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American Beauty: Palmer Johnson's Lady M


Palmer Johnson's sport-superyacht Lady M redefines 'Made in the USA.'

Wisconsin-based yachtbuilder Palmer Johnson has been through some rocky times, but things appear to be on the upswing. Not only has the company launched its largest yacht to date and the largest aluminum yacht ever built in the U.S., but it also has created an iconic 21st century sport yacht in the form of the 213-foot (64.9-meter) Lady M. The company’s new flagship and the first in its PJ 210 series, Lady M is a tour de force of design, technology and American craftsmanship. She is a supremely sexy, semi-displacement go-fast yacht.

Built at Palmer Johnson’s longtime base in Sturgeon Bay, Lady M is the product of several constituencies including the Italian design firm Nuvolari Lenard, which contributed her exterior styling and interior design. She was built under the supervision of Moran Yacht & Ship’s new-construction team, which worked closely with Palmer Johnson and Nuvolari Lenard on various innovative design and engineering decisions. She is slightly larger than her original 210-foot (64-meter) design, due to special parameters set by her owners, who purchased the boat as the project was evolving.

The new PJ 210 series is a quantum step up from the original 120-foot (36.5-meter) SportYacht Palmer Johnson introduced several years ago. With a 31-foot beam, the increased space available for easy living and flexibility of arrangements is immediately noticeable. Nuvolari Lenard took pains to transport the philosophy of the streamlined and integrated exterior into the interior design. Every angle was built with a purpose. For instance, the overheads on the side decks not only are aesthetically aerodynamic, but they also yield exceptional headroom to make it comfortable for even the tallest person to walk under. The generous headroom is carried throughout the yacht.

As with any yacht her size, she reflects her owners’ personal preferences. While Palmer Johnson has produced a safe and technologically sound yacht, integral to the design is a sense of whimsy, coupled with a fun-first attitude. The contemporary bridge deck has a fire pit and outdoor cinema, as well as indoor/outdoor lounging and dining areas. At her tallest point is a crow’s nest, which accommodates a glass-walled gym. The feature was conceived by the owner, who is knowledgeable about building and engineering.

On the main deck, the salon can be transformed into a cinema. In the dining area, there are sliding-glass doors port and starboard where fold-down balconies bring the outside in. A TV area forward of the dining room enables small children to be close to their parents if they don’t want to remain at the table for an extended dining experience.

Dan Lenard, who showed me around the boat, enthusiastically pointed out detail after detail created by the craftsmen at Palmer Johnson: an exquisite handmade dining table, a bubble-glass floating staircase, etched-glass columns. His comments were not idle or spurious. Having worked with the top superyacht builders in Europe, Lenard is well acquainted with high-quality workmanship.

Lady M’s worldly, sophisticated owners also happen to be first-time owners. Lady M is a stunning entry into the yacht world and fulfills their desire to enjoy style and comfort while speeding around to their favorite haunts.

“She wants to go fast and does it easily,” says her captain, Gordon Scott. “There is no sweet spot, which is unusual—just smooth, quiet and comfortable right up to 28 knots. Another amazing fact is that we only lose one knot between half fuel load and full fuel load. This is unheard of in other high-speed yachts. Lady M will do 17.5 knots on one engine with a full load of fuel and water, which is truly astounding.”

She also turns heads.

“The first time we entered Bonifacio, right at sunset, the town stopped,” says Scott. “The patrons of the waterfront restaurants all stood up. Heads appeared out of most windows and there must have been three hundred people gathered on the quay where we were tying up.”

There is much to love about Lady M’s outside spaces. The bridge deck was integrated into the design of the boat with practical wing stations complementing the aesthetics. The yacht’s cascading fresh-water pool with its glass bulkhead aft is counterbalanced by an equally impressive multipurpose pool on the foredeck. Nuvolari Lenard, which unabashedly takes credit for the current trend in aft-deck pools, has upped its own game. The tender-garage/foredeck pool is designed and engineered so that what appears to be a flush-deck lazarette can open with doors that hinge inward. When there is no tender, it can be filled with salt water.

“We made significant changes from the original 210 model, redesigning and restructuring the foredeck to accommodate the 8.2-meter pool,” says Rob Moran of Moran Yacht & Ship. When the doors close over the tender garage, it can be used as a touch-and-go helipad.
At the tip of the stem is a striking sculpture of a pouncing cat. Some may see it as a jaguar or panther, but according to Lenard, it is simply a generic cat. Designed by Nuvolari Lenard, it was executed by the aluminum welders at Palmer Johnson—another testament to the artistry of the yard. The cat motif recurs throughout the yacht with cat’s-eye graphics adorning the transom and repeated as etched emblems in the gates and skylights.

“We like to integrate everything, not just add layers,” says Lenard.

The owner’s suite is forward on this deck with panoramic views and direct access to the foredeck. Just outside the bedroom is a flush-mounted, fold-out gym machine, a drop-down terrace, and a luxurious bathroom and wardrobe area. The owner suggested a sliding wall between this area and the bedroom so an exerciser could work out and not disturb his or her sleeping partner.

On the lower deck is a full-beam VIP cabin, two double cabins and two twin cabins. The guest cabins each have their own signature art displays such as an array of fish that appears to float from the headboard over the ceiling.

Kyle Ahola, Palmer Johnson’s design manager, says, “A great deal of care and passion went into the design and fabrication of many aspects [of the yacht] such as the folding wengé wall sconces in the VIP stateroom, the wooden-wave overhead panel in the owner’s private lounge, the incorporation of varying metal works and glass, the exterior LED-lit bubble walls, the many ways we were able to generate indirect lighting and the sundeck skylight, which incorporated the boat’s logo inside the glass in highly polished stainless steel.”

Lenard says Palmer Johnson craftsmen took on the challenge of this design detail and executed it to perfection.

“With a good orchestra, you can have good musicians, but you need a conductor,” Lenard says. “At Palmer Johnson, they are good at coordinating the entire effort.”

European yards use highly specialized interior outfitters, but at Palmer Johnson, everything is done in-house.

“In Wisconsin,” Lenard says, “the pioneering spirit of America is evident. They have a ‘can do’ attitude.”

Moran and Lenard laud Palmer Johnson for enduring a tough build schedule, made tougher by having to reestablish its workforce. Prior to the Lady M build, the yard had laid off many workers. But with Lady M, the company retooled the shipyard and rehired all its former workers and more. Approximately 200 people worked on Lady M. With a new 50-meter under construction and a new niche to service, the workers appear poised to stay.

“They are second to none in the sport yacht field,” Lenard says of the builder.

For more information: 920 746 6342 (shipyard), or 954 581 3238 (U.S. showroom);

213ft. 3in. (64m)
200ft. 6in. (61.1m)
31ft. 2in. (9.5m)
8ft. 3in. (2.5m)
214 tons
Gross tonnage:
MTU 16V4000 M93L; 4,650 bhp @ 2100 rpm
5-blade nibral fixed pitch
19,548 gal. (74,000L)
Speed (max.):
28.2 knots
Speed (cruising):
20 knots
4,500nm @ 13.4 knots
2 x 165kW Kohler
3,170 gal. (12,000L)
5 x Seakeeper
Lloyd’s ✠100A1, SSC Yacht Mono HSC G6, LMC
MCA LY2 Cayman Islands
Naval architecture:
Palmer Johnson
Exterior styling:
Nuvolari Lenard
Interior design:
Nuvolari Lenard/owner
Project management:
Moran Yacht & Ship
Guest cabins:
Palmer Johnson