The refit of a 1994 Feadship propelled a pedigreed build into the 21st century. BOAT explores an intelligent redesign with artistic flair
It would be one of the most ambitious refit projects undertaken in recent years. The job was to transform the 52-metre, 1994-launched Feadship motor yacht (ex-Rasselas), into a commercially compliant, contemporary 56-metre charter yacht – with an equally ambitious timeframe. It was shopped to both the Feadship and Royal Huisman shipyards.
The brief itself was substantial: refurbish the interior and create all new owners’ and crew quarters; extend the stern by four metres; design a new radar arch and sundeck; change the flag state; and bring the 25-year-old steel and aluminium build to commercial classification in time for the start of the summer 2020 Med charter season… in nine months’ time.
The project was the third in a series of high-profile Feadship refits visualised by the experienced American yacht owner Matt Voorhees, the most recent being the 2017 renovation of his previous 50-metre Feadship Broadwater (ex-Blue Moon), which was preceded by the 1990-launched, 50-metre built as Mi Gaea.
While seated next to Feadship director and CEO Henk de Vries at a dinner for Feadship owners, Voorhees asked de Vries whether he should purchase Rasselas. “Henk told me it was a wonderful idea,” Voorhees says with a laugh.
Built to a design by Frits de Voogt with an interior by John Munford, Rasselas was delivered in 1994 as a Lloyd’s-classed yacht. “The first Rasselas was the first Feadship build I was really involved in,” recalls de Vries. “There is this family of yachts inspired by John Munford, that began with Rasselas, that has now become almost extinct. Matt’s ultimate dream was to have a true classic yacht, and Rasselas is one of the finest classics.”
Inspired by the thought of reviving a classic build and creating a transitional interior – he found his second Feadship a bit too modern – Voorhees purchased Rasselas in late 2018 and gathered a team that included designer Adam Voorhees (no relation), Captain Jacob Ewing, Captain Mark Jones and project manager Peter Wilson of Marine Construction Management (MCM). Royal Huisman landed the project, and six months of planning and design ensued before the yacht moved to the Huisfit facility in Zaandam.
“The biggest philosophical change is the embrace of the outdoors,” says the owner, referencing the four-metre hull extension and transom redesign that expanded the aft deck and allowed for a beach club. This extension accommodates al fresco activities from dining and entertaining to watersports and ease of water access, but also houses the Hi-Fog fire system generator and technical equipment required for the yacht to be commercially compliant. Manoeuvrability also came into play, and the extension included a redesign of the centreline skeg, increase in rudder area and addition of two steel fins to the stern extension to facilitate more accurate close-quarter manoeuvring.
A stern extension of such magnitude necessitated a commensurate adjustment in the profile design. This was accomplished by replacing the original mast with a composite mast and carbon-fibre hardtop, to give the profile a more current, masculine feel. The previously inaccessible flat roof protecting the original bridge deck aft became part of the sundeck, which allowed for the addition of a dayhead and a completely redesigned lounge area fitted with a custom dining table, bar and large spa pool. Down on the new transom, the team installed a beach club fitted with a bar, seating and another dayhead. For the swim platform, the owner had a custom extendable staircase fitted so that guests could enter and exit the water via a stairway instead of a ladder.
As the demolition and stern extension progressed at Huisfit, designer Adam Voorhees began incorporating the revised interior, which he describes as crisp and transitional with hints of modern, artistic and sculptural eccentricities. “The starting point for Broadwater was simply to respect the pedigree of a classic Feadship while introducing modern technology and a more nuanced approach to comfortable, refined living on board,” he says. “We wanted to respect the yacht’s native architecture and bring in a little whimsy and excitement – particularly through the artwork.”
On the main deck, the heaviness of the original gentleman’s club-inspired interior was lightened. The original architecture was retained, but it was toned down to create a backdrop for the yacht’s new bespoke furnishings and notable artworks to shine. In fact, says Adam Voorhees, the collection of artwork itself served as the primary motivator for the design narrative, with influences ranging from classical French and Italian art deco to Indochine and mid-century Scandinavian. “Inherently, I couldn’t help but inject some Californian modernism as well,” says the West Coast-based designer. Freeform furniture and organic shapes create an atmosphere of casual movement within the main saloon and dining area, which draws inspiration from sculptor Alexander Calder in the form of an amoeba-like dining table, pebble hardware and a large wine cabinet.
Behind each carefully placed piece is a story, from the African chair Adam Voorhees found and had fixed with a butterfly joint, to the circular backgammon table marked with the owner’s favourite spots around the world and crafted by London-based artist Alexandra Llewellyn, or Nad, the stuffed goat who presides over the sky lounge. “Every experience on board is informed through pure expressions of natural materials,” says the designer. “From brushed rift European oak, open-grain black walnut and fumed eucalyptus, to richly patinated bronze and highly textural stones of serpeggiante and portoro.”
Yet, unlike many other intricately designed yachts that enter the charter market, Broadwater’s interior is not as delicate as this description may convey. Each piece is considered for durability, with robust indoor/outdoor textiles used throughout. Also vital for successful charter, the galley area retains its original footprint but was upgraded with all new surfaces and appliances. Chief steward Rebecca Kearl redesigned the pantry area, removing the dumb waiter servicing the main and bridge decks and overseeing the creation of dedicated glassware, china and tablescape decor storage that maximises every bit of space throughout the dining area and upper saloon one deck above.
Likewise, the lower deck crew quarters were given a full makeover and the owner made a substantial investment to bring them up to modern day standards with a new crew mess, laundry machines and galley equipment – everything required for superlative service. Bringing the 25-year-old yacht up to class meant significant updates to the navigation system. The bridge retains its original footprint but was upgraded with a state-of-the-art rhodium bridge package by RH Marine. Now 100 per cent electronic, it future-proofs the boat for any upgrades or new regulations.
Aft of the bridge, the captain’s cabin serves as a sixth cabin for guests (the captain would sleep in the crew quarters in this scenario) while to port the area where the rescue tender used to be stowed is now an al fresco spa/gym with curtains that extend from the gantries for privacy. The new SOLAS rescue tender now resides on the bow with the Jet Skis, while a second tender is towed. The only interior space that was completely gutted and rebuilt was the main deck master suite, which now boasts modern functionality with double en suites and a glass shower, as well as plentiful wardrobes and storage.
The original starboard-side stairway leading to the guest quarters on the lower deck was retained, as was the foyer and the majority of the original John Munford styling and joinery. “It’s beautiful and it works,” says the owner. Everything in the four cabins was simply refreshed and restained, with new mirrors and replated hardware in the guest en suites as necessary. The only new additions were wool felt wall panels in each cabin, created by a Finnish artist, that serve to tie in the whimsical and artistic nature of the rest of the vessel.
Al fresco areas higher up the boat haven’t been forgotten, and the original bridge deck aft was updated with new teak decking and furniture. Pillars of alcohol gel flames atop base mounts create quite the scene at night. Here the owner also incorporated a winter garden inspired by the Feadship Sea Owl.
As with any refit, not everything went entirely as planned – in this case the challenge of bringing a 25-year-old yacht up to class, coupled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic caused understandable delays. “Broadwater quickly became all-consuming,” says Peter Wilson of the 14-month conversion. “I knew from the start it was going to be challenging in the original timeframe, but delays due to the Covid-19 crisis meant we had to push back the original schedule. Thankfully we had an engaged and experienced owner and a very focused designer.”
“In spite of, and because of, these challenges, the Broadwater refit is an important milestone for Huisfit and is the result of the work of an exceptional owner, designer, crew and project management team,” says Huisfit CEO Jan Timmerman. “Thanks to her visionary owner, Broadwater will be future-proof for many years to come.”
The owner joined Broadwater in Fort Lauderdale for an extended Thanksgiving cruise in November 2020. Despite the delays, he says, the result was worth the time and challenge. “There is a movement afoot of these lovely classics that people appreciate,” he says. “People understand the quality and pedigree. This classic, lovely boat deserves another several productive and stylish generations on the water – and that’s what we are giving her.”