History Afloat

Classic mega-yacht Madiz is a survivor. As the world's oldest active yacht, her prestige spans from past to present.

Madiz accommodates 14 guests in seven staterooms. With twin 550 hp MTU Mercedes Maybach engines, she hits 11.5 knots.Serban Mestecaneanu

The only thing that beats Yachting's long, rich history of writing about yachts is the yachts themselves. Classic craft are a living piece of the poise and elegance the sport has always embodied, and Madiz, a 115-year-old mega-yacht, is as classic as they come.

Ailsa Shipyards on the River Clyde in Scotland launched Madiz (then Triton) on February 17, 1902. In those days, one would call her "Clyde-built," a phrase coined due to the ­quantity and quality of boats coming off that ­river. Her owner was James Coats Jr., a British philanthropist from the cotton business.

Besides having a long history of her own, Madiz is cloaked in the history of yachting and of the world. Her designer was G.L. Watson, believed to be the first to open a studio purely for yacht design in 1873. The design firm G.L. Watson & Co. is still operating today, and Madiz is the oldest active yacht that Watson personally designed. Some other G.L. Watson designs include Thistle and Valkyrie II and III, all ­19th-century America's Cup vessels, as well as the racing yacht ­Britannia.

Madiz isn't the only vintage vessel still active. Malahne, for charter with Edmiston, is a 1937 Camper & Nicholsons build relaunched from Pendennis Shipyard in 2015 after a two-and-a-half-year refit. She served in World War II and was part of the Dunkirk, France, evacuation. Malahne will be in the West Mediterranean and Adriatic next summer. As of this writing, the 1927-built Fair Lady, also from Camper & Nicholsons, is for charter and sale with Burgess. The 121-footer retains Roaring Twenties traits, like a card room on the main deck. The 212-foot Shemara has been on the water since 1938 and was refit in 2014. The Thornycroft & Co. build served in World War II before she became a training vessel.Serban Mestecaneanu

With a slew of private owners over the years, Madiz has spent plenty of time as a pleasure craft. However, she also served as an auxiliary patrol yacht in World War I and was put to various uses in World War II, including as an anti-submarine craft. She eventually became the Royal Patrol Yacht, transporting King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess ­Elizabeth (now Queen) to Ulster in 1945 to view 62 surrendered German U-boats.

The yacht has also operated under various names. After launching as Triton, she was called ­Rhouma, Osprey, Hiniesta, President Roberts and, as of 1972, Madiz.

She first appeared on the Lloyd's Register of Yachts in 1903 with a +100A1 notation, the ­highest classification level the register offers. While classed by Lloyd's through 1975, she was off the books for decades until 2006, when a newly refit Madiz again received a +100A1 notation, making her the oldest surviving steel vessel to be reclassed as such. Her 2004-06 refit in Greece included such modernizations as a new 105 kVA generator and onboard electronics, as well as a boiler room conversion to a second master stateroom. Today, she's still in Greece with her longtime owners, the Keletsekis family.

Yachts like Madiz, with her life span and résumé, remind yachting enthusiasts of the rich history we step into every time we step aboard.