The New Class of Expedition Yachts

Modern-day expedition yachts are go-anywhere, take-everything vessels that are prepared to meet any need and desire.

September 17, 2021
Damen SeaXplorer 105
The Damen SeaXplorer 105 is the flagship model in the SeaXplorer range. There’s 62,162 square feet of space on eight decks. Courtesy Damen Yachting

Here’s a fun fact for anyone considering a bucket-list expedition cruise to Antarctica: Regulations there require you to have two helicopters when flying beyond rescue-service range or when landing in the mountains for skiing.

So says Damen Yachting in the Netherlands, which designed its SeaXplorer 105 to have not just a twin helideck but also a weathertight double hangar below it, with a hydraulic lift to get the choppers in and out. Once guests are all safely back on board, the helideck becomes a 3,229-square-foot space that can welcome as many as 200 guests for parties, or be used as a full-size doubles tennis court or a basketball half-court.

The idea behind this icebreaking expedition yacht is not only to be able to cruise anywhere but also to take along whatever and whomever the owner chooses as part of the fun. This concept of going everywhere with everything is permeating the latest expedition-yacht designs.


A more midrange example is the 138-foot Cantiere delle Marche Crowbridge designed by Tommaso Spadolini. The owner requested tender stowage on the upper deck aft so he could use the tender garage as a hold for Optimist and Laser sailing dinghies, along with other toys.

Damen SeaXplorer 105 storage
The Damen SeaXplorer 105 has a weathertight double hangar with a hydraulic lift system beneath a twin helideck. Courtesy Damen Yachting

Yet another yacht embracing this trend is the newest RMK 120 designed by Vripack. It can carry two 24-foot tenders in addition to a smaller RIB and water toys that are stowed in the lazarette.

All of these designs offer the extra carrying space in addition to creature comforts that owners already expect. The RMK 120 has a top-deck hot tub and alfresco dining; Crowbridge has an oversize main-deck galley for family gatherings; and the SeaXplorer 105 has a 3,229-square-foot spa with an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, steam room, massage room, sauna and beauty salon.


Really, at the SeaXplorer’s size range, owners can not only bring along anything they want, but they can also request anything they fancy. As Enrique Tintore of Damen Yachting says, “The scope for client customization is massive. That’s a key part of our proposition throughout the design process.”

Vripack RMK 120
The RMK 120, with design by Vripack, has a steel hull and a nearly 600-square-foot dedicated tender deck. Courtesy Vripack

Another company encouraging would-be expedition-yacht owners to dream big is Ocean Independence, which is the central agent for the sale of Project Phoenix. It’s a 187-foot former cable-laying vessel built in 1968, now stripped back to bare steel and awaiting an owner’s vision for transformation into a go-anywhere superyacht at the ICT Shipyard in Turkey. The finished yacht’s range, according to Ocean Independence, will be 11,000 nautical miles, allowing for “untold potential,” depending on how the owner ultimately decides to cruise the world.

Some yacht designers are betting that these types of expedition vessels will be far more than a current trend; they say that for owners who really do want to cruise far and wide, today’s styling and features should have appeal for many years to come.


“If you look at the exterior lines and proportions, the rhythms and angles, these are typical of the Vripack heritage explorer,” Bart M. Bouwhuis, co-creative director at Vripack, says of the RMK 120. “It gives a quiet, harmonious-looking profile that will be everlasting, without compromising on the internal layout. Like a Jaguar SUV, this boat will become an evergreen.”

Continental GT V8 Convertible coupe
The Continental GT V8 Convertible coupe has a light sapphire finish that complements the yacht’s blue hull. Courtesy Contest Yachts

Contest 59CS: Interior by Bentley Design Services

For his 60th birthday, Russian musician Garik Sukachev had an idea: build the interior of a Contest Yachts 59CS to match the Bentley

Continental GT V8 Convertible coupe. That idea is now a showcase of hotspur red leather, linen beige hide and diamond-in-diamond stitching. The project’s timing made it not just a birthday treat but also an anniversary event, with Contest Yachts celebrating 60 years in business


and Bentley Motors marking its centennial. “We are well-known for our thorough approach to customization,” said Arjen Conijn, CEO of Contest Yachts. “This project is the ultimate example of this approach, working with Mr. Garik and Bentley to turn a customer’s dream into reality.”


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