Emergency personnel responded to the scene after a large luxury yacht ran aground off Barcelona Neck in Sag Harbor last Wednesday. In the process of dealing with the incident, investigators discovered that the beached vessel was apparently in use as a floating high-end boutique, selling everything from expensive jewelry to imported Russian caviar—operating offshore to avoid duties and taxes.
“Our crews responded to a distress call,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “After rescuing several individuals on the disabled craft, officers noticed that the boat was heavily laden with jewels, high-end fashion merchandise, collectible wine and other luxury goods. We quickly realized that we were looking at a previously unsuspected oceangoing luxury goods emporium.”
Hirsch says police have interviewed the captain of the boat, which they say is dubbed the Hamptons High-End Boat-ique. “The captain was able to fill us in on the details,” Hirsch says.
According to the captain’s interview transcript, the Boat-ique has spent the last four summers cruising around East End waters. During the summers, pre-screened shoppers have made their way to the yacht in smaller crafts operated by the shadowy company that owns the business.
The captain claims not to know the identity of his employer. (At press time, police still had not determined who or what entity owns or runs the business, although they had discovered a firm connection to a Hamptons billionaire. Said billionaire has denied any involvement, though he says it’s possible one of his sons might have a “piece of the action.”)
In order to be approved to board the vessel, shoppers had to prove a net worth in excess of $100 million, and had to agree to spend at least $5 million while on board. The captain explained to investigators that, in order to shield the business from discovery, he was under instructions not to pull into harbor except in an emergency—the boat was refueled from a tanker on the open water, and luxury goods were supplied to the boat from ships operating in international waters.
“They had a pretty nifty racket going,” Hirsch says. “Imagine being able to avoid paying the duties and taxes on a $75,000 watch? That’s a significant savings. Not to mention that the business owners got access to high rollers without having to pay freight on a piece of prime Hamptons retail space. Of course, it’s all terribly illegal—but you still have to admire the audacity of it!”
Hirsch says police are continuing to dig into Boat-ique operations and have every expectation of uncovering the identities of its owners and clientele.