Christensen's 160-foot D'Natalin IV was designed for cross-generational good times in faraway places.
By Mary South
The decision to take the fast ferry at the crack of dawn from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, is a mistake. It’s hot, crowded and noisy. The windows don’t open and there’s no outside seating. A two-dollar cup of coffee comes with three refills and limitless capsules of non-dairy creamer. And I have endured several hours of the less-than-scintillating banter that results when friendly strangers are confined together. I am so ready to get off this vessel.
As we move into the inner harbor and toward the dock, my spirits lift. The sun has broken through the clouds and Victoria looks beautiful. Straight ahead is the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel; to starboard, the imposing Neo-Baroque British Columbia Parliament Buildings. And there, at the base of Wharf Street, stretched along the inner dock, is the reason for my pilgrimage: D’Natalin IV.
The 160-foot trideck Christensen would be hard to miss even if she weren’t the only superyacht in the harbor. She sports a dark blue hull, white superstructure and red boot stripe—colors more commonly associated with the classic, sporty elegance of a picnic boat. And she wears them well.
D’Natalin IV’s story is not typical: Experienced owners decide to buy a new build, against their better judgment. What got them halfway there was an available yacht, unfinished, with hull and superstructure already constructed. It cut their waiting time to 18 months and gave them a chance to put their imprint on everything else.
“Everyone’s heard horror stories about not being on time or on budget,” says Christian Bakewell, who was the broker and is also a new-build specialist at Merle Wood & Associates. “I had experience building a 50-meter with Christensen and could reassure them, and as they saw all they could get out of it.”
The owners, Dennis and Judy Jones, had a hand in every decision that went into creating this yacht. Jones, who built a pharmaceutical empire before selling his business and retiring in 2000, tells me his love of boating dates way back.
“Judy and I have been married 56 years—we were high school sweethearts—and her father had a boat. It was lake boating. People say you can’t water-ski off a 25-foot boat? Well, in the Marine Corps I weighed 140 pounds and I did it,” he recalls with a chuckle.
It wasn’t until the Joneses chartered a yacht 21 years ago that they got serious about having their own. “We kind of had one-foot-itis,” Jones says about their progression from owning a 150-foot Benetti to a 150-foot Feadship, and then a 151-foot Delta, which they enjoyed for 15 years.
An elevator was a huge factor in their decision to go with Christensen.
“My wife’s mother lived to be 96 and could have used our yacht for another 10 years if it had an elevator,” he says. “And at some point Judy said to me, ‘I don’t want to see us in that position.’” With the elevator, the Joneses feel comfortable that they’ll continue enjoying the yacht for another 10 to 15 years, and their kids will have it to use as they get older, as well.
Carol Williamson of Carol Williamson + Associates in Portland, Oregon, designed the interior spaces aboard D’Natalin IV as well as several other Christensens, including Remember When, Primadonna and Marathon. At the start of the project, Williamson visited the Joneses’ 30,000-square-foot St. Louis home to get a feel for their style.
“Walking through with them, and hearing them talk about how the design of the house had evolved, showed a desire for formal spaces and informal spaces,” Williamson says. “Their home is very traditional, and they wanted something more transitional for the yacht, with traditional references and undertones to it.”
Half an hour after the ferry docks, I’m standing on the stern of D’Natalin IV as Capt. Greg Clark shows me through this latest launch in Christensen’s Custom Series. We start on the main deck and work our way up, and a theme emerges: The spaces move from quite formal to less formal to informal, both in function and in feeling, yet the transitions are subtle and fluid.
In the main deck salon, gold, gray and cream tones create an elegant atmosphere. Glossy American black walnut paneling encircles the space and creates a divider between the living and and dining area, where there’s a formal table with seating for 12.
“Warmth was important to them and reflects who they are,” Williamson says. Judy Jones is a needlepoint aficionado and put a lot of thought into the handmade pillows she created for spaces throughout the yacht, adding a personal and homey touch.
The bridge deck is a more relaxed area with a slightly different color palette—grayish-blue and taupe with silver touches. A large flat-screen television, a corner bar and several informal seating areas combine to create a welcoming and comfortable place for friends and family to hang out.
Clark says this deck is where the family really lives. They love to be outdoors, so special effort went into maximizing usable deck spaces all around the yacht. Aft, through sliding glass doors, is an oval dining table for 12 and a settee across the stern. Wind and sun breaks along the sides, as well as overhead heat, ensure this space is comfortable in most weather conditions.
A vibrant navy and white color palette announces the relaxed and fun vibe of the sundeck, where a hot tub forward provides a view for bar seating. Amidships, a large bar and grill area to starboard with c-shape seating and a dinette to port get the party started. Aft are another dining table, chaise lounges and cocktail tables.
Six staterooms are aboard D’Natalin IV. A large main-deck master forward has wonderful light from pairs of vertical windows on each side. Big his-and-her closets and a bright, elegant bathroom hewn from white stone are situated behind glossy woodwork at the head of the bed.
The remaining staterooms, two with single beds and three with queens, are below the main deck and employ the same glossy woodwork and soothing color palettes used on the main and bridge decks.
D’Natalin IV is a yacht that emphasizes “elegant but not overdone,” as Clark puts it, and the feeling I have, after the whole tour, is one of a boat designed to be loved—and well-used—by a large family. Multiple access points from the crew area to the family spaces allow stews to come and go without being obtrusive. A closet space off the galley houses the mechanics of all the entertainment and communication equipment on board. If there’s an issue, no one has to step over a repairman working on his knees in the main salon. Even the galley, which is bright and L-shaped, has a friendly, family feeling. Jones said it was designed with input from his son-in-law, who loves to cook.
The shakeout trip took the family, in four groups, to Alaska for 60 days. Next up: a trip south and the whole family aboard for a Christmas cruise through the Panama Canal, a stop in Cabo San Lucas, the San Blas Islands, then maybe the ABCs of the Caribbean, and after that, Europe. Unlike previous yachts christened with the D’Natalin name, D’Natalin IV will not be available for charter because the yacht will be used on a steady, year-round basis by the Jones family.
“Once or twice a year, the whole extended family will be together on the boat,” said Clark. “Mr. and Mrs. Jones will come with close friends throughout the year, but they also have two children and they will all take turns bringing their families aboard for trips, as well.”
Clark, who has captained Christensens before, is happy with D’Natalin IV. So are the Joneses. There were the usual “back and forths” with the yard, says Bakewell, but in the end, all the parties involved really liked one another and wanted to make it work. “They are the nicest family. There really was an esprit d’corps,” he says, “a sense of, ‘Let’s build the best damn boat we can.’ They’re going to have fun on this boat.”
As Clark waves me off the dock, I feel happy. Plenty of super-yachts are out there, but very few, I think, whose owners take full advantage of their vessel. I look left and spot a line of seaplanes and—inspired by my visit—I think, what the hell, and walk over to book a flight back to Seattle.
When I take off the next morning, I look down at the receding harbor. The sun sparkles off D’Natalin IV and she is beautiful, serenely awaiting her next adventure.
Back—and Forth—to the Drawing Board
Merle Wood’s Christian Bakewell on getting to ‘yes.’
What started the Joneses’ search for a new yacht was that they wanted an elevator and one more guest cabin. They also wanted to be under 500 gross tons for operational reasons. Since the 50-meter Christensens are on a short list of yachts that tick all of these boxes, we looked at a couple of them, but none of them quite fit the bill. New construction was off the table because of the lead time, but then my office got the inside track on a completed hull and superstructure at Christensen, effectively cutting our build time down to 18 months.
I was on my way back from Europe and thought I would stop in New York to visit the Joneses on their yacht in North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan, so we could at least look at some drawings. I had Christensen render a profile of the yacht with a blue hull, as Dennis had mentioned he always wanted one. From the moment I stepped on the aft deck and spread the drawings out, it was love at first sight. Dennis and Judy liked that the yacht seemed to be both masculine and elegant.
While she had six staterooms and an elevator, there were certain elements of the layout (both inside and out) that would need some tweaking. I pulled out a red pen and said there was no time like the present.
So there we were, sitting on the back deck of their yacht, red-lining drawings, and much to their surprise they were really enjoying that process. I had been telling them building a yacht can be a lot of fun if the proper controls and planning are set in place from the beginning, and for the first time they were starting to see this. We quickly red-lined the full-size prints I had brought with me. Then I snapped a picture of each page with my phone and sent it off to Christensen so they could make the changes to the CAD file. An hour or so later, they emailed back the edited version of the general arrangement plan.
When I brought the drawings up on my computer, both Dennis and Judy immediately said they found it much more difficult to visualize the spaces on the tiny computer screen. The more tactile method of actually marking up the large paper drawings was appealing to them. I quickly called an architect friend of mine in New York and asked him if there was a reprographics company close to North Cove, and he suggested one less than half a mile away. I jumped in a cab with a memory stick in hand, returning with a full-size set of paper prints 30 minutes later.
Now we were back in business, back to the aft deck for another session of tweaking the drawings. After another couple hours, those were now marked up, and again I snapped photos of these full-size prints and sent them off to the yard to make the changes. And so it went, this great old New York printing company banging out a new version for us to review and me zipping off to pick it up at their shop and bring it back to the yacht. Then, late in the afternoon of the second day, with martinis in hand, Dennis, Judy and I looked at the latest version I had just spread out on the table, and they said, “I think we got it.”
I had built a 50-meter at Christensen before, so I had the workings of a very strong specification already. I left New York and began working on a 300-page specification. With that finished about a week later, the negotiations on purchase price commenced. Within two days, we arrived at a price all parties agreed was fair, and a formal purchase agreement was signed.
For more information: 360 695 3238, christensenyachts.com
LOA: 160ft. (49m)
LWL: 139ft. 9in. (42.60m)
BEAM: 29ft. 6in. (9m)
DRAFT: 7ft. 10in. (2.40m)
CONSTRUCTION: vacuum-infused composite
DISPLACEMENT: 436.8 tons
GROSS TONNAGE: 499
ENGINES: 2 x 1,650-hp Caterpillar 3512C
PROPELLERS: 2 x 5-blade NiBrAl
FUEL: 15,300 gal. (57,920L)
WATER: 3,600 gal. (13,600L)
SPEED (max.): 17 knots
SPEED (cruising): 15 knots
RANGE: 4,000 nm @ 10 knots
GENERATORS: 2 x 125-kW CAT C6.6, 1 x 99-kW CAT C4.4
STABILIZERS: Quantum QC-1800 zero-speed
CLASSIFICATION: ABS Commercial Yachting Services & MCA-LY2 Large Commercial Yacht code compliant
NAVAL ARCHITECTURE: Christensen Shipyards, Ltd.
EXTERIOR STYLING: Christensen Shipyards, Ltd.
INTERIOR DESIGN: Carol Williamson + Associates
GUEST CABINS: 1 master, 4 guest
CREW: 10 crew in 5 cabins
BUILDER: Christensen Shipyards, Ltd.