Christensen 157

Christensen's largest-ever is a reflection of her owner, who took a hand in her interior design.

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Christensen Shipyards, the well-established builder of composite superyachts in Vancouver, Wash., has completed dozens of fine vessels, but the motoryacht Barchetta is without a doubt the company's best yet. She raises the bar, not just for Christensen, but for its competitors as well.

Barchetta's profile may seem familiar, as she is the latest in a successful series of 157-foot tridecks, but thanks to the combined efforts of Christensen and Jacqueline Mann Design she is anything but just another pretty yacht. A considerable part of the success is also due to the contributions of Barchetta's owner, obviously a lady of exceptional and exquisite taste, who took a personal role in directing the interior design.

Her collection of art, including many fine crystal and art glass pieces by Lalique and classic etchings by Icart and Erte, bring to the yacht's interior a level of sophistication and refinement that is unmatched. As I walked through Barchetta, I was reminded of the classic "little black dress, an item of apparel that is always in fashion and serves as the perfect foundation for a wide variety of accessories. Similarly, the yacht's Art Deco interior, much of it done with flat, neutral-shaded bulkhead panels with black resin inlays, serves as a fine backdrop for the owner's mementos of the 1920s and '30s. The stonework echoes the theme throughout the yacht. The master-or should that be mistress?-suite is outfitted primarily in absolute black granite, as is the VIP stateroom and the pilothouse. The foyer also displays absolute black granite, in combination with Giallo Sienna and Blue Bahia. Other staterooms and spaces also combine a base of absolute black granite with other shades, including Giallo Rio, Gold Beach, Madura Gold and Black Galaxy, each specifically designed to best display the room's featured art.

Another color that dominates and yet combines nicely with the black is a solid, unabashed fire-engine red. It is used in the leather upholstery for several pieces of loose furniture, for bed linens, for highlights in the Arts and Craft-style lighting, for the personal watercraft and kayaks stowed on Barchetta's top deck, and even for her huge MTUs, a nostalgic reminder of the engines' powerful Detroit Diesel heritage.

In the owner's bath, the custom glass artwork that adorns the shower bulkhead takes its cue from the elegant Lalique faucet handles that top the lavatory, creating a stunning first impression. A coordinated theme of lilies carries throughout the yacht as well, displayed most prominently in the guest baths, but also worked into the black resin inlays that adorn the bulkheads and the window pilasters. They make a very nice statement.

Christensen's advances in Barchetta are not only in the level of her interior finish, remarkable as it is. The company's engineers worked with the hydrodynamic research team at New York's Webb Institute to develop, test and optimize a bulbous bow, a first for Christensen that will become standard on following hulls to deliver improved overall cruising efficiency.

As an engineer myself, I give special attention to machinery and service spaces, not only for their own sake, but also as a sure indicator of overall quality. Barchetta shines here as well, quite literally. Her red engines and glossy white finish are accented by polished stainless steel, all aglow under an abundance of lighting. While the effect is dramatic, it's not just for show. The lighting and smooth surfaces make it easier to keep the spaces clean, and that makes it safer and encourages better maintenance. There is also lots of space for access to the main and auxiliary machinery, and permanently mounted service equipment such as water and air hose reels help ensure regular attention to areas needing routine care.

One might think that with her personal collection of art on display, Barchetta would remain her owner's private and exclusive retreat, open only to a few of her best friends. The reality, however, is that the yacht is available for charter through Churchill Partners. Here again, the owner's experience and wisdom comes into play. Delicate as things appear, the pieces of art are well-secured and measures have been incorporated to protect them from damage. Likewise, the upholstery throughout is water-resistant to protect against inadvertent damage.

Another factor critical to success as a charter yacht is a happy and comfortable crew. The crew quarters are spacious and finished to a high standard, and the large crew mess provides a relaxing area for off-duty leisure time. The galley, while equipped with commercial-grade appliances, is also an attractive working area with light granite countertops and warm wood-finished cabinetry, and thanks to a large port side window, a nice view of the passing world.

Guests are accommodated in five staterooms belowdecks, while the owner's suite is forward on the main deck. The guest area includes two staterooms forward, each with a double berth, a single berth and a Pullman, and two mid staterooms, each with king berths, all with en suite heads and showers. The VIP suite has a king berth, plus a desk and small sitting area, and the en suite head includes both a tub and shower, along with a private toilet compartment.

On the main deck, the entry foyer on the starboard side features a spacious curved stairway that extends from the lower deck to the pilothouse deck. An elevator opposite, large enough to carry several people, provides service from the lower deck all the way to the open top deck. A day head adjoins the foyer, and forward, the owner's suite is accessed through a private sitting room. The owner's stateroom has another sitting area to starboard and a desk to port. The forward end of the large space is filled by the bathing area. Her side has an oval whirlpool tub, a toilet and bidet, and shares a central double-doored shower with his side. Each has a spacious wardrobe with doors from both the bath area and the stateroom. The overhead above the king berth has a large recessed dome, with soft pastel neon lighting to reinforce the Art Deco theme.

Abaft the galley is the main saloon and dining area, with a low divider separating the two visually. There's a bar and secondary dining table on the open afterdeck at this level, with steps down to the integral swim platform. On the deck above, there's room for a 19-foot tender aft and a 13½-foot tender forward, both Nautica RIBs. Another table provides space for outside dining aft, while a bar, game table and seating in the skylounge provide a retreat from hot, cold or inclement weather. The pilothouse and captain's cabin lie forward, and there's a sun lounge forward of the bridge that cleverly conceals the domed overhead of the owner's stateroom below.

If it weren't otherwise obvious, the collection of water toys on Barchetta's aft top deck the day of my visit would give away her dual life as a charter yacht. In addition to the four personal watercraft and the four kayaks, there was a mini-sub for three. A larger whirlpool spa lies in the corner forward to port and is flanked by sunpads to either side. There's a grill to starboard, alongside the bar, and dinette seating to port. The bar and dinette are shaded by a large hardtop suspended from the radar arch.

Most potential superyacht clients are savvy enough to realize that with the current exchange rate, their funds just might go a lot farther in the U.S. than overseas. Barchetta is an answer to those who remain concerned about the relative merits and quality of U.S. versus foreign built, and the availability of larger yachts; she's fairly representative of outstanding recent deliveries from a number of domestic yards, many of which have upgraded and expanded their facilities and are displaying a dramatically improved quality and flair over just a couple years ago. Indeed, in my opinion Barchetta is proof of how U.S.-built superyachts offer excellent value at this time and are well worth consideration. She's a standout, and Christensen has every reason to be proud of its work.

But don't think of her as an anomaly. Christensen is extending its 157-foot series to 160 feet, to continue being built in Washington, and will soon start construction of 180-footers at the yacht builder's new facility in Tennessee. Contact: Christensen Shipyards, (360) 695-3238;www.christensenyachts.com