J.K. Smits’ SeawolfeBy Diane M. Byrne — August 2003

Old Reliable
A tough-as-nails tug undergoes a veritable reconstruction, transforming her into one of the world’s largest yachts.
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Seawolfe
• Part 2: Seawolfe
• Seawolfe Specs
• Seawolfe Deck Plans
• Seawolfe Photo Gallery

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She was the stuff legends are made of.

Launched in 1957 and the pride of the Dutch tugboat fleet, Clyde was larger (193 feet) and faster (15-knot top speed) than any other similar vessel built in that country. Her towing prowess was put to the test under conditions that would have made other not-so-stalwart vessels flinch at the mere thought of the job. On one occasion she towed two aircraft carriers from Boston to Japan. On another she endured two typhoons while towing a supertanker loaded with oil from the Persian Gulf to Japan. As if that weren’t enough, she had to release the supertanker partially through the journey due to the severe conditions, but nevertheless got her to her final destination. Because Clyde was expected to perform under all sorts of conditions, she was built with triple-redundant systems and equipment, an ice-class hull, and massive, 36-ton Smit-Man engines that could be freshwater-cooled for navigation in heavy slush.

These stories and more are well-documented in the archives of a tug museum in Maassluis, Holland. And they could have remained that way, making Clyde just another footnote in maritime history, had it not been for a European yachtsman who wanted to own an expedition yacht and his captain (and project manager), Patrick Moussa, who talked him into converting Clyde. The result, Seawolfe, is more than just the latest addition to the ever-growing fleet of expedition yachts worldwide. She straddles the line between yacht and ship in a way that is quite unlike some of the other similarly outfitted vessels.

Even a quick glance at Seawolfe leaves no doubt about her commercial heritage, as she retains her proud bow, stack, and rounded stern. And she bears gear that is jaw-droppingly robust, like two 4,000-pound anchors, a seven-ton-capacity crane on her aft deck, and a four-bladed, bronze prop that’s 12 feet in diameter. But carefully compare the photos here showing Clyde and Seawolfe: Note the major reconstruction of her superstructure, including the creation of a radar mast (as part of the stack) and the extensive open deck areas for relaxation. And even though the photo of Clyde is in black and white, making it hard to see exactly what the hull’s paint job was like, one thing’s for certain: It wasn’t the faired, mirror-like yacht finish that Seawolfe shows off.

The transformation—really, a reconstruction, given the scope of the work—began in 1997. The owner had the vessel taken to a dry dock in Greece for stripping and sandblasting. In 1998, after the hull and superstructure had been tested for thickness under ABS supervision and found to be in good condition, the empty structure was towed to Astilleros Palma in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

That’s where the majority of the work was performed, over the following two years. The styling modifications mentioned earlier, as well as changes to the vessel’s interior structural division, were carried out in compliance with both ABS and the MCA Code, marking another difference between other expedition yachts and Seawolfe. Many such vessels have been refitted instead to Lloyd’s class, and while some incorporate features that comply with the safety regulations outlined by MCA, not all of their owners have decided to apply for the actual certificate. Yet another interesting fact: Seawolfe has MARPOL and SOLAS certificates.

Styling modifications alone resulted in the addition of 70 tons of steel to the vessel, but that wasn’t the only labor-intensive part of the refit. A great deal of effort also went into renewing the insulation, from the inside of the stack down to the machinery spaces and in the newly created relaxation areas, as well as rebuilding or replacing every valve, pump, piping run, wire, port, and door.

Next page > Part 2: > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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