Safe & Secure

Palmer Johnson’s Anson Bell By Diane M. Byrne — November 2002

Safe & Secure
Anson Bell raises the bar on safeguarding all who take pleasure in cruising.
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The list of victories that the HMS Anson enjoyed at the expense of the French navy reads like a compendium of the escapades of a superhero. In fact, the warship, which served in the British Royal Navy fleet from the late 18th century to the early 19th century under several captains, captured and/or held off several enemy vessels despite losing her mizzen mast and main-lower and top-sail yards during one battle and going up against a large enemy convoy of about 40 to 50 ships during another.

When she wasn’t engaged in battle, the Anson occasionally attended to the British royal family. According to one story, during a grand celebration onboard in September 1799, the king couldn’t be found. Eventually he was discovered on the lower deck, surrounded by the ship’s company, talking to an old sailor.

The battle victories and royal excursions came to an abrupt end when the Anson was wrecked off Cornwall, England, during a storm in December 1807. After trying and failing to clear the southeast tip of England, the captain and crew tried to anchor, but the gear failed. They then headed the ship toward the beach to save her and as many crew as possible, but the Anson was pounded apart, beam-to in the surf. In a stroke of luck, her masts were stretched toward the land, so many of the crew--but, sadly, not her captain—were able to follow them to safety. Many of the townspeople stood and watched Nature’s fury claim the Anson, unable to assist.

Due to the loss of the Anson, as well as the frustration of the townspeople, many changes were made in ship construction, crew safety, and rescue techniques. Nearly 200 years later that same desire to safeguard those who head to sea—this time for pleasure—was embraced by the British Maritime Safety Agency in enacting the MCA Code. It sets strict regulations for, among other things, watertight compartments as well as fire containment and prevention. But even those stringent rules weren’t enough for one American.

An experienced yacht owner who also has a maritime artifacts collection that includes—not coincidentally—the ship’s bell from the Anson, he wanted a higher level of safety aboard his latest project. In fact, he was so inspired by the advances in safe shipbuilding and the bell itself that he assembled a team to execute a carefully spelled-out mission: design and construct the safest motoryacht ever built, and one built on American soil that would rival the work of the top European yards.

Thus the 156-foot Palmer Johnson Anson Bell was born. Not only does her hull meet the requirements of the highest level of Lloyd’s Register classification, but the yacht also exceeds some of the requirements for damage stability and fire resistance set by both Lloyd’s and the MCA Code.

One of the most impressive facts in this regard: Anson Bell can withstand the flooding of any two compartments. MCA only requires one. According to Bruce Johnson of Sparkman & Stephens, which oversaw her naval architecture, this additional damage stability is difficult to execute and rarely found on yachts. Another fact: While MCA stipulates the inclusion of five watertight bulkheads, creating seven watertight compartments, Anson Bell has six bulkheads, creating eight compartments.

The yacht also meets MCA requirements for fire safety by including all-steel stairs between decks and automatically deploying, all-steel fire doors for closing off stairwells. Extra measures of safety include an additional automatically deploying fire door in front of the twin stateroom below decks and a Marioff hi-fog fire-suppression system throughout the yacht. It all amounts to what Mark Obenberger, Palmer Johnson’s director of project development, calls “Lloyd’s MCA+++.”

Next page > Anson Bell continued > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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

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