Phil Friedman, Alaskan Yachts
Seattle Yachts recently announced their purchase of Alaskan Yachts and released to the public brandnew designs for what will be the first Alaskan model in years. The return of the Alaskan will bring back a classic raised-pilothouse motoryacht with modern features and design considerations. We reached out to Phil Friedman, Seattle Yachts’ New-Build Manager, to find out more about the launch and what the future may hold for the iconic brand.
Can you talk about the decision to bring back the Alaskan line?
Our decision to acquire and reintroduce the Alaskan brand was based on our strong belief in the durability and resilience of market demand for sensible, seaworthy long-range cruising yachts in sizes and configurations that allow for owner-operation.
Recognizing this requires [just looking at] the number of yacht brands that currently style themselves as “trawlers,” even though they bear virtually no resemblance to the genre.
In contrast, Alaskan Yachts was truly an icon in the trawleryacht niche. We consequently felt the right way to go was to build on that existing tradition rather than seek to create a new brand from scratch. Not to mention that those of us involved in the Alaskan redux happen to have always really liked Alaskan Yachts.
What is the relationship between the reintroduced Alaskan and the Grand Alaskans of yore?
The reintroduced Alaskan line of yachts shares with previous Alaskans a dedication to the same set of core characteristics— primarily, [it uses] a seaworthy and sea-kindly semidisplacement hull form that, with appropriate powering, can operate at higher speeds for convenient coastal cruising and island hopping while retaining the ability to run fuel-efficiently at lower displacement speeds for long-range passagemaking.
The important characteristics involved include a relatively low profile that keeps the yacht’s vertical center of gravity low for both improved stability and a better range of positive stability—[it’s a] rugged construction that takes whatever the sea has to mete out.
Just as important are features such as a solid laminate bottom with doubled reinforcing all along the yacht’s keel, forefoot, and stem; a fully watertight anti-collision partition forward; doubled areas of reinforcing for installation of rudders and prop shaft supports; and ultra-durable hull-to-maindeck and house-to-deck joints that employ both high-strength adhesive and mechanical bonding for failproof durability even under extreme use.
These aren’t just bullet points created by a marketing copywriter but key elements [of ] a philosophy that defines Alaskan Yachts, both past and present.
Can you talk about Steve Seaton’s approach to modernizing the original Art DeFever design?
Look, we can’t speak for Steve Seaton—although we can say unreservedly that he is the best designer available to take the legacy Alaskan designs to a new, contemporary level.
It’s important to note that Art DeFever was one of the designers Seaton followed closely through the years, right from the time he was 15 years old and living in Seattle. Seaton studied every DeFever design he could find, and thus DeFever became a major influence in his development. Indeed, Seaton and DeFever became friends over the years.
What’s also important to understand is that a “first principle” of good yacht design is that it is, in most cases, evolutionary. Designs are tried and tested. Lessons are learned and put to work in new designs.
The navigational beam (on deck) of the new Alaskan family of hull forms is on average about 12% greater than in the older designs. For example, the older 66 had a nominal max beam of approximately 17' 4'', whereas the new 66 Mk. II is designed with a beam of 19' 6''. Her waterline beam is pinched in just a bit to help with her efficiency numbers underway. The effect of this increase in beam is significant, especially in semidisplacement hulls, which depend on generating hydrodynamic lift in order to achieve operating speeds significantly beyond those of pure displacement hull forms.
The prop tunnels that are a feature of the currently designed
hulls were also fitted to some of the previous Alaskans.
Beyond that, the new Alaskans will take advantage of the improvements that have been made to marine diesel propulsion engines during the last decade or so—changes that provide efficient performance over a broader range of operating speeds.
In other words, the modernizing of Alaskan Yachts has much to do with refinements achieved through taking advantage of improved design techniques, including advances in performance modeling as well as advances in materials and equipment since the older Alaskans were designed and built.
None of this should be taken to minimize the level of in-depth experience, accumulated wisdom, and notable flair for practical design that Seaton brings to the table on an ongoing basis. Indeed, we at Alaskan cannot think of another contemporary yacht designer who would be more suitable than Steve for updating and carrying forward the Alaskan legend.
The first model will be a 66 flush deck. Can you talk more about this specific model and when it might be scheduled?
Given the current state of our discussions with Alaskan customers, it looks now as if the first new Alaskan Mk. II will be a 56-footer in an aft-cabin configuration.
You are correct that the original 66 was a flush-deck model. However, the new 66 Mk. II will be configured optionally as either a flush deck model with the pilothouse up a single step from the saloon or as a raised pilothouse (RPH) version with the pilothouse raised three steps up from the saloon deck level for improved operational capabilities at the enclosed lower helm. I predict the choice will be made based on whether the buyer expects to spend more time at the flybridge helm or at the lower control station.
The RPH configuration also affords the advantage of increased headroom on the lower deck for a full-beam master suite that, again, takes advantage of the 12% beamier hull to bring megayacht style accommodations to these vessels of moderate overall length.
As to schedule, we’re hoping to be tooling for the 56 Mk. II by the end of the second quarter and to be delivering the first of this model by next summer. We expect to tool for the 66 Mk. II by the end of this year.
Granted, that’s an aggressive schedule. But the new Alaskan team packs more than a century of combined hands-on yacht design and boatbuilding experience. More: alaskanyachts.com