Will Kaye was loading a 54-meter Baglietto on a ship to send it to Turkey when the owner phoned him to say, “I bought a boat; book into STP.” To the British captain with a home in Palma, initially that sounded great. But the refit’s scope quickly eclipsed what he thought would be possible at a self-managed open shipyard.
The boat in question was the 73-meter Jon Bannenberg-designed Lürssen Coral Ocean, launched in 1994 as Coral Island. The brief began simply enough, with an estimate of a couple million euros. “As it built to about five million, we were like, ‘Whoa, this is a full-service shipyard job,’” says Capt. Kaye. “At that point we went to a full-service yard, but then Covid-19 happened and that didn’t work out. By now we’re at 15 million, but we haven’t even done half of it, so you know it’s in the 20s and it’s always going to get bigger.”
Then the owner surprised Kaye, coming full circle back to STP. When pressed on why that would be impossible, Kaye told him it came down to the metalwork. “There was a massive amount of structural metalwork to redo the layouts of the owner’s deck, the sun deck, and the bridge deck,” Kaye says. He and his team didn’t think they had the connections to pull it off. Ultimately, they built new relationships and divvied up the work between several contractors, and Kaye ended up self-managing a €35 million refit.
Coral Ocean checked into STP in June 2020, and cruised away two years later a yacht reborn and ready to charter. The biggest transformation was the top half of the six-deck vessel; the owner’s, bridge, and sun decks were brought back to bare aluminum and redesigned and built from scratch. “It was like the yacht came out of a new-build shipyard ready for fit-out,” says Kaye.
The sun deck previously had a cluttered array of domes above technical space aft. With the help of H2 Yacht Design, this deck was reclaimed fully for guest use, adding a spectacular enclosable lounge that can be air conditioned. The plunge pool forward used to encroach into the owner’s deck below. This was swapped out for a glass-bottom pool flush with the deck, and the owner’s suite then doubled in size. Meanwhile, the bridge deck’s VIP suite grew to full-beam to rival the owner’s.
Plenty of functional improvements accompanied these guest-friendly changes. Capt. Kaye kept on as many crew as he could lure away from the sea for this long yard period. Their firsthand operational knowledge helped revamp the bridge equipment and boat deck and led to the removal of an awkward slope at the aft end of the swim platform. Configuring the owner’s deck with twin pantries aft with pass-throughs to the bar and buffet outside greatly improved the serviceability of this heavily used gathering spot. Protected from weather by windbreaks and a long overhang, “it’s a really fabulous deck,” says Kaye. “Guests tend to gravitate there, more so than anywhere else on the boat surprisingly.”
The owner was happy to give space to the crew. “He’s great in that respect. He’s always thinking about the use of the space, and he’s not holding it all for the guests,” Kaye says.
Even with a project team of 10 to assist him, Kaye says overseeing 200 subcontractors in this kind of refit was a “huge challenge.” The biggest issue was the timeline. “You don’t have the sway over your subcontractors that a full-service shipyard does. When MB92 says to their interior contractor, you’ve got to be finished by this date, then that interior contractor knows that he’s not going to get the next job unless he performed on this job. When I say jump, they don’t say how high; they go, ‘Oh, we’re busy.’”
He did enjoy it, though. It’s part of the variety that makes it fun to be a captain, he says. “It’s the fact that one minute I’m doing a massive refit, the next minute I’m on a charter, then I’m at the boat show in Monaco. I’m doing a delivery across the ocean; the next minute we’re entertaining in Fort Lauderdale, and by Monday I’ll be in the shipyard hauled out of the water back in shipyard mode again.”
This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of Dockwalk.