$64 million yacht visits Bangor

Posted July 27, 2009, at 9:34 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Lady Christine is the talk of the city.

At 185 feet, it’s hard to miss. Every inch glistens white. The letters of its name sparkle in gold. Each detail, from teakwood railings to tinted glass, is meticulous luxury.

And it’s here all week.

“Oh lord,” Bangor Harbor Master Gerry Ledwith said Monday from his office, a few hundred feet from the behemoth yacht known as the Lady Christine. “I guess you want to talk about the boat.”

Everybody wants to talk about the boat. Since it pulled into the Penobscot River on Sunday, the monstrosity has generated significant buzz. A Kingly sight in the Queen City.

“I’d sure like to get a look inside,” said one onlooker Monday.

“I’d like to drive it,” said another.

It’s not uncommon for cruise ships and private vessels to sail to Bangor up the river from Penobscot Bay, but few can remember one this opulent. Now that the Lady Christine is docked on the city’s riverbank, everyone wants to know: Who’s the owner?

“I heard it’s some Scottish billionaire,” one woman taking pictures said. A receptionist at Bangor City Hall said she heard that it belonged to the president of the Walgreens pharmacy chain.

Ledwith, who has been in contact only with the Lady Christine’s captain, said even he doesn’t know. When a boat registers locally, an owner’s name is not required, only the agent or captain.

“We have to be courteous to guests,” he said. “You get the same privacy here whether you pull up in that or in a 17-footer.”

So what do you do to find information fast these days? Google it.

A quick Google search of the Lady Christine reveals that it belongs to Irvine Laidlaw, who is in fact a Scottish billionaire living in the income tax-exempt principality of Monaco in Western Europe. Several British newspapers have published recent stories about Laidlaw, who is a member of the British House of Lords and a sup-porter of the United Kingdom’s Conservative political party. He founded the Institute for International Research, which specializes in large-scale business conferences and seminars, and — for the last several years — has been a yachting enthusiast.

The harbor master, a former Coast Guardsman, doesn’t understand all the curiosity. In the middle of pondering questions he cannot answer, the phone rings in his office. It’s another media member.

“Oh, the boat,” Ledwith said, rolling his eyes. “[City Engineer] Jim Ring bought that for me to do harbor patrols.” A pause. “Sure, just come on down.”

So where is Laidlaw?

The harbor master said the owner is not on board at the moment, but would be later in the week.

What is the Lady Christine doing in Bangor?

Again, Ledwith protected his guest.

“It’s my understanding that they are waiting for guests,” he said. “They just really don’t want to be bothered.”

Recent Web postings reveal that the Lady Christine has been spotted in Boston, Newport, R.I. and Troy, N.Y. Its home port is listed as Bikini, one of the Marshall Islands, a chain in Micronesia north of Australia. It was for sale sometime last year. The asking price? Forty-five million euros or nearly $64 million.

The boat appears to have five decks. A helicopter is perched on the upper deck but its blades have been taken off. Crew members milled about on the main deck Monday afternoon, painting a entryway to the cabin. A muffled sound of music bounced from inside.

The Lady Christine may blend into the shoreline of ritzy Newport, but in Bangor, the superyacht stands out.

“It looks like something out of a James Bond movie,” said an onlooker.

“You have to have an awful lot of money to do something like this,” said another before backing up to get the entire vessel in his picture.

As growing crowds of spectators wondered what exotic places the yacht may have been and what luxurious details await inside, Ledwith sees the Lady Christine as just another customer. The city charges $1.60 per foot for short-term parking at its harbor, which adds up to $296 for every day the Lady Christine docks on the riverfront.

Some crew members have come to Ledwith with minor requests so far. How can they get ground transportation? Where can they buy groceries and wine?

Finally, the harbor master relented.

“For folks up here, I guess it is quite a sight,” he said.

erussell@bangordailynews.net

990-8167

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