Can a luxury charter yacht survive rough seas?

When it comes to someone’s first holiday on the water, one of the ...

Can a luxury charter yacht survive rough seas?

April 03, 2020

Written by Rachael Steele

When it comes to someone’s first holiday on the water, one of the questions that might be racing through his or her mind is: ‘Can the luxury charter yacht survive rough seas’?

Charter yacht Laurentia

The short answer is ‘yes’, however, this might not reassure the underlying concern of what it takes to damage a vessel to such an extent that the crew and guests are in danger, and a more in-depth look at the situation is required.

Different vessels have different methods other than ballast for ensuring stability in the water: Sailing yachts have keels while motor yachts have stabilisers that reduce the pitch and roll while at anchor (known as ‘zero speed stabilisers’), and some versions can be used even while cruising. Expedition yachts are even expected to encounter rough seas on journeys to remote destinations and are equipped accordingly.

Catamarans and trimarans will have even greater stability, and these vessels are a popular choice for cruising in the Caribbean and Bahamas, where the shallow draft grants access to tranquil anchorages close to the shores.

Luxury charter catamaran Hemisphere

During the construction of each unique hull design, naval architects and engineers undertake tank tests to ensure the seaworthiness of the vessel. The Douglas Sea Scale defines ‘rough seas’ as 2.5-4m/4.1-8.2ft with very rough conditions being 4-6m/13-20ft.

At Southampton University tank tests showed that when a wave was 30% as high as the hull length, it was possible to capsize some yachts. However a wave as high as 60% of the hull length capsized all vessels. So the size of a vessel also plays a role in its stability and safety on the water.

For example, to cause danger to a motor yacht of 30m/98ft, a wave must be at least 9m/29ft and as high or higher than 18m/58.8ft to sink the vessel – these wave sizes correlate to the Very High and Phenomenal categories at the top of the Douglas Sea Scale and are unlikely to be encountered unless in hurricane conditions. Under these circumstances, you’d be much happier aboard your sailing yacht or motor yacht than one of the fishing boats in the Cyclades harbours!

Modern yachts are designed to survive rough seas

However, it is unlikely that you will encounter such conditions during your luxury yacht charter: The Captain receives a daily weather report and will be aware of nearby ports and other sheltered anchorages to wait out the storm, and your professional crew will ensure the safety of everyone on board. Although rough to very rough conditions will make life on board unpleasant for guests and crew alike, both sailing yachts and motor yachts are prepared for such weather.


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