The father and son boatbuilders at Mulder created Calypso for themselves. Their problem was that they did it a bit too well, says Sam Fortescue.
Nick Mulder can’t keep his eyes off her. As we round the windmill-crowned headland into the bay off Portals, Mallorca, his attention is fully occupied by the elegant yacht in front of us. Further conversation is useless, at least for a moment or two. The Williams Jet Tender slows to a purr as we circle round to the stern of Calypso, the 36 metre at anchor in the swell.
And really, it’s no wonder. Nick is the youthful element of the father-and-son team driving Mulder Shipyard, which built the yacht. And today is the first time he’s seen her at anchor in her natural environment in the Med. It is a more passionate project than you might expect. Not just because the Mulder ThirtySix (of which this is hull No 2) represents a quantum leap in terms of size and complexity for what is still a small, family-owned shipyard. But also because Nick and his father, Dirk, began building this yacht for themselves. And when you build for yourself, you engage with the project on a whole different level.
“We started to build this boat on spec, with a plan to charter her until she found a buyer,” Nick tells me. “Our feeling, when we started the project in 2015, was that we wanted to do something a bit different.” That spirit of a personal project was also picked up by the interior design team. John Vickers was given a largely blank canvas on which to create his vision for a relaxed, welcoming interior.
“I’ve wanted to design this for at least 10 years,” he says with a very broad grin as he shows me the saloon, with its easy seating, bar and dining table. “I wanted that vibe like walking into a bar in the West Indies – super chilled, with flickering candlelight. Of course, we had to upgrade it to feel luxury and intentional – we added bianca marble trim and agate door handles, for instance. But these are purposefully left slightly rough.”
To give the design some soul, Vickers delved back into Mulder’s rich history to find inspiration from a 6.7-metre long-keeled sloop that had belonged to Dirk Senior, who founded the yard in 1938. With an eye for historical symmetry, he obtained the lines plan, which he reproduced as a piece of three-dimensional art on the forward wall of the saloon. Wall lamps are cleverly integrated into the lines of the interior. Made of long shavings of real wood woven into a stainless-steel frame, they have an organic feel that is repeated throughout the yacht, with rich leather, marble, canvas and deep-grained white-brushed oak.
The bar is another masterpiece of shipwrightery designed to evoke the yard’s origins. It is a perfect chord of cold-moulded wooden strips, arranged in a lattice to resemble low-tech beach-hut building materials. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mulder’s master joiners laboured for hundreds of hours to achieve this effect, painstakingly overlaying wood with an oak veneer. So meticulous were they that they even laminated end-grain veneer on to the curved posts supporting the bar and the feet. “I didn’t think they’d do it,” says Vickers with a triumphant gleam in his eyes. “Most yards wouldn’t have.” Behind the bar in question, Nick Mulder smiles and rolls his eyes in mock consternation. “We talked about it,” is all he’ll say.
One of the few things Vickers didn’t get his way with is the candle-effect bulbs. But the lighting system still offers three preset moods: full, evening and soft. The polished stainless-steel buttons are large and labelled clearly for intuitive use; iPads in each room also control the lighting, air conditioning and blinds.
Vickers is obsessive about such detail. “Am I overthinking this?” is a common refrain during my tour. For instance, the carpet in the saloon is faux silk (for reasons of practicality, not cost). The deep pile has been carved into random curves, like the contour lines left in the sand as the tide goes out. “It’s based on a photo of a beach,” says Vickers, following my gaze. “Hand shaven.”
In all the cabins, he has slung deep brown leather magazine racks against the walls. Not only are they architectural features in their own right, and very practical for storage, they also fill the recesses created when the beds in the guest cabins are slid together or moved apart. He has also created a clever optical illusion by placing mirrors behind the louvres on the technical cabinets in the saloon. They continue the blue of the horizon in a perfect line, giving you the impression that you’re looking out over the bulwarks.
Being a semi-custom yacht produced by a small, flexible shipyard, the Mulder ThirtySix can be configured any number of ways. Hull No 1, an ultra-private yacht launched in 2017, had five cabins, but Calypso runs to just four. Both can accommodate up to 10 guests (Calypso with Pullmans in the guest cabins) but Mulder wanted a big VIP cabin for chartering. “We looked at the market and found that many charters are by two families,” explains Nick. “It made sense to offer a really good VIP cabin to avoid jealousy.” So successful have they been here, with the brightness of the full beam and huge windows, dressing room, desk and sofa space all contributing to a sense of relaxed luxury, that this cabin rivals the master. And the market seems to agree, as the yacht is already fully chartered for the year.
If the interior of this yacht is a relaxed beach club, the exterior of the Mulder ThirtySix is more restrained. Claydon Reeves has drawn an elegant, clean, raised pilothouse yacht with a smart straight bow, low bulwarks and lots of glass. “We wanted to give it some modernity, but equally not go too far with the design,” explains Mike Reeves. “It couldn’t be too polarising; it had to be a handsome vessel – Dutch style, true to its looks.”
Despite her eight-metre beam and nearly 300GT volume, she looks long and slim. Two of the yacht’s key features presented a particular challenge in this respect: the larger-than-average 15-square-metre beach club at the stern, and the elongated 75-square-metre sundeck, with its spa pool and long sunpads.
“On the exterior, the trick was to create a sense of length on a boat that is quite tall and relatively beamy,” says Reeves. One solution was to paint the hull two colours. “It has the effect of lowering the apparent height of the hull.” Another was to encase the boat’s four lifeboats in Hammar release lockers so that they didn’t interrupt the lines on the sundeck. This theme of storage recurs throughout. “Smaller boats are very challenging,” says Reeves. “People are very demanding at this sector of the market. You have to work hard to create space and volume, so it’s a fantastic exercise in packaging. It really comes down to a few millimetres here and centimetres there.”
At the bow, for instance, the line handling and anchoring equipment has been fitted below decks, accessible through a huge hatch. It turns this into one of the cosiest spaces on board, with a comfy sofa and an unparalleled view of the horizon that begs for you to be clutching a sundowner. Or take the emergency exit from the owner’s cabin: instead of being an irritating exercise in compliance, the addition of beautiful teak steps and a gullwing door overhead has turned this into a handy shortcut for the owner to reach the foredeck. “It’s very important to us to make use of every square centimetre,” explains Mulder. And nowhere more so than in the tender garage. Hidden behind a clamshell door on the port side, it allows nearly the whole beam of the yacht to be used to store a tender up to around 6.5 metres. A wheeled ramp to the waterline means that the tender can be launched or stowed in seconds. A sliding overhead winch arrangement makes it just as easy to launch the heavy WaveRunner GP1800 jet skis.
The boat was supplied fully equipped with tender and toys – a point of pride for Mulder. And true to its Dutch sensibilities, she is an efficient operator, too. At 10 knots, her clever Van Oossanen-designed semi-displacement hull requires just 78 litres an hour to propel. Even flat out at 17 knots, her twin Caterpillar C18s burn a respectable 450 litres. “The Fast Displacement Hull Form is still (10 years after we introduced it) the most efficient in this speed-length range,” Perry van Oossanen says. Besides saving 20-30 per cent in fuel compared to other shapes, he says it is also a very sea-kindly hull because it relies on a rounded bilge shape. Captain Ian Jinks confirms that the yacht handled well in six-metre seas with 35 knots of wind and smaller cross seas. “It gives you a lot of confidence,” he says.
In the end, Build 110, as she was known at first, found an owner well before completion, so the Mulder family never got to enjoy their new toy; such is the risk of being a successful boatbuilder. The Dutch owner not only fell for the concept behind the boat, but he also loved the interior design. With just a few tweaks to the seating to accommodate long Dutch legs, he has fully embraced John Vickers’ design. When he saw the boat, it was just seven months from launch. “I could not believe this beauty wasn’t sold already,” the owner tells me with palpable enthusiasm. “I did not have to change much for my own personality and style because the total design matched perfectly with my taste. Everything was in balance. I just invited two Dutch painters to visit the yacht and asked them to make the pictures for the master and VIP bedrooms and the bar.”
It is his first yacht, although he used to sail an eight-metre race boat called Wanda. “It was the first shipyard I visited and I thought, ‘Do not waste time looking at other yachts.’ Four days later I shook hands with Nick Mulder.” Not a bad turnaround for a €17.5 million deal.
Both interior designer John Vickers and exterior designer Mike Reeves hand-sketched their initial visions for Calypso. In a discipline increasingly dominated by CAD and computational fluid dynamics, it is refreshing to find designers who rely on old-fashioned techniques to capture the essence of a project.
In Vickers’ case, it began with a picture looking down the saloon, past the bar to the showpiece forward wall. He knew from the off that he wanted something informal and beach club-esque. “There is an element of doing something by hand – your eyes do something that will make it better than using a computer. All these spaces were drawn by hand, the way I was taught to.”
Reeves agrees: “We don’t get much chance to do it, but we most enjoy that moment when you sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. “Drawing is very analogue. You can generate ideas so quickly – it is a fluid, simple, binary way of communicating. You can’t quite capture the fluid nature of a pencil line in CAD. It becomes so pure in CAD, that a little bit of the emotion is lost.” Only once an idea is established does he move to CAD, then on to 3D modelling for execution only. “The moment you start trying to design the boat in 3D, it’s a nightmare.” In both cases, the early sketches closely resemble the finished product. For the interior, the bar and its seats are marginally different, while on the exterior, the rounded lines have been straightened a little, especially around the profile of the sundeck.
All photography: Olga Dromas/BlueiProd