The restored yacht Lady Isabel offers Hong Kong charterers a home-grown classic design that makes a perfect romantic cruise for two, or intimate gatherings of up to ten.
In our time of haste, the look and feel of polished steel and brass, and finely finished wood, have become something to treasure. With so many fibreglass yachts and their faux finishes running around Hong Kong’s waters, one gentleman in particular has decided to hang on to a piece of the past. That gentleman, Mak Van Waay, has started what you might call a retirement company, restoring and refinishing the old yachts that used to ply Hong Kong waters.
Having made his fortune in property dealings in Europe, the Dutchman splits his time between a house in Holland and a liveaboard in Hong Kong, and is in the happy position to indulge his passion for the classics. To date, his pride and joy is certainly Lady Isabel, a 60-footer first commissioned in 1957 for use as a commuting yacht by the managing director of the Whampoa Dock Company, and later being used by the high and mighty at Standard Chartered Bank.
The Lady Isabel’s classic look harkens back to a time when Hong Kong was a more genteel place and people had time to sit back and truly appreciate fine craftsmanship. A yacht such as Lady Isasbel, Mak believes, will re-introduce the population to the beauty of classic lines, retro interiors, and a time when things weren’t quite so plastic.
A chartered trip on the Lady Isabel, be it a romantic cruise for two or a day out with close friends, is quite a different trip compared to your traditional junk cruise. No other boat in the city remotely resembles her, and the enormous amount of original teak wood – from the decks to the walls to the furnishings – has been perfectly restored. Even the brass and steel fittings throughout have been returned to their proper lustre, giving the yacht a real classic feel.
The original steering at the helm has been maintained and lovingly restored, with a wheel for steering and twin wheels on either side to operate the basic gears (forward, neutral and reverse) for the twin engines. For a touch of history, be sure to take a look at the Lady Isabel’s original plaque that bears her name, builder and date of build on one of the steel cross beams in the forward area below decks. Beside it features the plaque that honours her rechristening and brand new look.
Of course her restoration is more than skin deep. In the engine room accessed by a floor panel near the helm, a quick look reveals a pair of classic Gardiner diesel engines that have been perfectly refitted. In fact, they don't look more than a few days old, with no hint of rust or wear. During Van Waay’s two-year restoration, the engines were removed from the hull by crane, the hull bottom refinished, the engines restored, and then planted back where they belong. Gardiner engines are legendary for the longevity and reliability, and to see a pair of Gardiners in such good shape indicates a pretty thorough piece of work.