Moving a vessel in the twilight zone.

Breaking the deadlock

In previous articles, we have looked into the main issues of a yacht conversion and how to assess a donor vessel. (see links below)

Now the vessel has been chosen and it needs to be moved to the appropriate shipyard or location for the start of the conversion. In many cases the vessel is still “in service” and has a flag and a valid class. It is probably more efficient to move the object as is under her current status.

Questions arise when the chosen vessel has lost its class, flag or both, and maybe is not, or has never been, compliant with the status required after conversion. Some candidate objects have been long out of active service, may be former fishing boats, navy or government vessels, for which class and many statutory regulations do not apply. See also our article on the case of the local boat.

A vessel about to leave under “authorisation of departure”

For high budget projects, the best way to move a vessel without title is probably towage or transport. A seaworthy vessel however can be summarily refitted and certified for the transit to the final yard. The list of works to be performed must be really carefully defined. In an ideal world, nothing should be added or modified that will not be kept for the final rebuild. The scope can also be wider than just necessary works: There can be an opportunity factor, in the place of purchase, to already prepare further rebuild elements, do engineering or steelwork, or purchase equipment that can be cheaper at the location than at the rebuild yard.

A temporary bridge for a delivery

Of course, there is also the negotiation with class and flag to allow the vessel to sail on her own bottom. A change of flag and/or class may be necessary or useful, though generally not if the vessel is still registered.

Then there is the ultimate SOLAS weapon, regulation 4: the “authorization of departure”. This rule allows a flag to give permission for a ship to perform one single relocation trip to a shipyard without class or certificates other than a scope of inspection that the flag defines. Some flags are more flexible than others for this exercise.

Leaving port for a delivery to the rebuild yard

Links to previous posts on conversions

When is a yacht a yacht?

The Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines a yacht as “a large sailing boat, often also with an engine and a place to sleep on board, used for pleasure trips and racing”. Some other dictionaries mention medium sized, and some do consider the notion of motor yacht.

In French, Larousse says « Bâtiment de plaisance (à voile, à moteur ou mixte [voile et moteur]), de compétition, de cérémonie ou d’apparat. »
This translates as “A vessel (with sails, an engine, or both) used for leisure, racing, ceremony or pageantry.”

Let’s go to more specialized sources: Funnily, the Marshall Island regulations do mention yachts, but without ever defining the term.
The REG yacht code also does not define “yacht” but does mention that “in the text, the words yacht, vessel and ship are to be considered synonymous”. I guess they could not be bothered to clean up the text after assembling it.
As to ships, SOLAS does give different definitions of ship types in each chapter, while MARPOL tells us that ship also includes fixed and floating platforms.

Long story short, unless you are referring to a specific frame of reference (and not even then apparently), any argument on the definition of yacht is futile.

So for the fun of it, let’s try common sense.

Is this a yacht? I do believe so

I own a small boat, some 9m long. It’s proudly registered at The ancient and honourable Royal Malta Yacht Club and shows the corresponding Blue Ensign. Woe to anyone who says it’s not a yacht. I’ve lived around such yachts all my life, and for a long time I was blissfully unaware of the megayacht scene. Those behemoths certainly cannot be called yachts… Does it not cease to be a yacht if you cannot crew it with family and friends, and steer it yourself?

But I am a traditionalist, and I have also been in contact for long with the likes of “Alberta” à King Leopold, “Erin” à Sir Thomas Lipton and “Heliopolis” à Mr le Baron Empain, all connected to the Bruxelles Royal Yacht Club, of which I was once an officer and historian. Surely, those gentlemen are allowed to call their boat a yacht and hire professional crew. That’s what a gentleman would do.

The yacht “Alberta” and some period atmosphere scenes

Going from there, should we consider that when a boat becomes commercial, it ceases to be a yacht? Definitely, renting your boat out for money is not a gentlemanly pursuit… or is it? could it have been, in truth, since at least before Victorian times?

Ah! This is such a complicated matter. Would it be wise to keep this discussion for those long evenings at the bar of the yacht club?
Failing that, my personal policy would be to live and let live…
And that is my advice to the language police on the issue. Put down your shield, chill and have a quaff.

That other support yacht

We all know about support yachts, shadow vessels, however we call them. They extend the capacity of a yacht, carrying toys, tenders, more exotic equipment and sometimes a few extra guests, a video team, musicians… the sky is the limit.

Now, suppose you have a big family, or you want to organise a cruise with your C-suite staff and their families or… If for any reason your party is more than 12 guests, you need to charter a passenger yacht. That is a yacht able to accommodate between 12 and 36 guests.

Curiously enough, most of the passenger yacht available for charter are of a “moderate” size (say 60 to 80m, Flying Fox and Christina O being notable exceptions). So if you want to splash and impress, rent out a fantastic, recent and extremely large yacht, your party is likely to be limited to 12. Even Flying Fox, at 143m, can only take 25 guests. The yacht itself does have the space for entertaining, sport, leisure and fine dining for over 50 people, only no accommodation.

Solandge, One of the most luxurious charter yachts

The solution is renting a passenger yacht, relatively cheaper than your mother ship. She will provide very nice accommodation and ample facilities for your extra guests outside of your social program. She will provide sleeping spaces, breakfast, snacks and bar service at all times, and even meals if and when. She has toys and tenders for entertainment, and the level of service is as nice as on the mother ship, only in marginally less space.

The captain of the mother yacht will have to make arrangements with the flag to ensure it is OK to host the whole party as day guests, but that is usually no problem.

Nice examples of passenger yachts can be found in most broker sites by selecting “12+” guest. Of course, if the party is very large, one may have to think about chartering a small luxury passenger ship. That is normally less easy as the charter will have to fit into the ship’s regular cruising schedule and location, and has to be planned way in advance.

Sherakhan and Legend, two passenger yachts for 22 to 26 guests.

Tugs 4 Yachts

Breaking the Deadlock:

When we rebuilt “Legend” with Jan Verkerk, we brainstormed about the idea to change her machinery to Diesel electric. Eventually, the idea was abandoned for the sake of common sense at the time. Would our decision be different today?

Basically, a tug is just a big engine with barely enough steel around it to keep it afloat and house its crew and fuel. Because it needs torque, it usually has big propellers and the accompanying draught. How challenging is that for a yacht?

A tug currently proposed for conversion to yacht by Offshore Unlimited

To reach a proper hull speed sailing with no tow, you need a different propeller, way less power and a completely different design. Taking the engines out of Legend would have required either adding about 400 tons of useless ballast to keep her in her lines, or shaving the bottom 6 feet to reduce her displacement. Neither proposal makes sense really. If you get to that point, you just bought the wrong boat.

So “what has changed?” you might ask.

Converting a tug boat engine room now will give you a lot of space and the option to add weight. None of this fits the bill of a luxury yacht, where the volume is reserved as much as possible for the relatively light guest accommodation. However if we look at future propulsion options, we know that future fuels will require more space, which could be set in additional tankage on the fringe of that now relatively empty engine room. “Weight?” you might ask. The answer could be batteries, but also the weight of metal required by the (possibly pressurized) fuel storage capacities.

While smaller, Seawolf is a very successful tug conversion.

So there you go: There still could be a future for tug to yacht conversion. Naturally, the draught issue remains a problem in posh marinas and shallow bays. Consequently, this approach is best reserved to explorer yachts with plans to live off the grid as much as possible. 

Classic yacht tenders part III

Handling and storage

Not every yacht has, like Octopus, the luxury of a floodable garage the size of a dry dock for a sizeable yacht. The relative lack of both space and design freedom is particularly felt on the larger classic yachts, where the size and status of the vessel warrant a sizeable tender, but does not allow the modern storage and handling conveniences.

M/Y OCTOPUS’ covered dry dock.

Storage and handling go together. On-deck storage of tenders is particularly popular on conversions and smaller yachts. Most of the time, the tender is handled by a crane that can be made discreet when not in use. In our experience, though, a single point hoist of a tender of over 1500 kg becomes quickly challenging. In addition, the tender needs to be swung between its storage position and the water, making it difficult to belay or slip the control guy lines on fixed points on deck.

Single point hoisting of large tenders are delicate operations.

The best way to handle tenders over 1 ton is two points hoist. Now that is a nice fact as the traditional davits used on classic yachts are ideal. This can go with a second issue: speed of handling. Traditional davits rely on relatively weak winches and light ropes in four to six parts block and tackles. That makes for a slow movement. If there is a little bit of swell, the boat will start floating, but not enough for the crew to release the falls. This will allow some serious shocks in the whole structure till the boat floats completely. On top of that, the slightest roll can start uncontrollable swing unless there is enough crew to slip pennant lines all the time.

It is thus important to have as fast a movement as possible. Modern synthetic ropes and captive winches allow a single part fall and fast run, while keeping the appearance of traditional gear. For any vertical movement, the shorter, the better. On classic yachts, because there are still nice volumes in the superstructure above the main deck, tenders would typically be stored in a recess on the deck above (promenade deck, bridge deck or boat deck depending on the yacht configuration). Such a recess is usually found around the engine room trunk or on an open deck space aft.

A magic improvement that can be done is to bring the storage position down, possibly even below the main deck, in a side garage. This is quite common on modern yachts and can easily be retrofitted in a classic hull, provided the stability and load line rules can still be observed. Having a garage that also transforms into a marina deck when the tenders are out also helps the question of access to the water for guests. Indeed, the shape of most classic yachts precludes the existence of a stern bathing platform.

Garage cum beach club on “Cakewalk

Hoisting from a garage is usually done by sliding traveler beams. Such beams can also be fitted for upper deck storage as on NERO.

Project “I” will have six tenders:

– Two large guest/limo tenders stored in a recess of the upper deck under davits

– Two medium (crew and sports) tenders, stored at sea in an open garage on the main deck forward, but kept under davits while at anchor.

– Two small tenders (a jolly boat and a fast runabout), also kept in davits when in use, but stored for sea or port stays in a full beam garage and marina deck aft.

When in season, for short passages and at anchor, all tenders will be stored under their davits for immediate deployment. In that position, they stick out of the parallel body, so for port stays as well as long sea passages, they will go to their sea stowage position on deck or in the garages.

The inspiration behind project “I”

So In conclusion

– Two point hoist is better than one.

– Movements shall be as fast as possible.

– Tender stowage shall be as low as practical.

From pilot cutter to yacht.

Conversions and refits:

On a chilly March day in 1898, the steam cutter “Queen Victoria” slipped into the waters of the Clyde to be further outfitted and begin service shortly after. She would spend the next 25 years as one of the pilot cutters at the mouth of the river Mersey, giving access to the port of Liverpool.

In 1924, she was purchased out of service and became the yacht “Adventuress”, for private use. Among other things her Rowan & Sons steam engine and boilers were replaced by a 420 BHP four cylinder Sulzer diesel engine. Arguably, this added the boiler room space to the usable guest areas. Still, why is a pilot cutter so attractive as a yacht conversion proposition?

Altair III, a converted pilot boat

To clarify things, maybe let’s explain what is a pilot cutter. Unlike pilot tenders, launches and other small crafts, a pilot cutter is a large ship that remains on station at the mouth of a great river or the approach of a busy port. Pilots are transferred from outbound ships by small yoles, spend some time, eat and rest on the cutter, then are transferred back onto an inbound ship.

Akula, a brilliant but easy conversion.

Pilot cutters are ships between 45 and 60 m long. They have a reasonably powered engine to get to their station and keep it, but do not need great speed. They have decent accommodation space for their own crew and up to 30+ pilots. They are quite seaworthy, being forced to remain on station even when the weather stops pilotage. They have relatively clear decks for the handling of the yoles. In many respects, they have the exact characteristics that large yachts desire.

Cdt Fourcault, another way of enjoying the sea.

Over the last decennias, several North European cutters have been converted into successful yachts. Akula and Altair III have been reshaped from Dutch Pilot boats. The “Commandant Fourcault” has been converted as a dive support ship, quite apart from the standard yacht style and levels of finish, but efficiently giving service to those who would yacht differently. There are countless other examples.

The new style SWATH cutters

Finally, Abeking and Rasmussen have produced several designs of SWATH yachts, all flowing down from their designs for the new century pilot cutters.

The Netherlands have so far resisted the attraction of the new SWATH design. Looking at their larger and quite modern cutters (about 80m), would we assume they’d make brilliant yachts too?

Hull shape and speed.

Breaking the Deadlock:

If you have to ask how much fuel she burns, you can’t afford her, to paraphrase the mythical J.P. Morgan quote, or why are modern yachts so inefficient?

A bit of history going back to the beginning of the age of steam. Till then, a boat that needed to give some speed was designed with the most efficient possible shape, to be able to deliver in the weakest of winds with the sails she could carry. Early steam engines were not very powerful, so hull shapes remained quite slender. Only the very largest of ships, sail or steam, could afford to have a more bulky form and still deliver. That is mainly because they were operating way below their hull speed.

The naval architects will excuse some liberties I take below to try and make things clear. Basically, the hull speed is a function of the square root of the length. As soon as a ship moves through the water, she will make ripples along her length. Faster and the ripples become longer waves until there is just one single wave peaking at the bow and stern. At that point, in theory, the ship cannot go faster… unless it changes its shape. As you get closer to that point, the relation speed to power becomes exponential and finally vertical.

See the lower deck shape compared to the one above

Back to history. Yachts are prestigious affairs, so they would emulate the shape of hulls that need to be fast more than they need to carry heavy loads. That is the reason why yachts in the early XXth century either look like sailing ships or like warships. As higher engine powers became available, Owners asked for bulkier yachts, with more volume, more decks and as little draught as possible. That results in hulls with larger block and prismatic coefficients, less deadrise, wide immersed transoms and more rounded entries. The hull speed remains the same, only you need more power to reach it.

The lower deck has almost the same shape as the one above the waterline.

people started thinking about breaking that “hull speed” barrier, either through sheer power, or by shaping the hull so it will lift above the water and thus beat the “wave” pattern. That is your standard planing boat (or more rarely, ship). Tank testing has also allowed designers to “fool” the water into thinking the boat is actually longer. That is a combination of hull shape and submerged transom that works a bit like the spoiler of a car. Call it “fast displacement hull” or even more recently “hull vane” (that is actually an underwater spoiler).

The main drawback of these designs is that hey do away with hull efficiency and rely on sheer power. Today, that is becoming less and less acceptable. Several designers out there, very often coming from the sailing yacht scene, have started to draw vessels with more realistic (or shall we say environmentally friendly) length to speed ratios, form lines and coefficients.

Some examples in practice:

The hull speed of a 70m yacht is somewhere between 19 and 20 knots.

  • Yacht 1 designed in 1920, sea trials at 16 knots on 2600 HP and cruises at 8 knots on half that much. The speed/RPM curve is as good as linear through the whole speed range.
  • Yacht 2 designed in 1965 has a top speed of 13 knots, achieved with 1500 HP. At 9 knots, she uses less than 100 ltr per hour.
  • Yacht 3 built in 2001 can reach 14 knots and cruises at 12. Installed propulsion power is 4000HP
  • Yacht 4 built 2007 has a design speed of 17 knots and cruises at 12. The installed propulsion power is 5000HP

As we pass 2010 and move towards the current decennia, the installed powers tend to go down, or the maximum speeds go up. Still no ship in the 70-80m range today beats 16 knots on 2600 HP.

Phi, by Cor D. Rover and Royal Huisman,
sailing yacht pedigree.

Note too that many of those yachts have an official maximum speed way above the declared cruising speed, particularly if it approaches 19 knots. As reported in other sources recently, it is not uncommon for a yacht to fail to achieve the design speed while remaining within the IMO design parameters of the engines.

Talitha’s funnels

  • Published on April 22, 2020

Talitha was built by Krupp among a series of similar looking yachts of which we still have at least four in existence today. During her long life, she has suffered several modernisations, or enjoyed them, depending on how one feels about them. They led to the unique look she sports today.

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During her most significant refit, Jon Bannenberg elected to add a second funnel to conceal radars and other aerials as well as modern hardware. This comes as a shocking deviation from her original look. Both funnels were later enlarged to accommodate more equipment.

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Albeit not original, the look can be considered acceptable for conoisseurs. The picture above shows Bannenberg’s draft (top) against Rozenkavallier (today Haida 1929, bottom). This last had a second funnel fitted at some point in her life, also to hide antennas. Savarona (below) always had twin funnels (but then again, she is a way larger ship).

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There are two arguments at stake:

–      One is to have no visible modern appliances and keep a 1920’s look.

–      The other is to remain as close as possible to the original yacht.

What do you think?

(Pictures from public google searches)

Keeping original engines?

  • Published on April 28, 2020

Several large pre-war steam yachts were refitted in the last 50 years. They usually received diesel engines instead of the original turbines. There are very simple reasons for that: it saves crew, makes maintenance easier and gains a considerable amount of additional comfort space… But the main reason may have been that, after some years in relative abandon, the turbines were simply too wasted away to be reconditioned. The most visible ones were “Savarona”, “Christina O” and “Nahlin”.

Many other yachts that were built in the thirties with diesel propulsion have received more modern engines later in a normal refit process. Just to name a few, “Dannebrog” (below), “Talitha”, “Malahne”…

Then, there is the odd one out: the pride of the yacht “Haida 1929” is that she still has her original engines. The cost of that choice is high. The engine room has to be manned at all times, the engines take about four times the space of the modern equivalent, spare parts have to be manufactured…

How do we make such a choice?

Sometimes, it is dictated by necessity. We need more space in the engine room to put air conditioning, stabilizer hydraulics and all the accessories of modern comfort. Conversion to Diesel electric, or hybrid becomes an attractive option as environmental awareness gains ground. One argues that the original engines are not really museum pieces, their maintenance is expensive, and they are not worth a visit by guests or friends…

A good example is the project “Rossy One”, a near sister to “Haida 1929”. She had been fitted with MAK engines in the seventies, when she was used as a passenger ferry. Definitely, those have no historical significance and must make way for a modern, more sensible and cleaner propulsion. That would free premium space for additional machinery and service spaces.

The example above shows a typical classic yacht with the original engine room (Green + brown), the possible reduction by changing engines (brown only), and in a more ambitious project, the engine room moved aft (yellow) to reclaim the widest part of the boat for guests and services.

In a different case, I remember our team reflecting on the opportunity to replace the engines of “Legend” with a diesel electric propulsion. “Legend” was a tug conversion, and the removal of the original engines would free a lot of space, but also force the owner to add several hundred tons of ballast to keep the boat in trim. In that case, keeping the engines made sense. While “Legend” is not a “classic”, that theory could be applicable on similar older vessels.

One can only dream about the endless possibilities of additional arrangements (an estimated almost 300 GT of space) that would open if a yacht like “SS Delphine” were to be converted from steam to diesel or hybrid propulsion. That of course would be a crying shame, or would it?

What do you think?

What’s in a name?

  • Published on May 6, 2020

A yacht is a very personal possession. It is therefore natural for a new owner to rename yachts when they change hands. There was a time when what we call a classic today was just another yacht, and so some of them, having had an eventful life, changed names several times.

Some lucky boats kept their original name in their early life, and the name was carried on , firstly because it could be bad form or bad luck to rename a ship, and later without doubt as a tribute to their history. “Savarona”, “Nahlin”, “Puritan”, “Moonbeam”… All well known classic that are known today by their original name.

Some of yachts carried other denominations before reverting to the original, as owners of what was then “classics” wanted to pay tribute to their history and pedigree. “Malahne” and “Blue Bird” are examples.

The case of “Blue Bird” is interesting: while the owners retained the original name for her, they bought another famous classic, originally built as “Reveler”, and decided to baptise her “Talitha G”, in memory of a deceased family member.

Other yachts have been renamed for similar motives and still carry a different name today. “Norge” obviously as a state yacht, “Alicia”, “Adix” and many others are named for reasons that are particular to ownership at some point. Since “Marala” is not an original name, aren’t we all curious to see under which appellation she will emerge from the shed in Pendents?

Some names refer to the original one, but with a twist to insist on the historical value. “Haida 1929” was built as “Haida”. “Christina O” was converted as a yacht and named just “Cristina”; maybe the new owners wanted to confirm the Onassis pedigree by analogy with the nickname and brand “Jackie O”.

The yacht built as “Delphine II”, then renamed “Delphine” is today known as “SS Delphine”, probably to emphasize the fact that she still has steam engines. Since the prefix S/S indicates a steam ship, she is today the S/S SS Delphine.

One of these days, and on a lighter note, we might delve into the requirements and ceremonial for renaming a ship.

How would you name your classic yacht?