If you have ever wished you had a bigger tender, but don’t have room to store it on board, you are not alone. Many yachts (particularly sailing vessels) up to 50m simply don’t have the crane or storage capacity for a tender of over 7m and find that safely transporting guests across a choppy anchorage or taking them further afield can be a challenge.
A chase boat could be the answer to your problems, but it’s important to choose the right vessel and take into account how you intend to transport it. Depending on the type and size of the mothership, it is often possible to tow a large tender for a day’s passage in fair weather, however, this is only an option if the tender has the right bow fittings and is fundamentally of the right design to be successfully towed. In order to avoid potential issues it is of great advantage if the chase boat has the range and sea keeping ability to follow under its own power when required. If it has accommodation, a crew member can even take it ahead to the next port to ensure that berthing arrangements are in place or wait behind to collect a late arriving guest or essential parts and provisions, even if this involves an overnight stay.
The biggest challenge comes at the end of the season when yachts re-locate over thousands of miles to a different cruising ground and clearly towing is not an option. Fortunately, shipping a chase boat is relatively simple and several specialist yacht shippers are able to handle the logistics. Depending on your choice of tender, it is even possible to store them in a shipping container for the journey, which adds to their protection and security and also allows you to send additional equipment in the remaining space inside the container. Tendacentre have developed a purpose built solution called “Tendabox”, which has a number of additional benefits.
A 40ft Tendabox is generally able to accommodate tenders of up to 30ft (9m) before their beam becomes too great for the container dimensions. The boat sits on a cradle that can be winched into the container and secured for transit. The remaining 10ft of space is fitted out to the customer’s requirements and can be turned into a fully equipped workshop, with additional door and windows, shore power connection and generator if required. The tender area is generally equipped with fold-away shelving and work benches that provide a useful storage space for the season, once the tender has been removed. In this way, the perceived problems associated with shipping a large tender around the world actually become a significant benefit for the crew, not only in the added utility of the tender but also by gaining a useful workshop and storage facility. No specialist lifting equipment is required for stowing the tender in the Tendabox; as long as you can lift or float the vessel onto its wheeled cradle, the loading can be managed with the built-in winch and ramps.
In order to decide whether a chase tender is the right solution for you, it is important to understand exactly what impact it will have, not just in terms of the benefits for guests and crew, but also the additional demands on the crew who will be maintaining and operating it. Firstly, let’s consider the primary advantages:
Chase boats are generally between 9 and 15m long, with those at the smaller end being simply a larger version of the typical RIB’s that are already carried on board most yachts. The sea-keeping abilities of a good 9m RIB are significantly better than those of a 6 or 7m equivalent, so although a tender of this size would not normally provide you with a cabin, guests will enjoy a much softer and dryer ride in choppy conditions and longer distances can be covered safely. Tenders of this size can potentially fit inside a shipping container, offering a simple and hassle-free solution for moving them around the world.
Moving up to larger boats, the advantages increase significantly and a well selected chase boat can fulfill a number of useful roles. Given that a 12 to 15m vessel can provide guests with multiple seating options, it is possible to not only meet the requirements of a limousine tender and comfortably seat 12 guests down below out of the weather, but you will also retain the option to seat them in the cockpit, either open to the sun or in the shade of a bimini. A vessel of this size also provides guests with the opportunity to leave the mothership for the day and explore the coastline further afield, potentially saving the considerable time and fuel costs of moving the mothership close enough to the desired location for the smaller tenders to be able to take guests ashore. A head, shower and galley are just some of the features that make a larger chase boat ideal for day trips that add enormously to the enjoyment of owner and guests. Consider also the flexibility that such a tender will allow, collecting late arriving guests when the mother ship is already underway to maintain her schedule, or allowing the crew to re-provision from a remote location and scout ahead for a suitable anchorage.
However, despite the many advantages of operating a larger tender, it is important to consider whether your crew can handle the additional maintenance and logistics that come with it. Many yacht crews are stretched to the limit during busy charters, so you need to decide whether a member of crew can find the time to be responsible for the chase boat and its upkeep. One way to get around this problem is to recruit a temporary additional crew member, who may be only required for a few weeks during high season. On larger chase boats with their own accommodation, the extra crew member can even sleep onboard if required.
If, like many Captains and owners, you decide that a chase tender is a worthwhile investment, the daunting next step is to select the right vessel for your needs from literally thousands of options, keeping in mind that an unsuitable or unreliable tender is a constant nuisance that will far outweigh the potential benefits. There have been many instances where an unreliable tender spends most of its life in the workshop or in transit, generally arriving at the end of the season, just before it needs to be shipped back to where it came from. Wherever possible, seek professional advice before buying a chase boat; the market is evolving so fast that it is a full-time job to research and test the latest products and evaluate whether a new model offers genuine advantages over what has gone before. As a general rule, try to follow a few basic principles when making your selection:
1. Keep it simple – the more complex a boat is, the more there is to go wrong, and it will (usually in the most inconvenient location). Propulsion is particularly important, so try to avoid unusual solutions and if possible match engine and equipment manufacturers with those used on the mothership, for commonality of spares and service agents.
2. Weight is everything – focus on manufacturers that place emphasis on weight reduction. A lighter boat uses less power to reach a given speed, so needs smaller engines, burns less fuel (thus extending range) and puts less damaging loads on mechanical components, therefore increasing their reliability and working life. Additionally it is easier to lift and maneuver the vessel ashore, which can really help when shipping to remote locations with limited portside facilities.
3. Research is vital – once you have a shortlist of potential options, you need to find out as much as possible regarding reliability and build quality. The internet will yield endless articles, reviews and customer comments for any established brand or model, so find out as much as you can and don’t be afraid to challenge the manufacturer regarding any of the areas that give you cause for concern, they may have already addressed the problem or be able to offer you a viable solution.
A well-chosen and reliable chase tender is a fantastic tool for most large crewed yachts and a relatively modest investment can yield an enormous increase in guest enjoyment and make the crew’s job much easier. If you don’t wish to own such a boat or only need it for a few weeks a year, it is possible to charter a wide variety of suitable tenders and have them shipped to wherever you require. Many yachts prefer this as a long term approach, but it could equally be the best way to test the water and find out for yourself if the concept works for you.
Simon Billington is the Managing Director of Tendacentre, a specialist supplier of superyacht tenders and chase boats. Simon and his colleagues work with a wide range of market leading manufacturers to develop new products and improve existing ones, ensuring that the needs of their customers are catered for. Highly experienced in both custom and production vessels, Tendacentre can also offer maintenance and charter from their service centre on the Gulf of St Tropez and regularly ship tenders all over the world. Operating from offices in the UK and France, Tendacentre is part of the Private Yacht Group.
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