Modern-Day Ark

Neobiblical styling marks a modern man’s take on the very first megayacht.

Modern Ark
Courtesy of Ark Van Noach

I have always admired the Dutch. Not willing to gamble that a little kid's finger would keep the water out, these folks figured out how to build boats a long time ago — good ones. Lately they've been on the cutting edge of superyacht design, but after Star Wars-style stems shaped yachts X, Y and Z, what could be next? The classics! I had considered an "Ark-yacht" design for animal lovers in the past, but now a wealthy Dutch businessman turned prophet-boatbuilder has been moved by a fear of high water and beaten me to it. At last, a truly "new" design to review!

I’ve had a belly full of silly-looking futuristic superyachts, so when I heard that Johan Huibers had acted on a vision I was thrilled. Johan’s ark is bound to set boat design back 3,000 years — it’s about time! According to press reports, the inspiration for building the retro-style yacht came to Huibers in a dream. You see, flooding for the Dutch is something of a national nightmare because the Netherlands is mostly below sea level. After reviewing Huibers’ effort I can assure you that Dutch master builders like Feadship will not be losing any sleep.

Johan's ark looks an awful lot like Noah's — at least Huibers thinks so. She also looks quite a bit like Steve Carell's vessel in the film Evan Almighty, but folks, this is not a movie prop — she's the real deal. She has a length overall of 300 cubits and a beam of 50 cubits. For those of you who aren't familiar with ancient Egyptian measure, that's superyacht territory (450 feet by 70 feet) and betters Paul Allen's ride by several dozen cubits. Apparently there was no voice from above. Huibers bought a book detailing Noah's effort, took notes and built a half-scale ark in 2004. Tourists fed his coffer generously in return for canal rides, but he wasn't satisfied and set to work on his full-size ark in 2008.

Like most boatbuilders, Huibers chose not to follow the designer’s specification to the letter. The Dutch will tell you that a full-displacement steel vessel is the best way to go for ocean service. So why not for floods too? Since gopher wood is hard to come by these days, Huibers came up with an innovative composite wood-and-steel construction method. The ark’s backbone consists of 25 steel barges welded together, and her shell plating is Scandinavian pine. She is “green,” powered by … well … floods of biblical proportion. All up, less fodder and feces, she displaces almost 3,000 tons.

Her interior arrangement is designed for couples — two of every animal species on the planet. At the moment, however, she is home to a herd of stuffed animals and a flock of free-range chickens. This reduces the need for shoveling and addresses the concerns of local animal-rights types who apparently are not expecting rain. There are crew accommodations — for just two? In the downtime between “cruises,” Huibers will use the ark for entertaining his flock and spreading the word. She is equipped with a theater, a restaurant and conference facilities for 1,500 people.

Her styling? I’ll go with “tastefully traditional,” since I learned in catechism that her designer is a bit sensitive. No silly Euro-style arches or picture windows here. In fact, she looks a bit like a wooden shoe (size 28 extra wide) with a hay barn on top. Her asymmetrical sheer and full forward and stern sections, I confess, make it a bit hard to figure out which way she goes, but I suppose it really doesn’t matter.

Johan’s ark is a refreshing eyeful, compared with the average “me too” superyacht. Her neobiblical styling is a real head-turner. We have not scheduled a sea trial. Frankly, I hope she stays put!