Choice of a classic tender

  • Published on June 11, 2020

It is very easy to take a shortcut and propose a nice Riva Ariston or some pretty and well known similar craft for a classic yacht tender. That would actually be a very bad choice. Let’s examine why.

A yacht tender fills three essential functions:

1.     Bringing people to and from shore.

A classic yacht large enough to carry a substantial tender would be able to take up to 12 guests, even more for passenger yachts or during parties on the anchorage. We would never dream of doing a guest run with less than two crew in the tender, one driving, and one ensuring transfers and guest safety. The capacity of the tender is thus reduced by two. A Riva Ariston can seat four…

Embarking in, and disembarking from the tender is a delicate operation, particularly on the yacht side. Crew must have space to handle lines and fenders, assist guests and control movements of the craft. Often, a third crew from the gangway team will step between tender and platform to assist guests. In an ideal world, the access is close to the middle of the tender, with a step built in, easy access down into the cockpit and possibly a handy handle to grab for safety. Surfaces should be non slip, so no 17 layers of high gloss varnish. Walking on the deck of the tender should not be necessary anyways.

Compare the Riva above, with this Hacker craft used as a tender for Talitha.

Note that the crew must also be given access to shore occasionally. That can be many persons too.

If the yacht has space for a larger tender, one can consider shelter from bad weather and more speed, giving raise to limo style planing boats. That requires a heavier engine and more heigth. We shall discuss that again when dealing with the storage of tenders in another article

2.     Carrying cargo.

Call it luggage, supplies, spares or rubbish to be dumped, tenders are used a lot to carry cargo. Unless the yacht is large enough to carry a dedicated crew tender, the proposed craft must have sufficient carrying capacity. Another flaw that some classic craft have is a dedicated engine compartment under a full width deck. See the hacker craft below compared to the one of Talitha.

3.     Water sports

Tenders are also used to allow guests to have fun on the water. The modern standards require a high towing tower as well as particular wave making hull for waterski and wake boarding. There is a large range of towable toys for the younger guests to enjoy. Carrying and handling all equipment and the guest enjoying it takes space too.

While the requirements for ski cannot always be met in a “classic” looking boat, speed is often enough to fit the bill. Torque for a fast start, combined with a light boat makes the experience more enjoyable.

All this said, if the yacht is large enough and the owner wants a Riva that he/she can self drive to take family and friends about, by all means have one too.

As usual, this article is not intended to be an exhaustive lecture on its subject, but a conversation starter so we can exchange views in the comments below.

May we recommend a look at the “tenders” page of Hodgdon yachts as an example of modern building combined with classic looks and the elements we mention above.

Another worthy document is this one on the tender of “Malahne”, from the drawing board of Jack Gifford (G.L. Watson)

What would you have for a classic yacht tender?

Large classic sailing yachts.

  • Published on June 18, 2020


Classic sailing yacht are single decked small affairs. When they are not exclusively used for racing, they tend to be converted fishing smacks and pilot cutters more suited for the occasional traditional boat rally… or are they?

There is a marked trend these days to go for sail rather than motor with some prospective owners. The arguments are comfort, silence, environmental awareness, you name it. But what if an owner wants a large yacht able to carry toys and offer long range cruising abilities, and why not exploration? Could it still be a classic?

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Let’s review the options in three categories: New build, refit and originals.

1)   New build.

In a previous article, we have mentioned “Jessica” (pictured above), now “Adix”, and “Atlantic”, both very classic but still single deck racing affairs. Granted, they can be used for serious cruising but they will still be challenged to carry the suitable tenders and toys in style. Yacht such as “Baboon” did have more extensive deckhouses and larger displacement, making them almost two deckers and allowing to carry luxury tenders.

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Then, in 2004, Huisman built the schooner “Athena” (above). That yacht epitomizes all that is classic inside and outside, but with the volume of a large motor yacht. The larger “Eos” (more modern rig) and several smaller vessels with the same philosophy have been built since, but in my mind, “Athena” is still the largest true classic sailing yacht… at least new build.

Some architects such as Olivier Van Meer or Gerard Dijkstra have plans on their books for large sailing yachts, sometimes in dual purpose with sail training or otherwise.

2)   Conversions and refits.

In 2007, a Dutch owner bought the former research vessel “Dana” to convert her into a sail training vessel for classes afloat. She became the “Gulden Leeuw” (pictured below). Of course, she is not a luxury yacht, but she could have become one. Many of the sail training vessels operating today could be converted into very nice floating palaces. They have good displacement, large internal volume and often a long history of proven sailing ability.

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While most large sail training vessels do not have the “yacht” look, there is one ship that was actually designed with a smaller yacht in mind. Inspired in part by the schooner “Gloria”, the “Star Clipper” has the flat bowsprit and long counter overhang of much smaller racing yachts. I fiddled a bit during long winter hours to evaluate the volumes available in her for a conversion from 160 passengers to 36 luxury yacht guests.

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In the same vein, the former STA schooners “Winston Churchill” and “Malcolm Miller” have been converted to yachts, one better than the other. Both have lost the charm of the gaff rig though.

3)   Existing yachts.

Large sailing yachts went out of fashion in the late XIX century. Some of them became famous, like “Sunbeam” à Lord and Lady Brassey (below). But If an owner could afford a large yacht, he could also afford the comfort and reliability of steam. Nevertheless, some wealthy people, few and far between, wished for the quiet, peace and cleanliness of sail. Some of the resulting vessels are still around, albeit in a very modified form. They traded till recently, some still do, as passenger or tourist boats, for instance with the “Winjammer” cruises.

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One of the largest sailing yacht ever built is still sailing under the name “Sea Cloud”. She has had a very exciting and checkered history, but remains as beautifully timeless today as she was when built in the thirties as “Hussar V”. She is also one of the 8 remaining pre-war yachts over 80m.

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Would you refit one, or have one built?

Fairing and gloss paint for a classic?

  • Published on October 8, 2020

Over the last years, I have been offered many times ceramic treatment to restore the gloss on our ship. That tells me that some people did not do their homework as not only does our ship not have gloss paint, but the hull is not even faired.

When I was researching small classic yachts for the refit of “Orient Express”, I was surprised to read a sentence in an Uffa Fox book stating that steel was not appropriate for anything under 50 feet. That was in 1936. I knew then already that Dutch and Belgian yards were producing very nice steel boats way smaller than that. The fun bit was that riveted steel hulls were faired to hide the plate overlaps and make the boats look like they were made of wood. It is only in the inter-war years that steel was left bare and painted, proudly showing its true nature. Of course, in those days, the steel was thick enough, and the craftsmanship good enough, so that no fillering was required to give an illusion of fairness of the surfaces.

Today, definitely the way to go for authenticity is visible plate overlaps and standard marine grade semi-gloss paint. Several recent refits have been faired and painted high gloss to satisfy modern taste. Some others are just faired, but I think that of the ones in service as a commercial yacht today, SS Delphine is the only one with an original looking hull.

Of course, if there have been some clumsy attempts at (re)creating the hull shape, the choice is gone: Faired it must be

Given the choice, what would you do?

The exotic bow of SS Delphine. (Form vs Function)

  • Published on November 23, 2020

The ram bow became popular in the second half of the XIX° century. It fitted nicely with the tumblehome of the first heavy cruisers and battleships of the time. The battle of Lissa (Vis in Croatia today) is famous for being one fought also by ramming as a way to sink enemy ships. It was little used for yachts, barring maybe that proverbial lumbering monstrosity: SMS Hohenzollern.

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Fast forward to the early XX° century. The sometimes excessive tumblehome has become something of the past. The ram bow remains in use for very large ships with long range guns. In those days when gunnery control was still a manual activity, you don’t want unexpected bow slamming to upset a very critical and expensive salvo. The ram bow shape would plough through waves, making the decks very wet indeed, but without shocks. It was used for Dreadnought battleships and remained popular with ships of the line design in the USA till the end of WW1. (A still existing example is USS TEXAS.)

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When the USA joined WW1, Horace Dodge owned a steam yacht named NOKOMIS. That yacht was requisitioned by the navy. Several month later, his next yacht, NOKOMIS II, was also commandeered. The first one was sold to a third party after the war, but the navy kept NOKOMIS II in service. Legend has it that, when designing his next yacht, Delphine II, Horace Dodge planned it to be easily converted into a naval gunboat, so he could get it back in almost original configuration after the next war.

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The legends aside, there is a very pragmatic consideration involved. Let’s consider three ships: SS Delphine, Nahlin (above) and Nero. All three have very much the same displacement and gross tonnage (hence inside space), however, Nahlin and Nero are both a full 12 metres longer overall. If your main sailing area is inland, like the Great Lakes, and the Welland Canal locks (below) are 260 ft long, your yacht cannot be over 258 ft. SS Delphine is 257,8 ft.

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Today, I have the rare privilege to look at SS Delphine docked next to Haida 1929 for the winter. Haida is 71m long, against the 78,5 of Delphine, but her GT is around 700 while Delphine is 1342, and the displacements are also in proportion. Compared to Talitha, Delphine with the same length overall, has a displacement 30% larger. This is a very clear case of function before form. In an age when all US tycoons had they yachts adorned with a clipper bow and stern overhangs, Horace Dodge, the “new money” guy, simply chose for the largest volume his home waters would accommodate.

To be fair, the bow could have been just plumb like other American builds of the period. Did Horace really have a beef with the navy?

What do you think?

The mini ISM soup.

Breaking the Deadlock

One of the principles I use when planning ship’s administration is: “Help the surveyor help you”. That means that the certificate file is sorted in the order of a typical surveyor check list. The same goes for maintenance files and archives.

For ISM, I always made sure that the base manual for the systems I wrote was numbered in accordance with the articles of the ISM code. But one day, I had to think of streamlining a standard manual for mini ISM. Then it hit me.

The ISM code has a very simple and straightforward way to look at all the requirements of a safety management system. Articles 1 to 4 define company requirements, while the following ones, 5 to 12, are more concerned about what happens on the ship (see table at the end of the article).

I have examined the requirements of two codes for ISM of ships below 500GT (the mini ISM): The Republic of the Marshall Islands (MI-103, Annex 1) and The Red Ensign Group Yacht Code (Part A, Chapter 23A)

The writers of these codes have gone to extreme lengths to try and make their contribution yacht specific. The text of the ISM code in itself is very flexible and could be used as-is on any non-convention vessel. However, the RMI and REG codes are a combination of simplified requirements and more prescriptive rules, even down to lists of training and procedures (typically “including but not limited to”…) that a vessel should have in place.

The mini ISM requirements simplify sometimes too much and take away some of the added value of the ISM code (which, remember, was inspired by the ISO 9000 series of standards). Thus there are provisions for reporting accidents, but not non conformities, near misses or hazardous situations. That, in a way, removes the “continuous improvement” aspect

There are requirements in both codes for a “competent person” to be delegated to be responsible for the policies, but no direct link to top management, nor management commitment and the provision of resources.

To make things more awkward, the REG code handles four functional issues in a strange way: Policies are defined in par 4, then again in par 9. Procedures for safe operations are described in par 5, but further developed in par 12. In the same way, Par 7 sets a short requirement for reporting accidents, which are then to be handled as described in par 14. Finally responses to emergency situations are listed in par 8, but then the associated drills are described in par 13.

While both yacht codes prescribe reviews of the system, we can wonder why the REG code is satisfied with a review once every three year by the company/owner only. It is not clear how the REG flags verify the implementation of this chapter. RMI gives more precise descriptions on how both the company and the AR shall review the functioning of the system every 12 month at least.

For a management company dealing with vessels both above and below 500GT, and with several flags including RMI and REG, this can be a daunting documentary hurdle. My recommendation would be to stick to the standard ISM structure. Frankly, except giving a few more details on some practical issues and simplifying the narrative, I can’t see why these flags could not do the same in their codes.

Company DPA’s and compliance officers can make tables of equivalences to help surveyors and auditors find their way more easily inside the systems.

1General, definitions, application, SMS21, 2, 3
2Policies34, 9
3Company responsibility, organization…Back to 26
5Master’s responsibility and authority410
7Plans for operations65, 12
8Emergency preparedness78, 13
9Reporting of accidents, NC’s, near misses (not in RMI or REG) 7, 14
10Maintenance of the ship915
11Documentation controln.a.n.a.
12Company review, evaluation1016 (3 y?)

What’s in a name?

Why “The VV team” ?

The name of our senior partner, Vivegnis, comes from “les Vi Vegnes” meaning “the old vines” in the Walloon language. Vivegnis is also a village on the outskirts of Liège where wine was produced in the renaissance period, on the North bank of the Meuse river where the sun was favorable and the soil was rich.

An old vine is the age of reason. The roots are deep. The crops are less in quantity, but so much richer in quality, more balanced. The wines express the terroir that nurtured them and its personality. One must take the time to appreciate them, for they have a tale to tell.

At The V.V. team, that is our vision. We take stock of a long past in order to help shape a strong, enjoyable and reliable future. We dedicate ourselves to the evolution of the marine and yachting sector in the light of the best if its history and tradition

Our motto, Ex Vineis Veteribus (from the old vines), confirms that vision.
Our logo represents two old vines protecting the old anchor of our maritime past.
(That is actually the anchor from China, but thereby hangs another tale)

Cyber Security vs Cyber Safety?

Breaking the Deadlock:

When Cyber Security regulations came on the floor, I couldn’t help wondering which industry stakeholder had put enough pressure on IMO for something like that to happen, but mostly, for it to happen so fast and so poorly defined.

Let’s look at it from a functional point of view. Cyber security is a very ship specific concept. Within a company operating possibly many, potentially different ships, the requirement that cyber issues are addressed in the company SMS cannot mean more than some vague statement that individual ships have been assessed and made compliant in a ship specific way. That brings me to the first quandary: How can a “security” aspect, something intrinsically confidential, be handled in the company SMS? The SMS should be the most openly and widely published document in any company. Doesn’t Cyber Security rather belong in individual ship’s SSP’s ?

With that question in the air, there is the other aspect. What do we mean with “Cyber Security”? In our luxury yacht industry, people promptly jumped to data protection and the confidentiality of owners and guests. The concentration was always on malignant activities, while the focus of the rules, in my opinion are rather on the prevention of accidental events. Where malignant events are concerned, the fact that the regulations have been put under ISM rather than ISPS should be an indication that they are still concerned with the safe operation of the ship rather than data theft or its use for criminal activities.

In a recent video pitch, Matthew Roberts of Riela Yachts very smartly used the term “Cyber Safety”, and the whole speech was very much in the same line of thoughts. Have a listen as it is quite insightful:

A few months ago, I had a discussion with a friend about Motor Yacht VENUS and her bridge visibility. The opposing argument was that all is computer driven and the captain just walks about on deck with a little interface device and steers the boat from anywhere. The thought of all that can go wrong there plain frightens me. Must be me being old school, but then again…

… Most people in our industry are aware of the very recent incident with MY GO in Sint Maarten, The first indications, as commented on by captain Johnson himself, are that a heavily computer based system suddenly decided to take maneuvering in its own hands. This is no “Speed 2” material, nor any malignant attack. Your computer at home does crash or act up once in a blue moon. In a bridge controlled by 14 computers, unexpected things will happen. It’s not a question of if, but just of when.

Would this be what Cyber Safety is all about, rather than cloak and dagger hacker stuff?

I’d be curious to have the industry’s operational staff honest opinion on the whole deal.

(c) GO picture from Superyacht News, the others from google.

Assessment of a ship for conversion.

Let’s assume a prospective yacht owner has gone through all the analytical steps to decide on a yacht conversion objective.
(see our article on the subject).
The next move would be to start viewing conversion objects. At that stage, decisions may have to be made fast. The boat may be coming for auction, or appear to be in high demand, or simply the buyer is in a go-do-it-done mood.

There are countless details that will be critical at some point during the conversion works. Designers, architects and project managers will be able to analyse the plans with class and flag, and make decisions about those doubts… or could it already be too late by then?

Let’s look at the “model of operation” options in turn, with a few examples of critical points. The older the original certification of the boat, the more intricate the gap analysis will be. That is even assuming the boat has class and certification still in place.

  1. Private or commercial?

At first sight, it may appear that a private yacht is a way easier goal to achieve than a commercial one, however there are caveats. Many of the recognized yacht flag codes strongly advise private yachts to comply. While not an obligation, one must realise that the insurance, for instance, may consider non-compliance as a reason for weighty penalties. In case of serious accident that could be attributed to the “non-compliance”, there will be a lot of explaining to do, and it could really not be enough to avoid litigation and more penalties.

There are also flags out there that will simply not consider any ship above 24m as private. The ship will be inspected as per SOLAS, period. Those flags that do not have a yacht code but will allow registration of private yachts without certification will probably restrict the yacht’s liberty of movement and acceptability in mainstream ports.

Aside of all this, the main reason to have the yacht coded is resale value.

Some examples of points to look at:

  • Tonnage change due to conversion, particularly if the vessel is close to a threshold GT.
  • Load line items like doors and sill heights, freeing ports, ports and windows, vents, hull openings, to mention a few.
  • Structural items (We have seen quite a few large ships with a non-compliant collision bulkhead for instance.
  • Fire protection, structural as well as functional.
  • MARPOL status and all tank related issues.
  • Lifesaving appliances and all “applying to all ships” SOLAS regulations.

Instinctively, one would chose to stay with the current classification society of the vessel, but sometimes, societies are more amenable than others to look at exemptions or interpretations. Again, there are choices flowing out from elements discovered at the first visit.

Many safety aspects have to be already envisioned at this stage
  • Yacht or “passenger”

For most flags, any ship carrying more than 12 paying guests is a passenger ship. Below that, a ship falls under the “general cargo ship” rules. It is also true for yachts. Under flags that have a dedicated yacht code, those statuses go with the systematic acceptance of some exemptions and some degree of flexibility.

The conversion from anything towards a passenger yacht or ship is always a challenge and happens at considerable cost. The main differences are in life saving appliances (firm requirement for life boats and davit launched rafts), fire protection (both structural and equipment), electrical sources and lighting, but also some perverse issues such as corridor and stairway width that also apply in crew areas.

Consequently, any vessel that has a current passenger ship certification should be critically looked at with the options to maintain the notation, and the status of equipment that she has. Typical example is a ship with open life boats and hand launched life rafts (pre 1998) could be allowed to keep them (in our business for ease of installation and aesthetic arguments.)

FUNCHAL, one of the more exotic candidates for a conversion.
  • Passenger yacht or ship?

If a vessel has been coded as a passenger yacht, depending on the number and nature of the exemptions granted, keeping the “passenger” status under another flag may be impossible without another major conversion. On the other hand, a passenger ship equipped for more than 36 passengers may well get advantage from going below that 36 guests limit to allow some flexibility in the configuration and equipment of the final product.

Even if the owner wants to be able to host commercial events with over 36 guests, there are options, with “class C” under European flag, and on the base of risk assessment under most yacht code flags.

  • Conclusion

We should assume that the prospective owner of a boat has an idea of the plan when attending or commissioning the first visit of a vessel.

Any vessel is potentially subject to several conventions: Tonnage, Load lines, SOLAS, MARPOL and more recently MLC. Each of these can be applicable or not depending on the size, intended use, and chosen flag. These conventions create the obligation or not to follow several codes: LSA, FSS, FTC, Stability, just to name a few. Those codes and conventions keep evolving with time and the number of elements to be considered is impressive.

While brokers and many yacht surveyors are suitably versed in the main elements, it takes a long experience of facing issues during conversion to be able to make an instant gap analysis during a visit that will typically last a day or less. Naval architects and yard managers will also have the information, but could lack the understanding of how a yacht operates in real life to satisfy guests. Let’s be fair, this is not their core business.

With time short and the risk of losing a bargain if a decision is not made fast, how do you approach that important first visit ? Keep in mind that with most projects, the cost of the refit will be way above the current value of the asset. The decisions made at this point must be based more on the future yacht potential than on the condition of the vessel as surveyed.

After purchase, if this step has failed, the same exercise still has to be made, but now, with less options. In case of problems, it’s either change the model, or swallow the extra costs.

(c) pictures from, KHMB Design,

Solving the Boat Equation

Breaking the Deadlock

A boat, any boat, is always a compromise. I have showed recently how that affects classics of similar length such as The Krupp yacht “Reveler” and the US built “Delphine”

Within the last few weeks of this year 2020, two vessels have been presented to the press with extensive details and comments: The explorer yacht “Shinkai”, by Feadship, and the light and fast under 500GT yacht “Phi”, by Royal Huisman.

Both yachts are around 55m, and interestingly “Phi” at 58,5m is reported to be the longest yacht under 500GT. On the other hand, “Shinkai” at 54,9m is still a long range explorer good for 5500 miles at 12 knots. To achieve that, she is able to cram an impressive 140000 litres of fuel in her 974GT volume.

With probably much less fuel and a top speed of 22 knots, “Phi” does not have that kind of range, and also does not really need it. Indeed, to achieve the small tonnage, most of the social spaces are inside/outside areas protected by cleverly designed fashion plates. That kind of restricts the use of the yacht to warmer climates and friendly seas.

Over her four plus decks, “Shinkai” achieves not only the habitable volume and tankage, but also carries an impressive collection of toys including a 3-man submarine and large limo tender.

Both yacht can carry 12 guests, and 11 or 12 crew to proverbially ensure a relaxed luxury yacht experience. Interestingly, both yachts reportedly will use gyro stabilisation, albeit in different variants.

This pair of yachts shows how two experienced owners can achieve two completely different results of the boat equation within the same size category.

As usual, we are quite impatient to discover more, and particularly GA plans to see how all that fits together. This quick introduction, though, should give food for thoughts to any potential yacht owner who would not have the previous experience to know exactly what they want.

(c) Pictures “Royal Huisman” and “Vitruvius”… and “Navsource,org”