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Submarine Treasure Hunt on board Legend

SUBSEA THRILLS

What could be more memorable than chartering a 77.4-metre Soviet icebreaker turned luxury explorer yacht? The answer is easy: embarking on a personalised sub-sea adventure in that same explorer yacht’s private submarine.

Legend is no ordinary yacht. A vast, remarkable vessel that’s at home ripping through the wild winter winds of the Antarctic Peninsula as it is in the warm, shallow waters of the Mediterranean in high summer. Originally built in 1974 as a Class 1 Soviet Icebreaker, Legend possesses a phenomenally strong hull that’s capable of breaking through giant slabs of ice to deliver the ultimate polar expedition. “It’s built like a tank,” explains Captain Taigh MacManus, “with a steel hull that rises up and down like a giant axe, enabling us to push through to places that are so far from home that if we went any further we’d be on the way back.”

During winter you might find Legend navigating glaciers as big as the city of London, creating new maps of uncharted territory using its own bespoke multi-beam system, and putting charter guests and teams of scientists on land in places that no human being has ever set foot before. In summer you might find it cruising between the balmy ports and sandy bays of coastal Spain, France or Italy. But come winter or summer, come six-week expeditions to the frozen continent or sunny seven-dayers on the Amalfi Coast, no charter on Legend is anything less than unforgettable. A yacht with unrivalled capability, a tenacious crew, and five centuries of fascinating history behind it. Not to mention 11 guest cabins, two VIP staterooms, a 14-seat cinema, a 16-person waterfall-fed jacuzzi, a whiskey bar, and a spa.

Legend is expertly equipped for adventure, and supports everything from heli-operations to dive expeditions to extreme watersports. But perhaps its most unique feature is its private U-Boat Worx C-Explorer 5 submarine – housed at the forward end of the ship, up towards the bow, and launched regularly for charter guests to experience the thrill of life on the seabed.

This submarine has space for four passengers plus the pilot, and is rated to 200 metres, but could go significantly deeper. Once the submarine has been lowered into the water using a single-point crane, the pilot drives it away from the yacht’s operation area, before guests are transported over in a zodiac to board. And while the experience of plunging down into the blue in one of the most innovative submersibles ever built is definitely one to remember, Legend’s crew go several steps further to make it something worth shouting about.

How? “Well, that’s where our subsea missions come into play”, says Captain Taigh, with a twinkle in his eye. “These adventures are personally designed on Legend for its charter guests, fantasy underwater scenarios unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before.” There’s no off-the-shelf formula for these submarine missions. They can be designed around the clients’ ages, passions or life circumstances. And no two adventures are ever the same.

“Imagine this,” continues Taigh. “We have a handful of charter guests up on the bridge for a tour. We’re showing them the helm, the dials, the screens. Then, suddenly, an official telex message from NASA comes through on the sat-sea printer, informing them that a satellite has spiralled out of orbit and is going to crash land within 1000 metres of the vessel. Next, a couple of crew members on the observation deck are booming a sound through the stereo system of something colossal tearing through the sky. The theatricality ramps up. Then I turn to the fifteen year old guest to tell him that we have a sub with a trained pilot, but I need someone who can utilise the manipulator (a mechanical arm on the forward section of the sub) to help retrieve the satellite from the seabed. Are you up to the challenge of being our co-pilot, I’ll ask? And so his own personal submarine mission begins.”

Legend is expertly equipped for adventure, and supports everything from heli-operations to dive expeditions to extreme watersports.

Other subsea missions Legend’s crew have staged recently for guests include treasure hunts, search-and-rescue missions, pirate capers, even champagne anniversary celebrations and real-life marriage proposals. And during the planning stage of each mission the crew collaborates with the dive team so they can go down in advance and place any props on the seabed – from a tailor-made satellite, to a case of champagne inside a treasure chest, to a sparkling engagement ring inside a specially constructed cylinder. The charter guests can then use the manipulator to pick these things up from the seabed – elevating the thrill of being in the submarine to being the one to actually operate it.

“Our submarine missions are all about setting fireworks off in the imagination”, says Taigh. “And we try to do that for every guest that sets foot on board.” Once, the crew even drafted an ex-military man back into service who had experience of working on nuclear submarines. They dressed him in a boiler suit and a Legend hat, and sent him down in the sub to retrieve a nuclear fuel cell. “That one was particularly wild,” says Taigh.

“Our submarine missions are all about setting fireworks off in the imagination, and we try to do that for every guest that steps on board.” – Captain Taigh MacManus

Adventure in the sub is a unique part of chartering Legend. And the personalised subsea missions are just an extra dash of suspense, exhilaration and, let’s not forget, fun. As for safety? It’s paramount. Before use, the sub undergoes a two-week technical inspection process from stem to stern, and during a voyage the pilot remains in constant communication with a surface officer, who tracks the sub’s journey from a zodiac above. If the sub goes deeper than 200 metres, or if there’s no movement on the pilot’s dials for ten minutes, an internal pressure system will start to inflate the sub to bring it back up. There’s no getting lost down there. In fact, most of Legend’s charter guests come back to the surface wishing their subsea thrills had lasted longer.

History. Size. Stature. The ability to be as at home in South Georgia as the Greek Ionian Islands. Legend is a special yacht in a million and one ways. Finding an explorer yacht of this calibre is rare, making it highly coveted among charterers. And as for its personally designed subsea missions in a U-Boat Worx C-Explorer 5? “For Legend’s crew, that sort of stuff is all part of a day’s work”, grins the Captain. And while Taigh MacManus describes himself as “a closeted nerd who read too many adventure novels as a kid”, he would certainly never allow an adventureless day for his guests. Look out from the upper salon at untrodden ice sheets rising 50 metres in the air. Or plunge below the glassy blue surface of the Mediterranean to view the world from the seafloor. As a charter guest on board the inimitable Legend, it’s all possible.

Look out from the upper salon at untrodden ice sheets rising 50 meters. Or plunge below the Mediterranean's surface to view the seafloor. As a charter guest on board the Legend, it’s all possible.