A Refit for the Ages

The newly refit Haida 1929 is a classic mega yacht like no other.


dam Lay had never seen anything like it. Not during the nearly eight years he spent working for yacht designer John Munford, and not since he opened his own studio in Britain in 2013. “This owner had spent a year before he even bought the boat designing what the interior was going to be like,” Lay says. “He handed me three Apple iBooks of everything that he wanted through the boat. He’d sorted it out and planned it all out. He’d sit in hotel rooms doing sketches.” Lay, working for 18 months with a refit team of nearly 160 people plus another 20 to 30 crew at the Pendennis yard in Falmouth, made the owner’s vision a reality. The 233-foot Haida 1929 left the shipyard this year and entered the charter market with Edmiston, making her what is arguably the most prestigious classic yacht available for bookings today. Haida 1929 is expected to cruise the Caribbean this winter on her original engines, which are believed to be the oldest working diesels of their type still in their original location. Pendennis had to rebuild them without manuals or spare parts, assigning a team of eight people to the power plants alone.

haida 1929 refit
(Left to right) Family fun; Dolphins off the bow?; Old World romance.Edmiston/Chris Scholey

“We had to do things like rebuild the governors, which ran on old steam-engine principles,” says Mike Carr, Pendennis managing director. “It was really interesting stuff. And we couldn’t get them out of the boat. Everything had to be done in the boat because of the weight of the heavy steel castings.”

Another major element of the refit was adding a sun-deck spa tub. Parts of the superstructure are wood, Carr says, and it does not offer the structural integrity required for the extra load. So, Pendennis and Lay devised pillars that run down four decks, to the bilge, as a hidden support structure.

haida 1929 refit
Haida 1929 is expected to charter in the Caribbean this winter. She takes 12 guests at a lowest weekly base rate of $310,000.Edmiston/Chris Scholey

“They go through the owner’s bathroom, for instance, and they look like part of the décor,” Lay says. “And in the library, on the main deck, they run through the bookcases. We hid them behind books. And in the guest cabins, they disappeared into the corners of the cabins. It was very difficult to find those spaces.”

The owner considered even the smallest details, Lay says, including the manufacturers of gel fireplaces that were added to create an Old World ambience.

“He wanted only Lora Piana fabrics — he went to Milan and sourced them himself,” Lay says. “We received an envelope full of fabrics that he’d chosen in the showroom.”

haida 1929 refit
(Clockwise from top left) The décor is intended to embody the romantic ambience of the 1920s and ’30s; The best view on board; Outdoor dining while on charter; The engines are original. Pendennis had to rebuild them with no manuals, spare parts or service agents; Yes, there are modern water toys.Edmiston/Chris Scholey

The restoration makes Haida 1929 one of the most unique yachts available for charter in the world. She has chartered before, in the early 1990s, according to Alex Busher at Edmiston, but back then, she was not in the condition that guests will find her in now.

“Considering the period in which she was built, there are six very good cabins, all en suite with proper-size berths and headroom,” he says. “You have fireplaces in the main saloon and on the owner’s deck — and the owner’s deck is completely separated. So, if you’re done with your guests, you can have that space upstairs for a while. It’s like a very nice family home on the water.”

Charter clients can experience moments aboard Haida 1929 that other yachts simply cannot offer, he says.

haida 1929 refit
The owner’s idea is to have cocktails on the aft deck, then move to the salon for hors d’oeuvres, then to the formal dining room for dinner.Edmiston/Chris Scholey

“Yes, you have the cinema, but there’s no flat-screen TVs anywhere,” he says. “You see bookshelves and games. It’s going back to a period when families spent time together.”

Those are the types of moments the owner enjoys and wants to share, making a charter aboard Haida 1929 akin to entering another era.

“We made the flow of the vessel more in keeping with his vision of walking around the decks arm-in-arm with his wife and a glass of champagne,” Lay says, “and come inside and find a roaring fireplace and have a place for smoking a cigar with the boys.”