Christensen 157

Take an entertaining turn on the Christensen 157 Lady Joy - and bring some friends along.

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You may know Denise Rich as a successful songwriter, a philanthropist, and former wife of banker Marc Rich. But what you may not know is that she is also an active and ardent yachtswoman. She's owned a number of notable vessels over the years, but her latest, a Christensen 157, is perhaps the best yet, and makes me think of the lyrics from her song "Free Yourself," which was a hit for Chaka Khan: No one told you, you cant have it all, its time to act up and have yourself a ball.

Lady Joy, Rich's new trideck motoryacht, is definitely designed for living it up. Her naval architecture and exterior design are by Christensen, but Lady Joy's Carol Williamson custom interior decor, arrangement, and outfitting, suit Rich like a Versace original. This yacht is all about a party and making sure that everyone on board has a great time. Lady Joy's flexible arrangement plan allows for up to 18 overnight guests, and the electronics array that powers the entertainment system fills two large racks the size of office filing cabinets.

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The dark-finished cherry interior, with traditional raised paneling and heavy molding, could lend itself to a subdued mood, but with Rich's collection of colorful modern art, the spirit soars.The juxtaposition of the bright and sometimes-whimsical paintings against the formality of the cherry background works well in ways that are unexpected. A repeat yacht owner herself, Rich wisely realizes that Lady Joy is likely to have a new owner someday, so the cherry woodwork, the off-white carpets, and the ivory-toned upholstery and linens, create a neutral ground that will allow for changes in decor without expensive refit work.

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As interesting as the cabinetry are its contents. Denise Rich likes to entertain on a grand scale, so Lady Joy carries-neatly stacked in custom-fitted drawers and shelving-seven different sets of china and crystal for formal dining. The traditional dining room on the main deck seats 14 guests, but that's just the beginning of Lady Joy's entertainment area. Aft on the upper deck, alfresco dinners for up to 50 guests can be hosted at five tables, including the central table with four large removable leaves. Other tables and bars scattered around the yacht seat 12 on the main aft deck, 15 in the skylounge, 8 on the Portuguese bridge, and 23 on the top deck. All together, that's a capacity of 122 guests seated for a meal at once, unheard of on a yacht this size, and perhaps without equal anywhere outside of a dinner-cruise boat.

The overnight accommodations are equally impressive, both in number and in detail. There are five, perhaps six, guest staterooms below deck. I say "perhaps" because the sixth is a smaller space fitted with upper and lower twin berths. It can serve as a nanny cabin, as an exercise room, as an en suite children's cabin or, with a simple opening and closing of doors, as an adjunct to the aft VIP stateroom, which is fitted with a king bed. Forward of this full-beam area are two more VIP staterooms, also with king beds. Two more staterooms, these with twin berths and a Pullman each, lie forward of a central foyer. The foyer has a snack bar to port and I was impressed by the space for guest luggage that's an amenity too seldom seen these days, and is just one more sign of an experienced owner who knows what's needed, working with a builder and designer willing to make it happen.

Too often, a novice owner will seek to maximize guest areas at the expense of crew and working space. This knowledgeable builder/designer/owner team has allotted plenty of space to the crew for sleeping, dining, relaxing, and working. This vastly increases the odds of having a happy crew, and a happy ship and that, in turn, inevitably makes for a more pleasant on-board experience for everyone.

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While her guests relax below deck in the comfort of their staterooms, the owner can retreat to her own suite forward on the main deck. Hanging at the head of the king bed is a white canvas with the multi-colored word wayfarer a playful comment on the citizen of the world who dreams here. There is circular lighting above and the adjacent countertops are lined with heavily-veined, sepia-toned marble that brings to mind ancient nautical charts that reinforce the wayfarer theme.

To the starboard side of the bed is a desk and dressers, to port a vanity and more drawers. A hers-and-his bathing area spans the full beam of the forward bulkhead. The large oval tub that lies at the center is surrounded and capped by marble, and on the bulkhead behind is a stunning mermaid that is definitely not of the Disney variety. It may be only my imagination, but I do believe her two companions, gazing up at her as they swim alongside, are whistling.

Centrally located on the main deck is Lady Joy's magnificent galley, a spacious area that also includes a huge L-shaped dry-stores pantry. It wraps around a well-designed stair and passageway system that allow the crew to reach all the working areas aboard the yacht without intruding on guests. Large refrigerated and freezer lockers below deck complement the extensive array of commercial-grade equipment in the galley. There are also convenient serving bars on the aft deck and both upper decks.

A low cabinet that houses a pop-up video screen divides the saloon and dining room. With the screen down, the dining room, even when its full complement of 14 is seated, is a light and open area. With the screen up, those in the saloon can enjoy entertainment without being interrupted when others pass by. Three spacious and comfortable sofas flank a large central cocktail table, with the port and starboard sofas set in from the side windows so other guests can pass behind them. When you realize that Lady Joy also has full side decks outside the windows, it gives you some idea of the advantages made possible by her 29-plus-foot beam.

The main deck has most of its length devoted to interior space, with just a modest open aft deck, but the upper deck is reversed, with lots of outside area for relaxation.When theres enough room to seat 50 for dinner, with space left over for a service bar, you're talking one big aft deck.When you consider that the wheelhouse and captains cabin occupy this deck, and that theres another guest seating area forward, you'd be forgiven for thinking the skylounge must be small. But you'd be wrong. Though not huge, it's still large enough for a bar with five seats and a game table for four. The spacious L-settee wraps around two cocktail tables with pull-out ottomans stored beneath, all facing another large video screen. On many yachts, this would be the gentlemen's retreat, complete with an English pub theme, but that's not the case with this lady.

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I mentioned earlier that Lady Joy has a flexible arrangement plan, thanks to Pullman berths and a convertible cabin below deck. The flexibility continues in the smaller details on the aft main deck and the top deck. In each area, the tables are mounted to the deck on large diagonal rams. This allows them to serve as one large top at dining height, or as two cocktail tables, with walking space between, when lowered. In addition to the seating/dining area, the top deck also carries an elevated whirlpool spa, to afford its occupants a better view, and a huge bar to starboard that has seating for nine. In the corner opposite the spa is the guest elevator. It spans all four decks, running all the way to the guest foyer on the lower deck. A winding stairway, facing the elevator, spans three of those decks; the top deck is accessed by an open stair aft.

Once you've got Chaka Khan's voice singing a Denise Rich hit running through your head, its too good to shake. I can't teach you to be too fabulous for words. I don't know. A little more time aboard the Lady Joy and I bet I'd learn. ****

Christensen Shipyards, (360) 695-3238; www.christensenyachts.com