Impossibly High Above the Sea

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” That was the Water Rat kindly counseling his friend Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s literary classic, The Wind in the Willows, shocked to learn the frightful news that before stepping into Rat’s painted blue and white boat, Mole had never experienced the delightful bliss of spending time aboard any kind of watercraft. 

Since primeval times, monarchs, nobility, and aristocracy have yearned to spend their time aboard spectacular creations on the water. From Cleopatra’s fabled luxury barge to Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia, from elegant Jazz Age vessels such as Nahlin, once chartered by King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, to swinging 60s Hollywood royalty invited aboard Aristotle Onassis’ Christina O, the yachting scene has always attracted high society, celebrities, and the top 0.1%. But with over three thousand sizable yachts currently in the global fleet, not to mention legendary vessels that are sadly no longer in existence, the question has recently been asked—how do we distinguish the crème de la crème of this exclusive breed?

(Courtesy of Assouline Publishing)

Yachts: The Impossible Collection (Assouline) is an eclectic and carefully curated anthology of ships, from the 1851 schooner for which the America’s Cup was named, to J Class racing yachts of the early 1900s, to the current high-tech megayachts—including classics with timeless silhouettes, and head-turners that broke the mold with daring designs that redefined their eras. And with today’s concerted focus on the environment and the health of the oceans, the yachting world is changing quickly, increasingly pursuing sustainability. Whether beyond the bounds of possibility in sheer size, speed, opulent features or advanced green technology, all of the vessels in this spectacular seafarer’s treasury have transformed the yachting seascape.

As long as there are people with means and blue oceans to explore, there will always be a demand for beautifully impossible creatures that break the boundaries of technology, luxury and extravagence—with new yachts still yet to be built, worthy of The Impossible Collection. Author Miriam Cain is a U.K.-based luxury journalist and editor, specializing in the superyacht industry for two decades, in a variety of editorial and PR roles, including editor of Elite Traveler Superyachts and SEA+I Magazine. Cain is currently the editor for the yachting and lifestyle publication Navigator, and also contributes to a variety of international yachting publications as a freelance journalist.

Yachts off the coast of Capri (Courtesy of Guillaume Plisson)