The Nahlin is a classic yacht built in a long-gone era when Britain had an empire and a shipbuilding industry. She was built by John Brown & Co at Clydebank, commissioned by the now-forgotten Lady Yule, who at the time was the richest woman in Britain, having inherited a fortune made in the jute industry of Bengal – India was still a colony and Britain’s source of cheap labour – with the addition of whale oil from Dundee. Lady Yule was a stern religious person who tried to impose teetotalism on the crew, spent extravagantly and invested unwisely. Even King Edward VIII when on board had to disguise his secret stash of alcohol.
The yacht was bought in 1937 by King Carol II of Romania for £120,000 and renamed Luceafarul (Evening Star), and, later, Libertatea (Liberty).When the Romanian monarch abdicated in 1940, she became the property of the Romanian Ministry of Culture and was tied up in the port of Galați on the Danube as a museum and later as a floating restaurant.
After the 1989 revolution and fall of communism in Romania, although classified as cultural patrimony, the yacht dubiously became property of a small Romanian private company called SC Regal SA Galaţi and was rediscovered by luxury yacht broker Nicholas Edmiston, who purchased the vessel in 1998 for $26Being a piece of cultural patrimony, a temporary permit had to be issued by the government for her to be taken outside Romanian borders, supposedly to be rebuilt by the original manufacturer, the sole keeper of the original plans for the vessel. She was then towed to Devonport, Plymouth and then to Liverpool for restoration. The yacht ceased to be Romanian cultural patrimony in 2002. Phase one of the restoration project was delayed when restorers Cammell Laird went into receivership.
In 2006, James and Deirdre Dyson purchased the yacht and spent five years comprehensively rebuilding and restoring it. The ship was recommissioned in 2010 as the Nahlin and is registered again in Glasgow, Scotland. refit was undertaken by Nobiskrug at Rendsburg, Germany, and completion was at the Blohm+Voss shipyard, Hamburg, where diesel engines replaced her old steam turbines. During restoration, the yacht’s original mahogany-hulled 6.4 m (21 ft) ship-to-shore tender, believed lost for 60 years, was located in Scotland, having been fully restored by owner Willie McCullough. It has now been reunited with the yacht.
The Nahlin was one of the last of the steam age yachts, powered by four steam engines. The sails were purely decorative. Inside, the style was all on-trend modernity. The name itself has Native American origins, meaning “fleet of foot”. The yacht’s figurehead wears a chieftain’s headdress. When on loan to royalty, the Nahlin had 60 crew on board. Now it accommodates 14 guests, waited on by 47 crew.
Design-wise, the Nahlin corresponds to the style of the time; its hull preserves elements of the sailing ship, with a curved clipper bow and a counter stern, each stretching well beyond the waterline. The shape and colour of steam yachts – white hull, cream funnel – is found also in classic yachts such as the Talitha, the Malahne, and Savarona. These yachts are the epitome of a simple classic style, contrasting gracefully with the imposing brashness of modern yachts with their helipads and submarine friendly hulls.