Bermie — By Diane M. Byrne
— February 2002
|What's a French commercial and military shipyard know about building a luxury yacht? More than you might think.|
Mention Cherbourg, France, to most people, and the reactions you're apt to get will be associated more with the World War II landings at Normandy than boatbuilding. But since 1912 Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie--CMN, for short--has quietly been designing and constructing everything from airplanes to commercial ships and high-tech military vessels in composite, steel, and aluminum. In fact, the yard has launched more than 300 ships, including about 90 of the Combattante missile attack craft used by Kuwait, Greece, Germany, and others, a production record the yard claims is unequaled in the Western world.
And even though the shipyard began building ocean-racing sailing yachts in the 1960s, launched the ice-breaking, aluminum sailing yacht Antarctica in 1989 (which made a successful expedition to the Antarctic in the early 1990s), converted a few tugs into charter yachts over the past few years, and provided the naval architecture for the transatlantic-record-breaking, 222-foot Destriero, CMN has remained below the radar of many yachtsmen.
But that's about to change. With the recent creation of its Yacht Division, CMN clearly intends to compete in the luxury yacht market. And with the delivery of the 161-foot Bermie, this "newcomer" proves it's anything but a beginner.
Take how the yacht was classed, for starters. Bermie's French owner wanted the yacht to comply with SOLAS regulations under Bureau Veritas classification. Intended for passenger and merchant ships and much stricter than the requirements of Lloyds or ABS--the two classification societies most owners select for their yachts' compliance--SOLAS has quite detailed provisions for construction and stability as well as fire protection, detection, and extinguishing. In addition, since the owner planned to make the yacht available for charter, he wanted her to comply with the MCA Code.
Given its commercial background, CMN was already well-versed in SOLAS requirements like dividing the vessel into main and vertical zones by thermal and structural boundaries and installing systems to detect, contain, and extinguish any fire in the zone where it originates. While the MCA Code was created specifically for yachts, some of its requirements--particularly the ones pertaining to fire--aren't as stringent as those of SOLAS, so CMN had less of a learning curve than some other yards where this was concerned.
As you'd expect on an MCA-compliant yacht, the curving stairs onboard Bermie that connect the main-deck lobby with the decks immediately above and below is constructed of steel. Bermie also contains an automatically deploying fire door between the dining room and the lobby and yet another fire door between the lobby and the master stateroom, which lies fully forward on the main deck. A panel at the helm in the pilothouse monitors the status of these doors at all times. Below decks, a twin-bed stateroom to port has a concealed watertight doorway in its forward bulkhead that leads into the crew's quarters, satisfying an MCA requirement for a second means of egress in case of emergency. Heat and smoke detectors are installed throughout the yacht as well.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.