The Explorers’ Club
As demand increases for the go-anywhere, do-anything capabilities of expedition vessels, leading shipbuilders are delivering semi-custom leisure yachts capable of exploring new frontiers.
Built to withstand the planet’s harshest climates, expedition yachts venture to the farthest reaches of the globe, where most other vessels cannot go. The earliest models carried teams of scientists (with only the most essential onboard comforts) to Arctic and Antarctic regions for research purposes. Over the years, a small number of luxury-caliber yachts adopted select expedition-worthy features, such as ice-class hulls and extended ranges. Some owners even retrofitted former expedition vessels and relaunched them as luxury yachts designed to navigate polar climates. Today, requisites for many newly built luxury yachts include the ability to explore any waters on the planet, which is why top shipbuilders are making expedition yachts—also known as exploration yachts—more readily available to prospective owners. Several prominent examples have launched in recent years and, whereas vessels with such capability used to be available as fully custom orders only, top builders have begun introducing semi-custom expedition model lines. As a result, far-reaching corners of the globe never
Delivered last year, the 280-foot yacht Bold is one of the latest examples of a luxury superyacht becoming an ultimate adventure vessel. Exterior lines, penned by living legend of naval architecture Espen Oeino and executed by Silver Yachts, resemble those of a battle cruiser, with a sharp vertical bow, long waterline, and superstructure of rigid geometric shapes.
The design reduces drag and maximizes interior volume, helping the yacht achieve its transoceanic range of 5,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 18 knots and providing space to accommodate the crew, equipment, and supplies for long stints at sea. Its volume—a gross tonnage in excess of 1,500—affords room for eight guest cabins, including an owner’s suite on a dedicated deck. The staggering list of tools, toys, and treats includes a 111-foot-long aft deck with a 12-ton crane for deploying a fleet of tenders and certified to transport a large helicopter; a 3,200-square-foot sky lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows; two 200-square-foot media walls (one inside and one outside); a huge floating dock; and a teppanyaki grill.
The yacht is also certified to carry as many as 95 passengers while at sea and built to handle any oceanic conditions. Following Bold’s completion, the yacht left the Silver Yachts shipyard in Australia and then visited Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden, where it reportedly encountered swells as large as 20 feet, and then went on to Gibraltar, the Caribbean, and South Florida. At press time, the yacht was scheduled for a Scandinavian tour.
Bold is listed for charter through Hill-Robinson for a weekly base rate of about $1,062,000. silveryachts.com; hillrobinson.com
Known for building some of the world’s largest private yachts, Oceanco features models that defy convention and push the boundaries of naval architecture. With its latest concept yacht Esquel (named for a meteorite found in Patagonia), the Dutch shipyard proposes an expedition vessel like no other. Whereas traditional expedition yachts look ready for research, Esquel resembles a spaceship and certainly looks ready to explore.
With a reinforced Polar Class hull and 7,000-nautical-mile range (courtesy of diesel-electric propulsion), the yacht will be capable of navigating any waters. Moreover, a dynamic positing system will keep it stable without dropping anchor when, for example, in waters with sensitive coral reef.
In terms of space, Esquel’s 345-foot length and 57-foot beam (providing a mammoth 5,000 gross tonnage of volume) will allow it to accommodate whatever onboard features its owner might desire. The nearly 2,500-square-foot tender garage can house an armada of toys, tenders, and personal submarines, while the massive main deck features a superstructure aft with a swimming pool and wellness center entirely enclosed in glass (perfect for polar climates). Oceanco also envisions for the main deck a fleet of off-road vehicles, a helicopter or two, and whatever else might help passengers explore their far-flung destinations. And if leisure is not the future owner’s primary intention for the yacht, Oceanco says Esquel’s flexible layout could be configured to make the yacht a platform for more oceanographic pursuits—from onboard research facilities to coral reef farms—thus harbingering the sexiest era of science the world has ever known. oceancoyacht.com
The largest yacht ever built by the Italian Sea Group’s Admiral shipyard, both in terms of length (243 feet) and volume (2,100 gross tonnage), Planet Nine also signals the company’s foray into adventure yachting. It was built for global exploration with a maximum range of 6,000 nautical miles at 14 knots and an ice-class hull that enables it to operate in waters with ice as thick as 6 inches, which Planet Nine has made use of since its 2018 launch during excursions to Greenland, Patagonia, and Antarctica.
The defining characteristic of the exterior design, from famed naval architect Tim Heywood, is the stern’s massive commercial-grade helipad, which is certified to transport the yacht’s custom eight-seat MD-600N Explorer helicopter. The center of the helipad is able to lower the chopper into the hangar below and then close above it, so that a second helicopter can land if needed. Such capabilities are rare for a yacht this size and help enable off-ship exploration of glaciers and other adventures.
While on board, guests have ample opportunity to take in the scenery, whether from the lounge areas on the main deck toward the bow, the sundeck, or the lower deck at the stern, with its dropdown patios port, starboard, and aft, creating a huge open-air, water-level beach club. Planet Nine also features an observation deck with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows 50 feet above sea level.
The yacht is listed for charter through Edmiston for a weekly base rate of $650,000. admiral-yachts.com; edmiston.com
At last year’s Monaco Yacht Show, Benetti—the superyacht arm of the world’s largest yacht builder, the Azimut Benetti Group—debuted its plans for entering the expedition yacht market. The B.YOND semi-custom hybrid expedition yachts will launch with a 121-foot model (currently under construction) that utilizes a diesel-electric propulsion system. With the extended range mode, the B.YOND 37M (named for its length in meters) will be able to exceed 5,000 nautical miles at 10 knots without refueling. Future models reportedly will offer ranges as far as 10,000 nautical miles.
A key characteristic of the collection is its steel hulls. As with many expedition yachts, the B.YOND hull extends farther above the waterline than most luxury yachts, which creates a greater interior volume contained within the ship and thus protected from the elements. Benetti says that the 121-foot model offers an enclosed volume similar to that of a 160-foot yacht, which affords room for four decks (plus a sundeck); the bottom two are contained almost entirely within the hull. The lowermost deck contains all technical, service, and crew areas. The main deck houses sleeping quarters for the owner and guests, including a full-beam owner’s suite at the bow, while the upper deck includes social, lounge, and dining areas, as well as an observation lounge with a hot tub on the outdoor deck aft. The sundeck (some 50 feet above the waterline) works well as a dining and lounging outlook from which to take in the view. benettiyachts.it
In the superyacht world, the Dutch shipbuilding conglomerate Damen is perhaps best known as parent company to luxury yacht builder Amels, which the group added to its portfolio in 1991. Attendees of yacht shows may recognize the Damen name from its Sea Axe support vessels, designed to carry toys, tenders, equipment, and extra crew for superyachts. With its new SeaXplorer line, whose designs were revealed at the 2015 Monaco Yacht Show, the company is racing full speed into the expedition market. Damen Yachting delivered the first example of the line, the 203-foot Anawa, earlier this year, with the second example, the 252-foot La Datcha, scheduled for delivery later this year.
The SeaXplorer range—available with hull lengths from 183 to 345 feet—may very well be the most capable luxury expedition yachts on the water. Damen Yachting can build each example to the owner’s requirements, such as reinforcement for operation in icy waters or to actually break ice. They can even be certified Polar Class. The yachts can operate for up to 40 days at sea with complete autonomy and navigate any waters in the world, citing the Northwest and Northeast passages, Russia, Polynesia, and Antarctica as potential destinations. Such capabilities enable passengers to visit remotes areas that few people have ever experienced. seaxplorer.nl