Photos By Franco Pace
After an exceptional journey of innovation and development at the Royal Huisman yard, the graceful 58m Ron Holland designed ketch Ethereal, with interior and exterior styling by Pieter Beeldsnijder, took to the water in November 2008 to begin the serious voyaging for which she was created.
Following sea trials out of Harlingen, a deepwater seaport in close proximity to the yard’s Vollenhove location, Ethereal has set sail for the Canaries and the Caribbean, where her owners enjoyed their very first taste of this sensational craft with family and friends. Their experiencehas been an extraordinary one, because, in so many ways, Ethereal is no ordinary yacht.
When owners Bill & Shannon Joy decided to build Ethereal they were inspired, first, by a great admiration for the Royal Huisman-built 43m ketch Juliet – also created together with Ron Holland and Pieter Beeldsnijder; and, second, by their desire to create “a private island” offering his family and guests every comfort and amenity, yet conceived and operated to deliver these in the most enlightened and progressive manner.
To achieve these ends the project became, as Bill Joy described it, “a floating lab”. Few off-the-peg technologies were available to meet the objectives of long range sustainability of operations, energy efficiency, flexible energy management, reduced operational cost and lower carbon footprint. So Owner and Yard worked together with some of the world’s finest specialists to develop solutions. These are not – and never can be – the ultimate solutions; they are steps along a road. But these steps take Ethereal further down that road than any private yacht built to date – with fascinating consequences for those who sail her…
Step below decks on Ethereal and you cannot help but be aware of the calm and the quiet – the sheer tranquillity that immerses you – no matter what is occurring operationally on the boat. The entire living area is cocooned, top, bottom and sides, like a refrigerated vehicle, in high-tech insulation materials that ensure a comfortable and stable air temperature without the need for heavy heating or cooling loads – wherever in the world the yacht might be.
Noise and vibration, already substantially managed at source, is yet further distanced from the accommodation. The light is easy on the eye (and on the furnishings) because light-switchable glass in the hatches screens UV and infrared light as required for the time of day and the strength of the sun. Switch on some dimmable interior lighting. You’ll be surprised by the warm ambience created, especially when you know that the entire system uses mould-breaking LED technology. (Who said LED lighting can only produce a cold, white light that cannot be dimmed?) These facilities – and a great deal more – are operated through conveniently located touchpad screens modelled on the Apple iPhone user interface.
Ethereal’s owner was determined to create the “perfect mobile gathering place for family and friends” and there can be no doubt this has been achieved, with open, relaxed areas that flow from one to another, complemented by smaller, more intimate areas, when privacy or seclusion are preferred. Clutter has been avoided: “We prefer Zen to ornate” comments Bill Joy, adding “you don’t have to put any art on these boats, the boat itself is the art.” He notes, however, that the yacht does feature beautiful woodwork: “When you go to Royal Huisman, you would be foolish not to let them express all their skill”. He also made the observation, during his launch speech, that the professionalism and knowledge of the Royal Huisman team surpassed any he had encountered even whilst at the helm of Silicon Valley’s own Sun Microsystems, or in business generally.
Descending from the subtly proportioned ‘al fresco’ teak trimmed pilothouse one enters a light and very airy upper salon. With an atmosphere of easy comfort enhanced by panoramic views, this incredibly spacious area is subtly subdivided. To port, a cosy, intimate seating area that offers amenity for board games also cleverly transforms to provide sophisticated dining for eight. To starboard, a full sized dining area for ten flows gracefully into an impressive staircase, beckoning access to the magnificently spacious lower salon.
Here, a near-cinema-sized flat screen TV to port offers the ultimate in high-impact entertainment, whilst a beautifully appointed music den to starboard conceals a piano and an ensemble of percussion instruments. The extraordinary, mellow ambience is enriched by exquisitely inlaid mahogany veneers, soaked in hand rubbed varnish and trimmed in textured fabrics or deepgrained suede leather.
Taking departure of this sumptuous retreat, access to the commodious and professionally equipped galley is found through a door concealed by a unique ship’s model. Linked to a spacious crew dinette and the bright, airy crew quarters, this forward area affords direct access to the deck, pump and engine room for maximum operational efficiency and minimal disturbance to the guests.
Aft of the lower salon are the office, complete with full video-conferencing facilities, two large guest cabins and a third utility cabin that can be created by joining the office and the day head. The fullbeam owner’s suite is aft, complete with a large cedar lined sauna in the bathroom (Royal Huisman’s first, but unlikely to be its last); it enjoys the additional amenity of direct access to the privacy and seclusion of the aft cockpit and swim platform.
Every superyacht offers exceptional lifestyle experiences but Ethereal’s unique technology takes these to a new level.
It’s early morning in the tropics and time for a refreshing dip. You plunge over the side, enjoying a swim around the yacht without ever having to pass through exhaust gases - the yacht is operating solely on her stored energy reserve of 400 Kwh of lithium-ion phosphate batteries.
All manner of household loads such as air conditioning and washing machines are effortlessly running on this reserve. Back on deck, anchors raised, you can’t help but be impressed as the mainsail is hoisted silently – by wireless remote so the crewman has optimum views of the process – and Ethereal has departed harbour and set sail in ‘stealth mode using her silent Hybrid propulsion system - yesterday’s late-arriving guests charge their own human batteries as they enjoy uninterrupted sleep.
On passage to your evening anchorage, you take the push-button, hydraulicallyvoperated crow’s nest up the main mast for a stunning view of this powerful ketch under sail and the ocean around, when you spot a pod of whales. The captain navigates to the location, furls headsails, and selects “station-keeping mode” to maintain a computer-controlled geostationary position close to the whales via synchronized control of thrusters, engines and rudder. Everyone gathers to enjoy the show: for those below deck, Ethereal’s underwater video camera puts camera lens to whale eye for close encounters of another kind.
Approaching a secluded anchorage through reefs in strong afternoon sunlight is always a challenge. But not only does Ethereal’s Captain have a man conning in the crow’s nest; the bank of ‘tru daylight’ back lit, water-cooled screens collectively display chart, radar and systems monitoring consecutively at the helm, under the cover and security of the pilothouse, and even in guest cabins to provide the navigational information required with scarcelyimaginable contrast and clarity – screens with ten times the daylight viewing power of a laptop in direct sunlight, once thought an impossibility. Ethereal is easily manoeuvred into position to drop anchors thanks to joystick control of her twin engines and the innovative, retractable, hubless electric thrusters that provide the same silent and efficient power, to port or starboard.
At anchor once more, the engineer uses energy buffering procedures to meet peak loads without the #2 generator having to kick into play: the #1 generator is complemented by the 400 kWh lithiumion phosphate battery bank instead. Soon all is silent as owners and guests enjoy a perfect, peaceful dinner on deck, beneath the stars..
Ethereal is available for charter through Camper & Nicholsons this summer in the Mediterranean. She will then head to the Caribbean for the winter season.
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