After a 35-foot midbody extension, the expedition yacht SuRi is heading to Antarctica and beyond for charter adventures. Watch the transformation in these photos by Jim Raycroft.
Updated: February 20, 2013
SuRi before her refit.
SuRi takes a cruise after her refit.
Patchy fog hovered over San Francisco Bay on the morning of June 18, clearing slowly but steadily just like the scaffolding coming down at Bay Ship & Yacht Co.
It had been eight months since the 173-foot expedition yacht SuRi had arrived and become the most substantial megayacht refit project under way in the United States.
Workers had sliced her steel hull in half, added a 35-foot plug and put her back together again. She was now preparing to splash as a 208-footer.
SuRi’s owner stood nearby, watching his newly evolved dream yacht shed boards and platforms. Other men with his resources might have built a new yacht instead, but as he explained on that day, his wife wouldn’t let him.
SuRi’s current incarnation is a dramatic departure from her origins.
“What made me do it was the endurance of my marriage,” SuRi’s owner quipped. “I’ve fiddled with boats that have tested my wife’s patience for years. She knew SuRi and liked [her].”
She was built at Halter Marine in 1978 as a 166-foot commercial support vessel.
SuRi just before being split in two.
That initial conversion of SuRi in Seattle increased her length to 173 feet and helped the owner see her in a new light.
In 2007, the current owner converted her into a shadow boat that could hold his helicopter and water toys while he cruised on his recently delivered 164-foot Hakvoort.
He continued to work with Florida-based naval architect Boris Kirilloff, who had done the initial conversion, and he brought in interior designer Jeffrey Botwin from Herringbone Design to help enhance her look.
“We did a second refit in New Zealand,” Botwin says. “We shoehorned some space out of the upper part of the toy hangar to add two guest cabins on an upper deck.”
“We expanded the sun deck with outdoor dining and a hot tub, and that really brought SuRi into her own. She was no longer a shadow boat. She was an adventure luxury yacht.”
“But when we were done,” Botwin adds, “we realized that we had this fabulous boat, but we wished those new cabins were kings instead of queens, and we wished that we had that space back in the hangar.”
“That’s when the owner realized the perfect SuRi was right there — all she needed was a midbody extension.”
Hence the recently finished refit. Starting from the top, on the sun deck, the seating capacity has been doubled, and the area has new sun pads and an audiovisual cabinet with a 42-inch TV.
On the bridge deck, which houses the helipad and main salon, there’s a brand-new, 24-foot-long dining room extension. It’s enclosed in glass and is climate controlled, but it can also open for sea breezes.
The next deck down, called the mezzanine, now has a king-bed-equipped master, two additional king cabins, one queen cabin and one cabin with twins that convert to a king. That’s a total of five guest cabins with large windows above the waterline, in addition to two additional cabins on the boat’s bottom deck.
On the main deck beneath the mezzanine level, the extension brought back more hangar space for toys. The owner already has a 28-foot aluminum landing craft, a four-person hovercraft, an all-terrain buggy, a 38-foot fishing boat and a 35-foot StanCraft mahogany speedster, in addition to PWCs, sailboats, mountain bikes and surfboards, as well as snorkeling and scuba gear.
With the newly available space, he recently took delivery of an inflatable water slide and placed an order for a submarine.
Then there’s the extension’s pièce de résistance on the bottom deck: the new playroom with adjacent media room. The playroom can be used for yoga, pilates or movies with a full-service bar — or be converted into an eighth guest cabin.
It’s a camp-style setup with four Murphy beds, each twin size, that fold out of the walls for kids, a nanny or other supernumeraries. A full en suite bathroom sits adjacent.
As cool as that is, the new media room across the way on the bottom deck is what everybody’s talking about, not only because of what you see if you look up — a 110-inch projector screen with an iPad-controlled Kaleidescape system — but also because of what you can see if you look down.
Kirilloff designed a pair of 38-by-68-inch glass panels in the room’s sole, turning whatever is beneath SuRi into a virtual aquarium.
These “Windows to the Sea” are the first of their kind aboard a charter yacht, having evolved from a project Kirilloff was doing with support vessels for submarine research in the Galapagos Islands.
“The extension on SuRi was primarily to expand the upper deck areas, but I was looking at the lower-deck space and realized how big it was,” he says.
“It had as much room as those support vessels. I don’t think any of us realized how magnificent that viewing area is until we launched the boat and saw the first fish go by underneath.”
The window is really a sandwich with two pieces of glass. The one closest to guests is a piece of laminated glass 2½ inches thick.
It sits within a steel frame like a picture, with the frame creating a watertight seal.
Then, on the ocean side of the glass, is a foot-deep chamber of nitrogen that will prevent temperature fluctuations from affecting the window, as well as creating a dry barrier.
Beneath that is another 2½-inch piece of glass that can be covered by a watertight steel hatch, which closes like an elevator door whenever SuRi is under way.
Just forward of that steel hatch is the chum dispenser that Kirilloff designed after waking up with a brainstorm at 2:30 one morning.
He describes it as a torpedo tube that is flush with the hull, perfect for shooting out bits of everything that will attract marine life into the underwater lights for guests to view through the glass.
Kirilloff says the windows and chum dispenser were fun to design, but the hardest part of the refit was far less sexy.
“It sounds dramatic, to slice a boat in half and add these things, but the biggest challenge is not what people think,” he says.
“It’s getting the engineering right so the boat floats in the right spot.”
“When you put a plug that size into a boat, you’re adding far more buoyancy than actual weight.”
“It will float higher than before it got sliced.”
“We had to pour about 150 tons of lead and cement ballast to get that boat to float correctly.” [Photo: Aligning the new plug into the middle of SuRi.]
SuRi‘s owner is preparing to use her everywhere and anywhere that opportunity suggests. She’s already been to Patagonia and Antarctica.
And as of this writing, she’s crossing the Pacific Ocean to charter in Easter Island, the Austral Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
The plan then is to go to Indonesia and Palau, followed by the Far East, including Hong Kong and maybe Japan.
But those plans are subject to change, especially if unusual charter inquiries come along.
“He’s the sort of owner who, if somebody says, ‘Let’s charter in Russia,’ will seriously consider it because he wouldn’t mind seeing it himself,” says Allan Jouning of 37 South, which manages SuRi for charter.
“That’s how we ended up scheduled for Antarctica. A charter inquiry came in, and the owner said, ‘Fine, yes, let’s go check it out.’”
The owner says he has one other motive behind his upcoming plans.
It’s the same as the reason for the recent refit: his family.
“We have an expanding family, and that has been the driving force for us in our yachting, which was bringing the entire family together for vacations,” he says.
“We found that we really like to go to remote places. We love adventure and the use of toys.” [Photo: Guest cabin]
“This boat is now the quintessential boat for adventure and toys.” [Photo: Guest Cabin]
Her expanded design allows for multiple outdoor dining areas, as well as plenty of sunning space and a nicely sized hot tub.
The “Windows to the Sea” let guests look straight through SuRi‘s hull at whatever fish are chasing the chum below.
SuRi‘s owner has already set off on a world cruise and is making the yacht available for charter in exotic destinations around the globe. Where is SuRi today? Track her by AIS:
SuRi takes 12 guests with at least 14 crew at a lowest weekly base rate of $295,000. Contact: 37 South, (011) 64 9 302 0178, http://37southyachts.com.
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