The first matter at hand was ensuring her hull form would have excellent seakeeping. Together with Sturm—who was intimately involved in every detail—and his management company, the build and design teams decided a low-volume bulbous bow was appropriate. Widely used in the military and commercial sectors and slowly appearing more and more in the recreational sector, bulbous bows help displacement hulls reduce hydrodynamic drag, which leads to reduced fuel consumption and increased range and speed. To further reduce drag, Marco Polo has her dual anchors tucked up a bit more above her fine entry where they won’t be struck by large waves, while her two oversize skeg-hung rudders and bilge keels provide added stability and maneuverability.
But while the bulbous bow contributes to fuel efficiency, the big fuel savings result from her unusual drive system. When I sat down with Holland and Buchner at last fall's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Holland explained, "We address $80 a barrel better with this boat than any other boat at this show." The drive system is comprised of a single 800-hp Caterpillar 3512B diesel turning a variable-pitch propeller system by Schottel, which has been manufacturing propulsion systems for commercial and recreational vessels since the 1950's. The Caterpillar additionally powers the hydraulics, such as the stern thruster, winches, and stabilizers. Just one engine doing all this would make most yachtsmen blanch, but the setup has been used in the commercial industry for years. According to Holland, the single-engine design means Marco Polo consumes 30 to 40 percent less fuel compared to similar twin-engine yachts, regardless of their speed capabilities; she tops out at 15 knots and has transatlantic range at 13 knots. He additionally says that she averages 40 gph at 12 knots, compared to traditional twin-engine motoryachts of the same LOA that burn around 66 gph at that speed. On top of that, Marco Polo will enjoy greater protection from grounding due to skegs on each side of the prop. "They'll run aground before anything can happen to her propeller," Holland explains.
Also just like many commercial vessels, Marco Polo has a self-contained backup engine room, complete with dedicated fuel system, in the bow. There, a Caterpillar C7 engine powers a Schottel Pump-Jet thruster, which can rotate through 360 degrees. If fire or flooding shuts down the main engine room, this backup system can power the 147-footer along at 5 to 6 knots.
But before the first sheet of steel for the hull was cut or layer of fiberglass for the superstructure was laid, a handful of models were tank tested over the course of six weeks. Once seakeeping and other performance results were confirmed, the rest of this true explorer evolved.
Marco Polo embraces shippy, go-anywhere aesthetics, notably visible in the overhang above her pilothouse windows, her square ports, and even her reverse coaming forward. But she is unmistakably a pleasureboat, with an East-meets-West decor, from her three natural-light-bathed guest staterooms on the lower deck to her owner's apartment (no mere suite this) on the upper deck. Squared-off table corners and stainless steel insets in the macassar ebony paneling are reminiscent of Art Deco designs. Meanwhile, Chinese-style lacquered cabinets, shoji screens, and subtle use of red all reflect Asian elements.
There's an especially zen-like feel to the yacht: restful, peaceful. It's most noticeable in the master, which occupies all but the wheelhouse space on the upper deck. Sliding shoji-screen doors separate the private saloon/study from the bedroom forward (where the bed faces aft). A picture window sits in the aft starboard bulkhead of the saloon, right above Sturm's office area, yielding views out over the alfresco dining and relaxing area. The views extend even farther out over the seascape, since the stainless steel rails rimming the perimeter don't obstruct.
Imagine the seascapes taken in so far. After her premier in April at a bash in Hong Kong, Marco Polo headed to the Mediterranean, making the 9,000-mile trip in seven weeks while averaging 12 knots. After the conclusion of last September's Monaco Yacht Show, she headed to Fort Lauderdale. Put it together, and that's six months and 15,000 miles under her hull. And she's not done yet. There are warm climates in store for the rest of the winter. Then Alaska has yet to be explored, as does Cape Horn.
The original Marco Polo would be proud. After all, in the centuries since his famous voyage, his name has come to be associated with many an impressive adventurer, including a 19th-century clipper ship that became not just the fastest ship of her day, but also the first to sail around the world in fewer than six months. This Marco Polo may just inspire others, too. Soon after work began on the project, MCC decided to use her as the basis for a series, designed by Holland and built by Cheoy Lee. Surely, MCC reasoned, Sturm couldn't be the only yachtsman out there who wanted to switch from sail to power and/or undertake ambitious cruises aboard a vessel built a few notches tougher than typical yachts are.
As a result, Hull No. 2 is already under construction for delivery in early 2009, with No. 3 not far behind, expected to be ready a year later.
Infinite ambitious quests await.
For more information on Cheoy Lee Shipyards, including contact information, click here.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.