Words by Dan Warden
In conversation with Pendennis Shipyard’s Nick Kearton, on what goes into the restoration of a superyacht.
Pendennis Shipyard is one of the world’s leading facilities, with a heritage spanning more than 30 years, a portfolio of more than 250 extremely diverse refit projects, and a focus on creating one-off custom build sail and motor yachts. In a Q&A with Nick Kearton, Project Manager at Pendennis, we learn more about the shipyard ethos and gain insight into one of Nick’s recent projects – the restoration of 1930s classic motor yacht, Marala.
Tell us more about Pendennis Shipyard
Our ethos is that ‘perfection is personal’ and therefore all our projects are completely bespoke. They are also world-class, and Pendennis’ full-service facility, with direct seaward access, is capable of building, refitting and restoring yachts up to 100 metres. More recently, the investment into Vilanova Grand Marina and the development of our Technical Service Centre on site near Barcelona, also provides additional services for superyachts in the Mediterranean.
Over 400 highly skilled tradespeople are employed at the Falmouth base alone, and it’s their expertise and dedication that have made Pendennis the globally renowned superyacht company it is today.
What led you to Project Management at Pendennis?
Straight after sixth form college I joined the Merchant Navy as an officer and travelled the world working for a major container shipping line, and was even lucky enough to have spent time on a British Antarctic Survey vessel. Along the way I earned a degree from the University of Plymouth in Marine Studies and Naval Architecture, which cemented my interest in the large yachting industry. I worked my way up through the ranks as a deck officer, but eventually made the decision to come ashore and move back home to Cornwall. Pendennis was at the top of my list of local companies to approach and 10 years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a place on their Project Management Graduate Scheme. Over the years I have worked on a host of yachts, including project managing the exterior works on 85.9m Aquila, the restoration of Haida 1929 and a major 25-year refit of the 75m Leander.
What level of work goes into the restoration of a superyacht?
A huge amount of time, knowledge and skills go into the refit and restoration of a yacht. Ideally, the team starts work on a large-scale project such as Marala – the 59m classic Camper & Nicholson motor yacht that I am currently project managing the restoration of – a good six months in advance. This can include client/site visits, specification writing, contract and budgeting work, project planning and potentially even sea trialling prior to arrival.
Then when a project arrives, it’s full steam ahead. One of the USPs at Pendennis is that due to our large highly skilled in-house labour force we can conduct large scale refit and restoration projects in a relatively short time frame. The in-house control that we have through our various departments (including specialist fabricators, engineers, joiners, painters, electricians, and deck outfitters) means that we are less reliant on sub-contractors than some of our other European counterparts.
Following the execution phase of the refit, the team then has a programme of re-commissioning and sea trialling to conduct before the yacht can depart and we have a dedicated team based out of Falmouth that offers global support to our clients all year round anywhere in the world.
Could you tell us more about Marala and the unique challenges around her restoration?
Marala is a beautiful 1930s Camper and Nicholson Classic motor yacht. Built in steel, the yacht has had numerous modifications from her original design, not least when she was converted for naval service during World War II. Unusually though, for a yacht of her age she has had very few owners and when she came on to the market in 2016, it was the first time in over 50 years. Marala is subsequently one of the few surviving yachts from the 1930s to have maintained her character and basic layout, as well as her original engines. Her restoration at Pendennis will ensure that the yacht retains her original character and pedigree whilst incorporating modern systems and technology.
During her restoration a comprehensive programme of works will see upgrades to the yacht’s steelwork, domestic and electrical systems that will harness modern engineering methods. Her interior will benefit from a completely new guest area, and London-based design house Muza Lab have been commissioned to bring a new look to the décor that both respects and celebrates the 1930s spirit of the vessel.
The yacht’s exterior will see a number of superstructure modifications that aim to restore her profile closer to the original lines. She will also benefit from a complete paint programme and a combination of refurbishment and replacement to her teak decks.
The biggest challenge that we have faced with the project has been keeping the momentum up. It is a large-scale project with multiple disciplines from our in-house teams all working together in unison. Like any restoration project, you hit unexpected snags along the way and it is all about problem solving and making quick, logical decisions to keep everyone moving in the same direction.
What are clients prioritising when it comes to commissions of this scale, and has this changed or evolved since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Our clients’ priorities have not really changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; they are still looking for a personable and professional yard that can deliver a high-quality finished project whether that be a refit, restoration or new build. This is exactly what we offer at Pendennis and our forward order books are strong all through 2021 and beyond. We have a good mix of both returning and new clients at both at our main Falmouth facility and our Mediterranean Marina complex and Technical Service Centre.
What might the post-Covid world mean for your industry?
The Superyacht industry is a global market and collectively we have fared well during the Covid-19 pandemic. That is not to say that it has not proved challenging at times – I know on Marala that the movement of people and goods has not always been as smooth as we would have liked. Also, Pendennis has had to adapt its working practises to ensure a safe working environment for everyone on site, but as a team we have worked through the challenges that we have faced. Post-Covid, everything is pointing towards a strong return to business as usual.