A serial yacht owner and design perfectionist looked across the Atlantic when it came to building his latest upgrade. He shows us how American design and European craftsmanship come together on board 76 metre Feadship Boardwalk...
Picture this: a sunny day, a few fluffy clouds across pale blue, and a tropical breeze blowing down the decks of a brand-new 76 metre Feadship. The new Boardwalk is docked along an alley lined with slim coconut palms, its bow jutting toward the new skyscrapers along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard. The wide transom catches the breeze directly off the bay and long blades reveal an H130 chopper crouching like a lion ready to pounce on the top deck. The vision stops a couple out for a stroll, and they whip out their mobile phones to take a shot. Boardwalk, at 1,848GT and with four decks (plus a tank deck), is an impressive sight in any surrounding.
The owner, businessman, bestselling author of Shut up and Listen and TV personality Tilman Fertitta (he is a frequent guest speaker on CNBC and was also on CNBC’s reality show Billion Dollar Buyer), is on board, sitting on a shaded sofa and scanning phone messages.
This is his favourite spot on board this yacht – indeed, of any of the yachts he’s had to date, he says. Of course, with a regular increase in size, the aft deck has morphed from a simple sofa with a table and perhaps a bar to a much more expansive space. New Boardwalk’s aft deck is far more than a transition area to the entrance of the main saloon. It has the first of several bars, a large television screen, two semi-circular sofas in the centre alongside a larger one, which I can’t help but notice as I slide onto it, is pleasantly supportive and protected from the sun and wind.Read More/Inside the design journey of Feadship's new 55m explorer Shinkai
Fertitta’s previous Boardwalk, which he has kept in tip-top shape for 11 years, is a Westport 164. “I love the 164. I still haven’t sold it; I enjoy it so much,” he says.
So, what led him to such a bigger boat, I ask? He laughs. “I think it just kind of is the natural thing. I think we’ve gone from 112 to 130, to 146 to 164, and I have to say it took me a while,” he says. “And you’ve got to remember, boats have gotten so much bigger. I can remember when I was at a boat show and the Westship Martha Ann was, at 44 metres, the biggest boat in the show. Houses have gotten bigger, families get bigger, and you want to entertain more people.”
Entertainment is his business. As the owner of Houston-based Fertitta Entertainment and chairman and CEO of Landry’s, he’s assembled an impressive portfolio that includes the Golden Nugget casinos, numerous restaurants, among them Mastro’s Steakhouse and Catch Steak, the Houston Rockets basketball team, luxury car dealerships and hotels.
One of his more recent hospitality projects, the five-diamond Post Oak Hotel in Uptown Houston, which is frequently rated the best hotel in Texas, was a source of inspiration for the new Boardwalk’s interior, says designer Amy Halffman. “We spent a lot of time walking through it. It’s just so very elegant and tasteful and to me, just timeless,” she says.
Halffman, who lives and works in Seattle, has worked with Fertitta on all his boats. She understands what he likes and welcomes his insight. “I have never worked with anybody who has such an amazing sense of how space should be used. He can sit in any chair and tell you if it is too low or the table too high, and he is spot on,” she says. “He knows how he wants to use the space and, for a designer, I think it is a blessing. People don’t hire me to design an Amy Halffman interior; they hire me to make their vision or dream a reality. At least, that’s how I like to think of it.”
Fertitta did not study design (his path was business and hospitality management) but early in his career, he became a developer. “You’ve got to understand, I know how to build things,” he says. “No [yacht] owner will get as much into the details as I do.” He points to exhibit A, the overhead on the aft deck, which is decorated with attractive curves, the numerous lights above the bar to our left, and the trim around the columns that support the aft deck overhang that keeps us in the shade.Read More/La Sultana: Step on board the spy ship that became a superyacht
Lighting is a very important feature on this yacht, as it was on his previous one. His Westport 164 had four times as many lights as others in the series. His Feadship has many more still, carefully studied and placed to create a mood, set the yacht aglow at dusk, accentuate features such as design details and artwork on the interior, as well as to guide people at night.
“If you look at a lot of these big boats, people don’t get into the detail. They’ll just let the big boatyards do a flat ceiling and they don’t have all the curves on the bulwark and everything else,” he says. That is not his style.
When he ordered his Westport 164, a Donald Starkey and William Garden design that the American shipyard debuted in 2006, his was hull No 7 and he made about nine pages of amendments to the specifications to make it his and his family’s ideal retreat. And he took many features from it: the design of the stainless-steel railing surrounding the staircases, for example, is a replica of the design found on the previous Boardwalk – only the scale is quite different.
The on-deck owner’s suite and a large show galley, where preparing and enjoying a quick meal becomes a social experience, were must-haves on the new Boardwalk too. Indeed, Fertitta and his long-time captain Tristan Judson developed the plans in a way that – aside from a massive increase in volume (the Westport 164 was around 492GT) – the family would be able to transition easily to the new boat without losing their bearings and yet enjoy so much more. Fertitta’s son Michael says of the new Boardwalk: “This takes it to a whole new level,” but adds that he can pretty much follow the same path to find his cabin.Read More/On board Drifter, the sailing yacht owned by music legend Jimmy Buffett
Perhaps because he makes multiple decisions at a breakneck pace in his business life, Tilman Fertitta enjoys stability when it comes to his boating life – aside from his long-time designer and captain (the new-build’s project manager) and a familiar layout, he wanted an exterior styling that echoes his previous yacht. He would have gone for the same builder too if it weren’t for the fact that the new superyacht is a full-displacement steel and aluminium yacht.
“The only reason that I did not build with Westport was that this is a steel-hulled boat and they build a fibreglass boat; it was just they had never done it before. I think that they would have done it and probably would have turned out a good product, but we wanted to use one of the European big names when we decided to build this type of boat,” he says.
Feadship was one of just three of the top northern European superyacht builders he and Captain Judson discussed. By the time they were deep in conversation with Feadship, they already had a very substantial brief, a solid layout, and more than a passing thought on what the yacht should look like. The exterior design by Studio de Voogt was done with extensive input from the owner’s team.
De Voogt’s designer, Thijs Orth, says he has good memories of a collaborative effort. “We developed the general arrangement, exterior design and exterior furniture very closely together with the owner,” he says, adding that the studios produced multiple options to meet the desired aesthetic and technical requirements. “A nice challenge was to get the superstructure treatment right: classic or modern, white mullions or black glass all flush,” he says. A back and forth between the two led to the present iteration.
In all, the yacht features 54 different stones, marbles and tiles. One of the designer’s favourites is a mother-of-pearl tile with a pleasant texture on bare feet in the beauty/massage room, one of the yacht’s new additions.
Almost everything on board was created for the new Boardwalk – from furniture to light fixtures to the art pieces. “[The owner’s] direction was a lot of lighter materials and accents, pillows, art, things that can be swapped, and always a big focus on lighting,” Halffman says. She used shimmering fabrics and wallpapers in lighter tones for the background, and custom light accents, including pieces from Charles Loomis and Wired Lighting that sparkle like jewels.
For contrast, she selected a mix of sapele, plus straight grain and crotch mahogany, all custom stained. The foyer draws all these elements together – darker wood, light fabric on the walls, sparkling stainless steel, a light pendant by Charles Loomis appliqués by Wired Custom Lighting and a glass sculpture by David Wright, representing a wave. “I was going for classic elegance – beautiful spaces that could stand the test of time, and I think we achieved that,” Halffman says.
Despite her substantial volume and 12 metre beam, Boardwalk looks lean and long. The forward section of the main deck is taken by a tender garage that holds a pair of superb 8.5 metres tenders (one open, the other a limo) from the US’s oldest builder, Hodgdon Yachts, and naval architect Mike Peters. The aft section of the lower deck is dedicated to a beach and fitness club with an impressive dive and watersports locker. The gear is neatly displayed and lit just right, and the beach club is finished in a way (complete with a bar and a light fixture with Swarovski crystals) that it is an attractive space even with all doors closed. The sundeck features a 2.5 metre by 6 metre pool lined with mosaics and there is an observation deck above that, topped with a substantial mast. But it’s only when standing on that deck that you get a real sense of the yacht’s impressive height and beam.
Studio de Voogt was also responsible for the naval architecture. “The hull shape was fully optimized using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) calculations with various hull shape iterations,” Orth explains. Sea trials exceeded the contracted speed of 17.5 knots, he says. Indeed, she’ll go over 18 knots with her twin MTU 16V 4000 series engines," says Captain Judson, who enjoyed an uneventful transatlantic crossing from the Netherlands where he followed the yacht’s construction when he came across last summer, not that weather wasn’t a factor. “We had 25 knots [of wind] for a week, but the boat is so comfortable,” he says.
He and his team made interesting choices throughout. The guest-friendly bridge with an elevated sofa for a great view features a sleek console with crisp display screens by Radio Zeeland. The two-level engine room, complete with an SCR system, is a stunner with lots of chrome and a floor in a stainless mesh instead of the conventional diamond plate (helpful for ventilation and maintenance as well).
To entertain, Fertitta wanted to have what he calls feature bars on each deck. Halffman looked for eye-catching marbles and stones that give each one a distinctive style – a backlit opal white for the main saloon and an onice grigio with a wonderful cloud-like pattern for the sky lounge bar. Wine, as it should be, is kept in a separate custom-designed wine cellar that can store 120 bottles. Fertitta’s good friend (and merger and acquisition maven) Dave Jacquin surprised him with premium labels, which are stabilised and chilled thanks to a dedicated air conditioning unit. The floor is an attractive black-and-white tile behind glass doors with a custom stainless-steel design that implies they are protecting something very special indeed.
One of the challenges for the designer was to gain inches in height to add interest to the ceilings. “There is so much detail. We spent a lot of time going through the boat, looking at everything down to the quartre-inch of detail,” she says.
The results are impressive, to say the least. “The boat is beautiful,” Fertitta says but as he just begins to enjoy the new Boardwalk’s many charms, his mind is already on his next projects – one of them a bigger yacht. A builder must build.
First published in the November US edition of BOAT International.