From its origins as a Merchant Navy training vessel to its status as a record-breaking superyacht, today Sherakhan is one of the most popular and adventurous chartervessels on the market
by Marco Mariani
LARGE YACHTS OFTEN HAVE AN INTERESTING PAST AND A STORY TO TELL, BUT THE ONE OF PRINSES MARGRIET BECOMING SHERAKHANIS UNIQUE IN EVERY SENSE. Jan Verkerk, a visionary businessman who managed to make his dream come true, stands behind the transformation that led Sherakhan to become one of the most popular and adventurous charter vessels on the market, capable of accommodating more than 12 guests. Prinses Margriet was a famous Merchant Navy training vessel, launched in 1966, and serving the Dutch Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz in Terschelling.
She served her country by preparing members of the national navy for a safe career at sea, first as a training ship, and then as a hostel for cadets. However, after four decades of service, she was decommissioned and left moored off the coast of Terschelling with an uncertain future ahead. A top-heavy and bulky double-bridged training ship, not too beautiful to look at, and with low prospects for a major overhaul.
However, despite her 45 years of hard work in the salty ocean environment, her steel hull was still in perfect order. The galvanized metal had deteriorated by just one millimeter since her launch and was still three centimeters thick, compared to many modern yacht hulls which only need to be eight millimeters thick. This was also why Jan Verkerk decided to acquire the hull and undertake the restoration project.
Verkerk was not new to the industry; he had decades of refitting, converting, and building boats and yachts behind him. Among his most important projects is the M/YJaguar, a 38.1-meter deep-draught displacement yacht that was among the first superyachts to become a charter boat. Another remarkable project is Legend, an old 77.1-meter Russian icebreaker purchased by Verkerk in 2013 and which, based upon his project, was transformed into a hull capable of sailing the polar waters without support boats, hosting groups of 26 people on board.
But if we go back to the year 2002, when Verkerk and Rijntjes were searching for a large charter yacht. Both recognized the potential of the abandoned Prinses Margriet and realized it was perfect for a project that could accommodate a higher number of guests than the one allowed on certified yachts, offering luxury and comfort in a homely environment without the 12-person limit.
And that’s how Verkerk embarked on one of the most technical challenges of his career: a project that lasted three years to convert the Prinses Margrietinto an astonishing superyacht that would be a game-changer on the charter market. Verkerk worked tirelessly together with Rijntjes to plan everything down to the smallest detail, relying on his engineering knowledge, while Rijntjes engaged with the reconstruction of the interiors. «Successful yacht building is about calculating, calculating, and calculating again», Verkerk remarks. The final plans were drawn up with KMC & KHMB Enkhuizen, which brought about a major renovation of the superstructure and the stern. Due to her massive appearance, Prinses Margriet needed a skillful remodeling to adapt to her new yachting function.
Verkerk, inspired by the lines and the style of a classic yacht from 1936 he had seen in the Mediterranean, redesigned the exterior of the boat from the main deck up. Heavy steel was replaced by aluminum and the bow was raised to make it more prominent and in line with the proportions of a classic yacht. «With such a major conversion needed, it was imperative to get the style of the vessel right, as so many conversions can look rather clumpy and incongruous», comments Verkerk.
In total, around 200 tonnes of steel for the superstructure have been replaced by 60 tonnes of aluminum. The completed project involved the use of 75 tonnes of aluminum, 40 tonnes of steel and 10 tonnes of stainless steel. From the main deck downwards, all technical equipment and systems had to be replaced, except for the 212 mm diameter oil bath propeller shaft, an emergency generator, three ballast pumps, a few newly restored launching cranes, and the original white Solas-compliant lifeboats.
Sherakhan’s interior design was entirely created by Rijntjes and Verkerk.
Verkerk decided to keep the engine room in its original location, but its machines had to be completely updated. During the 45 years of service, the engine had accumulated more than 100,000 hours of navigation and therefore had to be replaced. A single 1,014 kW Caterpillar 2512 B DI-TA was carefully selected to meet the new demands of the yacht’s operations. Having successfully run on one engine for more than four decades, Verkerk decided that a second engine was redundant and not necessary. As a displacement steel superyacht, Sherakhan’s new top speed would reach 13 knots, and 11 knots when cruising.
Three new generators were added to the original emergency generator, as well as a series of modern fire and safety systems. Particular attention and countless hours of work were dedicated to reducing noise and vibrations to guarantee maximum comfort for guests on board, to the point where they would not even be able to tell if the generator or air conditioning system were on. Although they may seem less obvious to guests, these are the technical challenges that often prove to be the most difficult when undertaking a project of this scale.
Sherakhan’s interior design was created entirely by Rijntjes and Verkerk, relying upon their vast experience in renovating yachts although of smaller sizes. Due to the limitations of Solas standards, there were many creative challenges when it came to selecting the materials allowed for the project. A combination of natural shades and finishes, contrasting with impressive works of art, create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere, which has been highly appreciated by the many guests who have chartered the yacht so far. Without a doubt, the yacht’s most eminent feature is her stunning saloon, which takes pride of place in the center of the main and upper decks. 20 meters long and 9 meters wide, it is made all the more grand thanks to the double-height ceiling extending up 7 meters, accessible by two open-tread glass and steel staircases.
Light floods into the room from above through the opaque glass bottom of a huge spa pool, which was specially cut into the superstructure with expert design and engineering skill, due to its 350 kg weight. At night, diners can enjoy the playful twinkling of the spa’s underwater lights. The 7.5-meter carved wooden dining table is inlaid with geometric patterns in wengé, white ash, and teak. The floor in Greek butterscotch-hue marble, covered in painted teak, is surrounded by a magnificent white carpet.
The large sundeck is equipped with a splendid glass-bottomed SPA pool with fixed bimini offering shade and surrounded by deck chairs.
The aft of the saloon features a lounging area with two asymmetrical seating areas facing a large TV and the fireplace respectively. Next to the bar, there is a baby grand piano and a dance floor, while the terrace above is the ideal place to relax during the day or for an evening cocktail before dinner. The double doors in the lounge lead to a large outdoor dining area with three wooden tables and seating for 26 guests. The large sundeck is equipped with a beautiful glass-bottomed SPA pool and a fixed bimini providing shade, surrounded by deck chairs. At the stern, there is also a barbecue and a bar as well as plenty of space to store tenders and jet skis. Another notable element onboard the Sherakhan is the one-of-a-kind circular observation room, known as the “crow’s nest”, which stands about 20 meters above the waterline and offers a perfect view.
The owner’s suite is located in the front of the yacht. It includes a lounge, private bathroom, and a study (which can be converted into an additional cabin) in addition to the large bedroom. The bedroom also has a private terrace. The 10 guest cabins are equipped with double or twin beds. Named after famous authors, each of the bedrooms is uniquely furnished and equipped with suitable space for relaxation, when guests need some privacy. The lower deck also hosts the library and a beauty salon with qualified staff. In addition to the wellness services, the Spa de la Sirene is located on the lower deck, a vast space that includes a sauna and a raised central spa pool, and a gym, thoughtfully located next to the post-workout sauna. Since this space is below the waterline, Rijntjes brilliantly incorporated faux backlit portholes and colored lights to ensure a relaxing atmosphere.
Since her first transformation and re-launch in 2005, Sherakhan has undergone a series of updates and minor refits to ensure that she is always in top condition for her guests. The latest and most extensive refit was completed at the Dutch shipyard ICON Yachts in December 2017, supervised by Verkerk himself. Her hull took on a fresh new look, changing from the classic navy blue to white to bring out all its characteristics and lines. Many of her technical systems were updated, including the audiovisual equipment, internet, and communication systems.
LOA: 228ft 6in
Maximum beam: 39ft 6in
Draft: 14ft 9in
Gross tonnage: 1,945 GT
Guests: 26 in 13 cabins with bathroom
Crew: 20, with the Michelin starred chef Toine Smulders
Cruising speed: 11 knots Range at 10 knots: about 3,500nm
Fuel tank volume: 108,000 l
For more information on chartering Sherakhan get in touch directly at www.sherakhan.com or through Tom DeBuse of Y.CO ([email protected])
(Sherakhan, a story of passion – Barchemagazine.com – September 2020)