It’s my firm belief that owning a yacht is like having a love affair: There’s no room for logic. The entire process (from picking one out to staffing it to using it) should come from the heart, not from the brain. And as far as budget goes—well, you wouldn’t go shopping for an engagement ring at Wal-Mart, would you?
But as adamant as I am about this belief, I admit there are times when I step aboard a yacht and wonder if the owners might not have benefited from the application of just a little logic. Yes, it’s clear they had plenty of money to spend, but I wonder, might not their funds have been used to better effect? Of course, this is absurd. It’s like criticizing a friend for the person she fell in love with, and none of us would ever do that, would we?
That’s what I kept telling myself as Capt. Manny Cesana showed me around Princess Pauline, a 25-meter (83-foot) Italversil docked at the Kona Kai Club on San Diego’s Shelter Island. One look at her exterior, and you know she’s from a different era—like 15 years ago. She has the sharp, squared-off profile that defined Italian yachts built in the late '90’s, right down to her boxy radar arch, angular windows, and full-length black accent stripe. Today the average boater looks at the Italversil and thinks, “How clunky!” But back in 1992, when she was launched, she was the very definition of chic.
Princess Pauline really does seem as if she belongs to another time, especially when you discover that she’s not only had the same captain for the last ten years, but also had just one owner. He’s a Mexican businessman who has taken her to lots of places, from the Pacific Northwest to the Caribbean and Bahamas. He’s never chartered her, reserving her solely for use by himself, his wife, and their three (now-grown) children.
In all those years (and more than 1,500 engine hours), Cesana says this fellow came to really love Princess Pauline. But eventually, like any owner, he longed for a more up-to-date yacht, something with softer, gentler, more sensuous exterior lines and an interior that didn’t look like it came out of a Denny’s coffee shop. He particularly admired the Azimuts, but although he came close to purchasing one, could never quite pull the trigger. He was just so comfortable with his Italversil.
Then one day he was talking to Francesco LoCoco, an engineer/designer at the San Diego shipyard Knight & Carver. If he loved his yacht so much, LoCoco asked, why not keep her and modernize her—refit her? It seemed like the perfect solution. For a mere fraction of the cost of a new yacht, the owner could lose the '90’s Florida condo look, replete with oranges and yellows, gloss-white bulkheads, Danish modern furniture, and tassels. (Yes, tassels.) Knight & Carver could turn his ugly duckling into a swan.
And that’s where the real story begins.
This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.