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Aboard Perle Bleue

Ocean retreat.

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British designer Donald Starkey was meandering through the streets of Paris, seeking fine fabrics and objets d’artfora yacht owner, when he glanced in the window of a small art gallery. He was captivated by the paintings of Juarez Machado, a Brazilian artist who has lived in France since 1986. “I said to myself, ‘That’s it—that’s the guy I want.’”

Never mind that Starkey didn’t want Machado’s work for the yacht he was in Paris to discuss. Instead, he wanted it for the 124-foot Hakvoort Perle Bleue, a new build whose exterior design and interior decor he had been commissioned to create for American owners Stanley and Peggy Bey. Starkey had known the Beys for the better part of 20 years, and though they were experienced yacht owners with strong ideas about what they wanted, they were also open to creative suggestions that would help set their yacht apart. They didn’t want to own just another new motor yacht, one tailor-made for resale with neutral fabrics and basic elements. The Beys wanted to make a splash in their own elegant style.

Starkey had told the couple that, for starters, he thought murals displayed as tapestries would be more distinctive than artwork simply hung on the yacht’s walls, as is commonly done. Until that moment outside the gallery in Paris, though, he hadn’t been sure how to make his vision a reality.

“I walked in,” he recalls, “and I asked to learn more about the artist. It was a Saturday afternoon, and the woman in the shop said, ‘You’re lucky, he’s due here in about 10 minutes.’ Sure enough, he turned up, and he was quite thrilled about the idea of having one of his paintings reproduced. I’m a great believer in the idea of fate just getting things done.”

It may have been fate that made Machado’s work the centrepiece of Perle Bleue’s main salon, but it is the Beys themselves who have overseen every last detail in the creation of the yacht. She’s a special build not just because of her uniquely impressive interior decor, but also because in a global market where owners are continually trying to outdo one another by building ever-bigger yachts, Perle Bleue is a rather large step down in size. Among the yachts the Beys have previously owned are the 130-foot Broward Pegasus and the 147-foot Hakvoort Campbell Bay, and they worked hard to bring their big-boat sensibilities to their new 124-footer.

“They wanted to do something a bit different from the norm,” Starkey says. “They were quite determined that they needn’t necessarily go bigger to do something better. They took a step back and, I think, made a much better boat.”

Actually, the Beys began building Perle Bleue by first constructing a stunning, rotunda-shaped office at their home in New Jersey. That’s where I first met them a few months before the yacht’s North American debut. They built the office for what they call their boat-building business—the business of creating Perle Bleue and whatever yachts they might envision next. A faux-painted sky covers the domed ceiling, which features a prayer they learned from the father of Ken Denison, their long-time broker: “May the skies be clear, may the winds be fair, may the seas be calm, and may God bless all those who sail these ships.” Beneath the prayer is Stanley’s desk. Around the desk are countless photographs and yacht-design awards. Across the room is a second, smaller desk beneath a flat-screen television that is linked up to receive detailed photographs from the Hakvoort yard in the Netherlands, and shows craftsmen working on Perle Bleue’s finishing touches.

“We have friends who have so many hobbies, so many things, and they never use them,” Stanley says. “I’ve been retired since 1989, and this is what I do. I want to build boats and have an endless summer.”

He’s not alone in his quest, as Peggy, too, sees the creation of boats as a nearly full-time diversion. While Stanley tells me about the construction of rub rails and the installation of audiovisual equipment, Peggy shows me fabric swatches and photographs of furniture, each carefully organized and researched to the last thread of detail. An arrangements plan of Perle Bleue, sent over by Starkey’s team, is spread across the office’s large desk, with items to be supplied by the Beys highlighted in light blue. On most owner’s plans, an item here or there might be highlighted. In this case, there is at least one item highlighted in virtually every room on-board the yacht.

Even still, it’s not until a few months later, when I again meet the Beys in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that I realize just how completely Peggy and Stanley have visualized Perle Bleue. As they welcome me on-board and escort me from the aft deck into the main salon for my first look at those Machado murals, it’s as if I am walking not into a brand-new yacht, but into a space I have known intimately for quite some time.

Perle Bleue is a special build. The Beys didn’t want just another motor yacht, one tailor-made for resale. They wanted to make a splash in their own elegant style.

From my perspective, it’s not just the colours and textures that make such an interesting first impression, but the shape of the salon itself. As with many motor yachts, the salon is adjacent to the formal dining area, which creates a long and sometimes overwhelmingly large space. Starkey has placed a mural in every corner of the salon, thus changing the shape into more of a hexagon than a rectangle. The murals, in addition to setting the tone, actually seem to cradle the area’s contents. “It makes the room manageable,” Peggy says, “instead of cavernous.”

There is no formal dining area per se, but instead a section of flooring made from caramel-coloured, crocodile-embossed leather that distinguishes the seating space from the salon proper. In the seating space are two tables, the perfect size for playing cards, that can swing and lock together to form a dining table for eight as needed. The Beys had a formal dining table on their last motor yacht, but Peggy recalls, “It took up all this space, and we never sat at it.” They prefer the open feeling the two smaller tables allow.

In fact, the Beys worked with Starkey to make the entire yacht feel as airy and open as their 147-footer, though the new build is just 124 feet long. In particular, they agreed to the use of tinted mirrors that, in the salon, are mounted adjacent to the windows to make the room appear as if it stretches beyond its actual borders. Up one level, in the sky lounge, the mirrors combine with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows to engulf guests in bright sunshine and natural elements. More mirrors sit on the back of steps along the yacht’s main spiral staircase, making each step appear open to the air when it is actually closed off—in order to adhere to Maritime and Coastguard Agency fire requirements.

“I do use mirrors to address spatial limitations, but I don’t encourage people to look into them,” Starkey explains. “Instead, you can look at a ceiling and see a reflection of the water. It’s an interesting mood when you’re sitting down and relaxing. It tricks the eye.”

There is a bit of a trick, too, with the outdoor-indoor theme in the guest accommodations, which Peggy asked Starkey to design in the style of her favourite cruising area, St. Barths. Together, they agreed on elements such as pebble bathroom floors instead of tile ones, and painted white wood instead of traditional darker tones, to give each guest room a casually elegant, beach-inspired ambiance. Indeed, when I walk into the guest rooms, I feel as though I am entering a luxury bed-and-breakfast, as opposed to a motor yacht that is relatively small by today’s standards.

A different tone takes hold in the master cabin, which is on Perle Bleue’s main deck. Here, the Beys wanted a Zen feeling, which Starkey achieved in several ways. First, he placed deep, rich, yellow and matte gold tones against dark African Wenge woodwork and bamboo flooring to establish a sense of warmth, which I feel the moment I enter the space after having been in the other on-board rooms, which feature cool blues and greens. It’s a nice effect that I think most people will appreciate as they return to the master cabin to relax at night. Second, the master cabin itself has three areas that flow into one another. Starkey distinguished the dressing area, sleeping area and bathroom entrance with different floor and ceiling heights instead of separating them with walls, so as with the hexagonal salon, the room itself seems unique compared with other, similarly sized spaces on other yachts. That sense of originality continues with the elements in the master bathroom, including a polished-cement bathtub, mother-of-pearl vanities, glass wash basins and Jerusalem stone flooring. It is noteworthy that the Beys’ attention to detail doesn’t stop at the bathroom door, as so often happens with yachts in this size range.

And while all these spaces on-board Perle Bleue are memorable, it is the bridge deck’s sky lounge where guests are likely to spend the majority of their time. As with the rest of the yacht, the design goes far beyond what you typically look at—things like fabrics and lampshades—to include things you may not even realize you are seeing. Stanley points out that on the yacht’s exterior, the side decks are half glass, so that anyone sitting down inside the sky lounge can look out the windows and see not the interior wall of a side deck, but the ocean and the vista beyond. Peggy adds that she chose tables that are open on the bottom to enhance this feeling of being outdoors when, in fact, you are indoors. As I look around the room, I feel as though I’m in a beach cabana instead of some four metres above the ocean’s surface.

It’s an exceptional experience, one made possible by the Beys’ vision and thoughtful attention to detail. On the technical side, too, they ensured high quality, starting with the twin 650-hp Caterpillar C18 DI-TA engines, which allow a cruising speed of 11 knots. There is VSAT WiFi throughout the yacht, as well as a Kaleidescape entertainment system featuring 3,000 hours of music and 600 movies.

Anyone can enjoy being on-board by chartering Perle Bleue this summer in the Western Mediterranean. She is marketed by International Yacht Collection, and takes 10 guests at a weekly base rate of €155,000.

Perle Bleue is, quite simply, a yacht unlike any other. “It is quite often that owners have fairly conservative taste and want to be careful,” Starkey says. “But I’ve always maintained that you can make a statement without being silly. You just need to do something different.”


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June 1, 2008