First Impression: Blue Moon
Date toured: October 2009
I’m excited to tell you about the 198-foot Feadship Blue Moon, not just because she is a stunning yacht new to the charter scene, but because the owner is forgoing a print publicity campaign—which means that the information and photographs here on CharterWave will be among the most detailed and exclusive that you can find anywhere in the world.
First, a little history. The name Blue Moon is well-known in charter circles. This is the third Feadship motoryacht built for the same owners. The first was 158 feet long, and the second was 165 feet long. The 198-footer being reviewed here launched in June 2005 and has been used exclusively by the owners until now.
Capt. Emile Bootsma—who has worked for the owner the past 13 years, including on construction of the current yacht—explained the recent decision to enter the charter market as he took me for a private tour of Blue Moon during the 2009 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
“The owner has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and they’re all doing their own things now, so the owner’s use of the boat is declining,” Bootsma explained. “Plus, he is 88 years old, and he still works 70 hours a week. When we first launched this boat, he averaged 120 days of use per year. Now, we’ve dropped to less than 80 days of usage. The boss doesn’t want to sell the boat, but he also doesn’t want it sitting still.
“I want to be very clear about the kind of charter boat we plan to be,” he continued. “There are boats with reputations as heavy charter boats. We don’t want that. You will not see us in a printed advertisement. We are not doing cut-rate charters. We’re not looking for people who want to party hard. We’re looking for people who can appreciate what our boat is. We think she’s quite special.”
My tour proved that last statement to be entirely accurate. The boat show going on around us had countless eyes trained on the newly launched, 214-foot Feadship Trident, and Bootsma told me that several brokers, having seen that “Queen of the Show,” stepped aboard Blue Moon and quipped, “Oh, you copied the layout of Trident.”
Of course, Blue Moon launched well before Trident began construction—and, more significant to me, Bootsma doesn’t believe the two yachts are seeking the same charter clients. He believes Blue Moon, with a weekly base rate of $525,000 for 12 guests with 14 to 16 crew, outranks the newer, larger launch from the Dutch shipyard.
“Trident is priced for charter at about $30,000 a week less than we are,” he told me, “but I don’t think we’re in competition. We’re trying to be more exclusive in who we charter to, to provide the right kind of experience for the right kind of people. What we have is a cut above.”
The owner of Blue Moon is hoping for six to eight weeks of charter each year, and a new chef has been hired to help achieve that goal. Bootsma said the owner is a simple eater who enjoys such dishes as meatloaf and beans, which are not the standard fare aboard charter yachts in this rarefied price range. Chef David Cowcill, previously of the 141-foot Feadship motoryacht Eclipse, is a culinary-trained chef from Vancouver whom Bootsma selected not only for his cooking prowess, but also for his personality.
“We’re a very stable crew,” he explained. “My chief officer started with me in 1999. My chief stewardess has been with me since 2002. My first engineer has been with me since 1999, and my chief engineer since 2004. And he, like me, was involved in the construction of this boat. We know this boat well. We know each other well. We work well as a team, and I do not want any new crew member to upset that balance.
“Our crew has been forged over time,” he continued. “The crew who run hard charter boats are a different breed. We are aiming at providing the exclusive, luxury service at the top end of the market. There are Toyotas and there are Rolls-Royces. Both can get you there, but not in the same way.”
By way of Blue Moon, the journey includes a Donald Starkey interior created in conjunction with a team of Chicago-based designers who have worked with the owner on various homes. While some might describe the cherry wood interior as dark, I believe the word “rich” is more appropriate. Or perhaps “deep,” as one might describe levels of luxury. And, though I looked at seams and high-traffic areas with an experienced eye, I could not find a single scratch on the four-year-old interior. Blue Moon looked absolutely brand-new.
The décor story is best told through details, I think. In the main saloon, a 63-inch flat-panel television drops from the ceiling, concealed in such a way that Bootsma had to point out the well-disguised casing lines to me. I could not discern them on my own, even though I knew the general location of the feature.
Moving forward on the main deck are a formal dining room and then a port-side butler’s pantry that separates it from the galley. The placement and large size of this pantry are significant, having been designed into the yacht to help maintain the elegance of dining experiences.
“When crew come out of galleys on other boats, there is usually noise, and so the conversation at the table stops,” Bootsma said. “We do not have that problem on Blue Moon.”
Forward of the dining room to starboard is the entry foyer, where I got my first glimpse of the glass-enclosed, circular elevator that services all decks. That's a photo of it at right. It was designed not just for transportation (it is fully wheelchair accessible) but also for style, with a skylight at the top to filter natural light down and into all decks during the daytime. At night, the glass shaft is lighted to create a warm glow throughout the yacht.
Around this glass elevator is a rounded staircase whose arc-shaped walls are detailed with deck upon deck of book-matched mahogany panels. The owner wanted the overall effect of the wood grain to mimic seaweed, which, I must admit, it cleverly does.
“You can see Feadships with elevators that are just boxes,” Bootsma said as I admired the woodwork. “It will get you up and down, but this is something special.”
Far forward on the main deck is the master suite, which is about 1,200 square feet and includes a private gymnasium as well as a private office. Each of those two spaces can convert into small cabins of their own—original plans called for Murphy beds, but the owner changed his mind—with en suite bathrooms finished in marble with gold fixtures. Those are in addition to the sprawling his-and-her master bath finished in honey onyx and marble near the sleeping area, which has a freestanding headboard to provide extra privacy as you watch the 50-inch television cleverly hidden behind a painting that drops down at the push of a button.
On the bottom deck are the guest cabins, which can be arranged as two, three, or five staterooms. Pocket separators create walls as needed, allowing for two of the rooms to serve as either single, two-room suites or two, single-room cabins, each with their own bathrooms no matter how they are arranged. There is also a gymnasium on this level for guests who want to use the elliptical, treadmill, stationary bicycle, or weights.
The bridge deck level includes the sky lounge with doors that open into a glass-enclosed dining area for 10, which itself has exterior doors that open yet again into an outdoor seating and cocktail area. The overall effect of the design is that the space can be made to feel large, larger, or largest, depending on your charter party’s desire.
“The owner had seen this type of dining space on a Benetti,” Bootsma told me, “but not with this arrangement of doors. We wanted to add our own ideas to it.”
On the sundeck, Bootsma showed me beeper buttons that fit in the palm of a hand. There were a basket of them near the hot tub, and Bootsma said others are conveniently placed throughout Blue Moon. Each guest receives a beeper at the start of a charter, and a press of the button alerts the crew that their presence is required.
The idea is that service is constant, but discreet. Crew are always available, but not lurking over you while you’re reading a book, enjoying a cocktail, or sunbathing.
Last but not least, I would be remiss if I failed to tell you about the observatory. It’s small, with just a couple of chairs, and looks out over the hot tub and sunpads on the top deck. What is so incredible about this space is that the large, main window is designed to literally vanish from your view. I nearly walked right through it (see the photograph at right), and Bootsma told me several brokers had actually gone nose-first into the glass during the boat show, not realizing that it was there. Again, a detail I have not seen on any other charter yacht.
Blue Moon plans to use Sint Maarten as her Caribbean base this winter, and Bootsma pointed out that she is the biggest boat that can fit at the dock on St. Barth’s (larger yachts must anchor in the harbor). I have no doubt there will be great competition to book her for that purpose during New Year’s Eve, and indeed, Bootsma told me several inquiries had already been received as of late October.
For summer 2010, Blue Moon is expected to charter farther afield. “We don’t want to do the Mediterranean,” Bootsma said. “We’re going to go through the Panama Canal and do Costa Rica as well as the Western Coast of Mexico.” The yacht may also cruise to Alaska, but charter opportunities are likely to be limited to the warmer-weather locations.
“Pound for pound, we think we have something special,” Bootsma said with a smile as I made my exit down the aft deck steps. “We’re not your run-of-the-mill Feadship.”
Blue Moon is now the flagship of the Northrop & Johnson charter fleet. Special thanks to fleet manager LJ Houghting for arranging my private tour with the captain.
Any reputable charter broker can tell you more or help you book a week onboard.—Kim Kavin