When flag-state officials in the Marshall Islands got word that the owners of the 95-foot Doggersbank Offshore Gayle Force wanted to cruise to Antarctica, they sent Capt. Scott Whittaker a letter, questioning whether a boat so small was even capable of making the trip.
In fact, Gayle Force would become the smallest private yacht with that nation’s flag ever to explore so far south, following a 20-month, multimillion-dollar refit to prepare the boat for the journey.
A lot of the work included taking out what the original owners had put in when the boat launched as Patriot in 2003. A Vripack design, she had an original owner who was into what, back then, was state-of-the-art technology.
“It was heralded as the most technologically advanced boat under 30 meters,” Whittaker says. “In ‘03, this boat was controlled with touchpads. This guy had to be working with Steve Jobs or something, getting technology that wasn’t available. We’ve spent tons of time undoing and taking a lot of that stuff out.”
Getting the boat’s weight and balance right after several decades of modifications also took time, but in the end, the new owners got to do their dream cruise. Whittaker worked with EYOS Expeditions to plan an itinerary during a safe weather window, and the owners explored Antarctica for nearly two weeks.
“Yes, if you have more capability, you can go farther or for longer,” says Rob McCallum, a founding partner at EYOS. “But even a vessel like Gayle Force, it’s going to alter people’s perceptions of the world around them. It’s not a new place, a new country—it’s an entire new continent, and it makes them stop and think about the makeup of the world as we know it. Antarctica has that effect on people.”
The Pre-Cruise Refit
- Bloemsma & Van Breemen built the boat as Patriot in 2003.
- The Derecktor Yard in Dania Beach, Florida, was used for the refit, which took 20 months.
- The original crew lounge was turned into a third crew cabin to accommodate an ice pilot and naturalist.
- Helm electronics were upgraded for remote-location cruising.
- Hull paint was redone.
- Naiad zero-speed stabilizers were added.
- About 25,000 pounds of weight (including an oversize anchor chain) was removed from the bow.