Paparazzi stake out the Florida marina where the golfer keeps his 155-foot Christensen yacht
Irony of ironies. Tiger Woods' 155-foot yacht, Privacy, has been anything but the refuge the golf legend had hoped it would be.
The $20 million Christensen trideck motoryacht, bought six years ago by Woods' Cayman Island-based holding company Privacy Ltd., has a penchant for making news.
The yacht is back in the public eye, as the golfer's marital difficulties deepened following allegations he has been unfaithful to wife Elin Nordegren with not just one but a long string of women.
Paparazzi and tabloid reporters have been staking out Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach, Fla., in hopes of catching a glimpse of Woods headed to the boat to escape the heat - or find a couch to sleep on. But no such luck. If Woods is there, he has eluded them.
The rumor mill has ground out several possible scenarios involving Privacy, aboard which the couple honeymooned after their October 2004 wedding. One scenario envisions Woods escaping to the Caribbean on it alone to clear his head. Another has him and Nordegren leaving on the yacht together for some intensive marital therapy. A third - from People magazine, which quotes an unnamed source - says Privacy left the marina with Woods and a bunch of his buddies aboard, evidently for some quality "guy time," but that rumor seems fishy for sure.
"The boat's still here as far as I know," says a well-spoken gentleman who was answering phones at the marina. He clearly was assigned to field media queries about Woods, though he insisted he remain unnamed - not a bad idea given the couple's proclivity for filing suits against those who trade on the Woods name.
The marina is inside a secure, gated community of 1,100 condominiums. Privacy, out of sight from the street, customarily sits at its dock with a white tarp draped over its name for anonymity. The paparazzi have been seen cruising the perimeter looking for weak spots. "They have tried to get in," the spokesman says. "One succeeded [by scaling a wall], but he wasn't here very long before he got caught."
Privacy has been at Old Port Cove since its February 2004 launching at Christensen Shipyards in Vancouver, Wash., the spokesman says. He says Woods rarely visits. "Since he bought this yacht, I haven't seen him here at the marina at all," though that doesn't mean he doesn't show up there from time to time, he says. He suspects the golfer jets out to other destinations to meet up with the yacht. "That's what I'd do, if I were him," he says.
Privacy has a history of making news. On the Woodses' honeymoon cruise, the Coast Guard stopped and boarded the yacht as it entered the port at San Juan, Puerto Rico, because the captain failed to give authorities advance notice of its arrival. The Coast Guard escorted Privacy into port, held its crew for three-and-a-half hours, then escorted the yacht out of the port. The incident made CNN news worldwide and blew Privacy's cover.
Later that month at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Nordegren passed the Christensen booth and found "pictures of the yacht Privacy together with publications including my husband's name, 'Tiger Woods,' " on prominent display, according to her deposition in a lawsuit filed against Christensen the next day in U.S. District Court in Miami.
The suit alleged Christensen had violated a provision of the building contract prohibiting it from using the yacht's or Woods' name to promote its business. The suit claimed $50 million in damages based on Woods' "value as an endorser and promoter of products." Woods and Christensen settled in May 2006, with Christensen issuing a one-sentence apology and paying Woods an undisclosed sum that came to light in a suit filed by Christensen's insurer, St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. The insurer alleged Christensen paid Woods the $1.6 million settlement without its approval.
A journalist who has been aboard Privacy says it's a pretty standard Christensen but has some special features for Woods: a leather beanbag chair, which the golfer likes for relaxing; a large-screen plasma television on a swivel so he can watch ESPN while eating in the dining room; and a scuba center.
As for North Palm Beach, the community of 15,000 is taking the notoriety in stride.
"I drove past there the other day and didn't see a darned thing," says Joseph Tringali, a yachtsman and former mayor of the city.
No TV trucks. No helicopters. No skulking paparazzi. Oh, well. Ho-hum.
This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue.