Besides enveloping her owners in luxury onboard, the Oceanic 90 expedition yacht is designed to accommodate fun activities off the boat as well.
Remember your first boat, and how much fun you had? And how small it was? And how that didn’t really matter? It isn’t just nostalgia. Okay, maybe it is, but there’s still a correlation between boat size and enjoyment, because while you’ll probably have fun on a superyacht, you’ll definitely have fun on a RIB, or a PWC. This is why superyachts are always so well equipped with tenders and toys, and it’s why “shadow yachts” are becoming increasingly popular. Some owners just can’t get enough of tenders and toys.
It’s also the guiding principle behind Oceanic Yachts, whose first project, the distinctively profiled 90 STS (Straight Shaft, as opposed to pod drives, an upoming propulsion option), has caused quite a stir. “This is a platform for fun, that’s all it is,” proclaims Michel Karsenti, the Frenchman behind the new company. “The concept is to be able to carry as many toys and tenders as you want—you’ve got the deck space of a 40- to 50-meter.”
But, we were soon to discover, there is much more to this yacht than mere carrying capacity. Contract-built by the Italian shipyard of Canados, at the mouth of the Tiber River—Oceanic plans to open its own premises nearby later this summer—the 90 is a hybrid concept intended to appeal to owners who want a tender fleet worthy of a superyacht, but not necessarily the superyacht itself. Described as a “sports utility vessel” by the shipyard, the Oceanic has plenty of fuel capacity and a useful cruising range.
Its recommended maximum tender load is 3 tons. The deck can take a 21-foot RIB along with numerous smaller boats, while the aft tender garage is tailored for two PWCs, and there is a 400-gallon water-ballast tank mounted right aft to help maintain correct trim when running light.
To carry all this weight, the Oceanic 90 has a remarkable and unusually beamy hull designed by Giuseppe Arrabito, which was tested in the 1,500-foot towing tank at the INSEAN national research institute, outside Rome. If, like me, you thought drag-cheating hull steps were just for raceboats, think again: the Oceanic 90 has a two-step hull, the after one ventilated with exhaust gases which, in addition to reducing skin friction in the planing mode, introduce aerated water to the propellers at transitional speeds. The idea is apparently to help the props spin and ease the load on the engines, allowing them to bring their full torque to bear when heaving the heavily loaded yacht up onto plane. Once planing, water flow diverts gases around the propellers.
It might sound a little like science fiction, but it seems to work. On our sea trial, a moderately loaded 90 with the standard CAT package, no tenders onboard, but plenty of fuel, water, and people, leapt onto plane like a speedboat, proved surprisingly agile and responsive to both helm and throttles, and posted a top speed of more than 25 knots. Equally impressive was the yacht’s willingness to plane at a relatively economical 16 knots, while for long-range passagemaking at displacement speeds it felt, for a planing yacht, unusually steady and comfortable. That’s not just a happy accident—the hull was designed not just for speed and load, but for long-range passagemaking too, with those steps cutting volume out of the hull’s aft sections and reducing the buoyancy of the stern.
“We wanted to reduce buoyancy aft, to be able to run the boat at low speed with handling that would be as close as possible to a typical displacement hull,” Karsenti explains. Reducing speed from 18 knots to 12 doubles the yacht’s cruising range.
If you want more speed than the standard engines provide, there is the option of 2,600-horsepower MTUs. And if you want to carry even more tenders, pod drives are also available. The engines with the latter package are mounted well aft to make room for an additional tender garage, with a hull door on the starboard side and the capacity for a second 21-foot RIB. The prototype Oceanic 90 had no stabilizers fitted—although Seakeepers are featured on the options list—and with its 23-foot beam it really didn’t feel like it needed any. Future yachts will be built with a lighter, Kevlar superstructure, which will lower the center of gravity and further improve stability.
With its hunched, workboat profile, radical naval architecture, and uncompromising load-carrying abilities, not to mention its capacious, big-ship engine room, the Oceanic looks like a specialized working platform that shouldn’t be much good at anything else. But this isn’t the case. The tender capacity of the 90 might well appeal to owners of bigger superyachts, but step inside and you’ll find an interior with its own superyacht aspirations.
Although the side decks are wide, safe, and seamanlike, the yacht’s broad beam still allows plenty of space for an impressive deck saloon, with gently reflective satin-varnished hardwood flooring, a formal dining table forward, and a spacious seating area amidships, opposite a mahogany-topped sideboard. Large, rectangular windows and a glass cockpit bulkhead offer superb views, and even when the aft deck is taken up with tenders, there is still plenty of room under the flying bridge overhang for a full-sized alfresco dining table.
Belowdecks the layout is conventional enough, with a fair proportion of the available volume dedicated to the midships crew cabins and galley, with their own access on the port side of the saloon. A forward companionway just aft of the wheelhouse leads down to the guest accommodation: a symmetrical pair of en suite twin cabins, with excellent headroom, full-size berths, and big hull windows, and up forward a VIP suite that feels roomy and well proportioned, with plenty of useful stowage.
Topside, where the designers probably hoped the wheelhouse would go, the owner of this particular yacht has installed his master suite. It was an inspired decision. With windows on all sides and an excellent, secluded private deck, this is a spectacular, elevated living area with such character and panache that you’d be lucky to find its equal on a yacht twice this size. Headroom is 6 feet 8 inches, the berth is enormous and even the head has commanding views. It’s fabulous enough on its own to make the Oceanic 90 stand out from the crowd.
But, clearly, this is a vessel with plenty more going on. Its performance capabilities, its useful range of cruising speeds, its intelligent and versatile hull design, and above all its excellent carrying capacity make it one of a kind. Add to these attributes a luxurious interior that includes a truly memorable master suite, and the Oceanic 90 redefines the idea of fun.
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Modular sofas on the aft deck allow you to go from reading a book by yourself one minute to sprawling out on a sunpad the next. Move the furniture aside and you have room for an optional 21-foot diesel-powered SACS tender beside the 3,000-pound Opacmare crane.
Generators: 2/28-kW Kohlers, Warranty: Two years on hull and superstructure, Classification: MCA SCMV, CE Class A
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 73°F; sea temperature: 73°F; humidity: 48%; barometric pressure: 1022mb; seas: 1'; wind: 5-7 knots
Load During Boat Test
1,300 gal. fuel, 396 gal. water, 20 persons, 500 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/1,925-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERTs
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF BW-3050A, 2.75:1 gear ratio
- Props: 42.28 x 47.24 Dedra Nibral
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.