‘Plug-ugly’ Honecker yacht fetches €130,000

'Plug-ugly' Honecker yacht fetches €130,000
The Vineta has a new owner - but still can't sail. Photo: DPA
A businessman snapped up the former German Democratic Republic leader's dock-bound motor launch at an auction on Sunday.

It is no longer licensed to sail and won't make much of a tourist attraction, since the original fittings were stripped out years ago.

But that did not deter six anonymous telephone bidders from trying to land the 40-year-old, 36-metre Vineta, one of four state motor launches at the disposal of former East German leader Erich Honecker.  

Originally named the A. Köbis after a sailor executed in WWI for mutiny, the Vineta went under the hammer amid insolvency proceedings for the shipyard that acquired it after the 1989 collapse of the GDR.

Formally classed as a 'sports boat' suited only to inland waterways, it has a large conference room but no sleeping cabins.

It also needs extensive technical refitting before it can operate again, bidders were warned.

And flashy it is not: Compared to the stylish wood-fitted launch used by Honecker's predecessor Walther Ulbricht, the Vineta is a "plug-ugly, rectangular steel box", said GDR boat-building expert Uwe Giesler.  

The vessel's rich history is one indisputable feature, though. With a capacity for 50 guests, it hosted floating receptions for dignitaries like Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega and Cuba's Fidel Castro – although the latter's trip was overshadowed by a mid-voyage collision with a Berlin bridge.

Launched in 1974 with a bottle of Romanian sparkling wine, the Vineta's austere lines and furnishings reflected GDR values. But it also had a West German engine and a British radar system.

Initially valued five years ago at €200,000, it has been in dry dock since September 2013. 

Many notable relics of the GDR period have been sold off in recent years. In 2011, Honecker's Soviet-built Ilyushin 18 plane was bought by a Dutch entrepreneur, taken to the Netherlands and converted into a hotel that sleeps two. Overnight stays start from €350 per person.

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