The Shape of Things to Come
The Arcadia Sherpa takes the idea of form following function to an entirely new level.
There is more to the Gulf of Naples than the imminent yet unpredictable inevitability of a fiery apocalypse. The locals seem sanguine about living in the shadow of Vesuvius. Even though two of the region’s principal tourist attractions are the ash-entombed towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in normal conversation the subject of molten lava and devastating pyroclastic flows hardly ever comes up. Anyway, the traffic is bad enough without contemplating the effects of three million people all trying to leave at the same time. Maybe it’s best to turn your back on the inevitable, and choose to live life in the moment.
It helps that the mountain is often no more than a looming shadow in the thick summer haze. This not only makes it easier to forget, but also makes the view out to sea far more alluring. At about 20 miles across, the Gulf offers one of the prettiest prospects on all of Italy’s long coastline, guarded as it is to the north by the islands of Ischia and Procida, and to the south by the steep limestone fortress of Capri. People have taken to the water here, for work and for pleasure, for thousands of years.
There is an ancient tradition of boatbuilding in this part of Italy, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the vessels that emerge from the Arcadia Yachts’ facility at Torre Annunziata, close to Pompeii. First with an 85-footer and then a 115-footer, the company has not so much challenged the conventions of yacht design as studied them from all angles, and then torn them up and started from scratch. If anything, the latest Arcadia is even more unique looking than its sisters. But like those earlier projects, the Sherpa has been effectively designed from the inside out, taking as its guiding principle not what a boat should look like, but how it will be used. You could say style follows substance more faithfully in Arcadia’s craft than in those of virtually any other yacht builder.
Gallery: Arcadia Sherpa
It is almost as if the Sherpa is measured in feet at the bow and in meters at the stern. That tall forward part offers comfortable but not lavish accommodations, a choice of cabin arrangements and a clever raised helm station, with a galley, that can be shielded from the weather by sliding screens. Meanwhile, that stern—well, have a look. It’s big. Across 18 feet of beam, a dozen people can relax here without getting in each other’s way. The forward superstructure provides shelter from the breeze when under way. While at anchor, umbrella sunshades can be extended over the aft seating areas. The engines are positioned far aft and coupled to Volvo Penta IPS drives, leaving plenty of stowage space below the deck for a substantial tender and personal watercraft, along with a technical area and the option of a crew cabin.
Down in the cabins, everything seems to scale with the Sherpa’s 55-foot overall length—two en suite staterooms of comparable size sit side by side. On deck, however, you can’t quite believe that she’s not three times that size. With a flat-sectioned, semi-displacement hull shape and a reasonable turn of speed, the Sherpa is perhaps the ultimate warm-weather weekender.
And given that the Gulf of Naples is perhaps the ultimate warm-weather weekend boating destination, the stars were clearly in alignment. Ugo Pellegrino, Arcadia’s 51-year-old owner, was determined to demonstrate how the boat and the bay could complement each other. We were headed for lunch on Capri.
As we followed the craggy coastline of the Sorrento peninsula west-southwest along the bottom of the Gulf, the steep cliffs of the island took shape in the late-morning haze and gradually acquired detail. There are two harbors on the island. To the north, where the ferry berths, Marina Grande has the most direct—but still steep and winding—road access to the town of Capri itself, nestling high up between 800-foot peaks. There are the remnants of Roman villas up there—the Emperor Tiberius had a holiday home on the island—and earlier signs of human settlement. But we had other ideas, cruising past the dramatic limestone stacks and arches that punctuate the southeast face of the island, the Faraglioni, before dropping anchor among the yachts in the bay of Marina Piccola. A short tender ride away was La Canzone del Mare, “the song of the sea.”
I have long subscribed to the view that any pub or restaurant from which you can sit and look out at your boat in the anchorage is, by definition, for that moment or that meal, the best restaurant in the world. You have arrived by boat, and there she is. Food and drink are on their way. It doesn’t get much better. And with a scented breeze cooling the shaded, open terrace, so it was with La Canzone that lunchtime.
Even by less subjective criteria it is a restaurant that could probably find its way into any waterborne gastronome’s top ten waterside places. There are of course printed menus and wine lists, but as in all good Italian restaurants the maître d’hôtel forbore to bother us with those, and instead entered into a discussion which took into account our mood, that of the chef, the catch of the day, and his own particular recommendations.
At his suggestion I opted for a big-eyed white fish known locally as pezzogna—it looks like a member of the bream family—grilled to perfection and served with slices of potato lightly flavored with lemon. Others in the party, hanging on our host’s every word, chose scampi, pasta, or mussels.
With more than 1,000 varieties of wine in Italy—all good, as far as I’m concerned—nowhere on Earth, not even in France, has the output of the local vineyards been more perfectly matched to the local cuisine. They’ve had plenty of time to get it right. So our cool, crisp Falanghina del Sannio, from the little medieval village of Sannita in the hills above Naples, proved to be the perfect accompaniment to our seafood: mild-mannered, unassuming, and although made from one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties, infused, like the restaurant, with a timeless charm.
Sitting in the shade, looking out at our boat lying gently to her anchor in the turquoise water, it was easy to get slightly lost in time, and imagine this terrace above the beach, with this food and this wine, as a kind of constant. People had been doing exactly this, in exactly this spot, through the centuries. Their boats might look unfamiliar to us—although probably not as unfamiliar as the Sherpa might look to them—but perhaps that sense of turning our backs on the inevitable, leaving that looming shadow behind and choosing instead to live in the moment, was another thing we shared.
TEST CONDITIONS: Air temperature: 84°F; humidity: 61%; seas: 1'
LOAD: 285 gal. fuel, 95 gal. water, 8 persons.
Arcadia Sherpa - Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are two-way averages measured w/ Garmin GPS display. GPH taken via Volvo Penta engine display. Range is 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Sound levels taken at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.
DISPL.: 36,000 lb. (full load)
FUEL: 475 gal.
WATER: 158 gal.
TEST POWER: 2/435-hp Volvo Penta IPS 600
TRANSMISSION: Volvo Penta IPS VP, 1.82:1 reduction ratio
PROPELLERS: Volvo Penta VP TS5
WARRANTY: 1 year
BASE PRICE: $1.835 million