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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize you haven’t. Our next stop was to chat with Brandon Flaherty, whose vessel is a 76-foot Lazzara yacht named “Fiesta Forever.” He and his wife, Kristina, and their 7-year-old boy-and-girl twins, Leland and Layla, had just returned from a weekend at the Tween Waters Resort on Captiva Island. Their boat is kept in Fort Myers in cooler months, and it is magnificent.
Brandon, who is a salesperson and brokerage consultant for MarineMax Yachts and Brokerage in Fort Myers, purchased Fiesta Forever in 2013 from its then-second owner. The vessel was built in 1995, but it honestly looks brand new, thanks to numerous improvements and upgrades made by Brandon. If you want to buy your own Lazzara, heads up: The company ceased production in 2013 and is now out of business. We checked the Internet and saw that there are some resale Lazzara yachts available, however, should this fit in your budget.
Picture a smaller version of a sleek cruise ship. Fiesta Forever has three decks and contains all of the bells and whistles one would expect in a luxury yacht of this size. Here are its design details: There are five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two living rooms, and the large kitchen has all the full-scale appliances one would see in an upscale kitchen in a luxury home. Four of the bedrooms have queen beds, and the fifth has bunk beds. All of the bedrooms have their own private baths. One of the two living rooms is located on the fly bridge, and it is enclosed. There is also an outside sun pad. Out back on the fly bridge is a large open sun deck with a sofa and grill. In total, Fiesta Forever, as described by its owner, is 2,500 square feet of luxury cruising. Think of it as a floating upscale home! Brandon noted that there is satellite TV on the vessel and 10 TV screens – one for each room. There is USB stereo for an indoor and outdoor stereo system, he said. The dining area, located on the main deck, adjoins the other living room that has a large, modular white leather sofa with a matching white sofa across the way. The round dining table can seat eight, Brandon said. And there is plenty of headroom; he estimated some seven feet (height varies, depending on the part of the vessel), although a 7-foot-2-inch tall guest did struggle with the ceiling height, he remembered. The floors are made of wood, and there are two kinds of granite on the ship. The granite on the outdoor bolted table tops, bar, etc., is a rich shade of blue. White furniture provides a dramatic contrast; upholstery is a complementary shade of a textured blue/gray. The inside granite in the kitchen and countertops is a neutral gray color. The lower level of the ship contains the bedrooms and private baths. Colors are neutral, in warm shades of beige, tan and white. Cabinets and hard surfaces are made of burl wood. The main level, or deck, contains the command center. A large brown leather bench sofa faces the burl-wood helm, so the captain can pilot the vessel in comfort. Behind are granite countertops and the kitchen with a full size, side-by-side refrigerator-freezer and plenty of cabinet space. There is also a large breakfast nook, a microwave oven, regular electric oven and stove, coffee maker, dishwasher, toaster and ice maker. There is plenty of cabinet space, granite countertops, and of course, the food pantry. The Flahertys can be at sea for a month before having to restock perishable provisions, but if they rely on canned or frozen foods, the journey could be a lot longer before they would have to restock supplies.
The main level also contains the main salon and dining area. Large glass doors lead to the outside, and the side decks are quite wide. The fly bridge contains ample seating for glorious views of land and water. Cushioned seating, plenty of tables that have been bolted to the deck, piped-in music, a grill and a bar lend themselves to luxurious comfort for outdoor parties and entertaining. One area on the top deck has a sofa, table and facing chairs, and suspended from above was a flat screen TV. Can it get any better than this? These are the cosmetic and design facts. For those who want the mechanical details, Brandon provided the following details: The 130,000-pound vessel has two generators and two MTU (Mercedes) 1,150 horsepower diesel engines. The ship holds 2,000 gallons of fuel. It can cruise from 10 to 20 knots and hit top speeds of about 25 knots. When underway, the ship burns anywhere from 20 gallons to 100 gallons per hour, depending on its speed. Since the waters of Charlotte County and the Gulf Islands and throughout the Bahamas are shallow, Fiesta Forever is an ideal cruiser, as its draws only four feet seven inches, said Brandon. There is also a water maker onboard, and Fiesta Forever can hold 400 gallons in its water storage tanks.
This is not the first yacht that the Flahertys, wed in 2004, have owned. One was a 41-foot Tiara. “I’ve owned many, many boats,” Brandon said. We had to ask, where did this interest in and apparent love of cruising come from? The answer was simple, he said: his parents, Mike and Leslie. Brandon’s parents came to Florida from Indiana in the early 1980s, when he was a very young child. They are real estate developers and owners of Flaherty Realty, P.A., based in Fort Myers. One of Brandon’s family boats was a Hatteras that he chartered. As an adult, he began to acquire boats of his own, and it was a natural progression that he would work in the industry as a yacht broker. Being the savvy businessman that he is, Brandon charters Fiesta Forever for corporate events, weddings and private parties. But Brandon and Kristina make good use of their family yacht. “During the summertime, we get 30 days of use,” he said. That’s when the boat is kept on the East Coast of Florida and when the Flahertys cruise to the Bahamas or the Florida Keys. In the winter, when Fiesta Forever is kept at Fort Myers Beach, his family uses it one weekend per month, he said. Favorite haunts are Gulf island resorts, such as Tween Waters, Boca Grande and Marco Island. Bahamas and Keys trips are made around June, when “the winds are much calmer to cruise,” he said. We asked him what one of his favorite destinations is. “We love the Exumas, the southern island chain in the Bahamas,” Brandon said. The island chain is 100 miles north to south and is located 35 miles southeast of Nassau. “It is just gorgeous cruising,” he added. We asked about winter trips to the Bahamas, and Flaherty said that “February is the worst time to go.” That is because of strong winds and choppy seas. If you are a boater, you understand this! From the time they were born, the Flaherty twins have been on boats, Brandon said. But the children aren’t the only seaworthy members of the family; their shih tzu mix dog, Bella, goes everywhere with them, he said.
The ship is an ideal one for water sports enthusiasts, as its automatic swim platform allows one to get on and off the boat easily to snorkel, dive or ride a personal watercraft. One of the trips the Flahertys were looking forward to is a cruise to Cuba planned for the summer. They plan to stay for a week to explore the country that has been closed to American visitors for decades. You might say that Forever Fiesta is a family affair. The love of boating was handed down to Brandon’s generation by his parents, Mike and Leslie, and now, Kristina’s sister Lauren Epidy is the charter coordinator for the ship, handling everything from events, catering, day cruises and excursions, both locally and to the Bahamas.
If you would like to experience the luxury lifestyle aboard Fiesta Forever, contact Lauren Epidy at (845) 313-6027 or go to www.imageyachtcharters.com. The yacht comes with a crew of between three to four professionals, including Captain Kelly.