How Cheaping Out On a Charter Yacht Almost Killed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos


After a major health scare while exploring the Galapagos Islands on a luxury cruise recently, megarich Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos learned an important lesson: cheaping out on a charter yacht can be near-fatal. Instead of having a larger, better equipped — and need we say much more expensive — yacht brought to the area for his excursion, the Seattle billionaire opted for a local charter from Ecoventura, an expedition cruise company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The vessel, called Letty, was built in 1991. Though renovated to accommodate 20 guests with a dining room, private chef, bar, conference area and library, at only 83 feet, the yacht has no room for a helipad or an on-board medical facility — both considered essential when venturing into remote areas. Firms such as MedAire specialize in building complex shipboard medical centers complete with hospital-quality diagnostic machinery. And Letty, which costs $86k per week during the holiday season, can only crawl along at eight knots. 


By contrast, the Luna, Roman Abramovich’s 377-foot expedition yacht, has two helipads, a fully-equipped infirmary, and can do 12 knots. It can be chartered for around $800k a week, depending on the season. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos is one of the richest men in the world with an estimated net worth of $35.9B, so it’s not like he couldn’t afford it.

When Bezos first complained of pain from kidney stones, known as renal colic, the Letty’s crew were not equipped to provide proper medical attention, nor was there any facility on the yacht for doing so. They also didn't have any way to airlift him to a hospital. It was sheer luck that the ensuing farce didn’t prove fatal to the media mogul, as kidney stones can kill if left untreated for too long. According to reports, the crew of the Letty called the Regional Bureau of Insular Aquatic Spaces for help, which in turn contacted the Ecuadorean naval base in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. 

With no way to medevac the patient out, or chopper doctors in, Bezos had to wait for the naval medical officers to arrive by boat. Then he was taken, again on what we can only imagine was an excrutiating boat ride, to the naval base and put on another boat to Puerto Ayora, by which time his condition had worsened to the point where a helicopter was finally requisitioned. In Puerto Ayora a chopper took him to the airport on Baltra Island, where Bezos' private plane was waiting to whisk him to the States to the care of his own physicians. 

Bezors was luckily able to avoid surgery and has since made a full recovery, but we bet he’ll spend the extra cash for a properly equipped yacht next time.