It was a matter of honor among the genteel Southern ladies of my youth to avoid any overt displays of emotion, but something especially moving might elicit an exclamation of "Gracious! It was, and remains, a marvelous word that perfectly describes everything connected with Trinity Yachts' most impressive launch to date, the 177-foot trideck motoryacht Seahawk. Built for an experienced owner, Jim Mattei, she is the archetype of a gracious home afloat, a yacht that is an instant classic and will remain so for years to come.
As important as Seahawk's completion was to Mattei, it may be even more significant to Trinity Yachts. The project is a watershed event that allowed the builder, working with an accommodating client, to demonstrate its ability to deliver a custom superyacht among the best of recent deliveries worldwide. The exterior finish is superb, the interior outfitting is stunning and the engineering systems are first-rate. The thought put into Seahawk's design is rivaled only by the effort put into execution.
Billy Smith, Trinity's vice president, gives a lot of the credit to Mattei.
"Jim absolutely wanted to show the world that we could build world-class yachts in the U.S. He challenged us to take it to the next level," Smith said. "We're just happy that we had a client that had enough confidence in us to say, 'I think y'all can do it.'"
From what I've seen of Seahawk, that confidence was well placed.
The yacht signals Trinity's ability and intent to expand into even larger yachts, but the company does not plan to abandon its traditional market of yachts in the 100- to 150-foot range. Smith sees a clear demand for such yachts, with upscale equipment and outfitting, among those who demand the best but don't need the largest. These obviously will not be the least expensive yachts of their length, but for savvy buyers, "It's not about money, it's about value, Smith said.
From outside, Seahawk is what most have come to expect from Trinity Yachts. Both the hull and superstructure, constructed of aluminum, are faired and finished to a fine degree of smoothness, showing little waviness as they reflect the planks of an adjoining dock.
More subtle and springing from Trinity's deep roots as a major builder of commercial vessels are the equipment and outfitting details. In accordance with Seahawk's ABS classification, the anchoring system is rugged, and freeing ports are numerous. Even the navigation lighting, which is fudged a bit on many large yachts to avoid fitting a foremast, is in full compliance with the COLREGS.
Boarding Seahawk reveals hints of the classic interior to come. A varnished teak caprail, often omitted on modern yachts to reduce maintenance, wraps the main deck's periphery. On the afterdeck, a large oval table is topped by marquetry that is art in itself.
No single feature, not the Salvador Dali and Peter Max wall art, not the Frederic Remington sculptures, not even the antique Steinway grand piano jumps out to grab visitors' attention. Instead, there is the overwhelming impression that this is one special boat.
The farther I went, the more the impression was reinforced. To avoid the ballroom syndrome, the saloon is loosely divided into two sections, with the piano and a marble-topped wall cabinet as room dividers. Aft, a small sitting area to starboard is perfect for undisturbed reading or quiet conversation. Another striking inlaid table is to port, intended for gaming but suitable for dining should the party be limited to two couples.
Forward is the lion's share of the saloon. An overstuffed sofa and four oversized easy chairs surround a low gilt table with glass top. Facing the seating arrangement is a wide wall cabinet with a masterwork painting as a central focus and bookmatched burl veneer panels flanking it. With the touch of a button, the panel with the painting drops to reveal a large video screen. On either side of the cabinet, French doors with beveled glass panes open to the formal dining room and the entry foyer beyond.
The foyer wraps around a spiral stair that extends over three deck levels, forming part of a spacious atrium that is anchored by an inlaid marble compass rose at the bottom and topped by a globe-shape chandelier in the sky lounge. The stair has a wrought-iron railing with wood cap on the inside; wood panels that are masterpieces of carpentry line the outside. Unlike the tight, awkward spirals sometimes found on smaller yachts, Seahawk's stair has a large-diameter open core that makes the stair treads much safer to navigate.
Opening the door to the saloon, though, is an epiphany. Were I a bit older and of the female gender, entering would definitely have inspired an audible "Gracious!
With the exception of the galley, the main deck space forward of the foyer is devoted to the master suite. A wide passageway, with one of the many sculpture alcoves found around the yacht, leads from the foyer to double doors opening into the owner's study. In addition to a small office, the study includes a sitting room with sofa.
A columned archway frames the entry from the study to the master stateroom. Two hanging lockers, spanning the full beam, are forward of the berth. Additional stowage is in under-berth drawers and in dressers to port and starboard. An emergency escape hatch is in one of the lockers.
The master bath is opposite the study, with his-and-her toilet compartments and a full-size whirlpool tub. The stonework here, as in the guest baths and the foyers on all three levels, is breathtaking in its extent and detail. Bookmatched in two directions, with rope frames and other decorative inlays, the stonework is mounted on a honeycomb structural base to avoid cracking while keeping weight down.
Five guest staterooms occupy the midbody of Seahawk belowdecks. The two forward have twin berths, and the after three have queens. One of the three, just forward of the engineroom, is a full-beam VIP suite that rivals the master in outfit, if not in sheer size. This is just one of many features reflecting Mattei's yachting experience. In heavy weather with less than a full load of guests, this VIP cabin is sure to become the owner's refuge for sleeping, as it will have less motion and be much more comfortable than a main deck cabin forward.
Between the forward guest staterooms, a passageway and door lead to the crew lounge. In addition to providing emergency access to a second stairway for guests and crew, the passageway allows stewards to service the guest cabins without entering guest areas on the other decks. In fact, the yacht's layout allows the crew full access from the bridge to the bilge, from the bow to the stern, without transiting any guest areas. It is a wonderful feature seldom seen, even on yachts this size.
On the bridge deck, an island of cabinets and seating separates the chart and communications area from the helm. Abaft the third-level foyer and captain's cabin is a sky lounge with game table, bar, and video-viewing and conversation areas. The view is tremendous, with glass on three sides. Another of those lovely inlaid tables aft accommodates alfresco dining. Lounge chairs are abaft the table. There is also an outside seating area forward of the pilothouse.
Wing control stations are provided outboard of the pilothouse for docking and close maneuvering, so there is no need for a helm on the top deck. Instead, this prime real estate is used for a large spa. A day head and bar are aft beneath the radar arch. Two tenders, 17 feet and 19 feet, are stowed fully aft with two personal watercraft on centerline. Four canister liferafts are outboard, ready for immediate deployment.
The attention to detail shown in Seahawk's accommodations is echoed in her engineroom. Large twin sea chests are cross connected for flexibility of operation and are dressed in polished stainless steel for appearance and easy cleaning. Fuel and bilge manifolds, well located for convenient access, are not a leak-prone assembly of valves and piping, but are commercial-style cast manifolds more commonly used on ships. Double water-lift separator mufflers quiet the generator exhausts, and the gensets are wrapped in custom stainless-steel hush boxes.
Recently, Seahawk was sold to a new owner, who has his own vision for her interior and plans to rename her Katherine. Here's hoping his dream is executed as well as Mattei's was.