Leave it to the former head of Sun Microsystems to commission a yacht where the lighting and other systems are operated through touchpad screens much like that of the iPhone.
This is Ethereal, the 58-meter (190-foot) ketch commissioned by Bill and Shannon Joy from Royal Huisman, which recently completed her maiden voyage from Holland to the Canary Islands and back. While touchpad controls are nothing new, some of the other technologies employed onboard certainly make her, in Bill’s words, “a floating lab.” The Joys’ project-management team and the yard developed solutions for energy efficiency and flexible energy management to reduce operational costs as well as the yacht’s environmental impact. Some of these solutions are far more complex than any measures taken to date on a megayacht, either power or sail.
One example: the hybrid propulsion system. Two Caterpillar C18s are paired with 300-kW Combimac electric motors/generators. A veritable brochure could be written about how the system works, but in a nutshell, it’s unlike a typical diesel-electric system. The drive train doesn’t use the electric motors as the principal method of turning the drive shaft. Instead, the motors can serve as gensets to recharge a litium-ion phosphate battery bank. Alternately, they can serve as electric motors to turn the propellers, by drawing power from the traditional gensets or batteries.
Speaking of the gensets, the setup onboard Ethereal is yet another example of energy efficiency and management. While every yacht is equipped with units to run the “hotel load” (lighting, air conditioning, even the washing machines), Ethereal doesn’t necessarily need to use hers. Instead, she can tap into the lithium-ion phosphate batteries just mentioned, which are said to have double the storage capacity of conventional gel batteries. This means, among other things, that if the Joys or their guests are pulling up alongside the yacht in the tender or go for a dip off the side, they won’t inhale exhaust gases. In addition, for those times when the power need is high, only one of the two 90-kW gensets usually has to operate, in partnership with the battery bank. That kilowatt level is nearly half of what a yacht this size would typically feature. It’s also worth noting that the electrical system was designed to permit replacing one of the gensets with a fuel cell in the future, should the Joys so decide.
There’s a good deal of automation onboard Ethereal, from the way the mainsail hoists via wireless remote – giving crewmembers better visuals in the process – to the push-button, hydraulically operated crow’s nest. There’s even a “station-keeping mode,” much like dynamic positioning, allowing the yacht to remain on point through synchronized control of her thrusters, engines, and rudder.
The application of technology extends to the interior, too. Royal Huisman “cocooned” the accommodations in insulation to protect against heat from systems and sea temperature and therefore reduce air-conditioning needs. The materials used and the way they were applied resulted from research into other industries, such as refrigerated transport. Even the windows help reduce heat transfer, as their solar reflectivity is controllable.
You could say that the cocoon concept applies to the layout, too, as a calming, traditional ambiance designed by Pieter Beldsnijder envelops the Joys and their guests. Rooms flow from one to the other, and a handful of intimate spaces like a study permit privacy. “We prefer Zen to ornate,” explains Bill Joy. Even though “you don’t have to put any art on these boats, the boat itself is the art,” he says, he and Shannon are quite pleased with the woodwork: “When you go to Royal Huisman, you would be foolish not to let them express all their skill.”
Rather than describe the interior, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Here’s a closer look at Ethereal.
photos: Franco Pace