Wrecks to riches: Aboard the superyachts restored to their former glories

From Shemara to Kingdom Come, step on board these revamped vessels

With many European shipyards now concentrating on turning out superyachts of ever-
increasing proportions, former superyacht Captain Michael Howorth investigates the trend of finding secondhand tonnage in poor condition and returning it to former glory…


Wrecks to riches: Aboard the superyachts restored to their former glories

This 65-metre superyacht, built in the 1960s, was rescued from decay and completely rebuilt in Britain by British businessman Charles Dunstone. Built by Thorneycroft in Southampton in 1938, she served in World War Two as an anti-submarine training ship with the Royal Navy. Shemara became famous in the 1950s for the many lavish parties hosted by the gracelessly gaudy Lord and Lady Docker. In 1954 the nation’s eyebrows were raised when 33 Yorkshire miners were invited to Southampton for a cocktail party on-board Shemara.

In 1965, Shemara was put up for sale for £600,000, and passed to the ownership of the reclusive property tycoon Harry Hyams for £290,000. He left her sitting in Lowestoft for 20 years where, according to rumour, crew prepared lunch for Hyams each day just in case he arrived, which he never did.

Charles Dunstone, the man behind Carphone Warehouse, is an avid sailor who enjoys racing sailing yachts. He decided Shemara would make a fitting mothership for him to attend and race in superyacht sailing regattas around the world. Having purchased her, the yacht arrived in Portsmouth and spent over a year in a multi-million-pound rebuild that saw her relaunched in a condition that far exceeds that of when first delivered in 1938.


Wrecks to riches: Aboard the superyachts restored to their former glories

Now owned by British inventor and industrial designer James Dyson, the 91-metre Nahlin was built as a steamship by the John Brown shipyard on the Clyde in 1930 and, at that time, carried a crew of 58. She was famously the yacht on which King Edward VIII conducted his affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson – a love that ultimately cost him the British throne. The Romanian Royal family then owned her, but when that monarchy crumbled she fell to the State. 

She served in various roles before being sold to yacht broker Nicholas Edmiston in 1999 and brought back to the UK, where she was docked in Liverpool. When Cammell Laird went into receivership, the yacht was towed to Germany where she was beautifully restored – four new diesel engines were installed to replace her original steam turbines. Each of the 2200 horsepower engines provides 1619 kilowatts of power and can now propel this fine old lady at speeds of around 17 knots.

Originally fitted out with six en-suite staterooms for guests, a ladies’ sitting room with sea views on three sides and both the library and gymnasium have been restored.

Lady A

Wrecks to riches: Aboard the superyachts restored to their former glories

BBC reality TV show host Alan Sugar now owns a yacht named Lady A. She became famous as Southern Cross when she was built for the disgraced Australian business entrepreneur Sir Alan Bond. Famed for his rudeness about the crew on his last superyacht, Lord Sugar vowed at the time he would never own another superyacht. Time passed and the self-made millionaire had a change of heart, buying a yacht constructed in Japan in 1986 to the interior and exterior designs of Jon Bannenberg.

At 55 metres the yacht has also sailed as Indian Princess when she was owned by the Indian businessman Vijay Mallya. But Lord Sugar made it very much his own when choosing the independent ship repairer Burgess Marine in Portchester, Portsmouth to give Lady A her winter refit.

Burgess Marine, along with other British yards such as Solent Refit near Southampton and Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth, are known for their ability to turn wrecks into superyachts of beauty. Britain might have lost its edge when it comes to building superyachts, but it seems the Brits are still strong when it comes to designing and refitting them.

Kingdom Come

Wrecks to riches: Aboard the superyachts restored to their former glories

The better the historical pedigree of the used tonnage purchased, the better return the owner gets after selling a refitted yacht. London-based yacht brokerage firm Cecil Wright & Partners recently sold Kingdom Come for around £14 million. The 60-metre superyacht was originally commissioned by a scion of the Mercedes-Benz dynasty and built in 1979 by Feadship in Holland. Mercedes ownership and Feadship both have good credence in the secondhand superyacht market – add in a political assassination and the yacht has real appeal.

In the case of Kingdom Come, she had been sold to the Lebanese prime minister, Rafic Hariri, who owned the yacht for over 30 years before being assassinated in 2005. The yacht then stayed within family ownership until she was sold some 10 years later.

For those inspired to follow in the footsteps of owners who have turned secondhand tonnage into fabulous superyachts, Solent Refit are offering Lady K II, a British-built 56-metre classic motoryacht dating from 1961, for just £1.5 million. Be warned, however, that her refit costs have been estimated in the region of £10 million. Elsewhere, Northrop & Johnson are marketing Delphine, a steam yacht built in 1921 for the US automobile magnate Horace Dodge, for in excess of £19 million. It seems old is the new new…

This article was taken from the September Yacht supplement. To receive Gentleman’s Journal extra publications, VIP subscribe here.

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