LIVADIA: The Romanov’s Imperial Yacht


“Pelorus” is a yacht that belonged to Abramovich, formerly Russia’s richest man. The biggest at the time, the most luxurious, etc. But what did the Russian elite use a hundred years ago? The Livadia was an imperial yacht of the House of Romanov built in 1879–1880 to replace a yacht of the same name that had sunk off the coast of Crimea in 1878. The new Livadia, intended for service on the Black Sea, was a radically novel ship conceived by Vice Admiral Andrey Popov, designed by naval architect Erast Gulyaev and built by John Elder & Co. of Govan on Clyde.


The Livadia continued Popov’s line of circular ships although this time Popov sacrificed geometrical perfection for seagoing capabilities. She had a beam of 153 ft (47 m) against overall length of only 259 ft (79 m). An extreme example of tumblehome architecture, she sported a conventionally shaped superstructure mounted on a wide, flat-bottomed, turbot-shaped submerged hull or pontoon. Construction of the Livadia, “a gigantic life-size experiment” and a prototype for next-generation battleships, was supervised by William Pearce.


Bruno Tideman and Edward James Reed acted as consultants, William Leiper and William De Morgan designed luxurious interiors. The Livadia turned out a surprisingly maneuverable and stable ship with a respectable maximum speed of 15.7 knots and her efficiency was comparable to conventional ships.


Her performance at sea trials surprised most naval architects and was attributed to the favorable placement of the propellers. The maiden voyage of the Livadia revealed that her wide flat bottom was highly prone to damage by wave slamming.


She spent her brief career as a yacht in the docks and was used for her intended purpose only once, carrying Grand Dukes Constantine and Mikhail across the Black Sea.


Alexander III had no interest in resurrecting an inherently flawed ship, and in August 1881 Livadia was moored in Nikolaev and then hulked and stripped of her former luxuries. Her engines were removed and reused on the Russian cruisers. The rusty hulk saw some use during World War I and was finally decommissioned in 1926.