The Czar?s Yacht ?Livadia.?
Undoubtedly one of the most remarkable craft afloat is the Russian Czar?s steam-yacht the Livadia . To a Scotch shipbuilding firm belongs the credit of having constructed this unique and splendid vessel, and it is certainly a feather in the cap of Messrs. Elder and Company, the well-known Glasgow shipbuilders, from whose yard the Livadia was launched in July 1880.
One would imagine that the highest point of comfort and luxuriousness has been reached in the accommodation offered by the Livadia ; but this is far from being the only or even the chief respect in which the vessel is remarkable. She is notable from a purely nautical point of view?being the outcome of principles that may be said almost to revolutionise all pre-existing ideas of shipbuilding, though something like the same principle may be found in the circular ironclads of Admiral Popoff.
Hitherto the plan which naval architects have followed, where the desideratum was exceptional speed, was to give the vessel in course of construction length in combination with as fine lines and as perfect proportion as possible. But in the case of an imperial pleasure-boat, like the Livadia, it was an object to obtain an ampler and more drawing-room like accommodation than is compatible with length, narrowness of beam, and fine lines; and the constructors of the Czar?s new yacht have succeeded in securing not only this internal spaciousness and comfort, but also a satisfactory degree of speed.
It was to the united exertions of Admiral Popoff of the Russian navy, and Dr. Tideman of the royal dockyard, Amsterdam, that the design of the Livadia was due. It is not easy in words to convey a distinct impression of this curiously-shaped craft, but our description will, we hope, give the reader a pretty correct idea of the vessel.
The constructors of the Livadia, it is believed, chose a turbot as their model for the hull; and in thus taking a flat fish as a suggestion for their vessel, the builders, as a recent writer on the subject points out, followed no extravagant, though certainly a novel, fancy. In broad terms the Livadia may be described as a wide and shallow oval in shape, half submerged, while over this turbot-shaped raft a superstructure is erected, somewhat similar in appearance to an ordinary vessel, and comprising large, lofty, and sumptuous saloons and other apartments.
The Livadia is 260 feet long, 150 feet broad, and 50 feet deep. She is 11,609 tons burden, and her displacement 4000. The two leading merits of the Livadia, due to its peculiar construction, are?first, that its frame can support a superstructure of almost palatial proportions such as would founder any other vessel; and second, that its great breadth of beam keeps the ship as steady as a ship can possibly be, while, at the same time, its lower lines secure a very good degree of speed.
The Livadia possesses powerful propelling engines. There are three sets of these, each with three cylinders, the diameter being sixty inches for the high pressure, and seventy-eight inches for the low, with a stroke of three feet three inches. As much strength and lightness as possible have been secured for the propellers by constructing them of manganese iron; while steel has been largely employed for the engines and boilers, which are, for their weight, the most powerful possessed by any vessel. The estimated horse-power is 10,500, and the ship, under favourable conditions, can make fifteen knots an hour.
The double water-tight bottom of the Livadia is three feet six inches deep at the centre, and two feet nine inches at each end. In this turbot-like lower part is the machinery, and it is the receptacle also for coals and stores of all kinds. The twofold bottom of the ship comprises forty compartments, and the whole is sufficiently strong, it is believed, to withstand the heaviest weather to which the yacht is likely to be exposed, as well as the strain of her powerful machinery.
The entire length of the upper part of the ship, in which are the imperial apartments, and the quarters of the officers and crew, is 260 feet, and the breadth 110 feet. The crew all told numbers 260. The private apartments of the Czar himself are forward on the main-deck, well away from the heat of the engines and the smell of the machinery. A visitor to the ship is chiefly struck, perhaps, by the height to which the decks rise above the hull, the uppermost compartment of all being fitted out as a reception saloon, in the centre of which a little fountain rises out of a bed of flowers. This portion of the vessel is forty feet above the level of the sea. The apartment is luxuriously appointed in the fashion of the reign of Louis XVI. The drawing-room is furnished in a style of equal sumptuousness, in the Crimean Tartar style; but the rest of the imperial apartments are in a simpler order of decoration. Behind the funnels there is another deck-house, containing the captain?s quarters and rooms for the Grand Duke Constantine. It will thus be seen that the Livadia is literally a floating palace, equipped and decorated with that almost Eastern love of sumptuous display which characterises the Russians as a people.
All the three screws with which the Livadia is furnished are wholly submerged in the water?another novelty in the construction of the vessel. One or even two of these screws might suffer serious injury and the ship still remain manageable.
It is not wonderful that the launch of a craft, at once so splendid and so curious, should have caused much interest and excitement in the neighbourhood in which it took place. A distinguished company witnessed the ceremony, while the crowd which lined the banks of the river Clyde numbered 10,000. A short service was conducted by three priests of the Greek Church, and the bows of the vessel were then sprinkled with holy water. After the conclusion of this ceremony, the yacht received her name from the Duchess of Hamilton, and was then launched. The launch was a complete success, the Livadia taking the water in gallant style, though the task was one of more than ordinary difficulty from the circumstance of the great breadth of the ship?s keel-less bottom, which much increased the friction to be overcome. At the luncheon which concluded the day?s proceedings, Mr. Pearce, the chairman, who represented the firm of Elder and Company, stated that the principle adopted in the building of the Livadia would probably be more useful in the case of ships of war than of merchant vessels, but that builders of the latter might also derive valuable hints from the construction of the new ship. Whether this will prove to be the case time has yet to show.