Aristotle Onassis, Who Started Out Poor, Always Knew His Ship Would Come In

She did. The largest motor yacht afloat. The Greek shipping magnate spends much of the year aboard his "Christina," a Canadian destroyer escort ship he bought and spent $3 million converting it into a floating pleasure palace.

Named for his daughter, whose pictures are placed conspicuously about the yacht, the "Christina" is 325 feet long and has a 17-foot draw. For more than a month, she has been docked at the end of Dodge Island, where a crew of 50 awaits sailing orders back to Greece.

The 62-year-old "Golden Greek" has been in Nassau and New York, so the plush dining room which seats 22, has gone unused on this visit.

As you enter the ship, a three-story spiral staircase of gold and marble winds upward. Below are nine ornately furnished guest rooms, each named for a Greek island, plus a complete hospital room, ready for operations, X-rays, any emergency.

At the top of the staircase, the maitre d' Charles Bosco, carefully unlocks Onassis's private quarters. His den is nearly dominated by an El Greco of the Virgin Mary being comforted by an angel (said to be worth $2 1/2 million; another El Greco hangs below in the game room), hung near gold sabers given to "Ari" by King Saud.

Wood paneled, the large room is filled with a sailor's choice...books from Balzac to Capt. Hornblower, the complete works of Winston Churchill, gun racks for the use of his guests in skeet shooting, a glass-enclosed sailing ship made of ivory, an old oak desk with its drawers pegged from below to keep them from opening in a rough sea.

His bath features double gold sinks, plus a sunken marble mosaic tub, kidney-shaped, with flying fish and dolphin playing below the spigot -- a gold fish's mouth. A one-way mirror in his shower stall allows Onassis to see out. Like the mosaic tile swimming pool below, his bath copies the one in King Menos' palace in Crete.

The swimming pool can become a dance floor, hydraulically lifted by the press of a button, or a fountain area. Located at the stern of the ship, on the promenade deck, it adjoins the game room, replete with a baby grand piano, a wood-burning fireplace built of lapis which is banked with a backdrop of books. "He loves to read...when he is alone," we're told.

Next room is the circular bar, where whale teeth are set in as hangers to hold onto when the going gets rough. Whale teeth form footrests on the rope-corded barstools. Seat material is said to be from whale's most "delicate" part.

Beneath the glass-topped bar, at the flick of a switch, tiny boats sail around a mural of the Grecian Islands, magnetized so as not to ram each other. Touching lightly, they move on. Stereo is built-in here, as well as in Onassis's quarters.

Topside, "Ari," as he's called, keeps an amphibious airplane, a Fiat car, a 30-foot sailboat, a launch and eight lifeboats. The radio room on the bridge is as large as the Queen Mary's.

 (This exclusive story was printed in the Miami News, May 21, 1968, written by Social columnist Joan Nielsen McHale)