress told a diner at Hula Bay that a group of people lived on it.
None of that turned out to be true.
A website with photos of the strange yacht under construction alongside the name Cubic Yachts led to Charlie Beech, listed in state records as the director of Beech Front Yachts, Inc.
Reached by phone, Beech would not reveal the owner of the yacht beyond saying it was a "very private" Tampa resident, but was happy to describe the vessel as "truly a marvel of engineering," and laid out the details of the one-of-a-kind ship.
It was designed by marine architect Fritz Schmid and built in Tampa. Measuring 84 feet in length and 40 feet across, the yacht’s most visible oddity might be that it’s made completely from 316 stainless steel.
The roof over the main deck is covered with solar panels, which are the sole source of 166,000 watts of battery power that, on a full charge, can run all of the vessel’s electronics on batteries alone for more than two weeks. That includes air conditioning for an interior with three bulkheads and five staterooms, each with a king size bed and its own bathroom, Beech said.
The sun deck features a bar as well as a heated jacuzzi, and the yacht carries 5,000 gallons of fresh water.
Beech said "the boat’s huge displacement" allows for an unusually shallow draft — the depth the boat’s hull goes into the water — of only 36 inches. That flatter bottom is what allows the yacht to beach itself, as it did recently on Gandy Beach, leading some onlookers to think that it was stuck there.
Not true. The yacht has a bow jet thruster that allows it to push itself off the beach when it’s ready to move again.
The craziest feature, though, might be its ability to stand up out of the water. The yacht has 18-foot hydraulic legs with a lifting capacity of a million pounds apiece. When extended, the boat lifts above the waterline and looks like a house on stilts.
The 270-ton ship isn’t very fast. It can go seven or eight knots under the power of its twin turbo Cummins diesel engine, which also powers a 360-degree channel thruster for extra maneuverability.
You can operate the whole thing from the deck helm, or from anywhere else onboard using an iPad.
What does such a unique pleasure boat cost?
"I do know it cost more than a jet ski," was all Beech would say.
Joe Lazzara, a Tampa yacht designer and builder who was not involved in designing the cubic yacht, posted a video of the yacht when it launched in Tampa in 2017. He declined to give the owner’s name, but said the person was a friend, and he laughed off the rumors that it was someone who couldn’t come ashore for legal reasons, or a music star.
"It’s a private person," Lazzara said. "But he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met in this industry. Not much of a country singer, though."