"She hasn’t changed a bit."
While typically this is one of the utmost compliments that can be paid, in the case of Paloma, the sentiment wasn’t exactly positive.
An arduous 12-month refit transforms a 40-year-old, hardly used yacht into a classy classic cruiser ready for the charter market.
Specifically, to quote Capt. Mark Yendle, when he first laid eyes on this famous lady in late 2002, "She looked the same as delivery"—complete with original 1965 furnishings, painted metal decks, and all. Like most yachts of her era, she lacked a bow thruster, but unlike them, she had the puzzling inclusion of an engine-order telegraph, a pedestal-mounted instrument with a dial and handles which communicated throttle and gear orders from the wheelhouse to a crewmember in the engine room. Worst of all, the 198-foot yacht hadn’t moved a bit from her dock in Marina Zea in the port of Piraeus, Greece, in about five years, prompting Yendle to admit that he "wasn’t 100-percent sure" her engines would get her very far.
Despite her condition, Paloma still called to Yendle’s boss. Plain and simple, "He’s always been interested in classic yachts," the captain explains. In fact, the boss had undertaken the purchase and refit of two yachts in previous years, notably Albacora of Tortola, a 141-footer built in 1948 and extensively restored and renovated from 1995 to 1996.
Even with these previous experiences, nothing could prepare him or Yendle for what they were about to embark upon: intensive gutting, shot blasting, welding, and removing entire sections of deck—nearly all of which crewmembers performed themselves.
Why tackle such considerable jobs instead of handing them off to a yard? While Yendle did take the yacht to Malta Drydock (now known as Malta Superyacht Services) in Malta, due to its proximity to Marina Zea, the yard served mostly as a 12-month location for the refit, with experts on hand to tap as necessary. The crew was already well-experienced with wiring, engine placement, and related tasks. "We’ve seen a lot before because we did the two previous yachts," Yendle explains, adding with a laugh, "plus [the boss] had a lot of faith in me."
Faith indeed, considering the first task of ripping out the engine room revealed the biggest setback, asbestos-laden insulation. Asbestos removal is not a task for even skilled yard craftsmen; environmental regulations require a certified specialist to remove it and dispose of it properly. Thankfully, Malta had its own in-house specialist, Cape East, due to the years the yard spent working on commercial boats. This also saved Yendle and his boss the difficulty of finding a company to deal with the contaminants and the related costs of getting the debris shipped to a proper disposal site. It took Cape East four weeks to complete the project—four weeks that Yendle and his boss had expected to be spent working on other areas onboard—but "We gained a lot more than we lost," Yendle asserts.
Once the asbestos was removed, Paloma’s crew could continue ripping out the engine room—wiring, piping, gensets, and the naturally aspirated, dry-exhaust, 1,744-hp Detroit Diesel engines. The engines and gensets were removed through a nine-foot hole in the yacht’s side, replaced with thoroughly modern 1,000-hp Caterpillars, and stocked with backups aplenty for other equipment. Yendle says sea trials saw her hit 17.2 knots—"We were hoping for 16"—with no vibration. And even though the captain adds that "the original stabilizers were okay," they weren’t the zero-speed units so commonly found on modern megayachts, so they were replaced with units from Quantum Marine. "The boss is very happy," he sums up.
This article originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.