Inside the painstaking refit of 1931 superyacht Marala

12 April 2021· Caroline White

The 58.83-metre classic superyacht Marala is already an icon, but a major refit underway at Pendennis promises to further burnish her legend.

Credit: Muza Lab

Marala was commissioned by car and aircraft manufacturer Montague Napier, who died before her 1931 launch by Camper & Nicholsons. She was bought by Richard Fairey, another aircraft-maker, and over the years passed through the hands of several interesting owners, hosting guests such as Salvador Dali and Amelia Earhart; and even serving in World War Two. “She went to Gibraltar, where one of the depth charges she dropped disabled a German U-Boat, which surrendered a day and a half later,” says Marala’s captain Chris Lawrence.

Her last owner kept Marala for 52 years, and in that time did very little to change her. When the current owner bought Marala and moved her from Greece to Pendennis for a major refit (she went via Malta where her engines were rebuilt), she was “like a time capsule” says Pendennis project manager Nick Kearton. Pendennis, who has form with the major refits – or rebuilds – of classics Malahne, Fair Lady and Haida, carefully considered what had to go. And that was a lot.

The 1950s interior has already been removed so the yard got to work upgrading the riveted structure itself – as well as addressing the systems on board. “They were changed and adjusted over the years, so it was a range of historical systems through the ages of yachting in the last half century or so,” says Kearton. “The first thing you noticed was that the black and grey systems running from the cabins were just hoses that weren't fixed and secured, and you could see they’d leaked in places and things like that.”

They also found lead-sheathed cables and wooden cable trays. It all came out. In went brand new sewage treatment, fan coil units and watermakers – “everything that you would need to domestically serve a cabin,” says Kearton. The lighting has been redesigned with the help of Ideaworks, working in conjunction with the interior designer, Muza Lab. The engines had been recently rebuilt, so have been kept, but the power train is being replaced, “so that while the engines are staying, the actual propulsion down through into the water is being upgraded,” he says.

The interior that will lie on top of this will be almost entirely new, but utterly in keeping with the original spirit of the yacht. Muza Lab, a design studio based in Notting Hill, London, was engaged for the ambitious job. The team scoured the archives of the National Maritime Museum for the yacht’s original plans and referred to them at every stage of the design, to ensure an authentic vision.

Steel has been cut back and replaced with railings on some of the upper decks, allowing more light to flow inside, while down in the lower decks the atmosphere they will create is warm. The guest cabins will contain refences to various different periods (and owners) of the yacht’s storied past: for example, one cabin goes right back to the beginning, with waxed linen wall panels and a 1930s pattern in the carpet; another is inspired by the Palace of Savoy (a previous owner was the princess of Savoy) with lavish Rubelli fabrics with a savoy blue trim. There will even be a cabin that references Marala’s military service, with graphic print upholstery in blue, purple and white.

There are also plenty of 1930s touches throughout the cabins, from monochrome tiled floors to stepped high-gloss ceilings and timber panelling illuminated by art deco-style lighting. That influence steps up a gear in the upper deck owner’s cabin, which was inspired by the owner’s love of the 1930s ocean liner SS Normandie. There are lacquered woods, brass, contemporary marquetry and a feature wall of peacock Chinoiserie by de Gournay.

The main saloon, which sticks closely to the original design, will feature both a skylight and a working fireplace, as well as a good dose of what Muza Lab describes as “Gatsbyesque glamour”.

Outside, the watchword is versatility – particularly notable is the day bed that opens to reveal a copper spa pool. There’s plenty of informal banquet seating, and for evening an outdoor cinema and a cocktail bar disguised as a teak treasure chest. But this is all to look forward to. The project is currently just over half-way through, with completion expected in just over one year’s time.

Keep an eye on the Virtual BOAT Show and in BOAT International for more in-depth interviews and videos about this fascinating project.