Cigar Aficionado

Run Silent, Run Deep

Your friends all drive Hummers and fly Cessnas. How do you make amends? With the latest, greatest power toy: the personal submarine. At its smallest it's a two-seat addendum to your yacht that dives 40 feet and makes all the other boaters with their onboard helicopters look silly. In its largest incarnation it's an $80 million, 200-foot hulk with 5,000 square feet of space that will plunge a thousand feet below the waves.

If ultimate bragging rights isn't your game and you're simply in love with the undersea world, imagine viewing it through huge portholes from the comfort of a swiveling easy chair in a custom-decorated stateroom with a fully decked-out galley not far away. (A wide range of optical equipment that will enhance your view is available for when the depths get murky.) When you want to leave the confines of your submarine and swim with the fish, there is a diver lockout chamber that will allow that. Moreover, the advanced diving ability will take you to depths that would be impossible for a skin diver. Personal submarines can also sit atop the sea as you lounge outside on your teak deck, and then dive beneath the rolling water when the weather gets rough. (Size and amenities determine duration of dives, which vary from a couple hours to two weeks.) Some submarines are even equipped with stabilizers that will compensate for roll as waves pitch at sea level.

What you'll see at advanced depths can be astounding: myriad shipwrecks that are otherwise unreachable, profuse coral displays and limitless undersea territory that is uncharted and essentially unknown. But that's not to say you'll be roughing it. The air-conditioned, sea-level-pressure atmosphere will have you in shirt sleeves even as the temperature plummets around you and the water pressure outside your tub becomes unbearable. The filtered air remains fresh at all times.

If you're not a certified U-boat commander, it's not a problem. Most sub manufacturers will supply crews or teach you how to operate your craft. The learning process, which takes about two weeks, isn't what holds you up, however. Depending on the size, a custom-made submarine can take from six months to two years to be delivered. But the wait can be worth it. One Captain Nemo wanna-be, who laid out $20 million for his bottom feeder, did it because his wife got seasick on his yacht and he needed an alternative with a smoother ride.


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