Image: Prince Alwaleed's yacht
Forbes.com
The yacht of Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia was featured in a James Bond movie.
updated 3/18/2006 7:51:04 PM ET 2006-03-19T00:51:04

As the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest have grown, so, too, have their floating palaces. Twenty years ago a 150-foot boat would have made its owner the envy of the sea- faring set. Now it wouldn’t even get a ranking on the world’s 100 largest yachts list, according to Power & Motor-yacht magazine.

Limited Brands billionaire Leslie Wexner kicked off the yacht wars in 1997 when he launched the 316-foot Limitless, at the time 110 feet longer than any other boat.

Since then a competitive sport has emerged in waterlines.

To play, you need to spend up to $300 million, and perhaps buy more than one vessel (Russian Roman Abramovich owns three). Rumor has it Larry Ellison ordered his Rising Sun be built a few feet longer than Paul Allen’s Octopus — just to stick it to his Microsoft rival (Ellison’s folks deny this story).

(MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

“Yachts are the closest a commoner can get to sovereignty,” explains U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi, who spends six months a year on his 233-foot Skat.

A boat owner should be prepared to spend 10% of the purchase price each year on fuel, cleaning, system maintenance and crew salaries. Plus there are dockage and registration fees, taxes, insurance and the cost of a good maritime attorney. But if you have to ask about any of these outlays, you can’t afford them.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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