I had done some design work for Independence Cherubini Company (ICC) of Delran, New Jersey, back in the mid- late 1990s. At that time, the company was co-owned by Lee Cherubini and Geoffrey White. Lee was the latest generation of Cherubini family boat builders, and Geoff had come into Cherubini from Hans Christian Yachts in Taiwan with the molds for a 45’ fiberglass trawler motoryacht. Together Geoff and Lee built a number of those trawlers. They hired me to lengthen the trawler design to 50’, and they sold quite a number of those as well. But Geoff had a long-standing desire to build a steel motoryacht that could take any kind of weather, particularly in the environs of Moloka’i Island in Hawaii. His monthly travels to and from Taiwan had taken him through Hawaii where he learned of the high winds and steep seas of that area. In fact, there is no such “Moloka’i Strait”—it is Geoff’s made-up name that he felt evoked a strong, seaworthy vessel. Geoff was also aware of the interest amongst trawler owners of the Romsdal fishing trawlers of Romsdal, Norway which had round bottoms and round sterns. So Lee and Geoff hired me to design a 60’+ steel motoryacht evoking the Romsdal tradition, and the first incarnation was the MS 65.
This was a unique design experience for me because we took the opportunity to do some model testing on the MS65 to determine the effectiveness of the bulbous bow in reducing resistance. We conducted these trials at Memorial University of Newfoundland through Oceanic Consulting Corporation who arranged to have the model made, conducted the tests, and produced the calculated results. It was a lot of fun.
I wrote tech briefs of the yacht design and the model testing which helped with marketing. We had marine artist Steve Davis do nice profile renderings of the yachts.
We got some very good publicity with feature articles in the powerboat magazines, and ICC signed up a few customers. They subcontracted Custom Steel Boats of Merritt, NC, to build the steel hulls and aluminum superstructures and outfit the yachts with propulsion engines and steering. They were to be launched and then motored up to Delran, NJ, for interior finishing.
Not all went according to plan, however, and the economy took its toll. The yachts proved to be expensive to build because of the round bottom and stern. The metalworking talent in this country is disappearing, in my opinion, and builders would much rather build flat-plate, chined vessels—it’s easier and cheaper, but also, few people in North America know how to build round bottom metal boats anymore, with the notable exception of Custom Steel Boats.
Suffice to say that we got 2½ MS 65s built, plus we got started on a larger 72’ version that morphed into a 75’er. ICC went out of business, and Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts as a company survived long enough to complete the MS75 in St. Augustine and Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
The third owner of one of the MS65s, Jeff Druek, became the new president of Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts, and he changed his yacht order to acquire the first MS72 from the original customer who sold out when ICC closed. Druek modified the style of the yacht by tweaking the sheer line and the funnel shape, and he rearranged the interior. The modification to the swim platform at the stern effectively lengthened the hull to 75’, so it is called the MS75.
Ultimately, Druek kept his MS75, appropriately named Hercules, for about four years before selling it. It was sold again in 2015 to another devoted owner. Simultaneously to running Moloka’i Strait Marine, Druek also started another company called Outer Reef Yachts which builds fiberglass semi-displacement motoryachts in Taiwan. I was not involved with Outer Reef.
After Druek took delivery of Hercules, Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts hired me to design the MS79, the details of which came out of viewer reactions of Hercules at the 2006 Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. It is a longer version of Hercules but with the extra length added in the engine room so that the engines could face forward instead of aft as in the MS75, and so that the main saloon and sun deck were correspondingly longer. The hull was also multi-chined—3 chines—to mimic a round bottom but be easier to build with flat plates.
An MS79 has yet to be built.
One might think that the success of the Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts, such as it was, would lead to other design contracts for new or different motoryacht designs. We certainly did not lack for publicity. I wrote an article for Professional Boatbuilder magazine called Design Brief – Modeled and Tweaked, which is the story of how the Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts were developed. A few inquiries came in, but nothing of substance. The Great Recession of 2008 devastated boatbuilding in the US for a number of years, and it is still trying to recover.
The Moloka’i Strait Motoryachts can be considered “mid-size” yachts, between 60’ and 100’. That is a particularly difficult sector to be in because the yachts cost between US$2 million and US$10 million. For some reason, people of moderate wealth have a tough time spending that amount of money on a yacht, mostly because—and I’ll say this again—their dreams are bigger than their wallets; they’d like a bigger yacht, but they really can’t afford it.
But over US$10 million, the picture changes, and the very wealthy people don’t seem to trouble themselves too much on price. Design and construction of the superyachts not only did not suffer a slowdown during the Great Recession, it continued to flourish with more and bigger yachts being built every day. This is because through the Great Recession the rich continued to get richer while the middle class and poor got poorer. The quantity of large yachts under construction around the world is sometimes measured in miles—that is, if you lined them all up together end to end, how many miles of yachts would you have? As this is being written (January 2016), the Superyacht Society lists 370 superyachts, 24 Meters (79’) long and larger, under construction in the world today, and these have a total calculated end-to-end length of 10.36 miles. And that’s just the ones currently being built, in addition to the thousands that are already built!
Superyachts require whole teams of designers and engineers to create them, and for me, that just gets to be too big and complex, much more than a single practitioner can handle. I am happy with my work with Moloka’i Strait Marine, and I think we created some nice designs.