A single-prop fishing trawler is not an obvious choice for conversion into a superyacht, but for the owner of Scintilla Maris it was the only one. We travelled to the Damen Maaskant shipyard near Rotterdam to find out more. The entrepreneur owner of Scintilla Maris grew up fascinated by tug boats and trawlers. A part of his family are fishermen from the island of Texel in northern Holland and as a young boy he would spend time sketching the workboats he saw there. At college he borrowed money from relatives to convert an old tugboat and lived on board for some years. In 1979 he emigrated to the US, set up three successful businesses and is now the proprietor of Richland Rum in Georgia. But his old love affair with trawlers never left him. “In the 1980s and into the ‘90s these steel-hulled boats represented the epitomy of Dutch shipbuilding,” he says. “They were very sturdily built, almost over-engineered, to deal with conditions in the North Sea. I’d been following the Dutch beam trawlers for years and when one became available as part of a decommissioning scheme in 2006 I decided to buy her, basically with a virtual handshake over the phone.”The boat in question was Scintilla Maris, a 45.6-metre beam trawler launched in 1988. Beam trawlers are so called because they fish with a net on each side of the hull that is attached to a steel beam to hold them open. It is a method used for catching bottom-dwelling fish, including sole, plaice, turbot and monkfish, and their design owes much to the mainly Dutch shipyards that pioneered them. BUILT TO LAST Scintilla Maris was the first of eight sisterships built by the Maaskant Shipyard near Rotterdam, now part of the Damen Group, which has over 70 years’ experience of building trawlers. He returned to the same yard to carry out an initial refit to remove all the fishing gear and upgrade some of the onboard systems. The project then ground to a halt for almost a decade as her owner was determined to come up with a work list and specs himself, mainly by spending time on other yachts, while juggling his business interests. Work resumed in 2019 when the shipyard began a full conversion by stripping back the hull to bare metal and removing the interior, decking and propulsion. After additional modifications to the hull and superstructure, all the metal surfaces were sandblasted, primed and sealed. “Basically what we’re looking at is a new-build yacht in an existing shell. My reason for doing that is the exceptional quality of the hull, not only in terms of seaworthy design but also engineering and construction.” By way of example he points to the stainless-steel piping instead of galvanised metal or PVC, the 40mm of West African iroko decking, and the steel hull plates that are 10mm above the waterline and 15mm below (although not Ice Class, the hull is more robust than most explorer yachts). The extra-thick plates also mean there is no ‘washboard’ effect when the positions of the frames are visible as is often the case with thinner plating, especially when combined with poor heat management during welding. As the hull was stripped completely on the inside, the yard took the opportunity to remove any dents, an inevitable consequence of the vessel’s former life as a beam trawler (the ‘run rails’ welded to the hull served as protection from the heavy steel beams when deploying and retrieving the nets). All modifications had to be approved by RINA in order to bring the vessel into Class. The original trawler was rated at 570GT and an early priority was to bring the volume below the 500GT threshold, principally by creating more semi-open areas. Another major modification was cutting out sections of the hull and bulwarks amidships on both sides with steps leading down to water level, which actually increased hull stiffness as there is a steel box reinforcement under each staircase. The interior design by Vripack is utilitarian, but also comfortable and not in any way sparse. In keeping with the vessel’s original design, extra windows or portholes are limited in size and framed in brass. High Pressure Laminate (HPL) panelling provides enhanced durability and impact resistance. Floating interior floors and low-frequency insulation serve to minimise noise and vibration. Maaskant Managing Director Eric Moerkerk showed us around a brand-new fishing vessel the yard had outfitted to give us an idea of what Scintilla Maris will look like when finished. Although below Dutch superyacht standards in terms of luxury materials, the high-quality finish was several steps above what you would expect to find on a working vessel. “We’re used to working with demanding commercial clients who require a high degree of flexibility,” says Moerkerk. “Owners and their reps are always here in the yard during construction requesting changes and we’re able to react to their needs. This is the nature of the fishing business today and that flexibility means we’re well prepared to handle conversion projects like Scintilla Maris.” “A SUPER-SILENT, VIBRATION-LESS BEAST” By far the biggest upgrade is the hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system. Stricter emission regulations meant the initial intention to keep the original 4,400-hp Deutz MWM diesel engine, which was in excellent condition, had to be abandoned. Wabtech EPA T4/IMO Tier III engines, among the most technologically advanced and fuel-efficient medium-duty diesels, were also considered before settling on a hybrid DE system. Driving the single 3.4-metre Van Voorden propeller is a 2,000-horsepower electric motor (1300kW @ 1000rpm) supplied by Marelli in Italy that the owner refers to as a “super-silent, vibration-less beast.” The motor is custom-designed with two windings that effectively provide two motors of 650kW each wound on one stator, which can be energised individually or together for virtually any combination of normal motor speeds.The electric motor is coupled to a ZF Marine reduction box and three Volvo D16 IMO III gensets (586kW @ 1800rpm). The EST-Floatech Lithium-ion battery bank (2 MW) provides a further level of redundancy and is mainly used to run a full hotel load overnight without generators and for peak shaving, but they can also power the 110kW Marelli bow and stern thrusters for silent, emission-free, electronic anchoring. Maritiem Elektro Zeeland (MEZ), a tried and trusted local partner of Damen Maaskant, is the engineering firm responsible for integrating all the electrical installations, including the propulsion, power management, automation, navigation, communication, entertainment and lighting systems. The hybrid system based on an AC and DC (back-up) grid can be monitored remotely and basically provides four sailing modes: battery mode with limited power and hybrid mode with one, two or three diesel generators that are always running at constant loads. A Dynapilot system from Alphatron Marine and based on DP technology provides full navigational control in all modes via a single joystick. Unlike modern yachts, two-thirds of the hull is below the waterline and the vessel has a 40-tonne keel. During the conversion weight has been added (including over 20 tonnes of batteries) in order to maintain the design draft. All this translates into a stiff rolling moment, which precludes the need for stabilising mechanisms beyond the original bilge keels. The general arrangement is still in the last stages of refinement, but when finished the yacht will be able to accommodate ten guests on the lower deck in four double cabins and a full-beam owner’s suite amidships underneath the original hatch into the fish hold (the former hold also provides immense space for storage and a good-size laundry). The main deck features multiple interior, exterior and semi-open areas for relaxation. On the bridge deck the open wheelhouse is enormous for the size of vessel and the owner has reserved the aft section as a private office. The main tender will be stowed on the sun deck aft and there is a viewing lounge forward overlooking the foredeck. “Scintilla Maris has been thoughtfully designed as a home away from home,” he says. “The purposing of spaces, the flow between them and the designation between the private and crew areas reflects that. I want to feel at home instantly and when stepping on board and specifically don’t want to feel like a guest in a hotel when on my own boat.” ASK THE EXPERTS The owner is well aware that Scintilla Maris is a highly personal conversion project that is probably more suited to long-range voyages in northern waters than cruising the Côte d'Azur. But his business instincts also tell him that expert advice can make all the difference if he wants to commercialise his investment through chartering and eventual resale. So we were not the only ones visiting Scintilla Maris. He had also invited William Molloy, head of charter at Moravia Yachting; Roy Posthuma, charter and sales broker also with Moravia Yachting; and Pino Di Mora, senior project manager with Hill Robinson. What followed was a lively and productive discussion about how the onboard amenities, especially the crew accommodation and services, could be optimised without incurring drastic changes to the existing layout. Some 16 years after her owner acquired her, the transformation of Scintilla Maris from beam trawler into luxury yacht is on track to be completed by spring 2023, which must be something of a record for a conversion project. “This has been such a long project primarily because taking everything I learned, both the good and the bad, and translating that into something approaching a spec list for the shipyard took an enormous amount of time,” says the owner. “But it’s been an unusual privilege to be able to do this at the yard where the boat was actually built, where there are still a number of people that built Scintilla Maris. To have that intimate connection with the boat and these guys who have so much pride in their work has been an amazing experience.” This article was originally published in September 2022 of Issue 1 of the How to Build It magazine. You can download the entire magazine for free here.
Latest Update Tue 14 Mar 2023 | 16:00