Feadship motor yacht Somnium under way

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Credit: Feadship

Exclusive: On board Feadship's World Superyacht Award winner inspired by the Galápagos Islands

21 February 2023 • Written by Cecile Gauert

The wild nature of the Galápagos Islands inspired the interior design of Somnium, a custom Feadship that’s complex, serene and full of life, Cecile Gauert discovers.

Yachts are beautiful machines, but they are even more interesting when the people and stories behind them imbue them with life. Sure, looking at the metal structure, piping and insulation can be fascinating, but nothing is better than visiting a boat that feels lived-in and loved.

I had that feeling on board the Feadship Somnium. The owners were on board during the Monaco Yacht Show last year, which can be tricky for touring visitors who don’t want to infringe on their privacy. These owners, however, seemed pleased to show the result of their three long years of work.

Aluminium construction fits Somnium’s personality. While she behaves like a displacement yacht, she does not look like one
Credit: Feadship

“Welcome! Write nice articles, promise?” the owner calls cheerfully as I explore the decks of his home on the water. It will be hard not to say nice things; Somnium is both a complex and a lovely boat. She’s also unique in many respects. She is the first full-custom yacht for these owners, who came from a smaller Italian production yacht and eventually elected Feadship to realise their dream.

What makes Somnium unique? For one thing, this full-displacement 55-metre yacht is all aluminium. Not that Feadship hasn’t built in aluminium before, but most of them have been fast boats – for instance, the recently delivered 50-metre Totally Nuts. A larger-displacement yacht, meant to cover significant cruising ground (Somnium can go up to 4,000 nautical miles at  12 knots before having to refuel), is usually built in steel with a lot of volume below the water for things such as fuel, freshwater tankage and general comfort underway.

The sundeck offers a second spa pool and good protection from the elements
Credit: Feadship

To build his first custom yacht, the owner,  who worked with an experienced rep, shopped around Northern Europe before coming back  to Feadship. At first, he’d been put off by the three-year wait time but eventually concluded that it was the time frame required to build a  true custom yacht. By the time he returned to Feadship, he had a few ideas in his back pocket, including the hull material.

“The research of the owner came from another yard specialised in aluminium vessels,” says Pieter de Vries, who was responsible for the project at Feadship.

The owner’s team opted for aluminium primarily because of the favourable living space to gross tonnage ratio and the reduced draught that aluminium construction allows. Shallower draught means more space above the waterline. In the end, what sealed the deal was “a combination of efficiency, a lot of usable square feet for the owner, less draught and [the fact that] it’s a cool material to use,” says Bas Nederpelt, commercial director for Feadship, who worked closely with the clients. “Nowadays we can technically design aluminium yachts, which, in terms of comfort [vibrations], come close to steel.” The insulation is a bit more complex than with a steel hull, de Vries concedes, but the builder has ample experience with it. And it has worked quite well.

Modular furniture makes the main deck aft a flexible space. Throw pillows and mosaics add to the relaxed vibe on the bridge deck and sundeck
Credit: Feadship

The material also fits Somnium’s personality. While she behaves like a displacement yacht,  she does not look like one. “It is a bit of a slick  design, more than the traditional heavy-looking displacement yacht. The owner loves fast cars, so we used elements of his cars in the exterior design of the boat and aluminium made a bit more sense than heavy steel,” de Vries says.

The lead designer on the exterior by De Voogt Naval Architects was Ruud Bakker who enjoyed working on the automotive references. “Obviously, we had to ensure that Somnium was not going to look like a superyacht on wheels, so the trick was to translate his love of high-end fast road cars into a dynamic-looking vessel,” he says.

Credit: Feadship

While she is not designed to go much faster than 14.5 knots at the top end of her MTU engines’ RPMs, Somnium looks fast, an impression the design purposely conveys with her long bow and extensive foredeck and a superstructure that sits a bit further aft than most.

The car references are sprinkled throughout. For instance, the design of the aft sections of the decks are inspired by rear diffusers on high-end sports cars. “Lots of other fun styling elements were brought in during the intensive design sessions we had with the client, such as the funnel grill that hints at those seen on classic Ferraris. Even the flagpole aft is inspired by the bumpers of these cars,” Bakker says.

Cosy spots are important for the family and include the owner’s study, which precedes the entrance to the main deck master cabin, and the upper deck saloon, which was conceived as “a cocoon” according to the designer. Wide doors encourage an easy flow between indoor and outdoor spaces
Credit: Mariachiara Casale

The large forward terrace with loose furniture started as a simpler request from the owners for a fixed bench with uninterrupted views over the horizon. “We eventually ended up with so much more,” Bakker says. “There are countless choices for adding loose furniture, setting up a lovely lounging area, a party zone or even a place for sports. The sunbathing bed forward has a dedicated windshield to ensure it can be used even when cruising. Spanning 11 metres in length and nine metres wide, the foredeck now offers around 100 square metres of al fresco fun.”

The long foredeck also fits in the tender garage forward, which in turn allowed room for a beach club, a pool and space for weight training aft, all contained in an efficiently used space adjacent to the immaculate and functional engine room.

The dining area on board Feadship superyacht Somnium
Credit: Mariachiara Casale

The prolific designers at Italian firm FM Architettura created much of the furniture on board. For this bow area they decided on chairs typically found in resorts on Portofino’s famous Paraggi beach. FM’s founder and CEO Francesca Muzio, who is originally from Portofino, calls the low and wide chairs “paraggine”.

The owners love to spend time there, she says. “At the beginning, they were a bit sceptical of the area, but they use it a lot.”

The main saloon features decor that references nature from the Galapagos. The carpet is an imaginary lagoon, the ceiling marquetry is light reflections on the water, the coffee table tops evoke the cracked earth and the dining table’s custom light fixture suggests scales
Credit: Mariachiara Casale

Our visit on board is a last-minute treat as the Monaco Yacht Show reaches its final hour. Vendors and exhibitors are already packing boxes after four days of intense heat, wind and, of course, multiple high-stakes meetings. But  on board Somnium, the pace is more leisurely –  if not downright dreamy.

“I love how everyone who’s come on board this week said she is relaxing,” says Muzio. Except  for the loose pieces shipped over from Italy in perfectly organised crates with detailed instructions for the outfitters, the interior was built and installed in-house at the Feadship yard in Aalsmeer. “We did a lot of furniture in Italy, but all the built-in furnishings are built at Feadship. It’s a very good combination of Italian [flair] and Dutch quality,” says Muzio, whose firm is now working on its third Feadship yacht. “It was a nice collaboration. I learned a lot from them in terms of practicality because they are precise;  at the same time, I think we add this sense of glamour, of elegance, but also uniqueness, because the boat is a unique piece. There is a story; it’s not just about style.”

The owner's suite includes a pleasant seating area with a balcony
Credit: Mariachiara Casale

Somnium is also unique because it tells the story of one family. The yacht combines the interests of the owning couple – the arts, engineering and fast cars – in an elegant package. The fit and finish is remarkable, from the engine room up. This did not escape the notice of BOAT International’s World Superyacht Awards jury, who selected Somnium as the winner in the Displacement Motor Yachts, 500GT to 999GT category in 2022.

This is a family boat built for three generations, Muzio explains, so there is a bit of everything  for everyone. For example, the large pool (with adjustable depth) overlooking the transom is a great spot for adults to watch children burn off some energy in a protected environment.

Inside, the design inspiration is the Galápagos. Early on, the owners told the designers that the Ecuadorian islands were on their bucket list, and the designers ran with the theme.

Credit: Mariachiara Casale

“We are always inspired by nature,” Muzio says. “When we met the owners, they told us, ‘We will use this boat to go around the world until the Galápagos.’ I thought this was the ultimate dream for a yacht owner,” the designer recalls. “The Galápagos is not easy to represent because it is quite wild nature, so it was quite challenging, but I think we achieved a kind of timeless elegance, very unique, very detailed because it is inspired by a very unique nature.”

The large main saloon exemplifies the spirit of the design. The Galápagos theme is suggested with a carpet whose shape and colour gradation suggest a lagoon. Above it, the marquetry at the centre of the ceiling represents light reflections on the water. The coffee tables in bronze evoke the cracked earth of the islands in dry season, Muzio says, although they could just as well suggest the shell of a tortoise.

Credit: Mariachiara Casale

Following big expanses of glass, which let plenty of light in, twin panels in leather – depicting leaves that appear to be flying away – mark the entrance to the dining area proper.  The artwork is by London-based Helen Amy Murray, who is renowned for her 3D textile pieces. The custom-designed dining table has a leather frame with stitch details and a bronze top embossed in a pattern that suggests prehistoric animals, the skin of iguanas maybe. The true inspiration is an imaginary animal, the designer says. The custom light fixture above the table, a mix of geometric and organic shapes, recalls scales. The 3D effect of the walls behind the table comes from wood panels with a bronze finish painted a cobalt blue.

“It’s a very tactile boat. You can feel the atmosphere,” Muzio says. She points out how the shipyard allowed the homely and elegant lounging and dining space to shine. “A lot of thought went into optimising all the engineering parts,” she says. Air vents, televisions and storage are all concealed.

Credit: Mariachiara Casale

The owners’ cabin is a restful space with a bed off-centre, allowing for a seating area off the balcony and a panoramic office, which can be closed with a pocket door. The designer added a few personal touches here like Ferrari cars, which the owner collects. The primary tones are earthy, soft and subtle, but they are layered and warm with mirrors finished in the antique style adding depth, light and luxury. Pillows, accessories and a few mosaics add pops of colour throughout. Muzio points out the wood’s special cut that adds depth and irregularities, so it feels more natural.

Among the four guest cabins on the lower deck, the kids’ room has bunk beds, but the decor is not childish. It will age well as the children grow up and adults won’t mind using this cabin. Children and adults alike can enjoy the upper deck saloon. Muzio organised it around a semi-circular, soft and comfortable sofa, dubbed the “abbraccio” (or hug) in front of a large screen television. It was designed as “a cocoon”, the designer says. Outside of the doors is a protected al fresco dining area.

A fold-down platform on the port side opens the gym to the fresh air and views
Credit: Mariachiara Casale

The sundeck, which as the party space is inspired by the vibrant colours of Spain, is yet another great outdoor area, with a bar decorated with mosaic fish and a tabletop in vividly coloured tiles, protected by a windbreaker. It offers areas of both shade and full sun.

It’s a great deal of space on a near-750-gross-tonne yacht. But what sets it apart is the feeling that the ensemble exudes. “It is a happy project,” Muzio says. “We had a lot of fun,” Nederpelt confirms, speaking of the shipyard’s collaboration with the owners. And the fact that they travelled for 18 months following delivery assuredly says they enjoy their dream come true, although the Galápagos is still on the to-do list.

First published in the March 2023 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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Feadship   55.2 m •  2021

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