I’m an unabashed, unapologetic traditionalist when it comes to marine design and aesthetics. So, right off the top, I’m going to admit that my appreciation for the classical good looks of Retro Blue, Sanlorenzo’s newest semidisplacement SD92, should probably be taken with a grain of salt (and a healthy dollop of open-mindedness) especially by those readers who favor vessels with modern furniture, color schemes, and fitments.
I was introduced to Retro Blue at October’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and truth to tell, the circumstances of the meeting were not exactly conducive to enchantment. I was hot and sweaty—the levels of humidity and temperature at the show were high even by South Florida standards. It was two o’clock in the afternoon, a time when my biorhythms typically approximate those of a hibernating bear’s. And my new deck shoes were killing me.
Nevertheless, I recall being intrigued by the color of Retro Blue’s broken-sheer hull as I stepped aboard. Cappuccino maybe? Or the sepia tone of an old Rosenfeld photo? I also recall being charmed by both the flawless installation of the cockpit sole (1⁄2"x 2" teak planks secured with epoxy and Sikaflex polyurethane caulk, according to my tour guide, Sanlorenzo’s Roberto Franzoni), and the salty cachet of the big-boned Gloster teak furniture resting upon it, complete with navy-blue Sunbrella canvas upholstery. But otherwise, I wasn’t overly concerned with my surroundings as I headed somnambulantly for the stairway leading topside.
The wake-up call came when I reached the top. Looking aft and slightly to starboard, with my palm resting on a massive, elliptical, varnished-mahogany caprail that circumscribed the area, I was reminded of a cool, old, boaty, black-and-white movie, only with deep vibrant colors. I enjoyed the vision for a moment, surveying not only the boat deck aft but the bar nearby, as well as the upper helm station further forward. Clearly the Italian designer Francesco Paszkowski and American interior designer Marty Lowe had done some fine work here, adding a raft of nifty traditional details to a thoroughly modern semicustom yacht.
For his part, Paszkowski had given an ample nod to early 20th- Century yachting with a simulated funnel (in place of a radar arch), enough teak decking to outfit a transatlantic steamer (finished with the same care I’d noted in the cockpit), and two locker-like fiberglass appliance consoles, each topped with a slab of varnished mahogany and fronted with louvered-fiberglass cabinet doors. But he’d incorporated contemporary touches as well, including the superstructure’s swoopy profile, stylized, modular steering station (with nickel-frame glass covers protecting the instruments underneath), and an ultra-hip, open-air shower to starboard, with a spray head in the hardtop, a teak grate in the deck, and virtually nothing in between.
Lowe had gone the same route. On the one hand, she’d specified a raft of decorative details evoking the era of natty yacht clubs and blue blazers with crested buttons. These included two L-shape settees aft, with white-and-blue-striped Sunbrella canvas cushions, the aforementioned Gloster deck chairs and sunloungers (with matching cushions), and a privacy-enhancing perimeter of canvas weather cloths artfully laced to the stainless steel tubing undergirding the caprails. But she’d also incorporated contemporary touches of her own, including overhead LED lighting, a Mr. Mister misting system in the hardtop, and all the high-toned appliances that were decorously concealed within Paszkowski’s fiberglass consoles.
If anything, Retro Blue’s interior intensified the design sensibility I’d so appreciated topside, with decks, bulkheads, and other structures (composed of high-tech multi-axial rovings, uni-directional mats, and isophthalic resins) adorned with chic, old-school dcor. The yacht’s saloon, for example, featured steamer trunks (from Williams-Sonoma Home) doubling as coffee and end tables, raised-panel doors and cabinet drawers with leather-and-nickel pulls, period-specific Hermes chairs and stools, commercial-style bulkhead lights turned into sconces, cream-lacquer walls with precisely proportioned boiserie, washable Sunbrella slipcovers for furniture, and, on the forward bulkhead, over a top-stitched-leather dining table, an original oil painting by maritime artist Robert Hayden Johnson.
“The master’s simpler, more elegant. Why compete with the sea?” asked Lowe. She was explaining the approach she’d taken with the luxurious, window-wrapped compartment that lay just forward of a cluster of smaller spaces, among them a commercial-class galley, with stainless steel countertops, port and starboard foyers, each with sliders opening onto the weather deck, two stairwells, and the master head. Afternoonish light streamed through the windows, enlivening the same limed-oak joinery I’d seen in the saloon, and brightening a king-size berth made up with Ralph Lauren linens hand-embroidered by Franchini Mare, a venerable old firm in Viareggio. “What a spot to watch the sun come up,” I commented, admiring a panoramic view unobstructed by the foredeck.
We’d continued our tour of the interior by descending to the bottom deck, with its full-beam VIP aft, two, opposed guest staterooms forward, and crew’s quarters in the bow, with dinette, separate cabin and head for the captain, and fast, easy stairwell access to the galley. The level of fit-and-finish onboard was purely and simply top-notch. Varnish work on the caprails was mirror-perfect, whether topside or along the bulwarks protecting the weather deck. The cream-lacquer applications in the saloon, staterooms, and heads were perfect as well, and the joinery details I’d examined in the cabinetry exemplified genuine Italian craftsmanship. Moreover, what I’d seen of the technical side of things had been pretty impressive too, with a host of noteworthy specifics, including two big, significantly detuned 1,200-hp MAN D-2842-LEs (reportedly capable of producing speeds peaking at 18 knots and cruising ranges in the thousands of nautical miles), a set of insulated, educator-equipped air intakes (with shutdown flaps), an emergency cross-connect between main-engine seawater intakes, and a firefighting system installed in accordance with Rina standards.
But while I’m a traditionalist when it comes to design and appearance, I’m also a stickler for functionality, like navigational visibility, mostly due to my commercial seafaring experiences. At Retro Blue’s upper steering station, sightlines ahead and to the sides were fine, but I found visibility at the lower station, in the compact wheelhouse, to be a bit limited due to the steep rake of the windshield panels and the thickness of the mullions separating them. And a personal note: I’m no fan of leaning posts, even leather-upholstered ones. Give me a proper helm seat any day.
Still and all, my tour of Retro Blue made me a unqualified fan. “A lovely piece of work—finely finished, smartly laid-out, pleasing to the eye,” I told Franzoni before stepping ashore. “Here’s one case where retro rocks.”
Sanlorenzo of the Americas (954) 376-4794.
This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.