Melding styles is something that daring designers do. Getting it right can make one a legend, but the risks attached to failure are great in a business where you’re only as good as your last design. This is why so few naval architects and boat builders, like their couturier counterparts, are truly daring, and why should they be in times like the present when cash seems to be more abundant than imagination. Play it safe offerings embalm the classics at one end of the market while ever more ostentation and gimmickry supply the other end. Once in a while inspiration does break through – unpredictably, innovatively, daringly. In marine design it is rare because naval architecture is by definition more evolutionary than revolutionary. But there’s no mistaking when it occurs, the instinctive awareness that one is looking at a design that is somehow familiar but decidedly new, where it all works together in the right way and with the visceral certainty there will be emulators. MV Manhattan is such an occurrence and for now, there is only one, a working girl in New York harbor created by the Scarano Boat Building Company. Like her namesake, Manhattan embodies grace, charm, power and seduction in one beautiful package. Marilyn would approve.
A Trio of Design Concepts
MV Manhattan subtly combines elements of three design styles from the 1920s. Dominant among them is her Commuter heritage. The fast, waterborne limousines of the Roaring 20s sped to downtown docks in cities like Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco while their captains of industry owners dressed and breakfasted at leisure. Manhattan’s plumb stem, narrow beam and tumble home transom are all topside reminders of her dominant genes. Below the waterline, the flat run and twin 34” x 36” five-bladed props powered by a pair of turbocharged diesels (John Deere 6125 AFM 526 HP at 2100 RPM) through 2.54:1 reduction gears (Twin Disc MG5114 SC) easily put a bone in her teeth. Manhattan achieves 22 knots with ease. This classy dame will loiter for admirers but is fast on the getaway when she wants or needs to be. In the trade it’s called giddy-up and Manhattan has plenty to get her morning commuters to work in a style to which they, like their forebears, are most certain to become accustomed. The morning commute across the Hudson includes complimentary coffee service, bagels, muffins and seasonal fruit juice, Bloody Marys, and Mimosas, complimentary newspapers and fresh flowers. If going to work we must, this is the way to get there!
Notably, the first Commuters were not yachts by the standard of their time. Originally, yacht-like luxury was subordinated to speed, since true lavishness was reserved for sedate, floating mansions inhabited by people who never needed to hurry. But big wallets, huge egos and natural competitiveness were no less drivers of innovation eight decades ago than they are today. In time, greater elegance, comfort and capacity also accompanied speed as the role of Commuters expanded from pure transportation to entertainment as well. The Commuters evolved into the Commuter Yacht. With enough mahogany bright work and white enamel to require sun shades on a cloudy day and inside capacity for 50 guests (80 total including outside seating) MV Manhattan personifies the height of Commuter Yacht development, but with modern comforts.
Manhattan’s décor is elegant understatement, starting with plush cushioned seating for the climate-controlled main saloon accented by innovations like large opening skylights to maximize use of natural light to accentuate the beauty of natural woods and to provide vertical viewing from inside the cabin. Hand-woven throw rugs highlight the teak deck.
Every detail aboard Manhattan whispers personal warmth, from the fully stocked bar to full-size marine heads below decks. The galley (not pictured) is immaculate and efficient. Ambiance and style aboard Manhattan are more akin to a private club than to larger size dinner yachts or excursion boats.
Finally, there’s Manhattan’s semi-enclosed pilot house that harkens back to the open bridge destroyers and sub-chasers of World War I. Open at the aft end, it enables a level of communication and intimacy between the captain and passengers in the cabin behind him that was replaced years ago on larger craft by intervening decks, junior officers and “Do Not Enter” signs. One has to have skippered a yacht like Manhattan (this writer has) to understand the respect, interest and admiration passengers have for what the captain does – for many passengers this is a more novel experience than viewing the sights. It’s kudos for captain and crew when all goes right, it’s live entertainment when it doesn’t. Subconscious awareness makes every cruise a more personal and memorable shared adventure.
Manhattan blends saltiness and elegance. Eighty years ago she might have chased submarines or rum-runners or been a bootlegger herself!
It is not hard to picture Marilyn Monroe offering her playful comparison of yachts and destroyers in Some Like it Hot as she steps aboard Manhattan (the yacht in the famous movie was Caledonia II). Tony Curtis’ reply to Marilyn’s remark is also memorable. Playing the part of an oil-baron’s son, he says:
“Oh, it’s just regulation size, we have three [yachts] like this.”
We are not all Marilyn Monroe or Tony Curtis but thanks to MV Manhattan we don’t have to be to experience the glamour of a bygone era and the excitement of a modern day designer / builder betting on his instincts and coming up aces. If Al Capone were still with us today, he’d probably send flowers!