The White Lotus Boat
Updated: Oct 19
Have you seen the opening scene of The White Lotus? That’s the Vida Mia!
Working with the cast and crew of HBO’s hit series, The White Lotus, was an incredible experience. Classic yachts are often seen in movies and on television. But even with a star-studded cast, these classics always steal the show.
The White Lotus is a sharp social satire that follows the exploits of various employees and guests at an exclusive Hawaiian resort over the span of one highly transformative week. As darker dynamics emerge with each passing day, the six-episode first season gradually reveals the complex truths of the seemingly picture-perfect travelers, cheerful hotel employees, and idyllic locale itself.
The cast stars Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, Jake Lacy, Brittany O’ Grady, Natasha Rothwell, Sydney Sweeney, Steve Zahn, Molly Shannon, Jon Gries, Jolene Purdy, Kekoa Kekumano and Lukas Gage.
At the time of filming, we had no idea this show would go onto win 10 Emmy awards! Here is a behind the scenes look at what it took to get our girl ready for her big debut on HBO.
Delivery to Maui to Film The White Lotus
The filming took place at the height of the COVID lockdowns and it was next to near impossible for anyone to travel to Hawaii - even the big movie stars. Once the location was determined, the state created a COVID “bubble” - meaning no one could go in or out of the premises once they went in. The lockdowns were in full effect and it was risky for anyone to travel to Hawaii.
Originally, we thought the location may be on Oahu, near Waikiki where we are located. But things changed at the last minute, and we found out the Vida Mia had to be delivered to Maui! The filming would take place at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. We had four days to get her ready.
Vida Mia got special treatment, as always. Permits were acquired to do the opening scene where the guests are delivered to the resort by Olowalu, an area outside of the “bubble.” Vida Mia travelled back and forth from Maalea Bay for that scene.
Now, Maui is not that far away by plane - or even with the right boat - but for a 95 year old classic wooden yacht, certain measures need to be taken to make sure she arrives safety.
Vida Mia cruises slow and low - she typically does not travel faster than 5-6 knots on most normal cruises, but with a Detroit Diesel 8V71 engine, she can get up to speeds of 15 knots when she needs to get the job done.
Keehi Marine Center made special arrangements for us to dry dock her under such short notice, so we sailed over there and the team went to work. Vida Mia had been out of service for a couple of years due to, but she was still in great shape. We needed to do some minor repairs to the hull and throw on a couple layers of extra bottom paint for good measure.
Our marine mechanics and wood experts cleared her for take off.
With the paint barely dry, we launched her back into the water and started on our way back to the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, where we had to start loading.
Preparation for the Long Trip to Maui
There is no sugarcoating here, but when we travel inter-island we have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Anything can happen - we can hit something in the middle of the night, lose an engine or even worse, capsize. The channels are rough and the swells and currents can be brutal. Being a single-screw engine, Vida Mia responds faster to wind than she does to steering from the helm, so the captains have to keep the boat in heavy throttle to make sure she stays steady in the harsh deep ocean conditions and heavy winds.
Provisions were purchased, extra fenders were loaded and back-up pumps and generators in case we lost power. Oh and all of the movie equipment came along too!
Our team studied the conditions and there was a rare window where the conditions were optimal - but that meant leaving at 11:00 pm - meaning the entire journey was taken in pitch black cover of night.
Things were relatively calm, but at a few points the boat was pitching so bad that the water was flying in through the helm station. No problem for Captain Kyle - a seasoned captain, he could do this in his sleep.
Picture of Captain Kyle getting some shut eye before arrival into Maui after 10 hours at sea.
Arrival into Lahaina
The timing ended up working out perfectly and Vida Mia arrived into Maui just as the gorgeous Hawaiian sun was rising. It was a very special moment for our delivery crew. Whales were breaching in the distance and dolphins played at the bow as they cruised into Maaleaa Harbor.
For years, Vida Mia found her home in Lahania and as soon as Vida Mia came into view, local residents and visitors came out to greet her. Many thought Vida Mia had been destroyed after she was abandoned in the early 2000s. They were surprised to see her arrive, the grand dame arriving for her homecoming to Maui. Not soon after her arrival, the crew was showered with wonderful memories from the 60s and 70s as told by the residents who used to cruise on her in her heyday. An unforgettable arrival.
The filming took about a week, with the captain and crew working grueling long 14 hour shifts. Some of the scenes had to be shot multiple times, and the lighting has to be just right. That means the boat often has to move along with the sun. Vida rocks and rolls a lot when she is sideways to the swell, which makes a handful of seasick actors (we won’t mention any names). But the show must go on, and it did!
The White Lotus went onto win 10 Emmy awards in 2021, many thanks in part to the hard work of our team for all of the hard work behind the scenes.
Colby and Todd throwing the shaka after Vida Mia's delivery to Maui.
Did you know Vida Mia had to take the trip to Maui twice? We got a call from HBO a few weeks after the filming - some of the drone footage didn’t come out! So, we took the 11 hour journey again to help get the perfect shots.
When we stepped onto the boat to get her ready for her second trip, we discovered a bunch of rotten bananas in one of the galley cabinets. I guess no one told Alessandra about the rules of the high seas - don’t bring bananas on boats!
Once the bananas were removed, the filming went off perfectly, and Vida Mia was back home in Waikiki after just 3 days.
If you are a fan of The White Lotus, we hope you will come visit to re-enact your favorite scenes. Our fans love being Tanya McQuoid for the day. Next time you come to Hawaii make sure you stop by to check out the famous White Lotus Boat. Aloha!