Well before it became customary (dare I even say trendy) to think about what type of impact we have on the environment in the course of pursuing our favorite pastime, sailboaters were calling us powerboaters "stinkpotters." While they had a point about diesel-fuel emissions, our wind-powered friends aren't exactly immune to having a negative effect on Mother Earth. (Black and gray water come from them, too, after all.)
Regardless of whether it's a mainsail or a MAN that powers the yacht, one thing an increasing number of owners thankfully agree up on these days is the importance of leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible. While there's no way to eliminate environmental impact altogether, there are a number of steps that, when taken together, can make a difference.
That's the spirit being embraced by one particular yachtsman, the designers at Sparkman & Stephens, and the construction team at Florida-based Newcastle Marine. They're confident the project they're collaborating on, which will begin construction this season, will have a radically smaller environmental impact than other custom pleasurecraft, even ones conceived to be green-minded.
Safira, the 129-foot expedition yacht pictured here, is the result of intensive research into relatively simple things like EnergyStar appliances and LED, fiber-optic, and xenon lighting. But it extends to hardware made from recycled materials as well as untreated and even organic floor coverings.
Sound extreme? Not to this owner, who intends to pursue what Sparkman & Stephens calls "serious adventure cruising," to both warm and cool climates (the latter being possible thanks to an ice-class hull). Because some of these regions won't have facilities for yachts, Safira will employ a power-management system allowing smaller gensets than those on similar-size yachts, resulting in fewer emissions. In addition, they'll feature engine-powered heat exchangers for the production of hot water, similar to the traditional arrangement on sailboats.
Speaking of water, the watermakers onboard will reportedly use half the energy required for yachts of similar size. According to Sparkman & Stephens, the energy used on the high-pressure side of the system will power the low-pressure side. As for black- and gray-water treatment, get this: At presstime the owner and engineering team were researching a zero-discharge system that uses microbes to break down the solids and contaminants.
Safira boasts other advanced features—I was particularly intrigued by the idea of tanks for biodiesel if it becomes widely available for yachts—but of course, she'll also employ proven technology. Schottel STP 300 pod drives will reduce resistance (and therefore fuel consumption) and permit greater maneuverability without the need for a stern thruster. Used in conjunction with Caterpillar diesel inboards, which should permit an 11-knot cruise speed, the pods should make Safira more fuel-efficient than diesel-electric drives.
The machinery won't be the only things onboard selected with environmental friendliness in mind. The owner's design brief calls for all decor items to be organic, natural, recycled, sustainable, and renewable. For example, wood for paneling and furniture must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization whose standards for forest management have been adopted by 57 countries worldwide. Finishes and adhesives need to be no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compound) products. Carpets must be natural wool, organic cotton, or an equivalent material that avoids chemical treatment, and other materials such as glass, horizontal surfaces, and plumbing hardware and fittings must be composed of recycled products as much as possible.
Safira poses quite a challenge to be sure—but Sparkman & Stephens' president and chief naval architect Greg Matzat says that "this yacht has been great fun for us to design." He adds, "While there might not be one groundbreaking element with this yacht, we've acknowledged and have proven there is a lot you can do better within the current paradigm to improve efficiency and reduce a yacht's impact on the environment."
When you think about it, isn't anything you love doing worth the extra effort?
Down The Ways
Keep your eye on Turkey for further developments in the yacht-construction industry. While existing European yards have teamed with shipyards in Antalya, an economic free zone, to work on projects (most recently and notably the motorsailer Maltese Falcon), independent facilities are forming, too. One such operation: Sunrise Yachts. With two build sheds measuring more than 300 feet long, Sunrise has two 148-footers underway, set for delivery next year. It plans to build yachts in excess of 200 feet LOA in yet another shed under construction.
Horizon Yachts' first Premier 130+, its largest-ever project, should be cruising this hemisphere around the time you're reading this, fresh off the transport ship from the Taiwan-based yard. Built to full Det Norske Veritas classification and in compliance with the MCA code, the 130-foot Miss Rose was designed by J.C. Espinosa and Greg Marshall, the former taking care of styling and interior design, the latter naval architecture. Sea trials confirmed a top speed of 18 knots and a cruise speed of 14 knots thanks to twin 1,825-hp Caterpillars.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.