It is not uncommon for large yachts to be referred to as small ships, but the label is seldom as accurate as with Big Roi. I first glimpsed the 207-foot Royal Denship expedition yacht while savoring an alfresco lunch at the Eden Roc, high above the Med at Cap d'Antibes, France. Even in this storied venue, among scores of fabulous yachts old and new, Big Roi was a standout. As she proceeded around the point toward Cannes, her high blue bow and towering white superstructure signaled to the world that this was something different.
It would be another month before I saw Big Roi again, this time in Ft. Lauderdale, and had a chance to tour her at length with her captain, Grant Maughan. It is appropriate that Capt. Maughan is a veteran merchant mariner, for Big Roi is at least as much ship as she is yacht.
Big Roi's shippy exterior gives way to an elegant interior. Impressive headroom and spaces allow for the use of full-size furniture, an uncommon luxury.
Big Roi has a steel displacement hull with a lengthy parallel midbody and round bilges. The yacht tops out at 17.6 knots, yielding a speed/length ratio of 1.30, near the top of the full-displacement regime. Forward, a modern bulb extends from the bow to reduce the bow wave and its resultant resistance. Aft, Big Roi's buttock lines rise to terminate in a wide, shallow transom that prevents stern squat at speed.
She has no fin stabilizers to quell rolling. Rather, long bilge keels are fitted to the outside of the hull and a large Flume stabilizer spans her interior just forward of the engineroom. The Flume system is common on passenger ships but is seldom fitted on yachts because of the weight and volume required. It utilizes slack water tanks port and starboard, connected by a properly sized, or "tuned, transverse tunnel. Water sloshes from side to side, in response to and directly out of phase with the vessel's rolling, to steady the yacht's motion. The system is quiet and virtually maintenance-free, as no pumps or other moving parts are involved. The bilge keels and Flume tanks are effective at anchor as well as under way.
Fire safety is another area where Big Roi goes beyond the requirements of her Lloyd's classification and MCA certification to approach commercial-grade construction. Many of the main bulkheads are A-60 rated, which means they will prevent the passage of smoke, flame and temperature rise from one compartment to another for 60 minutes. While the bulkheads are veneered with finely finished and detailed mahogany, they are cored with panels prefabricated of steel facings and mineral wool insulation. Fire doors, also A-60 rated, are fitted with self-closing mechanisms.
There are multiple escape routes from all compartments. Several fire lockers, complete with firefighting gear, are located throughout the yacht, as are fire detectors and alarms. There is also a fog-type sprinkler system to protect all accommodation spaces.
Equipment and outfitting are also to commercial standards. At the bow, windlasses and capstans are rugged, no-nonsense installations that emphasize functionality. Aft, a stern anchor is fitted in a pocket, out of the way but ready when needed. Tenders and other ancillary equipment are on the well deck amidships. The tender cradles, however, are locked into standardized cargo fittings spaced to accommodate commercial shipping containers. A 12-ton crane with a 37-foot reach facilitates equipment changes as well as tender launching.
The engineroom is fully two decks high. The main engines, Caterpillar 3512B diesels turning a commercial-rated 1600 rpm, are nestled low in the hull, allowing shaft lines with zero inclination and keeping the propellers above keel level. Two 170kW Caterpillar generators are here, as well. A third, equally sized unit is in the fo'c'sle. This generator not only provides a full emergency backup, but is fitted with a dry-stack vertical exhaust for regular use when moored stern-to in a crowded harbor.
Many yachts have a tool chest in the engineroom, and a few even have a compact workbench in an adjacent space, but I have never seen as large or well-equipped an onboard workshop as that aboard Big Roi. In addition to such metalworking machinery as welders, lathes and drill presses, the large compartment carries a full store of maintenance supplies and critical spare parts, for repairs while under way. Having worked in the engineroom of a merchant ship, I can attest to the value of such a facility aboard an expedition yacht intended for tramping to remote corners of the globe.
The problem with some shippy yachts is that they are more ship than yacht. Big Roi proves owners can have both. As much as her rugged construction and outfitting appeal to the techie in me, her elegant interior will satisfy the most demanding yachtsman.
Raised-panel mahogany, finished dark, is the predominant theme for bulkheading, but lighter burls are used as accents throughout. White lacquered overheads and light carpeting keep the lower-deck guest accommodations from feeling gloomy, while large windows flood the main and upper decks with sunshine.
Interior designers are quite clever about disguising the fact that many yachts have furniture a little smaller than normal, to conform to the restricted dimensions of the rooms. Everything appears to be in proportion until you try to get comfortable in a narrow chair or stretch out on a short sofa. That's not a problem aboard Big Roi. Her big headroom and big spaces allow the use of full-size freestanding furniture throughout. All staterooms have king berths, and the dining tables, inside and out, have chairs for the full complement of 12 guests.
From the moment guests step aboard, they will feel welcome aboard Big Roi, and it doesn't matter how they arrive. If the yacht is docked alongside, guests will board through the starboard door amidships into a full-beam, main deck reception foyer that includes a bar and adjoining sitting room. It is a great place to unwind while the crew takes care of luggage and prepares the staterooms. Should guests approach from the stern, either from a low quay or a launch, they will transfer across the teak swim platform to a nicely appointed guest foyer and an elevator that leads to the main deck and reception area.
Steps lead down to the guest accommodations, and a second elevator goes up to the owner's deck, pilothouse deck and flying bridge deck. Belowdecks are four guest staterooms, two with tubs and two with showers in marble heads. All staterooms have vanities, desks, settees and king berths. Two VIP guests share a full-beam suite that could easily be the owner's on other yachts, with a king berth and spacious sitting area. Each VIP guest room has a large walk-in hanging locker and separate bath, his with a shower and hers with a bidet and oversize whirlpool tub.
As spacious as the VIP suite is, it can't begin to rival the owner's quarters, which fill an entire deck two levels above. An intricate pattern of stairs, doorways and anterooms allow most of the deck to be closed for privacy or opened to share with guests. In addition to the owner's stateroom, similar in size and outfit to the VIP cabin, there is an office/library, owner's saloon, covered afterdeck, forward seating and reception lobby with day head.
Above the owner's deck is the pilothouse deck, which includes the captain's cabin and office. The top deck has a bar, a day head, guest seating, sunpads and a large whirlpool forward. Aft is a helicopter pad. An elevator and central stair tower serve all four superstructure decks, including the flying bridge deck.
Crew quarters, including three double cabins, a mess, a lounge and a galley, are forward, both belowdecks and in the fo'c'sle. A fourth crew cabin, convertible to a gymnasium, is on the tank level below the main crew quarters. The engineer has a cabin aft, between the engineroom and lazarette.
Contact: Royal Denship, (954) 525-2709; www.royaldenship.com.