“There is a tremendous amount of big boats on the market today, all competing for the same business,” reasons Verkerk, who adds that despite this and this winter’s dip in bookings, he is confident that there is enough interest in the service he provides to expand his business.
Going off the beaten track is something that Sherakhan has a reputation for and Verkerk wanted his next project to offer a stable, safe and reliable platform to explore similarly challenging destinations. From the outset he knew it was an icebreaker he wanted.
After turning down a Japanese vessel, and a deal couldn’t be made on an Australian-owned icebreaker, a tip from a friend at Camper & Nicholsons led Verkerk to Legend (ex-Giant), which was moored in Genoa at the time. “The first time I looked around the ship I thought: ‘Wow, this is going to need a lot of work’,” he laughs. “But I went home to give it some more thought and considered what our clients had said they would like. We began to work on some drawings.”
Describing himself as a ‘technical guy’, it comes as no surprise that one of the main selling points of Legend for Verkerk was the engine room and its Smit Bolnes engines. This, together with her Ice Class certification and good price, led to her purchase and relocation to Icon Yachts’ facilities in Holland, where she began her refit with the help of Diana Yacht Design. The whole process has required 70 per cent of the vessel to be gutted and the remaining 30 per cent being repaired and reconditioned. The main engine, for example, needed a complete overhaul; everything from the bearings, pistons, cylinder heads, fuel injectors and clutch. “These old engines are tremendously beautiful but to restore them was a massive job and took four engineers eight weeks to complete,” says Verkerk. “The engines are very strong and reliable, which is one of the most important things – reliability is crucial.”
To get a clear idea of the existing structure and layout, the team sought out the original GA created more than 40 years ago. However, as the vessel had also undergone a refit 15 years ago, even more details of the overall structure were needed to obtain the level of accuracy they were after and 3D scans of the ship were conducted to aid the design process. “We are redesigning even the smallest things on a daily basis, which requires me to be in the shipyard every day,” says Verkerk. “A refit like this requires a lot of management because things don’t always go the way you expect them to. I meet with the guys from Diana Yacht Design and the shipyard management team daily to discuss plans.” While this is a time-intensive approach, he stresses that it makes for a quicker build because issues can be addressed immediately.
Alongside the reconditioned engines are new generators and electronic-monitoring systems, and plenty of soundproofing. The exterior has been given a facelift for more of a superyacht look and includes a swimming pool aft of the main deck, something that Verkerk says is “always one of the most important features on any yacht”. Guests will be able to enjoy the heated pool even when chartering in the world’s iciest regions. Potentially taking the pool experience to the next level, Verkerk and his team are also developing a way of projecting movies on to a fine mist screen, something that (when there is no wildlife to marvel at) would offer a fairly spectacular cinema experience.
As Legend will be travelling to such remote regions, practicalities have been key to the refit. The transom doors are large enough to ease the delivery of goods and there is ample storage and freezer space for supplies. Legend also has a certified helipad platform with a refuelling system aft of the owner’s deck to enable guests to explore even more remote locations, and even take part in heli-skiing. Other toys include Zodiacs, two snow scooters, four Waverunners, two Novurania tenders and a Long Island gentleman’s tender, all of which are powered by diesel engines and housed aft of the vessel. The yacht will also have a three-person submarine.
The interior will offer a more modern feel than Sherakhan, with each room telling a different story. It was important for Verkerk that the interior was not white on white but instead that each space conveyed something different, from the classic 1920s wheelhouse to the Balinese-influenced spa. Like Sherakhan, Legend will cater for large numbers and includes 13 cabins, accommodating up to 26 guests who will be cared for by a crew of 25, excluding doctors, helicopter pilots, submarine advisers and expedition crew who make up to an additional 7 people.
“Legend will be a special charter boat that we will do cold-water charters with,” says Verkerk. “In the winter, she will not go to the Caribbean but will instead head to Antarctica. In the summer, she will probably go to the Northwest Passage, Canada, Norway and the Baltic Sea. There is something unique about these places and more and more people want to see them. We’ll help them get there.”
To read the full interview with Jan Verkerk on this new project, see Issue 17, which subscribers can access here. To subscribe click here.