Aria — By Diane M. Byrne — November 2001
Song of the South
|Part 2: Aria continued|
Part of this expertise is Sensation's familiarity with composite, aluminum, and steel hull construction, making the yard one of only a handful worldwide to offer all three. But the Milhouses already knew this. Bob had spent two and a half years in the mid- to late 1980s building a 123-foot sloop, Aquel II, at Sensation, with an aluminum hull and a Kevlar and carbon fiber superstructure. While Aria has an aluminum hull and superstructure, flat-panel composite sun beds and composite sections around the life rafts were used to minimize weight.
Hand in hand with the issue of construction materials is the intended performance of the yacht. Just as Sensation succeeded in ensuring Mari Chai III would outperform any previous sailing yacht of her size on transatlantic crossings, it succeeded in giving the Milhouses a motoryacht that would comfortably achieve good transatlantic range. The projection was for 22-knot cruising speeds and maximum 24-knot speeds, with a 5,000-NM range at 12 knots, thanks to twin Caterpillar 3516s. The result? Each was met on the nose.
Yet another advantage Sensation offered was its on-site engineering shop, electrical shop, interior and exterior woodwork shops, and painting and finishing sheds. The extensive stainless steel piping found in Aria's spacious engine room, for example, was all done in-house.
The quality of the joinery onboard Aria --"absolutely outstanding," to use Bob's words--shows just how skilled Sensation's woodwork shops are. The yard had hired Donald Starkey to design the interior when she was a spec project, and the Milhouses liked his approach and demeanor. If you've seen Starkey's work, particularly onboard the 149-foot Oceanfast Perfect Prescription (now Perfect Persuasion), then you'll recognize wood fashioned in building-block-like designs on some walls instead of flat paneling throughout. Onboard Aria, the blocks appear in the saloon and are highly lacquered, unstained Australian cirrus, a rare wood with a yellow hue. The effect is terrific, complementing the warm, welcoming atmosphere. There's also a custom-built flame-mahogany coffee table with an inlaid compass rose.
More beautifully fashioned wood lies forward of the main saloon and through a lattice door in the dining saloon. Additional use of cirrus on the walls, combined with a custom-built cirrus-topped dining table designed by Starkey, create a spectacular dining environment. The table can be extended to accommodate 12. Custom-built cirrus and eucalyptus burl cabinets and sideboards store Aria's crystal and cutlery.
Whether it's to be enjoyed before or after meals, entertainment in the form of music and movies are pastimes taken seriously by the Milhouses. If the framed Stradavarius violin on the wall in the sky lounge above the curving staircase doesn't give it away, then the 12-inch Crestron color touch-screen control panel--part of a sophisticated system that extends throughout the yacht--sure will. With the touch of a button, electronic blinds descend over the large windows to each side. Another touch of a button causes the plasma-screen TV to rise up from the eucalyptus burl cabinet in the middle of the room. All that's left to do is make a selection from one of the more than 200 DVDs available on demand and let the sound flow from the Surround Sound setup. Sensation had never installed such an extensive system before, but Bob Milhous says the yard met his and his wife's expectations.
Guests can enjoy the saloon's full multimedia capabilities and relaxed surroundings from the comfort of chairs and sofas featuring New Zealand and Australian leathers. The U-shape settee was specifically designed to take full advantage of the audio system (including 1,000 CDs) for the ultimate experience.
If they choose to listen to music in their staterooms, the Milhouses and their guests are treated to peaceful havens. The full-beam master stateroom, encompassing an office area as well as a bedroom with a separate sitting area, is accessed through a hidden door forward on the main deck. Guests can choose from four suites on the lower deck between the engine room and crew's quarters, each with its own color scheme, designed to reflect famous arias. Starkey designed the two forward guest cabins--one with a queen-size berth, the other with twins--to be convertible into one large bedroom with a lounge, thanks to a sliding dividing wall between them.
Having built the largest motoryacht to come out of New Zealand to date, neither the Milhouses nor Sensation are taking a break. The couple enjoyed a two-week maiden voyage a few months ago in Fiji and, as we were going to press, were preparing for a one-week trip through the Galapagos in early October before taking the yacht back to Florida. They'll island-hop through the Caribbean for the winter season. As for Sensation, Aria won't be a solo act. It has three more motoryachts underway, ranging from 147 to 167 feet LOA, the largest of which should be delivered this coming winter.
One question remains, however: Where did the yacht's name come from? "Gail and I love all kinds of music and decided `Aria' (an operatic solo) was a pretty name for a yacht," Bob Milhous explains. Unlike many of the characters who sing those solos, however, this Aria will take center stage for both the owners and the yard for some time.
Sensation New Zealand Phone: (64) 9-837-2210. Fax: (64) 9-836-1775.
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This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.