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Review: Dockwise 685' "Yacht Express"

Discussion in 'Yacht Transport Ships' started by YachtForums, Apr 24, 2008.

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  1. Dockwise Yacht Transport 685' "Yacht Express"
    The Mothership Arrives!

    Review by Capt. Chuck Gnaegy​

    Crossing the Atlantic on her maiden voyage; the Yacht Express. Nestled in her bosom; a seemingly improbable, chocked-in cargo, which number 18 – one and one-half dozen – multi million-dollar yachts. This 685’6” Dockwise steel transporter looms like an entire marina bearing down on the horizon, carrying, deftly sardine-packed bow to stern, luxury yachts. It's an exciting time in yacht transporting, a concept whose time has come...​

    The very size of this new transport impacts our senses, appearing more as a high-rise condominium/yacht club underway, rather than a seagoing suitcase packed with tens of millions of dollars in high-indulgence yachts. Her first voyage headed out from its headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale, for the Mediterranean. Italy. Later, she boasts a schedule to connect the world’s most exotic ports. Now, if you want your yacht delivered from Port Everglades to St. Thomas, La Paz, Vancouver, Aukland, Brisbane, Papeette, Dubai, Genoa, Toulon, Mallorca, Southampton, or back – you name it; near any popular cruising ground in the world – you can ship it with Dockwise Yacht Transport, DYT. Maybe the ideal way to go cruising abroad; Yacht Express saves time, and perhaps money, plus a generous portion of wear and tear.
  2. What is so different about her? Her trick is she “stoops to conquer”. While other transporters employ giant (sometimes risky) cranes to lift large yachts onto their decks, Yacht Express submerges her deck so they readily float aboard; then rises to let them ride high and dry. No problem, no anxious moments for your 150’+ dream yacht. However, this mode of transportation is not for the faint of pocketbook; which is why the great preponderance of yacht transports are done for owners who may afford it. Her inaugural trip to the Med, normally a two-to-three-week+ voyage for any yacht, depending on speed and weather, was recorded by Yacht Express in just 10 days at her 18 knot service cruise. Watching the loading experts at their labor – in a brief, few hours – the entire, bizarre, operation seems scripted by Hollywood, scenes from a James Bond/Dr.No extravaganza.
  3. This exceptional craft was built at the Yantai Raffles Shipyard, in China, with an aim to provide the fastest transoceanic yacht delivery service ever from Florida and the Mediterranean. While DYT operates four other submersible yacht carriers, Yacht Express is the largest vessel of its kind in the world. DYT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dockwise, Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda, with additional operating offices in Italy, France, Martinique, and Newport, R.I. A partnership with BBC Chartering and Logistics also allows DYT to manage safe lift-on/lift-off service aboard BBC's fleet of 140 cargo vessels worldwide. The service is for clients who need additional scheduling flexibility or the ability to get to a destination not normally serviced by DYT's semi-submersible ships.
  4. DYT – Dockwise Yacht Transport President, Clemens Van der Werf guided us on an all-inclusive, sometimes arduous, walking-climbing voyage up and around this spectacular vessel, which on this occasion loaded 18 yachts, but has the ability to hold more or less – depending upon size, of course – for the simplest overseas voyage of your yacht’s dreams. And oh, yes, your trip may include passage for a pair of “riders” as well, if you want to send your crew, in complimentary cabins.
  5. While the yachts it carries are sleek, stylish, high-gloss fiberglass and sculpted aluminum, the Express’ steel tower construct is undeniably mechanical, rugged, tectonic. Narrow passageways; sealed, weathertight metal doors. Numerous steep flights of stairs connect its seven no-nonsense steel decks bottom to top. She is a case-hardened, power-built pyramid afloat on the ocean. An industrial battlewagon! The majority of YE's systems are located in the forward section of the ship and occupy 13 decks. Strange as it may seem, this also where the engines are located, housing twin Wartsila 12v38-B common-rail diesels that provide electrical power for YE's twin Azimuth Pod Drive Systems, which are located in the aft section of the ship.
  6. How it’s done: At the Captain’s command, the twice-football-field length submersible deck slides underwater as the yachts line up, prepped and ready to board. A swarm of loaders appear. There are 28 crew on this ocean-crossing behemoth. Suited up in orange cover-alls w/white-helmeted uniforms, others in black scuba gear armed with various tools; their secret weapons. As the transiting yachts, under power, are guided in, one by one between Yacht Express’ tall twin gates, they’re corralled, ushered and floated to particular pre-planned slots. In this photograph, looking north along Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades, all of the yachts strewn about are waiting their turn to enter YE's gates.
  7. The loading team coaxes each craft to its exact position, then the “seafastening” procedure begins with underwater bracing. At that point, DYT Loading Master Pascal Minjon gives the signal for the entire ship to be raised and in a short time, the brilliant yacht cargo, all 18 of them, chocked and steadied, are perched high and dry, ready to ride.
  8. And there you have it. The float-on process is complete and this trans-Atlantic marina can hang-out its no vacancy sign. The loading process may appear simple, but it's really a well staged event that starts weeks before Yacht Express lowers herself into the berthing mode. This starts with scheduling, then procuring drawings on each yacht to determine load points, hull shapes, length, beam and weight. Only after these factors are determined can DYT prepare the proper keel blocks, initial loading stanchions and final welded stanchions that will secure YE's parasites. In reality, loading day is akin to the days leading up to a boat show, when yachts loiter about in a milling area awaiting permission to enter a marina and take up their designated slip.
  9. After the deck is raised, the dry-docked yachts undergo two more procedures; the first is placing precisely measured stands under the hull, exactly blocked out to support each vessel, no matter what the conditions, or any mischief the weather gods may have in mind. Once the hulls are completely supported, the braces are welded into place, then belts are used to strap the yachts to YE's deck, thus completing the seafastening. Each vessel is now fully attached, becoming an appendage of the mother ship.
  10. A Tour of the Ship: The Sundeck surrounds and overlooks a 12’ deep swimming pool, 14’ square. Lining the perimeter, a bevy of comfortable sun chaise lounges draped in DYT's signature orange towels. And talk about a million dollar view! Among the toys in the trunk are a pair of new Palmer Johnsons; the 135' "Dragon" and the 150' "Hokulani", the 162' Feadship "Pegasus", a 130' Westport "My Colors", Denise Richards new 157' Christensen "Lady Joy", the recently sold Calixas 105' and another dozen vessels ranging from center-consoles to superyachts.
  11. Elevated on one of her upper floors, a fine-art decorated atrium offers a fully enclosed serving bar with padded leather stools. Framed by ceiling-high windows overlooking the following seascape; it’s an observatory-terrace many floors above the marina below. The views are enhanced by photographic blow-ups created by Onne van der Wal, so well conceived, they could be art museum paintings.
  12. Giving new meaning to the word "Skylounge", Yacht Express' Command Bridge is 28-meters above the waterline. That's nearly 100 feet folks! As expected on a ship of this magnitude, YE’s helm is sophisticated at a level conducive to trans-oceanic operation. A wrap-array of monitors, gauges, sat-nav, radars, etc. are attended by DYT's experienced crews, veterans of many crossings.
  13. Van der Werf explained that prior to Yacht Express’ maiden run; the company has previously transported more than 9,000 motor and sailing vessels to various destinations around the globe. As an adjunct, DYT has partnered with the International SeaKeepers Society, and its modular, automated, SeaKeeper 1000™ ocean and meteorological monitoring system. This system transmits critical measures of ocean health to various world scientific interests.
  14. Amenities continue to manifest as we clamber through the sky-high vessel. The Lounge is comfortably set with easy chairs and long, upholstered couches, with onyx-topped tables for reading matter or board games. Large windows flood daylight into the room, and present horizon/ocean views from high above.
  15. The fitness gym is accessible for all crew and passengers to stay ship-shape. The fully mechanized, though modest in size facility, boasts a treadmill, a wardroom packed with cardio-exercise equipment, plus free weights; to sustain any level of fitness. Because pool tables don't fair well in high seas, a Ping-Pong table is supplied to help Gump groupies pass trans-oceanic time.
  16. Set up for staff business conferences as well as after-hours entertainment viewing, the 50-seat theater offers commodious, padded comfort. A roll-down screen provides theater-size cinema viewing as well as instructional videos for yacht crew training, and onboard crew. It boasts an extensive media library.
  17. Adjacent to the media room, Yacht Express’ full size dining room accommodates the entire crew as well as guests, in utilitarian seating. Comfortable arm chairs and lined-up tables provide a college lunchroom atmosphere, but allow quick serving and clean-up on the all-business ship. Tiled floors and generous overhead lighting complete the decor. There is also a separate 20-seat crew mess for those on duty.
  18. An example of the guest accommodations, this double is set up with bunk beds plus a pair of easy chairs and a writing desk. It sports a closed viewing port, communications outlets, and overhead lighting. Up to 28 guests can become stowaways on YE.
  19. An entire deck is dedicated to controlling YE's machinery, hydraulics & electronics. From here, twenty different ballast tanks can be filled or emptied. There are eight ballast tanks to port, another eight to starboard and four in between. Four Danfoss pumps feed these tanks, capable of transferring approx. 4800 tons of seawater per hour.
  20. Yacht Express’ mammoth engine room houses its diesel electric propulsion plant: 2x 8700 kW Wartsila 12V38B common rail diesels; well capable of driving this magnificent yacht-circus across the ocean or around the world at 18 knots. An interesting concept not shown here; Yacht Express conceals a vast tunnel which extends 550 feet under her cargo deck. With walking headroom, from the engine/thruster room forward, the tunnel holds all the ships electrical wiring components, for careful and complete maintenance.
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