URSUS restoration & refit


T/Y Ursus m 24
ex "Chipola"
Purchased by: US Navy as "YT-466"
Construction: Avondale Marine Ways, 1940 AvondaleShipyard

Refit: 2022
Project: Studio Dell' Architetto Matteo Picchio
Works: Cantiere Amico&Co www.amicoshipyard.com
Navaltecnica Costruzioni Navali www.navaltecnica.net


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Chipola, YTM 466, A.J. Harper, Martom, Wildflower and now Ursus. So many names for an old tugboat that is becoming a yacht, or rather, as architect Matteo Picchio explains, a ship. "Yes, a ship on which you can live for long periods, not only in warm areas but also in the Arctic seas. Safe in any sea, comfortable and where the choices will have to be of the highest profile, both from a technical point of view and in terms of elegance".
It all began 78 years ago, in 1940, in a shipyard in Louisiana, USA, with the construction of Chipola, a 24-metre long, 6-metre wide tugboat, using welded plates - a refinement at the time.
The engine is an 8-cylinder diesel with 560 horsepower. The story continues with the USA at war and Chipola, which became the US Navy's Tug YTM 466, engaged in minefield control along the Atlantic coast of the States.

Once the war was over, a series of shipowners and new names, first towing barges and ships around Baltimore, Maryland, and then undergoing various attempts to convert them into yachts. Her history includes a year in the mud of that city's harbour before going to New York. Finally, in 2007, it was bought through an Ebay ad and taken to Saint Clair Lake, near Detroit, Michigan. From the Big Apple, it's a 900-mile transfer. And it was on Saint Clair Lake that, in 2009, the current owner discovered it: it was being used as an annex to a B&B. It's afloat, but in bad shape. He buys it and then, with the help of four friends, in 16 days, sailing between lakes and canals, in a race against the winter and the ice that is about to stop everything, he brings it back to New York. Loaded onto a ship, the former Chipola, in May The shipowner contacted Matteo Picchio to show him his purchase. "He knew that I had just designed and supervised the conversion of the tug Tenace II, which had become Maria Teresa, into a yacht," recalls architect Picchio. "He told me that he would probably have given my studio the job of designing the interiors, but that he wanted to rebuild the hull himself first. The real rebuilding was carried out by Cantiere Amico & Co. of Genoa. A few years passed, and then at the end of May 2017 Matteo Picchio's phone rang. He is the owner who brought the tug to the Cantiere Navalmeccanica in San Benedetto del Tronto. He wants Picchio to take care of the entire refitting project. "A very good relationship was immediately established with the owner," continues Picchio. "He was a technically competent person who also had experience of ocean sailing, but he wasn't clear on the interior layout and styling of his future yacht. He gave me the basic data and the work of comparison and development began. The basic concept was that Ursus, this is the new name of the former Chipola, had to be fitted out without falling into faux antiquity and without wanting to satisfy the fashions of the moment. Respect its history, offering simple interiors, without unnecessary decoration but with clean forms, balanced alignments and fine choices of materials and finishes. This is the project". And Ursus is being built along these lines, with the aim of being ready for Christmas. The metalwork has been completed while maintaining the original appearance and in some cases restoring what had been removed over the years. over the years. "Deck boxes, guard rails, ladders and skylights," explains Picchio, "are in stainless steel, but painted with enamel - there was no polished stainless steel on board a tug in '94!" At the same time, the most advanced products were used for the interior painting and insulation of the rooms, which will include two double cabins for guests and sailors' quarters on the lower deck, the saloon and a VIP cabin on the bridge deck, and finally the owner's cabin behind the wheelhouse on the bridge deck. Leather and hides, hand-stitched seams, combinations of precious woods, marble and stone in the bathrooms, lots of white: this is the d├ęcor palette. "The rooms will be out of time and out of fashion," continues Picchio. "With references to maritime traditions, furnishings and construction techniques from the 1940s in the USA. Cosy, warm environments that make you want to live in. In this project, too, I put into practice a concept that I love very much and that Carlo Sciarrelli (the great Italian designer who died in 2006, ed.) had passed on to me. It is the concept of ironed gold, in contrast with gilded iron; in other words, luxury that becomes elegance. The aim is to achieve an elegance that fits in with the very substantial, material and naval concept of the tugboat, i.e. of a 'ship', where the basic element of strength and sturdiness must shine through all the signs. This is an objective to be achieved without forcing things, but achieving everything at a higher level than the usual standard of work".
Matteo Picchio

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