After years navigating the world’s oceans and keeping a low profile despite her legitimate claim to fame, the 240-foot Delta Laurel has come home. Last fall she made her first appearance at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and it was a coming-out of sorts for one of the most notable (and notoriously private) superyachts launched in recent years.
Delta delivered Laurel to her owners in 2006 after three years of construction. The launch was a milestone in several ways. Laurel, at 1,595 gross tons, remains the largest yacht to date built at Delta Marine and also one of the largest yachts ever built in the United States. Technologically advanced, she also was and is one of very few yachts of this magnitude to feature a full composite superstructure atop her steel hull.
Her very private owners built her to cruise around the world. They wanted Laurel to be efficient and compliant with even the strictest environmental regulations so she could call upon some of the world’s most protected areas. They wished to keep a low profile, literally and figuratively, and leave the slightest of footprints whether exploring Alaska’s stunning Tracy Arm waterway, the Chilean fjords, the pristine waters of the Pacific or the harbors of old Europe. She served her purpose well, delivering the world to her owners and keeping harbors just as they found them.
Captain David Clarke, who was involved in the yacht’s construction, stayed at the helm as Laurel explored far and wide for several years. “In six years, Laurel has traveled over 120,000 nautical miles and visited 27 different countries across four continents,” he says. While she has proved that she has the credentials of a serious expedition yacht, Laurel does not have the classic looks of one. Donald Starkey, a multiple-award-winning designer with a background in architecture, gave Laurel an unusually elegant profile for a gifted explorer of her size. The owners requested a svelte silhouette, which required inventiveness in design and construction. To achieve the desired effect without giving up generous headroom, the shipyard relied heavily on the flexibility that carbon composites provide.
The use of composite also had the important benefit of keeping the vessel’s center of gravity low and the overall weight lighter than a more conventional steel/aluminum yacht, which helped with fuel efficiency. With a range of 6,000 nautical miles at 13 knots and a fuel capacity of about 45,783 gallons, Laurel had everything she needed to ply the oceans, and she did it often with her owners and their family aboard. Each year, the yacht and crew spent about 200 days at sea, and did 10 cruises a year with a full complement of guests.
“Cruising was as much about the journey as it was the destination,” Clarke says. During trips that unfolded over weeks, guests had ample opportunity to appreciate the comforts that Laurel provides, including a fresh herb garden. A few of her best features for extended stays aboard, according to her captain, include her master suite’s private location forward on the main deck, the yacht’s massage cabin and gym, an extensive soundproofing and anti-vibration treatment for quiet cruising, a large tender garage equipped with two hull doors for easier launching, functional and plentiful storage, plus an extensive security system, which, combined with a well-designed set of procedures, kept intruders and prying eyes well at bay and kept the “Laurel mystique” alive, as her captain puts it.
The owners and their guests spent a great deal of time enjoying the beach club, the observation lounge on the sun deck, the private terraces off the master suite and the aft bridge deck, comprising an exterior dining area and a flexible lounge area with loose furniture and a built-in wraparound settee. Laurel’s classic and warm interior with library and other cozy seating areas, is well suited to cooler climates, and her expansive teak decks, Jacuzzi, terraces and swim platform to warm-weather destinations. Laurel’s guests experienced it all during their trips.
Among the favorite destinations were Argentina, Chile, Croatia, the Galápagos and Tahiti. These regions yielded extraordinary experiences. Clarke recalls the expedition to Cape Horn when, after rounding the notorious cape, the yacht anchored in the lee side of the island and everyone motored over to the world’s southernmost inhabited lighthouse. Guests and crew got to meet the people who ensure that its powerful beacon signals the landmass near the confluence of two oceans. Aboard the yacht’s custom-designed Nautica RIB tenders—which Clarke describes as “reliable, comfortable, dry people movers”—they got close enough to glaciers in both Chile and Alaska to hear the rumbling of the ice as the walls reshaped themselves under their very eyes. They met with villagers in Papua New Guinea, traveling miles up the Sepik River, and in Tahiti they bought souvenirs from families who live off one of French Polynesia’s precious resources—pearls. They also discovered underwater wonders, diving with hammerhead sharks in the Galápagos and “getting close and personal” with humpback whales in Alaska and minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef.
If there is something to be shared with yacht owners aspiring to build a dream vessel to explore the Earth’s wonders, it is not necessarily how the owners and their guests enjoyed Laurel. It is perhaps, most importantly, the fleeting nature of time. Clarke has a pragmatic approach typical of the CEO of a multimillion-dollar enterprise. “Owners can always make more money, what they can’t do is make more time, so anyone that is planning to build any yacht should consider the efficiency of installations and fit-out. It makes the difference between an owner waiting to do something or doing it,” he says. Laurel’s owners did it right. ■
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LOA: 240ft. (73.15m)
Beam: 40ft. 2in. (12.26m)
Draft: 12ft. (3.66m)
Material: steel hull/composite superstructure
Engines: 2 x Cat 3516B HD 2,500hp @ 1,600rpm
Generators: 3 x CAT C9 250kW
Transmission: ZF 7510 4.96:1 reduction ratio
Speed (max.): 18.2 knots
Speed (cruising): 13 knots
Fuel capacity: 45,783 gal. (173,307L)
Range: 6,000nm @ 13 knots
Stabilizers: 4 x Quantum QS 1800 ZeroSpeed
Bow thruster: Jastram 250kW
Stern thruster: Jastram 150kW Azimuth Jet
Freshwater capacity: 11,000 gal. (41,640L)
Watermakers: HEM 40/4800 Duplex
Air conditioning: NR Koeling b.v.
Entertainment systems: Criteria
Security systems: Frankentak, Inc.
Owner and guests: 14
Classification: Maltese Cross 100 A1 SSC Yacht (P), G6, Maltese Cross LMC, UMS
Naval architecture: Delta Design Group
Exterior styling: Donald Starkey
Interior space planning and design: Donald Starkey
Builder: Delta - 2006