For many, the first boat is a hand-me-down rowboat or perhaps an entry-level runabout. For Lora and Roger Blanchard, it's a bit grander: the North Star 92 Pilothouse Motoryacht Condalora.
North Star is a relatively new name in the semi-custom yacht market, starting with 70-footers and now building a series of 74- to 115-footers on the Columbia River. The Blanchards, who own our Jack Sarin-designed test boat, looked to the builder for savings from her hull design's production efficiency and the ability to tailor their 92 with custom features.
The hull, tank-tested by Sarin at the University of British Columbia, is beamy enough (just under 23 feet) for offshore stability and allows for a spacious interior, even with full walkaround side decks. Three- or four-stateroom layouts are available, and our first-time owners chose three, with nicely finished crew quarters forward. The Pacific Northwest is famous for wood, so it should be no surprise that Condalora's cherry interior has fine joinery. Beech inlays accent the panels in the cabinets, and everything from the built-in furniture to the window posts incorporates stand-proud moldings for a detailed look.
Most yachts reflect the taste of the interior designer as much as that of the owner, but, in this case, they are one and the same. Lora Blanchard has a background in design, and her touch and ideas shaped Condalora. In one direction, guests will see Asian simplicity. Elsewhere, the geometric look of art deco is obviously the influence. The resulting blend is not just pleasant to view, but comfortable as well.
A large settee is to starboard in the saloon, but first to catch your eye is a pair of steamer chairs in mahogany and soft lambskin in the after port corner. They are just forward of the entertainment center, which includes a 42-inch Sony plasma TV, and they match the twin custom mahogany cocktail tables by the couch in material and spirit.
The formal dining area is forward, delineated by a modest overhead treatment and by the arrangement of the sitting area aft. The dining table is cherry, stained slightly darker than the bulkheads to stand out and surrounded by mahogany chairs custom-built to be wider and more comfortable than the norm.
On many yachts, the continuity of theme falls apart on closer inspection of the details, but it is in the details where the Blanchard/North Star team excelled. The art deco wall sconces in the saloon, for example, are of brushed nickel, a finish carried throughout Condalora, from the sliding saloon doors to the smallest drawer pull. Even the faucets in each head are brushed nickel.
Lutron programmable lighting is used throughout and, to eliminate the jarring appearance of a white switch plate on an otherwise unblemished bulkhead, each plate is painted to match the cherry paneling. In the day head off the saloon, antique mirrors top a mosaic of tumbled marble, and the brushed nickel faucet fills a hand-pounded nickel bowl.
The L-shape galley is enclosed, with black granite counters, a cherry Amtico sole and stainless-steel Viking appliances. Big windows make the area bright and pleasant, even with the pocket door closed.
Forward is the raised pilothouse, executed in typical Northwest fashion with a simple padded black dash filled with electronics, a pair of Stidd helm chairs on pedestals, and two big Sony screens to display most data. Pantographic doors open to both side decks, and the steeply raked windshield creates a skylight effect. A raised settee with a marble-topped table overlooks the helm and provides a good view while the yacht is under way.
The stairs belowdecks from the dining area are notable for their custom, dark gray iron rails in an art deco theme, with cherry caprails and posts. The lower foyer is equally unusual, with a geometric carpet inset into the cherry sole.
The master suite spans the full beam amidships, with a king berth between marble-topped nightstands. A peach-tinted mirror serves as a headboard, with the color softening what would otherwise be the mirror's harsh reflection. A desk is to port, a settee is to starboard and, rather than a full-width his-and-her head, there is a large walk-in closet to starboard. The master head has custom-etched shower doors in an art deco theme, as well as a flat-bottomed tile and marble bathtub with a slanted back for comfort.
Two guest cabins are also off the foyer. The portside stateroom has a queen berth, an outboard bureau and a spacious head with shower. The starboard cabin is equally sized and equipped, but with twin beds.
The flying bridge has a fiberglass hardtop, and the bridge helm station is just as well fitted as the pilothouse station, with repeater electronics in a fiberglass console. Two Stidd chairs are behind the wheel, and Micro Commander wing controls are to port and starboard.
Lighting and speakers in the hardtop make the bridge pleasant for entertaining, with a U-shape settee around a table divided for easy access, although a cleverly designed leaf slides seamlessly into place to create an alfresco dining table. A wet bar and Jenn-Air grill are abaft, and a sunning area has twin teak lounges.
Our test 92's boat deck, which stretches far enough to shade the afterdeck, easily held a Nautica RIB, a Sea-Doo GTX watercraft and a husky Nick Jackson crane to launch them.
Power for Condalora is a pair of 1,400 hp Caterpillar 3412E diesels, with triple Northern Lights generators (two 40kW and a night generator of 12kW) providing electrical power. Our test boat has Wesmar stabilizers and a hydraulic bow thruster, and a 1,200-gallon-per-day Sea Recovery watermaker that reflects the Blanchards' plan for extended cruising. A utility room is abaft the engineroom, with a freezer, a second washer/dryer (another set is hidden off the foyer forward), a workbench and a 4,000-watt inverter.
Condalora has four watertight bulkheads and seven bilge areas with independent pumps. The yacht is handlaid and vacuum-bagged using Core-Cell in the hull, decks and superstructure. Construction is to ABS standards, with 11/2-inch Core-Cell in the hull bottom and 1-inch Core-Cell in the topsides for impact strength and thermal resistance. Prop tunnels increase the prop thrust and level the engines, as well as reduce the draft to 5 feet, 10 inches, allowing Condalora access to shallow harbors.
In an interesting use of vacuum-bagging, North Star bonds the aft teak decking, providing strength without the usual fasteners that can leak or plugs that can pop loose. The entire underwater surface is vinylester resin finished with Interlux barrier coat to prevent blisters, and the finish is high-luster gelcoat for low maintenance.
For their introduction to yachting, the Blanchards thoughtfully used the full capabilities of North Star Yachts to create a comfortable, seaworthy and pleasantly sensible yacht.
Contact: North Star Yachts, (949) 589-9116; www.northstaryachts.com.