Once Again, The Mystery of Amphitrite: Heard-Depp Trial and the Rowling Yacht

As you may have heard, the A-list celebrity trial of the divorced Jonny Depp and Amber Heard has entered the defense stage. For several weeks, the Depp attorneys have been making their $50 million defamation case against his ex-wife. Heard has counter-sued for $100 million. She took the stand today and told horror stories of the mental, emotional, and physical abuse she suffered from the supposedly drug and booze addled film star during their relationship.

And, of course, J. K. Rowling came up. It wasn’t, though, about what you might expect, namely, how Depp lost the role of Grindelwald after a London court threw out his case against Heard for libel and how Rowling had previously defended keeping him on as the Fantastic Beasts film franchise villain despite Heard’s claims against him. It was the Amphitrite yacht, originally the Vayoliroya, that she testified Depp had sold to Rowling and Heard’s experience with Depp and his two children on their farewell sailing to the Bahamas.

The Daily Mail, a venue perfectly fits for updates from this trial, reported her testimony about what she claims was a nightmare voyage that she and Depp’s daughter escaped by helicopter after they made port. For more about the yacht and how Heard almost certainly if unknowingly perjured herself when she said Rowling bought the yacht from Depp, join me after the jump.

As I discussed in my post, Seven Biographical Mysteries of J. K. Rowling, the story of Rowling’s purchase, ownership, and sale of the Vayoliroja has not been and probably never will be fully told. It certainly is glorious tabloid fodder, though, a ‘for instance’ of Rowling’s fairy tale wealth that rather takes the shine off her reputation as a sacrificial giver and philanthropist. It seems a safe bet that she has only given Lumos the kind of money she spent on this yacht, even the kind of money she lost in its sale if what little is known about it is true.

Twenty some years ago when she was still coming to terms with the money Potter Mania was generating, Rowling laughed out loud at the suggestion she would buy a yacht:

“Yes, I have got more money than I ever dreamt I would have. Great! I have stopped worrying about money. For a few years there I really worried about money. I lived with it like it was a person living with me.”

But, I ask, aren’t you going to buy something, like a yacht perhaps? This makes her bark with laughter. 

I was told by a seeming madman not too long ago that she not only got over this aversion to Big Spending but that she’d bought a $30,000,000 yacht that she bought from Jonny Depp.  Variety reported in March, 2017:

J.K. Rowling, staggeringly wealthy author of the phenomenally popular “Harry Potter” novels that begat the blockbuster film franchise, has her celebrity-pedigreed yacht “Amphitrite” available for both charter and purchase. The 156-foot-long boat, formerly christened Vajoliroja and previously owned by Johnny Depp, can be chartered at a high-season rate of about $130,000 per week, plus expenses, and is also for sale, per online listings, at not quite $19.2 million.

Ownership of multimillion-dollar water craft can be difficult to trace — they’re often owned through inscrutable offshore corporate ventures — but Depp is reported to have sold the boat in the fall of 2015 to an American businessman who quickly flipped it to Rowling sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 for about $27 million, substantially below its current price tag….

Rowling’s terra firma residences include a Georgian-style townhouse on a swanky, guard-gated street in London’s highbrow Kensington neighborhood as well as Killiechassie House, a 19th century country mansion on close to 100 pastoral acres along the banks of the River Tay near Aberfeldy, about 75 miles north of Edinburgh.

A 2019 article reported the yacht has been sold and that Rowling lost close to $10 million on the sale. I doubt, again, we’re ever going to hear the full back story here or even learn how often the Murray clan used the boat (again, none of our business, nothing remotely related to her work, etc.). It does put her one million pound matching funds challenge to help orphans in Ukraine in context, however. The Presence has a lot of money, enough that losing close to eight figures (!) is not a life crisis.

If the Variety report is correct, then Heard perjured herself in saying Depp sold the yacht to Rowling. Perhaps the sale to a third party was only legal cover for the sale in case it was a payment Warner Brothers actually made to Depp to get him to sign on to the Grindelwald role. Really, the fan-fiction possibilities are endless.

Please accept my apologies for the descent into the Depp deeps on a site dedicated to serious reading. The only point of interest for the Royal Society of Rowling Readers fellowship is the name Amphitrite that presumably the mythology soaked author gave to her yacht. Amphitrite is the wife of Neptune, something akin to the underwater Hera or Juno, which given Amber Heard’s role as the telekinetic arm-candy of Aquaman, Mera, in the DC Comics film universe, gives the story a little extra resonance. Something of a commonplace for ships — is the God of the Sea going to wreck a boat bearing his wife’s name? — it has bedecked 7 HMS Amphitrites, 3 USS Amphitrites, and was once the moniker of the Greek Royal yacht.

The Roman name for Amphitrite, is Salacia, a reference, alas, not to her choice in garments or character but to the saltiness of her realm. A Daily Mail reporter thought the sea metaphors were more than apt, likening Heard to Olive Oyl and Depp to Popeye the Sailor Man, before concluding:

The Depp v Heard proceedings in Virginia is certainly the trial of the century featuring a pirate versus an aquatic superpower, embellished with the kind of alleged degeneracy that would raise an eyebrow at a Roman orgy.

Yet nothing in their previous film careers, his as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, hers as Mera in Aquaman can save them from the battle that looms ahead.

I pledge not to cover this naval battle here again — unless The Presence is called to testify.

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