As I made my way down to the dock at Christensen Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, I must admit, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. I’d been out to the yard a little more than a year earlier to visit Hull 027, the 157-foot Liquidity, and the boat I would be touring now, Hull 028, was a 157-footer from the same line. “How different could she possibly be?” I asked myself as I stepped onto the swim platform. After all, she’s semiproduction, not full-on custom.
The next thing I can remember is standing with my jaw open in the main saloon, looking at what felt like a 1920’s parlor full of flat-panel, straight-grain cherry woodwork. The art deco-style inlays (asymmetric black resin, inspired by the top of New York City’s Chrysler Building) were carved into each panel and doorway, complementing what Christensen calls “step-down” moldings that look like wooden-block waterfalls cascading from the overhead. Gone were the neutral colors and traditional raised paneling that I remembered from Hull 027, all replaced with dramatic blacks, greens, golds, coppers, and reds. Even the divider between the main saloon and dining area was different, featuring artistic columns custom carved to suit the owners’ art deco style.
Barchetta, I would soon come to understand, is about as custom as a semicustom yacht can get—with unique features that go well beyond her interior decor.
The yacht is the latest in Christensen’s Advanced Production Series, in which the builder starts a 157-footer every four months with a goal of delivering three yachts a year to busy owners who want a customized yacht but not the hassles of the custom-build process. Barchetta is the third such delivery, with three more 157s in Christensen’s sheds, two of them already sold.
What impressed me about Barchetta—beyond her bold interior design choices that include iridescent glass sink sculptures and glow-in-the-dark dichroic glass inlays—was that she was so evolved within the confines of the semiproduction program. Yes, the interior layout is much the same as the one on the 157-footers that came before her and that will come after her, but the details of her construction provide some pretty weighty evidence that a semiproduction boat can be a highly personalized affair.
“When we started, we talked about a spec boat,” the owner told me with a satisfied grin, preparing to write the last in a series of checks to the yard totaling about $25 million. “We haven’t done that in a while. It’s a custom boat.”
For starters, Barchetta is the first Christensen to have a bulbous bow. The yard designed it in cooperation with the renowned Webb Institute in New York, and it reportedly gives Barchetta—and all future 157s—better fuel efficiency and range. It also gives her better speed, even though she has a maximum displacement of 820,000 pounds (the heaviest Christensen ever built and an incredible 70,000 pounds heavier than the next-closest launch), thanks largely to three-quarter-inch stone slab throughout the interior. Yet even with the extra weight, her top speed is 17 knots, and she reportedly has hit 18.9 knots on a downriver run.
This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.