The Starter Boat

A man with a background in real-estate renovations takes a hands-on approach to refitting his first-ever yacht, Ariadne.


uch of what the owner of Ariadne knew about yachts 16 months ago, he’d learned by watching television and movies. “I remember as a kid, I always thought that a yacht would be the be all and end all of sophistication,” he says. “I remember seeing yachts when they were used in movies like Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. I remember Madame X with Lana Turner and John Forsyth. They had these elegant, classic, Thurston Howell III looks — how he got that wardrobe and his wife’s wardrobe onto that little boat with Gilligan, I have no idea, but he looked like he was going on what I thought of as a yacht.” As a charter client in his adult years, he’d experienced a bit of that lifestyle, but yacht ownership wasn’t something he coveted. He fancied all things classic, including boats and especially transatlantic liners, but spent his time owning and fixing up historical gems on land, ranging from homes to his 1977 Lincoln Mark V Continental Coupe. Then he saw her. She wasn’t at the Miami International Boat Show in February 2017, but her advertisement was. Oh, the photo: her long lines, her sleek bow, her absolutely beautiful bones. She was a 124-footer built in 1979 at the Breaux’s Bay Craft shipyard in Louisiana, which specializes in commercial aluminum vessels, but had owners who crafted her as a yacht for themselves. More recently, she’d been tied to a pier in Florida and used as a go-nowhere sitting room. By an owner with really bad taste.

Ariadne's owner, who lives in Washington, D.C., says he visited the Derecktor shipyard in Dania Beach, Florida, once or twice a week to talk to all the refit contractors and make sure every detail was precisely how he wanted it. The yacht's aluminum hull was refaired and painted blue, and the superstructure was painted cream, which he sees as more classic than white. He also added the red and gold boot

“It had oversized, overstuffed furniture that made the boat look cramped,” the new owner says. “It looked like they’d gone to a furniture store on a highway somewhere and bought it for a basement. Big, overpadded sofas. The easy chairs in the salon were BarcaLoungers.”

He brought her to the Derecktor shipyard in Dania Beach, Florida, named her ­Ariadne — after a Greek goddess whose name he saw in an opera program when he was 10 years old — and spent the next 16 months making her once-frumpy interior match her elegant exterior. He worked with management company DFD at Lauderdale Marine Center, Washington-based design firm Bartolomei & Co. and, because it was Bartolomei's first yacht project, former stewardess-turned-designer Aran Swart.

Many of the details, though, he handled himself, with a passion for getting every last choice just right.

“A guest on this boat will never see a porcelain sink,” he says. “It’s all hammered nickel sinks and crystal faucets. Everything is high-gloss polished nickel hardware. The switch plates around the outlets are all being changed out to brushed-oil brass, art deco style. The tiniest details are all being looked at.”

Some reconfiguring was done, including in the master stateroom, which he says went from being “long and skinny” to “gracious and wide” with a spa tub, a mosaic sole, custom cabinets, Calacatta marble and “the highest-quality crystal French faucets.” The chair at the master stateroom’s desk was manufactured from plans for desk chairs on the Queen Mary. “We are going to have silver service items on the boat from the SS Normandy,” he says. “The ocean liner, traditional elegance feel will all be there.”

Ariadne's owner says the yacht's long bow and sleek lines got his attention, as did her dark hull, "which I'm crazy for because it makes it more classic."

Even the main-deck day-head received detailed design attention, with a custom art deco glass-scalloped tile sole and illuminated dome crystal faucets in a seashell pattern. “The tiniest details will make that room a jewel box,” he says. “I’m worried that guests will want to just go into the day-head and stay there.”

Practical choices were part of the Ariadne refit too. A twin-bed stateroom now converts to a king — a feature that helps with charter bookings — and the sun deck was reconfigured to shrink working space while adding square footage for guest relaxation.

And once the BarcaLoungers were gone and new furniture was installed in the salon, its overhead was changed so the whole shape of that space would feel better tailored.

“We completely changed the ceiling in the salon because it was out of proportion with the new furniture; $30,000 later,” he says, “it looks terrific.”

Spaces that felt right to him, he left alone structurally, changing only the décor within them. And by “felt right,” he means not only the room sizes and layouts, but also how he expects to use them while cruising.

Inside, the owner kept the original wood paneling, most of which is cherry, because, he says, "That's the second thing I fell in love with," after Ariadne's exterior lines. Then he had numerous custom details built into the décor, including a mosaic sole in the master bathroom that was handcrafted in marble, mother-of-pearl and gold-leaf glass. Last, he added artistic pieces that he purchased, such as a vintage midcentury Syroco sunburst clock, named for the Syracuse Ornamental Company that dated to 1890 in New York. He says he found it in "one of the last clock and watch shops in Washington, D.C."

"I don't like having my dining and living rooms in one area," he says, thinking about standard main-deck layouts aboard yachts of Ariadne's size. "I'm somewhat formal in that way. When you're having cocktails inside, I don't want to see the stewardess running supplies in and out of the galley. So, one of the things this boat has is a stewardess pantry between the salon and the dining room. It's a full, separate dining room. I think that's unique: the privacy, the elegance, the grace."

There is an homage aboard to the original Ariadne, etched by a Fort Lauderdale glass company into a mirror that's forward in the salon. The design, which glows with lighting around its sides, is based on a statue in an Italian museum that celebrates the Greek goddess. She's the wife of the wine god Dionysus, and she helped the hero Thesus escape a labyrinth, forever becoming associated with solving puzzles and mazes.

To Ariadne's owner, that story sounds a lot like shepherding people on their course, no matter where they want to charter — and showing them a way to enjoy the ride that they may not have previously considered.

“It’s different from what’s available in the charter fleet,” he says of the yacht. “You go on most boats and say, ‘This is lovely, how nice.’ But it’s all similar. There’s nothing special, nothing different. This boat is special.”

“We got the working part of the sun deck into about half the space that it was originally and got the guest space to be a lot larger,” the owner

Back in Play

While Ariadne was built as a solid, seagoing vessel, the previous owner never realized her full potential. The new owner says: "She'd been tied up to the pier. The long-term owner had sat on the boat with his wife and his dogs and just watched movies on it."

Charters Start this Winter

Ariadne will be in the Bahamas this winter at a weekly base rate of $52,000 (after an incentive period at $47,000). For summer 2019, the yacht will be in New England. After that, the owner hopes to broaden the program. "I'd love to get some people to think about chartering in Long Island Sound, maybe at the end of the season when the weather is perfect," he says. "And then down the East Coast, like Charleston, Savannah. The boat's going to be there, so we might as well market it."

Elegant Inspiration — Everywhere

"The font we're using for the nameplates, and for the letterhead on paper, is the font that they used for the inaugural voyage of the SS France, the last great French liner of the 1960s," the owner of Ariadne says. "We've adapted it for this boat."

Going up?

Ariadne's owner loves the layout's top-deck access. "This boat has the main stairway that goes from the main deck down and all the way up to the sun deck," he says. "So you can get from the cabins to the sun deck without having to traipse through the salon."