Imagine commuting to your office aboard one of the most stylish yachts around, reading the daily newspaper in comfort on the bow as your captain does the driving. That’s exactly what some of the most successful businessmen in the New York area did in the 1920’s and 1930’s, aboard what came to be known as commuter yachts. These all-wood beauties–some of them megayachts–could be seen picking up their owners from their stately homes along Long Island’s North Shore and speeding them westward to New York City, ensuring they’d arrive at their Wall Street offices within half an hour or less.
Some of these commuters are still around, seen mostly throughout the northeastern United States, lovingly restored and cared for by yachtsmen who use them for pleasure rather than business. There are also modern-day versions, such as the one built by Coecles Harbor Marine for singer/songwriter Billy Joel just a few years ago.
Well, it looks like Joel has a kindred spirit–but not in the States. In fact, when I found out the owner who commissioned the design you see here is from Italy, I was taken quite by surprise. I’m accustomed to Italian yachtsmen (and their fellow Europeans) being attracted to sleek, thoroughly modern-looking boats, not throwback designs. But when I learned he commissioned Barracuda Yacht Design to ensure this 85-footer embraced the style and speed of the old commuters but the space planning of current-day cruisers of her size, I was intrigued.
I’m sure the Barracuda Yacht Design team was intrigued, too, for this is an unusual design for its portfolio. But then again, the nearly 20-year-old firm welcomes one-off yachts as much as it does production projects.
To marry the past and present in the 85-footer’s profile, Barracuda Yacht Design specified white painted surfaces and varnished teak along with a dark-painted fiberglass hull. The curve of the transom, the bow profile, and the mast are all classic elements of a commuter yacht, but the flying bridge’s emphasis on entertaining, with its sunpads and seating, bring the design up to date. Barracuda Yacht Design reports that the client was “adamant” that the flying-bridge structure not be bulky or otherwise detract from the rest of the yacht.
Inside, the main deck is laid out much like most modern yachts are, with a saloon and dining area, though the decor will be decidedly traditional; think lots of wood on walls, soles, and furnishings, perhaps with beams running port to starboard overhead. The master and three guest staterooms (including a bow VIP) are all below decks, accessed via a stairway next to the helm station fully forward on the main deck. Two crew cabins and the galley are accessed via a separate stairway aft in the saloon.
And finally, to ensure the 85-footer’s performance will be in keeping with that of the yachts which inspired her, the design brief calls for twin 1,500-hp engines (no manufacturer specified). These will reportedly permit a top end exceeding 30 knots.
Barracuda Yacht Design is shopping the design around to a few yards, confident that a contract will be signed within the next few weeks. I’m confident, too, that a builder will recognize this is a gem of a design and can become a testament to its custom-construction abilities. Stay tuned.