Moonen’s 97 was made to cross the same oceans as expedition yachts.
Moonen is a shipyard that seems to be going places. With a recently arrived new owner, some new investment, and a brand-new shipyard, the Dutch yachtbuilder is also moving into new markets and building bigger yachts than ever before. At 125 feet, Northlander, which launched in April 2009, was the yard’s largest-ever project, and today, it has a 133-footer in build.
But Moonen’s success story isn’t really about size. The yard’s smaller, series-produced models remain the backbone of its business. Take Livia. She is the third Moonen 97, and like the shipyard, she’s destined to go places, with a whopping fuel capacity of 7,000 gallons and a cruising range of more than 4,000 NM at nine knots. Pretty as she is, in the classical Dutch manner, Livia was not designed to be some Mediterranean debutante like, say, Benetti’s stylish and successful Delfino series (“After the Legend,” PMY November 2010). Although she’s just five feet longer than her Italian counterpart, fully loaded the Moonen displaces a rather impressive 64 tons more. Part of that additional weight is fuel, but by no means all—the rest of it is accounted for by the sheer heft of her hull, which is both wider and deeper, has rounded bilges for good seakeeping, and is made of steel.
Introduced to the public at the Cannes and Monaco boat shows last September, Livia had already shown herself to be a willing and capable cruising yacht. Her captain, Chris Junca, said to me that after launch her shakedown cruise had taken her northwards into Swedish waters for an early-summer cruise, before returning to the shipyard by way of the Keil Canal for routine work and a few modifications. Then in early August she set off again, in earnest this time, taking a break in Brest for a few days to let some bad weather barrel through, stopping in Gibraltar to top up her tanks with tax-free diesel, and arriving in her home port of Antibes after 11 days on passage.
“We generally cruised at about 11 knots, and at that speed she uses 93 liters (24.6 gallons) per hour with both engines and one genset running,” explained Capt. Junca. “She is a very comfortable sea boat, and especially good in following seas.” One reason for that, no doubt, is Livia’s efficient Naiad fin-stabilization system, but perhaps a more important factor is her relatively low center of gravity, thanks in large part to a relatively lightweight aluminium superstructure atop her steel hull and a heavy fuel load that’s carried in large double-bottom tanks that are mounted as low as possible in her hull and amidships where her fuel burn will minimally change her running attitude.
After the Monaco show, her cruise itinerary was by comparison modest: back home to Antibes, just 20 miles down the coast. As the show displays were coming down and Port Hercule began to empty itself of superyachts and return to some semblance of post-yacht show normality, Livia patiently awaited her turn to leave while a huge cruise ship maneuvered laboriously at the entrance to the harbor.
When it was finally our turn, we had a beautiful day, with little wind and a mild swell from the south—just enough to give the Naiad’s fins a chance prove that they were up to the task. Apart from sitting back and enjoying the fine weather and smooth ride, I had but one important job to do on this passage, which involved a 2 p.m. rendezvous offshore with a photographer in a helicopter. Ordered below—because nothing, it seems, ruins a photo like a journalist lolling about on the upper deck—I took the opportunity to get to know Livia a little better, even as I occasionally caught glimpses of the Robinson R44 chopper buzzing around the yacht like some demented hummingbird.
Her owner wanted a “beach house” interior, and the design firm Art-Line obliged with a bright and contrasty scheme of light-gray tongue-and-groove oak paneling and richly grained walnut floors. Reflective white deckheads and cabinets, slatted blinds, and coarse-weave fabrics complete a homely and faintly rustic picture. Big windows bring plenty of daylight into the saloon.
Livia’s layout is conventional but cleverly done. The owner’s suite is amidships, with a particularly spacious shower and head along the starboard side and a walk-in wardrobe that is just about big enough to qualify as a dressing room. Up forward, behind a sturdy but well-disguised watertight door, the VIP suite is significantly smaller. However, sensible use of straight lines, especially in the shower and head, ensure that it doesn’t feel cramped or lack stowage space. Meanwhile an enormous mirror on the starboard bulkhead does an excellent job of making the cabin seem twice its size. There are two twin-berth guest cabins, both with roomy head compartments and plenty of headroom. The one to port has an extra fold-down pilot berth.
One distinguishing characteristic of Livia is that for a 30-meter motoryacht, she doesn’t feel particularly big inside. This is no bad thing for a bluewater vessel, where the wide-open spaces that look good in brochures tend to be a liability when you’re trying to move around in any kind of sea. In the master suite, for example, with the head compartment and dressing room taking up the whole starboard side and that long sideboard over to port, you’re never more than a step or two away from a bulkhead or the berth. And up on the main deck, wide and secure side decks rob width from the interior—but with a clear walkway down the starboard side of the saloon and dining area, linking the sheltered cockpit and the superb wheelhouse, these spaces function perfectly.
Incidentally, that prominent, square “arch” that provides a visual separation between the seating and dining areas is in fact an elegant design solution: Inside those uprights are an engine room ventilation duct on one side and an engine room escape ladder on the other.
Down aft, the crew accommodation is roomy and well-proportioned, with two cabins, two heads, a small galley, and a comfortable dinette. This is the main route to the machinery space, which is equally well appointed—somewhat crammed with equipment, maybe, but properly organized and beautifully engineered. There is also a useful lazarette right aft, which on Livia contained the pump manifolds, watermakers, diving compressor, shore-power cable, and—since she is going to spend her winters in the Caribbean—extra refrigeration.
Back upstairs, there was just time to admire the helicopter pilot’s backwards-flying skills before he took his leave and headed back to the airfield. His rotors had covered everything, including the captain, with a light spray of salt. Allie, the chief stewardess, emerged from below with a tray of sandwiches—ham, brie, and tomato on lovely fresh French bread—and a basket of drinks. The sun awnings spread their shade aft as Livia’s fine, purposeful stem rose and fell on the swell.
Whether she’s making an ocean passage or not, the Moonen 97 is well suited to sun-worshippers. A huge upper deck extends more than half the length of the yacht, with fixed seating under the hardtop and space for chairs and sunloungers on the open aft area, even with the tenders in place. There is also a sofa and sunbed down on the foredeck, and a neat little seat right on the bow from which to enjoy the passing scenery.
The coastline unwound to starboard at a steady 11 knots: the enviable real estate of Cap Ferrat and the old stone tower at its tip; Nice’s old harbor, marked out from the surrounding sprawl by its constant stream of ferry traffic, and the city’s dramatic, waterfront airport, always busy. And then—way too soon—silhouetted in the lowering afternoon sun, the masts marking out Antibes’ packed yacht harbor sheltering beneath the old stones of Fort Carr.
Capt. Junca skilfully reversed Livia into our berth on the north side of the basin and shut down the engines. Across on the other side, the port’s lustrous collection of superyachts glimmered in the sunlight—among them Kingdom 5KR, ex-Trump Princess, ex-Nabila, once the biggest private yacht in the world, now not even the biggest yacht in Antibes. But still looking pretty good.
Although I don’t think at that moment I would have exchanged her for Livia. Size is important, but it’s not everything.
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.