A QUESTION OF SIZE

Let’s just start by saying that Martine and I never intended to buy this yacht. In fact, we had never bought a boat in our lives. Before we caught a glimpse of it, we actually had our sights set on a Z5, which was 28ft smaller. That seemed big enough to us, considering that our only previous boating experience was with the little dinghies we used to sail around in our seaside town when we were kids. Then we upgraded our focus to the larger Z6, which was 55ft long, even more luxurious, beautifully finished and visually distinctive, but still manageable to drive. Yes, it would definitely be that one. Of course, that was before we arrived at the Zeelander shipyard to sign the contract and noticed this Z7 being built. In an instant, all of our carefully laid plans vanished in a puff of smoke.

It’s not as if we hadn’t done our homework beforehand, after all. As non-boat owners, we had researched the options thoroughly. Not at Cannes or other boat shows, because we didn’t consider it necessary. In fact, we got most of the information we needed from YouTube.

Maybe that’s not the conventional route, but it worked for us. So, there we were, on Thursday 29 October 2020, striding happily into the Zeelander shipyard in Groot-Ammers, confident about purchasing the Z6 as our first-ever boat, until the Z7 suddenly blew us completely off course.

EYE-CATCHER

The problem was that the Z7 is a yacht that attracts your attention and never lets it go. It was standing in the middle of the Zeelander shipyard, looking rather tempting, and we couldn’t just walk around it and ignore it. That would have felt kind of rude! Our appointment to sign the contract for the Z6 quickly turned into an exploration of the larger yacht instead. It was clear that Martine thought the extra space would be glorious, and I was forced to agree. Beautiful as it was, our carefully selected Z6 was being outshone by something even more marvelous. In the car on the way home, we took a deep breath and realized we would have to think bigger. Perhaps it was a very quick decision, but we’re decisive people. We called Menno first thing on the Monday morning, and went back that day to sign the contract. Why spend months or years agonizing about what to buy when it’s already in front of you? Our first-ever yacht would be the Z7, and that was that.‍


Not that we could become its owners right away. Our new yacht would be at the Zeelander shipyard for another 15 months. During that time, we wanted to be thoroughly involved in personalizing it. We also thought it might not be a bad idea to learn how to steer it properly. We duly went off and studied for the theory examinations, passed them, and qualified for our motor boat licenses. In the Netherlands, for boats under 25m, that’s all you need to get started. The practical side comes with practice. Something that we didn’t yet have.

"The exterior is classic, but the interior is modern. To me, that’s a very beautiful combination."

CUSTOM-MADE

Meanwhile, our customization journey was well underway. We threw ourselves into it with gusto! It’s fair to say we are no novices at this kind of thing. For instance, our house in Katwijk-on-Sea was built entirely to our specifications. We love being involved in project development. About ten years ago, we oversaw the construction of a whole healthcare complex comprising several doctors’ offices, a pharmacy, and my own dental surgery. Unfortunately, I had to stop work as a dentist a few years ago due to problems with my hand. The pandemic also curtailed many other commercial and housing developments around the country between 2020 and 2023. But that did leave us with time on our hands to create the sailing environment of our dreams.

GROOT-AMMERS

The shipyard at Groot-Ammers became our regular outing. All the craftspeople working there made us feel welcome whenever we wanted to come over and see how things were going. Menno Versluis was our go-to person, and we got to know him pretty well. We discussed every detail of the yacht, from the precise shade of the interior wood paneling to the individual grooves for each item of cutlery in the kitchen drawers. Sure, these grooves are a small detail, but we do like a nice finishing touch. Zeelanders are noticeably refined anyway, but what really appealed to us was the sheer level of customization possible. For instance, it’s not traditional for galley kitchens to include an extractor fan, but Martine didn’t want to cook without one, so we incorporated a neat draw-down extractor into the cooktop. We also put in a wine fridge and installed a bar at the back of the saloon. With Menno, we discussed options for the flooring, the seating, the walls, the color scheme, the upholstery, the cushions, the tiles, the blinds, the bed linen, and every little detail you can think of. We love leather – the look, the feel, and the smell of it – so we ensured that our favorite types, colors, and weights of leather were worked into the upholstery throughout. We’ve even got leather floors in the bedrooms! It still gives me pleasure to breathe in the faint waft of leather in the air every time I come downstairs. But I suppose the most practical choice of all was the captain’s chair. When I tried out a standard bench-type seat in another boat – the sort that folds back and down to become a dining table – I ended up with back pain after an hour. This meant that our stipulations included a tall-backed captain’s chair with great suspension and a 360-degree swivel. I must say it’s an extremely comfortable way to cruise.

LUGDUNUM - LUGDUNO

As the yacht took shape, the question of selecting a fitting name for our Z7 became quite a challenge. We wanted something as distinctive as the yacht itself: a unique, timeless moniker with personal significance. After considering and rejecting lots of options, we decided to research the history of our hometown for inspiration. It transpired that the origins of Katwijk aan Zee lay in an important Roman naval base known as Lugdumum, situated at the estuary of the Rhine. Its harbor was called Lugduno. The name Lugduno somehow resonated with us, and it felt totally right for our new Z7.

LAUNCH

On 11 February 2022, the great day arrived: the Lugduno was ready to be christened with a spray of champagne. Martine did the honors, and we knew our yachting dream was about to become reality. It was a very special occasion, attended by our friends and family, together with the people at the shipyard who had worked so hard on the Lugduno. As she was gently lowered into the waters of the Lek, we knew we were entering a new phase of our lives.

"The service from the shipyard has always been fantastic."

THE STORM

It’s fair to say that our maiden voyage early in April 2022 did not go entirely according to plan. Despite several days of patient instruction from Jamey Hurley, the task of maneuvering such a large vessel was of course still fairly new to us. Fortunately, we only had to go as far as the marina at Leimuiden. We had already had a useful day practicing steering in and out of the marina and around the twists and turns of the Leimuiden waterways with the captain of an Amsterdam canal cruiser, so it was familiar territory. We knew exactly where our berth was. What could possibly go wrong? We set off in good time, in bright, sunny, calm conditions. But then, to our dismay, the weather suddenly turned bad. Before we knew it, we found ourselves caught in a storm, but we drove on through wind force 7 in the rain and the fading light until we finally reached our destination... and smashed into it. The next morning, we found it painful to view the damage. Our shiny blue prow wasn’t so immaculate anymore, and there was a large white scrape where the paint had been. We called Zeelander, feeling a bit ashamed about what we’d done to their yacht, and explained what had happened. Their specialists came right over and repaired the damage cosmetically so that we could continue using the yacht with pride that season. We arranged to have a more thorough job done in the Zeelander dry dock later in the year. I must say, the service from the shipyard has always been fantastic. Every time we’ve called with an issue or question, they’ve dealt with it quickly and efficiently.

As the weather improved, we gained more practice with the Lugduno by cruising the inland waterways and docking in various scenic locations. More and more pandemic restrictions were being lifted, and it seemed as though the entire Dutch population wanted to be out on the rivers and in cafés, bars, and restaurants, enjoying life again. We became aware that wherever the Lugduno went, it would cause heads to turn. Once, we were docked in a marina which was holding a special event for small boats, but everyone headed straight past them to look at our yacht first. That was a little awkward. The Lugduno has a distinctive shape, so we understand why other boat owners often swerve off-course to check us out, but we don’t feel the need to be in the spotlight. To be frank, we’re not used to that kind of attention. So now we prefer to get a berth in a marina where there are other yachts of our size, or larger, so that we blend in more. Also, Zeelanders are built to be quiet, which means we can be reasonably discreet when cruising along. The length of this Z7 takes us just into the commercial shipping category, so the number of decibels does need to be officially checked, but we’re far below the maximum permitted output. The sound insulation also means that we can easily hold a conversation even when cruising at top speed. With the rear door closed, you mainly just notice a bit of vibration rather than the noise of the engine. You can hear the water lapping at the sides of the boat, almost as if you were sailing.

ENTERTAINING

We love entertaining on board, as the Lugduno is perfect for getting a group together for a day out on the river or sea. As well as our master suite, we have two guest suites for overnight stays. There’s also a captain’s cabin at the rear of the yacht for crew members, but we value our privacy and prefer to drive the Lugduno ourselves. I’m now more confident in steering her around tight bends or in and out of locks, and Martine leaves that up to me at the moment as she’s recovering from a wrist injury. In fact, despite its size, this is a yacht you could operate with just one person if necessary. The steering is pleasantly light, and there’s a positioning system to keep the yacht in the right place while you moor it. Whether we’re on our own or with a group, it’s a yacht that works for us.

Our two sons, who are in their twenties, enjoy visiting us on the Lugduno now and then, but we won’t be letting them loose on it for the foreseeable future. That’s fine by them, as they say they’re happy simply taking small boats out for the day with friends of their own age for now. On the other hand, we couldn’t help noticing that one of them has already acquired a motorboat license and the other is well on his way to getting his too. We suspect an ulterior motive.

EXPLORATION

Having gotten comfortable with our 72ft floating home, we are now looking to make the most of it to explore further. Leimuiden’s marina is convenient to get to, being only 20 minutes from our home, and its management has been amazingly accommodating. They even removed a pole dividing two berths so that we could get in easily, as the Lugduno is 6 metres wide. But on the inland waterways surrounding the marina, we need to wait for more bridges to open for us than for smaller craft. Last summer, we also ran into a problem that nobody had foreseen: due to the drought, the water level in many rivers dropped significantly. This meant that the flow needed to be carefully controlled, which was achieved by only allowing the sluice gates to be opened every few days. As a result, yachts like ours couldn’t use the rivers every day.

That’s one reason why we’ve decided to think bigger again, so we’re using the Admiraliteit marina in Rotterdam as our home base this season. It opens out onto the Nieuwe Maas and from there onto the Maas, allowing us to cruise upstream to Maastricht – a city we love – or downstream to the open sea. Our two dogs will come with us, because we can moor up whenever they need to run around. We’re also thinking of a trip down the coast to Zeeland, which is kind of appropriate considering the origins of the Zeelander name. I’m glad that this location gives us the opportunity to get a good taste of sea cruising. Rotterdam is bursting with energy and alive with culture, so it’s fun to be here in between our trips. I’ve long been fascinated by Scandinavia, and we’re planning a route to the fjords and to visit our family and friends in Norway, maybe next year. That really would be the trip of our dreams. The Mediterranean doesn’t interest me so much – I prefer the wilder scenery of the north, without the crowds.

NEW PROJECT

Do we have any regrets about going for this model rather than the Z5 or Z6? Only one: I think it’s a shame that the construction process is now over. I really enjoyed my visits to the shipyard, with its family atmosphere. It’s staffed by true craftspeople who take a great pride in their work. They’re a joy to watch. Since the launch too, the service from the shipyard has been fantastic. We messaged them about a problem on a Sunday morning a couple of weekends ago, and they got right back to us to explain how to solve it. They’re all very solution-oriented people.

"I think it’s a shame that the construction process is over."

We always love being involved in unique new developments, and I guess it’s not surprising that we looked around for something else to do once the Lugduno was finished. That’s why we’re now co-creating a tailor-made supercar with the Dutch custom car manufacturer Donkervoort.

But that’s a story for another day.

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