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Views on a boat

Views on a boat: By which I mean, what type of boat(s) are we planning to use in the challenge?

The usual weasel answer must, alas, apply: that depends. It depends on the number of missions, the number of supporters and how our funding support goes.

Very early in the process it became clear that, at least initially, it can’t be a sailing boat, and this is very sad news.

First, why not?

Well, part of the challenge is to report from under the water too, which can mean many things, but we decided it would involve a personal sub, because it still provides the best solution to decent underwater film making, even if some of what we want to do can be better provided via scuba-diving. Underwater subs range in weight from around five tonnes to ten tonnes, and we have not found a sailing boat (outside of super yacht) that can support that kind of weight for carriage, and a super yacht is well outside of our operating budget range.

Secondly, we also wish to visit areas at the extremes of endurance, such as near the poles and islands at some considerable distance from supplies. Although sailing vessels can support this, this is much tougher to do, and do well with less-experienced crews.

Finally, we wish to take up to twelve adventurers with us (approximate at this stage of the planning), which means, short of an exceptionally expensive super yacht sailing boat, no sailing boat can meet our needs AND be in our budget range.

That doesn’t mean sailing is off the agenda, but it can only form part of the solution, and having more than one vessel will involve having enough supporters to make it happen. Sailing would still be the preferred method for coastal surveying work, for example. Sailing is also more environmentally friendly, overall, if you find ways to treat grey and blackwater on-boat, to avoid any kind of dumping.

Our initial thoughts on a boat, therefore, are explorer type, almost certainly pre-owned and has support for diving and subs built in already. For the best in environmental-friendliness and using the latest thinking would involve a new build. But that will well beyond our budget range in the early years, though if we manage the size expectation, new build might be a possibility later in the challenge, if we get enough supporters. While scoping the project we actually had a specific ship in mind, but she has since been sold, so it remains unlikely we will be able to get hold of anything too similar.

The dive support part of the specification is easy, the sub support slightly less so. Existing on-board cranes that can support ~10 Tonnes is not an easy ask (though upgradable cranes that might open the field a bit better).

We would love a diesel-electric drive, though the cost of a decent and recently overhauled example are expensive. The beauty of the former commercial shipping conversions, which is what we are really looking at, is that their price point can be excellent, and they have the types of solid-built engines that will outlast the hull, and rebuilding, while time-consuming, is not particularly expensive, so that they can be rebuilt to zero-hours once every five or so years, to meet the mission profile expectations.

Finding exceptionally clean (for use in protected waters) examples, with on-board grey and black water treatment, is tougher, but retro-fitting treatment to certain types of ship is not horrendously expensive.

Where we will run into difficulties is that: former commercial ships that have been converted to explorers tend to be large, and require special licensing (they are not typically owner/operator), at least, if you want insurance.

Over the coming weeks we’ll try to find an experienced broker in this arena that can better advise us, because there are always ways to cut the budget, but they usually have a price to pay later in the process, and we want to make sure the price is worth (or possible) to pay.

The specification will be an ongoing discussion, and we’ll report back more information as we get it. We’ll also be covering the topic in episode two of our pod cast, due to be published in week three of September.

But some ideas are linked below for further thought (please note, where the link is to a new build, we are suggesting the idea of a similar previously owned ship, not a new build, purely on expense grounds).

The original idea boat that got us thinking (sadly, for us, recently sold): Rogue

Rogue was not an exact match, few boats ever can be, as her crane needed to be upgraded, and she does not have enough room for all of the adventurers we wish to take, but as a coastal and “out of the way” boat, we believe she would have been ideal.

Atlantis II comes close. She would require refitting, which can make a huge impact on the cost, of course, but she certainly does not lack for the space required.

Ocean Star also comes close, but her lack of hangar space is problematic, and, again, she is a large ship (and some major refit work would be required).

We are still honing our “ideal”, which we must then match with budget expectations, plus refit costs (if any), ongoing mission costings, etc. Our ambitious eyes are probably bigger than our bellies, right now, and a lot of compromises will need to be made to make it work. We’ll share the journey with you as we go.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you.

Featured Image Credit: Hurricane Hole Marina Bahamas by Jason Boldero on Flickr Creative Commons license