This will date me, but the first time I saw a Cheoy Lee was in the 1950s when one of their sailboats was offloaded at the boatyard where I worked during high school. Designed by Arthur Robb, it was a pretty thing and the first all-teak sailboat I'd ever seen. Teak decks, teak planking, and a gorgeous teak interior. I was in love.
My reverie was interrupted when I heard my working buddy, another high-schooler, calling my name. I climbed down to look at the shipping cradle he was stroking. It was a maze of 8-inch by 8-inch timbers and, you guessed it, they were solid teak.
I was reminded of this as my bare feet touched the silky teak decks of the new Cheoy Lee Global 100 and thought, "I bet they wish they had all those teak timbers nowadays!"
It also reminded me that not all boatbuilders in the Far East are Johnnies-come-lately aimed at the American market. For example, back when I was admiring that teak shipping cradle, Cheoy Lee was already 80 years old, with a long and distinguished reputation for building commercial boats and ships. They began in China with steampowered craft and then in Hong Kong, where they built blockade-runners to outwit the Japanese during World War II. For more than 130 years, Cheoy Lee has built everything from ferries to tugboats and, in fact, the Panama Canal Authority just ordered more than a dozen Cheoy Lee tugs.
The point is that Cheoy Lee has a thorough grounding in boatbuilding skills, and has been an industry leader in fiberglass construction since the 1960s. The buyers and users of commercial boats have no patience for dilettante builders, so the fact that Cheoy Lee has a reputation among these hard-to-please customers is high acclaim.
But none of this prepared me for the moment when I stepped into the salon of the Global 100. This was not a traditional teak interior by any means. It was warm and inviting and cozy and traditional in a very non-yachting way. In fact, I felt like I was stepping into a luxuriously appointed Cape Cod cottage.
Ft. Lauderdale-based designer Didgie Vrana of Argonautica worked with the owners of Sea Fox to create a thoroughly likable and quite surprising interior. Yes, "surprising" can have many meanings but let me be very clear: I loved this yacht.
Where you might have expected to see high-gloss teak, the wood was a warm American cherry. But it was the painted-out paneling of oyster white that shouted Down East and Nat Herreshoff and tradition.
The salon has two areas: entertaining aft and dining forward. The upper half of the bulkheads are glossy white, including a book case with fiddles aft, and a built-in TV in the other corner. Large windows give a great view even when seated and, instead of the usual blinds, the fabric curtains have homestyle tie-backs when they're not in use. There's an L-shaped sofa and several barrel chairs for flexibility when entertaining or watching television.
The dining area is set apart by a wood column and low divider, which leaves room for a round table with eight chairs. Round tables are so much more civilized than rectangular ones, because everyone can talk to each other, and this use of space was a judicious one. Opposite the table is a built-in wet bar with a granite counter, and another buffet is to port. The forward bulkhead, in white, of course, has recesses for paintings. And if you thought that the painted finishes might hide Cheoy Lee craftsmanship, you're wrong: The raised panel designs show the builder's talent clearly and the book-matched woods in the lower cabinets are simply flawless.
A passageway to starboard leads past a delightful day-head with a painted ceramic sink, past a marbled entryway, past stairs to the upper decks, and past the galley.
At the end of the passage and filling the forward end of the house is a lovely master suite with an aft-facing king-size berth beneath a padded headboard and beveled mirror. A writing desk is to starboard and Roman shades can cover the large windows when you want to watch the flatscreen TV.
Curving stairs lead down to the master head, which because it fills the forepeak up to the anchor locker, has room for front cabinets, twin sinks set in marble counters, and a properly sized dedicated vanity with a mirror, good lighting, and a stylish vanity chair. Just aft is an immense shower with a Grohe spray tower.
To reach the guest accommodations, you pass from the dining area down a staircase that can only be called a work of art, with detailed banisters that incorporate brass rings, chrome railings, and burled insets.
Walk forward through the lower foyer from the stairs and- surprise!-there is what seems to be a second master suite. This one is also full beam, with huge windows on each side, a love seat to port, and a king-sized berth. A second oversized head compartment is just forward, with twin sinks, a spa tub, and large shower. A guest couple aboard Sea Fox is definitely not in second-class accommodations.
Abaft the foyer (which has a stewardess locker with full-sized washer and dryer) are a pair of identical guest cabins. On Sea Fox, the starboard cabin was turned into a gym with built-in fitness equipment but the other cabin has a queen-sized berth, built-in bureaus, and plenty of light. Both have large heads with showers.
As you climb the stairs from the main deck, you come to a sitting area that is quite striking. If you study the profile of the Global 100, you might guess the windscreen hides a pilothouse but, with an enclosed bridge, why would you want two inside helms? Instead, this spacious area is an observation lounge with a large wraparound sofa, table, and a spectacular 180-degree view through large windows. It's a perfect place for the owner or guests to enjoy the passing scenery without having to intrude on the helm area. It's close to the galley for munchies and a safe bet to be popular as a getaway from the rest of the boat.
The bridge, which is half helm and half skylounge, is a wonderful place from which to run the yacht. The skipper gets a dedicated Stidd helm chair behind the tall dashboard with four KEP (Kessler-Ellis) displays and space for every possible piece of electronics. An L-shaped settee backs up to the companion helm bench and, with the big windows, the view is second to none. To starboard is a wet bar with granite top next to a cabinet with popupflatscreen TV, and there's room for a loose chair as well. Hidden sunshades are built into the valances, and the side windows open electrically for full ventilation.
Twin sliding doors open fully to an alfresco lounge area with a built-in settee, table and chairs. A console has a summer kitchen with fridge and sink, while another console holds a fullsize propane barbecue. Yet even with all these amenities, there's still ample room for an 18-foot Nautica RIB and the 2,200-pound Nautical Structures crane to launch it.
The main-deck galley is a chef's dream and, for once, this country galley really looks like a country galley. The phrase "country galley" has come to mean any kitchen with a sitting area but, in this case, country means the galley is paneled in white Nantucket-style bead-board for a classic (and easily cleaned!) look.
But the layout is equally noteworthy. First, it's L-shaped with an entry on one side of the L at the starboard passageway, and another entry with closing door from the dining area on the other leg of the L. There's also a third entry directly to the side deck, so provisions can be brought aboard without tracking through the guest areas. The long side of the L to port creates a perfect butler's pantry, where the crew can prep food for service and drop off retrieved plates.
The main part of the galley puts everything within reach of the chef, from the stand-up refrigerator to the cooktop with oven below and microwave above. Even I would enjoy doing the chores in this galley, since the large double sink is angled next to the oversized windows, giving galley slaves a wonderful view for daydreaming.
The crew hasn't been neglected on the Global 100, either. Stairs from the afterdeck (or a watertight transom door) lead to palatial digs for the captain and his team. The captain gets a double cabin with a private head and stall shower, and two crew cabins are opposite. One offers upper and lower bunks and the other has a single. Both share a comfortably sized head with shower stall. There's also a crew lounge with a settee and table plus a mini-galley with fridge and microwave. A second washer and dryer in the crew quarters simplifies housekeeping without disturbing guests.
The engineroom is what you'd expect from a builder with years of experience in commercial craft: seamanlike, professional, and thoughtful. Standard power for the Global 100 is a pair of 1,652- horsepower Caterpillar C32 diesels that are impeccably installed. Stainless steel pipes are used rather than hose, and the manifold system for the seven integral fiberglass fuel tanks is solid and intuitively organized.
Twin 40 kW Northern Lights gensets are standard, as are Naiad hydraulics to power the bow thruster, nine-foot stabilizers, and the davit. Sea Fox has a Filtration Concepts watermaker that produces 1,800 gallons per day.
Construction, as with all Cheoy Lee yachts, is solid and well-proven, with the hull, deck, and superstructure cored with Divinycell, while the reinforcing is bi-axial and multi-axial E-glass. Exterior finish is Awlcraft 2000.
Underway, the most noticeable feature of the Global 100 isn't noticeable at all. This is a dead-silent yacht. I gave up trying to get a reading on my sound meter when I couldn't get it to twitch above 60 decibels. In the pilothouse, the only way we knew the engines were running was to check the tachs.
Once into the Gulf Stream, Sea Fox was everything you'd expect from a well-bred motoryacht. She had a good turn of speed, topping at over 23 knots, and a comfortable 19 knot cruise at 2000 rpm which, at just 70-percent load, should make these big Cats purr for years.
We had mild seas but the above-waterline chines forward threw the spray aside rather than aft, and they didn't make any thumping noise in the process. This is just what you want in a yacht: no drama, no fuss, no muss. Just a comfortable motion at a long-legged pace.
I came away from the Global 100 pleased to find that, years after I'd seen those early solid teak shipping cradles, everything Cheoy Lee does is still absolutely first class.
I just wish I'd kept those cradles.
Cheoy Lee Shipyards; 954-527-0999, www.cheoyleena.com