Flagship Xanadu

BY Marimar McNaughton

What if you could untie your beach cottage and drift down the waterway passing through an inlet and into the open sea motoring to swanky ports of call along the Atlantic seaboard and exotic tropical Caribbean islands?

If it sounds like a dream it is one that came true for Lionel and Connie Yow when they embarked on the design of their pleasure craft the Xanadu an 86.6-foot custom yacht for themselves their family and friends.

It took 18 months to custom design and build but when it was christened eight months ago at the Miami International Boat Show Xanadu made a huge splash for Horizon Yachts the parent company; her interior designer Dawn Moffitt and her proud owners. When she arrived at her home port she caused more than a few ripples on the Motts Channel waterfront where the Yows own Dockside Restaurant in Wrightsville Beach.

Lionel who practiced law for 29 years and Connie who was a partner in an interior design firm and a former member of the UNCW Board of Governors have developed golf course suburban and waterfront communities in Porters Neck Masonboro Surf City Topsail Island and Aspen Colorado. The couple met on Topsail when they were teenagers where Lionel’s father had been a pioneer developer also an attorney and a Pender County farmer.

“My father had a farm named Xanadu in 1962 ” Lionel says of the yacht’s name. “He read a lot of English poetry and Samuel Taylor Coleridge who was a poet in the late 1800s wrote a poem called Kubla Khan ” Lionel recites:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

“We’ve always used the word ‘Xanadu’ and you hardly see it anywhere ” Lionel says.

The Khan’s summer palace has inspired fictional homes and romantic destinations not the least of which is the Yows’ first yacht where the family celebrates an endless summer aboard its floating palace. With four staterooms a spacious salon and a sky lounge life aboard the Xanadu is well-appointed and timeless.

“Schedule means: no schedule ” Lionel says defining island time “when you come on the boat things just slow down.”

Speed however was everything. “The boat to me looks like it’s doing 10 knots sitting still. She’s just got that sleek look about her ” Lionel says. The moment they spotted a Horizon at a boat show they liked the lines.

“We started talking sending plans back and forth to the factory ” says Lionel.

“We’re very family-oriented and we realized this would be a good thing to do with our children and grandchildren ” Connie adds.

“Lionel and I both had very set ideas about how we wanted to do this boat ” she explains.

“We decided … we wanted it to be a happy boat. We wanted it to have good taste but wanted it to have color and be comfortable for everybody ” she says. Safety was also a big issue for the Yows who have two 4-year-old grandchildren.

“We were very concerned about safety features. We do have a lot of them on the boat. That was the second thing ” Connie says. “We worked hard on it.”

They commissioned Horizon and a naval architect to help them add 4.5 feet to an 82-foot model to create a private stateroom for their 16-year-old granddaughter.

Lionel and his son Mark Yow and the boat captain Paul de Clair traveled from North Carolina to Horizon Yacht headquarters in Taiwan to witness the building process. Connie and Dawn Moffitt a Wilmington-based boat plane and home interior designer journeyed to markets in High Point and Fort Lauderdale Florida to select interior furnishings finishes and fabrics.

Powered by twin Cat C30 1 550 hp engines and two Kohler 32kW generators the 83-ton vessel draws 6.5 feet runs at top speeds of 20 knots 23 at full throttle. She carries 2 750 gallons of fuel and 400 gallons of water desalinating and purifying her own potable liquid while underway. Her seaworthiness is enhanced by retractable fin-like stabilizers beneath the waterline.

Mahogany floors inlaid with maple; makore wood cabinets inlaid with camphor burl; ivory and jade onyx vanities and floor tiles; lapis lazuli sink surrounds; 24k gold-plated and chrome faucets; Murano crystal knobs and mother-of-pearl tiles are some of the delicious details found onboard. Bringing the interior home are numerous original paintings of nostalgic beach scenes including Wrightsville Figure Eight and Topsail by Nancy Noel May and Kyle Highsmith including one by Jane Faudree of the Yows’ Airlie Road “dome.”

Outfitted with cushioned chairs custom sofas and built-in settees the color palette is classic nautical with tropical tones rich with buttery gold sapphire blue coral-red peridot-green and ebony used throughout the interior.

“Once we knew the name of the boat … we picked up on the X design ” Moffitt says pointing out the mullion pattern in the cabinet doors the pearl lacquer headliner and woven cream gold and blue carpets.

“It’s just a subtle play ” she says. The same understated approach was taken with mirrors reflecting jewel-toned crystal stemware.

Locker doors conceal wet bar supplies ice makers wine coolers games plasma televisions and the yacht’s sound system. Creating ample storage for up to 20 on board including three crew members was one of the biggest design challenges.

“All the cabinetry in this area is custom to this boat. Connie and I worked hard on the design and it’s unique to Xanadu ” Moffitt says. “I think working on storage was one of the hardest things we did.”

The provisioning is intense as well with well-stocked refrigerated lockers freezer drawers and pantry. Steward and onboard chef Meaghan O’Conner prepares and serves all meals from the galley equipped with cook top microwave dishwasher ice maker and all American appliances imported to Taiwan where they were factory installed. The galley and day head countertops shimmer with iridescent Tahitian blue Papeete granite. Under night light they glisten like phosphorescence in the water.

The Yows and their family take most of their meals on the aft deck where an outdoor dining table upholstered settee and all-weather wicker armchairs seat eight. The lacquered teak table glides down to cocktail level and can be adjusted for legroom and service. Blue Bahia granite covers the open bar stocked with an ice maker and refrigerator a recessed television and blue LED night lights.

A fly bridge grill and wet bar adjoin the sky lounge topside where Captain de Clair and First Mate Sean Smith pilot the yacht.

“Everyone wants to come up here because you can see so much [from the bridge] ” Connie says. On the upper deck a crane and davit secure the 15.5-foot Nautica tender when not in use and a 180-foot line tows the 26-foot Regulator when underway. Both smaller boats are used in the islands for scuba diving and exploring the shallow reefs.

“It’s great in the Bahamas because there are so many shallow places ” Connie says. “We had mahi-mahi … lots of fresh fish for lunch almost every day.”

The captain and crew share two staterooms aft a small galley and a head finished in light cherry interior and St. Cecelia granite countertops sink surrounds and floor tiles. The carpeted companionway floors are covered in umbrella canvas to protect it from trips to the engine room.

Connie believes “A happy crew is a happy boat.”

Lionel says “It wasn’t going to be Xanadu if it was up to me it was going to be Boogaloo.”

Connie laughs “This is our adventure.”