What is an Explorer or Expedition Yacht?

Back in 2015 Boat International published an article entitled: ‘Surge in explorer yachts as owners seek to visit remote destinations’. It was suggested that, over the forthcoming few years, we would see a boom in explorer yacht builds. In 2015 it was noted that 55 explorer superyachts were on order, up by around 17% from 47 in the previous year. The rise in popularity of more extreme destinations is a key trend that is driving a growing demand for yachts designed for cruising to remote areas.

What is an Explorer Yacht?

There is a lack of clear definition within the yacht building industry regarding what an explorer yacht actually is. There has been the emergence of smaller craft which present a tough looking aesthetic but lack the technical capabilities required to really explore the furthest reaches of the globe. Can such craft truly be considered explorer yachts?

An explorer yacht should provide the owner with total freedom to explore the world’s oceans, roaming wherever their desire takes them. An explorer yacht can be broadly defined as a vessel which has been purpose built, or converted, to enable long-distance cruising to remote areas of the world. The specific features of the craft can vary, depending on what they are required to do and where they are required to go. But to be classed as a true ‘explorer yacht’ vessels will tend to have the following attributes.

They must be highly seaworthy and safe in the roughest of seas. The form of the hull is an important aspect of vessel design, influencing seaworthiness and affecting the comfort of passengers and crew. A full displacement hull, having a deep draft, is used in most explorer class yachts.

Another important aspect of hull design is its ability to deal with ice, leading to the development of Polar Code B compliant vessels. The Polar Code is an international code for ships operating in polar waters, providing detailed requirements such as the ability to withstand flooding resulting from hull penetration due to ice impact. Vessels which are not compliant are not certified to sail in polar waters.

Fuel tank capacity is another important factor in ocean-going explorer yacht design. The available fuel on an explorer yacht should support traveling at least 5000 nautical miles at 10 knots.

Since explorer yachts are required to cover many thousands of nautical miles every year it is vitally important that maintenance is as simple as possible. Wear and tear on long voyages, especially in rough seas and aggressive weather conditions, can be extreme. It’s therefore essential that repairs and routine maintenance are easy to carry out.

Another important attribute of true explorer yachts is autonomy and independence. While the specifications that enable a vessel to travel long distances are important it is essential that the boat can remain at sea for long periods without visiting a port. The Damen SeaXplorer, for example, will keep everyone on board luxuriously comfortable for 40 days without the need to refuel or take on stores. Explorer yachts must be able to hold an adequate stock of required provisions, be capable of generating fresh water, provide appropriate waste management, hold all necessary spare parts as well as tools and provide repair and workshop capabilities.

Efficiency and reliability are important aspects of explorer yacht design to ensure that resources are not used wastefully and the likelihood of system failure is minimised. Twin engines and twin generators mitigate the risk of failure, for example.

How Much do Explorer Yachts Cost?

The cost of explorer yachts places them very much in the realm of the super-rich. Pay a visit to a few yacht brokers who deal in explorer class vessels and you will quickly see that there is a great range in prices. Here are just a few examples:

Planet Nine. 73m Ice class explorer yacht designed by Tim Heywood. Built by Admiral Yachts this amazing motor yacht could be yours for around $96,000,000.

Endeavour II. 50m Diesel electric powered luxury yacht. Built by Rossinavi this fine craft could be yours for a cool $34,000,000.

Latitude. 53m Explorer yacht built at the German J.G.Hitzler shipyard. Sold for around $2,700,000.

It’s also worth noting that explorer yachts and expedition yachts are the same thing. The terms are used interchangeably and there are no apparent differences between the two.