Skip to main content

Horizon owner Jo Ellard, who built Hull No. 1 of the shipyard’s new E98 motoryacht series, is a woman who knows her own mind. When asked why she chose the open bridge rather than the skylounge version of the new model, for example, her answer was immediate: “Why sit inside?”

Jo Ellard

Jo Ellard is all smiles as her E98 debuts in Palm Beach. A striking bust of the late Bill Ellard adorns the salon. 

See the details of the Horizon E98 test here ▶

Ellard, who worked closely with Horizon’s in-house design team to customize her E98 prior to construction, made remarkably few changes during the construction process. “I’ve built a lot in my life—a lot of houses, a lot of ranches,” she said. “I don’t change my mind.”

Her decisiveness has also been honed by more than 35 years of yachting experience. Ellard says the passion for boating she shared with her late husband, Bill, dates back to the early 1970s when he founded his insurance company. “We were at a meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, and he looked down out of the window at all the yachts at the docks,” she recalled. “Bill said, I’m going to have one of those.”

Two years and a lot of hard work later, the Ellards bought their first boat, a 38-foot powerboat. Jo went to U.S. Coast Guard school to learn to read charts, and shared helm duties with her husband. “He docked and undocked; I drove,” she said. (A rodeo cowboy in his earlier years, Bill once expertly lassoed a piling while docking in a marina.)

After a year or so, the couple moved up to a 53-foot sportfisherman, and followed it with a 64-foot convertible. They hired Capt. Glynn Williams to drive that boat 17 years ago, and he has been in their employ ever since.

“We also have a horse trainer who has been with us long-term,” said Ellard, who owns prize-winning cutting horses and is a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Hall of Fame Rider with earnings over $700,000. She’s also the youngest person ever inducted into the NCHA Member Hall of Fame. “We’ve been fortunate to have employees who have treated our horses and yachts like they were their own,” she added.

After her husband passed away in 2010, Ellard purchased a pre-owned Horizon 76 on the advice of a yacht broker. Her requirements for the yacht included an open flybridge and three staterooms, since her two sons frequently join her on cruises. She liked the Horizon, but ultimately decided to build a new one so she could have it exactly the way she wanted it.

“I love the E Series. I like the lines; I really like the look,” said Ellard, who considered Horizon’s popular E88 model before opting to build the first E98 instead. “I was looking to go smaller, but then I thought at this point in life, you might as well have the boat that you want.”

Country Kitchen on the Horizon E98

Ellard decided against a formal dining area, preferring instead to eat with her family in the more comfortable U-shaped seating forward. The country kitchen allows her to entertain guests her way.

In addition to the extra 10 feet of length, the E98’s 23-foot beam (two feet wider than the E88) adds a wealth of volume inside and out. “I think this yacht looks bigger than some that are bigger,” Ellard said at the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March, where the model made its world debut.

In fact, during the design phase, Horizon had given Ellard the opportunity to take the salon all the way out to the bulwarks by eliminating the exterior main-deck walkarounds, but she decided to keep them. “I am so glad we did this,” she said. “We have plenty of room in the salon.”

Even on a smaller yacht, the open saloon layout Ellard designed for Do It Now would create an impression of exceptional living space. Pass-throughs cut into the bulkheads enclosing the galley provide sweeping sightlines that run all the way from the aft glass sliding doors to the windshield. Ellard eliminated the usual formal dining table and instead, filled the saloon with loose living room furniture that replicates pieces from her homes in Dallas and St. Petersburg, Florida, including two large armchairs and a 14-foot sofa. She and her family will dine in Horizon’s hallmark “country kitchen” forward of the galley, or outdoors on the aft deck or flybridge instead of in the salon.

“We had a formal dining room in one of our other boats—I think we used it once every two years,” she said. “We are more casual in our entertaining.”

In addition to width and length, the E98’s interior layout emphasizes height. A large recessed tray ceiling borrowed from Horizon’s P110 model adds extra headroom in the salon and, Ellard said, “I raised all the cabinets because I’m tall, and my boys are tall.” She added, “One of my sons is 6-foot-6 and he feels comfortable in here.”

In collaboration with Horizon’s in-house design team, Ellard created a rich, classic interior for Do It Now that features African oak flooring and gloss walnut wall panels laid with the grain running horizontally rather than vertically. The joinery has rounded corners to soften the look, but the overall impression is striking.

“Men really like this room…” she said of Do It Now’s saloon. “It’s not dainty; it’s not boaty; it’s not ‘Florida-y’. We’ve coined the phrase: It’s a handsome boat.”

Horizon E98 Upper Helm

The helm conceals wiring that is labeled and well organized.

Ellard’s approach to interior design is highly practical; for example, she moved the main-deck dayhead to the aft corner of the saloon and gave it two doors, one of which opens onto the aft deck behind the bar. She explained why: In other boats she’s been aboard, “If you’re in any type of sea, you have to crawl to the dayhead. Not here.” The dual-access dayhead—a first for Horizon—also helps to preserve air conditioning in the saloon, since guests don’t have to open the sliding glass door every time they need to go inside.

Stowage is another practical priority for Ellard, and it is maximized throughout the yacht. The galley has a large pantry and extra freezer drawers, and there is stowage under the large country kitchen dinette seating. “We take two-week trips, and a lot of food storage is important,” she said. “We like to eat on the boat.” The cabinetry on the lower deck and the flybridge harbors a wealth of stowage as well.


Ellard had the stool heights raised on the flybridge to accommodate her tall family.

Horizontal-grain walnut wall paneling and joinery—this time with a satin finish—continues on the lower deck in the owner’s and guest accommodations, which are accessed via a stairway from the country kitchen. The E98’s beam allows for four generous en suite staterooms. The VIP forward has a walkaround king berth. There are two staterooms amidships; one with a queen berth and the other with twins and a Pullman. While the twin stateroom is available with single berths that can be converted to a queen, Ellard decided against that configuration. “We wanted more storage,” she said.

Aft, the full-beam master suite features a California king berth, a walk-in cedar closet and a second hanging locker. The hull windows are similar in design to those on the E88 and incorporate round opening ports. Ellard designed the nail-head trim for the berth’s headboard, and specified that the bed and bureaus be raised. “I just love the look,” she said. The master also has his-and-her heads separated by a generous shower.

Do It Now’s open flybridge, an Ellard “must,” is beautifully laid out for entertaining or dining with family and friends, facilitated by a bar, fridge, ice maker, sink, and high-low barbecue grill. “We raised the deck and we raised the seating,” Ellard said of the large dining area, which encompasses two tables sheltered by the hardtop. On a previous boat, the flybridge settees were too low, she said. “People couldn’t see. Here, the sightlines are perfect.” The barstools also were customized for her sons’ heights.

These changes Ellard made to the standard E98 flybridge seating were a tall order (pun intended) for Horizon, but Ellard recalls that the builder told her, “Let’s see how we can make it happen.” All in all, she said working with Horizon Yacht on the new build project was, “A great experience. I’ve dealt with a lot of contractors and subcontractors, and this was very easy.”

Watch some of Louisa Beckett’s Interview with Jo Ellard in the video below:

After Horizon delivered Do It Now to Ellard this winter, she personalized the interior décor with large-format images of her other passion—her prize stallion—by photographer Constance Jaeggi. “I wanted him to be the centerpiece,” she said. In addition, a bronze bust of her husband done by their son Brian holds a place of honor in the salon.

Do It Now, the fourth of the Ellards’ boats to bear the name, which echoes one of Bill Ellard’s motivational company slogans, is a fitting tribute to the late entrepreneur and to his accomplished wife, who seized the day and got exactly what she wanted in the new Horizon E98.

See the details of the Horizon E98 test here ▶

Click here for Horizon’s contact information and index of articles ▶