I was down in the eerie silence of the guest accommodation, taking notes, when a slight tapping noise broke my concentration. It was the chain of the window blind gently making contact with the woodwork, and now that my attention was drawn to it, there did indeed appear to be the faintest hint of a roll.
Up on deck the motion was more noticeable, and in the cockpit the full effect of the stiff breeze could be felt, with odd packets of spray whipping past as the yacht heeled outwards in a series of hard turns. Up in the wheelhouse, Capt. Jrg Hons, from Dsseldorf, Germany, was putting Arcadia through her paces for a gaggle of curious journalists visiting this Dutch-built yacht, attacking the short, steep Ijsselmeer seas from every angle—first with the stabilizer fins active, then with them off.
It was really only in the hard turns that the difference was easily noticeable: The yacht definitely heeled more, but the motion wasn’t excessive, and it was certainly no cause for concern. As Hons re-engaged the stabilizers and the autopilot and we settled back on track, a sailboat passed by on a reciprocal course: 40-something feet with three reefs in the main and just a small headsail, really battling. We, by contrast, were making our stately progress with the imperturbable calm of a 20,000-ton ferry.
It was a convincing demonstration of many of this yacht’s virtues: Her seakindly, round-bilge hull with a fine, wave-slicing entry; her deep draft and bilge keels; her raked stem and full, flared bow; and even the directional stability imparted by her big sailboat-style rudders. But most of all it was a demonstration of the virtues of aluminum.
As Arcadia’s designer, Tony Castro, had explained over lunch at a waterside restaurant in the little Dutch fishing port of Urk, the lightness of aluminum brings with it many more advantages than mere weight saving—which in a full-displacement motoryacht like this is hardly an issue in any case. “Building this hull in aluminum instead of steel saved 30 tons,” he says. “And in a displacement yacht, that weight can be reinvested in stability and range.” That means putting the weight to better use, which in Arcadia’s case meant installing enormous fuel tanks that give this ocean passagemaker a 5,000-mile range at 10 knots, and the addition of ten tons of ballast, right down in the keel where it’s needed. Even aluminum wasn’t light enough for the radar mast assembly—that’s made of carbon fiber.
Clearly Arcadia is no ordinary yacht. Her maiden voyage was a brief shakedown from Holland to Scandinavia—where a Royal Copenhagen dinner service was acquired, a pretty good match for a pair of antique Chinese jars in the dining room—but after her press call, she was headed for Spitzbergen, in the high Arctic. “Weight for weight, aluminum is stronger than steel,” Castro continues. “Puncture resistance has a lot to do with thickness, and an aluminum hull can be three to four millimeters thicker than a steel one.” And unlike steel, aluminum doesn’t get brittle at extremely low temperatures. Arcadia’s East Coast owner is an experienced yachtsman who clearly wants to go places.
This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.