The notorious Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia is one of the roughest bodies of water in the southern hemisphere, making it as good a place as any for shaking down a new yacht. Such an area was a fitting place to test Mea Culpa, a new 130-foot "yacht fisher built by McMullen & Wing for exploring the oceans of the world.
"I wanted a yacht that could fish the west coast from Alaska to Central America, said her owner. "But I've been a sportsman all my life, and by the time we established all the features and attributes of the design, the concept grew from 100 feet to 130 feet and it was clearly a worldwide voyager.
The owner, who asked that his name be withheld, hired noted naval architect Jack Sarin for the design. Sarin is often credited for first developing the concept of a large "yacht fisher and designed the early versions of the "megayacht with a sport fishing attitude. He seemed the natural choice for this multi-purpose yacht.
Mea Culpa's all-business look with a reverse sheer and a rakish profile, futuristic composite tower and multi-tiered afterdeck arrangement does not betray the exquisitely crafted palatial interior. This SUV of the seas is ready for far-flung adventures and serious fishing, but is also a great family yacht for pampering children and friends.
The concept of a 100-foot plus fish boat is often debatable among serious anglers. The question of the ability to raise fish and maneuver is often questioned. In fact Sarin himself had a few reservations.
"At first I thought this boat might be too large and luxurious to really fish effectively", Sarin recalled. "I wondered if it could back down effectively, but we shaped the hull accordingly, put in the right power, customized it with multiple steering stations and tweaked a variety of scenarios until we were all happy."
Mea Culpa was put to the test fishing off Tasmania and then crossed the Tasman Sea and used Sydney Harbor as a base for the season before traveling north to tag marlin off the Gold Coast. The owners also enjoy kicking back and fishing for the smaller stuff.
"Fishing with the big guns is not only what we're about", said Captain Mike Hein. "The owner and his family cherish their time at a quiet anchorage. After dinner, he and his wife might turn on some music and retreat to the stern where they fish off the swim step into the late evening, bringing in John Dory or just watching the squid rocket past the stern lights."
Fishing will not be the only activity taking place on board Mea Culpa. She has a full complement of scuba gear with 12 tanks and snorkel gear for 20. The yacht also has a compressor and twin underwater jet packs, as well as a hydraulically controlled swim step that lowers one meter below water level, easing access for either tank-laden divers or a boarding swimmer. Cranes on the upper afterdeck and forward have the capacity to launch the yacht's PWCs .
Twin MTU 12V4000s power Mea Culpa to a top speed of 23.5 knots and a cruising speed of 14 knots. For a 130-foot yacht, these are impressive numbers and give her the legs needed to explore fishing grounds off the beaten path. McMullen & Wing built Mea Culpa with composites of E-glass and PVC coring with epoxy resin and Kevlar and carbon fiber, creating a light, stiff and solid hull.
The cockpit is enormous and has multiple slush ice bait tanks and easy freezer access. There is a trick barbecue that hydraulically lifts through the deck along with a custom skeet launcher. There are large bow and stern anchors; the stern supports a Muir capstan and 35-ton hydraulic winches, all of which can be removed while fishing.
Forward on the California deck a Hi-Lo table swings from cocktail to dining height, and the entire back deck can be enclosed and heated or air conditioned. Like drawers of precious silver, custom rods and reels are stowed on this deck.
Looming more than 50 feet off the water, a towering composite mast stands out as the most distinctive feature on Mea Culpa. Like a sky box that would make any dignitary happy at a major league game, the crow's nest sits partway up and has twin helm seats. Every control onboard is on a fingertip dash display, including hydraulically controlled outriggers.
From this catbird's seat, there's the view of the flying bridge below with three Stidd helm seats that swivel into place to align with a seven-person dining settee. One deck below is the recessed sun pad with retractable stainless handrails that maintain the flush profile.
Belowdecks the rich satin-stained Honduras mahogany interior is inviting with soft tones of granite, marble and stainless accents and thematic moldings that run cabin to cabin. The main saloon is plush with down-filled settees forming multiple seating areas and a low divider forming the dining area with a complete bar to starboard. Lighting fixtures and vases are from Morano, Italy, and all the marble is from the owner's own Italian quarry.
The interior is a successful collaboration of luxury and casual. The tastefully appointed décor is not so refined that a weary fisherman, fresh from battling big game, wouldn't be welcome to relax.
The master suite is on the main deck level and has a remote opening skylight over the king-size bed. Four guest cabins on the lower deck branch off from an art-laden central foyer. One queen stateroom is designed to transform into a twin. Two decks up, the skylounge doubles as the owner's secluded study, as well as a comfortable den with a complete library and a full-size desk with dual flat screens that double for ship's operations and computer tasks. The isolated owner's office provides a private head and a full bar. A limo-styled window divider with an etched glass map of the world separates the area from the wheel house while providing a stern view for the concerned helmsman peering aft.
While future yacht fishers may some day be faster, bigger and more sophisticated, there are few that will ever claim to have so completely satisfied an owner and designer, or been as faithful to the original mission statement as Mea Culpa.
"It was for our office the most comprehensive detailed project we've ever faced, said Sarin, "but surprisingly this owner/architect ended up as one of our most satisfying client-owner relationships. All projects are a series of difficult choices, and he never overrode our decisions and knew exactly when to accept our strengths and when to offer his aesthetic input.
There is little doubt from captain and owner that this boat can go anywhere and handle just about any conditions; they have produced a yacht that runs more smoothly, looks sleeker and showcases more features than ever before, while suiting precisely what the owner had in mind.
Contact: McMullen & Wing, (011) 64 9 573 1405; www.mcmullenandwing.com.