When Sycara IV slid down the ways at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, it might have been during the era before America learned to number its wars, when flappers were doing the Lindy Hop and Charles Lindbergh hadn’t done his hop across the Atlantic. The yacht might, in fact, have been the latest in J.P. Morgan’s fabled fleet of Corsairs.
But this was 2009, and she was the culmination of the original owners’ requirements as imagined by designers Bruce King and Ken Freivokh. At 151 feet (46 meters) by 27 feet (8.2 meters), Sycara IV was an aesthetic reflection of yachts from the 1920s and 1930s, albeit with modern systems and almost no wake at cruising speed. She also was capable of doing the Great Loop circumnavigation of eastern America with bridge clearance of no more than 19 feet, 6 inches; her mast and funnel could be lowered to clear (barely) the bridges on the Erie Canal.
Fast forward to 2017, when the current owner renamed her Nadan. A serial yacht owner, he appreciated the Golden Age of Yachting and set out to right a wrong. While Nadan had hand-carved, gold-leaf trailing boards under her bowsprit along with a graceful curve in her fantail transom, something wasn’t quite right.
Nadan’s profile was too low.
In the current owner’s opinion, keeping her bridge clearance down in spite of her funnel and mast had given her the look of a beautiful wedding cake that was one layer short. And so, Nadan underwent a refit that added a new house nearly amidships.
“The effective creation of a new upper deck where none existed was not without some challenges: some structural, some related to stability,” Freivokh says. “And, of course, it required a comprehensive study regarding how to extend systems to allow the new room to enjoy air conditioning and essentials such as light, water, drainage and audiovisual connections.”
Casual observers might think the yacht has a new pilothouse, but the space is in fact an aerie for the owner’s privacy, with windows, a day head, a couch, loose chairs and an area rug over the teak-and-sycamore sole. The focal point of this retreat is a leather-topped desk bookended with a pair of vintage Tiffany lamps.
Nadan is built from aluminum, so Freivokh had to engineer the addition. With the refit scheduled at Lauderdale Marine Center in Florida with a team of subcontractors, the new house was welded from aluminum to match the rest of the yacht. But before it could be added, workers had to remove all the insulation from the area below the new house to prevent fires. That work required removing every overhead panel, rerouting wiring, and welding an aluminum foundation on the deck for the new structure.
The owner, who has an eye for design, and Freivokh didn’t stop there. The coaming around the upper deck was extended to better smooth the lines, and was capped with teak. A new funnel was fabricated, and, because the owner’s getaway went where the firefighting tanks had been, that equipment also had to be reorganized. Teak siding was added to the house, to mirror the traditional raised-panel design on the lower deck.
One constraint of the new house was the existing spa on the upper deck. It was left where it was, but a canvas shade extending from the rooftop made it blend in more smoothly. Also atop the roof is the original mast, and an arched foremast above the forward sunpads. The owner enjoys climbing aloft to this area.
Because weights and balances are so crucial, the addition of the new house meant the addition of ballast to the long but shallow hull. The owner also rearranged the main deck and salon while keeping the madrone burl raised-panel bulkheads with macassar ebony inlays intact.
“Nadan’s interior took inspiration from the 1920s Art Deco interior, which we had originally developed for Tom Perkins’ [122-foot, 1930 build] Atlantide,” Freivokh says. “Whilst Nadan’s owner valued the quite faithful Art Deco interpretation of the original Sycara IV, he felt that some eclecticism would offer a more relaxed and varied interior. The main salon furniture was repositioned toward the periphery of the rooms, introducing some variety of style.”
While keeping details such as inlaid Lalique glass panels, the refit team added Deco-style airline chairs and couches with curved wood arms, a game table and a poufy hassock. Formerly white-painted bulkheads (and the salon bar) were faced in soft leather for a more casual look. Lower deck accommodations, including the heads with onyx counters and Lalique faucets, remained the same, although soft goods and fabrics were all refreshed.
On the shaded fantail deck, a round table was replaced by a pair of facing lounges, each with its own inlaid mahogany table.
Elco had built the original tender aboard Sycara IV to have a ’20s runabout look, but a new RIB with a landing-craft ramp was deemed more suitable for Nadan, whose owner has an island in the Bahamas.
While many refits are slam-bam straightforward—paint, soft goods, perhaps repowering—the owner of Nadan took a thoughtful and stylish approach. He improved the yacht’s exterior appearance with a more balanced profile while gaining a private space high above the sea, and he fitted it out neatly without disturbing the existing spa, lounges and dining areas. Inside, he decluttered the salon, adding comfort and easier access without losing the Art Deco ambience. His other ideas (switching tenders to better fit his needs, adding a mast for his personal pleasure) are the marks of a knowledgeable yachtsman.
The Nadan refit was well-considered and impeccably executed, resulting in a yacht that perfectly fits her owner.
“I have been called a Renaissance man,” Klaus Bytzek says. “It is not something I call myself. Perhaps that is just something people say when someone is involved in a wide variety of things.”
Yachting is one of Bytzek’s many interests, along with having raced cars, trained horses, written fiction and poetry, and been a painter. He has also owned several boats, including his current 150-foot (46-meter) Burger Nadan and 121-foot (36.9-meter) 1958 Ateliers Montrevel. He was intrinsically involved in his yachts’ restorations, and in work done at his homes.
“I appreciate beauty in all forms,” Bytzek says. “I also love building things and changing things. I work with professionals, but I know what I like and tend to direct.”
Bytzek grew up in a small town in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. He immigrated to Canada in 1955. Self-taught in engineering, he worked in the automotive industry. He holds more than a dozen patents, all involved with making automobiles reliable and fuel efficient.
Now semi-retired, he collects Ferraris, Porsches and other cars. He is deeply involved in philanthropic organizations such as sponsoring and directing youth ballet productions of La Bayadère and Paquita.
Bytzek splits his time among homes in Florida and Canada, and his private island in the Bahamas called B.B.’s Cay, after his daughter’s nickname. “We tend to stay aboard one of our yachts and simply use the island as our playground,” he says. —Jill Bobrow
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Yachts International.