BOAT steps on board Blue II, a unique Arctic cruiser that pairs the aesthetic of a working ship with the heart of a classic sailing yacht.
To every yacht, there is a backstory… but this extraordinary-looking 56 metre from Turquoise demands one perhaps more than most. People don’t just wake up one morning and announce: “Let’s build an explorer motor yacht in Turkey for cruising polar regions that looks like the conversion of a 1960s ship.” They don’t by chance create a brief for single screw hybrid propulsion or combine a tough ice-classed hull with an elegantly curved sheerline.
All images: Guillaume Plisson
The beginning of Blue II might have been half a decade ago, but Dutch naval architect Andre Hoek takes its genesis back much further. “Years ago, someone I know bought a decommissioned North Sea buoy-laying ship intending to convert it into a yacht. He was going to gut it and asked me what I would [design]. It was a really beautiful ship, and I told him I would do a design on the condition he did not scrap it,” Hoek explains. He created a new profile and a GA with a cruising interior, which the owners liked, but then the project went dark for several years and he heard the hull was for sale. “I had put so much time into it that I thought I should go and look for a client for it.” And find one he did; an owner ready to cruise further afield in greater comfort and with more amenities than his present 33.5-metre sailing yacht allowed. Yet he did not want a large, white, showy yacht.
Seeing Hoek’s sketches of what the 50-plus-metre ship could become, he was instantly enamoured. The owners, passionate conservationists and active sponsors of establishing marine-protected areas, wanted to build a yacht that could cruise to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Arctic and Antarctic waters, and traverse the Northwest Passage. It should also be able to accommodate a three-person submarine and carry out expeditions. Their wish was for a motor yacht that would break the mould; something completely different, combining a workboat look, a classic motor yacht style and a balanced profile.
The lines Hoek had drawn for the conversion took styling cues from a decades-old Dutch salvage tug style, as exemplified by Holland, a brawny boat with huge working decks and a canoe stern, no less. Hoek designed a completely new aluminium superstructure and gave it smart-looking details including teak decks, skylights and brightwork cladding on the upper and bridge decks. Turquoise Yachts in Istanbul, which built the vintage-looking motor yacht Vajoliroja (now Arriva) and completed a refit of Haida G (now Haida 1929), and where Hoek had built two classic-looking sailing yachts with yard founder Mehmet Karabeyoğlu, was a logical choice for such a project.
However, the original romantic idea of converting an available ship by gutting the hull and replacing the superstructure was scuttled by concerns over the quality of the old steel plating for the Ice Class these owners required and tankage limitations. “It was better just to start over,” says Hoek.
“The owners were disappointed of course, but quickly announced they wanted to proceed with a new-build boat with the stipulation that it look exactly the same as the drawings for the conversion,” recalls Karabeyoğlu. “The original hull had a lot of camber and rocker to the decks. It was a very traditional design and, cunningly, Andre kept that.” The new-build Blue II was born. The silver lining in this dark cloud was that now the vessel could be a bit longer and wider. These two things, says Karabeyoğlu, removed original compromises to the technical spaces and gave much-needed breathing room to the tender bays under the aft main deck, although at a maximum beam of 9.55 metres the hull is narrower than typical 56-metre yachts by half a metre or more.
“Large tenders were part of the original brief, as was the owners’ insistence on them not being stored on deck. Given the curved sheer and the low freeboard, we could not launch the tenders through a side hatch,” Hoek says. By large, he means a limo tender of nearly 10 metres – quite the support boat for a 55.9-metre yacht. The owners’ tender and the crew tender/rescue boat, plus their crane, would have to deploy through hatches in the aft main deck. US-based Nautical Structures, which has been supplying cranes to Turquoise for 20 years, created the custom six-tonne capacity articulating crane that stows invisibly athwartships as well as the 10.4-metre-long hydraulic hatches that close seamlessly with the curved deck.
Richard Masters, whose CV includes conversions similar in nature to the original concept, acted as the owners’ representative. He gave the Turkish yard high marks for rolling with the change from conversion to new build. “I love building in Turkey, where the workers are extremely resourceful and think out of the box,” he says. The new hull also gave Hoek Design the opportunity to apply CFD to the hull, optimising its efficiency. However, the new hull would require that the vessel meet IMO Tier III certification with selective catalytic reduction on engine exhausts.
The owners and Hoek had agreed from the beginning that the yacht would operate with a single propeller as is common on commercial ships. “One large prop is more efficient and better for operating in ice than twin props farther from the centreline,” notes Hoek. The owners wanted the yacht to have a small environmental footprint, thus the development of a full diesel-electric propulsion system with modern exhaust gas treatment.
In contrast to this 21st-century system beneath Blue II’s skin, when the principal owner committed to the new hull, he was adamant about maintaining the original styling aesthetic from near-vertical bow to curved sheer and low profile. They gained 50 centimetres in the beam of the lower deck, which allowed them to improve the staircase to the guest lobby and enable a hidden passage from there to crew spaces, but there was no increase in overall height or between deck space.
The yacht’s GA is particular, with in essence two master suites – one each for co-owners who have been business partners for 30 years. The spacious master on the main deck forward is adjacent to the sauna, hammam and gym/massage room. The upper master features 180-degree views across the raised bow with its array of skylights and outdoor seating. Tastefully finished in blue and white, its entry area contains a surprise circular staircase to a cosy, private office behind the bridge above. While there is a watch berth in the ship’s office adjacent to the bridge, the captain’s cabin is on the lower deck to allow the rest of the upper deck space for guest use, including a handsome lounge/games room. Typically, there are no overhead beams on a steel and aluminium yacht’s deckheads as they aren’t structurally required, but the principal owner and his wife, who designed many details themselves, asked for beams as part of an overall classic look.
The interior design was led by Hoek Design and supported by British designer John Vickers. Andre Hoek says he has rarely worked with owners so intimately involved with all design details. “They said the ship is really about how they feel and how they live their lives. The owners have designed their residences themselves. With Blue II, they wanted to again take the lead in all aspects, from structural aspects to sofa proportions. Above all, they wanted something timeless. We kept a very simple palette of gloss-finished teak, white paint and soft beige upholstered panels.”
Self-sufficiency isn’t just a maxim for the yacht’s equipment, but a way of life for the owners as well. Vickers points out the walk-up bar and coffee station in the saloon. “The owners like to be able to look after their own drinks or coffee. You can help yourself to things. They are very relaxed on the boat.”
If chic and cosy are the bywords for the interior, the main deck saloon is about as cosy as they come, with a wide-plank oak floor and durable faux sisal rugs, dining on port and a sitting area to starboard. Both areas are anchored by a full-height bookcase forward on centreline, which creates a sense of symmetry. Behind the bookcase is a television viewing area with overstuffed seating. However, the bookcase can rotate 360 degrees so that the screen can face the larger area of the saloon as well. This kind of adaptability will be welcome during long cruises and makes the boat look larger than its length or 706 GT internal volume would imply.
Vickers also introduced a few tricks to make the interior seem more spacious, including cantilevered desks in cabins and the upper deck lobby, which don’t take up any floor space. Double doors to the baths for the VIP and two largest guest cabins seem to enlarge each of them.
The owners chose the colour scheme and selected some fabrics and window treatments while Dols & Co Interiors of Amsterdam worked with the owners to select boldly patterned accent fabrics. The joinery and built-in furniture are the work of long-time Turquoise supplier Ulutaş. The same teak, blue and white colour scheme continues outside, where the owners requested a lot of seating areas but not a lot of loose furniture, which he believed would take away from the classic look.
Masters says the owner’s passion for design and detail is apparent throughout this highly personal yacht. “After being aboard for a while he told me that he ‘appreciates how every space is unique. You always know where you are.’ He finds the pleasure of relaxing at the main deck transom seating and looking down her aft deck to the beautifully proportioned superstructure a joy every day.”
For Hoek, creating Blue II has been an equally fruitful journey and is the largest volume yacht for which the studio has provided naval architecture, exterior styling and interior design. “This design is a sensible step for us from our sailing superyachts,” he says. “We thought about this for quite some time: what type motor yacht would our sailing yacht owners want? It is modern below the water yet displays classic lines. It will not be quickly outdated but will still look great in 10 to 20 years. There is definite value in classic lines.” And as her owners rack up adventures on board, as the years roll by she’ll have an even more interesting story to tell.
This feature is taken from the March 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.