“More than 100 years ago, one man had a dream of sailing around the world in a vessel so stunning that it would make people on land stop open-mouthed to watch it glide past them, a vessel so unique that every day on deck would make him wish that he was nowhere else on earth,” the same description reads. “Stories are not just something we tell our children, the best ones are alive. Shenandoah is one of those stories. She is a dream that came true.”
That sounds like a lot of fancy words for a boat, but Shenandoah is anything but a regular boat. If only you consider the fact that it was delivered in 1902 or the more spectacular fact that it is still sailing today and has been restored almost to its original specifications, Shenandoah emerges as a true dream come true.
With a steel hull and a wood superstructure, and inspired by sister ship Meteor III, which was under construction at the shipyard for the German Emperor and King of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Shenandoah started out as a three-masted topsail schooner. Subsequent refits and rebuilds along the years have turned it into an ordinary schooner, once the topsails were taken down.
With a total length of 54.4 meters (178.3 feet), Shenandoah has sailed under different names, depending on ownership, but now bears the original name, Shenandoah of Sark. Its last refit was in 2018, following its complete rebuild in 2005, and many of the elements onboard are original, but the electronics, the engines, and the navigation system are all modern. The current owner, Italian businessman Francesco Micheli, has also installed a state-of-the-art audio system and brought in a Steinway & Sons baby grand piano in the dining room below deck.
Shenandoah can sleep up to ten guests and holds a permanent crew of 12 people, which captain Russell Potter described in an interview with Boat International as the ship’s most impressive asset. The main deck holds the cockpit with the original wheel, a large dining area that can be opened completely, and the toys for watersports and tenders. With the sails down, it also boasts plenty of lounge and tanning space, including at the bow, where netting extends over the hull.
Each room below deck has natural light from overhead skylights, manually operated to open and allow proper ventilation. The porthole windows, few as they are, become submerged when the vessel is at keel when sailing, providing an unparalleled view underwater.
While it’s a sailing yacht that’s been raced as one countless times throughout the years, Shenandoah features two diesel Lugger engines of 500 hp each, which give it a top speed of 12 knots (14 mph / 22.2 kph) on engine power alone, and a cruising speed of 10 knots (10.5 mph / 18.5 kph). It wasn’t originally designed with engines: gas engines were first added under the ownership of Sir John Esplen, after it was seized by British authorities at the end of World War I from German aristocrat Landrat Walter Von Bruining.