A heavy plastic tarp draped over the wheelhouse console—aboard Christensen Shipyards’ new build, the 164-foot Silver Lining—is a ready reminder that all the demanding, painstaking work on this critical part of the yacht is complete and she is ready for sea trials.
When the shipyard’s overhead lights are turned on every morning at 7:00 am sharp, the yard’s 120 employees are greeted by Hull 36’s sparkling new backlit trailboards, which seem to twinkle in anticipation of the vessel’s first taste of the brackish Columbia River water flowing 70-odd miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean.
In early May, Silver Lining will be loaded onto a string of self-propelled dollies, pulled from the shipyard’s shed, and carefully moved the short distance from her birthplace to the launch ramp in Christensen’s protected five-acre lagoon, which will be her new home during the four-week term of her river and sea trials.
Besides the excitement associated with every launch of a beautiful yacht, Silver Lining’s splash-in will mark an especially poignant moment for Christensen Shipyards’ employees, who only 15 months earlier had lost their jobs by the closure of the shipyard.
“I can’t imagine the angst and the hardship our workers suffered when they arrived to work and found the gates locked,” says Jim Gilbert, Christensen’s new president. “All of us in management, and particularly the two people who stepped up to purchase the yard’s assets out of receivership, feel blessed that so many of our best people hung in there through those tough times and were able to rejoin the new company when it was formed last summer. Silver Lining is the real symbol of the rebirth of the company and a testimonial to the extraordinary boatbuilding skills of an extremely talented and dedicated workforce.”
The mechanics of the launch itself testify to a new spirit and dedication to quality at the shipyard. The new cradle-and-dolly system is safer and more secure, and will also cut a day or more off the old launching system.
Henry Luken, chairman and principal owner of newly-minted Christensen Shipyards LLC, says he’s particularly proud of the fact that so many of the yard’s former senior employees—supervisors, shop foremen, project managers, engineers and naval architects—have returned to the company. Noting that the yard’s workforce now totals among them more than 1,000 man-years of experience at Christensen, Luken remarks, “We’re boatbuilders. That’s what we love to do. The goal of our new company is to streamline every aspect of the building process to support the people who build the boats and those who buy the boats we build. We want our customers to have as much enjoyment during the process of construction as the exceptional artisans who create them.”
A three-time Christensen owner himself, Luken says, “I’ve been on both sides of the table, as client and as builder. I know how to simplify the purchasing and building experience. My personal experience enables me to create a culture in which clients have the real-time information they need to feel confident every minute of the construction process.”
Gilbert notes that Silver Lining showcases the yard’s new philosophy by being completed both on time and on budget. “From the minute the gates were reopened, everyone at the shipyard has been dedicated to the timely and efficient construction of the four boats now underway. We’re excited to show the yachting industry that our new company’s construction quality exceeds even the high standards of the past.”
Joining Silver Lining at sea this summer will be Chasseur, a fully MCA-compliant 50M yacht that will be launched in June. Both yachts will be on display at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November. “These two boats will provide prospective clients and the yachting industry with a dramatic showcase of Christensen’s dedication to quality as well as to the diversity of our boatbuilding capabilities,” Gilbert says.
Gilbert notes that while the two yachts are similar in length, Silver Lining features enormous interior volume beautifully finished with traditional high-gloss black walnut woodwork. By contrast, Chausseur offers the slightly smaller interior spaces dictated by the MCA rules, but a light, highly contemporary sycamore interior design highlighted by elegant teak soles and dramatic baths uniquely finished with brilliantly hued onyx and marble.