These are the bluewater, transoceanic passagemakers that can be found circling the globe safely, efficiently, and comfortably. Typically full displacement vessels large enough to carry thousands of gallons of fuel and water, these vessels can cruise at speeds up to 10 knots in most seaways and remain untethered to shoreside facilities for months at a time. They are rugged and supremely capable. The best of this breed come from the commercial and military worlds. Inspect the size and quality of the gear on an expedition yacht and that will be obvious.
These are not production boats, and no two yachts are the same. Each is a custom or semi-custom yacht tailored to the desires and cruising plans of its owners.
Most of these yachts have a single diesel engine in an engine room that is central to the design of the boat, with outstanding access to machinery and systems. Multiple generators supply electrical and hydraulic power as needed, much like a small ship.
The engineering that goes into expedition yachts eliminates single points of failure in all systems, and redundancy is factored into all critical areas. Self-sufficiency is also a key element of the design spiral of an expedition yacht. Unlike most other categories of cruising yachts, the living space elements of the best yachts in this category, such as galley and staterooms, are secondary to the engine room where supreme reliability and accessibility of the machinery and systems is first and foremost.
As a result, most expedition yachts use commercial grade, hydraulic systems for windlass, bow and stern thrusters, stabilizers, and tender cranes for the ultimate performance. All gear is oversized and capable of operating in extreme conditions.
If a trawler is considered an SUV vehicle, think of an expedition yachts as an Earth Roamer, a crossover between a luxury yacht and research vessel. In fact, some expedition yachts do conduct research when they go on a long cruise to remote areas or during a circumnavigation, on marine life, health of reef ecosystems, and the impacts of climate change.
The layout includes a fully outfitted pilothouse like a ship’s bridge, offering the safest place to operate the vessel at sea. The latest and best in communications and navigation electronics are located in the pilothouse, including Class A AIS transponders, satellite phone, and commercial radars. Everything, in fact, that allows the owners to safely remain at sea, or meander through island chains, with enough provisions, fuel, and water to travel non-stop halfway or more around the world.
The expedition yacht is fully insulated to operate in both tropical and extreme latitudes, where it can remain for months. Larger yachts will have a captain and crew, but with today’s technology and systems, owner-operated yachts are found up to 85 feet or so. All expedition yachts are stabilized for comfort at sea.
Builders use steel, aluminum, or fiberglass to build these yachts, and all are classified for open ocean, and many rated for ice, for high latitude exploration.
Luxury accommodations are typically two or three staterooms for owner operated vessels, or more, depending on size, as larger yachts will have crew quarters. Living spaces are well appointed for full-time living aboard with all appliances, entertainment systems, and comforts of home. The galley is most often nicer than one would expect in a luxury townhouse.
These boats can cruise exotic places with little or no outside support, so are equipped with dive compressors and all the water toys and other equipment to explore reefs, uninhabited islands, as well as enjoy the most luxurious European marinas in the Mediterranean. Wreck diving in Truk Lagoon, watching glaciers in Alaska and Greenland, and following in Shackleton’s footsteps are all within the mission statement of the expedition yacht.
Some of the larger yachts in this category carry multiple tenders and the largest expedition yachts may also carry large express boats and even a helicopter for scouting ahead for anchorages or crew transfer.
For adventure that is hard to replicate elsewhere on this planet, while providing the ultimate in luxury living, expedition yachts represent the highest level of comfort, capability, and self-sufficiency.
The boating industry is seeing an influx of younger yacht owners than in past years.
Seattle Yachts is the Nimbus dealer for Florida and the east coast.
Bill Parlatore offers spring commissioning advice for Nordic Tug owners.
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