The owner of Northern Star is the man who runs North America’s largest commercial fishing fleet and has many years behind him as an ocean racing and cruising sailor, so it is perhaps unsurprising to find that his first large motor yacht reflects an appreciation for the value of top notch design and engineering as well as a regard for the sea-going comfort of guests and crew.
There is no trace of ostentation in this latest offering from Lürssen; from stem to stern and throughout her six levels of interior and exterior deck space, she exemplifies the builder’s and the owner’s passion for quality in the strength and finish of construction in a steel hull and aluminum superstructure designed by Espen Øino.
A visitor comes away with one overwhelming impression: this vessel was designed and built by the best in the business for an experienced owner with no doubt about how he wanted the completed boat to look and feel to those fortunate enough to work or cruise aboard.
Capacious outdoor spaces aft, forward, and on the sundeck provide ample seating for open air dining or lounging, and with numerous day heads and showers in addition to those in the staterooms, Northern Star is outfitted for entertaining in the height of style.
With an interior designed by Pauline Nunn and decoration and finishes by Serena Williams-Ellis in collaboration with the owner’s wife, Northern Star’s cavernous interior volume combines the rustic appeal of a grand country home or rambling farmhouse with the traditional ambiance of an old sailing vessel, right down to the white painted tongue and groove planking of walls and bulkheads to a fireplace in the sky lounge. Innumerable pieces of antique furniture, such as a brassbound sea chest, leather inlaid writing desks, sturdy bedside occasional tables and appliqué fabrics, accentuate the old-world charm.
Just as old houses tend to be honeycombed with passages and staircases, this yacht is a maze of corridors and stairs that lead to one intriguing space after another; some cozy and private, others intended for festive crowds in areas bathed in the natural light which floods through ubiquitous large windows. Decorative murals, shelves of leather-bound volumes and a generous display of original paintings in private and public rooms convey a fondness for visual and written arts, which adds to the visitor’s pleasure while reminding him or her that while the boat lacks nothing in the way of high tech audio-visual entertainment in its libraries of music and film, it is clear that Northern Star’s owner also values the contemplation of traditional arts.
Guest staterooms are on the main deck rather than below decks. The owner’s area with stateroom and his-and-hers bathrooms has its own deck and enjoys panoramic views forward and on both sides through huge windows. A spa pool located on the bridge deck aft accommodates ten.
According to all reports, the owner himself will not be cruising the glitzier yachting venues of the Mediterranean or Caribbean; no plans for the Riviera, St. Barth’s or other fashionable anchorages which, he has said, hold no personal interest for him. Northern Star’s ice-class hull will allow access to the world’s oceans, which suits the commander of a fleet of fishing boats accustomed to hostile conditions throughout global fishing grounds. His preference for obscure cruising regions explains the fact that the crew accommodations area (eight cabins in all, plus crew lounge) is located centrally rather than in the crew’s traditional place all the way forward, where the ship’s motion underway offers no respite from the violence of heavy seas. For ease of access for the chef and assistants, the ship’s galley is located on the same deck as the crew cabins.
Further evidence of planning with regard to the requirements of an ocean-going vessel is demonstrated by Northern Star’s tank deck with its complement of generous storage space, industrial grade freezer and refrigeration rooms, laundry room, chill room and garbage storage compartment. She has a bi-level engine room with control room and voluminous machinery compartments; a stern garage holds jet-skis and kayaks adjacent to recesses for fishing gear and a custom-built dive compressor that can charge five tanks simultaneously. A pair of two 30ft tenders are stowed port and starboard on a dedicated boat deck with built-in gantries for deployment.
A yacht built for pleasure, yes, but above all other considerations a vessel intended for self-sufficiency during extended voyaging on the high seas.
It is reasonable to wonder why a practical man—and a successful commercial fisherman who is nothing if not practical—would wish to own the ultimate status symbol of a luxury yacht, and it is a question worth further exploration.
As noted, Northern Star’s owner has a yachting background in sail, not power, and he got his first taste of large motor yacht cruising in 1988 when he chartered a 130ft Feadship called Excellence. The experience validated to him the fact that a motor yacht’s beamy interior volume has much to advocate it over that of a comparatively narrow sailing vessel and from here it was a short step to the conclusion that greater volume meant more space for guests and crew; in short, he was ready for the big switch from sail to power. Nonetheless, he has not lost his love for sailing. Currently the owner also has a 164ft Royal Huisman Shipyard schooner inspired by Borkumriff, under construction in Holland.
The captain of the Feadship he chartered in 1988 was Robert Moran, who moved ashore six months after the charter and opened Moran Yacht and Ship Brokerage of Fort Lauderdale; over the years the two began corresponding. Nothing came of this until 2000, when the owner said he was thinking of building a boat around 180ft. By then he had gained further insight and e
xperience while chartering big boats half a dozen times a year. By then, Rob Moran had become one of the most successful large motor yacht brokers in the business. Moran worked closely with prestigious yards including Lürssen, and he applied his maritime knowledge across a broad area of professional expertise including: design, construction, price negotiation, technical specification proposal, and supervision of construction.
In the case of the Northern Star project, which began in early 2002 and ended with the vessel’s launching in the Spring of 2005, Moran says he visited the Lürssen yard at least 30 times, collaborating on the build spec and construction process with Captain Craig Franks, a New Zealander who has been employed by Northern Star’s owner for decades. Engineer Justin Williamson and first officer Rob Maguire also joined the project at an early stage to ensure correct installation of equipment and systems in their respective areas of responsibility.
In short, the key players in the design and production of the yacht represent a collective wealth of knowledge and experience, which is far more preferable than the dreams and wishful thinking that all too often lead to regret in big boat construction.
One may have the money to build a big boat but that’s the easy part. In order to build the yacht of your dreams it is essential to work with a team whose members can be depended upon to produce that vision and, equally as important, to produce a boat that holds its resale value when the dream fades away. In the design and construction of large motor yachts, as in the breeding of champion race horses, pedigree counts above all.