Television network Bravo will begin airing season two of Below Deck Down Under on 17 July, a Below Deck spin-off which follows a yacht crew over an eight-week charter season in Australia. This instalment sees Captain Jason Chambers return at the helm, cruising guests around the warm, tropical waters and colourful cays of the near-uninhabited Whitsunday Islands. Making her debut down under is Northern Sun, a Japanese superyacht with an unexpected history. BOAT takes a look inside…
Delivered in 1976 under the name Hokko Maru (“Northern Light”), Northern Sun has lived a full and fascinating life. At 50.8 metres, she was the largest yacht built by Narasaki Shipbuilding at the time and worked as an ice-class research vessel, analysing marine life and ocean currents in the North Japan Sea. The transformation from ship to superyacht came in 2006 when she underwent a two-year refit, courtesy of her new owners.
Northern Sun has the hardy constitution of an explorer, marking a departure from the first season’s white boat Keri Lee III.
When her current owners undertook renovations, they were intent to elevate her to superyacht standards while still maintaining her distinctive look. Her old windlasses are still visible on the forward deck, the master cabin has retained its original camber and even the engine room looks exactly as it did when she was a research ship. "Looks" being the operative word, of course – she’s had several system upgrades since the 70s.
Interiors include natural materials such as narra and makore wood (commonly known as cherry mahogany). This dark wood furniture and wall panelling give Northern Sun her warm, traditional feel, while the cabins themselves are dotted with the owners’ collection of travel paraphernalia. It makes for an eclectic living space, with indoor sofa seating accented by authentic Persian rugs and the formal dining room and master suite fixed with guild-frame, 19th century oil paintings. Keep an eye out for one of the owners’ most coveted pieces, a 100-year-old ship’s clock which still rings out the two-hour, maritime work shift also known as "the dog watch".
Northern Sun’s main deck is dedicated entirely to entertainment, from the al fresco dining area to the main saloon with its piano and games table. Other leisure highlights include gym equipment, a dedicated library on the lower deck and an outdoor Jacuzzi, surrounded by sun pads and lounge beds. The owners’ addition of a forward seating area during her refit allows for versatile recreation, whether the mood calls for cocktail parties or quiet, waterside contemplation.
The superyacht naturally has impressive stowing capacity, with space for scuba-diving equipment, a waterski and a two-deck-high inflatable water slide. There are also two Laser sailboats, enabling nimbler exploration along Australia’s shallow bays and coral reefs.
The owners spent ten years cruising through Southeast Asia after Northern Sun was refitted. Using the superyacht as a base for adventures, they've scuba-dived in the Andaman Sea, kayaked in the mangrove swamps of Phang Nga Bay and explored some of Indonesia’s most remote fishing islands. In 2015, they decided to put Northern Sun on the charter market, where she quickly became one of the most popular yachts available in Thailand. Now, she’s made her way across the seas to become the breakout star of Below Deck Down Under.
Captain Jason will be joined by returning chief stew Aesha Scott, working alongside a brand-new crew.
Northern Sun is currently listed with Ocean Independence, with a weekly charter starting from $161,700 and an asking price of $15,000,000.Read More/Below Deck secrets: The reality series that went from hard sell to selling charters