Feature: Two if by Sea

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

By Larry Pearson

As you read this, there are two beautiful new Skipperliner luxury charter vessels "wintering" in New Orleans and will be available for tours during the annual PVA Maritrends meeting in early February. After that they will complete their delivery run down the Mississippi River, into the Gulf of Mexico through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of the United States to southern California. Their trip began 1500 miles upriver at Skipperliner's factory in Lacrosse, Wisc. in December.

Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters of Newport Beach, Calif. owns the two vessels and will put both of them into service this spring. The 128-ft. Ambassador will work out of the homeport of Newport Beach, while the 148-ft. Majestic will dock in San Diego, Calif.

The company also has three other dining charter yachts, Royal Princess, Empress and Island Girl. All three have 149-person capacity and are Subchapter "T" vessels.

The main market for Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters is weddings, weddings and more weddings. The also host corporate events and other social gatherings, but with 125,000 weddings annually in the southern California market place, the company feels it has tapped into a gold vein that is both wide and long.

"There is a recognized romance aspect to weddings on the water and we are marketing to that strength. "We like to sell packages that include a picture perfect back drop for the ceremony its self, complete facilities for the reception, liaisons with other suppliers such as flowers, music and photography," John Gueola, president of Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters. "We even have a bride's changing room on some of our vessels," Gueola added.

Gueola also gives high praise to his staff of wedding consultants. " None of this would happen without the professionalism and creativity of our staff who literally can anticipate any question a bride may have in planning her big day. With us handling the details as a package, the bride is in for less stress and angst, all at an affordable price versus the bride purchasing all of the wedding services separately," Gueola added.

Todd Jordan, vice president of marketing for Skipperliner, the shipyard that built both vessels, also agrees with Gueola that weddings are big business. " Over the years we have constantly improved on our vessels, so that today we feel we have a superior vessel for charter operations and many of those charters will be weddings," Jordan added.

Jordan is also confident that the company is heading in the right direction with his "love" boats. Skipperliner has recently opened a new 10-acre facility with 67,594 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office facilities under roof. Both the Ambassador and the Majestic were produced in the new facility under cover where fabrication, assembly, blasting, painting and interior fit out could all be accomplished indoors out of the northern wintertime elements.

The company also produces houseboats and other craft for the pleasure boat market. "We have built nearly 1,000 boats since 1971. "We have two large houseboats and the latest version of Island Girl in the facility at this moment," Jordan said.

Every year for almost two decades Skipperliner has built a 149-passenger Island Girl, uses it during the spring and summer season in their own boat operations business and sells it after the season concludes in the fall.

Ambassador

The 128 by 25-ft. luxury yacht Ambassador was actually the first vessel to come out of the new facility in Lacrosse. Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters will use this vessel in the growing southern California wedding market and will be docked in Newport Beach.

Design of the vessel was collaboration between Skipperliner and Roy King, Gueola's partner. King is also responsible for keeping the entire Pacific Avalon fleet in "like new" condition according to Gueola. A lot of Pacific Avalon's business comes from the "Wow Factor" according to Gueola. "First impressions are important and we want our guests to be totally impressed with the vessel, the food and the service," Gueola added.

Everything about this new vessel says it was designed for the wedding market and also to corporate groups. The main deck is set up with a large bar far forward and richly appointed leather groupings by Flexsteel. The groupings include two large leather couch groups facing each other about midships. "We also think this vessel will be a big hit with corporate groups who want to entertain special clients in a most luxurious atmosphere, Gueola said.

Aft of that is a large stainless steel split galley. Food prep is in the starboard galley and the food cleanup is on the port side. "Keeping those two basic functions separate will give us major operational advantages as far as food flow is concerned," Gueola believes.

Between the two galleys along the centerline is a wide passageway allowing passenger access to the restrooms and outside to twin spiral staircases connecting to the two upper decks.

"The twin exterior staircases form a beautiful backdrop for wedding photos," said Gueola.

One flight up is the dining salon with seating for 144 passengers at 18 tables of eight people each. Forward of the dining area are holding ovens and other waiter serving stations. A large Bride's Changing Room is forward of the waiter's stations. "This is a major amenity that brides are asking for and we are here to serve the needs of our customers." Gueola remarked. The pilothouse is forward of the Bride's Changing Room. An open sundeck completes the vessel.

Propulsion power for the vessel is via a pair of Caterpillar 480 hp diesel engines working into ZF gears and spinning Michigan Wheel four blade props. A pair of Cummins/Onan 90 kW generators supplies ships power and maneuverability is enhanced by a 74 HP Wesmar bow thruster that operates via a PTO from one of the main engines.

The Ambassador features a 600-gallon per day Village Marine water maker and Furuno Radar and GPS and a Simrad autopilot.

Majestic

The largest vessel in the Pacific Avalon fleet will be the Majestic when it opens for business in May in San Diego. It is 148 by 30 ft., capable of holding 400 passengers with 300 of them on any single deck. With this passenger capacity, the vessel is classified by the U. S. Cost guard as a Subchapter K vessel. Skipperliner and Roy King of Pacific Avalon developed the initial concept for the boat. DeJong & Lebet of Jacksonville, Fla did final engineering and design.

The $4.5 million Majestic is also the largest charter yacht ever built by Skipperliner. "With a "K" class vessel, structural fire protection is critical and so are enhanced electrical and piping systems along with life saving equipment and of course the fire loads of interior furnishings have to be considered, because of increased passenger capacity," said Andy Lebet, vice president of DeJong & Lebet.

"The hull on the vessel is 10-ft. deep enabling us to put the primary restrooms in the hull, freeing up space on the upper two decks for passengers," Lebet reported. Clear span upper decks with no posts or other supports aids in the open feel and free traffic flow around the vessel.

The hull also contains a large galley forward with a dumb waiter serving the buffet line directly above on the main deck. Aft of the galley are voids with tanks for fuel, potable water, sewage and gray water. The engine space is aft of the tanks with a pair of Caterpillar 3406E engines rated at 600 hp each and a pair of 150kW gensets powered by John Deere 6081 engines. The vessel also has a 150 hp Wesmar hydraulically powered bow thruster that runs off a PTO on the starboard main engine. The engine room also holds a pair of Village Marine water makers with a capacity of 2,000 gallons per day.

The main deck area can seat 250 guests at 25 tables of 10 persons each. At the forward end of this salon is a stunning curved buffet with a desert table for the wedding cake. The table has an under counter refrigerated space to hold the wedding cake until presentation.

The second deck is setup as a huge lounge area with cocktail tables and chairs, two large leather couches and a bar forward. A large dance floor occupies the aft end of this deck.

The third deck is divided into three areas: A pilothouse forward, bride's changing room and an open, canopied aft deck.

Both vessels show just how far Skipperliner has advanced the art of luxury passenger yacht construction.

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