Katia Damborsky marvels at the seductive styling, silent comfort and impressive green credentials of Falcon Tenders’ debut limo
It’s an overcast and windy day in London. The River Thames looks dirty and dull. Tugs and Uber Boats produce billowy waves that bounce off the river banks and make the water choppy.
Conditions don’t appear ideal for a test drive, but Falcon Tenders’ Miss Wonderly is waiting for me at Luxury London Afloat, a boutique boating event at St Katharine Docks. The marina is packed with shiny white yachts vying for attention. Amid the hubbub, the low-profile 10.6 metre looks ready to discretely whisk a superspy back to M15. How can I resist?
Falcon Tenders, her builder, is the brainchild of industry stalwart Mark Pascoe. It’s a new company, but Pascoe and his team have decades of experience in boatbuilding. This tender was developed over two years as a one-off, full-custom project, a showpiece for the fledging boatbuilder and a fancy ride for superyacht guests.
“We get immense pleasure from building boats,” says Pascoe, Falcon’s founder and CEO. “It’s the challenge that makes it special.”
Part of the challenge of this particular project – and its appeal – reside in its advanced self-charging, plug-in hybrid electric system. As important as this is, there is more to this challenge. Falcon took every step to make its first boat as sustainable as possible yet luxurious enough to be seen in the company of a 100-metre superyacht. The hull and superstructure are in composite (fibreglass and foam sandwich) with a plant-based epoxy resin, for example. “In this day and age, who isn’t trying to be more eco-conscious?” Pascoe says. “It sounds a bit of a cliché, but we’re really trying to bridge the gap between performance and ocean preservation.”
Her poised silhouette is a joint effort between superyacht designer Michael Leach and Falcon, while the tender’s slick interior styling has been crafted in-house. She is named Miss Wonderly after a central character from the 1941 noir movie The Maltese Falcon. The name suits her. As soon as I step on board I feel I should be discussing something mysterious over Martinis.
Long strips of Bluefin LEDs contour the low superstructure and teak aft deck. She’s been painted to superyacht standards with Awlgrip Black Blue and Signal White. Her sleek, dark roof conceals a large cabin accessed via a pair of wide hatches fore and aft that slide open soundlessly at the touch of a button.
“The key to a limo is getting guests on board as seamlessly and as quickly as possible, perhaps in inclement conditions,” Pascoe explains. “So one of the main features [to consider] is, how efficient are the doors? How quickly can I get in and out?” Pretty quickly, as it turns out. A set of steps ushers me down into a saloon that’s delightfully cool and remarkably quiet once the hatch glides shut behind me.
There’s a vintage appeal to the saloon, achieved with a blend of glossy black porcelain, buttery stitched leather, soft Alcantara and diffused light. I ask Pascoe what inspired the theme. “I wouldn’t know how to describe it,” he says thoughtfully, brushing imaginary specks of dust from one of the steel light fixtures. “I mean, I was just trying to create a space where you don’t feel the need to leave immediately.” Mission accomplished – I don’t want to leave at all.
The level of bespoke detail is astonishing. “This is custom” becomes a sort of mantra as Pascoe shows me around the boat. Ivory-coloured Scottish leather sofas invite me to sink in and get comfortable, and a skylight in the overhead illuminates the gleaming porcelain floor and mock stingray-skin side tables. Discreet lighting is built into the veneered bamboo bulkheads, alongside integrated speakers by JL Audio that can be controlled by an iPad on a stand. The iPad connects to my phone easily, and the sound that flows from the speakers is crisp and smooth. It’s a very elegant bubble to escape the London dreariness.
As we cruise out of the marina and merge with boat traffic on the Thames, it’s time to see if Miss Wonderly is more than a pretty face. Her hybrid system consists of two 270hp Hyundai Seasall V6 engines and two Huracan Marine 20KW e-motors coupled to two Femak 20Kw lithium-ion batteries that can provide up to an hour of silent, zero-emission running at low speed, conditions permitting. In diesel mode, Miss Wonderly reaches speeds up to 35 knots, while electric mode trims her back to nine knots. The switch can happen automatically, as the boat slows down and comes off the plane, for example, as it nears the mothership.
I am still inside the cabin when her V6 diesel engines kick in. I can see a swell outside the window, but the inside of the saloon remains quiet and vibration-free. You certainly wouldn’t spill any Martini. Conditions and traffic don’t allow for a full-on dash up the river; instead, we breeze along the Thames at around 20 knots (close to her cruising speed), weaving under bridges as we catch admiring and envious stares from fellow boaters. Around Battersea, we switch to electric mode and Miss Wonderly slices through the water with grace and strength, and in near silence.
All engine and battery data can be viewed on two nine-inch Raymarine screens on the glass bridge outside of the saloon. There’s not a lot of shelter up here, but as I settle on one of the two sofas behind the helm station, I’m quite enjoying the view and the sensation of riding the best-looking boat on the river.
Ahead of the yacht’s teak foredeck, the London Eye looms into view on the horizon. The Thames doesn’t seem so dull after all. Against the imposing backdrop of Tower Bridge, the gold-gilded Big Ben and the turquoise-tinted MI5 building, the capital seems suddenly glamorous. Miss Wonderly has seduced me and turned a potentially bleak day on the water into a truly memorable experience.
First published in the October 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.shop now